One day I was driving my four-year-old daughter to preschool when she began talking to me quite randomly. Now I’m used to her random bits of conversations. It’s usually a non-sequitur about a cat she saw the other day or how interesting her shoelaces are, but this day her topic of conversation really caught my attention. While driving our usually route, she announced to me from her toddler seat, “Daddy, my mommy used to put flowers in my brown hair and drive an Oldsmobile.” Now it may seem like normal babble from a three-year-old but given the fact that my wife is a redhead, and no one in our family drives an Oldsmobile, it seemed more than a little strange. Plus, how the hell did she know what an Oldsmobile was?!
Shielding my thoughts as best I could, for fear my daughter may scan me, I dropped her off at school and rushed home to tell my wife. She told me that our daughter had said something similar to her. It involved an Oldsmobile and some pretty detailed stories of a family she used to live with. She called them her “before family”, meaning before us. While researching the proper way to conduct an exorcism, I stumbled on to a few sites that suggested my daughter may not be possessed.
The idea of children remembering past lives is fairly common. Jim Tucker, a University of Virginia psychiatrist, published a review in the journal EXPLORE that supports the notion of reincarnation and of a child’s ability to remember their prior life. In his review, Tucker explains that the average age for remembering a past life is around three-years-old. He also observed that these remembrances are often extremely detailed and emotional, with some children even cry over wanting to be returned to their previous families. There have been endless cases of this phenomenon, so much so that their are multiple books on the subject.
An actual documented example is Ryan who when he was four-years-old he began experiencing intense nightmares. When his parents spoke to him about this, he told them he was convinced he used to be someone else. He began begging his parents to take him “home” to Hollywood. He began telling them in great detail about how he had met famous stars like Rita Hayworth while dancing on Broadway. He recalled working for a powerful agency, and he even remembered part of the name of the street he used to live on…“rock something”. Ryan’s mother decided to pick up a few picture books about old Hollywood in hopes of sparking some other memory in her child. That’s when little Ryan found himself in one of the pictures in the book.
The photo was from the film NIGHT AFTER NIGHT, a Pre-Code film from 1932 starring George Raft and Mae West. The picture showed actor George Raft among a group of men, mostly background actors. Ryan’s mother turned to a Hollywood film archivist to find out more about the men in the photo. The archivist said the background actor in question was named was Marty Martyn. Marty began his Hollywood career as an extra but eventually became one of Hollywood’s most powerful agents before dying in 1964. Marty was also a Broadway dancer before moving to Hollywood, where he lived at 825 North Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills.
So are these actually memories? If so, what causes them?
According to Dr. Tucker the explanation may lie in quantum physics, the belief that our physical world my come from our consciousness. It’s like the scientific law of the conservation of mass. This scientific law that state matter cannot be created or destroyed. So perhaps these molecules that make up who we are come to us from somewhere else still holding the memory of where those molecules originally came from. In the beginning these memories are fresh, but as we create more memories these “past life” memories slowly fade away.
But can we really believe what these kids are saying?
Perhaps they are motivated by some external factor when it comes to rediscovering a past life. For example, maybe the family is projecting their sadness over a lost loved one on to their child. The child then pieces together a past life that incorporates this missing loved one. Or the family is motivated by greed, the idea that they could profit from a phenomenal story of their child’s past life. However, there has, so far, been no record of anyone amassing large amounts of fame or fortune from exploiting any past life memories. In fact, this phenomenon seems too common place for such an explanation. Although this does not rule out the possibility that some children may be experiencing false memories, like a witness in criminal investigation trying to piece snippets of memory into a cohesive story.
While at my parent’s house one afternoon, I happened to mention my daughter’s past life stories. They informed me that I also used to tell them about my other mother with long blonde hair who used to live in a log cabin. So it looks like reincarnation tales, be they real or just the babbling of toddlers, may run in the family.