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Lions Roar : May 2018
When James Leninger was eleven years old, Jim Tucker came to visit him and his family. Tucker, a psychiatrist from the Uni- versity of Virginia, is one of the world’s leading researchers on the scientific study of reincarnation or rebirth. He spent two days interviewing the Leninger family, and says that James rep- resents one of the strongest cases of seeming reincarnation that he has ever investigated. “You’ve got this child with nightmares focusing on plane crashes, who says he was shot down by the Japanese, flew off a ship called ‘Natoma,’ had a friend there named Jack Larsen, his plane got hit in the engine, crashed in the water, quickly sank, and said he was killed at Iwo Jima. We have documentation for all of this,” says Tucker in an interview. “It turns out there was one guy from the ship Natoma Bay who was killed during the Iwo Jima operations, and everything we have documented from James’ statements fits for this guy’s life.” JIM TUCKER GREW UP in North Carolina. He was a South- ern Baptist, but when he started training in psychiatry, he left behind any religious or spiritual worldview. Years later, he read about the work of a psychiatrist named Ian Stevenson in the local paper. Stevenson was a well-respected academic who left his posi- tion as chair of psychiatry at the University of Virginia in the 1960s to undertake a full-time study of reincarnation. Though his papers never got published in any mainstream scientific journals, he received appreciative reviews in respected publica- tions like The Journal of the American Medical Association, The American Journal of Psychology, and The Lancet. Before his death in 2007, Stevenson handed over much of his work to Tucker at the University of Virginia’s Division of Perceptual Studies. The first step in researching the possibility of rebirth is the collection of reports of past life memories. Individually, any one report, like James Leninger’s, proves little. But when thousands of the cases are analyzed collectively, they can yield compelling evidence. After decades of research, the Division of Perceptual Stud- ies now houses 2,500 detailed records of children who have reported memories of past lives. Tucker has written two books summarizing the research, Life Before Life and Return to Life. In Life Before Life, Tucker writes, “The best explanation for the strongest cases is that memories, emotions, and even physical injuries can sometimes carry over from one life to the next.” Children in rebirth cases generally start making statements about past lives between the ages of two and four and stop by the age of six or seven, the age when most children lose early childhood memories. A typical case of Tucker’s starts with a communication from a parent whose child has described a past life. Parents often have no prior interest in reincarnation, and they get in touch with Tucker out of distress—their child is describing things there is no logical way they could have experienced. Tucker corresponds with the parents to find out more. If it sounds like a strong case, with the possibility of identifying a previous life, he proceeds. When Tucker meets with a family, he interviews the parents, the child, and other potential informants. He fills out an eight- page registration form, and collects records, photographs, and evidence. Eventually, he codes more than two hundred variables for each case into a database. In the best cases, the researcher meets the family before they’ve identified a suspected previous identity. If the research- ers can identify the previous personality (PP) first, they have the opportunity to perform controlled tests. In a recent case, Tucker met a family whose son remembered fighting in the jungle in the Vietnam War and getting killed in action. The boy gave a name for the PP. When the parents looked up the name, they found that it was a real person. Before doing any further research, they contacted Tucker. Tucker did a controlled test with the boy, who was five. He showed him eight pairs of photos. In each pair, one photo was related to the soldier’s life and one was not—such as a photo of his high school and a photo of a high school he didn’t go to. For James Huston with his mother and sister. Right: James Leninger with Huston’s sister, Anne Huston Barron, who thinks there is a connection between Huston and Leninger. LION’S ROAR | MAY 2018 44