How many times have you lived upon the earth?

Dr. Jim Tucker continues his research into the unexplained world of reincarnation.
Dr. Jim Tucker continues his research at the University of Virginia into the unexplained world of reincarnation.

THE BEAUTIFUL CAMPUS of the University of Virginia still retains characteristics of Jeffersonian architecture, designed by its founder Thomas Jefferson. It was founded in 1819 and its central area is located on Jefferson Park Avenue in Charlottesville, Virginia. Edgar Allan Poe attended the school and excelled there in Latin. Students traversing the grounds often encounter unusual serpentine walls.

Jamison Eckhart moseyed along, possibly next to one of these serpentine and mysterious walls as he made his way to enter a building that was part of the University of Virginia School of Medicine. He was headed toward the Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences and he had too many tantalizing prospects on his mind.

You see, he was a student who had volunteered to work there just so he would be allowed to view some of the research that was being done on cases of possible reincarnation. He had been fascinated by the subject because of his own early life experience. As a young boy he had memories of other places, other times that he could not explain. They had faded with time, but they were still there.

Ian Stevenson, M.D, a psychiatrist worked at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and was chairman of the Department of Psychiatry from 1957-1967. He is responsible for creating the volumes of research dealing with reincarnation and he believed that it might be possible for a person’s phobias or philias to be attributed to soul transfer via reincarnation if there were no other valid reasons for them. He was a meticulous researcher that traveled the globe compiling his notes and toward the end of his career he published a book on what he had discovered: the twenty most likely case studies for the evidence of reincarnation.

Jim Tucker worked with Ian Stevenson in his research and took over when Stevenson retired in 2002.

Jamison Eckhart pored over the documented cases whenever he had the chance. He was intrigued by the accounts of children who claimed to have previous lives. For the most part the children’s vivid memories of such lives tended to fade at age six. Therefore, in research, it was important to record their accounts when first made aware of them, when they are fresh and recently recalled. When children are telling their past life experiences, they often show an overabundance of emotion. Typically, with the fading memories, the children become more interested in living the life they are living now.

Jamison was very intrigued by one fairly recent account. Sadly, it was not verifiable. There were a few known facts, but the researcher had died before publishing all of the information or a follow-up. Dr. Eli Lasch, a physician in Israel, was responsible for the investigation and it involved a three year old boy from the Golan Heights area. Lasch heard of the story and contacted the boy’s parents. They invited him to go along on some side trips with the boy as he explained his past life experiences.

Dr. Lasch could not help noticing a long red birthmark when he met the boy. It was right atop the boy’s head. On the trip, they entered a third village, and this one the boy claimed was familiar to him. As they began to walk about in the village, the little boy remembered both his first and last names in what he said was a previous life. He directed the group to what he believed was his previous home.

They made some inquires all about in the neighborhood and learned the little boy that lived there had disappeared four years before. The group was shocked when the little boy walked up to a man he saw standing nearby. “I know you,” he said. “You used to be a neighbor of mine and you argued with me and got so mad that you killed me with an axe. The boy then revealed that he knew this neighbor’s first and last name—he was correct. “I will show where you buried me.” The neighbor man was enervated but went on with the group out of curiosity.

The account ends with the boy taking them to the mysterious makeshift grave where the child was buried. He took them where the axe was hidden. When the body was exhumed it had a dent in the skull that corresponded to the birthmark on the boy’s head. The neighbor man confessed at that point.

Dr. Lasch died in 2009 taking all of the facts to his grave with him and no one knows the identity of the living boy or where he can be located. His family has not come forward at this point in time.

Jamison shook his head. He wanted the information. He would even like to talk to the boy. He continued more of his reading and came across the amazing accounts of three young Sri Lankan boys who were convinced they had past lives as Buddhist monks. Not only were the boys themselves convinced of this, but those who knew them closely, also found the ways they behaved remarkable.

The first boy was Duminda Bandara Ratnayake. He was born in a remote area of Sri Lanka in 1984. It was in the mountains. From an early age he told others that he was a monk at a temple in Asgiriva, sixteen miles distant, and that he had owned a red car. He also said that he was a trainer of other monks there and that he owned an elephant, a radio and a money bag.

These things are not appropriate for a monk to possess, his mother thought, so she was flustered by her boy’s claims. Research done by Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson ferreted out some of the facts. Haraldsson is professor emeritus at the University of Iceland. His research into Duminda’s claims—he examined the lives of several deceased monks in the area—led him to the evidence of a man, the Venerable Mahanayaka Gunnepana, who was very similar to the monk Duminda was claiming to be.

He had a reddish brown car, he often tended an elephant that was brought to the village by one of his deciples, he did not own a radio but owned a gramophone—he loved music. Duminda had often described his death as a pain in the chest. Mahanayaka actually died of a heart attack.

Duminda, the boy, was quiet and serene. He followed many monk-like behaviors that a little boy would not know about. He carried his clothing like a monk, he placed flowers in the Buddhist temple, and he would not let females touch his hands, including his own mother—forbidden in the world of monks.

Sadika Tharanga was born to Roman Catholics in 1979 in Columbo. Garamg Ruvan Tharamangkerera was born in 1987 in the Kalutara District. Like Duminda, these boys had long lists of past life experiences that had been relayed by family members, and then recorded in person by researchers. They also had long lists of monk-like behavior that little boys of their age would not have knowledge of. At times actual Buddhist monks were called in to observe their behavior and offer their opinions. Even they were baffled.

Jamison Eckhart was very familiar with Jim Tucker’s work. As Ian Stevenson’s successor, Tucker had continued to document the experiences of children who felt they had lived once before. One is the noted James Leininger case. The little Louisiana boy loved airplanes, yet from the age of two he had experienced horrific nightmares. During the nightmares he would thrash about and kick his legs in the air.

He often squealed, “Airplane crash on fire, little man can’t get out.” He repeated this over and over again, the same words. When his father quizzed him about it, James stated, “I was a pilot and I had flown off a boat.” When quizzed some more he said he thought the boat was “Natoma.” His father said the name sounded Japanese and the boy replied, “No, it is American and I am the pilot of a plane called a Corsair. My good friend here is Jack Larson.”

After some digging, the boy’s father was astounded to learn that the USS Natoma Bay, a carrier, had been in support of the Iwo Jima operations of WWII. It had lost one pilot there, James Huston whose nickname was Little Man. Huston was killed after the plane was hit in the engine and quickly sank. The other pilot in the immediate area was Jack Larson.

The most astounding case in Tucker’s recent book is that of and Oklahoma boy named Ryan. He was convinced he had lived in Hollywood. His mother, decided to show him some picture books on Hollywood one day and Ryan pointed to the picture of a man who was an extra in a George Raft film and Ryan exclaimed “That’s me!”

Some extensive digging turned up the identity of the uncredited extra. It was Martin Martyn, a successful Hollywood agent who had some bit movie parts early on. Ryan’s family took him to Hollywood to see the places he talked about and they even talked to Martyn’s daughter. The boy knew facts and tidbits about Martyn and Hollywood that are not public knowledge.

Jamison Eckhart stared out the window for a good while. He got out a legal pad. I think it is time for me to start writing, to put my early memories of other places and other times on paper. Maybe I will show these to Jim Tucker one of these days.

Sara Marie Hogg is the author of Quite Curious, a collection of stories about the unknown and unexplained.

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