Scientific Methodology Used in the Study of Children Claiming a Past Life

If you are a skeptic like me, you are probably suspicious of children who claim to remember a past life. After all, it is very easy to envision that these claims are nothing more than lies, fabricated identifications and untrustworthy observations. Anyone can find information on the internet about people from the past. Perhaps the motivations facilitating the claims are less than honorable. This is where the expert researchers come in.

First, let’s see how these claims generally happen. A child, on average between 2–1/2 to 3 years of age, spontaneously makes claims that he or she remembers a past life. In some cases, this may first occur as soon as the child can speak.

As discussed in Tom Shroder’s book, Old Souls, the stories these children often tell are not of a glamorous life as a king or star from the past. Instead, they are stories of an ordinary person who lived a less glamorous life. According to Shroder (p. 47):

“As I read the outline of the case in Stevenson’s notes, I was gratified: it had a number of important features, which, if they held up under scrutiny, would be very impressive. To begin with–and this is a common feature of Stevenson’s cases–the life Daniel [Jirdi] remembered was excruciatingly ordinary, virtually glamourless: a single, working-class man, childless, unmarried, unrenowned, killed in a completely routine accident–hardly a likely subject for a youngster’s fantasies.”

Another convincing element in many, but not all, of these cases is that the family of the child has had no contact with the family of the person from the past life. Often, the child has not even been to the area (community, nation, etc.) where the person from the past life lived and may be able to speak a language well… a language to which he or she has never been exposed.

In some of the most extraordinary cases, early documentation of the child’s claims provide a number of alleged facts and these lead the researcher to a specific individual. Researchers review the documentation, research public information (newspapers, birth and death certificates, etc.), and interview the child and others who have relevant observations to share. They take the child back to the alleged past life home and also may set up a visit with the family and love from the past life. The expert is evaluating the child’s emotions throughout the process.

Face-to-face interviews allow the researcher to evaluate the veracity of the interviewee. Consistency and inconsistency among the interviewees may add or lessen the credibility of these claims. When children demonstrate strong, fragile emotions while telling their story, the credibility of the claims may strengthen. In some cases, the researcher may not be able to identify the person the child claims to have been and must hire an expert.
Let’s walk through a real-life example of how this research is done.

In his book, Return to Life, Dr. Jim Tucker discusses his study of Ryan Hammon’s claim of being from old Hollywood. Ryan’s mother, Cyndi, concerned for her child, went to the library to borrow books on Hollywood. While leafing through a book, Ryan pointed to an unidentified man and said that he was “George.” Then, he points to someone, again unidentified in the book, and said that he was that man.

The first person he pointed to was George Raft, an actor from the 30s and 40s known primarily for his work in gangster movies. That fact alone might be viewed as less than convincing as information on that actor would be easy to find. But, the other person, the one he said was him in the past life, was a much different story. Prior to Dr. Tucker getting involved, he remained unidentified.

Before the identification of the man from the past life was made, Dr. Tucker had a list of alleged facts about that person’s life from Ryan. But, that man was an unnamed extra in the movie, Night After Night. In his book, Dr. Tucker says he felt that “figuring out the identity of a nameless face from a 1930s movie seemed a nearly impossible task.”

Television producers became interested in Ryan’s story. Initially, they thought they may have identified the illusive person in the picture, but to no avail. Then they decided to hire “an archival footage consultant named Kate Coe to try to find out who the man in Night After Night was. She initially figured the job would be easy. Once she learned the details, however, she changed her mind. As she said on The UneXplained, she thought, ‘Oh, wait a second. It’s an uncredited extra. It’s some guy in a hat!’ She sent the photo from the movie to other researchers, and no one could identify him.”

Finally, she finds the answer by going to probably the largest film library in the world, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and finds a picture. The picture caption only identified the stars and the name of the movie. Ah, but on the back of the photo, she found the answer: “’What the well-dressed racketeer will wear. Marty Martyn, playing a racketeer in Paramount’s ‘Night After Night’, with George Raft, Constance Cummings, Wynne Gibson, Mae West and Alison Skipworth, gives a demonstration of underworld sartorial excellence.’”

With a name, Marty Martyn, Dr. Tucker could finally compare Ryan’s alleged facts about the past life to the life on the identified person from the past. And that comparison proved remarkable.

While each case plays out differently, there are extraordinary cases where the child’s claims simply cannot be dismissed. These experts objectively investigate the case, evaluate the strength of the claims by considering the information and observations obtained through their interviews, the consistency of the information obtained from the relevant persons, information from the public domain, and more.

Cover Design by Lizaa

In my novel, Love After Life, I show how an expert uses this methodology to study the claims of a young boy, Joseph, who remembers a past life as James and his beautiful love and wife, Kathleen. If you want to see the methodology in practice, this story is a great place to start.

If you would like to review how the study of children claiming a past life developed over recent decades, you can read my recent blog article, “The Genesis of the Study of Children Claiming a Past Life.”



Richard Sieg, a lawyer by day and writer by night, is the author of one novel, Love After Life.

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Richard Sieg

Richard Sieg, a lawyer by day and writer by night, is the author of one novel, Love After Life.