The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 13, 2006

Do you think that it’s possible that we’ve lived before?

Point Blank column

By John Blankenship

Millions believe in it.

Some baffling case histories suggest they may be right.

One out of every four people believes in reincarnation — that we come back after death as someone else, perhaps in a never-ending cycle.

The Australian aborigines believe in it, and it is part of the religion of millions of Indian Hindus.

Actress Shirley MacLaine believes she lived many previous lives.

Actor Sylvester Stallone believes he will come back as the heavyweight champion of the world like Rocky Balboa, a character he played in filmdom.

Do you think that it’s possible that we’ve lived before?

Well, either you believe it or you don’t.

Nevertheless, there are cases in which people claimed to recall details of previous lives. Believers say this phenomenon can be explained only by reincarnation.


Take the Canadian, for example, who had never studied ancient languages, yet under hypnosis was able to speak in the tongue of the Vikings and write a Middle Eastern language that had been used in Mesopotamia 1,500 years ago.

Investigated by a Toronto psychiatrist, the man told of his former life as a Viking raider named Thor.

In hypnotic trance, he could recite a strange language that experts identified as a phonetic rendering of ancient Norse. He also wrote in a hand that was identified as Sassanid Pahlavi, a language of the Persian empires that has not been used since the year 651 A.D.

Then there’s the strange case of interior decorator Diane Storm who consulted a therapist to alleviate her feelings of financial insecurity.

Once under hypnosis, details of what seemed to be a previous life came tumbling out.

She said she had been born in 1903 as Rita McCullum. Rita’s life was a tragic one. Her adoptive parents died in an auto accident when she was 13.

Later, she and her husband ran a garment business in New York City. But in 1928 and 1929, first her husband and then her son got sick and died.

Rita went bankrupt during the Great Depression and hanged herself in her garment factory June 11, 1933.

Intrigued by the details she was able to recall, Rita’s therapist confirmed there had been a Rita McCullum, and her death certificate showed she had hanged herself on the date and in the place Strom had indicated.

And a 33-year-old chronic migraine victim reportedly was cured by her therapist when, under hypnosis, she recalled details of her former life as a Wild West dance hall girl. She recounted a tale of having been fatally shot in the head during a saloon gunfight.


Many experts are skeptical of hypnotically induced recall, the most famous instance of which was the Bridey Murphy case of the early 1950s.

Under the spell of stage hypnotist Morey Bernstein, a woman recounted in extraordinary detail her past life as a 15th century Irish girl named Bridey Murphy.

And the case got tremendous publicity.

Then someone came along and wrote a book debunking the whole affair. It turned out that when she was a child of 2 or 3, the woman’s family had had an Irish maid who regaled her with legends of ancient Ireland. She had absorbed and forgotten the tales until they tumbled out years later as a “remembered” past life.

As it turns out, we all absorb information without realizing it and it can then be retrieved, apparently without explanation, under hypnosis.

Even so, many others do not dismiss reincarnation as pure imagination. There is something to it, some believe.

The actor Glenn Ford reportedly claimed to have been reincarnated five times. Ford made dozens of Westerns and all his life he was a natural horseman.

Under hypnosis, Ford claimed to have discovered he was a former cowboy named Charlie Bill and was an expert horseman in King Louis XIV’s cavalry. He even claimed to have been a Scottish piano teacher who raised horses in a past life.

But a former professor at Oxford University once observed skeptically that many of the wealthy and successful — like MacLaine and Ford — believe in reincarnation because they feel they can take their success with them into a new life.

My question is simply this: If it’s possible to have lived in previous centuries, how come none of these people were ever born of a different sex?

I guess that it must be some unwritten code: Boys will be boys and girls will be girls.

But if it is possible to come back as somebody special, maybe next time Sylvester Stallone will be taller. I hear he wore high-heeled boots in one film so that he could square off with Dolly Parton eye-to-eye.

After all, a heavyweight might look funny in the next life wearing high heels.


Top o’ the morning!

— Blankenship is a Register-Herald writer.