Child tells tale of apparent past life for TV show

The family always seems sincere, the story compelling. But what are we to think about this extraordinary claims that a child remembers a past life?

Do you believe in past lives? Toddler’s testimony has family questioning if he was a Chicago woman

Do you believe in past lives? An Ohio boy’s family says they didn’t until the child started sharing specific details. He spoke about living another life, in a different city, as a woman who suffered a horrific death.

Parents will tell you that kids say and do the darnedest things. Erika Ruehlman’s 2-year-old son Luke seemed obsessed with safety at their suburban Cincinatti home. Then, there was that other fixation.

The little boy named things “Pam”, but they didn’t know a “Pam”.

“I was like, ‘Who is Pam?’ That’s when he turned to me and said, ‘Well I was.’ I said, ‘what do you mean you were?’ He was like, ‘Well I used to be, but I died and I went up to heaven and I saw God and eventually God pushed me back down. When I woke up I was a baby and you named me Luke.’” said Erika Ruehlman.

As time went on, Ruehlman says Luke talked about dying in a fire, in Chicago.

This story sounds similar to this story from a few months ago where a family thought their child was the reincarnation of a dead Marine who died in Beirut. That story was ALSO featured on the exploitative show “Ghost Inside my Child“.

While these stories on the surface sound VERY convincing, it is a giant mistake to assume that all the items in the story are related accurately and that they have been checked as verified. Typically, the stories are vague and the details are enhanced later as others fit the pieces to real life connections. Children will commonly make up tales taking bits and pieces of real things and putting them together into another made-up story. This is not extraordinary. It’s normal. Asking us to accept that the boy is a reincarnation of Pam Robinson is a huge leap since there is no plausible mechanism for reincarnation and the evidence for it remains highly questionable and not of good quality. Solidly documented cases are rare. None have every been accepted universally as definitive.

The mother cites this book by Ian Stevenson: Children who Remember Previous Lives. His work was possibly the most extensive on this subject. However, the cases rely on anecdotes, not solid documentation of connections.

The fact that this current wave of children remembering past lives is enhanced by a TV show is disturbing. This is not to say that the Ruehlmans got the idea from the show which appears not to be the case, but many others WILL apply their wishful belief to their own children.

  10 comments for “Child tells tale of apparent past life for TV show

  1. Richard
    February 19, 2015 at 2:37 PM

    The book “Spook” by the NY Times science writer Mary Roach has a whole chapter on her trip to India to spend time with a researcher trying to prove the Hindu belief in reincarnation by checking on kids who reported memories of former lives. Invariably they were kids with vague stories and rewarded with family approval for saying the right things. (The whole book is well worth a read, including the “21 Grams” story, ghost wills, and more.)

    I suspect this will prove to be as false as the stories Ms Roach investigated or the “Heaven is Real” by that kid who admitted he made it all up for the attention.

  2. Angela
    February 19, 2015 at 3:29 PM

    Unless I am missing something, don’t we only have the word of the adults in his life that he actually started saying these things at 2? I realize all kids develop differently, but most 2 year olds I have known speak in one or two words or possibly very short sentences. And most of it is jibberish or copying other words and phrases they are hearing.

  3. Cathy
    February 19, 2015 at 5:45 PM

    Some 2 year olds can be very gifted speakers. My daughter was constructing very long sentences from information people had told her before she had turned 3. She could be told related facts and she was smart enough to link them all together and form a single sentence with all the information. I clearly remember that she once told someone “Daddy’s gone to China in a plane for work.” That’s a lot of information for a 2 year old to have in one sentence when she is not just repeating what has been said to her. I believe my brother was much the same. Unfortunately, my English skills aren’t quite as flash.

  4. Lagaya1
    February 19, 2015 at 6:22 PM

    I agree. What 2 year old uses the word “eventually”. Completely ridiculous.

  5. Ronald H. Pine
    February 19, 2015 at 10:32 PM

    Reminds me of “The Search for Bridey Murphy,” a book which was all the rage when I was in high school, although the supposedly reincarnated person was an adult at the time of the claims, rather than a child.

  6. ATraveller
    February 20, 2015 at 6:56 AM

    My daughter used to talk about wanting to go back to her old house when she was between two and three. Our house is yellow, and she’d ask if we could go back to the red house, and say that where we live was her ‘new home.’ She’d also ask about her siblings, claim that she had an older brother and sister, and ask where they were. At times her questions and statements were extremely creepy, and certainly made me wonder if there was anything to the whole past lives thing.

    However, there are many things that need to be taken into account. What if these are false memories, born from dreams or imprinted from television shows? Also, although she’s verbally quite advanced, then we as her parents still need to do a lot of interpretion. E.g. this morning she asked about the ‘orange pills that had liquid inside’ – after much thinking, we concluded that she was probably talking about the fish oil pills she used to get between the age of 1 and 2. But it’s impossible to say, since to me they are not orange – these pills are just the ones that best fit the description. However, now that I’ve named them fish oil pills, this will be what she’ll call them from now on. Until we actually get hold of them again, we have no way of knowing if we’re talking about the same thing. Same with ‘eventually’ – I have no problems believing that a two years old might use that word, but I’d be hesitant to assume that they mean the same thing as an adult would, and also I’d question if that was the exact word they used the first time they described that scenario.

    And that’s the ghist of it – with kids, it’s always hard to know if you’re talking about the same thing, and we still don’t know exactly how our memory works, and what happens during our dreams. Kids simply have less experience with the world, so each single event will have a larger impact upon their psyche. Stories like these may be evidence of past lives, or they may be evidence of unrelated input forming false memories, whereafter eager parents cause them to become fixated by asking about them again and again, and perhaps unwittingly supplying details with leading questions.

  7. busterggi
    February 20, 2015 at 8:30 AM

    I was a computer programmer in 5th century Gaul. Starved to death as I couldn’t find work.

  8. Richard
    February 20, 2015 at 11:19 AM

    Have you noticed that those who claim to remember past lives as adults generally had an exotic or privileged former life? Members of the aristocracy? Kings & queens? And if a slave or servant, was the hairdresser for Cleopatra or wine-steward for Charlemagne. Whereas until the Industrial Revolution, more than 90% of the population were agricultural workers (peasants, serfs, slaves) with a life expectancy of only 30-35 years, (Otto von Bismarck set the retirement age for government pensions at 65 because in the 19th century most German peasants did not live past 65, so he would not have to pay much ….) not to mention the horrific infant and child mortality before vaccines and sanitary sewers & water systems. No one has a past-life memory of, “My parents lived in an unheated cottage in Poland working as pig-herds and I died of cholera at age 8 ….”

  9. Russian Skeptic
    February 24, 2015 at 4:48 AM

    Sure. No one speaks of being a serf and being whipped. While statistically it would have been more plausible than being a princess.

  10. Russian Skeptic
    February 24, 2015 at 5:00 AM

    There is a plausible explanation: the child had a dream. He could have learned about ‘Pam’ from a broadcast. Toddlers’ ability to memorize and understand adult speech is greatly underestimated. For instance, at 16 I was able to recall the personal name and patronymic name of a politician who died when I was 5 (even despite the fact that older people did not remember them). I remember the radio talking about ‘billions dollars’ and ‘cattle’ when I was 3.
    At the same time, confusing dream and reality is common in toddlers. For instance, at 2 (like this same boy) I was sure that I saw a crocodile in my bedroom.

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