Children's Past Lives

A New Case of Mother Switching

When someone dies, they can reincarnate in the same family—sometimes only a few months or years after death. The signs that a child is a loved one reborn are often apparent in the young child’s personality, quirky mannerisms, or shocking statements he or she makes about their previous life as a family member. The statements can include details of the death the family never talks about. In Return From Heaven, I describe a number of these amazing, not uncommon, cases that show the different ways parents recognize their child as a relative who had died before the child was born, someone they knew well and loved.

Now, here is a case that just came to me from a participant in one of my recent workshops. Her name is Tricia. It’s an example of how just knowing that souls can reincarnate in the same family can change a person’s perceptions about life, death, and the meaning of reincarnation.

This is how Tricia described it to me in a recent email.

Carol Bowman's book, Return from Heaven, is one of my top five books of all time that have had an impact on my life.  I was reading Chapter 5, called "Mother Switching,” when I had an epiphany of enormous dimensions about my own situation.

My beautiful but mentally-tormented mother, Mary, died when I was 16 years old.  I was married at 19 and gave birth to my only child, Lauren, right after I turned 22.  When my daughter was only a few years old she was already an artist, as my mother had been all her life. She also had very dark hair and very white skin, as had my mother.

My daughter began having nightmares around 3 years of age that never made any sense to my family: In her nightmares she would scream that she was being flushed down a black toilet. These nightmares would wake her up with bloodcurdling screams.  I would run to comfort her.  One night, when she was about four years old, as I was tucking her in, she looked up at me and said, ‘This time you get to be the mommy.’  Her words ran right through me. I immediately called my sister to tell her.

In Return From Heaven, I read the cases of “mother switching” in which a mother dies and is reborn to her own daughter. As I read these stories, I understood that if a person dies traumatically, when they reincarnate they bring back memories of their former life, and sometimes may have nightmares about their former death. Finally, my daughter’s nightmares made sense. My mother died when she fell through ice in a pond and became trapped under the ice.  It would be very dark in a pond under the ice, and I sensed that my daughter could relate this to “water in a black toilet.”


There were other things about their lives, too, which suddenly made sense.  My mother married a man who wore glasses named Edward, who was an English teacher.  My daughter married a man who wears glasses named Ed, who was an English major, writes reviews, and wants to be a teacher one day.

When my mother died, I cried so desperately for her, because she died a death that was as sad as the rest of her life. She had so many responsibilities. She was the oldest girl in her family, and was responsible for the care of her six siblings. By the age of 26, she was the mother of five children. There was never enough money to buy art supplies for her to nourish her talent and love of art.

I always wished I could go back and fix my mother’s life. I always wanted so badly to do a do-over for her. I never realized before now how our intentions can manifest things on an unseen level.  Now I see how this played out with my daughter. Lauren had no siblings to take care of. We always supported her in her artistic endeavors, and she graduated from a prestigious art school. Now, at the age of 30, she just got married and is free to pursue her art—like her grandmother always dreamed of doing, but never could.

I can bless and release now.  Thanks to Carol for writing the book that made it all make sense. Even now, years after this epiphany, seeing how all the pieces fit together still amazes me.”

[I asked Tricia how knowing that her mother is back as her daughter has affected her emotionally, or changed her beliefs. Here is the rest of her story]:

At 16, my mother’s death left me numb, with a sense of anger with God for how unfair her life was for a woman who was named Mary and born on Christmas Day. My mother was tortured by mental illness that greatly affected her life. Then, for a beautiful woman who never intentionally did a wrong thing, who loved and cared for others, to die in such horrible circumstances, made no sense at all. I stopped going to Church. I stopped crying. For over five years, I was numb. Then my daughter was born and I got very emotional and started crying again.

“One night, when my daughter was less than a year old, I was thinking about my mother. I was thinking how my Catholic teachings said that those who committed suicide did not go to heaven. My mother was in a mental hospital at the time of her death. They ruled her death a suicide. I did not believe that was the case, since there was no letter and no intention. And, she did not believe in suicide, and she never liked water and could not swim. She had a prior history of escaping from hospitals; it happened multiple times. She died on the grounds of the hospital, in a pond that was between the hospital and the road to escape. I believe the hospital ruled it a suicide to lessen their liability in the circumstances of her death.

“I was sitting alone on my sofa, wracked with crying and tears. I was thinking about my mother, contemplating whether her soul was saved, if she was still in pain, or worse. I needed to know that she was okay and that this world had some sense of fairness. Suddenly, my steel-bolted door blew open and a rush of calming wind went through my body. I stopped crying, went to the door and looked out. There was no wind blowing. I washed my face and knew she was okay. I knew, in that moment, that even for all those who commit suicide, a loving God would never condemn those who are afflicted with mental illness and cannot make good decisions. The wind that blew through me that night was very special, indeed. It gave me a sense of peace about her soul. We are not alone here.

But, even after that, I still felt that her life had been unfair. It was when I read the story in Return From Heaven, and recognized my mother in my daughter, that I had a sense of peace about everyone’s life. Because, I realized that our souls are able to come back again and experience new and different things.”


More about my book Return from Heaven which features the chapter Mother Switching is here.

Almost Made It

When my son was five, we had seen Abe Lincoln on TV one night.  When I was putting him to bed that night he asked, "Mom, am I going to die by getting shot?"   I answered, "No, honey, you'll probably just get old and sick and die one day." Suddenly, his face lit up and he smacked himself on the side of the cheek and exclaimed, "Mom, I've already done that!  I died once."  I said, "You what?"  And he repeated, "I died once."

I wondered where this was leading so I asked him, "How Jamie?"   He said, "I was a very old man and I was on a ship, a wood ship with a tall pole.  We had just gotten to America and everybody else had gotten off.  But, can you believe it? I just died before I got there."

I asked him where he had come from.  He said, "It was so far away, somewhere across the sea. It was so cold, and we didn't have anything to eat and we were so hungry.  And they shot me before I could get off the boat."

I said, "And you remember this?"  He said, "Yeh, and everybody else got to get off in America and I just died."

I knew enough about past lives at that point to draw him out, but it was unsettling hearing him talk about his death.  But I realized that he was recalling a past lifetime with great clarity, and I let him talk.  His memory seemed to be triggered by what he saw on TV, when he heard that Lincoln had been shot.  He sounded a little disappointed when he said he never made it to America, but I assured him that he had finally made it.

The Sound of German Music

When my son was two years old, and barely putting sentences together, he spent the night at his German grandparents' house. They liked to sit on the patio in the evening, and Opa would play the harmonica while Oma sang. On this particular night, my son started crying and told his grandparents that he needed to see me.   This was unusual, since he often stayed there with them, and was always happy to go. They tried to calm him, but he just sobbed. Oma brought him home, and I was surprised to see my son at the door in his pajamas, sobbing. I took him from Oma, but he wouldn't stop crying, even though I rubbed his back and asked him to stop.  I sat him down on a kitchen chair, and kneeling in front of him I asked him why he was crying.

He said,  "I fell down a mountain and I lost you."   I was really confused that this was why he would be crying, so I said, "What mountain?  When were you on a mountain?"  He seemed to be a bit perturbed that I didn't  already know, and said, "I fell down a mountain and lost you a long time ago when I was big!"  I asked, "A long time ago?"  He replied, "Yes!  When I was big!"

So I said, "What happened after you fell down?"  He said, "I was hurt, and my friends came and took me up home, and I lost you."  When he said "they took me up home," he made a wavy hand movement like he was going upwards.   This produced a new round of intense sobbing.

So I took him off the chair, put him on my lap, and said, "If you did fall down a mountain, it was a long time ago, and now you are here, and so am I, and we are together again.  So you didn't  lose me at all." He suddenly stopped crying, as if he realized I was right.   He sort of blinked and cleared, and then he nodded, and suddenly he was all right.  I asked him if he wanted to go back with Oma now, and he said no, he wanted to stay with me.

I don't know who he was to me then.  But I do know that as a child, I had a recurring dream of escaping some terror through the mountains, through very bad weather.  Something very trying was happening. In these dreams, my heart would feel as if it were breaking, or squishing in my chest, and I would wake up screaming. I would have this dream all the time.  I actually had to tell myself not to dream about it, because I was really tired of the terror.  The dreams finally stopped when I was around eight years old.

I think that the German music, some familiar song, made my son remember that lifetime.  I even thought maybe we were Jews escaping across the Alps. I actually looked into that possibility, but from what I read, that trek didn't sound all that dangerous. But who knows what could have happened in bad weather.

What I do know is that I am now here in Canada with my son, probably living the easiest life I have ever lived.  And no one can tell me reincarnation doesn't happen.

Anything can trigger a past life memory in a young child: a sight, a sound, a smell, a familiar-looking place--anything.  In this case, the sound of German music triggered a memory.

The mother responded in the best way to her son's experience:  She listened to him, asked open-ended questions, and allowed him to tell her what happened, without judgment. She also assured her son that whatever happened was a long time ago, and that they were together again.  Sometimes, with very young children, acknowledging the child's experience, and then clarifying what was past, and what is now present, works wonders.  I have seen this happen again, and again.

I think it's amazing that the child's mother had recurring dreams that dove-tailed the child's memory.  I believe this confirmed the reality of her own dreams and her son's memory.  What a gift it is to know that even in the face of death and tragedy, souls can be re-united, as in this case.

"When I Was Your Father"

My husband, who is now 45 years old, lost his father to a massive heart attack twenty-three years ago, when his father was 51. Obviously, this traumatic event left my husband Fred deeply scared and angry, with feelings of resentment and feeling cheated of a life with his father. When our fourth (and last) child was born, he was a boy, and we decided to name him after Fred's dad, Robert, as a tribute to his memory. Since my late father-in-law died 23 years prior to Robert's death, he knew almost nothing about him, other than they shared the same name and that he died young. Robert may have seen an occasional picture or two, but there weren't many photos taken back then. Anyway, before our son Robert had ever even saw a photo, or knew what a heart attack was, or even fully understood the concept of death, he made some interesting remarks.

Ever so matter-of-factly, on several occasions, around the age of two, when he was just starting to form complete sentences, he started claiming that he was my husband's father. He would snuggle up with his dad and stare into my husband's eyes and tell him that he was his father. He would sit on his lap and say, "You know I'm your daddy.  Remember when you used to sit on MY lap like this?"

The first time he said it, we thought it was a little strange but mostly just a cute remark. We simply chalked it up to a "Well, that's a weird one!"  But this one-time incident became a regular routine, each time with slightly more details. For instance, when he was four, my husband and I took him to the park. While my husband was pushing Robert on the swings, he said, "Daddy, remember when I was YOUR daddy, and I pushed YOU on the swings?"  As he got older there would be other instances when we would be driving somewhere or at an event and Robert would recall specific places and events from Fred's life with his father. Robert would say to Fred, "Remember when YOU were little and I took YOU here?" The really odd thing is that most of these places and/or events were ones Robert never personally experienced himself. Therefore, it's not as if he could have been recalling something HE actually did with his own father (my husband, Fred). Little episodes such as these continued throughout Robert's  life. Now, at age ten, every now and then he will look at an old photo of my husband's father and say something like, "I remember the day this picture was taken, I was at my moma's (his great-grandmother's) house."   Fred and I will just look at each other when he Robert makes one of these remarks.

I asked Robert today to tell me what he remembers about being Daddy's dad. He just laughed and said, "I was only kidding, Mom."  However, when he was very young, between two and five, he hardly seemed to be kidding at all. His statements were so sincere, honest, serious, and too matter-of-fact. Perhaps he is just forgetting.

I should mention that we are Catholic and though not totally devout, we do attend Mass occasionally, pray often, celebrate all of the traditional Catholic holidays and practice the Sacraments. The Catholic Church does not believe in nor encourage the exploration of reincarnation. Still, we can't help but wonder.  Additionally, we do not feel that we would be betraying our Catholic beliefs if we are open to evolution, past lives, reincarnation and/or other such psychic or paranormal beliefs. We believe it is possible to believe in both philosophies, without going against and/or compromising the religious beliefs with which we were raised.

"I Died in a Fire"

Here's another fascinating case from my archives.

I wanted to share the story of my son David,  who was born in February of 2000.

I was sitting on the couch watching David play when he was around three years old.  He suddenly stopped playing  and walked over to me and said, "Mom did you know that I was a fireman?"  I said, "No.  I did not know that."  He continued, " I was a firefighter and I died in a fire and it was very hot and I could not breathe."   I asked him again and he repeated what he had said, word for word.

Later that week he came into the living room and showed me what he had done:  He had taken apart his Buzz Light Year space ship cover, which was clear plastic, and placed it inside his plastic firefighter's hat as a face shield.  After that  he would not wear his fireman's hat unless he was also holding the face shield. I finally taped it inside the helmet so he could play and use both of his hands, rather than always holding the shield with one of his hands.

I began to see how some of David's other behaviors might relate to his dying in a fire.  He never liked hot food, or even slightly warm foods; he would simply not put them in his mouth.   Now,  at the age of six, he is getting better about foods that are slightly warm.  He has also always been very careful about bath water and anything that could be hot to the touch.

I was fortunate enough to have my son tell me early on about his past life and how he died.  I felt that I could understood his behaviors better.   Because of that,  I never forced him to eat hot food and have been very careful about the bath water.

He does not seem to remember any more about his life as a fireman.  But I still keep his fireman's hat with the shield on it.   I am sending you a photo of David with his fireman's hat and shield.   I think the expression on his face says it all.

DavidB2 DavidB1

Falling From the Sky

My second book, Return From Heaven, is devoted to cases of reincarnation in the same family.   This is a common phenomenon:  A family member or a loved one dies and reincarnates in the same family.  The surviving family members recognize the new child in the family as the loved one who died through the child's statements, specific, quirky mannerisms, behaviors, physical symptoms related to the death, and other personality traits that cannot be attributed to heredity.  Most people are surprised to learn that the turn-around can be very fast--even less than nine months. Here's a great case a grandmother sent me:

My grandson Alex was born in May of 2000. From the time he was born, he would wake from sleep and thrash, scream, and kick like he was in a panic. He acted as if he was terrified, and for the first ten minutes or so it was if he didn't know who his family was. He would not respond when we tried to sooth and comfort him and get him to calm down. He also frightened easily, and mechanical noises, like the vacuum cleaner, made him scream with fear.

I told my daughter Sally, Alex's mom, that I thought this was caused by some sort of trauma from a past life, and that we had to be extra patient with him. I told Sally that I thought Alex would eventually overcome his fears if he felt loved and cherished. That was our mission as parents and grandparents.

Alex started talking about his past life when he was three. He told his family that he used to live in Florida and he talked about fishing. (Alex and his family do not live in Florida and they don't fish.) A few months after making those remarks, he told a family friend that he had died outside. A few weeks later, when he spent the night with me, he told me that he had died in an airplane that burned up, like in a fireplace, and then it fell out of the sky.  I was shocked, to say the least, but tried not to seem overly concerned to Alex. When his parents came to pick him up the next morning I told them what he had said. Sally was interested. But Richard, Alex's dad, didn't  really want to talk about it because it brought back painful memories for him. His own father, Sam, had died in a plane crash in 1980 when Richard was only eleven. Richard never talked about his father's violent death in front of Alex.

Sam had been a businessman who had lived in Florida. He had owned several yachts and an airplane and regularly made business flights around the U.S. On this particular and fatal flight, he was traveling with his business partner, his partner's young son, who was seven, and a pilot who flew the plane. They had just made a flight to Philadelphia and were flying home. The plane was found crashed and burned in the mountains of Tennessee. It had crashed during a snowstorm. All the occupants of the plane had been killed. Sam's wallet was returned to his wife and it was soaked with blood.

When Alex was four he began talking more about the airplane crash with his mother, but only a few sentences here and there. Then one day, while was was driving in the car with his mother, Alex began to tell her about the plane crash. The details he related were so vivid she began to believe that the story was true, not just his imagination. Plus, so many of the details mirrored what she had heard about the airplane crash that had killed Sam, the father-in-law she had never met. Some of the details Alex told her were unusual, and they involved aspects about the crash she did not know.

Alex told her that when he died he had been a grown man, was married, and had four children. (Sam had been married, and had four children; Richard was his youngest.) Alex said that the plane burned as it fell and hit a mountain. He said the people inside the plane were screaming as the fire burned them. He said there was a “big boy” sitting in the seat beside him who had red hair. This did not make sense to Sally, because Richard had once told her that a young boy of three was on that plane and that the boy had been the son of Sam's business partner. But Alex was insisting that he was a big boy.

Sally questioned Richard about these details when Alex was not around, asking if the boy who died had red hair. At first Richard flatly refused to believe Alex's story. He said his dad's plane did not burn before it crashed, and that the boy was only three, so he wasn't big. He also didn't know if the boy had had red hair. Plus he said that he had never heard anyone say that the boy was sitting next to his dad when they crashed. Sally suggested that they call Richard's older sister, Beverly, who had been twenty at the time of the crash and would know more details.

Richard called Beverly who lives in Florida, and related to her what Alex had said. Beverly got upset and started screaming and crying. She told Richard that their father and the other people on the plane had been burned badly; the plane caught fire as it plummeted to the Earth. They did not tell Richard this at the time of the accident because he was only eleven years old. They were trying to spare him as many of the horrible details as they could. Beverly said that the little boy was older than Richard thought; he was seven years old and he was indeed a redhead. (So to four-year-old Alex, a seven-year-old would have looked like a big boy.) She also verified that the boy had been sitting in the seat next to Sam, not his own father, as Alex had claimed.

Richard was very upset when he found out that his dad had been badly burned before the crash, and that he had suffered terribly before he died. The news came as a great shock.

Richard then, for the first time, told us about the last day he saw his dad alive. His dad was flying out later that afternoon and was packing to leave on his trip. As his father was leaving, his mom decided to take all four kids to get an ice cream. Richard said he remembered his dad kissing him in the driveway and telling him he loved him very much. Richard climbed into the car and watched his dad wave good-bye as they drove away. He never saw his father again.

Shortly after this,  I was babysitting Alex one night. I was putting him in the tub when he turned and looked up at me with huge, sad eyes and said, "Grammie, one time I burned up and fell out of the sky. I was covered with boo-boos and I died."  He then started to cry. He sobbed and sobbed. I held him close and told him not to worry, that it happened a long time ago and he is now safe.

Since that day, he loves to tell me about "when I lived in Florida." He talks on and on about how he owned a boat and loved to go out on the ocean, sit in the sun, and catch fish and eat them. That is exactly how Sam had spent his spare time. He sailed the Caribbean, taking his family on long trips to the islands, catching fish and eating them! Unfortunately, now Alex belongs to a family that does not go fishing, we don't live near water, and we actually hate fish and never eat it. Alex is always begging his mom to buy him some fish to eat.

There are other similarities between Alex and his grandfather Sam. Both love to dance. And, according to Beverly, Alex behaves towards his other grandmother, Laura, who was Sam's wife, the same way Sam did. When Laura tells him to do something, Alex puts his hands on his hips and says, "Nana, no!" in this commanding voice that he doesn't use with anyone else. He also told his mother that he used to be married to Nana.  Beverly believes that Alex is her father reborn. She says that there is no other way that he could have known all the facts of the accident, and some of his behaviors are just like her father's.

Body memory

Physical marks, deformities, or symptoms on a body can correspond to past life fatal wounds, injuries, or disease.  This is an intriguing story I just received:

When my daughter was about three years old we drove by the hospital where she was born. I said, "Look, you were born there. She replied, "Yes, I know.  I was shot, a policeman brought me there, I died, and then I was born!"   At the time I just said,  "I'm glad you're my baby,"  and dropped it.   We talked about it here and there, but didn't focus on it.

A few months ago, about four months after her 16th birthday, she saw that she had round, light grey marks on her chest between her breasts.Because it didn't itch, and was not bothering her in any way besides the discoloration, we didn't focus on it.  For about two weeks after the marks appeared, when we went out for our family walks in our high end, very safe neighborhood, she would get this overwhelming fear that someone was waiting in a car to shoot at her, and us.  My husband and I let her know we were as safe as could be. Soon after she mentioned the marks to me and her fear of being shot, the marks began to disappear.  It seemed the marks were going away as her fear of harm was.

Sometimes, a fatal, traumatic injury can leave its traces in a future life as birthmarks, birth defects, or other physical symptoms  on the new body. Dr. Ian Stevenson wrote extensively about these physical links between lives in his tome, Reincarnation and Biology.

I know from working with children's spontaneous memories that in rare cases once a child talks about a traumatic past life death, and expresses the emotions around the death, physical symptoms relating to the death can clear up.  When my son was five years old, he recalled a battlefield death when he had been wounded in the wrist; after talking about it, a chronic eczema on that same wrist, which had not responded to medical treatment, cleared up completely. There are many documented cases (including my own) of physical symptoms clearing up after the past life story is recalled, expressed, and "processed".

This story above could be a similar case.  Although the marks were not present at birth, as they are in some cases, this child recalled her past life death of being shot at age three.   (Most likely, she was shot in the chest.) When the body memory surfaced at age sixteen, the fear about her traumatic death surfaced at the same time. Perhaps she died in her previous life around the age of sixteen. There's no way to know for sure without more specific details. But the fact that the marks disappeared after she talked about her fear, and was reassured by her parents that she is now safe, makes me think that these marks were related to the past life death she remembered at age three.

Visual trigger: a Native American deity

Here's an interesting little case, fairly typical of the cases I receive from parents.   Although I describe it as "typical", each story is unique in how it affects the child and parents, and what it shows us about these memories. This child's memory was triggered by the image of a Native American deity.


We have a clay artwork of a figure of an Indian playing the flute. My daughter, now six, used to show us this figure when she was two years old; she called it "Kopelnik". We could not ascribe anything to this, and decided then that she made up a name for it.

Last night I was at the Phoenix Big Sky Airport and was browsing around a souvenir shop. I noticed this figure, and to my amazement learned that it was called  Kokopelli, a southwestern Indian deity.

I am an academician in engineering and I am largely a skeptic about such things. However, there is no way I can explain this other than a past life experience. Our kids watch very little TV at home, only Russian cartoon movies for an hour per week.  (I am Turkish and my wife is Russian.)  So it is impossible, when she was two, that she could have picked it up from elsewhere. Also, as clear from the above, my wife and I were clueless about the Indian culture so we could not have possibly fed this piece of information to the child through second-hand conversation. We saw the clay figurine when we were in Phoenix before we got married and hung it on the wall.  It was just a piece of art we saw and liked. Otherwise we are not enthusiasts of Indian culture.

Other than this single episode, she did not tell us anything specifically about a past life experience. However, she loves her toy horse, and  when she was four or five she made a totem poll- like set-up and worshiped it.

Then we thought this was some imaginative play, but now I think this was the emergence and re-creation of past experiences.

Soul Survivor--the book by Bruce and Andrea Leininger

In 2001 I got an email from a mother in Louisiana, Andrea Leininger.   She told me that she had just gotten a copy of my first book, Children's Past Lives, and she believed that her two-year-old son, James, was having nightmares about a past life.  He would wake up screaming about 3 or 4 times a week about his plane crashing. At the time, I thought their story was interesting, but not that different from other cases I had seen.  I told her to follow the guidelines in my book for helping James work through his nightmares, and let me know if anything interesting developed.  I filed her email away with hundreds of others.

In 2003, I was approached by a producer for ABC News, Shalini Sharma, who wanted to do a segment on children's past lives. Shalini's family was from India, and reincarnation was a part of their philosophical and religious beliefs. She wanted to expose American audiences to the phenomenon, and thought that a child's war memory would be just the ticket for one of their news shows. While going through literally hundreds of emails looking for a TV-worthy case, I came across Andrea's email and contacted her to see if James's story had progressed, or if his nightmares had gone away. Little did I know how extraordinary  James's case would become.  It turned out to be the most detailed case of an American child's memory I had seen in twenty years of doing this research.

I encouraged Andrea and her husband, Bruce, to write a book about James's memories.  Finally, after three years, they were ready to do it.  I introduced them to my wonderful agent, Al Zuckerman, and their book, Soul Survivor, will be released at the end of May.  They will be appearing on "Good Morning America" on June 8th to tell their story.  Tune in!

I encourage anyone has any interest in reincarnation, past lives, or what happens after we die to read it.


Here's a link to their website:

You'll be hearing more about this case from time to time.

IN-DEPTH DISCUSSION Here's the link to a long-running discussion about the Leininger case that started a few years ago in the Past Life Forum. There's actually a whole section devoted to the Leininger case on the Forum, including the older thread, and the foreword I wrote for the book.   Go directly to that section by clicking here.