A Dream Case

We wrote up this case to be featured in the Dreaming Up the Past chapter in Children's Past Lives. It was edited out to make the chapter shorter (we cut the original manuscript of the whole book by a third).  It originally had the sub-heading "Look to the Literal" because it demonstrates how a past life memory that appears first in dreams can haunt waking life and affect behavior, especially if not treated. This case is from Rabbi Gershom’s book Beyond the Ashes. 


Steve’s memories of dying in the Holocaust began as childhood nightmares. Throughout his life, these dreams and memories lurked just below the surface of consciousness, affecting him in many ways: as phobias, physical ailments, and an innate talent.

When Steve was born in 1955, he was unable to digest food and spent the first year of his life in the hospital; he was officially "allergic to everything". He also had frequent childhood nightmares about trying to climb the walls of his bedroom. In these dreams he was always a woman and, upon wakening, would find himself repeating a seemingly meaningless word that sounded like "vendorswagens". In school he wrote accounts of escaping from camp and being wrongly accused, stories which caused serious concern among his teachers.

At the age of sixteen, Steve "miraculously" started playing quality piano without having been trained! But there was a dark side to this musical talent. Every time Steve sat down at the piano, he had nightmarish visions of playing for many thin, starving children. He would try to make the children laugh but could only cry inside because he knew they were dying. These impressions were so overwhelming that sometimes Steve could not go on playing.

But it was a mysterious phobia which finally drove Steve to consult a hypnotherapist. For some unknown reason, Steve’s neck was always extremely sensitive, and he could not stand to have anyone touch it. The very thought was terrifying. He knew this fear was not logical, but it would not go away. Eventually, with the help of the hypnotherapist, the following story unfolded.

In another life Steve had been a young Belgian woman who journeyed to Paris and got a job playing piano in a Jewish-owned nightclub. Through a series of mishaps, she was deported to Poland and falsely accused of being a Jew. This woman was not sent to a concentration camp at first, but to "a part of town where we were all crowded together—starving, dirty." Every morning Poles would come with carts to carry away the dead—carts that were called "vendorswagens", the strange word from Steve’s childhood dreams. While in this ghetto, the woman entertained the starving children with her piano playing, trying to take away some of the sting of the deplorable conditions in which they were forced to live.

But eventually, this woman was deported to a concentration camp. She and a friend attempted to escape, were recaptured, and then hung. At the moment of death, this woman felt ashamed to face anyone, as if she had somehow let them down by failing to escape and get help. This feeling, along with the choking sensation of hanging, apparently carried over into the next life, which accounted for Steve’s sensitive neck.

Steve’s story is particularly interesting, because he had all three signs of past life dreams: his dreams were vivid and coherent, recurring, and he saw himself in a distinctly different persona—as a grown woman. Knowledge beyond experience was evident in his touch of xenoglossy: the word "vendorswagen", which represented the essence of all the horror he had witnessed during the death watch in the ghastly ghetto—so much so that it stuck with him into this life. Steve had physical traits relating to his hanging in the past, and a natural ability to play the piano, just as he had done in his former life. As a child, he even wrote stories about escaping from camp and being falsely accused—which, he later found out, was exactly what had happened to him in his past life.

But no one recognized these signs of Steve’s past life memory. What if his parents had recognized the clues, if they had pieced together his story while he was still young by translating the strange word, and taking seriously the stories he wrote of escape and being falsely accused? It wasn’t until Steve was an adult that he sought the help of a hypnotherapist to understand the sensitivity in his neck. With the hypnotherapist’s help, his full past life story was revealed. The shame and guilt that shrouded his past life death was finally shed.

Rabbi Gershom found that Steve's problem was not unique, because "the parents of children with these innate fears are often puzzled by their behavior, because there does not seem to be anything in their son’s or daughter’s present life that could account for such terror." And, most parents don’t know that past lives are even possible. So they unwittingly compound their children’s fears and confusion by assuming that their dream must be a re-play of something absorbed from the radio or TV, or a symbolic representation of a repressed urge or fear. But, in truth, many of these dreams and nightmares are not symbolic fantasies, or a re-hash of everyday life. They are literal memories of real experience from the past.