Has your child lived before?

A toddler suddenly starts talking about their past life. Is it evidence of an overactive imagination – or reincarnation? Eimear O’Hagan investigates…

Christian Haupt was very young when he first became obsessed with baseball. Not only did he insist on wearing full baseball kit day and night, he wanted to play the game for hours every day – and was remarkably good at it.

Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

All of this could have been dismissed as simply a normal childhood fixation for a little Californian boy, but his family had no connection with the sport and couldn’t explain where this sudden interest in it had come from.

That is until, aged just two, he began to share his memories with his mother – memories that appeared to be from a past life.

‘One night at bedtime, Christian told me, out of the blue, that he had been a “tall baseball player”. I agreed that one day he would be a tall player but he corrected me, insisting he had been one,’ says Cathy, 54, an estate agent.

Photo: Getty Images

‘I didn’t think much of it at first, but as time went on, and his speech and vocabulary improved, he began to make more of these strange statements.

‘He said he would travel by train to games with his team, they didn’t wear batting helmets in those days, and they played by day because the stadium had no lights at night. He talked about staying in hotels and being on planes when he was ‘big’ saying: ‘I didn’t wear seatbelts and I drank alcohol.’

At two, after a YouTube video of Christian playing baseball went viral, he was picked fora cameo role in the Adam Sandler film That’s My Boy. ‘After the shoot I took him to a baseball game in Boston where he saw a large portrait of the legendary player Babe Ruth,’ remembers Cathy. ‘He became really agitated, saying, “I don’t like him, he was mean to me!” and was so upset we had to leave the game early.’

It was when Cathy began to look into baseball history that things got stranger. She showed Christian a team photo from the Babe Ruth era, and he immediately pointed out Lou Gehrig, who was born in 1903 and played for the New York Yankees from 1923-1939 – and famously didn’t speak to Babe Ruth for five years (the pair apparently fell out over women).

Young Christian Haupt, (in 2012)
Photo: Getty Images

‘Very firmly, he said, “That’s me” pointing at Lou Gehrig.’ Cathy showed Christian more photos, and every time, he picked out Gehrig without hesitation. ‘He was able to name Gehrig’s parents, who were called Henry and Christina, and told me, “Mummy, you were her.”’

What’s more, Cathy observed her toddler’s dimples were in the same place on his cheeks as Lou Gehrig’s had been.

‘By this point I was very troubled. I spoke with our church leader who told me a belief in reincarnation wasn’t a part of our faith. I felt frightened that something was wrong with my child.

‘Before all this, I would have been very sceptical of any parent claiming their child had lived a past life, but Christian was so adamant about his memories, and when they were researched, they were accurate. I had to believe him.

Christian believed he was baseball star Lou Gehrig in a past life.
Photo: ARCHIVIO GBB/Alamy Stock Photo

‘What scared me most was that Gehrig had died aged just 37 from ALS [the same progressive, neurological disorder that Stephen Hawking suffered from]. My child had his memories, and his sporting talent… would he develop this disease, too? When I asked Christian how he had died, he’d reply, “My body stopped working.” It haunted me hearing my little boy say that.’

As goosebump-inducing as Christian’s story is, it’s far from unique. Psychic medium Fenn Pullinger (fennpsychicmedium.co.uk) believes these memories are evidence of reincarnation.

‘We’ve all lived past lives, more than one, but we’re not meant to remember them.

‘However, young children can experience these “breakthrough” memories, which haven’t been erased, because their age means they’re not very far away, time wise, from that past existence.

Photo: Getty Images

‘These breakthroughs are also common if their past life was cut short in a sudden, traumatic way, they weren’t ready to die and they’ve bounced from one life to the next without time to process their departure from the previous life.’

Annabella Koor was three years old when she told her mother about the day she died in a previous life. While being driven to her weekly ballet class, Annabella calmly revealed she’d been killed in a horrific motorbike accident on the same road, in a past existence. Not only that, she’d been pregnant at the time of her death and her boyfriend had died in the crash, too.

Annabella, now 16, has only hazy memories of making this shocking revelation but for her mother Jana, 38, it’s a moment she’ll never forget.

‘Out of nowhere, she said, “I died here”. She was able to go into great detail about everything, from her boyfriend’s long, curly hair and a design on the back of his leather jacket to the fact he was taken to hospital by ambulance but was already dead when he got there,’ says Jana, who lives in Surrey.

‘I tried not to show my shock – I didn’t want to frighten her – but hearing my little girl talk about dying was disturbing.

‘It was so detailed, so dark, I knew it wasn’t something she could’ve picked up from a cartoon or a storybook. And I could tell she fully believed what she was saying. She was a very bright and intuitive child, and I’m open-minded to these things, so I’ve no reason to believe she wasn’t telling the truth and that she really has been here before.’

Annabella, who is now at sixth form and also runs her own mental-health business (smartynumpty.co.uk), never spoke again about her past life, but is fascinated by her mother’s recollections of that day 13 years ago.

‘It doesn’t scare me. It’s amazing to think I might have lived before and experienced other times in history,’ she says.

Carol Bowman is a past-life therapist, reincarnation researcher and the author of Children’s Past Lives: How Past Life Memories Can Affect Your Child. She says, ‘Children all over the world, regardless of their culture or religious conditioning, share past-life memories. It’s much more common than people might think.

‘It usually begins as soon as a child can talk and the memories tend to fade between the ages of five and seven,’ says Carol. She explains in many documented cases, such as Christian Haupt’s, the child’s memories are so detailed they can lead researchers to the person they were previously.

‘I worked with a family from California whose child was extremely interested in and knowledgeable about firefighting from a very young age. One day his mother was reading him a children’s book which was written before 9/11 and had the New York skyline on the cover. He pointed at the Twin Towers and began talking about “bad men” knocking them down and saying “People called for me to help, and I couldn’t get them out.”

‘The child shared more specific details and, through research, it was possible to find the obituary of a firefighter who’d died on 9/11 who matched the child’s memories. There was even an eyewitness account by another firefighter who’d been escaping the towers, and saw this man who said: “I’ll get out as soon as I can get these people out.” The child was playing out that last moment of his past life, and its unresolved pain.’

According to Carol, reincarnation within a family is common. It’s something Rose*, from Bristol, is coming to terms with after her five-year-old daughter Lily began to share memories of a great-grandmother whose life she couldn’t possibly have known about. ‘During the first lockdown, I decided to take up knitting to help me relax. I’d never knitted before and quickly realised I was terrible at it,’ says Rose.

‘One day I walked into my daughter Lily’s playroom to find her sitting on the floor, needles clacking, knitting with a big smile on her face. It stopped me in my tracks – I had no idea how she knew how to knit. When I asked her, the response made my blood run cold. She said: “My own mummy taught me, in our little white house in Ireland. We made blankets together.”’

Photo: Getty Images

Rose, 40, explains her grandmother Catherine – Lily’s great-grandmother – grew up in rural Ireland, emigrating to England in the 1950s in search of work, where she spent the rest of her life and died in 2001.

‘I was close to my granny but she died years before Lily was born and apart from a photo of her in my home, my daughter really doesn’t know much about her, and certainly nothing about her upbringing in Ireland.

‘Over the past year, on several occasions, Lily has spontaneously shared memories of a past life, talking about living on a farm where she helped care for the animals and used an outdoor toilet, and about being on a packed boat with other people on a choppy sea and seeing the lights of a port in England.

‘The most unsettling experience was a couple of months ago, when I found her singing to her dolls – it was an Irish folk song I remember my grandmother singing to me. I felt both scared but also very emotional hearing it, and cannot explain how Lily could know it. I have never sung it nor played it to her.’

Rose, who is a single mother, has kept Lily’s memories a secret, even from her relatives, concerned people would accuse her of planting them in her child’s mind for attention. Privately though, after many sleepless nights, she says she has made peace with what Lily is experiencing and has embraced it.

‘At first it frightened me, but now I feel comforted that my granny, who I loved, has found a way to come back to me and still be in my life. I’ve learned it’s likely Lily’s memories will stop soon so I don’t make a big deal of it. I listen when she wants to share them, and believe it’s Granny’s way of being here for us both.’ Professor Christopher French, from Goldsmiths, University of London, specialises in the psychology of paranormal beliefs and anomalous experiences and is a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He admits this is a hugely compelling topic.

‘Anything that holds out the prospect of some form of life after death has long beena source of intrigue. Societally we’re fascinated by the potential for death not to mean the end.’

There are, though, alternative explanations for children’s memories of past lives, says Professor French. ‘I think what we’re looking at are false memories, which we can all experience, including children.

A child is very susceptible to information around them – from TV programmes to snippets of adult conversation they overhear – and this can help create these false, albeit genuinely held, memories. ‘Depending on a parent’s pre-existing

beliefs, their interpretation of these statements may be that they’re evidence their child has been reincarnated. In the same way one parent may believe their child is talking to an imaginary friend, while another will be convinced they’re communicating with spirits.

‘We all want to believe our children are special and there may be an element of that. Adults may also be unaware how much they drip-feed information as they question a child about a memory, trying to extract more detail.

‘Confirmation bias plays a significant part in parents believing these memories are real. If you want it to be true, you are much more likely to believe your child really is recalling a past life.’

Christian Haupt’s memories ceased in 2014 when he was six years old, although he retained his passion and skill for baseball, and three years later Cathy wrote a book about their experience, called The Boy Who Knew Too Much, with the pair going on to appear on US chat shows.

‘I was nervous about going public with Christian’s experiences, both putting him in the spotlight at a young age, and also opening myself up to criticism because this is a very divisive topic,’ says Cathy, who is currently in talks to make a movie of her son’s story.

‘Together, though, we decided to share his story to give people hope that death is not necessarily the end – we can go on to live other lives.’