When my son, Tanner, was three years old, I asked him a question.
“Tell me about before I was your mom,” I said to him one night as we snuggled in his bed after story time.
His eyes widened and his entire face lit up.
“Ohhhhhhhhhh!” he exclaimed happily, as if he had been waiting for me to ask him that question for years. “I was a doctor on a boat to Africa!”
“Really?” I said. “Tell me about it.”
For the next ten minutes, he did. He talked in a matter of fact tone about sailing routes and patients. He discussed feeling good about the people he could help, as well as his frustration and sadness in the cases he wasn’t able to help.
Hearing the thoughts and feelings of a mature man in the high-pitched and enthusiastic voice of a three-year-old boy was surreal. It seemed he had a story to tell, and he’d just been waiting for someone to ask.
Tanner is now an 18-year-old college freshman. While he has heard the story of this conversation over the years, he has little to no recollection of participating in it.
I don’t know what led me to ask that question, but I believe Tanner answered as he did for a very specific reason. At the time, I wasn’t so sure humans had souls. In fact, I’d characterized my entire life up until that point as a struggle to find faith, something I always seemed to lack in spite of my traditional Christian upbringing.
This conversation opened up a glimmer of possibility in my mind and heart that humans had souls. My son was the catalyst that brought me to where I am today, and for that I am very grateful.
An Intro to Reincarnation
Reincarnation tales flow through many different cultures and faiths, raising questions about what happens to human consciousness after death, as well as from whence human consciousness arises before birth. Metaphysics, at its heart, seeks to explain the experience of humanity from a spiritual standpoint. It is an exploration of human consciousness and the soul as we seek to learn who we are, who we have been, and who we will become. Likewise, past-life recall can provide insight to some of the biggest questions we have regarding our ultimate purpose, as well as explaining the karmic nature of our lives.
The study of reincarnation can help us begin to answer some of the foundational questions that underlie metaphysical science by exploring the indestructible nature of the human soul. Reincarnation memories can prove to us that we are much more than the shells we carry around as bodies. Most importantly, they can remind us we are eternal souls who not only arise from God Consciousness, but also have the Divine as a critical part of our makeup. In this way, the reincarnation experience can serve as a conduit to higher spiritual truth. When we open our hearts and minds to understanding past-life experiences, we can enjoy a rapid expansion of consciousness as we begin to grasp our own Divinity.
A number of researchers have studied reincarnation. Such research begins with past-life recall, which is gleaned from various types of experiences including spontaneous waking recall, past-life regression hypnotherapy, psychic information, meditation, and dream visions.
Such information, while often profound to the one who experiences it, is not considered hard science because the information is anecdotal. However, careful researchers can then verify specific details in these anecdotal stories of past-life recall in order to create hard data that builds a scientific case for reincarnation.
For many, scientific verification is essential before one is willing to expand beyond humanism to matters of the soul. While such data is invaluable in helping people recognize their Divinity, ultimately what is metaphysically important in past-life recall lies in each individual’s interpretation of it. It becomes a bridge from agnosticism to spiritual truth. Once someone realizes he or she has lived before, then the mind opens to the implications of being an eternal soul.
In this blog, I will outline the work of several past-life researchers. I will also introduce a number of people who have experienced past-life recall and share the important metaphysical insights they have gained as a result of their discoveries. Finally, I will show how past-life recall can be utilized in metaphysical science to help create a conduit through which metaphysical teachings can flow.
Two-thirds of the world’s population believes in reincarnation, although the idea receives less support in the Western world than in the East. Many researchers have sought to prove the validity of reincarnation, and many have reached the same conclusions as more than 66 percent of the global population: Reincarnation is a reality.
It is not unusual for very young children to share information that sounds suspiciously like past-life recall. For researchers seeking information about reincarnation, it is advantageous to talk to these young children, who seem to be more able to spontaneously recall details of past lives than adults.
Dr. Ian Stevenson
One of the most well-respected researchers into past-life recall in children was Dr. Ian Stevenson, who investigated more than 3,000 cases around the world into children’s spontaneous past-life recall, writing books including Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation and Life Before Life. In his research, Dr. Stevenson interviewed thousands of children who made statements that suggested past-life recall. He then followed up with meticulous research, verifying names of the alleged previous incarnation, interviewing family members from the alleged past life, visiting places, and even discovering physical birthmarks on the children that matched scars or other markings from their previous incarnations.
In many cases, Dr. Stevenson took the children to visit their former incarnations’ homes, and they identified critical landmarks, people, and events during these visits.
In his book Life Before Life, Dr. Stevenson noted that the children he researched who were making past-life statements did so when they were very young. “Most who talk about a past life begin doing so between the ages of two and four,” Stevenson stated. “The children almost always stop talking about the past life around the age of six to seven.”
With children so young providing information about people and places they had never experienced, Dr. Stevenson reached the conclusion that the children’s cases strongly suggested they were, indeed, relaying information from past lives.
Dr. Jim B. Tucker
One of Dr. Stevenson’s colleagues, Dr. Jim B. Tucker, continued with his own research into children’s spontaneous past-life recall after Dr. Stevenson’s death in 2007. In his book Return to Life, Dr. Tucker described the conclusions at which he arrived as a result of his comprehensive reincarnation research. Like Dr. Stevenson, Dr. Tucker found the evidence of spontaneous past-life recall in children compelling. However, Dr. Tucker also offered insight onto why reincarnation experiences may occur. “Our attitudes in this life may affect what we experience after we die and perhaps even whether we come back here for another life at all,” he stated.
Carol Bowman has also dedicated her life to reincarnation work. She has practiced as a past-life regression hypnotherapist for adults since 1989. Likewise, she has spent many years studying children’s spontaneous past-life recall, which she wrote about in her books, Children’s Past Lives and Return from Heaven. What’s unique about Carol Bowman is that her research has focused on children’s spontaneous past-life recall in the West, while Dr. Stevenson and Dr. Tucker predominately focused on cases in places in the East where the culture is more accepting of reincarnation.
Carol Bowman’s work tells of numerous Western parents whose children have come to them with uncanny stories suggesting they were recalling a past life. Because many Western parents have a Christian background, they may be quite disconcerted by these experiences, which don’t fit with traditional Christian beliefs of what happens after one dies. Carol Bowman seeks to provide a safe space for parents to discuss and understand these issues while forwarding research into spontaneous past-life recall in children.
From the stories parents shared, Ms. Bowman identified four major signs that the child is relaying a past-life memory in her book Children’s Past Lives. These include speaking in a matter-of-fact tone, relaying consistent information over time, sharing knowledge beyond experience, and displaying corresponding behavior and traits.
Dr. Brian Weiss
Unlike the aforementioned researchers, Dr. Brian Weiss didn’t set out to discover anything about the human soul. A practicing psychiatrist, Dr. Weiss stumbled onto reincarnation and life-between-lives research while working with a female patient who was struggling with severe anxiety and phobias.
It was during a regular regression hypnotherapy session to delve into these anxieties that Dr. Weiss’s patient slipped spontaneously into a state of past-life regression, and then later into a state of the soul as it exists between lives. While in a hypnotically induced soul state, the patient provided many details about Dr. Weiss and his family that she couldn’t have known on her own. Many of the details were of a very private and personal nature, but they served to convince Dr. Weiss that his patient was, indeed, communicating from a higher soul dimension.
Weiss chronicles his year of work with that client in his book Many Lives, Many Masters. In the book, Weiss describes his client’s explanation of why humans reincarnate. She made the statement during a hypnotherapy session while she was reportedly in a soul state. “Our task is to learn, to become God-like through knowledge. By knowledge we approach God, and then we can rest. Then, we come back to teach and help others.” Later, the same patient spoke to Dr. Weiss in a soul state, affirming the existence of the Divine in each person by telling him, “They tell me there are many gods, for God is in each of us.”
After about a year of such regression sessions, Dr. Weiss’s patient’s lifelong deep anxieties and fears calmed, and she stopped therapy. Because of these sessions, Dr. Weiss has gone on to write many books and teach classes about the power of the human soul. He credits his change in philosophy, spirituality, and work to his year of sessions with that patient.
Dr. Michael Newton
Another researcher who found his way unwittingly to past-life and life-between-lives research is Dr. Michael Newton. Like Dr. Weiss, Dr. Newton discovered his life’s work accidentally when a patient spontaneously slipped into a past life during a traditional regression session.
Although he was quite skeptical, this session piqued Dr. Newton’s interest, and he began experimenting with past-life and life-between-lives hypnotherapy. Over many years, Dr. Newton conducted hundreds of past-life regression and life-between-lives regression hypnotherapy sessions. During these sessions, he discovered startling similarities in the experiences clients relayed from the soul state, where they went after they died in a previous life but before they were born in their current life.
To facilitate his work, Dr. Newton created a non-leading hypnotherapy protocol to induce the deep states of hypnosis required for past-life and life-between-lives work. He also provided a stunning and beautiful glimpse of the human soul as it exists both inside and outside the human body. Dr. Newton has chronicled these sessions in his books Journey of Souls, Destiny of Souls, and Memories of the Afterlife. From his hundreds of cases of these regressions, Dr. Newton reached what he feels is the inescapable conclusion that the human soul reincarnates many times, and that the soul has a rich and ongoing learning experience while on the other side, as well.
“Spiritual discoveries that come from the inner mind allow for the exposure of personal truths that no outside religious intermediary or institutional affiliation can duplicate,” Dr. Newton said of his research in Memories of the Afterlife. “People who have this kind of spiritual experience see a universal consciousness that is not indifferent to the actions and fates of human beings.”
Dr. Walter Semkiw
Another skeptic turned reincarnation researcher is Dr. Walter Semkiw. Dr. Semkiw’s interest arose from his own personal experiences with past -life recall. When he was a medical student, Dr. Semkiw visited a psychic on a lark at the suggestion of a friend. During that session, the psychic told Dr. Semkiw he was the reincarnation of American revolutionary, John Adams, who was George Washington’s Vice President. Dr. Semkiw immediately dismissed the information and went about his life.
Eleven years later and now a practicing physician, Dr. Semkiw heard an unseen voice command him to study the life of John Adams. He began doing just that over the next two years, and discovered a number of similarities in his personality and life to those of John Adams – far beyond what he felt to be coincidence. Through his research, Dr. Semkiw grew less skeptical, and he began identifying others in his life that had also been part of the American Revolution with him. Dr. Semkiw chronicles his story in the book Return of Revolutionaries: The Case for Reincarnation and Soul Groups Reunited.
During his research, Dr. Semkiw reached the conclusion, via personal experiences, synchronistic events, and research that reincarnation was not only a reality, but that people carried many traits from one life to another such as personality, facial structure, interests, and even loved ones. In Return of the Revolutionaries, Dr. Semkiw states of people from one incarnation to the next, “One’s mind appeared to remain the same, in that people seemed to think in similar patters and have consistent interests, motivations, values, and even writing styles.” Since his own discovery of his past lives, Dr. Semkiw has researched a number of other cases. He chronicles all of those on his website, IISIS (Institute for the Integration of Science, Intuition, and Spirit).
While the topic of reincarnation has always interested me, my first personal contact (outside of one conversation with my three-year-old) with someone who believed he was the reincarnation of a specific individual was with a man named Jeffrey Keene. Mr. Keene is the author of Someone Else’s Yesterday, which tells the personal story of his spontaneous recall of a previous life as Civil War General John B. Gordon.
Jeffrey Keene was in his 50s when he experienced spontaneous past-life recall on a visit to the Antietam battlefield in Maryland. With his experiences, he began researching the life of General John B. Gordon, someone he’d never heard of before. What followed at first seemed like a series of odd coincidences and synchronicities, which ultimately led to Mr. Keene’s conclusion that the similarities were too great to be coincidence and that he was, indeed, the reincarnation of General John B. Gordon.
Some researchers, including Dr. Walter Semkiw, who is President of the Institute for the Integration of Science, Intuition, and Spirit (IISIS), have called Keene’s case one with some of the most compelling evidence of reincarnation ever.
In an interview I did with Jeffrey Keene for the September, 2008 issue of Paranormal Underground, he shared his beliefs about the importance of the past-life memory experience. Mr. Keene feels that he was led to his experience by his soul for a reason: to share the messages of the soul with others. In Someone Else’s Yesterday, Jeffrey Keene stated he believes that his experience taught him that we are all One, and that love never dies.
Jeffrey Keene also believes this serves as both a comfort and as a call to action.
In his interview with me in the September 2008 Paranormal Underground, Mr. Keen said the following: “We’re here as teachers, we’re here as students, we’re here to pay back debts,” he told me. “Maybe we have karma we need to work out, or maybe we need to help someone else with resolution of their karma. We’re all just trying to get back to where we started.”
Keene isn’t alone in his belief that reincarnation experiences have a karmic element to them. Dr. Paul Leon Masters, founder and president of the University of Metaphysics, also suggests that karma plays a large role in the reincarnation experience. According to Dr. Masters, along with karmic reasons, the purpose of reincarnation is the growth and evolution of the soul. Dr. Masters noted, “…the purpose of one’s physical existence is to manifest the perfection of the Infinite God through the vehicle of the physical body.” He notes that the karmic aspect of reincarnation serves as an impetus for people to be kinder and get through life with greater compassion in order to minimize the karmic aspects of coming back in yet another life.
Melissa Watts, who is a past-life and life-between-lives regression hypnotherapist and the author of Lessons of Many Lives, agrees. Along with regressing others to allow them the past-life experience, Melissa Watts has, herself, been regressed many times. I co-wrote Melissa Watts’s book about her own past-life experiences. Recently, I emailed to ask Ms. Watts about what she felt was the purpose of the past-life recall experience. In an email response, Melissa Watts said the value of the reincarnation experience is to help wake people up to the true nature of who they are.
According to Melissa Watts, once we have seen ourselves as someone outside of our current ego-identified self, it becomes more difficult to retain that ego-identification without also allowing for recognition of the Divinity of one’s soul. “The value in remembering allows one to begin to break free of old paradigms and start the journey of awareness that leads to complete connection in of spiritual nature,” Ms. Watts wrote in her email to me. She feels that reincarnation memories allow people to connect to the wholeness of the universe. “It connects us to our universal heritage as loving beings of the entire universe.” Past-life recall, Melissa Watts contends, gives us a sense of who we are and the responsibilities to ourselves and others that entails.
The Reality of Reincarnation
The works of Dr. Ian Stevenson, Dr. Walter Semkiw, Dr. Brian Weiss, Dr. Michael Newton, Dr. Jim Tucker, Carol Bowman, Melissa Watts, and others like them build a strong case for the reality of the reincarnation experience. Dr. Stevenson’s work in particular builds powerful cases of children’s spontaneous past-life recall, using meticulous research to verify the statements and memories of very young children.
Dr. Newton’s work holds up well based on the similarities of stories clients share of the afterlife while in a deep hypnotic state. Newton himself worked with hundreds of cases that reported stunningly similar landscapes, activities, and feelings in the afterlife, as did the clients of many other therapists Dr. Newton trained to perform this hypnotherapy around the world. The consistency in stories across hundreds of clients makes a sound case for the existence of both reincarnation and the experience of souls between lives.
Dr. Walter Semkiw’s work tackles the questions of past-life recall in adults. In the cases he details on his IISIS website, Dr. Semkiw seeks physical and spiritual evidence of reincarnation. In Return of the Revolutionaries, Dr. Semkiw states what he believes will be the impact of reincarnation experiences on society as a whole. “As the reality of reincarnation is accepted, and as we better understand the mechanism of how human evolution occurs, significant changes will take place in our worldview and approach to life.”
One of the cases Dr. Semkiw researched was Jeffrey Keene’s. In Dr. Semkiw’s article on the IISIS website, “Past Life Story of John B. Gordon | Jeff Keene,” he outlines an evidentiary case that links Jeffrey Keene to General John B. Gordon. The evidence Dr. Semkiw cites includes similar birthmarks and scars between the two men, similar facial structure, similar talents and interests, emotional spontaneous recall of past-life experiences, synchronistic events, similar linguistic and writing style, and ongoing relationships among the same group of souls throughout lifetimes.
Jeffrey Keene bears scars on his body that match where John B. Gordon was wounded in the Civil War. Side-by-side photographs of General Gordon and Mr. Keene reveal a striking similarity of appearance. Both also worked in similar professions, and many of the people in Jeffrey Keene’s life bear a strong physical and social resemblance to many of the people in General Gordon’s life.
Likewise, Mr. Keene experienced a profound emotional reaction during a visit to the Sunken Road at the Antietam battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland before he ever had a single memory of General Gordon’s life. It was this reaction that sparked Jeffrey Keene’s research into General John B. Gordon, as well as additional spontaneous memories of that life.
In her book, Lessons of Many Lives, Melissa Watts discusses how people may carry phobias, illnesses, or other physical and psychological manifestations from past lives into this life. She relates her own experiences of physical ailments in this life that traced back to a past-life experience, and points out that her clients may experience relief of physical or psychological symptoms after discovering their source in a past life.
Dr. Brian Weiss offers a similar view in his work in Many Lives Many Masters. Indeed, his client’s profound anxiety and phobias disappeared as she worked her way through the past lives in which they had originated.
My Personal Experience with Reincarnation
Reading about past-life research is one thing, but experiencing it for oneself is another. Fascinated with my forays into the research of others, I sought to find my own past-life experiences. Believing spontaneous recall wasn’t on the horizon for me, I sought experience through past-life regression hypnotherapy, instead.
My first past-life regression session occurred with Rita Ballard, a hypnotherapist in Chehalis, Washington. I approached her as a skeptic, intending to write an article about my past-life regression hypnotherapy experience for an article in Paranormal Underground. I had that session with Ms. Ballard in August of 2008 and wrote about my experiences in the September 2008 Paranormal Underground.
In March of 2009, I sought Ms. Ballard out again for a follow-up session, also for an article for Paranormal Underground. I wrote that article in the June 2009 issue. After both sessions, I performed extensive research into the things I’d seen and experienced, seeking historical comparisons to determine how likely it was that I truly was revisiting past lives.
Then, in July of 2009, I had a life-changing experience. I was inexplicably drawn to a historical location (Wellington, Washington, the site of the worst avalanche disaster in the history of the United States, which occurred in 1910) nearly to the point of obsession. I knew nothing about the location when I first went there, but I returned repeatedly to it (and continue to do so to this day). So strong was my connection with the location that it became the subject of two books I wrote and a documentary I filmed.
In my mind’s eye, I could clearly envision the events surrounding this location. In one case, I truly felt as if I was experiencing them myself. Because of these experiences, several people suggested I return to Rita Ballard to see if I could discover the source of my connection to Wellington. To that end, I returned for a third past-life hypnotherapy session with Ms. Ballard in the spring of 2010.
With my interest in reincarnation growing, especially given my experiences at Wellington, I determined that I would like to try Dr. Michael Newton’s methodology for life-between-lives hypnotherapy. I was seeking a greater understanding of the events of my life, as well as understanding my growing interest in spiritual matters. Likewise, I felt there was something – some life’s purpose – that was right there before me that I just couldn’t see.
Through Dr. Newton’s organization, I received a referral to a local hypnotherapist, Howard Batie. In the summer of 2012, Mr. Batie led me through a fourth past-life regression hypnotherapy session. A few weeks later he conducted a life-between-lives hypnotherapy session for me. Along with my research, all of these experiences are important factors in the findings and conclusions I have drawn about the value of the reincarnation experience in spiritual and metaphysical growth.
In each of my past-life regression sessions, I had the very odd experience of feeling as if I had little control over certain aspects of my mind during the hypnotherapy sessions. For example, I had always kept my emotions around other people under fairly tight control. I seldom cried in front of any other person, including my family. Yet, in every single past-life regression session I had, I sobbed unabashedly in sadness or joy. I had no control over it, yet it occurred every time. Once I cried over the death of a spouse. Another time, I cried over the birth of a child. A third time, I wept at the beauty of a piece of music. A fourth time, I cried when my daughter got married.
Likewise, the pictures I saw and things I experienced came into my mind during hypnotherapy occurred regardless of any effort of my conscious mind to control them, and I tried very hard to control them. Finally, my historical research showed me that the things I experienced and saw, such as fashions, vocabulary, houses, and events, were extremely accurate for the time period I was seeing and experiencing during my hypnotherapy sessions.
These hypnotherapy experiences allowed me to overcome my inherent skepticism, leading me to the conclusion that something was, indeed, happening during my past-life regression sessions that was outside of the realm of my ego-identified self. It was something inside of me that had little to do with my current personal self-identification. With both my research and personal experiences of past lives pointing in the same direction, I have reached the conclusion that reincarnation is a reality, but what does it mean and why does it matter? To answer that, I turn to my own personal experiences, the experiences others have shared, and the words, findings, and experiences of those who work in the field.
While all of Jeffrey Keene’s past-life memories were spontaneous and he sought no past-life regression hypnotherapy to learn about his time as General John B. Gordon, he researched his memories of General Gordon in a manner similar to how I researched the past lives I had seen in my hypnotherapy sessions. Mr. Keene found that the details matched far beyond what one could ever consider coincidence.
In my interview with Jeffrey Keene for the September 2008 Paranormal Underground, he told me that one of the most important things he learned from his past-life recall experiences is that love lasts forever, and that once we know this, we have no choice but to change the way we live our lives. This has been Jeffrey Keene’s personal experience as he’s sought to make sense of his recall of the lifetime of General John B. Gordon. Dr. Masters relates the knowledge of past lives to discovering our purpose, noting, “The most important of these would be the explanation of the purpose of the individual life.”
Melissa Watts, who has participated in more than 100 past-life regression sessions for herself and others, also feels that the ultimate purpose of these experiences is to discover our soul’s purpose, as well as the purpose of those around us. “This recognition can give a deeper understanding of these relationships as well as how over many lifetimes they help us learn, love, and move forward in our soul progression,” Ms. Watts noted in her email to me.
My past-life regression hypnotherapist, Howard Batie, added his own take on the reincarnation experience, telling me in an email, “A single past-life regression (PLR) is only one data point, one piece of the larger puzzle you're trying to understand. If you experience several PLRs and there is a common thread or theme (e.g., betrayal by a best friend, dying of starvation, etc.) that pattern gets imprinted into your soul record until it's released.”
As for me, my conclusions are similar to those to whom I spoke, but more personally profound. What started as an interest sparked by a conversation with my three-year-old son set me the path my soul was longing for me to take. While much of my young adult life was a struggle for faith, as I began my reincarnation journey I found that the reason faith was so lacking in my early life was because I was seeking it from a source outside of myself. Once I discovered Divinity within me, faith became a no-brainer, and I have never struggled with it for a moment since.
Convincing the Skeptics
My exploration of reincarnation and life-between-lives led me to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am an eternal soul that is one part of the Divine. Without the reincarnation experience, I quite simply would still be searching outside of myself for faith and never finding it. With my relatively faithless life up until my reincarnation experiences, I was a tough nut to crack. If the reincarnation experience helped a hardened skeptic like me find the Divine, then it can help others, too.
In fact, I’m far from the only skeptic who has been convinced of the validity of the human soul from reincarnation experiences. Dr. Brian Weiss was a medical doctor and psychiatrist who was a self-identified skeptic, as well. Yet, today he spends a great deal of time in pursuit of the soul. Another medical doctor, Dr. Walter Semkiw initially dismissed his information about past lives. However, after synchronistic events he couldn’t ignore, his past-life experiences led him to found IISIS to carry on reincarnation research. Dr. Michael Newton was also a man of science and a skeptic whose life turned around due to the past-life recall experience. Jeffrey Keene was also skeptical, as were many others like him. So was Melissa Watts. So was I. However, after each touched of us touched our infinite souls through the past-life recall experience, it fully changed our lives and spiritual landscapes.
Reincarnation led me to my soul, and with what I understand from my research, it has done the same thing for many others, as well.
Why Reincarnation Is Important
It is time for the discussion about reincarnation to move beyond asking whether it exists and instead focus on why our souls lead us to past-life recall, either spontaneously or through past-life regression. Leaders in the field of research, such as Dr. Ian Stevenson, Carol Bowman, Dr. Michael Newton, and Dr. Jim Tucker have done an excellent job of making a solid evidentiary case for the existence of the reincarnation of souls. If one chooses to read the research, it is difficult to overlook the conclusion that souls reincarnate.
However, as we move forward spiritually as a species, we need to delve more deeply into the topic, asking ourselves not if the experience is real, but why we have it. Discovering the reasons for the reincarnation experience remains pivotal in truly coming into our own as Divine spiritual beings.
A Personal Experience
A few years ago, I was drawn to a ghost town in the mountains called Wellington, Washington, which is the site of the worst avalanches in the history of the United States in terms of human lives lost. As previously noted, I was so taken with the subject and the location that I have written two books and made a documentary about it. Although Wellington is about 3½ hours away from my home and only accessible in the summer months, I visit dozens of times every year.
As I dug deeper into the people involved in the Wellington avalanche, I was drawn to one woman in particular, Nellie Sharp McGirl. She was a 26-year-old college-educated female who was separated from her husband. She was aboard the train, traveling from Spokane to Seattle because she wanted to write an article about train travel in the Wild West for McClure’s magazine. She was one of 96 people killed in the avalanche on March 1, 1910.
I felt an instant connection to Nellie, and I was compelled to learn more about her. It took a great deal of time and effort to do so, but ultimately I discovered much more about Nellie. Not only was Nellie a writer, but she was a musician, as well. She also loved golfing and was a reporter for newspapers. She was in San Francisco during the 1906 earthquake there. She was killed in the Wellington avalanche of 1910 as a passenger aboard Local No. 25, a passenger train that the avalanche pushed off the railroad tracks on which it perched, and swept it down the mountainside onto the banks of the Tye River.
Nellie Sharp McGirl and I share a number of similarities. I am a newspaper reporter. I am a musician. I love to golf. I was divorced in my early 20s. All of my life, I have had realistic and frightening dreams about train derailments. I am geo-sensitive and can frequently sense earthquakes before they occur. For example, I was visiting San Francisco in October of 1989 and left the city the day before the Loma Prieta earthquake, even though my husband and I were planning on staying there another week. We left because I had a strong feeling an earthquake was imminent.
I searched for a picture of Nellie Sharp McGirl but was unable to find one. Fortunately, a good friend of mine is much better and finding these types of things than I am, and she was able to procure a picture of Nellie from her college enrollment application. When I first saw the photograph, I thought Nellie resembled my paternal grandmother, but I also felt there was something else that was strangely familiar about her. After a few days of looking at the photograph, it hit me. The picture of Nellie looked almost exactly like one of my high school senior pictures.
I dug the photograph out of storage and scanned it into my computer. Then I gave it a sepia tone like Nellie’s photograph and put the two side by side. She looked exactly like me at around the same age. Also inexplicable to me was the intense reaction I had when I first saw Nellie’s photograph. I burst into tears.
With these developments, I contacted Dr. Walter Semkiw, who is well known and respected for his work in the field of reincarnation research. I told him my story and submitted the side-by-side photos of Nellie Sharp McGirl and me. It was Dr. Semkiw’s opinion that I was Nellie in a past life based on many similarities, both physically and socially.
For further confirmation, Dr. Semkiw consulted with Kevin Ryerson, a respected psychic who channels the spirit of Ahtun Re. Dr. Semkiw and Mr. Ryerson have collaborated frequently on past-life matches, with Dr. Semkiw presenting names and Mr. Ryerson’s channeled entity, Ahtun Re, naming their past-life match. In this consultation, Ahtun Re confirmed that I was, indeed, Nellie Sharp McGirl in a past life.
Dr. Semkiw wrote about the case on the IISIS website in his article, “Reincarnation Case of Nellie Sharp | Karen Frazier and the Wellington, Washington Avalanche and Train Disaster.” According to Dr. Semkiw’s article, my ties with Nellie Sharp meet a number of the criteria consistent with cases believed to be reincarnation including innate talents, psychical resemblance, and relationships renewed through reincarnation.
While my story alone may not be enough to convince a skeptic, it was enough to convince me about the reality and validity of the reincarnation experience. More important than convincing me, however, was what the knowledge did for my life. Once I stopped asking whether I had been reincarnated and instead asked why I had come across my own past-life memory experiences, my spiritual world began to open up. It brought me to my knees in wonder at the intricacy of the universe in which we live and set me on the path to metaphysical growth and understanding in a way no amount of searching, reading and studying could have done on its own. Instead, I was able to experience my Divinity through the past-life experience, which allowed me to come face to face with my soul.
Fortunately, many researchers have tackled reincarnation with very convincing results. However, I’ve learned that reading the results and experiences of others still only generates a series of interesting stories until one experiences it for oneself.
According to Dr. Paul Leon Masters, the purpose reincarnating into physical existence is to “manifest the perfection of the Infinite God throughout the vehicle of the physical body.” Once we do this, we remember that our true nature is Divine.
A Search for Greater Spiritual Truth
My experience with my three-year-old son was just the start of a long journey. While the story he told me at that age sparked my interest, it was my own experience that released me from my agnosticism and sent me in search of greater metaphysical truth. I am far from alone. Many others like me have sought greater spiritual truth in the wake of the past-life recall experience.
Whether through spontaneous recall or past-life regression, the personal reincarnation experience serves as an important catalyst for metaphysical realization and spiritual growth.
Dr. Semkiw’s reincarnation experiences led him to establish IISIS and pursue reincarnation research in order to educate others about the human soul. Jeffrey Keene’s reincarnation experiences caused him to re-evaluate his every belief, leading him to significant spiritual growth. Melissa Watt’s reincarnation experiences led her to become a life-between-lives and past-life regression hypnotherapist so she could participate in the spiritual growth of others. Dr. Michael Newton’s experiences led him to develop a revolutionary new type of life-between-lives hypnotherapy that practitioners around the world use to help others connect with their own Divinity. Dr. Brian Weiss’s experiences led him to a lifetime of spiritual teaching.
All of these people, because of their own experiences with past-life recall and reincarnation, are making significant spiritual and metaphysical contributions to the world. They all serve the important purpose of reminding others that they are more than just a bag of flesh and bones. They remind them that they are Divine, and that God lies within everyone.
My own experiences led me to my work as a Reiki practitioner and energy healer, as well as the work I do as a psychic. It is also leading me to the next step for which my soul has been longing. By opening up my own understanding of my Divinity, it has allowed me to work in the capacity of helping others find theirs.
With so many people seeking to change the world for the better as the result of the reincarnation experience, it’s clear that seeking such an experience can serve as a catalyst to set others on a metaphysical or spiritual path. People seeking to recognize, acknowledge, and truly believe in their own Divinity can only benefit from the past-life recall experience, whether they seek it through meditation, past-life regression, or some other avenue.
Pursuing the past-life experience can ultimately lead us to our soul’s deepest desire – the call to serve.
While many different paths exist to get to this place, the reincarnation experience provides humanity with one way to get there. Therefore, any metaphysical teacher or student seeking to help open their own or another’s heart and soul may do well to suggest or engage in a past-life regression experience. It may serve as the first step they take on the path to Divinity.
I don't know if I've previously mentioned it here, but I recently contacted Dr. Walter Simkew at the Institute for Integration of Science, Intuition, and Spirit (IISIS) about the similarities between Nellie Sharp and me. At the time, Dr. Simkew, who is a reincarnation researcher, felt there were enough similarities that it was a likely case of reincarnation.
It took me a while to process that, because really - why am I so special to believe I found one of my past lives? Plus, let's face it, it was pretty darn surreal.
While I was still processing Dr. Simkew's findings, he contacted me to let me know he had consulted with psychic Kevin Ryerson, who has provided independent psychic confirmation in many of the reincarnation cases he researches. Kevin Ryerson confirmed the reincarnation match.
Dr. Semkiw asked if he could put a write up of my case on the IISIS website. He contacted me today to tell me that the case has been posted. You can read it here.
Anyway - I've had some time with this now, so I've pretty much accepted this may, indeed, be a possibility. It still seems a bit surreal given a lifetime interest in reincarnation, but I also find it hopeful and beautiful. If we do, indeed, live many lives, it means our souls go on and love never dies. It means we get many opportunities to learn, love, and be the best humans we possibly can. It means we get another chance. For me, this is a message of hope.
Learn more about Nellie Sharp.
Elaine recently learned a little more about Nellie's life and death. Apparently, Nellie filed for divorce from John McGirl in Spokane a few weeks before she got on the train for Wellington. In the divorce papers, she cited emotional and physical abuse. She was separated but not yet divorced when she was killed.
This is why John McGirl was listed as Nellie's next of kin and was able to collect the money the Great Northern Railway gave for burial to each of the families of the Wellington avalanche victims. Instead of collecting Nellie's body and having her buried, he took the money and didn't claim her body. Her sisters came out from Illinois to bring Nellie home to rest. The Sharp family didn't have enough money for a headstone, so Nellie was buried 104 years ago today without one.
Now she has one. The cemetery tells me it was set today.
When I wrote Avalanche of Spirits: The Ghosts of Wellington, I mentioned Nellie Sharp briefly, telling readers she was a young, divorced freelance reporter who was on the train writing a story for McClure's magazine about train travel in the Wild West. She was 26 years old when she died.
As I wrote that brief passage about Nellie in Avalanche, what I failed to mention was that from the first I'd heard about her, I'd felt a growing connection to her. I was trying to learn more about her. Little did I know that it would take five years to finally come face to face with Nellie Sharp with the help of some pretty amazing friends.
At the time, I couldn't really tell you why I was drawn to Nellie Sharp. As I searched for her in the early days, I caught intriguing glimpses that strengthened the connection. Of course the natural connection was this: we are both writers. But it went deeper than that for me. Just like I was drawn to Wellington, I was increasingly drawn to Nellie Sharp.
Unfortunately, I'm not great at digging really deep. My early searches were limited to books, newspaper accounts, and genealogy websites. Nellie Sharp is a pretty common name from the time. Her married name, McGirl, was also quite common. All I had were her names, as well as her date and place of death. After learning a little, the trail grew cold.
After that initial search, I only knew slightly more than what I'd written in Avalanche. One of the train's passengers, Sarah Jane Covington, wrote letters home to pass the time on the trains. The letters were recovered from the avalanche wreckage. Sarah spoke of people on the train in her letters, and her words provided my initial glimpses of Nellie.
Nellie was somewhat of an adventurer, it seemed. She hung out with the "smart crowd" (that's what Sarah called them) on the train - a group of people thrown together in frightening and frustrating circumstances who sought comfort and entertainment from one another as they sat for nine days on a small train and watched avalanches come down around them. Nellie's "smart crowd" was a group of younger people traveling without families who would gather in the train's smoking car and share whiskey, tobacco, and laughter. Among the group, Nellie quickly became known as "Wild West Girl" for her adventurous spirit. In Northwest Disaster, author Ruby El Hult also mentions Nellie briefly, saying she probably helped wait tables at Wellington's local eatery, Hotel Bailets, while the train was trapped by snow.
Of course the other thing I knew about 26-year-old Nellie was that she was divorced - or at least in the process of getting a divorce. When you consider that it was 1910, this in itself was a rather unusual state of affairs. Nellie, it seemed, wasn't afraid to buck convention.
After gleaning that smidgen of information about Nellie, I grew frustrated with my search. I had reached a proverbial dead end, and I really didn't know where else to look. Over the next few years as I felt my connection to Nellie grow stronger, I made several more attempts at finding more information, only to remain stuck in the same spot.
At the same time I was searching for Nellie, I was also promoting Avalanche of Spirits. I appeared on many radio shows talking about the book and the haunting. If you know much about paranormal radio shows and the paranormal field in general, then you won't be surprised to hear this. On many of those shows, as well as at the conferences where I spoke, I ran into a lot of psychics. Many of those psychics had the same thing to tell me as I shared the tale of Wellington: "You were on that train."
I've always been fascinated with the topic of reincarnation. I'd read a great deal of literature on the topic and had come to the conclusion that a preponderance of evidence suggests reincarnation is very likely. So when several people told me, "You were on that train," I didn't really dismiss the idea. It could explain the compulsion I had to learn more about Wellington from the very first time someone mentioned the story to me.
Still, I remained skeptical. While I certainly believe reincarnation is a distinct possibility, I doubted I would ever be someone who would find someone whose body my soul used to inhabit. Then came the night at Wellington I described in Dancing with the Afterlife. It was the confluence of all of these diverse threads of information I'd been following with regard to Wellington, the haunting there, and many other subjects I'd pursued in my afterlife research.
While I describe the events leading up to this in detail in Dancing with the Afterlife, I'll summarize them here. In the summer of 2012 at Wellington, a new presence made himself known to me. A gentle giant of a man, every time I was at Wellington this presence who was called "Bear" would insert himself in my space. He'd stroke my cheek and tell me over and over again, "You know me. You know me." He was very persistent, and it made me quite uncomfortable.
I was at Wellington one night in late summer with a psychic I knew. It was her first time at Wellington, and she claimed she had completely refused to read or hear anything about it until she'd experienced it herself. She claimed she hadn't read my book, and she'd avoided all my talk about Wellington. She hadn't read the lists of people who had died. She said she was a blank slate as far as her knowledge of Wellington went.
That day at Wellington, several of us watched that psychic put on a rather impressive performance. As she walked through the site, she came up with specific names and information about Wellington, the passengers, the rail workers, and the avalanche itself that were remarkably specific and accurate. Late in the afternoon, we were standing in the snow shed when the now familiar presence of Bear approached me. I finally said to the psychic, "Who does this guy think I am?"
Her answer about knocked my legs out from under me. "Nells."
I actually collapsed a little into Jim, so shocked was I with the answer. "Do you mean Nellie?" I asked.
"Yes. But he calls her Nells."
Needless to say, my fascination with Nellie suddenly made a little more sense. As we sat on the observation deck at Wellington that evening, I told my psychic friend about Nellie and my fascination with her. I shared with her my fruitless search to glean more information.
A friend knew of my interest and lack of ability to find much about Nellie myself. Fortunately, she was better at it than me, and she quickly found Nellie's family, learned Nellie's ex-husband's first name, and began relentlessly tracking Nellie throughout her brief 26 years of life. After her initial research, I posted these findings.
My friend wanted to get a picture of Nellie for me, and she promised she wouldn't quit until she did. In the process, she made numerous telephone calls to people all over the United States. Slowly, she fleshed out the details of Nellie Sharp's life.
Nellie was born in Bloomington, Illinois in December of 1883. She was the youngest of a whole herd of siblings, and her parents were George and Minnie Sharp. George was a railroad engineer. Nellie was a musician who played the clarinet. She worked for a short time as a telephone operator. She was also a writer who'd written for local newspapers and covered events such as the St. Louis World's fair. She was a golfer, as well.
Nellie's family valued education, so she attended a few different colleges. She met and married John T. McGirl when she was 21. They moved to California together, but we all know how that marriage worked out. February 1910 found Nellie in Spokane, Washington with her friend, Mrs. Herbert Tweedie. The two were heading in separate directions on trains so they could write about their adventures for McClures. They drew straws to see who went in which direction. By this simple twist of fate, Nellie Sharp McGirl wound up on Great Northern Railway's Local No. 25, headed for Seattle. An avalanche waylaid the train, which was stuck in the North Cascades of Washington State for the next nine days as snow storms raged around them. At 1:42 AM on March 1, 1910, a lightning bolt struck the hillside above the trains, and Nellie was aboard as the trains were swept down the mountainside and deposited on the banks of the Tye River. Nellie was one of at least 96 people killed.
When Nellie was killed in the avalanche, John McGirl was still listed as her next of kin. He took the money the railroad provided so the families of the victims could bury them, but he left Nellie's body behind at Wellington. Instead, two of her sisters came from the Midwest and claimed Nellie's body. Without the funds from the railroad, the family couldn't afford a headstone, so Nellie is buried in an unmarked plot.
That is the story of Nellie Sharp's brief life.
About six weeks ago, my friend's quest to find a photograph of Nellie Sharp came to an end. Although she apparently told everyone I know she had the picture, she didn't tell me because she wanted to surprise me. It turns out my friends are good at keeping secrets.
The search for Nellie is complete. I know her story now, and I know her face. I may never truly know why I have such a deep connection with Nellie, but it is there. Two early descriptions I read of Nellie both really resonated with me. In The White Cascade, Gary Krist called Nellie, "A decidedly stout young woman of ebullient good humor." Ruby El Hult described her as "Short, broad, and irrepressible." It seems as if she was a creative spirit who pursued her life with passion and gusto. She's my kind of gal. While her life was short, I have a hunch her heart was huge. Whatever our connection, I know this for sure. Nellie was a cool chick. And she looks like my grandmother.
Karen Frazier is a writer, musician (she plays flute and a few other instruments), and a golfer (she loves the game but is terrible). Born in December, Karen was first married at the age of 21 and divorced by the time she was 23. Now she's remarried to a wonderful bear of a man, although his name is Jim and not Bear. She's been on the Spokane to Seattle train a few times, although Amtrak runs it now and not the Great Northern Railway. She currently works as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer.
My friend Elaine Davison managed to come up with a class photo that has Nellie Sharp in it. So now we've laid eyes on Nellie, even though we don't know which one she is.
One of the people involved in the Wellington avalanche has always intrigued me. I write about her at length in Dancing with the Afterlife. Her name was Nellie Sharp McGirl. She was 26-years-old at the time of the avalanche that killed her.
When I first wrote Avalanche of Spirits, I knew little about Nellie other than she was a young divorcee traveling on the railroad to try and write a story for McClure's Magazine. Her fellow passengers called her Wild West Girl because of her adventurous spirit as she set out west from Spokane to explore the wilds of the West. In The White Cascade, Gary Krist describes Nellie as a "short, decidedly stout young woman of ebullient good humor.
I tried to dig a little into Nellie's past. She wasn't easy to find. Then my friend, Elaine Davison, got involved. She's a whiz at this type of thing, and she's been able to dig up tremendous amounts of information about Nellie Sharp McGirl.
Nellie was born in December of 1883. She was the youngest of seven or eight siblings. Her father, George W. Sharp was a railroad engineer himself, running out of Chicago and Bloomington, Illinois. Her mother's name was Minnie. Nellie was born in Bloomington. The Sharp family lived in several places, including Missouri, Texas, and Oklahoma. George and Minnie valued education, and several of their children attended college. We've never been able to confirm for certain whether Nellie did or not.
As a young adult, Nellie worked as a newspaper reporter. She was in St. Louis for the World's Fair. At the age of 21, she married John T. McGirl. The couple moved to San Francisco and were there for the earthquake of 1906. By 1910, Nellie and John had separated, and Nellie was traveling with her friend, Mrs. Herbert Tweedie. In Spokane in mid-February of 1910, the two drew straws to determine who would go east and who would go West. Nellie wound up on the Great Northern Railroad's Local No. 25 heading West to Seattle to write an article. She never made it.
Reports from avalanche survivors suggest Nellie hung out with "the smart crowd" on the train. They were a group who would gather and laugh, drink, and smoke cigars. Some reports suggest she also helped out waiting tables at the local restaurant in Wellington, the Hotel Bailets, when train passengers ate their meals.
Nellie's body was in the first wave of those found. Like other 95 who were killed in the avalanche, she was wrapped in a Great Northern blanket and stored in a temporary morgue. The GNR gave the families money for burial. According to the family, Nellie's estranged husband took the money for burial but didn't claim her body. Instead, her two sisters came to claim Nellie's body, but the family couldn't afford to give her a headstone because her husband had taken the burial money.
Elaine and I have both been diligently seeking a photograph of Nellie Sharp. Elaine has talked with descendants of the Sharp family, cemetery employees, and historians. We've been able to flesh out much of Nellie's history on genealogy sites such as ancestry.com, where we've found interesting tidbits such as Nellie's marriage certificate (she signed her name on the certificate as Nellie G. Sharpe) and census records. While a picture is emerging, I hope to find more about this interesting woman.