Children Who Report Memories of Past Lives

Some young children, usually between the ages of 2 and 5, speak about memories of a previous life they claim to have lived. At the same time they often show behaviors, such as phobias or preferences, that are unusual within the context of their particular family and cannot be explained by any current life events. These memories appear to be concordant with the child’s statements about a previous life.


Dr. Jim Tucker

Jim Tucker with Ryan Hammons and his mother. Read about this interesting case in Dr. Tucker’s book,Return to Life

In many cases of this type, the child’s statements have been shown to correspond accurately to facts in the life and death of a deceased person. Some of the children have birthmarks and birth defects that correspond to wounds or other marks on the deceased person whose life is being remembered by the child.  In numerous cases, postmortem reports have confirmed these correspondences. Older children may retain these apparent memories, but generally they seem to fade around the age of seven.  The young subjects of these cases have been found all over the world including Europe and North America.

For the past 20 years, Dr. Jim Tucker, now the director of the Division of Perceptual Studies, has focused mainly on cases found in the United States. His book Return to Life offers accounts of very strong American cases of young children who remember previous lives. In this book, Dr. Tucker writes about the now well-known cases of James Leininger, a young boy who had verifiable past-life memories of being a WWII pilot, and Ryan Hammons, who had verifiable memories of being a Hollywood extra and talent agent.

Statements a Child Might Make

Statements made by a child who seems to be remembering a previous life can be quite varied. The following list of possible statements is not an exhaustive list by any means. It is designed to give an idea of the kinds of things a parent or caregiver might hear, and in our Western culture, tend to dismiss as fantasy.

It is also true that a child might say one or more of these things and not be remembering a previous life. It is probably best not to pump a child for information, nor to try and prevent him or her from saying such things.

Dr. Jim Tucker interviewing a young child

Dr. Jim Tucker interviewing a young child

Types of Statements a Child Might Make

  • “You’re not my mommy/daddy.”
  • “I have another mommy/daddy.”
  • “When I was big, I …(used to have blue eyes/had a car, etc.).”
  • “That happened before I was in mommy’s tummy.”
  • “I have a wife/husband/children.”
  • “I used to…(drive a truck/live in another town, etc.)”
  • “I died … (in a car accident/after I fell, etc.)”
  • “Remember when I …(lived in that other house/was your daddy, etc.)

If you are a parent seeking advice about your child who seems to remember a previous life, please refer to Dr. Jim Tucker’s Advice to Parents.

Contact Us if Your Child has Past-Life Memories

We are very interested in hearing about cases of young children who are currently spontaneously speaking about memories of a previous life.  If you are a parent or a caretaker of a young child, please email our research assistant, Diane Morini at or to submit your observations and experiences of your child’s behaviors and statements about memories of a previous life.

Rest assured that only qualified study team members will have access to your report of a child’s past life memories submitted via email, and we adhere to a strict code of privacy and confidentiality in all instances. We will not disclose the names of the people involved in the account in any way, without first seeking explicit permission from the parents.

Special Note: You may notice that there are a few published cases in which the actual names are used in presenting details of the case. We want to assure you that this is rare and only done with special permission granted to us by the parents. 

Decades of Research - Thousands of Cases

Our founder, Dr. Ian Stevenson interviewing a subject in Myanmar circa 1975

Dr. Stevenson researching in Myanmar – 1975

Over the last 50 years of active research, the UVA DOPS faculty have collected 2500 cases, most of which have been found outside of the United states. Members of the research staff at the Division of Perceptual Studies have published numerous articles and books about these cases.

Of these 2500 cases, over 2300 have been coded and entered into our SPSS data base to date. During most summers for the past 15 years, first year UVA medical students research interns, assist us in coding the field notes on 200 variables. They develop research projects based on access to the original research files. These research interns apply various statistical analyses to look into the accumulated data thus far, for patterns and trends.