Why Cryptomnesia is not the Complete Explanation

© Ian Lawton 2008

[This paper is largely made up of extracts from chapter 3 of The Big Book of the Soul. It was also published in the Journal of Regression Therapy 28:1 (July 2008).]


When an acquaintance first suggested to BBC producer Jeffrey Iverson that he should visit the renowned hypnotherapist Arnall Bloxham in their shared home town of Cardiff, he had little expectation of it coming to much.[i] Bloxham was by then nearly eighty years of age, but for the past twenty years he had been regressing subjects back into previous lives, and had tapes from sessions with more than four hundred subjects to prove it. Despite his initial skepticism, Iverson made a number of visits and spent many hours listening to the tapes, becoming increasingly intrigued. Like most people he had accepted the misconception that people always claim to remember only famous and exciting lives, yet here he encountered regression after regression that was ordinary, humble and often somewhat boring. Not only that but many subjects used entirely different voices and words from their normal, conscious personality. But he also knew that the only way to satisfy his mounting curiosity would be to concentrate on cases containing detailed and obscure historical facts that might be verifiable. This he did, even bringing in the famous journalist and broadcaster Magnus Magnusson to assist in the investigation. The results were aired in 1976 in a BBC documentary entitled ‘The Bloxham Tapes’, accompanied by Iverson’s book More Lives Than One. Between them they caused quite a stir.

Iverson was intrigued by one of Bloxham’s subjects, a mild-mannered Swansea man called Graham Huxtable who, when regressed, transformed into a coarse, illiterate gunner’s mate in the English Navy of the late eighteenth century.[ii] Using what appeared to be contemporary naval slang he described how he was on board a ship called the Aggie, which was part of a fleet of ships involved in blockading the French just off Calais. Indeed this case had come to the attention of two high ranking Naval officers, in the shape of no lesser personages than Lord Mountbatten and Prince Phillip, who had been sufficiently impressed that they helped to investigate it. Some partial names were given but, coupled with incomplete contemporary Naval records, the details were insufficient to prove exactly what ship the man had described. What is more, the trauma Graham had suffered when he apparently relived his leg being shot off in battle convinced both him and Bloxham not to attempt to elicit more details.

However skeptics like Melvin Harris – a journalist, broadcaster and indefatigable debunker of past lives whose 1986 book Sorry, You’ve Been Duped was republished in 2003 under the less confrontational title Investigating the Unexplained – are not at all convinced by cases such as this. We all know that most researchers attempt to trace the factual historical records for past-life cases in their attempts to verify them. But he reminds us that it is easy to forget that historical fiction is an even more likely source. In this instance he suggests that Graham provided no information that could not easily be found in the scores of historical novels and boy’s adventure stories about life in the Royal Navy during that period.[iii] He also insists that naval records for the period are not incomplete and that, although there was one similarly named ship at the time called the Agamemnon, it had a massive sixty-four guns, double the size cited by Graham for the Aggie.

For Iverson the case that seemed to hold out most promise was that of a local housewife, who he dubbed ‘Jane Evans’ to protect her identity. She originally visited Bloxham in the late sixties after seeing a roadside poster about his health treatments, but she also proved to be an excellent regression subject. Over a number of sessions she explored what appeared to be six different previous lives, the earliest in Roman Britain in the late third century, the most recent as a nun in Maryland at the turn of the last. Iverson asked to meet her, and by coincidence found out that they had both attended the same secondary school in Newport, although a few years apart. From this he was able to independently establish that the she had never studied history at an advanced level, and none of the relevant periods in any detail, and that neither of her parents had read much or showed any great interest in history when she was younger.

A Weak Case: Jane's Livonia Regression

Some of Jane’s regressions provided little in the way of verifiable detail, but others appeared to be more promising. The earliest involved a woman called Livonia who lived in Roman Britain towards the end of the third century.[iv] She was married to Titus, a tutor to the boy Constantine who would go on to become known as ‘the Great’, and whose father Constantius eventually became Caesar. Jane provided many details that were reasonably obscure yet known to be historically accurate, but in fact Constantius’ whereabouts in the earliest years discussed in the regression, that is around 286 ad, are unknown. She reported that he was in York, and already acting as the Roman governor of Britain – a country that history does not link him to until a decade later, when he invaded to crush the independence movement of Allectus. So was she really a first-hand witness who could fill in the missing blanks of history, as Iverson suggests?

Unfortunately it appears not, because Harris remembered a book by best-selling novelist Louis de Wohl that covers exactly this ‘missing’ period.[v] First published in 1947 it was called The Living Wood, and in it de Wohl effectively lays out a fictional narrative interspersed with known historical facts to tell a story that is in parts identical to Jane’s recall of the life of Livonia, except that he has Constantius serving merely as a legate in Britain during the missing period. As Harris points out, the only major discrepancies in the fictional elements are that Livonia and Titus are extremely minor characters in the novel, but Jane’s imagination appears to elevate them somewhat. In fact Livonia is merely a lady-in-waiting in the book, but she has ‘pouting lips and smoldering eyes’ and in Jane’s story becomes much more identifiable with the lead character – Constantius’ first wife Helena, who would go on to be canonized for supposedly discovering the ‘true cross’. Meanwhile Titus appears to be based not so much on his namesake, a briefly mentioned Roman soldier, but on the romantic lead, another fictional character called Hilary; because what happens to him – he is converted to Christianity by a woodcarver called Albanus, ordained by the Spanish Bishop Ossius and then killed shortly afterwards as part of the persecution of Christians at the time – is exactly what happens to Titus in Jane’s version.

Not only that, but in other places the correspondences in terms of names and actions are even more exact, and again what is most damning is that they relate to fictional rather than historical characters. For example both stories have a ‘military tutor’ to Constantine called ‘Marcus Favonius Facilis’, de Wohl’s inspiration for whom came from the tomb of a Roman soldier at Colchester Castle that is known to date only to the first century. Moreover both contain Roman deputies to the governor of Britain called ‘Curio’ and ‘Valerius’, but these were again made up by de Wohl. Meanwhile the historian turned paranormal investigator Ian Wilson – whose 1981 book Mind Out of Time and the 1987 follow-up The After Death Experience are important, additional, skeptical sources – adds that in both stories everyone refers to Helena as ‘domina’, and the Roman name for the modern town of St Albans is shortened from Verulamium to ‘Verulam’.[vi] I have rechecked The Living Wood, and all this is correct.

An Inconclusive Case: Jane's Rebecca Regression

Despite the apparently foolproof explanation for this case, in fact we find that Jane’s other notorious regressions may not be as easily explained as Harris and Wilson suggest. The one that is most commonly referred to by supporters of reincarnation is that of a persecuted Jewess called Rebecca, again in York but this time in the late twelfth century.[vii] In outline she reported that she was married to a wealthy moneylender called Joseph, and they lived with their son and daughter in a large stone house in the north of the city. Iverson approached Barrie Dobson, the professor of medieval history at York University, to help him with the analysis of the more specific details of Jane’s recall.

First, she reported that her fellow Jews were made to wear yellow circles over their hearts. History records that this identification was only enforced by papal decree in 1215, but Dobson suggested it would have been quite conceivable for this to have been a practice in York or even the whole of England several decades earlier. Second, she said that the Jews lent money to the king, Henry Plantagenet, to finance the war in Ireland, and that as a result he was well disposed towards their attempts to recover money in the courts – although they had to pay him a levy of ‘ten parts’ of any such sums; and this was certainly historically accurate. Third, she described how a priest came to York to recruit men for what would now be called the Third Crusade, and that both Jews and Muslims alike were regarded as ‘infidels’, this hatred being stirred up by the Pope himself. Moreover she said the Jews of York were so worried by uprisings against their kinsmen in other cities that her husband had shifted much of his money to their uncle in Lincoln for safekeeping. Again, all this is perfectly feasible, because Dobson himself had documented the emerging ties between the Jews of York and Lincoln at the time. Fourth, she recalled that a young man called ‘Mabelise’ had borrowed money from her husband, and that they had to take him to ‘the assizes’ to recover it. This is pretty close to the name of a local noble recorded by chroniclers of the time, Richard Malebisse, who did indeed owe money to the Jews of York and led the subsequent uprising against them, in part to avoid paying his debts.

Fifth, she recounted how after Henry had died and his successor Richard had immediately left for the Crusades, her community felt they had lost their last protection and were getting ready to flee the city. She also gave the date as 1189, and said that Henry had protected them for thirty years, both of which are exactly correct. Sixth, she recounted how an elderly Jew called Isaac had been killed in the lead up to the riots in ‘Coney Street’, and this too is recorded although without the name. She further recalled that at about the same time their neighbor Benjamin’s father had been murdered while on a visit to London. Apparently some months had passed, and then rioters broke into his house next door, and she heard the screams and smelt the smoke as they set fire to it. Again these obscure details are confirmed when we find that a wealthy resident of York called Benedict was one of thirty Jews killed in riots in London at the time of Richard’s coronation, and Dobson himself records that it was the subsequent attack on this man’s house, and the killing of his wife and children, that sparked the uprising.

As a denouement to all this, Jane reported, Rebecca and her family fled their own house and headed for the castle where they took refuge with all the other Jews. History confirms that this siege lasted for several days before those inside, realizing their position was hopeless, took each other’s lives. But, according to Jane, on that first night they were only allowed ‘just inside the gates’, and they could hear the mob screaming at them to come out and be killed – and asking if they had ‘crucified any little boys’, a known accusation of the time. Then they started to ram the gates, and the terrified Jews resorted to killing their children to save them from their persecutors’ clutches – another poignant and distressing fact confirmed by contemporary chroniclers. It seems that Rebecca’s husband managed to bribe someone to get his family out, and they fled to a Christian Church ‘just outside the big copper gate’ where they tied up the priest and his clerk and then hid ‘down below in the cellars’.

According to Jane’s report it seems they must have stayed in this cellar for several days, terrified for their lives and growing increasingly cold, tired and hungry. In desperation Rebecca’s husband and son went off to find food, but while they were gone she heard rioters on horseback preparing to enter the church. The final, highly charged scenes of the regression see her praying in vain for her menfolk to return and save them, hearing the rioters entering the church and approaching their hiding place, then seeing her daughter being dragged away before she herself becomes, simply, ‘dark’.

We can see that much of the information Jane came up with was relatively obscure and yet still factually correct. Dobson was apparently impressed by the accuracy of much of her recall, and felt some of it would only have been known to professional historians. He did question one point, which was why she had referred to the modern name of ‘Coney Street’ when in the Middle Ages it was marked on maps as Cuninga or King Street. But Iverson suggests that the more modern name, derived from the sale of rabbits, may have been in everyday use for some time before the change was noted on maps. Moreover Dobson himself refuted another potential problem, which is Jane’s reference to the ‘big copper gate’. Although there was no gate actually made of copper, there was a street called Coppergate at the time and it would have had a large gate at the end leading into the precincts of the castle. In addition it would probably be a moot point whether she said it as two words or just one.

Dobson also apparently identified St Mary’s, Castlegate as the prime suspect for the church in which Rebecca and her family hid. It was close to Coppergate and in sight of the castle. But the problem was that, in common with all the churches of the area, it had no crypt or cellar. Then in late 1975 he wrote to Iverson with the news that is still, in many quarters, trumpeted as the pièce de resistance of this and indeed all reincarnation cases:

In September, during the renovation of the church, a workman certainly found something that seems to have been a crypt – very rare in York except for the Minster – under the chancel of that church. It was blocked up immediately and before the York archaeologists could investigate it properly. But the workman who looked inside said he had seen round stone arches and vaults. Not much to go on, but if he was right this would point to a Norman or Romanesque period of building, i.e. before 1190 rather than after it.

The problem, however, is that it is rarely reported that over the next decade more was established about this supposed crypt. Harris corresponded with Dobson in 1986, and this time he revealed that ‘it now seems overwhelmingly most likely that the chamber… was not an early medieval crypt at all but a post-medieval charnel vault.[viii] This seems to have been based on the findings of a Royal Commission Survey in 1981 that it was ‘probably a later insertion’.[ix] In fact to Harris’ delight Dobson seems to have been put off the case completely by this revelation: ‘The evidence available is now revealed as so weak in this instance that it fails to support any thesis which suggests that Rebecca’s regression contains within it genuine and direct memories of late twelfth-century York.’ But let us step back for one second. What about all the other elements of Jane’s recall that had so impressed Dobson ten years previously, which had not changed at all? One cannot help but wonder whether an ambition to progress to the higher echelons of the academic field might not have had some influence on this apparent change of heart; after all, within another two years Dobson would take over the chair of medieval history at Cambridge.

But what of Rebecca hiding out in a crypt? Harris himself reports that originally Dobson identified three potential churches close to Coppergate, and St Mary’s was simply the most convenient for filming the documentary. So perhaps one of these others contains a crypt that has yet to be discovered? Or perhaps one of them had a rather different configuration in 1190, or there was even an entirely different building on one of the three sites, or at another nearby site that has now been lost to time? One of these is surely not impossible.

Harris has only two other possible criticisms of this case. First of all he repeats the obvious criticism of Jane’s assertion that the Jews of York had to wear badges several decades before the formal papal decree, and he argues that the yellow circle was only used in Germany and France. But we have already seen that Dobson originally accepted this as a possibility, and that he was the expert even if he decided to make a general about turn later on. The other apparent problem is that Jane repeatedly referred to living in a ‘ghetto’, a word only invented several centuries later. But we know that regression subjects can use a mixture of modern and archaic language, and nor does her use of the word necessarily infer, as Harris suggests, that this was the only area the Jews lived in. He makes great play of the fact that these passages were left out of the book and documentary, but in fact there may be nothing in this at all. Above all it seems fair to say that he has done nothing but snipe around the edges, without tackling the wealth of accurate and obscure facts that emerged during this regression.

Harris must have accepted that Jane was unlikely to have read any of the relatively obscure, non-fictional sources that might have played a part in her recall, but nor does he come up with any possible fictional sources. However Wilson does, reporting that three of his correspondents recalled having heard a radio play on the subject of the York massacre some time in the fifties.[x] Nevertheless none could remember the name, and he was unable to trace it. All in all, therefore, these rebuttals are nothing like as convincing as those of Jane’s Livonia regression, which is why it seems fair to regard this case as inconclusive one way or the other.

An Unexplained Case: Jane's Alison Regression

We have seen that Jane's previous regressions as Livonia and Rebecca are apparently explainable and inconclusive respectively. Moreover Harris and Wilson separately managed to track her down, and both insist that she refused to speak to them, which on the face of it appears to be extremely damning in itself.[xi] But there must have been more to this than meets the eye, because another of her regressions is in a different category entirely. In this she found herself in mid-fifteenth-century France, acting as a servant to an important contemporary figure called Jacques Coeur.[xii] We should state at the outset that Iverson established that Jane had never studied the period in question in any detail, and certainly not French history of the time; and she had only been to France once, to Paris for two days, whereas the town of Bourges on which this regression centers lies some 150 miles to the south.

Before we examine Jane’s recall we should acquaint ourselves with a few known historical facts.[xiii] Coeur was born in around 1395, in the middle of the ‘hundred years war’ with England. The son of a rich Bourges merchant, he began building up his own trading empire in his early thirties, and in time his massive fleet of ships would become preeminent in the import of all manner of goods from the eastern ports of the Mediterranean. As his wealth grew, so did his estates, his portfolio of debtors, and his influence in royal circles. In 1436 he was summoned to the recently reacquired Paris by Charles VII to become master of the mint, two years later he was made steward of the royal expenditure, and within another ten he had started lending the king himself money to finance his new thrust to oust the English from his northern territories. It was not least because of this that Coeur formed part of the royal procession that triumphantly entered the recaptured city of Rouen in 1449.

His service to his country was ill-rewarded, however. Many merchants whose profits had been squeezed by Coeur’s monopolies were keen to see his downfall, as were those who owed him money – the king and many of his senior courtiers included. Meanwhile the king’s mistress Agnes Sorel, whose huge influence and inordinate beauty caused much jealousy in royal circles, died suddenly a year later at the tender age of only twenty-eight. Unsurprisingly rumor soon spread that she had been poisoned, with the king’s son Louis – who had been agitating against his father since his forced marriage to Margaret, daughter of James I of Scotland, in his early teens – the chief suspect. However events took a rather different turn when, more than a year after Agnes’ death, a courtier who owed Coeur money formally accused him of her murder. It seems everyone knew this was a ridiculous accusation, but the king showed his gratitude by having him arrested for this and other charges, financial and otherwise. His estates and stocks were seized and distributed to various royal favorites, including the men chosen to preside at his trial, while the king reserved a substantial portion of Coeur’s money to finance further war efforts. After nearly two years of imprisonment he was finally convicted, but he escaped from prison in 1455, only to die a year later on the Greek island of Chios.

So what of Jane’s recall? The broad thrust is that her name was Alison, and she was found by Coeur in Alexandria. As a young servant girl she had been ill and effectively unwanted, but he took pity on her and brought her back to France, where she remained in his employ until he was taken into custody. Apparently he gave her a draft of poison at this point, and it seems reasonable that if she was of infidel Arab descent then, robbed of his protection in such a staunchly Christian country, death might have been the kindest option. This suggests she may have grown quite close to him by this time and, as we will see, he certainly seems to have taken her into his confidence on many things about court life.

There are many more details of her recall that we will come to shortly, but first there is one unusual aspect picked up on by Harris.[xiv] When she was asked whether Coeur had ever been married her response was ‘not that I know of’. Yet history clearly shows that in his early twenties he married Macé de Lodepart, the daughter of a wealthy Bourges family, and that they had a number of children together. Harris reports that again he found an appropriate fictional source, this time The Moneyman by the renowned historical novelist Thomas Costain, first published in 1947 and republished in 1961. Moreover Costain admits in his introduction that he deliberately omitted Coeur’s family from his novel ‘because they played no real part in the events which brought his career to its climax’.[xv] So at first sight Harris appears absolutely right to suggest that this cannot be mere coincidence, and Wilson again praises his sleuthing without adding to or questioning it.[xvi] But, unlike with Livonia and The Living Wood, Harris says little more about Costain’s novel except that ‘it is based on Coeur’s life and provides almost all of the flourishes and authentic-sounding touches included in her past-life memory’.

To anyone who takes the trouble to read the full five hundred pages of The Moneyman, as I did, this is something of a generalization at best and a downright misrepresentation at worst. It is a romantic tale in which many of the key characters apart from Coeur are entirely fictional, along with much of the narrative, and its main thrust involves Coeur supposedly attempting to find a successor for the ageing Agnes Sorel as the king’s mistress. One of his associates chances upon a fictional teenage girl called Valerie, who had been fostered and then orphaned, and is also Agnes’ double – in fact she eventually turns out to be her illegitimate niece. Valerie is tutored for the part of royal mistress and easily wins the king’s affections, but then she runs away with a fictional friend of Coeur’s and marries him. This tale of a blond-haired, porcelain-skinned girl attempting to become the king’s mistress bears no resemblance to Alison’s life as a humble servant of eastern extraction, who remains in Coeur’s mansion at Bourges. Indeed the latter is hardly mentioned in Costain’s novel, and there is no character on which Alison could be based.

More important even than this, Jane came up with a significant number of historically accurate facts of varying degrees of obscurity, the majority of which are not mentioned in The Moneyman at all. Nor did she repeat any of its many fictional ‘mistakes’. All of which leaves Harris’ proclamation of the ‘overwhelmingly strong evidence’ that this was her source looking rather misplaced. His only other comments relate to her recollections of Agnes’ tomb and of Coeur’s house in Bourges, pictures and descriptions of which are reasonably widespread – especially of the latter, whose unusual mixture of architecture remains a significant tourist attraction. But we do not even need to discuss these, given the wealth of other, accurate information Jane provided. So the explanations proffered by Harris in this instance are entirely unsatisfactory.

But before we carry on with the rest of the case, we must attempt to provide an explanation for Jane’s apparent ignorance of Coeur’s family. It is certainly true that historians pay them scant regard, even though one of his daughters married the son of the Viscount of Bourges, and a son became archbishop of the city. So it is entirely conceivable that he only married at an early age as an aid to social mobility, and that his wife played little role in his later life before she died around the time of his arrest. As for his children, it is equally conceivable that a man with his widespread business interests and political responsibilities would have had little time for them. Alternatively there are some subtle hints that Alison was very much in love with her master, although she flatly denied being his mistress, so Iverson’s suggestion that perhaps she could not even bring herself to acknowledge his marriage may also have some merit. If these explanations sound at all forced, they will be put into perspective by what follows.

So let us commence our detailed examination of this case by summarizing various aspects of Jane’s recall in tabular form:

The facts above are certainly reasonably obscure, and for the most part cannot be traced to The Moneyman. But they do not relate purely to Coeur but to French history of the time more generally, so a skeptic might still argue that there are probably plenty of sources, fictional or otherwise, that contain said details. Nevertheless Jane did come up with some rather more obscure information about the period that to his credit, and by some painstaking research in France, Iverson was able to confirm as correct. None of this appears on the internet even now, so it is not likely to have been included in other easily accessible sources that Jane might have consulted, whether fictional or otherwise. Nor is any of what follows found in The Moneyman.

First, Jane reported that the king’s nickname was ‘heron legs’, which Iverson confirmed in discussions with French historians. Second, she specifically commented on how his son Louis was ‘very wicked, very cruel and yet pious sometimes’, which exactly matches the description by another French historian that his character consisted of ‘piety combined with ruthlessness’. Third, she reported that Coeur suspected Louis had poisoned his wife Margaret, who was only twenty when she died, and again historians confirmed this was a popular rumor at the time. Fourth, she said that Coeur had been to Paris after its recapture from the English and had watched the king enter the city with both his queen and mistress in tow. He said Agnes was spat upon by the crowd because even her two beloved pet dogs were clothed in ‘coats of white fur with jeweled collars’, after which the queen appeared with her on a balcony in a show of support. Jane talked about this happening some time after Louis’ banishment but before Agnes’ death, which places it somewhere between 1446 and 1450. Iverson was able to confirm that in her letters Agnes often mentioned her two pampered pet greyhounds. More than this, though, he found a contemporary although anonymous account describing just such a visit to Paris, in April 1448, in which the queen and Agnes regularly appeared together much to the dismay of the people.

Jane also came up with rather more obscure information relating specifically to Coeur himself, and Iverson was again particularly thorough in his attempts to research at least the non-fictional sources for his life. What he found was that, despite his huge importance, only two detailed reference works about him existed in English at the time of Jane’s sessions, and both were obscure books written in 1847 and 1927 that did not mention the facts that follow. Of course skeptics might still point out that Jane learnt some French at school, and therefore must have read about Coeur’s life in books from his homeland. But in fact even French history books provide few details of this enigmatic character. So again Iverson had to spend considerable time with French scholars and historians, in Bourges and elsewhere, attempting to verify these seriously obscure aspects of Jane’s recall.

First she indicated that Coeur, who was very close to Agnes, gave her the first polished diamond in France on a chain with a sapphire clasp. Iverson was able to establish that he probably was the first person to have diamonds shaped and cut, and that Agnes probably was the first person in France to model them for him. Second, Coeur’s father is referred to in general modern sources merely as a ‘rich merchant’, but French historians told Iverson that there are two more detailed versions of his story, one that he was a furrier and the other that he was a goldsmith; and while the former view is mentioned once in The Moneyman,[xxiii] Jane clearly stated the latter. Third, she discussed this in the context of rumors that Coeur was Jewish, and again historians were able to confirm that these were current during his life. Fourth, when describing how the king’s men were coming to arrest her master, she showed extreme indignance at the ingratitude of it all that would have been entirely appropriate after everything Coeur did for him. Fifth, she reported that he was an avid collector of art, and that in his main gallery hung paintings by ‘Fouquet’, ‘van Eyck’, ‘Giotto’ and ‘John of Bruges’. Iverson established that Jean Fouquet was the court painter to the king, and that receipts show Coeur lent him money; that Jan van Eyck was the court painter to the nearby Duke of Burgundy; and that Giotto was an Italian master who had lived in the previous century. John of Bruges, also known as ‘John Bondolf’, was harder to trace; but a specialist art history book revealed him to have been a Flemish court painter for the king’s grandfather, Charles V. Jane also mentioned a painting depicting Agnes with one of her babies, and said that Coeur badly wanted to acquire it. She was wrong that this was by van Eyck, but it is a reasonably renowned painting by Fouquet known as ‘Madonna and Child’. Sixth, Jane indicated that Coeur had a ‘body servant’ called Abdul, who was ‘dressed differently from the others’; and Iverson was able to establish from his trial records that he did indeed have an Egyptian body slave.

Yet we still have not come to the most impressive aspect of this case, which is Jane’s recall of a ‘beautiful golden apple with jewels in it’ that Coeur said had been given to him by the Sultan of Turkey. All of Iverson’s initial attempts to verify the existence of such a piece drew a blank, until his last night in Bourges when he returned to his hotel to find a message from a local historian, Pierre Bailly. The latter reported that he had been searching through contemporary archives when he found ‘an obscure list of items confiscated by the Treasury from Jacques Coeur’; and in that list was a ‘grenade’ of gold – a pomegranate. As Iverson points out, this is so like an apple in shape and size that the English word contains the French root pomme.


However photographic memory might be, it is almost impossible to conceive of any obvious way in which obscure information about such a golden apple could find its way into any normal source, whether fictional or not, that an ordinary person like Jane, with no special interest in Jacques Coeur, might have encountered. Moreover in general her case is a fascinating and instructive one. Given Harris’ foolproof evidence against the Livonia regression, it is easy to see why others might assume that his superficially similar proof against the Alison regression would be equally foolproof. As a result both his and Wilson’s less impressive explanations for the Rebecca regression tend also to be accepted, by skeptics at least, without further comment. Yet as soon as we find that in fact the Alison regression is almost impossible to explain by normal means – as, incidentally, Harris himself must have realized, unless he never actually read the full text of The Moneyman – perhaps we become better disposed towards a paranormal explanation for the Rebecca regression as well.

Nevertheless, we are still left wondering how a single subject could show all the signs of cryptomnesia in one regression and of a paranormal source in another. Of course we all tend to hanker for simple, reductionist explanations that swing definitively one way or the other, and at first sight this case might seem illogical and baffling. But in fact, if we take a step back, there is no practical reason why such a ‘mixed’ case might not occur. One might even suggest that it has a certain poignancy for any attempt to show both sides of the argument, and to follow the evidence where it leads with at least some degree of attempted objectivity.

Source References

[i] For the background see Iverson, More Lives Than One (Pan, 1977), chapters 1 and 2.

[ii] Ibid., chapter 11.

[iii] Harris, Investigating the Unexplained (Prometheus Books, 2003), chapter 18, pp. 156–7.

[iv] Iverson, More Lives Than One, chapter 6.

[v] Harris, Investigating the Unexplained, chapter 18, pp. 161–3; see also his article ‘Are Past Life Regressions Evidence of Reincarnation?’, Free Inquiry 6:4 (Autumn 1986).

[vi] Wilson, The After Death Experience (Corgi, 1989), chapter 4, pp. 50–1.

[vii] Iverson, More Lives Than One, chapters 4–5.

[viii] Harris, Investigating the Unexplained, chapter 18, pp. 159–61.

[ix] In addition Wilson reports that his investigations revealed the vault was most likely seventeenth century; see The After Death Experience, chapter 4, p. 52,

[x] Ibid., chapter 4, p. 51.

[xi] See Harris, Investigating the Unexplained, chapter 18, p. 156 and Wilson, The After Death Experience, chapter 4, p. 53.

[xii] Iverson, More Lives Than One, chapters 7–8.

[xiii] All the factual details for the Alison case are taken from various Wikipedia entries unless otherwise stated.

[xiv] Harris, Investigating the Unexplained, chapter 18, pp. 157–9.

[xv] Costain, The Moneyman (Permabook, 1961), p. viii.

[xvi] Wilson, The After Death Experience, chapter 4, pp. 52–3.

[xvii] Costain, The Moneyman, pp. 25 and 106.

[xviii] Ibid., pp. 25.

[xix] Ibid., p. 18.

[xx] Ibid., p. 419.

[xxi] Ibid., pp. vii and 14.

[xxii] Ibid., p. 277.

[xxiii] Ibid., p. 497.