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New lease of life: 7 people who claimed that they were reincarnated

Tina Turner believes that her former career was as a queen in Ancient Egypt. Image: Photo of Hatshepsut | Metropolitan Museum of Art, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Aside from the sincerely held reincarnation beliefs of the ancient Celts, Buddhists, Hindus, and others, there have been famous individual cases throughout history of those claiming to have ‘lived before’.

Tina Turner believes that her former career was as a queen in Ancient Egypt, and American war hero General George Patton famously believed he was the reincarnation of General Hannibal of Ancient Carthage.

Genuine mysteries, overactive imaginations, or PR stunts? Take a look at these 7 famous cases of claimed past lives from history and see what you think.

1. Pythagoras

Greek genius Pythagoras is famous for inventing lots of tricky stuff to do with triangles and philosophy. But the sage of Samos believed that in a former life he wasn’t a boffin but a celebrated Trojan warrior by the name of Euphorbos

The famous scribe Ovid claimed that Pythagoras once said:

‘I recognized the shield I used to carry on my left arm, recently, in the temple of Juno at Argos, city of Abas.’

Pythagoras’s life was shrouded in legend for centuries. The Romans had a tradition that he was the son of Apollo.

2. Katsugoro

Two hundred years ago in rural Japan, a seven-year-old boy turned to his sister and asked her, ‘Whose child were you before you were born into our family?’

The boy, Katsugoro, then asked his sister if she knew what it was like before she was born. ‘Why,’ she said, ‘do you?’ ‘Of course, I know,’ Katsugoro said.


He then stunned his family by telling them that he’d died as a young boy and then, after five years, had been born again as Katsugoro. Inquiries were made and over the mountain in another farming village, there was a family who had lost a son, a five-year-old boy, to smallpox in 1810. Katsugoro claimed that this was his past life.

The young lad was able to convince his local community with the detailed and accurate recollection he gave of his former family, the village, and the manner of his death.

Leading Japanese intellectuals of the day lined up to quiz the boy, and he even gave a mysterious account of the five years between his death and rebirth. ‘There,’ the boy told one investigator, ‘there was no day and no night, and it always seemed to be twilight. I felt neither cold nor hunger.’

3. Arthur Flowerdew

In the late 1970s a retired Army man from Norfolk, Arthur Flowerdew, was watching a TV documentary on the ancient metropolis of Petra.

For as long as he could remember Arthur had had dreams and visions of living in a faraway city of stone hundreds of years ago. He hadn’t known until then that it was Petra.

Petra-fied, Flowerdew contacted the BBC and then later flew out to the Middle East to meet with archaeologists at the site of the famed Rose City of antiquity.

Flowerdew claimed that his past life in Petra came to a bloody premature end, and on arrival at Petra, he apparently took archaeologists to the site of the murder of his former self.

He also apparently helped experts on the ground fill in holes (not literally), explaining uses for tools that were hitherto unexplained, and even told them about parts of the site they’d yet to unearth.

An expert who was with Flowerdew in Jordan is, according to one account, quoted as saying that he didn’t think Flowerdew was a fraud and that many of the details Flowerdew provided about Petra were not only consistent with known facts but also added to what was known about the old city.

4. Dorothy Eady

Dorothy Eady was born in London in 1904 but lived for much of her life in Egypt, where she became known as Omm Sety, and made many significant contributions to Egyptology.

After an accident aged three, she began to believe that she was a reincarnated ancient Egyptian priestess and maintained this until the day she died. As a child, she would run about amongst the Egyptian artefacts at the British Museum delighting in seeing ‘her home’ and ‘her people’.

Eady later shared with others her story of her past life in 13th-century BC Egypt.

She was named Bentreshyt, raised in a temple, and had an affair with young king Seti, falling pregnant. Beaten by the high priest, she committed suicide to save Seti embarrassment.

She once picked out a spot in Egypt and said that during her past life it was a garden. Later, ancient tree stumps were discovered there during excavations.

On visiting an Abydos temple for the first time (that millennium, anyway) she was reportedly able to touch a particular scene on a mural in total darkness.

5. Jenny Cockell

In 1993, forty-year-old Jenny Cockell from the small town of Towcester, near Northampton, published a book that made headlines around the world.

In the book, Jenny claimed that she had lived a past life as a housewife in Ireland in the 1930s. From childhood, Jenny had had vivid dreams and memories of this past life but had no idea where it was or who she was.

Looking over a map of Ireland one day, she was drawn to the town of Malahide, near Dublin. She then visited the place for the first time and found she knew it inside out, and that it matched maps and drawings she’d done as a child.

Trying to find out more, a local old fella told her that her description of the woman and her life matched that of Mary Sutton. Mary had died aged 32 in the 1930s and all but one of Mary’s children were then sent away to orphanages.

Jenny traced Mary’s children. Speaking at length with one of the surviving children, Sonny, Jenny found to her astonishment that their memories of that time closely matched.

Jenny reunited Mary’s children again after 60 years, and they believed that their mother was at the very least reaching out to them through Jenny.

6. Virginia Tighe

Virginia Tighe was a Colorado housewife who shot to fame in the 1950s after claiming to have lived before as a 19th-century Irishwoman.

In the early 1950s, Virginia met a hypnotherapist at a party who told her she could cure her constant sneezy by hypnosis.

While under hypnosis Virginia shocked the hypnotherapist by talking completely differently, speaking in a thick Irish brogue and claiming to have been born Bridey Murphy in Cork, Ireland, in 1798.

Over the course of the sessions, Virginia enthralled the hypnotherapist by talking about her life in Ireland, including her marriage in 1818 and her death in 1864.

Virginia always denied that she possessed some kind of forgotten knowledge of Irish culture and history that she may have got from her Chicago childhood, but in later life, she refused to be hypnotised again or tested.

7. Ada Kay

The last British king to be killed on the battlefield was James IV of Scotland. In September 1513, the 40-year-old royal was dispatched at the Battle of Flodden in Northumberland.

Over four centuries later, in the 1960s, an English playwright named Ada Kay visited Flodden Field, the old battle site, and planted her boots on what she claimed to be the exact spot on the field where the Stewart king had been offed in 1513.

How did she know this? Well, not from any conventional knowledge, according to her.

From early childhood, Ada had recurring, vivid memories of being in a muddy field and killed by soldiers armed with swords and polearms. She grew up wondering why she wasn’t a prince in a castle or why her surname wasn’t Stewart.

Into adulthood she moved to Scotland, becoming convinced that she was the reincarnation of the famed king, James IV. In 1972, she penned an ‘autobiography’ of James to mixed reviews.