A four-year-old Virginia boy is claimed to have had a past life as a Marine killed in 1983, prompted by his parents and a new reality TV show called "Ghost Inside My Child." The boy, Andrew Lucas, made comments to his mother suggesting to her that he's lived in a past life and died in a fire many years earlier.
Many people believe in reincarnation, from Shirley MacLaine to the Dalai Lama, but there is no scientific evidence for past lives. Usually, alleged memories of past lives emerge during psychotherapy or hypnosis when people are encouraged to fantasize about other lives they may have led (often of famous or important people such as Cleopatra or Caesar).
It remains scientifically unproven, however, because those who claim to have had past lives are unable to give historically accurate, provable details from other eras. Other times people glean information from films and television shows and unconsciously incorporate them into their memories, in a process psychologists call confabulation.
In the case of Andrew Lucas, his parents believe he has factually reported the death of
U.S. Marine Sgt. Val Lewis
A Closer Look How could Andrew be remembering things that never happened to him? The most likely explanation is that he isn't remembering anything unusual at all. There are several red flags suggesting that Andrew's "memories" are not evidence for past lives but instead misunderstood or over-interpreted comments.
When Andrew asked his mother, "Why did you let me die in the fire?" she interpreted it as a question coming not from her four-year-old son but instead from Sgt. Lewis. Yet Sgt. Lewis was a 28-year-old Marine, so why would he be asking Michele Lucas (who he'd never met and who wasn't there at the time of his death) why she "let" him die in a bombing? Andrew is clearly speaking as a young boy to his mother, not as an adult military officer.
Andrew also mentioned an address on Main Street in Sumter, Georgia. The Lucases were unable to find anything confirming their son's information, and reached out to the producers of the TV show about ghost-haunted children. They then found several possible "matches" for Andrew's information, including Sgt. Lewis.
There are many clear examples of flawed investigation techniques used by Andrew's parents and the TV show producers. For example, at one point Andrew is shown large photographs of six soldiers who served with Sgt. Val Lewis and died in the same bombing. His mother then asks Andrew, "Were these your friends?" Andrew nods and says yes. "Which one was your friend? Which one were you friends with a lot?" his mother asks. The four-year-old replies, "I was friends with them, a lot -- all of them." (It may be significant that Andrew parrots back the same phrase his mother uses in her question to him, "a lot," suggesting that he is taking cues from her.)
Andrew also notes that they're now dead. This information, even if it were truly coming from the ghost of Sgt. Lewis, raises other questions, such as how Lewis could know that all the other Marines caught in the same blast had also died. After all, just because he was killed doesn't mean that others nearby might not have survived their injuries. Unless before his death Lewis somehow confirmed that all the other soldiers were dead before succumbing to his own wounds, this information makes no sense.
Andrew's parents seem to take this as a sort of confirmation or validation of his story, but as any police detective can attest, that is exactly the wrong way to investigate whether or not a person recognizes photos presented to them. What they should have done is show him a dozen or more photos of various people, some associated with Sgt. Lewis and some not, and ask Andrew, "Do you recognize any of these people?" Better yet, ask Andrew to give the first and last names of his six friends -- something Sgt. Lewis would certainly know but the boy would not (unless he'd been coached).
There are countless other questions and simple tests that would help determine whether or not the consciousness of a dead Marine inhabits Andrew's mind and body, including presenting the boy with an (unloaded) standard military-issue M16 rifle and asking him how to dismantle and reassemble it. The family of Sgt. Lewis has not been found, so they cannot verify any personal details that Andrew may offer about his life.
It's not clear exactly why the Lucases or the TV show settled on Sgt. Val Lewis as the most likely source for Andrew's "memories." Even if the boy were truly experiencing someone else's burning death from a past life, surely there are many thousands of people who might fit the bill or have some connection to an address on Main Street.
According to the Huffington Post, "How [Michele Lucas] made that connection is a bit of a mini-debate between the participants, according to reporter Barbara Ciara, who interviewed the Lucas family for WTKR-TV. It's not clear whether the show's producers came up with the whole story for Andrew. 'The publicists told me that the family discovered the connection through their own research, but the mom, Michele, told me that the producers came up with it,' she told HuffPost."
Whatever the source, it's unlikely that this is a hoax or that anyone is trying to fool anyone else. Instead it seems like a mystery created by a series of misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and faulty investigation. In this case, it seems likely that Andrew's offhanded comments were taken literally and encouraged by his parents and TV producers.
Though it's fodder for reality TV shows, there may be psychological repercussions for the child, who's being told by his parents and other authority figures that the ghost of a dead stranger is in his body and mind -- a scary idea for someone of any age.