No. 62: Mar-Apr 1989
I. Stevenson, at the University of Virginia, has long studied claims of reincarnation. The method employed (and there are precious few alternatives) focuses on children who claim to have lived before and can provide verifiable details about their past lives. If the details check out, one can at least claim that reincarnation is a possible interpretation of the data. Usually, however, before a researcher can get to the scene of the phenomenon, the parents of the deceased have been found and the way has been left open for much exaggeration.
In his present contribution, Stevenson reports three cases in Sri Lanka where the recollections of the supposedly reincarnated children have been written down in detail and the family of the deceased has not been located. Here is one of his cases:
"The Case of Iranga. The child was born in a village of Sri Lanka near but not on the west coast, in 1981. When she was about 3 years old she spoke about a previous life at a place called Elpitiya. Among other details, Iranga mentioned that her father sold bananas, there had been two wells at her house, one well had been destroyed by rain, her mother came from a place called Matugama, she was a middle sister of her family, and the house where the family lived had red walls and a kitchen with a thatched roof. Her statements led to the identification of a family in Elpitiya, one of whose middle daughters had died, probably of a brain tumor, in 1950. Among 43 statements that Iranga made about the previous life, 38 were correct for this family, the other 5 were wrong, unverifiable, or doubtful. Iranga's village was 15 kilometers from Ilpitiya. Each family had visited the other's community, but they had had no acquantance with each other (or knowledge of each other) before the case developed."
Stevenson's conclusion was that the three children had information about deceased persons that could only have been obtained paranormally.
(Stevenson, Ian, and Samararatne, Godwin; "Three New Cases of the Reincarnation Type in Sri Lanka with Written Records Made before Verification." Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 176:741, 1988.)
Comment. Our prediction is that sciencein-general will remain unimpressed by such data.