In America, a 6-year-old boy's claims were hailed by some as evidence for reincarnation. Friends of a 21-year-old navy pilot shot down during World War II are convinced that James Leininger has knowledge that suggets he was the pilot in a previous life.
James' parents, Andrea and Bruce Leininger, say they were reluctant to believe in such a thing. Both parents are highly educated and 'modern living', they say they are "probably the people least likely to have a scenario like this pop up in their lives."
However, the mass of evidence building up over time has convinced them that reincarnation is the best explanation. They say that James played exclusively with planes from the earliest point, but when he was 2 years old he began experiencing regular nightmares involving them. "I'd wake him up and he'd be screaming," Andrea told ABC News. When asked what the nightmare was about, James would reply, "airplane crash, on fire, little man can't get out."
The Leininger's couldn't fathom the young boy's interest in planes, as he hadn't watched war documentaries and so didn't really have a source for his passion. And yet, in one video of James when 3-years-old, he goes over a plane as if he's doing a pre-flight check. Another time, James corrected his mother when she pointed at what appeared to be a bomb on a toy plane, telling her that it was in fact a drop tank. "I'd never heard of a drop tank," she said. "I didn't know what a drop tank was."
When James' nightmares got worse, and increased in frequency, his parents took him to see counsellor and therapist Carol Bowman, who believes that the dead sometimes can be reborn. Bowman said James was at a point in life where reincarnation memories are most easily recalled. "They haven't had the cultural conditioning, the layering over the experience in this life so the memories can percolate up more easily," she said.
James began to reveal extraordinary details about the life of a former fighter pilot while drowsing off at night. He apparently told his parents that his plane had been hit by the Japanese and crashed. James elaborated to his father that he flew a Corsair, and then reinforced the revelation by saying, "they used to get flat tires all the time." While some might argue that young James might have picked that information up from a normal source, what came next astonished his parents.
James revealed to his father the name of the boat he took off from - the Natoma. Additionally, he also mentioned the name of someone he flew with, a "Jack Larson." Bruce decided to look into these apparently verifiable details, and discovered both the Natoma and Jack Larson did exist. The Natoma Bay was a small aircraft carrier in the Pacific. And Jack Larson was still alive, living in Arkansas.
Bruce decided that more detailed investigation was required, to try and substantiate his son's story further. He said James told him he had been shot down at Iwo Jima, sustaining a direct hit on the engine. James was also signing his crayon drawings "James 3." Sure enough, upon further investigation Bruce found that the only pilot from the Natoma's squadron killed at Iwo Jima was a James M. Huston Jr. Ralph Clarbour, a rear gunner on the plane flying right beside James M. Huston Jr. during the Iwo Jima raid, corroborated one detail of the story. Clarbour revealed that he saw Huston's plane struck by anti-aircraft fire. "I would say he was hit head on, right in the middle of the engine," he said.
The Leiningers felt so strongly about James' evidence that they wrote a letter to Huston's sister, Anne Barron, explaining the situation. Barron believes that James has offered enough evidence to prove he was James M. Huston in a previous life. "The child was so convincing in coming up with all the things that there is no way on the world he could know," she said. Bruce agrees, saying he now finally believes his son had a past life in which he was James M. Huston Jr. "He came back because he wasn't finished with something," he said.
However, sceptical groups are not as convinced. Professor Paul Kurtz of the State University of New York at Buffalo, who heads CSICOP an organization dedicated to rebutting claims of the paranormal says he thinks the parents are "self-deceived".
"They're fascinated by the mysterious and they built up a fairy tale," he said. However, James' parents say that the long process of confirmation is evidence that this is not the case. "He appears to have experienced something that I don't think is unique, but the way it's been revealed is quite astounding".