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Monday, May 28, 2012

IAN STEVENSON - Reincarnation & biology - BIRTHMARKS.3

 IAN STEVENSON - Where reincarnation and biology intersect



9. NEVI CORRESPONDING TO WOUNDS OR OTHER MARKS ON DECEASED PERSONS


Although nearly all the birthmarks that I have so far described were not ordinary moles or nevi, a few definitely were of this type. For example, the birthmark on U Tinn Sein (described in Chapter 4) was a flat round area of increased pigmentation and thus what a dermatologist would call a hyperpigmented macule, a type of nevus. We could say the same of some other birthmarks I have described in earlier chapters, such as that of Susan Wilson.
In this chapter of the monograph 1 consider the cases of 14 other subjects each of whom had a birthmark that we could describe as a nevus. This uses the word nevus somewhat loosely, because the birthmarks included in this chapter were often much larger than the ordinary nevi familiar to dermatologists. In eight of these cases, the subject's birthmark corresponded to a wound or other mark on the previous personality's body. In the other six cases, the birthmark corresponded to a similar nevus on the previous personality.
Among the six cases in which a nevus on the subject corresponded to one on the previous personality, the subject and previous personality were related in all but one case. When this circumstance occurs, we need to consider the possibility that a genetic factor may account for the recurrence of the nevus in the same location in a second member of the family. We can say that, in general, genetic factors play a minor role in the number of nevi that a person has. (Exceptions occur in certain diseases, such as von Recklinghausen's Disease.) Genetic factors seem even less important in determining the location of nevi at particular sites of the body. Even so, a few pedigrees have been published in which the facts sug- gested inheritance for the site of a nevus. Moreover, in families thus affected, occasionally one generation may be skipped with the reappearance of a nevus at the same site in a later generation.
The acknowledgment of a genetic factor in the occurrence of a nevus at a particular location does not exclude the influence of other factors, including some from a previous life. It is legitimate to ask why, if a nevus is inherited at a particular location, one particular member of the family has it, but other members do not. To illustrate this point I will present brief accounts of two cases of this group.
Cemal Kurt was born in Yenice, Turkey, in 1961. Before his birth a neighbor had a dream which was interpreted as meaning that a distant relative of the Kurts, Cemal Karacan, would be reborn in their family. Without questioning this, Cemal's parents named him after this relative. Cemal Kurt had a prominent port-wine stain birthmark on his left forearm (Figure 14), but his parents only learned later that Cemal Karacan had had a similar birthmark. They also only learned later that one of Cemal Karacan's sons had also had a dream indicating that his father would be reborn in the Kurt family. When Cemal was about 2 years old, he began to speak and soon started referring to a previous life. He said that he owned a vineyard, and he made a few other statements and recognitions appropriate for Cemal Karacan. The sons of Cemal Karacan accepted him as their father reborn and got into the habit of calling him "Father" before he was even 5 years old. One of these sons was a barber, and for many years he cut Cemal's hair without charging him. Cemal for his part showed unusual fondness for Cemal Karacan's wife, Elif; and he was much affected when she died, even though by that time he had forgotten the imaged memories he had earlier had of the previous life.
Maung Sein Nyunt was born in Bassein, Lower Burma, on November 18, 1957. His parents were U Hla Maung and his wife, Daw Mya Mya.
U Hla Maung had a younger brother, U Khin Tin. He was a robust young man of about 30 when he drowned accidentally in one of the lakes in Rangoon. He somewhat impulsively went for a swim alone, crossed the lake, and then developed cramps as he was swimming back. He drowned before help could reach him.
About 15 months later, in July 1957, Daw Mya Mya dreamed on three suc- cessive nights that her deceased brother-in-law, U Khin Tin, came and stood at the foot of her bed. The dreams were vivid and somewhat frightening. Daw Mya Mya told her husband about the dreams, and he interpreted them as indicating that his brother would be reborn as their son. At the time, this was not a welcome prospect to Daw Mya Mya.
As soon as Maung Sein Nyunt was born, U Hla Maung examined him and found that he had on his left back a large area of increased pigmentation (*), which closely resembled in size and location a similar area that U Khin Tin had had.
Maung Sein Nyunt never spoke about the life of his uncle, although in his family of Burmese Buddhists he would certainly have been allowed to do so, if he had wished. He did, however, have a severe phobia of water. It persisted until he was about 15 or 16 years old. When I met him and photographed his birthmark, he was 191/2 years old. He said that he was then able to swim, but did not much enjoy doing so.
As an infant Maung Sein Nyunt cried whenever his mother held him, but he was content in his father's arms. This unusual behavior eventually reminded Daw Mya Mya that after she had dreamed of her brother-in-law she had initially wished that he would not be reborn in their family. It occurred to her that if Maung Sein Nyunt was the reincarnation of U Khin Tin, he might be annoyed at her attitude toward him. She therefore held the baby in her arms and, speaking aloud, apologized to him and said that he was welcome in their family. After that, Maung Sein Nyunt did not cry when his mother held him. He was then about 8 months old.
The size of this work prevents me from describing other cases of nevi that I include in the monograph. I do not wish to leave the subject, however, without using the variety of nevi that is found among the birthmarks to emphasize what I already mentioned in Chapter 2: Differences in the subjects' skins seem to be important determinants of the kind of birthmark that may correspond to a wound, nevus, or other mark on a deceased person. From the cases already described and to be described, one can see that similar types of birthmarks (for example, ones with increased pigmentation) may correspond to different types of wounds. On the other hand, different types of birthmarks may correspond to similar types of wounds. For example, burns in one case (Ma Khin Hsann Oo) corresponded to multiple elevated, hairy areas of increased pigmentation and in another (Patricia Fairley) to a port-wine stain birthmark. In the case of Hanumant Saxena a birth- mark having decreased pigmentation corresponded to a shotgun wound; but in the cases of Obike Nwonye and Ma Mu Mu birthmarks corresponding to shotgun wounds were depressed scarlike areas with no change in pigmentation of the skin.
In the monograph I give two long tables with additional examples that illus- trate even more fully the point I wish to make here: We cannot predict what kind of birthmark may derive from a particular type of injury, and from examining a birthmark we can only rarely say to what kind of injury it corresponds. I consider some exceptions to this last statement in Chapter 12, which I devote to a discus- sion, with examples, of the unusual details observed in some of the birthmarks.


10. THE PREDICTION OF BIRTHMARKS


The simplest type of prediction of birthmarks states that an already existing birth- mark will be found if looked for in a certain place on a subject's body. The birth- mark exists, but has not been noticed, mentioned, or verified. In Chapter 8 I gave a simple example of this kind of prediction in citing the remark of Munni's par- ents about Savitri Devi: "If she has a mark on her left thumb, she is our child." I will describe three predictions of this type in this chapter.
A second type of prediction occurs when a person (usually an elderly one) selects parents for his or her next incarnation and specifies details, such as a birth mark, by which surviving relatives may recognize him or her in the new incarnation. I will describe one example of this type of prediction in this chapter and include another example in Chapter 12.
A third type of prediction involves the marking of a dying or recently dead person with some substance, such as charcoal. The mark is put at a particular location, and later-born children (of the extended family or area) are examined to see whether they have a birthmark at the site of the marking. As I mentioned in Chapter 7, I call these cases instances of experimental birthmarks. That is perhaps a slightly extravagant term, but yet not altogether inappropriate, because the per- son marking the body hopes to control the location of a birthmark on a baby not yet born. I have some information on 20 examples of experimental birthmarks, but space in this chapter will permit brief accounts of only a few of these. Before coming to these, I shall present summaries of three cases of the first type of pre- diction and one case of the second type.
Cemil Fahrici was born in Antakya, Hatay, Turkey, in 1935. During the night before Cemil's birth, his father, Mikail Fahrici, dreamed that a distant relative, Cemil Hayik, entered his house. Cemil Hayik had just recently been killed under circumstances that I shall describe, and his appearance in the dream pre- pared Cemil's parents to believe that Cemil Hayik would be reborn as their son. This belief became stronger when they noticed a prominent birthmark under Cemil's right chin (Figure 15). It was a scarlike area that bled for some days after his birth; his parents took him to a hospital, where the wound was stitched.
Cemil Hayik had been a picturesque bandit whose troubles began when he killed two men who had raped two of his sisters. Although arrested for these murders, he contrived to escape, and for about 2 years he maintained a precarious freedom in the sparsely inhabited mountainous area between the cities of Antakya and Samandag. It was not difficult for him to stop travelers in that isolated region and rob them of whatever he needed. In those days (the early 1930s) France occupied the province of Hatay, which Turkey was trying to recover; and the mountain people probably gave only limited assistance to the French police hunting Cemil Hayik. Eventually, he and his brother (who had joined him) were betrayed, and the French police surrounded the house in which the brothers had taken refuge. A conventional shoot-out occurred, until finally the police were able to approach closely enough to pour gasoline on the house and set it on fire. As the fire consumed the house, the shots from inside ceased. Then the silence was broken by two more shots, and a fur- ther silence ensued. Cautiously, the police approached the house and kicked the door open. Inside, they found the bodies of Cemil Hayik and his brother. It appeared that Cemil Hayik had first killed his brother and then, putting the muzzle of his gun to his chin, he had set off the trigger with his toe and killed himself. The bullet entered his head beneath the right side of his chin. The bodies of the bandit brothers were taken into Antakya and displayed in the courthouse square, perhaps as a demonstration of French police competence, perhaps as a deterrent to other persons feeling inclined to take up banditry. Cemil Fahrici was born a few days after Cemil Hayik died.
When Cemil Fahrici became able to speak—from the age of about 2 on—he described "bit by bit" the life and death of Cemil Hayik. Cemil had imaged mem- ories of the previous life when awake; and he also had nightmarish dreams about fighting the French police. These persisted until he was between 6 and 7 years old. Although his parents—from the dream and Cemil's birthmark—believed that Cemil was probably the reincarnation of Cemil Hayik, they had not initially called him Cemil, but gave him the name "Dahham." Cemil resolutely refused to be called by any name other than Cemil, and his parents eventually yielded to his demand.
As a child Cemil had a markedly hostile attitude toward policemen and would throw stones at them and also at soldiers. He would play with a stick as if it were a rifle; and he once tried to take his father's rifle and shoot some soldiers with it. Despite his militant postures toward the police, Cemil suffered from a phobia of blood. He developed friendly relations with Cemil Hayik's family and exchanged gifts with them.
For several years while investigating this case I believed that Cemil Fahrici had only one birthmark. Then one of Cemil Hayik's sisters, during an interview, mentioned that the bullet which had killed her brother had exited at the top of his skull and lifted out a part of its bone. One of the French gendarmes who had been present at the shoot-out ending in Cemil Hayik's death gave a similar description of the exit wound, gesturing with his hands above his head to show how part of Cemil Hayik's skull had been lifted upward by the force of the exiting bullet. When I heard these accounts, I returned to Cemil Fahrici and asked him whether he had another birthmark. Without hesitating he pointed to the top of his head, and we quickly discovered a linear area of hairlessness on the left side of the top of his head (Figure 16). An artist's sketch shows the presumed trajectory of the bullet through Cemil Hayik's head (Figure 17).
Semir Taci was born in Antakya, Turkey, (probably) on July 5, 1945. When I first met him, I was shown marks on his right hand that I was told were birthmarks, although there was some question about whether Semir's parents had noticed them when he was born or only when he began to speak about a previous life.
He was between 3 and 4 years old when he began to do so. He said that he had two mothers, one "large" and one "small." He added that his name was Sekip and that he had a wife and children. As to how he had died, he said that he had been bitten by a poisonous snake on his thumb.
What Semir was saying reminded his parents of a man called Sekip who had been raised and befriended by Semir's father. Sekip had been something of a loser. He worked in a cafe, but he earned little money and spent too much of what he did earn on alcohol. His wife rebuked him for bringing home more alcohol than bread. One day he quarreled with his wife and left the house angrily. He went off to a bakery shop, where someone mentioned that a snake had come into a neighboring shop. Probably intoxicated, Sekip went to the shop and rashly picked up the snake, which bit him. The snake was almost certainly an Ottoman viper, known locally as the "mountain snake." After being bitten, Sekip ran home to his wife with his hand bleeding and was then admitted to the
Government Hospital, where he died the following day, on June 24, 1945.
We were able to study the record of Sekip's admission to the Government Hospital in Antakya. It stated that he "had been bitten by a snake on the fingers of the right hand and on those of the left hand." As I mentioned, we had been shown birthmarks on Semir's right hand (*), but no one had mentioned birthmarks on his left hand. We now examined his left hand and found there marks similar to those on his right hand (*). These marks had a distinctive scarlike appearance; they resembled small keloids, a type of indurated scar with a smooth surface that is raised above the surrounding tissues. All the marks had an identical appearance, and I believe that they were all birthmarks.
Semir had a strong identification with Sekip and frequently said that his name was Sekip. He did not, however, ask to be called by that name. He showed a strong interest in Sekip's children and much affection for them. At first he seemed afraid of Sekip's wife, but as he grew older he became more friendly toward her and enjoyed visiting her. He had a marked phobia of snakes, and this persisted at least until the age of 22, his age when I last met him.
Juggi Lal Agarwal was born in the town of Sirsaganj in the Mainpuri District of Uttar Pradesh, India, on August 13, 1955. His father, Bihari Lal, was a grain dealer. His parents seem not to have noticed any birthmark on him when he was born or soon after.
Not long after Juggi Lal began to speak, he started referring to a previous life. He said that he came from Bhongaon, which is a small town about 65 kilome- ters north of Sirsaganj. He said that he had been called Puttu Lal and that he had a wife and children in Bhongaon. He further stated that he had been a farmer who brought his grain to Sirsaganj, where he had sold it to Juggi Lal's father. He remembered that unlike many, perhaps most, of the grain dealers of the area, Juggi Lal's father was always scrupulously honest in giving the farmers full value for the grain they brought. He said that he became so attached to Bihari Lal that he thought to himself that if he should die, he would like to be reborn in Bihari Lal's family.
Bihari Lal bought grain from many farmers, and Juggi Lal's statements did not stimulate in him memories of any farmer from Bhongaon whose grain he had bought. He made no move to verify what Juggi Lal was saying. As happens so often in these cases, however, word of what the subject was saying eventually spread back to Bhongaon and reached surviving members of the family of a man called Puttu Lal. These included Puttu Lal's father, Girivar Singh, who decided to go to Sirsaganj and meet Juggi Lal. Upon meeting Juggi Lal he immediately examined the boy's head above his ear and found there what was surely a birth- mark. I say this because Juggi Lal had never had any injury at that site; on the other hand, the mark accorded well with the history of Puttu Lal's death.
Puttu Lal had been a peasant farmer (of the Lodha caste) who cultivated his own land. He quarreled with neighbors over the boundaries of their properties. The parties engaged in a fight with heavy batons (called lathis in India). During this engagement one of the combatants struck Puttu Lal on the head. The wound seems then to have become infected, and the infection spread along or under the scalp until it came near the right ear. At this point an abscess either burst sponta- neously or was possibly lanced by a doctor who put in a few stitches. After this, the infection must have spread inward, and I conjecture that Puttu Lal died from a severe infection of his blood by bacteria (bacteremia). (At this time and place there were no antibiotics available.) We never succeeded in obtaining fully satis- factory written records of Puttu Lal's injury and medical treatment, although we found fragmentary information about his attendance at different hospitals. I have put together my account of his last illness from these fragments as well as from information I received from surviving members of his family. (These did not include Girivar Singh, who had died by the time we investigated the case.) The point is that Puttu Lal had had some kind of an infection with an opening above his right ear, and the memory of this made his father believe that if Juggi Lal were his son reborn, he should have a birthmark at the same site, which I believe he had. The birthmark, at the time I examined it, consisted of a line somewhat resem- bling the scar of a small incision; and there seemed to be several tiny punctate scars adjoining it, which might have corresponded to surgical stitch marks (*).
In addition to the statements that I have already mentioned, Juggi Lal made a number of others that proved convincing to the members of Puttu Lal's family. The one that I found most impressive was his statement that his (previous) name (Puttu Lal) had been tattooed on the arm of his daughter. This was nearly correct, but the name tattooed was Puttu Ram, not Puttu Lal. I am sure that Juggi Lal could not have obtained this information normally.
Unlike most subjects of these cases, Juggi Lal had no desire to go to Bhongaon and there meet members of the previous family. He was friendly enough with them when they came to meet him; but he had no wish to cultivate close relationships with them. He identified himself with the higher caste of Banias (businessmen) and believed that he should leave behind the lower caste (Lodha) of the previous life.
The subject of the next case, William George, Jr., was a Tlingit. He was born on May 5, 1950, in Juneau, Alaska. During his mother's labor, she had a dream in which her father-in-law, William George, Sr., appeared to her. The dream was so vivid that when she emerged from the anesthetic that she had been given for the delivery, she expected to see her father-in-law, even though she knew, at one level, that he had died about 9 months before.
William George, Sr. had predicted his reincarnation. He told his son Reginald: "If there is anything to this rebirth business, I will come back as your son." He also told his daughter-in-law (Reginald's wife) that when he was reborn he would have birthmarks similar to two that he showed her as he spoke. These were prominent moles, each a little more than half a centimeter in diameter, on the upper surface of his left shoulder and on the upper surface of his left forearm. Later, he again told his son about his plan to reincarnate, and this time he gave his son a gold watch that his mother had given to him. He said: "I'll come back. Keep this watch for me. I am going to be your son." Reginald George took the watch and gave it to his wife, who put it in her jewelry box and kept it there. A few weeks later, in August 1949, William George, Sr. accidentally drowned while fish- ing from his boat; he had apparently fallen overboard.
When William George, Jr. was born, he was found to have two moles or nevi at the same locations as those of his grandfather, although they were smaller in size(*).
William George, Jr. seems to have spoken little about the life of his grandfather; but his family observed in him several traits in which he resembled his grandfather. He adopted attitudes toward members of the family that would have been appropriate for William George, Sr. (as an older member of the family), but were not for a young boy. His most remarkable statement occurred when he was between 4 and 5 years old. One day his mother decided to lay out on a bed the various objects she had been keeping in her jewelry box. William George, Jr. came into the room and, noticing the watch, picked it up and said: "That's my watch." He clung to it tenaciously and only relinquished it after much persuasion. His mother was convinced that he had never seen the watch before, because she had kept it in the jewelry box ever since her husband had given it to her 5 years before.
As I mentioned in Chapter 9, the location of nevi seems sometimes to be inherited, and a generation may even be skipped in a family with such a genetic trait. (Reginald George had no nevi at the location of his father's.) One may say in this case that because William George, Jr. was a grandson of William George, Sr., he might have inherited the location of the two nevi. There were, however, nine other children in the family besides William George, Jr., and one may reasonably ask why the nevi appeared on his body and not on those of any of the other children of the family.
William George, Sr. had injured his right ankle when he was a young man and was afterward somewhat lame. William George, Jr. had a gait similar to that of his grandfather, which consisted of a tendency to throw his right foot out as he walked. Both his parents commented on the similarity between his gait and that of his grandfather.
I come now to the cases that I have called experimental birthmarks and will describe here two of the numerous cases of this type that we have studied. Then I will briefly summarize three others.
The circumstances leading to the discovery of the first of these three cases strengthened my conviction—mentioned earlier—that the cases are even more frequent than the reports we receive of them lead us to believe. We found the case in the following way. The late Professor Kloom Vajropala of Thailand belonged to a small—almost tiny—group of Asian academics who have become trained in science without disowning the traditions of their culture. Educated at Cambridge and London, Kloom Vajropala eventually became Head of the Department of Biology at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. Yet he never ceased to be a devout Buddhist, and he was able to combine his interests in science and religion by accompanying me and assisting me in the investigation of cases in Thailand. One day we were studying a case south of Bangkok. I remarked to him that I thought there were many more cases in Thailand than we had so far learned about. 1 said there might be one in every village and that they could be found if only someone would look for them. Kloom Vajropala disagreed. I suggested that we go into a nearby village and test my belief. He thought this was a wild idea, but he agreed that we should ask for a case in this village. We went to the village, entered its first boutique (a sort of cafe), ordered something from the owner, and took our seats. Then we asked the proprietor whether he knew of any children who claimed to remember previous lives. A boy standing around heard us and immediately said that his younger brother was such a person. Thus we came to the case of Anurak Sithipan.
Anurak was born in Bangkok, Thailand, on December 14, 1969. At his birth he had a prominent birthmark of increased pigmentation near his right elbow (Figure 18). We met his parents and interviewed them and some other informants for the case. Anurak was believed to be the reincarnation of his older brother, Chatchewan, who had drowned about 3 years before Anurak's birth. The canals (called klongs) in that part of Thailand are tidal, sometimes dangerously so. Chatchewan had tied himself with a rope to a pier so that he would not be swept away with the current. It happened, however, that when the tide came in and the water rose, he was unable to detach himself from the rope, which held him under the rising water, and he drowned.
Before Chatchewan's body was cremated, a member of the family made a charcoal mark at his right elbow with the thought that when he was reborn he would be recognized by a birthmark at the same location. In most of the cases of experimental birthmarks that I have investigated the informants state that the birthmark was at exactly the location where the mark had been made on the dying or dead person. In Anurak's case, however, members of the family candidly stated that although both the charcoal marking and the birthmark had been at the right elbow, the charcoal marking had been farther forward than Anurak's birthmark was.
When Anurak became able to speak, he made a few statements referring to the life of Chatchewan. He spontaneously recognized and called by his nickname a young man known to Chatchewan. He searched for and found Chatchewan's boy scout uniform in a wardrobe that had other clothes in it. Anurak had a marked phobia of water.
Anurak's mother knew about the marking of Chatchewan's body, and we cannot summarily eliminate a maternal impression as a possible interpretation of his case. In the next case, that of Ma Choe Hnin Htet, a subject of Burma (born in Rangoon on September 27, 1976), we can exclude this interpretation. Ma Choe Hnin Htet's mother, Daw Myint Myint May, knew nothing about the marking of the body of Ma Lai Lai Way, of whom Ma Choe Hnin Htet was later thought to be the reincarnation. Ma Lai Lai Way had been the sister of Daw Myint Myint May.
Ma Lai Lai Way had congenital heart disease and was never healthy during her short life. Eventually, open heart surgery came to Rangoon, and Ma Lai Lai Way agreed to an operation that might modify, if not correct her congenital abnormality. Unfortunately, she did not survive the operation.
Three of Ma Lai Lai Way's schoolmates prepared her body for burial. They had heard of the belief that a mark placed on a dead person's body might generate a birthmark on a later-born baby; and they decided to test the belief by putting a mark of red lipstick at the back of Ma Lai Lai Way's neck. I interviewed all three of these persons independently and consider the testimony we have for the marking of Ma Lai Lai Way's body among the best we have for any such case. The young women did not tell members of Ma Lai Lai Way's family what they had done.
About 13 months after Ma Lai Lai Way's death, her sister, Daw Myint Myint May, gave birth to Ma Choe Hnin Htet. Soon after her birth Ma Choe Hnin Htet was found to have a prominent red birthmark at the back of her neck in the same loca- tion where Ma Lai Lai Way's schoolmates had marked her with lipstick (*). Ma Choe Hnin Htet also had a long birthmark, noticed much later, which was a thin line of diminished pigmentation that ran vertically from her lower chest to her upper abdomen (*). This corresponded to the surgical incision for the cardiac surgery during which Ma Lai Lai Way had died. I shall mention this second birthmark again in Chapter 12, where I discuss significant details of some of the birthmarks.
When Ma Choe Hnin Htet began to speak, she showed knowledge of Ma Lai Lai Way's life and in many ways tried to adopt Ma Lai Lai Way's position in the family. For example, she regarded her mother as her sister and her grandmother as her mother. She recognized some of Ma Lai Lai Way's friends, and I myself witnessed her correctly recognizing—without any guidance—one of them whom we brought to meet Ma Choe Hnin Htet for the first time.
Ma Choe Hnin Htet had no heart disease; she did, however, have a severe phobia of hospitals and anything to do with them, such as the taking of injections.
It happens that many children—perhaps one third of all children—are born with areas of redness at the back of the neck. In Western folklore this is often called a "stork's bite." The cause of these areas of redness is unknown. Most of them fade away as the child grows older, but the site is obviously not the best one for making experimental birthmarks.
I wish that persons marking bodies for experimental birthmarks would show more imagination than most of them do. The usual practice is to make a simple smudge, usually roundish, with some substance such as charcoal, and the related birth- mark usually has a roundish shape that is not distinctive, particularly given that most nevi also tend to be roundish in shape.
In a few cases the markers have shown more originality. In a case in Burma, that of Maung Hla Win, for example, the mark was made (with grease from a cooking pot) around the sole of the foot of the child being marked. This is an uncommon site for nevi, and the resulting birthmark was also much larger than the usual nevus (Figure 19).
A similar large mark in an unusual place was made in the case of Ma Zin Mar Oo, another subject of Burma. The mark and the birthmark in her case were both wide, ran almost entirely around the lower leg, and were located just above the ankle, another infrequent site for nevi (*).
Dr. Jiirgen Keil lias investigated a case in Thailand in which the experimental birthmark looks as if someone had stroked the subject's arm with three separated fingers; and this appears to be what the person making the mark on the deceased per- son—a baby in this case—had done.


11. CHANGES IN THE APPEARANCE AND RELATIVE LOCATION OF BIRTHMARKS


In previous chapters I occasionally referred to birthmarks that had become fainter or had faded altogether as the subject grew older. For example, I mentioned in Chapter 6 that several of Necip  birthmarks that his mother had noticed soon after he was born were no longer visible when Necip was in his teens. And one of Nasruddin Shah's birthmarks had entirely faded by the end of his childhood. From following subjects over several or more years I have some- times observed the fading of birthmarks before my eyes, so to speak; and we have sometimes documented this with successive photographs. I will describe three such cases in this chapter.
Govind Narain Mishra was born in Mainpuri, Uttar Pradesh, India, in August 1972. His parents were Brahmins, a fact relevant to the type of life that Govind Narain, when he could speak, claimed to have had.
When Govind Narain was about 3 years old, he began to refer to a previ- ous life. He said that he had been a Dhobi (washerman) and that he had been bitten by a snake. This statement explained a prominent birthmark he had on the upper part of his right thigh, where the thigh joins the trunk at the pelvis. The birthmark was roundish; it had a pale central area surrounded by a ring of increased pigmentation. Govind Narain added some further particulars about the previous life, such as that he had had a wife who was fat and dark, two sons, and a daughter. He also said that he had owned three or four donkeys. (Many Indian washermen own donkeys, which they use to carry clothes to and from the rivers where they are washed.) One day he was sitting or crouching down and cropping grass for his donkeys when a snake bit him. As Govind Narain described how the snake had bitten him, he pointed to the site of his birthmark. Sometimes he would dream about the snake and, awakening, would say: "I was bitten by a snake."
In his play Govind Narain liked to go through the motions of washing and ironing; he wanted to wash the family clothes and eventually annoyed his mother by getting in her way as she did the washing. He had a marked phobia of snakes.
Govind Narain expressed a strong desire to find the wife of the previous life he was remembering, and he was sure that he could do so if taken to the area where he had previously lived. He implied, without specifically saying so, that he had lived elsewhere in Mainpuri. Unfortunately, he could state no proper names. On the other hand, washermen do not often die of snakebite, and Govind Narain's father thought that perhaps he could trace a person matching Govind Narain's statements. He took Govind Narain to the quarter of Mainpuri where the washer- men lived and learned there about a washerman who had died of snakebite. His widow was said to have moved away. When Dr. Pasricha and I tried to follow this lead and verify the information for ourselves, however, we were unsuccessful, and I regard Govind Narain's case as unsolved.
During the several years when we followed the case (and those of two of Govind Narain's siblings who were also subjects of cases) we had ample opportunity to observe the fading of Govind Narain's birthmark. When we first examined it, he was 3 years old, and the birthmark was still prominent (*). Seven years later, when Govind Narain was 101/2 years old, the birthmark had almost entirely faded. At the place where the birthmark had been I could barely discern a slight increase in the pigmentation of the skin compared with the surrounding skin (*). The area affected had also moved down somewhat as Govind Narain had grown.
Derek Betus was born in Gampaha, Sri Lanka, on January 22, 1979. He had a prominent birthmark—an area of decreased pigmentation—on his left great toe (*). When Derek began to speak about a previous life, he described that of a young boy, Maithripala, who had been bitten by a dog on the great toe of his left foot. The dog was probably rabid, and Maithripala seems to have died of rabies, although 1 never obtained a medical report of his illness, and the evidence from informants did not permit certitude in the matter.
Apart from some doubts about the cause of Maithripala's death, nearly all of Derek's statements were correct for his life. Derek also showed behavior appropriate for Maithripala.
During the period of investigating this case, which extended over several years, we had an opportunity to observe the fading of the birthmark on Derek's left great toe. By the time he was 7 years old it was no longer visible (*).
Faris Yuyucuer was born in Adana, Turkey, on August 24, 1970. At his birth he was found to have two birth defects and a birthmark. In this account 1 shall omit information about the birth defects and describe only the birthmark. It was an area of intense redness, round in shape, on his left buttock. It was about 1.5 centimeters in diameter (Figure 20). We saw and photographed Faris's birthmark when he was still an infant in arms—7 months old—and had not begun to speak.
On the basis of several announcing dreams Faris had already been identified as the reincarnation of a child of the neighborhood, Hasan Derin, who had drowned in July 1970 in a small lake not far from where he and also the Yuyucuer family lived. This boy had been burned on the left buttock when he was an infant, and a scar had remained there.
When Faris became able to speak, he talked about Hasan's drowning. He had a marked phobia of water and particularly warned other children not to go near the quarry where Hasan had drowned.
Later examinations of Faris's buttocks allowed us to observe how his birth- mark faded. When he was 6'A years old, nothing of it remained, except perhaps a slight increase in pigmentation at the area where the birthmark had formerly been so prominent (Figure 21).
As I have shown, not all birthmarks fade as the subject becomes older. I believe that the majority of those I have examined have not faded. Why some birthmarks fade and others do not remains a matter for further research. In the ones that fade perhaps only the epidermis is affected, and the birthmark then heals like a first degree burn from which, as is well known, complete healing without a scar nearly always occurs. If the deeper layers of the skin are affected, either in a burn or a birthmark, a residue is likely to persist.
When a baby is born, its head comprises about one fifth of the total length of its body; but in a full-grown adult the head comprises only one eighth of the length (or height) of the body. This means that a marked change in the proportions of the various segments of the body occurs between birth and full growth.
Birthmarks frequently shift in position relative to anatomical sites as a child grows. In earlier chapters 1 have mentioned such shifting of the birthmarks in the cases of Chanai Choomalaiwong, Nasruddin Shah, Susan Wilson, and Susumu Ogura. I will describe one more example next.
Ravi Shankar Gupta was born in Kanauj, Uttar Pradesh, India, in July 1951. At his birth he had a large linear birthmark extending horizontally across the lower third of his neck. One observer described it as giving his head the appearance of having been glued on.
When Ravi Shankar became able to speak, he said that he had been the son of Jageshwar and had died from having his throat cut. These and other statements that Ravi Shankar made matched events in the short life of a boy called Munna, who was the son of Jageshwar Prasad. Munna's family lived in another quarter of Kanauj. Munna had been brutally murdered by having his throat cut in January 1951.
When I first met Ravi Shankar in 1964, he was a youth of 13. By this time the birthmark had migrated (and also faded) so that it consisted of a linear mark crossing his neck under the chin. It was then about 5 centimeters long and 4-5 millimeters wide. As Ravi Shankar continued to grow, the mark continued to shift upward. In 1971, when he was 20 years old, the birthmark was a line of increased pigmentation on the skin under his chin near its point (*).
As with the causes of the fading of birthmarks, we know little about why some birthmarks shift in relative position and others do not. It seems probable that the birthmarks most likely to shift in relative position are those in parts of the body most involved in relative changes in their proportions, such as the head, neck, and trunk. I do not remember having been told that any birthmark on an extremity changed in position as the subject grew. Govind Narain Mishra's birthmark may be an exception, but his birthmark was at the extreme upper end of his thigh. The birthmark of another subject (reported in the monograph, but not in this work) migrated, as the subject grew, from the lower part of the buttock to the upper thigh.


12. CORRESPONDENCES OF DETAILS BETWEEN BIRTHMARKS AND RELATED WOUNDS OR OTHER MARKS ON DECEASED PERSONS


Although the most important feature of the birthmarks that I describe in this work is their close correspondence in location to wounds (or other marks) on a deceased person, some of them have unusual details that seem to me scarcely less important than the correspondences in location.
I have already mentioned some of these correspondences of details. Four occurred in connection with surgical operations on the previous personalities. Muhittin Yilmaz had a horizontal, linear birthmark that had the location and appearance of the scar of a transverse incision for a surgical operation on the gallbladder or nearby organs. Susumu Ogura had a crescentic birthmark behind his ear that had the shape of the standard surgical incision for mastoidectomy. Ma Choe Hnin Htet had a vertical, linear birthmark near the midline of her trunk that corresponded to the surgical incision for the open heart surgery that her aunt, whose life she remembered, had undergone. Juggi Lal's birthmark corresponded to a surgical opening of an abscess with subsequent stitching of the wound.
One of the most frequent of these important details occurs in the cases in which the subject has two birthmarks related to bullet (or shotgun) wounds of entry and exit. 1 have already described eight cases with this feature: those of Maung Sein Win, Henry Elkin, Chanai Choomalaiwong, Maung Tin Win, Metin
Tali Sowaid, Alan Gamble, and Cemil Fahrici.
I have investigated 14 cases of this kind myself, and my associates have investigated another 4, making a total of 18 such cases. These cases have the addi- tional interest that in 14 of them one birthmark was larger than the other. The smaller birthmark was usually round or roundish and the larger one irregular in shape. In 1 of the 4 exceptional cases the bullet did not exit, in 2 of the cases the second birthmark had faded before I examined the subject, and in the fourth case the birthmarks were of about the same size. In several of the 14 cases with two birthmarks of different sizes, we could not learn which corresponded to the wound of entry and which to the wound of exit. There were 9 cases, however, in which the smaller birthmark corresponded to the wound of entry and the larger one to the wound of exit. This detail accords with the fact—well-known to forensic pathologists—that bullet wounds of exit are nearly always larger than wounds of entry. The difference results from the tendency of the bullet, in most cases, as it goes through the body to tumble and yaw and to push ahead of itself portions of bone or other tissue, thus producing a larger wound at the point of exit.
I will next describe some cases with other unusual details in the birthmarks.
Ma Mu Mu was born in Upper Burma on July 29, 1949. Her parents were U Aung Ba and Daw Nge Ma. Before Daw Nge Ma conceived Ma Mu Mu, U Aung Ba had a dream in which a deceased relative, Daw Ngwe Khin, appeared, sat on his knee, and said that she was coming to live with him and his wife.
When Ma Mu Mu was born, she was found to have two prominent birth- marks at the upper, inner part of her left breast. The two birthmarks were both round, but of different sizes, as can be seen in Figure 22. These birthmarks provid-ed a further indication to Ma Mu Mu's parents that she was the reincarnation of Daw Ngwe Khin, because they knew how Daw Ngwe Khin had died.
A period of extreme lawlessness in Burma followed the defeat there of the Japanese Army by the British Army in the spring of 1945. The ensuing vacuum of authority encouraged local bandits to prey on the villagers. For their better protection many of the villagers withdrew into hutments outside the villages. During a period of unusual confusion, Daw Ngwe Khin, who had been outside her village in one of the hutments, decided to return to the village with some friends. As they approached the village, one of its defenders mistook them for attacking bandits and fired his shotgun at them. Daw Ngwe Khin was struck with pellets in the chest, and she died almost instantly, from a wound in her heart or in one of the nearby large blood vessels.
The significance of the two birthmarks of different sizes on Ma Mu Mu derives from the fact that the cartridge fired at her contained shot of different sizes. Although a reliable firsthand informant for the case told me this, I made extensive inquiries among manufacturers of shotgun cartridges with a view to learning whether they had manufactured cartridges with shot of different sizes. Two British manufacturers did not do this, but an American one later did, and it is possible that a manufacturer in India had produced such cartridges earlier. Also, in Burma owners of shotguns sometimes altered the pellets in the cartridges thus making what is called a "home load." My informant mentioned above had himself taken a shotshell apart and observed that it contained shot of different sizes.
Ma Mu Mu began to speak about the life of Daw Ngwe Khin when she was about 3 or perhaps 4 years old. She herself later did not remember having spoken about the previous life until an occasion when she was ill, between the ages of 6 and 7. She then had a remarkable upwelling of memories that were so intense that she seemed to be reliving parts of Daw Ngwe Khin's life.
Daw Ngwe Khin had adopted a baby girl, and she was carrying this child in her arms when she was shot. Ma Mu Mu remembered that before Daw Ngwe Khin died she was able to ask the people around her to look after her child. Later, Ma Mu Mu became much attached to this girl, whom she regarded as her daughter. Like many subjects of these cases, Ma Mu Mu had a phobia—hers of firearms.
Obike Nwonye, an Igbo, was born in Obeagwu Ozalla, Anambra State, Nigeria, on January 7, 1973. He was born with a prominent birthmark roughly triangular in shape, on his right upper chest. By the time he was 11 years old, when I met and photographed him, the birthmark was approximately 2 centimeters long on each side. The surface of the birthmark had multiple small depressions, each approximately the size of a shotgun pellet (*).
Obike never spoke about a previous life. On the basis of his birthmark (with confirmation by an oracle) Obike was identified as the reincarnation of his great- grandfather, Nwachime, who had been killed during a tribal battle. He had received the discharge of a shotgun at close range and must have died almost instantly. He was thought to have died in about 1937.
I expressed some surprise that the location of Nwachime's wound would be remembered so precisely after so many years, but my informants were even more surprised at my puzzlement. For them, the wounds their relatives received in battle would be easily memorable. Obike's father told me that his father, Nwonye, had seen Nwachime's wound when he was a young boy of about 10; Nwonye had then lived long enough to see Obike's birthmark, which he said was at the site of Nwachime's wound.
Obike Nwonye is the fourth subject of this work with a birthmark corre- sponding to a wound from a shotgun; the other three are Hanumant Saxena (Chapter 6), Alan Gamble (Chapter 6), and Ma Mu Mu. Although the wounds were similar, the birthmarks were not, which permits me to repeat the point I made in Chapter 9: Wounds make poor predictors of the types of birthmarks to which they may later correspond.
88 Reincarnation and Biology Birthmarks
Victor Vincent, a Tlingit, died in the spring of 1946 in Angoon, Alaska. He had been especially fond of his sister's daughter, Mrs. Corliss Chotkin, Sr. About a year before his death, he said to her: "I'm coming back as your next son. I hope I don't stutter then as much as I do now. Your son will have these scars." With that he pulled up his shirt and showed her a scar on the upper right side of his back. Then he pointed to a scar at the base of his nose near his right eye. As an addition- al reason for wishing to be reborn in the Chotkin family, Victor Vincent mentioned that he believed his deceased sister, Gertrude, had already been reborn as their daughter; and he liked the prospect of being again with his sister.
The scar on Victor Vincent's nose was the residue of an operation he had had to remove the right tear sac. I obtained a copy of the hospital report of this operation. I was not successful in obtaining a medical report relating to the scar on Victor Vincent's back. I did learn from one hospital, however, that he had been diagnosed there as having moderately advanced pulmonary tuberculosis of the upper part of his right lung. Although this particular record mentioned no operation, it is possible that at some other hospital Victor Vincent had had a biopsy or perhaps drainage of a pleural effusion or lung abscess.
About 18 months after Victor Vincent's death, Mrs. Chotkin gave birth to a son, Corliss, Jr. He was found to have two birthmarks at the locations Victor Vincent had predicted: one at the base of the nose (*) and one on his right upper back (*). The latter was particularly interesting, because alongside the main linear scarlike birthmark there were tiny punctate scars suggestive of the scars that are left after surgical stitches. Both of these birthmarks had migrated as Corliss grew. The one on his back moved downward. The one at the root of the nose had also moved downward, so that when Corliss was 15 years old this mark was actually on the lower part of the right side of his nose.
When Corliss, Jr. became able to speak, he made two statements about events in the life of Victor Vincent. He also spontaneously recognized some per- sons known to Victor Vincent.
Corliss, Jr. showed some behavior in which he resembled Victor Vincent. Victor Vincent had been left-handed, and Corliss was left-handed when he first began to write, but under pressure from a teacher he learned to write with his right hand. Like Victor Vincent, Corliss stuttered when he was a young child, but with the help of a speech therapist he overcame this defect. Victor Vincent had considerable mechanical skill, and Corliss when young showed a similar facility with engines, a capacity that he did not acquire from his father, who had no aptitude for engines.
Ma Win Win Nyunt was born in Rangoon, Burma, on March 27, 1957. Her case was complicated because her parents identified her as the reincarnation of her paternal grandmother and also believed that she had had an "intermediate life" as her own older brother. He was Maung Maung Ley, and he had been born and died between the death of Ma Win Win Nyunt's grandmother and her own birth.
He was 3 years old when he died. Ma Win Win Nyunt had no imaged memories of the life of Maung Maung Ley, and her identification as the reincarnation of him depended entirely on birthmarks. Some of these were experimental birthmarks that a servant had made on the body of Maung Maung Ley before he was buried. The servant had told no one that he had placed these marks, but when Ma Win Win Nyunt was born, he examined the baby and said that the birthmarks on her corresponded to the marks he had made on Maung Maung Ley.
I have included the case in this chapter not because of the experimental birthmarks, but because Ma Win Win Nyunt had another birthmark that was much more distinctive. Maung Maung Ley had died of leukemia, and during his last days he had been given intravenous injections through a needle placed in a vein at his ankle. The needle had been held in place by a strip of adhesive tape that was still attached when Maung Maung Ley died. Ma Win Win Nyunt had a birthmark of slightly increased pigmentation at the site of this adhesive tape, and it had the straight lines of the adhesive tape. I did not try to photograph it, but I did make a sketch of it (*).
Mehmet Karaytu was born in 1931 in the village of Kavakli, near Adana, Turkey. He was born with a large triangular-shaped birthmark in his lower back (•). When he was about 3 years old, he began to speak about the previous life of a man called Haydar Karadol, who had been the owner of some farmland with a partner.
One day Haydar had been drinking and eating with his partner, when they began to quarrel. Haydar beat up his partner and then walked away. The man he had beaten, however, picked up a kitchen knife and, running after Haydar, thrust it into his back. Haydar died almost immediately. Mehmet remembered that he was still living when taken to a hospital, but I did not verify this detail.
Kitchen knives are single-edged, and the shape of Mehmet Karaytu's birthmark corresponded to the triangular profile that such a knife has.
Tong In Songcham was born in the village of Sao Lao in the province of Kalasin, Thailand, in May or June 1942. Immediately after Tong In's birth, her mother, Tarn, noticed that she had a birthmark on her back that was bleeding. In fact, she had three birthmarks, but only one was bleeding. They were narrow lin- ear areas of diminished pigmentation, all near the midline of her back. In Tong In's adulthood they were about 6-8 centimeters long and 3 millimeters wide (*).
Before Tarn became pregnant with Tong In, her (Tarn's) sister had a dream in which Tarn and three other women, including the dreamer, were returning to their village when they met a woman who was standing alone. This woman approached and touched each of them to see which was cold. (In Thailand, a hot country, coolness of the body is considered a desirable quality.) Tarn was the coolest, and so the woman—presumably a discarnate person—followed Tarn to her home. This dream accorded with some statements that Tong In made when she began to speak about a previous life. She said that after dying she had walked from the village where she had died to Sao Lao. On the way she met four women and touched each of them. Tarn was the coolest, and so she had followed her.
Tong In also described how she had died in the previous life. Her name had been See, and she had been married. One day her husband and his brother had a serious quarrel, and her husband, evidently fearing violence on the part of his brother, ran away. The brother was so angry that he seized an axe and attacked See. He chopped her three times in the back with the axe, and then put his foot on her and withdrew the axe. Tong In said that after dying she remained around See's house for a time and then began walking toward Sao Lao.
Tong In's statements about the previous life were correct for a woman called See, who had been killed, as Tong In described, in the village of Nong Khun Puwa, which is about 6-7 kilometers from Sao Lao. Tong In was born about a year after See's murder.
Tong In had no strong desire to return to Nong Khun Puwa, but eventually did so and there recognized a tree that See had planted.
I did not independently verify that See's brother-in-law had chopped three times with the axe when he killed her. Because Tong In's account of the murder tal- lied well with what I could verify about it—that See had been killed by her brother- in-law with an axe—I believe she was probably correct in this detail. If so, then the case includes a correspondence between three unusual birthmarks on the subject and corresponding wounds on the deceased person whose life she claimed to remember.
Charles Porter, a Tlingit, was born in Sitka, Alaska, in 1907. He was born with a prominent birthmark—an area of increased pigmentation—on his right flank, approximately over the right side of his liver. During his adulthood it was roughly diamond-shaped and measured about 4 centimeters in length and 1.5 centimeters in width (*).
When Charles Porter was a small boy, he used to say that he had been killed by a spear in a clan fight among the Tlingit. He named the man who had killed him, stated the place where he had been killed, and gave his own Tlingit name of the previous life. The man killed according to Charles Porter's description had been his mother's uncle.
When Charles Porter spoke about being killed with a spear, he pointed to his right side at the location of his birthmark. At this time, however, he was unaware that he had a birthmark there; because it was on the extreme of his flank, he might not have been able to see it easily.
By the time I investigated this case in the 1960s Charles Porter was in middle age, but I was fortunate in being able to interview his older sister, who confirmed what Charles Porter himself told me about his memories as a child. (He no longer had any imaged memories himself.) She remembered that he had been born with the birthmark on his flank. She said that he continued to talk about the previous life until he was about 8 years old. Their mother had tried to stop him from talking about it, perhaps because the man who had killed Charles Porter's great- uncle was still living, although he was by then an old man.
I was unable to learn when the clan fight in which the uncle had been killed had occurred. Clan fights among the Tlingit occurred frequently up to the last quarter of the 19th century, when they ceased. I suppose, therefore, that Charles Porter's uncle was killed not later than the early 1880s. Even so, the interval between his death and Charles Porter's birth would be long for cases among the Tlingit known to me.
Derek Pitnov, a Tlingit, was born in Wrangell, Alaska, in 1918. When he was born, he was found to have a prominent birthmark on his abdomen. It was located about 2 centimeters to the left of the umbilicus and slightly below it. The mark was diamond-shaped in form and in adulthood measured about 2 centimeters long and 1 centimeter wide. The birthmark had diminished pigmentation compared with the surrounding skin (*). There was a slight depression in the cen- ter of the birthmark. Derek Pitnov said that when he was a child and became cold, as after bathing in cold water, the birthmark would become deeper in color and take on the appearance of a recent wound.
On the basis of this birthmark and solely on its basis, Derek Pitnov was identified as the reincarnation of a celebrated Wrangell leader known as Chah-nik-kooh. He had been killed treacherously by the Sitkas when he had led a peace- making party from Wrangell to Sitka. He had died in 1852 or 1853.
Doubts might be expressed—I expressed them myself—about how informants could remember the exact location of a wound after more than 65 years. This is credible, however, to persons familiar with the accuracy of oral tradition among peoples like the Tlingit. Although most of the party of Wrangells were massacred by the Sitkas, a few survivors among the Wrangells reached home, and they recounted the bravery with which Chah-nik-kooh met his death as he became aware that the Sitkas were going to kill them. The location of his fatal wound would therefore be one of many details of the massacre that tribal members would transmit orally with exactitude.
Derek Pitnov never had any imaged memories of a previous life. He did have a marked phobia of bladed weapons that persisted into his adulthood.
The Tlingit battle spear seems to have had the conventional diamond shape of many spears (*), and I believe that the spears used to kill Charles Porter's great- uncle and Chah-nik-kooh were almost certainly of the same type. The birthmarks on Charles Porter and Derek Pitnov were both roughly diamond-shaped; and yet otherwise they were different in appearance, which suggests again the important role of the subject's skin in the processes producing a birthmark.
Ma Myint Myint Zaw was born in Pyawbwe, Upper Burma, on December 14, 1973. Her parents were U Kyaw Tint and Daw Mya Kyin. About a month after Ma Myint Myint Zaw's birth, her mother noticed a round birthmark on the instep of her left foot. This observation made her think that Ma Myint Myint Zaw might be her deceased son reborn.
This son, Maung Pho Zaw, had been a boy of about 4 when he died under the following circumstances. He was playing with a top early one morning when he overheard his uncle, U Tha Hla, say that he was going to Myeinigone village. Maung Pho Zaw stopped playing with his top, picked it up, and followed his uncle, who took him by the hand. On the way, they crossed some fields, and Maung Pho Zaw suddenly cried out with pain. His uncle thought at first that Maung Pho Zaw had stuck himself with a thorn, but the boy pointed to a snake curled up nearby and then showed the instep of his left foot, where blood was oozing from a bite wound. (The snake was almost certainly a Russell's viper, a species of snake abounding in the fields of Burma.) It happened that some women were passing by just then, and one of them was smoking a cheroot. U Tha Hla took the cheroot from the woman and applied it to the site of Maung Pho Zaw's wound. He also put around the boy's leg a tourniquet that he made from the string of Maung Pho Zaw's top. U Tha Hla then hurriedly took Maung Pho Zaw to the nearest hospital. There the doctors rebuked U Tha Hla for burning Maung Pho Zaw's wound, which is a common but futile folk remedy for snakebite in Burma. The doctors themselves, however, could do nothing to save Maung Pho Zaw, and he died on the evening after he was bitten.
Maung Pho Zaw was the only son of his parents, and his death affected them greatly. About 2 or 3 months after Maung Pho Zaw's death, a neighbor of his family dreamed of seeing Maung Pho Zaw as a discarnate personality who said he was trying to find his way home, but did not know the way. At almost the same time, U Kyaw Tint dreamed that Maung Pho Zaw came to him and told him that he had come home. Soon after these dreams, Daw Mya Kyin became pregnant, and Ma Myint Myint Zaw was born about a year after Maung Pho Zaw's death.
When she became able to speak, Ma Myint Myint Zaw made only a few statements about the life of Maung Pho Zaw. She said that she was Pho Zaw and had been bitten by a snake. She pointed to her left foot to indicate where the snake had bitten Maung Pho Zaw. She made no statements outside the normal knowl- edge of her parents. When she was about 2 years old, Ma Myint Myint Zaw some- how found Maung Pho Zaw's clothes, pulled them out, and claimed them as hers.
Ma Myint Myint Zaw had a strong phobia of snakes, and this persisted at least up to the time of our investigation of the case, when she was 12 years old. She was then still afraid to go out of the house after dark for fear of not seeing a snake that might bite her.
Ma Myint Myint Zaw's most unusual trait, however, was her markedly mas culine behavior. She first showed this at the age of 2, when her parents tried to get her to wear earrings, which she strongly resisted. They had to yield. This occurred at about the time she began to say that she was Maung Pho Zaw.
When Ma Myint Myint Zaw discovered Maung Pho Zaw's clothes—also at the age of about 2—she insisted on wearing them, and her parents allowed her to do so. After that she continued to wear boys' clothes almost exclusively. She showed other masculine traits also, such as a boyish gait.
When Ma Myint Myint Zaw reached school age, she went to school wearing boys' clothes and sat among the boys in their class at school. Her teachers overlooked this for some years, but in 1983—when Ma Myint Myint Zaw was about 9 years old—an inspector of schools did not. He discovered Ma Myint Myint Zaw sitting among the boys and expostulated. Ma Myint Myint Zaw's teacher called her in and told her that she must come to school dressed as a girl. Hearing this, Ma Myint Myint Zaw burst into tears. Her parents then intervened and asked the school authorities to be more flexible. A compromise was arranged according to which Ma Myint Myint Zaw would come to school on 2 days a week and show herself wearing girls' clothes. Nothing was said about the other days of the week. Ma Myint Myint Zaw did not adhere even to this bargain, and the school authorities tacitly overlooked her violation of the agreement. Ma Myint Myint Zaw continued to dress in boys, clothes and to show other masculine behavior until her middle teens. She began to menstruate at the age of 17, and when she was 18 she married. Subsequently she gave birth to two children. During these years her behavior became feminine; she adapted well to the roles of wife and mother. Dr. Jiirgen Keil met her for a follow-up interview in early 1996. At that time he and his interpreter noticed only traces of residual masculine behavior.
Ma Myint Myint Zaw's parents indulged her wish to wear masculine clothes, and U Kyaw Tint even said that he might have encouraged this behavior, partly because he still wished to have a son, but mainly because he wanted to spare Ma Myint Myint Zaw from the terrible distress she experienced when forced to wear girls' clothes.
The birthmark on the instep of Ma Myint Myint Zaw's left foot was a round area of scarlike skin, slightly depressed below the surrounding skin. When she was a little more than 12 years old, the birthmark was about 1 centimeter in diameter (*).
Both U Tha Hla (who had applied the cheroot to Maung Pho Zaw's snakebite wound) and U Kyaw Tint confirmed to us the correspondence between the wound (from the snakebite and burn) on Maung Pho Zaw and the round birthmark on Ma Myint Myint Zaw.
Maung Htay Win was born in the village of Myaukthike, Upper Burma, on November 21, 1970. His parents were U Maung Pu and Daw Ma Gyi. Maung Htay Win was born with two narrow linear birthmarks on his left forefinger (*). When he was an adult, they were about 1 and 1.5 centimeters long and had dimin- ished pigmentation compared with the surrounding skin.
These birthmarks did not lead to Maung Htay Win's being identified as the reincarnation of any deceased person. When he was about 4 years old, however, he said that he was called U Chit Saya, and he made a number of references to U Chit Saya's life and death. U Chit Saya had been U Maung Pu's stepfather, and he had died of snakebite.
U Chit Saya was a farmer who died when he was about 60 years old. On the day of his death he had finished work, and after tying up his oxen he had sat down on a pile of ground-nuts. He did not notice a snake that was nearby, and it bit him on the left forefinger. Someone sent for his son-in-law, U Chan Aye, and when U Chan Aye arrived he took a razor and cut the site of the snakebite. He then tried to suck out the venom, but U Chit Saya died the same night.
U Chan Aye later told U Win Maung (my assistant) that the birthmarks on Mining Htay Win corresponded to the cut (singular) that he had made on U Chit Saya's left forefinger before he sucked out the venom. It is not clear, therefore, whether he made only one cut or two cuts. He might have made just one, if he thought that the other wound was large enough to enable him to suck out the venom.
Maung Htay Win began speaking about a previous life when he was 4 years old. Watching his family's oxen being hitched up to their cart, he said: "Don't use these oxen. I have got mine." Asked to explain this remark he pointed to a cattle pen and then tried to find "his" oxen there. It did not occur to him that the oxen he was looking for had long since gone, but he correctly identified where they had been tied up. He also asked U Chit Saya's wife to return his (U Chit Saya's) clothes; and he asked for a crossbow that he said belonged to him.
When Maung Htay Win—still as a young child—met U Chan Aye, he held up his left forefinger and said it was the finger U Chan Aye had cut with his knife.
When Maung Htay Win was young, he showed the "adult attitude" that I mentioned in connection with the cases of Chanai Choomalaiwong, William George, Jr., and Ma Choe Hnin Htet. He addressed his father as "Maung Pu," which would have been appropriate for U Chit Saya, but not for a young son speaking to his father. In talking to one of U Chit Saya's sisters he addressed her with the junior honorific "Ma," instead of with the more respectful one, "Daw," which the Burmese use in talking to or referring to older women. As he grew older, however, he became more respectful to his elders.
Maung Naing was born in the village of Nyaunglunt, Upper Burma, on November 10, 1966. His parents were U Tha Gaung and Daw Kyi. Soon after Maung Naing's birth Daw Kyi noticed a birthmark on his left foot. There were actually two birthmarks, close together. They were linear, scarlike areas, slightly depressed below the surrounding skin and having slightly increased pigmentation. When Maung Naing was about 111/2 years old, the birthmarks were about 1.5 cen- timeters long and 2 millimeters wide (*).
On the basis of a dream that Daw Kyi had and of Maung Naing's birthmarks, he was identified as the reincarnation of a deceased friend and next-door neighbor, Maung Tin, who had died of snakebite in 1965.
Maung Tin was a shopkeeper and inclined to be a heavy consumer of alcohol. One day the village policeman found him still at his shop after dark, and he advised Maung Tin to close up and go home; otherwise, the policeman said, he risked being bitten by a snake. Maung Tin replied somewhat rudely that the snake that would bite him had not yet been born. Nevertheless, he closed his shop and left for home. Within a few minutes, someone came running to tell the policeman that a snake had bitten Maung Tin.
The local dispensary had no antitoxin, and so Maung Tin was taken to a monastery 3 kilometers away, where the abbot was reputed to be skilled in treating snakebite. The abbot made two incisions at the site of the snakebite, but Maung Tin died a few days later. A villager, U Tin Maung, who had accompanied Maung Tin to the monastery and witnessed the abbot's incisions of the wounds, later told U Win Maung that Maung Naing's birthmark was at the site of the wounds on Maung Tin.
Maung Naing made a few statements about the life of Maung Tin. In particular, he said that he remembered that Maung Tin had been bitten by a snake on a moonlit night.
Maung Naing had a marked phobia of snakes. Maung Tin had had a tempestuous relationship with his wife, Daw Than, who was also a heavy drinker of alco- hol. During one of their quarrels, she had openly wished that he would be bitten by a poisonous snake and die. As a child Maung Naing shunned Daw Than. He remembered how, in the previous life, she would get drunk and curse at him.
The important point regarding the last three cases is that the two birthmarks corresponding to wounds incised after snakebite were long and thin, whereas the birthmark corresponding to a snakebite wound that had been burned with a cheroot was round.


13. DISCREPANCIES BETWEEN BIRTHMARKS AND THE EVIDENCE OF REPORTEDLY CORRESPONDING WOUNDS


In previous chapters I have described only cases in which, if the case was solved, a correspondence occurred between the subject's birthmark and the wound (or other mark) on the concerned deceased person. In the great majority of the cases I learned of such a correspondence; but there were exceptions, and I will describe and discuss these in this chapter.
I had to select a measure of correspondence by which I would judge the closeness of the matching in location between birthmarks and wounds. I chose an area 10 centimeters square on u normal-sized adult body. Because the skin of such a body has a total area of 1.6 square meters, it would have 160 squares each 10 centimeters square. I chose this area because I thought it would allow both for some imprecision on the part of a pathologist who conducted a pertinent post- mortem examination and for possible failure on the part of adult informants to notice a shift in the position of a birthmark as the child grew (as 1 discussed in Chapter 11). A smaller allowed area might exclude some birthmarks for these rea- sons; but a larger one might wrongly include cases in which a discrepancy really had occurred. In many of the cases, such as those of Chanai Choomalaiwonu, Alan Gamble, and Hanumant Saxena, the birthmark and corresponding wound were much closer in location than the area I selected.
My associates and I obtained altogether 62 documents bearing on the previous personalities' wounds and causes of death. Nearly all of these were medical documents, such as postmortem reports, hospital records, or doctor's notes; but a few were other printed sources. For 13 cases I decided that the document itself was inadequate or that the testimony for the case included nullifying ambiguities and inaccuracies, such as a failure to notice a claimed birthmark at the child's birth or soon afterward.
After the deduction of these 13 cases, 49 cases with adequate documents and satisfactory testimony about details of each case remained. Of these I judged the correspondence close (within the limit 1 defined) in 43 (88%) of the cases, but not so in the remaining 6 (12%) of the cases. In the monograph I give reports of all 6 of these cases, but in this synopsis I will summarize only 2 of them. Before coming to these 2 cases 1 will first describe 1 of the 13 cases that I set aside as containing doubtful information.
Vasantha Gunasekera was born at Polgahawela, Sri Lanka, on July 8, 1972. His parents were W. G. Gunasekera and his wife, Menike. Vasantha's father was a rice farmer. The family lived at Weligamuwa in the Kegalle District.
Vasantha's parents noticed no birthmarks on him at or soon after his birth. When he was about 2 years old, he began to speak about a previous life. He stated numerous details about the life and death of a boy who had been shot and killed in a nearby village. Vasantha gave the name of the village and numerous other details of the boy's life.
Vasantha's statements were correct for a boy named Shelton Weerasinghe, who had lived at a place called Kaddawattiya, which is about 3 kilometers from Weligamuwa. On April 9, 1971, Shelton (who was then about 71/2 years old) had been in his family's house with his father and other persons when a group of men approached the house and without warning fired shots into the house. (The assailants appear to have been political rivals of the Weerasinghes, and they seem to have determined to settle accounts with the Weerasinghes at the time of the disruption caused by the insurgency in Sri Lanka in April 1971.) Shelton was hit by a bullet in the chest and died almost instantly.
The two families concerned in this case knew each other, and there might have been some casual acquaintance between them; but they belonged to different castes and had no social relationships.
Vasantha's family knew about Shelton's death, and they also knew that some of Vasantha's statements were correct for Shelton's life. W. G. Gunasekera, however, had no interest in verifying Vasantha's statements. Vasantha wanted to meet Shelton's family and sometimes begged his family with tears to take him to his "real mother and father," which he believed Shelton's parents were; but his father feared that a meeting might lead to Vasantha's developing divided loyalties between the two families.
Eventually, Shelton's older sister, who had heard about Vasantha's statements, came to Weligamuwa and met Vasantha. He recognized her without prompting, and the following day he also recognized Shelton's mother, when she came to Weligamuwa.
The informants differed about when the question of a birthmark on Vasantha first arose. He had been talking about the previous life for at least 2 years before anyone thought that he had a birthmark. One day his father expressed some skepticism about his claims, and Vasantha pointed toward his chest and said: "Here is proof." (These were not necessarily the exact words of a child of 4 or 5 years, but this is what he meant.) His parents then looked at his chest and identified a round mark of diminished pigmentation above his right nipple toward the midline (*). It was about 1.5 centimeters in diameter. On his right upper back Vasantha had another mark, irregular in shape, about 1 centimeter long and 6-7 millimeters wide. It was slightly depressed and puckered (*). It could have been the scar of a healed furuncle. Vasantha's family believed that the mark on the right side of his chest corresponded to the wound of entry on Shelton and the mark on the back to the wound of exit. Their opinion was strengthened by statements from Shelton's parents. Shelton's father remembered only that Shelton had been shot in the chest, but his mother thought the bullet had entered at the center of the chest.
The postmortem report on Shelton showed that the bullet that killed Shelton entered his chest on the left side near the nipple. It exited at the left back. On its way through the body it tore the heart and pericardium. Death "was caused by wounding the heart with a firearm."
I set this case aside because it violated the rule that a responsible informant must report having observed a mark claimed as a birthmark at or almost immediately after a baby's birth. I have not, however, adhered to the rule in a few cases in which I became convinced that the marks in question were not acquired postnatal- ly and were therefore congenital. Vasantha's case, however, was not one of these exceptions.
As I mentioned, the mark on Vasantha's right upper back was probably the scar of a healed furuncle. I have no explanation for the roundish area of diminished pigmentation on his right upper chest.
Next I will describe two cases in which the birthmarks were noticed immediately after the subject's birth and did not correspond to wounds on the deceased person whose life the subject remembered.
Pappu Singh was born in his mother's village of Uduatnagar in the Barabanki District of Uttar Pradesh, India, on August 12, 1971. His parents were Shivmangal and Mithilesh Singh. They lived in the village of Kussaila, in the Unnao District of Uttar Pradesh. They belonged to the caste of Thakurs. Shivmangal was a peasant farmer living close to poverty.
When Pappu was a few days old, first his grandmother and then his mother noticed that he had a birthmark beneath his right nipple (*). They thought that he had "a third breast," and Shivmangal Singh agreed with them when he saw Pappu's birthmark.
Pappu started speaking between the ages of 1 and 2. When he was between 2 and 3, he began referring to details of a previous life. He said that his name was Lala Bhaiya and that he had a mill at a place called Atah. He pointed to his chest and said that he had been shot there. Hearing this, his parents thought his birthmark must have corresponded with the wound where he (in the previous life) had been shot. At about this time Pappu's grandmother took him with her on a journey that included passing through Atah. Pappu saw a mill there and said that it was "his." Farther along, at a place called Pawa, near Bidhnu Bazaar, Pappu said: "I was killed at Bidhnu Bazaar."
Pappu's statements corresponded to events in the life of a prominent resident of the area whose full name was Shivshanker Lal Tiwari, but who was generally known as Lala Bhaiya. He was a Brahmin zamindar (landowner and tax farmer). He had been murdered (in March 1969) while returning from the market at Bidhnu Bazaar. In those days, the 1960s, wealthy landowners like Lala Bhaiya aroused the animosity of land reformers. The quasi-communist group known as naxalites were suspected of murdering Lala Bhaiya, and indeed they later claimed responsibility for his death.
Shivmangal Singh was well acquainted with Lala Bhaiya and, like everyone else in the area, he had heard of Lala Bhaiya's murder. They had not been socially connected, however, because of membership in different castes and a wide separation of economic circumstances.
Pappu's family members credited him with having made 10 statements about the previous life before he met members of Lala Bhaiya's family. Eight of these were correct; one was slightly off in that Pappu said that he was killed while going to Bidhnu Bazaar when in fact Lala Bhaiya had been killed as he was on his way home from the bazaar. Pappu was also wrong in saying that he had been on a bicycle when he was killed. Lala Bhaiya usually did go to the market on a bicycle, but on the day of his murder he went on foot. At Atah, Pappu recognized several members of Lala Bhaiya's family.
Pappu showed an "adult attitude" toward other members of his family. He called his father "Shivmangal" instead of using the Hindi word for father, and he denied that Shivmangal was his father. He also had one trait that was unusual in his family: He was notably cleaner than Indian children of his age. (Brahmins are more fastidious about cleanliness than members of the lower castes in India.) He did not, however, exhibit any of the "Brahmin snobbery" that has characterized and sometimes made unpopular some subjects who, born in lower caste families, have remembered previous lives as Brahmins and never allowed other members of their families to forget this.
We come now to the postmortem report on Lala Bhaiya. This showed that he had been struck on the head with a bladed weapon, which had fractured his skull. And he had been shot with a shotgun, with the wound of entry on the left side of the chest below the left nipple. Some of the shot had passed through the chest and exited on the right side near the axilla.
From this we have to conclude that Pappu had no birthmark corresponding to wounds on Lala Bhaiya. His parents and grandmother who said that he had "a third breast" were probably correct, because his birthmark, under the right nipple, is in the area where auxiliary nipples sometimes occur.
When Pappu pointed to his chest as he said that he had been shot there, his pointing was probably inexact, if not vague. It was sufficient, however, to make members of his family again aware of the birthmark (auxiliary nipple), and they understandably but incorrectly identified it as corresponding to the fatal wound on Lala Bhaiya.
I cannot say why Pappu had no birthmark corresponding to Lala Bhaiya's wounds. Why some subjects have no birthmarks corresponding to wounds on a deceased person is as great a mystery as why some do have them.
Amitha Herath was born in Galgamuwa, Sri Lanka, on January 27, 1970. Within a few days of Amitha's birth, her mother, maternal grandmother, and maternal aunt all noticed a birthmark beneath the outside of her right ankle (*). They attached no significance to this birthmark until Amitha began to speak about a previous life.
She started her account of the previous life when she was under 2 years of age. She did not give a name for herself in the previous life, but she said that she had lived in a place called Nithalawa. She also gave the names of some members of the family. She described the home they lived in, which she compared with her (present) home, obviously considering the previous one superior. It had for example, a tiled roof instead of the thatched one of her family's house.
Amitha said that she had wanted to prepare a lunch for her (previous) father and had gone into the garden to pluck some plantains. A cobra had bit her on the foot. As Amitha spoke about being bitten by a snake, she indicated the place where the snake had bitten her—the outer side of her right foot, below the ankle. When Amitha pointed to the outer side of her right foot, members of her family identified the birthmark they had noticed earlier, but had not understood, as the site where the snake had bitten the person whose life Amitha was describing.
It was not difficult for Amitha's family to verify her statements. Nithalawa is only about 7 kilometers from where Amitha lived. The families already had some acquaintance, and Amitha's mother had been a classmate at school of the older brother, Guneratne, of the person about whom Amitha was obviously speaking.
This person was a young girl called Muthumenike, and she had died (in May 1968) precisely in the manner that Amitha described: bitten by a snake in her garden. The members of her family—with an exception I shall note—believed that the snake had bitten Muthumenike on the outside of the right foot under the ankle.
The exception came from Muthumenike's older brother, Guneratne, who said in 1976 that the snake had bitten her on the toes of the right foot. Later, he changed his opinion and concurred with other members of the family that the bite had been at the back of the foot under the ankle.
The death certificate, which was filled out 18 days after Muthumenike's death, included the following notation: "Died after a coma due to a poison by a cobra bite on the right foot near the little toe on the sole of the foot."
It is impossible to choose among possible explanations for the discrepancy between the site of the snakebite given on the death certificate and the site pointed to by Amitha and accepted by her family (on the basis both of what Amitha said and the birthmark) as the place where the snake had bitten Muthumenike. This was also the site remembered by members of Muthumenike's family, except for Guneratne in 1976.
One interpretation is that the birthmark noted on Amitha under her ankle had some irrelevant origin, but was incorrectly adopted by members of her family and then by Amitha herself as the site of the snakebite. Amitha might have had no birthmark on her toes or a small one that quickly faded.
It is also possible that the death certificate is wrong. The persons who do the work of Medical Examiners in Sri Lanka, known as "Inquirers into Sudden Deaths," are not trained in law or medicine. They are generally competent, but they are not infallible. In this case the Inquirer, who had gone to Muthumenike's home and examined her wound before he completed the death certificate, may not have examined Muthumenike's body carefully. He might have been influenced by Guneratne's belief (at that time) that the snake had bitten his sister near the toes. Later, Guneratne changed his opinion and fell into line with other members of Muthumenike's family. If, however, his first memory was incorrect and led to a false entry in the death certificate, we would have an explanation for the discrepancy, which, as I have continued to think about the case, has seemed to me increasingly likely to be the right one. Moreover, I learned from Guneratne that the Inquirer made no notes of his examination of Muthumenike while he was at the house. It is therefore quite possible that when, 18 days later, he filled out the death certificate, his memory failed him, and he misremembered the site of the snakebite wound on Muthumenike.
From the appraisal of the correspondences and discrepancies that the med- ical documents revealed, we may state a measure of the confidence we should have in the testimony of informants relying on their memories. As I mentioned earlier, without the medical documents we would have been misled in about 12% of the cases. In this 12% we would have incorrectly attributed a correspondence that did not exist. (In fact, the margin of error might have been somewhat less, because a study of errors made by informants showed that in four and possibly five cases, if we had relied on these persons' memories and had had no medical documents, we should have missed attributing a concordance that really did occur.) There is, therefore, some comfort in knowing that if we rely exclusively on the memories of informants, we will not go astray in more than one case in every seven or eight. Unfortunately, this would be a general rule and would say nothing about a particular case. We cannot know in advance in which case the informants' testimonies will be accurate and in which they will not. We have no substitute for medical documents in the study of the birthmarks in these cases; and we have not spared ourselves in trying to obtain them.


14. SOME CORRELATES OF BIRTHMARKS ATTRIBUTED TO PREVIOUS LIVES


The number of cases of children who claim to remember previous lives and who have relevant birthmarks seems sufficiently large to justify a search through the data for related features that would help us understand why some of the children have birthmarks and others who remember comparable deaths do not.
The first point to note is that the incidence of reported birthmarks varies widely between cultures. In a series of 895 cases from nine different cultures, 35% of the subjects had a birthmark (or birth defect); but the percentage of subjects with birthmarks (or birth defects) ranged between 6% for cases in Lebanon and 65% for those among the Igbo of Nigeria. In Chapter 1 I emphasized that our knowledge of the frequency of cases comes from reported cases; we have almost no understanding of the real incidence of cases. This is equally true of the cases with birthmarks. We know that some of the variance in cases with reported birth- marks derives from the greater attention given to them in some cultures than in others; birthmarks may occur just as frequently in India as they do in Nigeria, but they are not looked for as much in India as in Nigeria.
We can examine correlates of the birthmarks on the subject's side of the case, in events between the previous personality's death and the subject's birth, and on the side of the previous personality.
The subjects, as I have already emphasized, may contribute importantly by different reactivities of their skins. We know that skins, even of infants, react dif- ferently to irritants such as the toxin of poison ivy. It is reasonable to suppose therefore that they would also react differently to the mental influence of a discarnate personality that these cases suggest.
The birthmarks that correspond to wounds on a deceased person constitute a kind of physical memory of that person's wounds. It seemed important to ask, therefore, whether such a physical memory correlates with the abundance of imaged memories as expressed in the subject's statements about the previous life. I found no correlation. On the contrary, 21 subjects who had birthmarks and birth defects made no statements whatever about the previous personality with whom adults identified them on the basis of birthmarks, birth defects, or dreams. Another 7 subjects with birthmarks and birth defects made only one or two statements.
In most cases the subject was not conceived until months or years after the previous personality's death. There were numerous cases, however, in which the subject had been conceived before the previous personality's death. In a few cases with reasonably accurate testimony, the subject was born within a few weeks, or even days, of the previous personality's death. This would mean that the supposed mental influence was strong enough to modify a fetus already fully formed.
A small number of subjects claim to have had what I call "intermediate lives" between the previous personality's death and their birth. They sometimes make statements about such lives, but these are almost never verifiable. They may be fantasies. It is possible, however, that if such intermediate lives occur, an expected birthmark might appear on the body of the intermediate life but not on that of a later incarnation. 1 have, for example, studied in India two cases of subjects who claimed to have had intermediate lives after being murdered, one by shooting, the other by stabbing. Neither had a birthmark when one might other- wise have been expected. The cases with intermediate lives are too few to justify any conclusion. They perhaps give a hint, however, of a possible role of such lives as "erasers" of birthmarks.
As for the length of the interval between the previous personality's death and the subject's birth, I found no correlation between that length and the occurrence of birthmarks or birth defects.
This brings us to consider the condition of the previous personality at the time of death. I thought at one time that perhaps alcoholic intoxication might exert a protective effect against the occurrence of birthmarks and birth defects. I compiled a list of 14 subjects who remembered the lives of persons who were heavily intoxicated when they were killed. Of these 11 had birthmarks or birth defects and only 3 did not.
I would not, however, devalue the importance of further research concerning the relation of alcohol to birthmarks. The level of alcohol in the blood permissible for drivers of vehicles must be legally fixed, usually at 100 milligrams per centiliter; but this is an arbitrary figure, and some persons may be intoxicated with lower levels, whereas others are clinically sober with much higher ones.
The case of Maung Kyaw Thein of Pyawbwe, Upper Burma, illustrates the difficulty of deciding the relevance of alcoholic intoxication to birthmarks. Maung Kyaw Thein remembered the life of U Warzi, a well-known alcoholic who made his living by selling paratas (a kind of pancake) in the town's market. He had ene- mies, and they decided to kill him. They waited until he shut up his little stall in the market—it was about midnight—and waylaid him as he bicycled from the market to his home. After cutting him up badly with sticks and knives, they left him in a ditch. His son happened to pass by, heard his father's groans, and brought him to a hospital, where he died a few days later.
Because U Warzi was a heavy regular drinker of alcohol, we can assume that he had imbibed much during the day of his murder. On the other hand, he was sober enough to ride his bicycle. Maung Kyaw Thein had verified imaged memories of the life of U Warzi, but he had no trace of a birthmark corresponding to the knife cuts that killed U Warzi. I am unable to say whether in this case alcohol might have somehow inhibited one of the processes involved in the generation of birthmarks.
If alcohol does have a protective effect against birthmarks in these cases, the effect might be due to whatever impairment of consciousness it induces. Anesthesia would be another impairer of consciousness, but I have described cases of surgical incisions (for example, those of Mehmet Yilmaz [Chapter 7] and Ma Choe Hnin Htet [Chapter 10]), which must have been made while the previous personality was under anesthesia, and to which birthmarks later corresponded.
Even so, we have evidence that some degree of consciousness is required in the production of most birthmarks. (Experimental birthmarks are an obvious exception.) This evidence comes in the first instance from cases in which wounds were more numerous than birthmarks. An example of this occurred in the case of Narong Yensiri (Chapter 6). Another possible example occurred in the case of Nirankar Bhatnagar (Chapter 4), although his statement that he was first hit on the head and then stabbed remains unverified. It happens not infrequently in murders that the assailants shoot, stab, or beat the victim repeatedly. If one of their early assaults produces loss of consciousness, say from a shot through the heart or a smashing blow on the head, wounds inflicted after that event may not generate birthmarks.
The case of Ma Thoung illustrates as well as any known to me the role of consciousness in birthmarks. Ma Thoung was born in the village of Battakyaunggone in Upper Burma on November 5, 1945. When she was about 3 years old, she began to speak about a previous life as a person called Ma Mya Sein, who had been executed by Japanese soldiers, earlier in 1945. Ma Mya Sein had been a trader who engaged in collecting and selling scrap iron. The occupy- ing Japanese Army strictly forbade private trading in iron. It was such a profitable line of work, however, that Ma Mya Sein and some friends thought it worth the risk. Some Japanese soldiers caught them and decided to administer summary justice by beheading them on the spot. They lined up the group against a wall. Ma Thoung's memory of the last moment of Ma Mya Sein's life was that of a sword beginning to cut her neck. After that, she regained consciousness in the small body of Ma Thoung. The point of introducing this case here is that Ma Thoung had a birthmark with a slight defect at the lower tip of her left ear (*). Her case may be compared with that of Ravi Shankar Gupta (Chapter 11) whose birthmark extended (at the time of his birth) around the front of his neck, but not all the way round to the back. I believe that Munna, whose life Ravi Shankar remembered, retained consciousness while having his throat cut longer than did Ma Mya Sein as she was being beheaded. Maung Myint Aung's case (Chapter 4) is unverified, but it may be permissible to bring it into this discussion. After the Japanese soldier whose life he remembered had slit his throat, it would have taken him a minute or two to lose consciousness as he bled to death, and this may help us understand why Maung Myint Aung's birthmark extended right across the front of his neck.
The first shock in a fatal wounding may be influential in generating a birthmark. For example, in the cases of Sunita Khandelwal, Dellal Beyaz, and Wilfred Meares (Chapter 6), a birthmark occurred at the point of impact where the heads of the persons whose lives they remembered hit the hard surface that stopped their falls; in these subjects, however, no obvious defect occurred at the site of injury that had caused the previous personality's death, such as a fractured neck or skull bone. In Alan Gamble's case (Chapter 6), his birthmarks corresponded to the place where the shotgun pellets went through the hand and wrist of Walter Wilson; he had no defect corresponding to the later amputation of Walter Wilson's forearm.
To conclude this chapter I will describe a case in which an injury after death corresponded to a birthmark.
Chamroon Kaochamnong was born in Tahrua, Thailand, on August 20, 1965. At his birth he was found to have an obvious birthmark at the top of his head. It was a roundish area of hairlessness, and when Chamroon was 9 years old it was about 1 centimeter in diameter (*).
On the basis of this birthmark Chamroon's father identified him as the reincarnation of a baby boy of the family who had died some 18 months before Chamroon's birth.
After the baby's death his father made a small coffin of wood in which he placed his dead baby son. He put the baby's body in this and carried it to the cemetery. When he arrived there, he noticed to his chagrin that he had somehow driven a nail through the end panel of the coffin at the baby's head so that it had wounded the baby there. He was convinced that the birthmark on Chamroon corresponded to the wound that he had inadvertently made on his dead baby's head.
Other examples of birthmarks and birth defects seemingly derived from marks and wounds made after death occur in the cases of experimental birthmarks (Chapter 10) and birth defects. (I describe experimental birth defects in Chapter 20.)


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15. THE INTERPRETATIONS OF BIRTHMARKS RELATED TO PREVIOUS LIVES


Although some of the subjects whose cases I shall present in later parts of this book have birthmarks (as well as birth defects), I have now presented all the cases in which birthmarks (as opposed to birth defects) have been the subject's principal physical abnormality. It seems appropriate, therefore, to consider at this stage the several interpretations available for understanding these cases. By understanding I mean the endeavor to link the phenomena with branches of better established knowledge or, if need be, to judge them to be as yet outside such knowledge, for which we use the word paranormal.
Before we can consider alternative interpretations for the cases, we must decide that the reports we have are authentic. By authentic I mean that the reports given to investigators by informants and then set out by myself describe events with satisfactory closeness to the events as they really happened. This is the century-old endeavor of all investigators of spontaneous phenomena that appear to occur paranormally. It is, in principle, no different from the striving of lawyers to reconstruct the events of a crime or that of historians to understand what really happened in the past, wie es eigentlich gewesen ist ("what really happened"), as von Ranke said. No matter how much we try, we cannot know exactly what really happened, but that does not matter. What does matter is whether what we now believe happened approximates sufficiently to what did happen. Some critics believe that mistakes and discrepancies about details betray more serious flaws that should discredit any case in which they occur, which would be most of them. I do not believe this myself; but this is a matter readers should judge for themselves, and this gives me another opportunity to exhort my readers to study the details I have included in the monograph. For myself I will say that I believe all the cases included in the monograph and here are authentic by the definition I have given.
In recent years the independent investigations of colleagues have increased my confidence in the authenticity of the cases of the children who claim to remember previous lives. Four of them have replicated my investigations and have come, in general, to conclusions about the authenticity of the cases similar to mine. To be sure, they studied cases different from mine, and their investigations do not directly support my accounts of the cases I am here reporting. Because they followed my methods, however, albeit with their own modifications of details, their research encourages me to believe in the authenticity of the cases I have studied myself. I emphasize that the word authenticity refers only to the accuracy of the informants' descriptions of events and says nothing about the interpretation or explanation of those events.
Turning now to the interpretations of the cases, I will first discuss normal ones and then paranormal ones. 
According to the principal normal interpretation, the birthmarks we are trying to understand are not fundamentally different from the "ordinary" nevi and moles that everyone has, and their correspondence with wounds on a deceased person just occurs by chance. As for the statements and unusual behavior that informants attribute to the child, these, according to the view I am here describing, are either invented altogether by the subjects to account for the birthmark or they are imposed by the parents on the child, who learns to repeat what they expect it to say. The full phrase for this interpretation thus becomes "chance and fantasy," or, if we find or reasonably suspect that the subject's parents have imposed an identification on it, we can speak of "chance and suggestion."
Anyone considering this interpretation must admit that some of the birthmarks are indistinguishable from ordinary nevi, and I have described a few that are; but most of them are not. Instead, they differ from ordinary nevi in various ways that I have already mentioned, and the photographs of most of them clearly support my claim concerning this difference. Even so, the argument for a chance correspondence might apply to cases of single birthmarks corresponding to single wounds. As I mentioned in Chapter 13, the skin of a normal-sized adult would comprise 160 squares each 10 centimeters square. We can see that the odds against chance of a single birthmark corresponding in location with a single wound would therefore be only 1/160. When we consider the cases of correspondences between two birthmarks and two wounds, the odds against chance immediately increase and become 1/160 x 1/160, or (approximately) 1/25,000. There are, in fact, many cases in our series with two or more birthmarks. Moreover, many of these (and other) birthmarks have unusual details in which they correspond to details of a relevant wound. Although we cannot give a quantifiable weight to the likelihood of such correspondences of details, by some amount this feature (for the cases in which it occurs) further diminishes the likelihood of a correspondence occurring by chance.
As for the invention or imposition on the child of a fiction intended to explain the birthmark, I have already said that although this may sometimes occur, many parents and other informants—perhaps most of them—regard the child's statements and related behavior with indifference or positive opposition. They do not have a motive, let alone the time, for imposing an altered identity on a child. In Chapter 1 I mentioned that 41 % of Indian parents had suppressed their children from speaking about a previous life. I do not mean to say that parents may not occasionally guide and even prompt a child in a direction of their own thinking, and I have already mentioned the risk of this when parents are prepared by dreams and birthmarks to believe that some deceased friend or member of the family has been reborn in their family. We should ask, however, how pliable children are to parental influences. The extent to which adults may influence a child to assume an identity that it would not otherwise adopt is perhaps amenable to scientific inquiry; and I welcome the endeavors of colleagues like Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson, whose studies with psychological tests of children in Sri Lanka who claim to remember previous lives indicate that they are not more suggestible than their peers.
Although dreams and birthmarks may prepare the way for the false elaboration of some cases, we can exclude this possibility in the numerous cases in which the two families live a considerable distance apart and when the evidence justifies our believing the informants who say that the families had no contact or knowledge of each other before the case developed.
If we set aside interpretations of the cases along normal lines, we need next to try to choose the best of several explanations that invoke some paranormal process.
The simplest of these explanations supposes that the subject of the case acquires through some kind of extrasensory perception all the information about a deceased person that he or she expresses in statements about a previous life. The subject would presumably be somehow tapping the minds of living persons who, from having known the concerned deceased person, would have the information that the subject would need to obtain. In cultures with a strong belief in reincarnation, from which most of these cases are reported, the belief would help to mold the information into the form of a supposed previous life. This interpretation has important weaknesses. First, with rare exceptions, the subjects provide no evidence of paranormal powers outside the claimed memories of a previous life, and none of them show any capacity for paranormal communication of the magnitude we should have to imagine if they are obtaining their information in this way. Second, the cases include much more than the cognitive details of mental images expressed in the child's verbal statements. Nearly all the children show a strong identification with the concerned deceased person and behavior that is unusual in their families but appropriate for that person. How does this happen? One must suppose the collaboration of the child's parents in shaping its personality to match that of the deceased person. I have said that this may indeed occur when the parents knew the person in question, but it could not happen when he or she was someone unknown to them. Or are we to suppose also that the parents as well as the child have unusual paranormal powers? Third, this interpretation fails to account for the birthmarks and birth defects that about one third of the subjects have.
A second paranormal explanation sometimes advanced for these cases attributes them to "possession" of the child by a discarnate personality. The latter is conceived as imposing its memories on the subject along with its likes, dislikes, and other behavioral characteristics. I am far from believing that something like possession cannot occur. Indeed, I have investigated cases with anomalous dates in which the subject has had memories of a person who was still living when the subject was born. I have published reports of three such cases and expect to publish reports of several more in the future. In these cases a recently deceased personality seems to take over or possess a body that was that of another living person. One weakness of the concept of possession as applied to the cases with birthmarks is its failure to account for the birthmarks. They, by definition, must be present at birth, which means that the discarnate personality must begin its influence on the subject while it is still a gestating embryo or fetus. If this happens, however, what is the difference between possession and reincarnation? A further weakness of the concept of possession applied to these cases is its failure to explain the almost invariable fading of memories that affects the subjects between the ages of 5 and 8. Why should a possessing personality, having successfully imposed itself on a child for some years, cease to do so? And why should all such possessing personalities cease their possessing at about the same period of the children's lives?
A third paranormal interpretation of the cases can at least account for the birthmarks. I refer to maternal impressions. I have already emphasized the importance of this interpretation for many cases, because the subject's mother in those cases had seen or at least learned about the wounds on the concerned deceased person. There are, nevertheless, 25 cases for which I am confident that the subject's mother had no knowledge of the previous personality's wounds. The interpretation of maternal impressions has the further weakness that it supposes that the mother of the child imposes on it, or imagines for it, all the statements and unusual behavior the informants attribute to it. This suggestion encounters the objection I mentioned earlier in connection with the normal interpretation of the cases: the lack of motive on the part of the mother (or father) to impose an identification of their choosing on the subject and the lack of evidence that they could succeed if they tried.
I accept reincarnation as the best explanation for a case only after I have excluded all others—normal and paranormal. I conclude, however, that all the other interpretations may apply to a few cases, but to no more than a few. I believe, therefore, that reincarnation is the best explanation for the stronger cases, by which I mean those in which the two families were unacquainted before the case developed. It may well be the best explanation for many other cases also. Yet in saying that I think reincarnation is the best explanation for many cases, I do not claim that it is the only explanation. Further research may show that it is not even the best one.
This is a matter about which my opinion should count for little. I regard my contribution as that of presenting the evidence as clearly as I can. Each reader should study the evidence carefully—preferably in the monograph—and then reach his or her own conclusion.
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