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The Boy Who Knew Too Much: An Astounding True Story of a Young Boy's Past-Life Memories, by Cathy Byrd

Publication Details: 
Hay House, ISBN: 9781401953423.
Publish date: 
March, 2017

Reviewed by Dieter Hassler

In the first half of this book the author Cathy Byrd, the mother of Christian Haupt, describes what she unexpectedly experienced with her son, who claimed to remember a previous life as the baseball-sports-celebrity Lou Gehrig (1903–1941). The case can only be presented here somewhat summarily, however, others have already written about the case (e.g., Jenn 2018; Stemman 2017).

Besides Christian's uncanny ability to play baseball (“knowing how”), which is widely accepted as a fact by observers, including Dr. Jim Tucker (personal communication, July 3, 2018), I counted 16 factual statements made by the little boy (“knowing that”), which were all correct; yet I acknowledge only 9 as truly astounding for him to know1. Furthermore, there are 10 instances of Christian’s behaviour that were typical for the previous person2, 6 recognitions of persons on photographs unknown to him3 and 3 bodily similarities4. On the basis of these numbers alone the case could range among Stevenson’s better cases suggestive of reincarnation (Hassler, 2011).

Remembering facts (“knowing that”) about a famous person evokes the possible normal explanation in the form of cryptomnesia (forgotten source amnesia) because of the many sources easily accessible to the public. This is a book written for the general public, not a scientific report, meaning that it remains unclear at exactly which age Christian’s respective statements were made and which normal means of information acquisition could have played a role. His access to television or computer is unfortunately not detailed by Cathy Byrd. However, in my opinion, at least 6 of the remembered facts could not be known by a small boy unable to read.

Since cryptomnesia probably cannot explain Christian’s knowledge, the next resort to explain the facts without recourse to reincarnation is to assume extrasensory perception (ESP) on the side of the boy. But this does not apply to capabilities (“knowing how”) like Christian’s child prodigy of playing baseball, as pointed out by Prof. Ian Stevenson, who thought that capabilities have to be trained and cannot be transferred mentally. Nor can ESP explain Christian’s special behaviour, for example, insisting to wear only baseball clothes, his resemblance with Lou Gehrig, his asthma corresponding to the mode of death of the previous person or his special interest in baseball.

A possible explanation remains, possession, meaning that a discarnate mentally influences the subject. This should however give rise to conflicts between the souls governing the same body, conflicts which are never mentioned by the children who insist that they remember previous lives. When a discarnate comes and goes we should expect to perceive dramatic changes of the subject’s personality, which were in this case never observed. In addition, receiving information from deceased people would mean the child to have extraordinary ESP-capabilities, which should show up in other ways also. This is not the case. My conclusion: Reincarnation remains not only a valid hypothesis but, in my opinion, also the most convincing explanation for this case. However, reincarnation is not a proven fact as long as no working mechanism is known.

Second half of the book: Christian explained to his mother that she is the reincarnation of the mother of himself in his previous life. This led to Cathy Byrd’s decision to undergo three hypnotic regression sessions in the hope to find her own previous life. During these she remembered having been Christina Gehrig, the mother of Lou Gehrig. Of course, she went into this adventure with a clear expectation which could probably account for her experiences. But there are many verified factual statements which cannot be explained on that basis. Byrd maintains that she knew nothing about Christina prior to the regression. However, cryptomnesia is hard to rule out because the author’s investigation is interwoven with her regressions. However, she recalled memories, for example, of special jewellery bequeathed to friends of hers in the previous life, which could be verified not by documents but by witnesses still living. Cryptomnesia cannot account for this.

I counted 34 such “knowing that” of which I acknowledge 28 as not trivial and supposedly and optimistically judged being not based on cryptomnesia5. This result is completed by 3 recognitions6 and 2 instances of beginning xenoglossy in the form of German words7. (Byrd made 2 incorrect statements which concerned numbers)8. I would have discounted this outcome of 3 regression sessions as not trustworthy had I not found 37 others credibly verified cases of regression showing that there is no rule saying that hypnotic regression must invariably bring forth fantasies only (Hassler 2015a, 2015b).

A drawback of this case is the fact that we have to rely on the honesty and fidelity of detail of the author, because no independent witnesses are available. Dr. Jim Tucker, the successor of Prof. Ian Stevenson, visited the boy and his mother, but has not published anything about it, because it is a case of a famous person (with its inherent problems) and because hypnotic regression is viewed by many as a very unreliable tool (Tucker, personal communication, July 3, 2018). However, Byrd reveals the struggle she had to fight against her Christian faith which to her seemed to forbid dealing with the notion of reincarnation. Byrd was unintentionally driven into her investigation by her son’s behaviour and statements and certainly did not start with the intention to promote rebirth as a new religion. She found herself forced to change her worldview on the basis of facts found, like James Leininger’s father had to. I congratulate her for her victory over her denominational prejudice and the courage to go public with a much-disputed topic.

This case supports the often-expressed assumption that prodigy in children may have to do with abilities acquired in previous lives. Another example of this type is the golf-prodigy Hunter (Tucker, 2013). I know of no other case in which recollections of a small child of his/her previous life go together with hypnotic regressions of his/her mother into her own prior life connected to the previous life of the subject.

Notes

1 Pages 24, 28, 45, 71, 97, 105, 133, 201.

2 Pages 3, 7, 10, 46, 67, 71, 106, 173, 195, 104.

3 Pages 47, 49, 56, 57, 112.

4 Pages 58, 107.

5 Pages 124, 127, 128, 129, 130, 147, 148, 150, 151, 176, 178, 180, 181, 182, 183, 184.

6 Pages 135, 172, 154, 195, 202.

7 Pages 124, 146.

8 Page 135.

References

Hassler, D. (2011). …früher, da war ich mal groß. Und…/ Indizienbeweise für ein Leben nach dem Tod und die Wiedergeburt / Band 1: Spontanerinnerungen kleiner Kinder an ihr „früheres Leben“. Aachen: Shaker Media. 

Hassler, D. (2015a). Geh’ zurück in eine Zeit… / Indizienbeweise für ein Leben nach dem Tod und die Wiedergeburt / Band 2a: Rückführungen in „frühere Leben“ und deren Nachprüfung. Aachen: Shaker Media. 

Hassler, D. (2015b). Geh’ zurück in eine Zeit… / Indizienbeweise für ein Leben nach dem Tod und die Wiedergeburt / Band 2b: Rückführungen in „frühere Leben“ und deren Nachprüfung. Aachen: Shaker Media.

Jenn (2018). Is Reincarnation Responsible for Prodigy in Children?

Stemman, R. (2017). Do his Amazing Skills and Accurate Memories Prove he Lived Before?  Psychic News, 4149, 16-18,

Tucker, J. (2013). Return to Life: Extraordinary Cases of Children Who Remember Past Lives, New York; St. Martin's Press.