You’re probably thinking: How can you tell if a child is retelling past life memories or if they have a creative imagination? Is it a fantasy, or an actual memory?
That is a common question, Tucker says, but it is important to determine whether the child’s statements are really verifiable. “What the kid described, does it match someone who lived and died in the past?” he asks. “The child must recall matching details that could be traced, typically the name of either person or place, otherwise extremely difficult.”
That said, he hears a series of “weak cases” in which the child is unable to provide details or he cannot trace them back to a de facto living and dead person. But when he comes across a verifiable case, the details are staggering. Of course, he also has to make sure that the child does not receive that information through some common means, such as through TV or overly audible adult conversations.
“There is a famous case where a child remembers himself as a pilot during World War II, more than 50 years ago,” he explained. (James Leininger’s case mentioned above.) “We can be pretty sure that the child never heard of this random person, but they have a lot of memories.”