Supernatural For The Cynic: Past Lives And Past Places
October 22, 2013

Supernatural For The Cynic: Past Lives And Past Places

Like most people, I like the idea of a mystery, of the paranormal, but am unable to look past reason and rationality for the sake of the thrill. I need to look for explanations and, in most cases, they are not difficult to find.

But, two stories I have heard always stick with me as being difficult to dismiss. A lack of substantial argument against them is combined with the fact that those involved don’t seem like they are making things up (a highly questionable basis for evidence, but an instinctive one nonetheless). Then there is the fact that the mysteries in both involve something which science is still baffled by: time.

The first case involves a young boy from Scotland whose strong attachment to a past life moved his family and researchers to investigate it further. When they did, the evidence supported his claims more than it countered them.

The boy’s name was Cameron Macaulay, and he was six years old at the time his family finally took him from their home in the city of Glasgow, mainland Scotland, all the way to the obscure and tiny island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides, a collection of many similar islands off Scotland’s west coast. Despite having no known connection to Barra, or even any reason to have heard of it at six years of age, Cameron constantly talked about his old life there, his old family (especially the person he called his ‘old mum’), and said that he missed them.

The detail was considerable. He said that his old dad was called Shane Robertson and that they lived in a white house near the beach and he could see planes landing on the beach from his bedroom window. The house had three toilets, and he complained that his Glasgow home only had one. He said the family had a big black car and a black and white dog.

When they arrived in Barra, Cameron’s new family, a team of film makers and psychologist Dr. Jim Tucker from Virginia University in the US, were astonished to find a white house which did indeed have three toilets and a bedroom where you could see planes landing on the beach. Cameron seemed to know the house once he got inside, but his excitement turned to disappointment when he realized his family wasn’t there.

Further research brought more dropped jaws: it transpired that a Robertson family had once owned the house. A surviving relative was tracked down who said that they sadly didn’t know of a Shane Robertson in the family history, but did have an old photograph of part of the family at the house. In the photograph were a black car and a black and white dog.

While explanations such as reincarnation and past lives are contentious, simple, everyday explanations are not necessarily the answer either. Dr. Jim Tucker believes that quantum physics has a role to play in such phenomenon.

The second story involves the phenomenon of ‘time slips’, where people are suddenly and unexpectedly transported to a random point in the past. The story I heard involves two middle-aged British couples on vacation driving through France in the 1970s. They stopped for the night at the kind of old-fashioned, rural hotel one would hope to find on vacation in France. But it turned out to be much more old-fashioned than it first appeared. There was no glass in the windows, no electricity and only candles for light, and when they went to pay the owner he said that the total for four people was only 19 francs – the next hotel cost them 247. (They said the total was a particularly nice surprise considering how nice the food and beer were.)

Before they left, the couples asked the owner which way to the Autoroute, something he had never heard of, and they noticed the historical looking uniforms on two policemen in the hotel bar who had popped in for a morning cognac.

A bit of research found that the policemen’s uniforms dated from around the turn of the century, and that in the early 1900’s 19 francs would have been the right price for their stay. Why the owner didn’t comment on their car and accepted modern money are obvious questions that the couples did ask. But they knew they hadn’t imagined the whole thing, and when they went back a few years later the hotel was just a crumbling building and locals didn’t remember a hotel ever being there. They did say, however, that the building next door had been a police station during the early 1900’s.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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John is a freelance writer from the UK, currently living in Japan and thoroughly enjoying their food and whiskey. His first novel, Three Little Boys, and his travel book, Following Football, are currently available on

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