James: What I Know So Far

For those who don’t want to wade through a lot of other material, here’s what I know so far about James.

James was probably born in England around 1810 because I remember being a young man at the time of Queen Victoria’s coronation.  Rochester is a good match for where he lived as a young man in the 1830s.

He served in the military and I suspect he spent time in India (much like Jack did about 60 years later).  The name “Chundaree” rattles around in my mind (I checked it out, there was some significant action there during James’ day) but specific memories elude me.  If the dream I had a while ago is correct, he was discharged dishonorably.  This dream gave me both the name “James” and an accurate memory of a 19th century military barracks.

I have a vague memory of having punched someone so hard they died.  This may have figured into James’ decision to become a sailor.

He made port in the northeastern US.  New York is highly likely.  Boston perhaps.  The detail that clued me into a northeastern port was a dream I had about a floating sailor’s chapel of a type that was common in that region in those days.  I don’t think he was involved with blockade running during the Civil War and remember nothing of southern ports.  I do remember a stop in Argentina, but only the faintest flicker of a gaucho’s boots of a style I traced to the mid-19th century. From there he sailed round the horn on a sailing ship.

The rest is a blank until San Francisco.  I remembered traipsing around Chinatown specifically (probably up to no good).  Then there was another memory from further up the coast, of having survived a shipwreck and staring down at a paddle steamer lying on its side in the surf below the cliffs of Marin or Sonoma County.  I confirmed that this stretch of water was indeed a bit of a graveyard for paddle steamers in those days.

I suspect I may have made it to Portland but I have no specific memory, only a nagging familiarity from old photographs of the ramshackle construction down by the old riverfront, long before they built all that nice park land.  If I did come here all those years ago, strange that I should settle here.

Then somehow, I remember being in France during the Paris Commune.  Exactly why or how I got there is a mystery.  All I know is that there were a number of Englishmen there at the time, all of whom survived the collapse of the commune as far as I’m aware.

The last clear memories are of working as a stagehand in a small opera house, the location of which I haven’t been able to pin down.  It was an old building even then.  Watching a production of “The Magic Flute” performed with costumes and staging based on the traditional interpretations of that opera brought back a flood of sense and sight memories, including the flare of a limelight, starting orange and then glowing bright and starlike; I confirmed this.  Verdi’s “Nabucco” is another opera I remember being performed there.  I was excited to confirm that it was common in those days for sailors to become stagehands.  This was probably the birth of my love of opera, which has stayed with me across several lifetimes.

The death I saw under regression was rather pointless.  It involved getting drunk at a party for the crew after finishing a production and taking a tumble into a canal.  This would have been before 1877 since Jack was born circa June of that year; for the sake of argument, let’s say circa 1875.  James was in his 60s at the time and to date this is the life where I probably lived the longest out of all the lives I’ve remembered.

I had suspected for a while that maybe he’d been hanged, since I have an extremely strong feeling that at least one of my lives ended that way; however, I can find no reference to anyone who sounds quite enough like our James having been hanged in England between 1860 and 1880.  If he killed a man, he got away with it.  It makes the end of my subsequent life- blown to bits on the Western Front- seem that much more tragically fitting; perhaps we do pay for all our crimes one way or another.

Memory Fragment

I believe this happened at Ypres, around April 1915.  I remember a man in a French uniform running toward our line shouting “Mon ami!  Mon ami!” but that was all he said, and it sounded a bit odd when he said it.

The sergeant gave the order to the Lewis Gunner to take him down, and the man fell only a few feet from our trench.

We discovered a gold signet ring on his hand.  Seems it had Gothic text on it but I don’t know what it said.  I believe it was something unrelated to the military but recognizably German.  That text is how we confirmed the sergeant’s suspicions that this was a German soldier in disguise.

I feel strangely numb about this memory, more than I would expect to seeing a man cut down by machine gun fire like that.  The only reason I can think of that I feel nothing about this incident is that I was completely uninvolved in this man’s death except as a witness, I didn’t know him, and it was expected that we would shoot an enemy soldier coming straight at our lines anyway.

I get a strange feeling from memories like these because I don’t know whether to believe them or not.  I can’t wait till they upload the 2 KSLI regimental diaries, since that’s the sort of incident you’d expect to be noted somewhere.  It was a bit surprising though since it seems like such a desperate tactic.  I didn’t think the Germans were that frantic to break the stalemate (we were doing much worse than they were at breaking it, considering they pierced our lines several times and we lost about a quarter mile of the Ypres Salient).  Maybe he was a defector?  I don’t recall seeing a gun in his hands.  

Oh God…


The German soldier whose body they find…  Let’s see, went to school a short while, then put to work until his mid-30s as a laborer…

He’s the German version of who I was.

We really were killing our brothers.

Oh God…

That’s no time at all from feeling mildly uneasy to exactly the sort of emotions I was trying to avoid the last couple of days.  Already “face your fears” feels like the worst advice I could have given myself.  But consider the alternative…

(EDIT) I can kiss my attempt to stop being melodramatic goodbye too.  Damn it all!


Did I Remember a Past Life in 1914?

I’ve had a chance to sort it out and here’s what I’ve got so far.

What I know for sure:

1. My memories of a previous life correspond well to those of one John Harris (1877-1915).

2. John was a private in the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, based out of Shrewsbury

3. That in Sept. 1914 (when John is known to have enlisted) there were regiments closer to his home in Hereford, but instead he chose one based more than 50 miles away in a town where I can find no record of direct relatives living at that time.

4. I also have memories of a Romanesque abbey in ruins which I can’t quite place; I had seen similar ruins before but not exactly like this one.

5. There are two abbeys of a Romanesque type near Shrewsbury. 

6. I have had possible memories of a life in the 13th or 14th century.  These memories have not been confirmed or traced to a specific individual yet.

7. One of these memories involves becoming a monk against the wishes of my family, and being from a family of means.   The abbey where I became a monk was also Romanesque.

8. There was a family by the name of Harris in the late Middle Ages in the Shrewsbury area, but I cannot trace them back further than about the 15th century with the records available freely online.

9. “John Harris” was among the names I came across among the Shrewsbury Harrises, so if I did live before in the Middle Ages, it’s possible I had the same name in that life.

What I strongly inferred from intuition but have not confirmed:

1. That I was the third son of a noble house meant by order of birth to be in the military in the Middle Ages, and that I had chosen to be a monk to get out of that obligation.

2. That I was John Harris in my most recent previous life.

3. That I remembered that medieval life in 1914 while visiting an abbey near Shrewsbury and that this influenced my decision not only to enlist, but to join the KSLI in particular rather than enlisting closer to home and family.

4. That I learned Received Pronunciation in Hereford, and that after leaving the farm I took work in a position that required me to look and sound posh, but paid little (e.g. a butler or waiter).

5. That I regretted my decision to not become a soldier in my life as a monk, and that I had ambitions of becoming an officer and held the misguided hope that my age and my efforts to learn received pronunciation would mark me as a candidate for becoming one.

Ideas that I’ve so far disfavored:

1. That I had a mistress in Shrewsbury.  This was based only on intuition and the vague idea that a woman was there with me in the old abbey in 1914.  I have since realized that it could just as easily have been my wife if there was anyone with me at all.

2. That the ruined abbey was somewhere in Herefordshire or Somerset.  A search reveals most of the ruined abbeys in those counties are of a later Gothic style (including the famous Glastonbury and Tintern abbeys).

3. That the ruined abbey was actually a childhood memory from this life of a plantation near Charleston, SC.  None of the plantations (including Mepkin Abbey, which was built on the site of an old plantation) have the sort of architecture I recall seeing, particularly the columns and rounded archways.

I’m not sure what to think, or how to dig up anything more on that medieval life aside from maybe hiring a researcher (which is sadly out of my budget).  I have a feeling the records I need to fill in a lot of these gaps are tucked away in dusty libraries somewhere in England and it’s very discouraging.  If I can confirm the details of two past lives, that alone will be remarkable, but it seems I may have just gotten very lucky with the records on John.

Birth Marks

I’m very anxious for the day I can actually afford to do some research on Pvt. Harris (currently I’m still looking for work and every penny goes into surviving while I shift my focus toward going back to work on my degree again next January).

When I do learn something, I will be taking special care to note any details about his injuries I can find, and if I can find a photograph I will look for evidence of any blemish that resembles mine.

Dr. Ian Stephenson was the first to notice this phenomenon, and he noted many cases where birth marks and deformities corresponded with injuries sustained in a previous life.  While he made no presumptions about the cause of these instances, he duly documented every case he came across.  Here’s a documentary from 1992 that includes an interview with Dr. Stephenson.

Among the more unusual marks and quirks on me are a large birthmark on the back of my right leg, a somewhat oddly-shaped left ear (the helix right in front of the scapha appears almost as if it were cut away slightly, and there is a mysterious hole at the base of the helix that resembles a piercing), and what feels like a dent or an irregularity where the parietal and occipital bones of my skull meet (in fact it’s somewhat uncomfortable to put any amount of pressure there).

If I learn Pvt. Harris had any trauma to the right leg, left ear, or back of the head, this will be a substantial case.  But more than likely, I’ll get some brief writeup, like “Killed by sniper fire” with no further mention of what happened.

More Discoveries

Thanks to Mick at britishwargraves.co.uk, I finally have a photo of Pvt. Harris’ grave.  Because those photos belong to the site’s owner to distribute as he wishes (He’ll send you one for free), I won’t post it myself, but I can now describe the full inscription:

(KSLI Regimental Crest)

7324 Private

J. Harris

King’s Shropshire L.I.

8th July 1915 Age 39


He Did His Duty

What’s interesting is that the information I’d gotten from various other war grave sites- about his parents’ names and the fact that they were from Yeovil- is absent on the headstone, so I can only conclude that there is some other record which mentions this information.

There’s also a chip on the left side of the headstone, though available information suggests that these headstones were placed after the war (when, excactly, I don’t know) so it’s unlikely that this was from the fighting that erupted around 1918 when Houpelines fell to the Germans.

Mick also tells me that he knows of no other cemeteries in France or Belgium that have the same style of fence as Ferme Buterne.  Given that the tree is right next to Pvt. Harris’ grave, I’m reasonably sure now that it’s him despite the differences between the vision and the actual site.  Not bad for finding a 6’x 2′ grave 9,000 miles away in a place I’ve never been to.

I’m still not entirely sure if this was a vision from a past life or just a strange vibration I picked up on that told the story of a restless soldier who died far from home.  Perhaps I’ll never know for sure, but I think it’s time to devote more energy on learning what I can about Pvt. J. Harris of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry… I just hope time has not erased all memory if his life beyond this single cold marker.

More Discoveries

Hello, anyone who actually reads this.

It’s been a slow week or two and I haven’t been thinking about my recovered memories much.  It was wearing me out to consider the weight of cruelty that the Great War brought out and it made me ill to think that my soul might bear that stain.

However, thanks to a friend in the UK, I came across some information that was of interest.

The 77mm Feldkannone and its FKG11 shells seem to be a fair match for the vision of my possible death in four crucial ways:

1. The FKG11 was a high-explosive round.

2. Multiple fuses were available for the munitions used by this gun, including an impact fuse and a time fuse.

3. They were in the German arsenal at the start of the war, which makes a date of 1915 possible.

4. They had a slow rate of fire, which explains the intervals of several seconds between reports that I recall (versus later in the war when by some accounts shells rained down like steel hail).

Yet another tantalizing lead.  If I discover Pvt. Harris was killed by shell fire, especially if it was at night, then that would strongly hint that I was him in a previous life when considered with the other evidence.  At this point I don’t think anything will ever be “proved” but if I do learn who I was in that life, then at least his story- my story -will be told.

More about the 77mm Feldkannone and its munitions here: http://www.landships.freeservers.com/feldkanone_96_na.htm