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Visions of Our Youth: Children, Early Memories, and the Unexplained

What memories from your youth are you able to recall? Can you remember vividly some of the things that happened to you when you were a very young child? For many people, things that happened to them in their earliest years, particularly prior to age five, are represented by vague memories at best. However, there are occasionally people who claim to remember things from much earlier times in their lives.

I’ll be the first to admit to having such early memories myself. In fact, I can very easily recall explaining to my mother with certainty that my new younger sibling, which at the time was due in only a few weeks, would indeed turn out to be a baby boy (tests hadn’t indicated yet at that point whether I was to expect a brother or a sister). Being correct may not have exactly been a psychic feat, given that there was a 50% chance of success either way; nonetheless, my brother Caleb ended up being born on my third birthday, prompting several folks to ask about any odd “sibling synchronicity” we may have experienced over the years… as well as my parents and their uncanny sense of timing!

What is interesting here is that I wasn’t quite three years old myself when I sat in the living room of the family home, having this discussion with my mother, whose belly was bulging noticeably. This is certainly one of my earliest memories, although there are a few others from around age two that, while still present in my mind, aren’t quite as vivid as what we may somewhat humorously refer to as my first attempt at psychic prediction (hey, I was right, after all).

But recent studies have sought to understand not only how some early memories are recalled, but also how they change as we grow older. BBC News recently reported on this, citing experts from the Memorial University of Newfoundland, who asked 100 children between the ages of 4 to 13 “to recall three of their earliest memories and when they thought they had happened.”

The youngest children in the group were found to be able to recall memories from as early as 18 months, which were even verified by parents. After two years, however, the same children were again asked about their recollections, and found “that the younger children in the survey recalled different memories from those they had given before. Nor did they recall their earlier memories when presented with prompts.”

How might these sorts of circumstances potentially color the perceptions of strange phenomenon described over the years, or would they?

Many reports of alien abduction begin in the youth of claimed contactees, with people describing seeing lights outside their homes and late-night, bedroom encounters. Dr. Stephen Greer, founder of the Disclosure Project and author of the book Hidden Truth, Forbidden Knowledge described his own earliest experience with a UFO, which he viewed along with friends at the age of nine years old:

Little were we prepared for what suddenly appeared in the southwest sky: a silver, oval-shaped gleaming craft–obviously not an airplane or helicopter. It was seamless, totally silent–and unlike anything we’d ever seen. After hovering for a short time, it instantly vanished.

Greer goes on to discuss another experience later in life, akin to sleep paralysis, where he was visited by two lights, which he likened to being manifestations of God energy or some other spiritual presence. Following this encounter, Greer did describe being paralyzed while laying in bed for a short period, before healing “spontaneously” from an infection stemming from a sports injury. Could this later experience have been colored or influenced by the earlier memories of seeing a UFO at age nine? Perhaps more importantly, could the memories of the UFO have been colored by the later experience in hindsight?

It is questionable whether all abductees who claim to have had childhood encounters could have been experiencing an alteration of memories as time went on (and for more on childhood alien abductions, see my earlier article on this, as well as this one on more general childhood Forteana). However, the mind is well known to engage in various trickery of the senses, often leading to the perception that strangeness is afoot when, in reality, this may not be the case at all. Could it be that some people’s early memories are indeed “colored” in this way, questioning the notion that youthful encounters with the oddest elements of nature did indeed transpire? Or could some of these strange experiences be accurate, but the experiencers stopping to consider what may have actually transpired only years afterward in retrospect?

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Micah Hanks is a writer, podcaster, and researcher whose interests cover a variety of subjects. His areas of focus include history, science, philosophy, current events, cultural studies, technology, unexplained phenomena, and ways the future of humankind may be influenced by science and innovation in the coming decades. In addition to writing, Micah hosts the Middle Theory and Gralien Report podcasts.
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