What happens to us when we die has always been a mystery that has caught the imagination since time unremembered, and there are just as many ideas on what the answer is as there are cultures that believe that this life is not the end. One very common idea is that we pass on not into some other dimension or higher realm, but that we are reborn into new bodies in a never-ending cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, the concept we know as reincarnation. Is there any truth to this idea? Are we indeed recycled once again into new bodies and new lives upon our passing? There are various cases that seem to strongly suggest that reincarnation is indeed possible, and one of the more compelling is a famous case of two twin girls who have gone on to be one of the most compelling such accounts out there.
The strange story begins in the quaint and quiet town of Hexham, in Northumberland, England, with the family of John and Florence Pollock and their two young daughters Joanna, 11, and Jacqueline, 6. By all accounts they were a happy family and relatively well-off considering their successful grocery and milk delivery business, and the two girls were said to be the best of friends and inseparable. Things couldn’t have been better for their idyllic life, yet on May 7, 1957, tragedy struck when as the two Pollock children were on their way to church with a friend they were hit by a car driven by a local woman who had taken an overdose of aspirin and phenobarbitone in a bid to kill herself. The two Pollock children were killed instantly in the accident, reportedly sent flying through the air “like cricket balls,” and the other, a boy named Anthony, died later at the hospital.
The devastating news was widely covered in England at the time, and the two parents of Joanna and Jacqueline were inconsolable over their loss. While Florence Pollock spun into a deep depression in the void conjured up by the loss, the highly religious John maintained hope that his daughters would somehow return to them, and he even reported having a vision of them coming back to be reborn to them in the form of twins. He told of this vision to his wife, who was trying to move on, not religious in the slightest, and did not for one second believe in reincarnation or Heaven, and the two were practically divorced over the ensuing arguments over it.
Despite this ordeal and all of the fighting, Florence would become pregnant the following year, and on on October 4, 1958 gave birth to healthy twin girls, spookily just as John had predicted. It was all especially odd since their doctor had told them it was to be only a single birth based on the heartbeat signature of the fetus, and neither one of the parents had had any history of twins in their families. The twins, Gillian and Jennifer, were considered by John to be a sort of miracle, and he truly believed that his dead daughters had come back to them as he had said, citing as evidence an odd birth mark on Jennifer’s right eye that eerily resembled a scar that Jacqueline had had in the same exact spot, as well as a matching round birthmark on her waist. Although they were identical twins, Gillian lacked any such marks, making it quite unusual.
The family moved from Hexham to a town called Whitley Bay when the twins were just a few months old, and it was here where things would start to get strange. As soon as they were old enough to talk the twins began asking for and describing specific toys that Joanna and Jacqueline had owned, even calling their dolls by name, which was rather bizarre as the parents had boxed those toys up to store away in the attic and the twins had never seen them before, and indeed were not even aware that they had had two sisters who had died. When the toys were brought down from the attic each of the twins instinctively collected the correct respective ones that had belonged to Johanna and Jacqueline without hesitating and without any mistake, all the while proclaiming that they were “Santa’s gifts,” which was also correct.
Other strangeness was that the two twins liked the same foods that Joanna and Jacqueline had, had the same respective personalities, mannerisms, and behaviors, liked the same games, and Gillian once pointed at the birthmark on Jennifer’s forehead and accurately said that it was where Jacqueline had hit her head on a bucket when she was younger, leaving a scar. There was also the weird fact that the twins even had the same gait as their dead sisters when they walked and even the same general builds, with Gillian being somewhat more slender as Johanna had been, and Jennifer a bit more stocky, as had been the case with Jacqueline. In addition, Jacqueline had been having trouble learning to write at the time of her death because she had tended to hold her pencil upright in her fist, which was the exact same habit that Jennifer developed when she too began to learn how to write, and she would not shake the habit until she was 7.
Such oddities continued on over the years, with the girls eerily giving details of things that only their parents and Joanna and Jacqueline could have known, and rather spookily they were said to be terrified of passing cars, to the point that it was difficult to cajole them into crossing the street. The mother, Florence, once overheard the two girls discussing the actual accident that had killed Joanna and Jacqueline with details they could not have known. One thing they would supposedly often do was that Jennifer would rest her head on Gillian’s lap and Jennifer would say there was blood coming from her eyes. When the family took a trip back to Hexham the twins knew their way around and could accurately point out landmarks by name and the school they remembered attending, Joanna and Jacqueline's school, even though they would have been too young to have remembered any of these details when they had last been there and no one had ever told them about these things.
These stories were unusual enough to make it into local newspapers, which caught the attention of psychologist Dr. Ian Stevenson, who was highly interested in evidence of reincarnation in children. He began to make frequent visits to the Pollocks, interviewing them and examining the birthmarks and he would discover some interesting details. For instance, the twins were identical, meaning that they came from a single egg, yet they had slightly different builds that matched their dead sisters who had not been twins, and the fact that Jennifer had an unusual indented birthmark matching a past life injury of Jacqueline, whereas Gillian did not, was difficult to explain genetically.
Interestingly, these apparent memories of the twins’ past lives began to fade at around the age of 5, after which they led relatively normal lives without being haunted by the past, yet Stevenson would keep contact with the family for years, all the way up to Florence’s death in 1979 and John’s death in 1985. Although the twins grew up generally not remembering any more of their supposed past lives, in 1981 Gillian had a series of lucid visions in which she remembered playing in a sandbox in the town of Whickham as Joanna had done when she was around 3, and was able to perfectly describe the area even though Gillian had never been to Whickham. These powerful visions passed, but showed that the memories were still lurking there somewhere deep in her psyche. Indeed, Stevenson was so enthralled with the Pollock case that he would write a case report on it in a volume of Reincarnation and Biology: A Contribution to the Etiology of Birthmarks and Birth Defects, as well as mention it in 1987 in a book called Children Who Remember Previous Lives: A Question of Reincarnation. He would go on to write a total of 12 books on the subject of reincarnation and study thousands of such cases in children.
The case of the Pollock twins has been held up by many as a one of the most convincing cases for proof of reincarnation there is, but it has been met with its share of skepticism as well. One theory is that John Pollock, who was an avid believer in reincarnation and had been convinced that his dead daughters would come back to him even before the twins were born, must have mentioned things related to Johanna and Jacqueline to his new daughters, which they would have picked up on, if even subconsciously. Relatives and family friends could have also talked about the girls and their deaths in the presence of the twins. However, John and Florence, who herself did not believe in reincarnation and was baffled by the twins, were adamant right up until their deaths that they had never mentioned anything about Joanna and Jacqueline to the twins until they were much older.
It is important to note that Stevenson himself considered the possibility that the twins could have been influenced by what their parents said, but he eventually came to the conclusion that it would have been impossible for them to so exactly mold the behaviors and recollections of their twins to match so closely to their dead sisters through this alone. It was also noted that Florence Pollock did not believe in reincarnation at all, yet she witnessed the same puzzling phenomena as everyone else, meaning that in her case this wasn’t just all testimony colored by John’s belief in reincarnation. Stevenson also pointed out that the birthmarks provided physical evidence that something strange was going on, and indeed birthmarks matching injuries, scars or other birthmarks of past lives are a fairly common, recurring phenomenon with reincarnation cases. In the end, despite the criticism, Stevenson strongly believed that the evidence, when coupled with hundreds of other similar cases, were beyond rational explanation and undoubtedly pointed to reincarnation being real, and he believed the Pollock case to be genuine.
It is unknown just what is going on with the case of the Pollock twins, or just what it means for the case for reincarnation. It is very intriguing but we are still left to wonder what it all means. Were these two girls the re-embodiement of Joanna and Jacqueline Pollock? Does this constitute some strong evidence that we are indeed in a cycle of death and rebirth? No one really knows, but it remains one of the more interesting cases of supposed reincarnation there is.