Two-year-old James Leininger was a happy, contented toddler with doting parents. Andrea and Bruce Leininger had just settled themselves and their son into a new home in Louisiana, and life was peaceful—until late one night when they were jolted from sleep by James’s bloodcurdling screams. Rushing to his room, Andrea saw her son in the grip of a terrifying nightmare, “kicking frantically at his covers and screaming bloody murder.” For two months this scenario would repeat until finally, one night, as James’ weary parents again witnessed him “kicking and clawing . . . like he was trying to kick his way out of a coffin,” they heard him scream “Airplane crash! Plane on fire! Little man can’t get out!”

The Leiningers’ truly eerie tale of their son’s night terrors is chronicled in Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter Pilot, a strange story that makes a plausible case for the existence of past lives. While there have been many books, from silly to sensational, written about reincarnation and past-life memories, the Leiningers’ account is a straightforward, no-nonsense one. Bruce Leininger’s initial reaction to his son’s uncanny knowledge of and fascination with old airplanes—and the boy’s chilling assertion that he himself was the “little man” in the burning plane—was “bullshit!” But the nightmares would not go away, and the Leiningers methodically, with the help of the Internet, began an intensive investigation that led them to the ship Natoma Bay and the association of military men who had fought alongside fighter pilot James Huston.

From the first clues from young James about his past-life name, his memories of the crash and his war buddies, the Japanese planes and the Natoma, the Leiningers systematically verified and put the pieces together, with the help of Huston’s fellow (surviving) shipmates and family, into an undeniable catalog of facts that rocked their solid Christian beliefs. Soul Survivor presents strong evidence for reincarnation and demonstrates how the knowledge that life might be infinite can help to heal the fear and pain of human mortality.

Alison Hood is currently enjoying this lifetime as a writer living in California.

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