In post-war Britain the concept of reincarnation was considered to be an alien idea peculiar to the exotic Eastern philosophies of Hinduism, Shintoism and Buddhism. So when, in 1962, a Catholic father announced that his daughters were living proof of the existence of reincarnation it was seen as a challenge to the authority of the Church which had declared the concept heretical.
John Pollock had lost his first two daughters, Joanna, 11, and Jacqueline, 6, in May 1957 when a driver lost control of her car and careered into the children near their home in Hexham, Northumberland. Pollock assumed that God had taken his girls to punish him for believing in reincarnation, but a year later, when his wife learnt that she was pregnant, Pollock became convinced that the souls of the two girls would be reborn in order to demonstrate that the church was wrong to deny the natural process of death and rebirth. When his wife’s gynaecologist informed the couple that they were to expect a single child Pollock assured him he was wrong – there would be twins, both girls. On 4 October1958, he was proved correct.
The twins were monozygotic (meaning they developed from a single egg) yet the second twin Jennifer, was born with a thin white line on her forehead in the same place that her dead sister Jacqueline had sustained a wound while falling from her bicycle. Her parents were also puzzled by the appearance of a distinctive birth mark on her left hip, identical to the one that Jacqueline had.
The girls grew up in Whitley Bay, but when they were three and a half their father took them back to Hexham and was astonished to hear the girls point out places they had never seen in this life and talk about where they had played, even though they had left the town before they could walk. They knew when they were approaching their school although it was out of sight, and they recognized their old home as they passed it although their father had said nothing.
Six months later, they were given Joanna and Jacqueline’s toy box. They identified all their dead sisters’ dolls by name. They were also observed playing a game that their mother, Florence Pollock, found disturbing. Jennifer lay on the floor with her head in Gillian’s lap, play-acting that she was dying and her sister would say, ‘The blood’s coming out of your eyes. That’s where the car hit you.’ Neither parent had discussed the accident with the children. On another occasion their mother heard them screaming in the street. When she came out she saw them clutching each other and looking terrified in the direction of a stationary car with its motor running. The girls were crying, ‘The car! It’s coming at us!’
The possibility that they might be the reincarnation of their elder, deceased sisters brought no comfort to their mother who could not reconcile the evidence of her own eyes with the Church’s edict that belief in reincarnation was a mortal sin. For this reason she made an excellent impartial witness. To Florence Pollock’s relief, however, the incident with the car marked the end of the affair. At the age of five the girls abruptly ceased to seem conscious of the connection with what seemed to be their former lives and developed into normal, healthy children.
This is consistent with a belief that at the age of five all children lose their link with the other world. At this point, to borrow an expression from the esoteric tradition, ‘the veil comes down’. Children cease to play with imaginary friends and become grounded in the ‘real’ world. And perhaps something of the magic of childhood and worldly innocence dies with it. As with most evidence for reincarnation, the case of the twin girls rests heavily on the personal testimony of the family, and many researchers do not view this as entirely reliable.