Emily Ruth Verona
Weird History: Were the Pollock Twins Reincarnated?
John and Florence Pollock had six children by the time they were living in Hexham, England during the 1950s. On May 5, 1957, tragedy struck when their two youngest children and only daughters were struck and killed by a car. 11-year-old Joanna and 6-year-old Jacqueline died on site while their young friend, who was also struck, died on his way to the hospital. It is believed that this might have been a suicide attempt on the part of the driver. Naturally, the Pollock family was devastated. But what happened next is unexplainable and hotly debated to this very day.
Jacqueline and Joanna Pollock
According to the Society for Psychical Research (PSI), John was fascinated by reincarnation, while Florence had been a skeptic. When Florence became pregnant the year after Joanna and Jacqueline's deaths, John was absolutely convinced that his daughters were about to return to him in the form of twins. He was sure of it.
Doctors, however, disagreed. Twins ran in neither family and there was no evidence based on the fetal heartbeat that there would be two babies. Nonetheless, on October 4, 1958 Florence gave birth to Gillian and Jennifer. Twin girls. It was said that Jennifer bore a birthmark that resembled a scar Jacqueline had been known to have as well as another birthmark that matched one of Jacqueline's birthmarks.
The girls were studied by Dr. Ian Stevenson, a Canadian-born psychiatrist and founder of the University of Virginia's Division of Perceptual Studies. Dr. Stevenson was deeply invested in the study of consciousness and in 1963 he interviewed the Pollock family at length, studying the twins and asking them questions. He continued to correspond with the Pollocks through the 1970s. He later wrote the book Children who Remember Previous Lives: A Question of Reincarnation, which included accounts from the Pollocks.
Gillian and Jennifer Pollock
John Pollock didn't just expect people to take his word for it that these were his reincarnated daughters. He backed it up with family anecdotes and specific instances in which Gillian and Jennifer seemed to know details of their sister's lives that had presumably never been shared with them.
"When the twins were about three, the parents brought out the toys that had belonged
to their deceased daughters and which had been boxed and stored in the attic. Gillian
claimed the doll that had belonged to Joanna and Jennifer claimed the one that had
belonged to Jacqueline…Florence Pollock occasionally overheard Gillian and Jennifer
discussing the details of the accident. Once she came across Gillian cradling Jennifer’s
head, saying, ‘The blood’s coming out of your eyes. That’s where the car hit you.’ John
Pollock recalled that when he identified the bodies, Jacqueline’s head had been
bandaged above the eyes. Gillian once pointed to Jennifer’s forehead birthmark and
said, ‘That is the mark Jennifer got when she fell on a bucket.’"
Indeed, the girls shared many mannerism with their deceased sisters. It was uncanny, but by no means definitive. Skeptics argued that the infants could have heard other family members discussing the day Joanna and Jacqueline died and were basing "recovered memories" off of these stories. The Pollocks claimed that they never spoke of the accident around the twins and did not talk to them about reincarnation until they were much older.
Writer Ian Wilson, who went on to write the book All in the Mind: Reincarnation, Hypnotic Regression, Stigmata, Multiple Personality, and Other Little-Understood Powers of the Mind, was the most vocal skeptic. He dismissed John Pollock's claims as well as statements provided by his young daughters.
Between the ages of five and seven, Gillian and Jennifer's memories from their "former lives" started to vanish. They remembered less and less. But the mark they make on the conversation surrounding reincarnation remains.
In 1980, the History Channel's series In Search of… (hosted by a mustachioed Leonard Nimoy) did an episode called "Past Lives" and featured the real-life Pollock sisters. As of the episode's taping, Gillian and Jennifer no longer believed themselves to be their older sisters reincarnated. You can watch the full episode (with the story of the Pollock twins starting at 9:49), here.
[Image Credit: In Search Of... screenshots included under Fair Use]