In some cases of spontaneous past-life memory, children recall having hidden money or other valuables in their previous lives and show where these may be found. If no one but the previous person knew where the treasure was buried, it is difficult to explain such cases as the results of parental shaping of behaviour or other normal means. The desire to communicate the location of ‘buried treasure’ is a type of ‘unfinished business’, which reincarnation researchers have found to be an important factor in bringing past-life memory to conscious awareness.
- Examples of ‘Buried Treasure’ in Reincarnation Cases
- Explaining ‘Buried Treasure’ in Reincarnation Cases
Examples of ‘Buried Treasure’ in Reincarnation Cases
‘Buried treasure’ is a term introduced by researcher Ian Stevenson for money or other valuables secreted by the previous person of a reincarnation case in a location known only to him or her, and then pointed out by the case subject who appears to remember that person’s life.
Stevenson noted that banks are unavailable to most Asians living in the villages where many reincarnation cases develop. For that reason, people place coins or other negotiable instruments in a bottle or tin and bury it in the ground, hide it in a wall, or conceal it in some other fashion. Often they tell no one else where they have placed these assets until shortly before they die, but sometimes they die without having informed anyone else. ‘Buried treasure’ cases develop under the latter circumstance.1 The term ‘buried treasure’ is sometimes generalised to include any items whose hiding place was known only to the previous person whose life a case subject recalls.2
Chinese Boy (300s)
The earliest example of ‘buried treasure’ in the generalised sense occurred in a Chinese case recorded in the third century CE. A five-year-old boy asked his nanny for a gold ring with which he used to play. The nanny told him that he had never had any such thing, whereupon he went to a mulberry tree near a neighbour’s wall and pulled out a gold ring. The surprised neighbour announced that the ring had been lost by her deceased child.3
Syrian Druze Boy (1800s)
A Syrian Druze boy was the first to mention literally buried treasure, in the 1800s. Physician John Wortabet recounted the story, one of many incidences of past-life memory he heard about during his time in Syria.
A boy from a mountain village claimed that he had lived before as a wealthy man in Damascus. When taken to that city, he led the way to a certain house, where he recognized several people, among them a woman he said was his widow. After talking about his memories for a while, convincing the previous family he had indeed been their husband and father, he asked the widow if she had found the money he had buried in the cellar. When she said she had not, he led the way there and dug it up. It was found to be of exactly the amount and in the same denominations he said it was.4
Vishwa Nash / Bishen Chand Kapoor (India, 1920s)
In the 1920s, an Indian lawyer, KKN Sahay, published reports of seven reincarnation cases he had investigated. One of them was that of Vishwa Nath, whose case had not been solved before he learned about it, and he was able to record the boy’s statements about the previous life before trying to verify them. He took him back to the town he said he had lived, and they located his previous family. The things Vishwa Nath had been saying turned out to be correct for a man named Laxmi Narain. Laxmi Narain had inherited a fortune and had been a profligate playboy before he died of illness in his 30s.
Stevenson reinvestigated this case in the 1960s and reported it under the name Bishen Chand Kapoor. He learned that Laxmi Narain’s father had shown him where he had a left a large cache of gold coins before he died, but Laxmi Narain had not passed on this information before his own death. Stevenson was told that Bishen Chand led his past-life mother to the room in which the coins were later found, although it is not clear that he pointed out the location in which they were hidden.5
Mahmut Ekici (Turkey, 1920s)
Mahmut Ekici was born in 1923 in a village near Adana, Turkey. He was identified as the reincarnation of a cousin, Mahmut Namik, on the basis of a birthmark and two dreams his mother had shortly after his birth. Later he related a few memories of his cousin’s life and death.
Mahmut Namik had been a resistance fighter against French occupying forces following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire during World War I. He was stabbed to death about 1921, perhaps by a fellow Arab abetted by the French. The partisans fighting the French usually carried daggers, which they buried when not needed, and someone asked Mahmut Ekici whether as Mahmut Namik he had buried a dagger somewhere. He said he had hidden a dagger under a pomegranate tree. He repeated this assertion so often that finally some villagers went to the place and found a dagger buried there. No other living person had known about it.6
Shanti Devi (India, 1930s)
An Indian girl, Shanti Devi, became famous in the 1930s for her past-life memories, whose verity was probed by a government committee. She had talked a lot about her life as a woman named Lugdi Devi, and her father had confirmed her memories through correspondence, but she had not been to the town where she said she had lived. The committee accompanied her there so that they could observe her reactions.
Shanti Devi recognized several people known to Lugdi Devi. She led the way to Lugdi Devi’s former home and showed that she was familiar with the inside of home. Whilst in the house, she said she would show where Lugdi Devi had hidden money. She went to Lugdi Devi’s old room and indicated a loose floorboard. When raised, this board revealed a deep cavity, which turned out to be empty. She had had 150 rupees deposited there, Shanti Devi insisted. Her past-life husband then admitted that he had discovered the money after Lugdi Devi’s death and retrieved it.7
Indian Boy (1960s)
In the 1960s, an Indian writer, Krishnanand, saw a ten-year-old boy without a history of seizures convulse and fall to the ground following a lecture on the virtues of right living. When the boy rose, he was in a trance, and in that state led the way to what he said was his home, recognized the woman who came to the door as his wife, and answered questions sufficient to convince her of his identity. He indicated where the previous person had secreted some money in a pillar by the door. When the woman left to get refreshments for her visitors, the boy emerged from his trance without any awareness of what he had said and done.8
Maung Zaw Thein Win (Burma, 1960s)
Maung Zaw Thein Win was a Burmese boy who identified himself as the reincarnation of a man who had died after falling from the roof of a pagoda. Maung Zaw Thein recalled the man’s name and sufficient details for his family to be traced, and his memories of the man’s life were found to be correct in all respects. In addition, he claimed to recall the period between death and rebirth. He said that during this intermission he had appeared to the man’s widow in a dream and communicated where he had left money wrapped in a white handkerchief. The widow confirmed that she had had such a dream, which included the detail that the handkerchief was in a box containing basket work, leading her to look for and find the money in that place.9
The Boy Who Knew Where His Body Lay: A Spurious Case
All the previous cases were carefully observed or investigated and there is no good reason to doubt that the events transpired as described. This is not true of another case, one which unfortunately has received a great deal of attention on the Internet and in social media.
The story first appeared in a book by German writer Trutz Hardo, who says he heard about it from a physician working on the Golan Heights in Israel. According to the tale, a Druze boy was born with a mark that stretched from his upper forehead to the center of his skull. When he was three years old, he told his family that it was the result of having been struck with an axe in his previous life. No one in his village had heard of such a murder, but on the assumption that it had occurred nearby, a group set out with him on a tour of the area a few months later.
When they came to a certain village, the boy said that is where he had lived. Suddenly he recalled his past-life name and the name of the man who had killed him. An elderly man recognized the name he gave for himself as that of a man who had disappeared four years earlier. The boy led the way to his former house. He approached a man in the crowd that had gathered round and accused him of being the killer. The boy added that he knew where the man had buried his body, and led the way to a pile of stones in a field. A skeleton was discovered under the stones and the murderer confessed to the crime. The boy then pointed out where the axe was buried and it too was found where he said it was.10
The power of this story derives from the boy’s showing the location of the skeleton and the axe, which no one but the murderer and his victim would have known (the victim on the assumption that he had observed the scene after his death). The story has features similar to many documented reincarnation cases and is obviously based on them. However, inquiries among the Druze have not turned up anything resembling it. Perhaps there was a real case at the basis of the story but Hardo either did not understand what the physician related to him or misremembered it. In any event, it is remarkable that this story has attracted so much attention when it has so little substance.11
Explaining ‘Buried Treasure’ in Reincarnation Cases
Parental Influence, Misreporting, Fraud
Sceptics of reincarnation cases often allege that parents shape their children’s behaviour to conform to their preconceived beliefs in and about reincarnation. However, that argument is problematical when applied to cases of ‘buried treasure’: When neither the parents nor anyone else living knew where the treasure the children talked about was buried, it is hard to understand the basis on which parents could guide their children’s statements and behaviors.
The next sceptical recourse is to charge that the cases have not been correctly reported, due to memory errors, or even that they are fraudulent. However, most of these ‘buried memory’ cases were investigated and documented by outside observers. Investigation revealed that the story of the Druze boy on the Golan Heights lacked foundation, but several of the other cases have stood up to close scrutiny. In fact, Vishwa Nath’s memories of the past life were recorded in writing before they were confirmed and Shanti Devi’s identification of the place Lugdi Devi had secreted money was observed by a government committee. Krishnanand, also, personally observed the boy he wrote about.
When all ‘normal’ explanations are shown untenable as explanations for reincarnation cases, some critics resort to alternative ‘paranormal’ ones. Perhaps the children who identify where treasure is buried have located it through clairvoyance. However, it is not easy to see how clairvoyance would help in several cases of this type.
Savitri Devi Pathak remembered that she had buried money near a drain in her former house. When she went there, she correctly pointed out the place where the money had been hidden, although it had been discovered and dug up after the previous person’s death.12 The first thing Nasruddin Shah said was that he had money buried ‘under the door’, but it is not clear whether it was found there or not. One of Stevenson’s informants said yes, another said no.13 Sunita Singh recalled having buried money in a field, but was unable to say where.14
These cases in some respects provide more evidence of past-life memory than those cases in which money was found in the places children said they hid it in their former lives, because it is less easy to explain them by the children’s clairvoyance. If the children had become aware of the placement of the money through clairvoyance, one would not expect them to have faulty memories of the exact location or for the money to have been removed even before they were born.15
If ‘buried treasure’ cases represent true past-life memory, they are examples of something researchers since Stevenson have called ‘unfinished business’. Stevenson noticed many cases in his large collection at the University of Virginia had evidence of some sort of unfinished or continuing business.16 The desire to communicate to widows or others where valuables are hidden is one way this manifests.
Importantly, this desire demonstrates that the psychology of the previous person is key to understanding why past-life memories force themselves into the conscious awareness of a case subject, contrary to the idea advanced by some critics that the motive for past-life memory lies entirely on the side of the case subject.17
James G Matlock
De Groot, J. J. M. (1901). The Religious System of China, Vol. 4. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill.
Haraldsson, E., & Matlock, J. G. (2016). I Saw a Light and Came Here: Children’s Experiences of Reincarnation. Hove, United Kingdom: White Crow Books.
Hardo, T. (2005). Children Who Have Lived Before: Reincarnation Today. London: Rider.
Krishnanand (1968). Reminiscences. Bhadran, Gujarat, India: Krishnanand Shanti Ashram.
Lönnerstrand, S. (1998). I Have Lived Before: The True Story of the Reincarnation of Shanti Devi. Huntsville, AR: Ozark Mountain Publishers.
Sahay, K. K. N. . Reincarnation: Verified Cases of Rebirth after Death. Bareilly, India: Gupta.
Stevenson, I. (1975). Cases of the Reincarnation Type. Volume I: Ten Cases in India. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.
Stevenson, I. (1997). Reincarnation and Biology: A Contribution to the Etiology of Birthmarks and Birth Defects (2 vols.). Westport, CT: Praeger.
Wortabet, J. (1860). Researches into the Religions of Syria. London: James Nisbet.
- 1. Stevenson (1997), vol. 1, p. 939n.
- 2. Matlock (2017).
- 3. De Groot (1904), p. 143.
- 4. Wortabet (1860) pp. 308-309n.
- 5. Sahay (1927), pp. 9-15; Stevenson (1975), pp. 194-195.
- 6. Stevenson (1997), vol. 1, pp. 273-274.
- 7. Lönnerstrand (1998), pp. 72-73.
- 8. Krishnanand (1968).
- 9. Stevenson (1997), vol. 1, p. 255.
- 10. Hardo (2005).
- 11. Haraldsson & Matlock (2016), pp. 255-256.
- 12. Stevenson (1997),vol. 1., p. 566.
- 13. Stevenson (1997), vol. 1, pp. 400, 409.
- 14. Stevenson (1997), vol. 1, p. 395.
- 15. Matlock (2017).
- 16. Stevenson (2001), pp. 212-213.
- 17. Matlock (2017).