Monday, December 7, 2009

Gillian and Jennifer Pollock

I have now selected the case of Jennifer and Gillian Pollock, a case studied by Dr. Ian Stevenson who is a parapsychologist. He is very well revered and has documented many cases and this will be the first case from Stevenson that we look at. This case was documented in England, a location that typically has few reported cases of reincarnation--something that should be noted for skeptics who believe that reincarnation is only found among Eastern countries who have strong faith in reincarnation. Stevenson studied not only Eastern countries, but also in Western countries or countries that have a less than strong belief in reincarnation: that is one factor that drew Stevenson to the case of the twin girls.

This case starts out examining the history of the Pollock family. First, Mr. and Mrs. Pollock had had two daughters prior to having the twins and these daughters were eleven (Joanna) and six (Jacqueline) when they died due to an automobile striking them while they were walking. The sisters were very close and the parents grieved greatly when this tragedy happened; however, Mrs. Pollock became pregnant one year after the accident and the father insisted it would be twin girls despite doctors disagreeing. When Mrs. Pollock did give birth it was twin girls who they name Jennifer and Gillian (with Gillian being the elder twin).

Some things to be noted are that the girls were identical twins, but had different birthmarks that corresponded to the birthmarks on the bodies of Jacqueline and Joanna. For example, Jennifer had a birthmark on her forehead in the same location that Jacqueline had a scar. As well, she had a birthmark in the same location Jacqueline had had one on her waist(Stevenson 71). Now, Stevenson does admit this does not necessarily mean that Jennifer is the reincarnation of her deceased sister Jacqueline, but he feels that birthmarks can play an important role in reincarnation cases. He digresses though, saying that something could have happened in gestation, but since Jennifer and Gillian are identical twins, it is interesting that Gillian lacks these marks. In a review of Stevenson in the Journal of American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry William Bernett writes that Stevenson is "a distinguished psychiatrist and scholar" (Bernett 1022) and also discusses the significance of birthmarks on children who claim to be reincarnated matching up with the person they claimed to be in a past life.

Another thing that makes this case probable is that when Gillian and Jennifer were young, around age two, they began requesting toys that had belonged to their older and deceased sisters. This is interesting because Mr. and Mrs. Pollock had never brought out these toys and did not discuss the deceased daughters. This means that Gillian and Jennifer at age two had no means of knowing about these toys (Stevenson 71). Another fact Dr. Ian Stevenson noted in this case was that the family had moved when the twins were one, leaving the area that they had raised Joanna and Jacqueline in. They did return to visit when the twins were about four and the twins spontaneously announced they wanted to visit a specific park and mentioned attributes of the park, despite having never been to the park before (Stevenson 72).

In this study, it was also discussed how the twins took on behaviors of the sisters such as Jennifer (who was thought to be the reincarnation of Jacqueline) being codependent on her sister, Gillian (the reincarnation of elder sister Joanna).

I find this case to be intriguing because it is a case of identical twins who have different markings (such as birthmarks) which is something I have not heard of previously. As well, I find it to make Stevenson more credible since this was a case found outside of a country that typically believes in reincarnation and this was an English family who were Christian. Stevenson also followed this family from 1964 until 1985, following up and keeping tabs on the twins. I find this story interesting, especially since the birthmarks on Jennifer match up with that of her deceased elder sister, Jacqueline. I also found it wonderful that Stevenson recieved credit in a psychiartry journal with positive reviews, especially when Bernett was discussing Stevenson's investigative methods and commended him on his initial skepticism in each case (Bernett 1023). I believe this to be a very intriguing and true case of reincarnation given the circumstances and many similiarities between Jennifer and Jacqueline and Gillian and Joanna.

Bernett MD, William. "Children Who Remember Previous Lives: A Question of Reincarnation, Revised Edition." Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 41.8 (2002): 1022-023. Print.

Stevenson, Ian. Children who remember previous lives a question of reincarnation. Charlottesville: University of Virginia, 1987. Print.


  1. According to his New York Times obituary, Dr. Stevenson's detractors saw him as "earnest, dogged but ultimately misguided, led astray by gullibility, wishful thinking and a tendency to see science where others saw superstition."

  2. @brian hann i think the detractor had "wishful thinking"... their failure to explain the holes in the case were pretty pathetic... having sad that... the way the records were kept on this case were pretty poor and a possible case of "poor memory" on some of the claims helps fuel skeptics need for everything supernatural to be coincidence

    1. This is not a compelling case study. There is virtually no proof of the similarities between the sisters beyond the parents' opinions and accounts. Identical twins often have different birthmarks. There isn't photographic evidence of the birthmarks matching scars or birthmarks in the deceased.

    2. I'm a twin and my sister and I have each have several birthmarks that don't correspond with each other. Most birthmarks are formed in the womb and are not genetic