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“Strongest Evidence in Favour of Reincarnation”: The Startling Story of the Pollock Twins

In 1957, John and Florence Pollock received condolences: two of their children died in a terrible car accident. A few years later, the family appeared in the media spotlight, as Florence gave birth to two daughters, who were the spitting image of their dead sisters. They could tell the names of the deceased girls’ toys and recognise the school they attended.

John and Florence Pollock, a deeply religious Catholic and a Protestant, met in the early 1940s. A few years later they got married, and Florence converted to Catholicism. After the wedding, the newlyweds settled in North East England.

Despite being a dedicated Catholic, John Pollock believed in reincarnation, the phenomenon he first encountered in a novel at the age of nine.

His wife, Florence, was sceptical about it. Though not accepted in Christianity, the idea of a dead person reappearing in another body is found in different religions and philosophical doctrines. Tibetan Buddhists, German Theosophists, Indian Hindus, and Sikhs cherish the notion of reincarnation. Ancient Greek philosophers like Plato and Socrates also advocated this idea. 

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The Pollock couple lived in love and prosperity. They owned a grocery and dairy delivery business. In 1946, they had their first child — a girl who was named Joanna. Five years later, after the family moved to Hexham, Northumberland, her sister Jacqueline was born. While John and Florence were preoccupied with their family business, the girls were brought up mostly by their maternal grandmother. In their free time, the parents did their best to ensure the girls lived in a house full of love.

“I will never be a lady”

The sisters were thick as thieves: Joanna, the elder one, liked to ‘mother’ Jacqueline, who never complained. Joanna displayed an interest in art and enjoyed dressing up and play-acting. She was outgoing and generous, usually ready to share with other children. The sisters got along well with each other. They loved playing together, dressing up, and putting on performances. But most of all they liked combing people’s hair, especially their daddy’s.

At the age of three, Jacqueline fell into a bucket and hurt herself. The fall caused a scar on her forehead, which was especially visible in cold weather. Though at first, Jacqueline worried the scar was spoiling her face, her elder sister and parents dispelled those worries. Jacqueline also had a birthmark on the left side of her waist. 

When the girl learned to speak long sentences, she would often say, “I will never be a lady.” The idea, voiced by a child girl, left John and Florence somewhat bewildered.
On a Saturday in 1957, when Joanna was eleven and Jacqueline was six, the girls were going to church.

After saying goodbye to their parents, they met their classmate and followed the familiar Sunday route. On the way over, the three children were hit by a car.

The car driver was a local woman. She had been forced to separate from her children a few days before, so she got in the car after taking a significant amount of drugs. The woman saw she was running into a group of kids, but the pills had already started to work, so she was no longer in control of the car. An attempted suicide turned into a committed homicide — the three children died on the spot.

A new life…or the reincarnation of the old one?

The Pollock parents were devastated by the death of their beloved daughters. After the accident, Florence suffered severe depression. The grieving mother replayed the horrifying events of those days in her head and cried all the time. Meanwhile, John tried to find peace in his faith.

On the day of Joanna and Jacqueline’s death, John had a vision of them in heaven. Then he claimed to have sensed the girls’ spirits in the upstairs room of the house and spent a lot of time there, to be close to his daughters. John believed his prayers would be answered, and his daughters would return home through reincarnation. Florence didn’t believe in that, which caused arguments between the two and even put their marriage on a razor’s edge. But things changed when one year later Florence became pregnant again.

Though Florence’s obstetrician assured her there was a single foetus in her womb, on October 4, 1958, she gave birth to twin girls, Gillian and Jennifer.

When the twins were still babies, the Pollocks moved to another city and did their best to forget what happened. It seemed like the family started a new life…which eventually turned out to be not so new.

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Despite all the joy the newborn twins brought to the grieving parents, the Pollocks couldn’t help but wonder what happened. First, their families had never had twins before, so their birth was somewhat a miracle. Besides, Gillian and Jenifer and their deceased sisters were strikingly alike …

“The car! The car! It’s coming for us!”

First, Florence and John noticed Jennifer had precisely the same birthmark as the deceased Jacqueline. Furthermore, she had a very distinct white line on her forehead, exactly where Jacqueline had a scar.

Growing a little older, the girls started to behave just like Joanna and Jacqueline. Like their deceased sisters, they were very close. Gillian would often ‘mother’ Jennifer, who never opposed that, as was Joanna and Jacqueline’s case. Besides, the twins liked to play hairdressers, especially with their father’s hair.

Gillian was very generous and outgoing and liked wearing costumes and acting as Joanna did. She seemed more mature than her twin sister — Joanna, Gillian’s supposed ‘previous self’, was five years older than her sister Jacqueline.

When the twins were about three, Florence showed them the toys Joanna and Jacqueline used to play. Though siblings often fall out over possession of toys, those were an exception. Gillian immediately took Joanna’s doll, whereas Jennifer claimed Jacqueline’s. Both girls said the dolls were their Christmas presents from Santa Claus (as they were for Joanna and Jacqueline). Then, without any doubt, they recalled the names of the dolls and the names of stuffed toys that used to belong to their deceased sisters.

The Pollocks left Hexham and moved to Bexley Bay when Gillian and Jennifer were about nine months old. Three years later, they revisited the city for the first time. As they walked to the park, the twins said they wanted to go to the swings and showed the way there without any hesitation. They also recognised the school Joanna and Jacqueline had formerly attended. 

Gillian and Jennifer were terrified of cars. Once, when a vehicle started near them in an alleyway, the girls clung to each other and started yelling: “The car! The car! It’s coming for us!”

Florence once overheard her daughters discussing the accident, in which their elder sisters died — the accident, the details of which the twins were not supposed to know. Then she occasionally came across Gillian touching Jennifer’s head and saying, “The blood’s coming out of your eyes. That’s where the car hit you”. According to John Pollock, Jacqueline’s head was bandaged above the eyes when he identified the bodies after the accident. When discussing the accident, John also claimed Gillian and Jennifer often spoke in the present and even seemed to be reliving the experience.

John was convinced his prayers had been heard, and the deceased Joanna and Jacqueline returned in Gillian and Jennifer’s bodies. His wife generally remained sceptical about the idea, but the more she observed the twins, the more her scepticism wavered.

Florence Pollock used to wear a smock while helping her husband with his milk delivery business, but soon after her daughters’ death, she quit and never wore the garment again. When the twins were about four, John put on the smock while painting, and Jennifer asked him why he was wearing ‘mommy’s coat’. Then she became annoyed because Gillian didn’t recognise the smock. John and Florence believed that because Joanna, the older deceased sister, was at school when her mother worked on the delivery, she had never seen the outfit. When asked how she knew it was ‘mommy’s coat’, Jennifer said her mom used to wear it while delivering milk.

Occasions like this profoundly influenced the parents, especially on John, who was becoming more and more convinced his dead daughters had been reincarnated. But when Gillian and Jennifer turned five, they lost absolutely all memories of their past lives.

Truth or tale?

Gillian and Jennifer’s story caught the attention of Ian Stevenson, an American psychiatrist who believed the study of reincarnation could boost medicine development. Stevenson spent a long time, studying cases of supposed reincarnation, including the Pollock twins’ story. In 1987 he published his book Children Who Remember Their Past Lives, in which he analysed 14 stories of reincarnation and concluded that such a process of “resurgence” could occur. The Pollock twins’ case is one of the most substantial pieces of evidence favouring the idea.

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Digging deeper into the Pollocks’ story, Ian Stevenson claimed that since Gillian and Jennifer were monozygotic twins — and, therefore, were genetically identical — Jennifer’s birthmarks could not be explained by genetics. Besides, as Florence Pollock didn’t believe in reincarnation while pregnant with the twins, the maternal impression (physic effect of the mother on an unborn child) could not be the cause for the marks.

However, some considered the Pollocks’ reincarnation story to be the glimmers of the grieving parents’ false hope.

British historian Ian Wilson noted that Stevenson’s evidence was fundamentally weak, as the only witnesses of the girls’ behaviour were their parents, one of whom was a firm believer in reincarnation and, thus, cannot be considered unbiased. According to Wilson, since the twins lived in the same family as the deceased girls, they could have received knowledge of their elder sisters through normal means like overhearing parents’ conversations.

As for the twins themselves, as they grew older and their ‘past-life’ memories disappeared, Gillian and Jennifer went on to live everyday lives. Though they accepted their parents’ idea that they were their deceased sisters’ reincarnation, they were sceptical about this notion in general.