by Carol Eder, C.Ht.
In many ways, this article represents both an inquiry into the validity of a particular past-life regression experience, and, indirectly, also raises question to which we all seek a definite answer: Are past-life “memories” real or symbolic, fact or fantasy? The author addresses the topic from a very personal perspective: her own. She was encouraged to submit this article to JRT by Hazel Denning, Ph.D., whom readers will recognize as one of the founders of APRT.
Man has always been concerned about life after death. Those who accept reincarnation maintain that the soul is immortal and may be reborn again and again in different individuals. How can we know about a possible existence before birth? One way to obtain knowledge of a past life is through hypnotic regression. In this article I relate my own regression experience and compare it to known facts about the Titanic. Is there evidence to support my past-life recall?
In July, 1986, I began to have terrifying nightmares. I would awaken to the sound of my own screams and be fearful for hours afterward. The dreams were images of furniture falling on top of me and huge waves of water pouring into a small space where I appeared to be trapped. I soon became afraid to sleep. Medication helped for a month, but it could not control the dreams. I was referred to a hypnotherapist after several months of unsuccessful treatment.
I did not go as an experiment or out of curiosity. I consider myself to be a rather stable person, but at this point I was desperate.
At the first few sessions, the hypnotherapist listened with sympathy and understanding to my words as I confided my state of mind to her. The first step was to look for any incidents in this lifetime I might have forgotten that could explain the recurring nightmares. When we couldn’t find any, I was regressed to a time before birth in order to explore a possible past life. I began to shake and shiver and feel as though I was freezing to death. The events which unfolded were startling.
The following was transcribed from an audio tape we made at that session.
I see something I’ve never seen before! It’s huge! There are lots of people all around. I am waiting for someone. There are boxes everywhere and a feeling of excitement. I am very nervous, straining to catch a glimpse of someone, someone familiar. My name is Isabel…Isabel Winsford. I am 22, very petite with dark hair and dark eyes, a native of London. I keep pulling at my handkerchief…so nervous. I keep hearing people say “the unsinkable ship.” I have never been on a ship as big as that before. I’m terrified! I am very finely dressed, like a lady of breeding…a lady of money, yet I feel I am to be a stowaway.
I’m waiting for James. My mind keeps darting back and forth. James Wilson, an American from New York, is going on the ship with me. I’m waiting by the dock in Southampton like everyone else. There is so much confusion; so many people talking at once. Someone has been robbed and is cursing. There are children crying, people crying. I’m nervous…very nervous about the ship. A part of me doesn’t want to go yet another part of me doesn’t want to disappoint James.
I can see him! He’s trying to make his way through the crowd. He’s coming toward me. We embrace. He’s a much older man, perhaps in his forties, light hair graying at the temples and a mustache. I tell him that I am afraid but he insists that there is nothing to be afraid of.
He is leading me through the crowd now…towards the gangplank. He is winking at someone in a uniform, a man who seems to acknowledge this as a signal. As we start up, I start to shake so much, James has to practically carry me. I am still very nervous. It is so crowded, so many people. He asks me if I am hungry, but now I feel sick. My stomach is rolling. All I want to do is lie down.
He is taking me down several flights of stairs, to a cabin. It is stuffy and warm inside. James says it will be my cabin but it is not. He is not being truthful with me. He is a very secretive person.
We stop in front of a cabin door – #1331. He opens the door and carries me into the room. It is a small space, so small that it hardly seems like a cabin. I am wondering how they got all that furniture in such a little room. There is a small writing desk just as you enter the room. It looks like oak, highly polished, accompanied by a small chair with velvet on the seat and back. The room is done in a maroon color. An overstuffed chair sits on the right of the entry. The bed is like a bunk bed only attached to a wall. A small toilet and a sink with a mirror above it behind the cabin door. Some sort of rose patterned carpeting on the floor. Countryside pictures fastened securely to a wall. I see my white suitcase on the floor.
James is a married man, but he doesn’t tell me. He doesn’t plan to tell me that his wife is on board until after we sail, when it’s too late for me to get off.
We have been at sea now for a few hours. I cannot eat dinner. I am seasick. There is a deafening noise, a rhythmic thump, thump, thumping sound that hurts my ears and makes me feel sicker. The room is swaying a bit. It is Friday before I feel a calm in my stomach again.
James tells me the truth that night, that he is married. I trusted him when he promised me a new life in America. Now I find out that I am only to be his mistress. I am devastated. How could I have been such a fool!
I had dreams about this ship, this city afloat. Dreams that woke me up screaming and drenched in perspiration. But James had assured me that it was safe. After all, he has an interest in this venture with the British, the Titanic. He is a shrewd businessman…extremely wealthy and cautious about money.
Saturday passes and I alternate between bouts of anger and depression. Dinner is served and I just stare at the plate with the white star and pale blue ribbon flowing from either side imprinted on the rim. I can’t see how this has happened to me. Walking on the deck alone, I see James and his wife. She is a few years younger than I am. She talks of the child she is carrying.
Very angry and hurt that he has deceived me. I want to pay him back somehow. He expects me to entertain a friend of his on Sunday evening. He said, “If you love me, you will do this for me.” I have been drinking most of Sunday afternoon. The gentleman arrives and he looks to be about 70. He says his name is Clifford. I’m not sure he can take on a young girl and survive.
Just as things get hot and heavy, he gets up and leaves. Probably for fear of his heart.
I’m getting dressed. James is coming in. He slams the door hard. He is very angry. We are arguing. He came because his wife is upset. Someone has told her that he is seeing another woman and he thinks I told her, but it wasn’t me. He slaps me hard. My eye starts to swell. I pick up a letter-opener on the desk and stab him. He looks surprised, very surprised…it hit! It hit! I’m confused. The ship gives a great shudder and I fall back hitting my head on the wall. I’ve lost consciousness.
I can see the people on the top decks, lowering the lifeboats, people jumping in them. An explosion rocks the ship! It’s all going slowly but fast, too. One man is taking children out of a lifeboat and making room for himself. A ship-mate comes and throws him overboard and puts the children back; a little girl about 5 is trying to comfort the other children. I see people diving in the water; men looting the safe dressed as women, taking money and jewels. Sending for help but no one hears them—It’s terrible!
I’m moving now, trying to crawl to the door…a metal door with slats in it. Can’t breathe! Door is jammed! James is not there! Another explosion! I finally open the door. Water up to my ankles,
I’m walking tilted, sliding. I’m at the next level. Hard to climb the stairs…can’t seem to hold on to anything. It seems like gravity is nonexistent.
A hand is reaching down, picking me up…it’s a man. He is grabbing me and throwing me into a cabin. He’s taking my clothes! He puts them on. He is a small man with glasses. Most of the men on the ship are small. He is locking the door behind him.
He is making his way up the stairs. Another pitch and he falls. He can’t grasp anything. Not used to women’s clothes, he can’t swim…can’t hold on to anything. The water is seeping up. It is so cold…so cold!
I’m disoriented now. Trying to crawl to the door again. The pictures are falling; furniture pulling away from the wall. I can’t make it! I’m being tossed, trying to hold on. A picture hit me above the left eye. The room is filling with water and nowhere to go. No way out! No way out! I can’t get out! The water is coming up! I’m in a panic, I can’t swim. I’m screaming but no one can hear…nobody! The water is climbing, it won’t stop.
I’ve gone now. The ship is slipping away. I see people still trying to get into the lifeboats but they’re full. It’s going down, going down. Lifeboats are packed. Many bodies floating and crying and sobbing all around.
For me to relate a past-life experience in a hypnotic state does not prove it to be real historically. As Carl Jung (1933) said: “A belief proves to me only the phenomenon of belief, not the content of the belief.” The real evidence is validation of my regression experience with historical fact. My search began.
The Royal Mail Steamer, Titanic, was a ship of nightmare proportions: a rudder as big as an elm tree, propellers the size of windmills. She was nearly 900 feet long with 9 steel decks equal to an 11 story building and the strength of 50,000 horses.
“The Wonder Ship,” as she was called, was thought to be unsinkable because of her design. There were 16 watertight compartments in the hull so that in the event of an emergency, any 2 of these could be flooded and not endanger the ship. Watertight doors that could be operated all at once or individually could clutch down to seal the portals when water was present on the floor. On the passenger decks, the doors could be closed by stewards equipped with special keys. The system was ingenious.
The Titanic was scheduled to leave at noon on April 10, 1912, from Southampton, England. The passenger list included many wealthy celebrities from the British and American social scene. The wealthiest among them was Colonel John Jacob Astor, great-grandson of the fur trader, who had extended his wealth through real estate and other ventures.
Colonel Astor had been the center of a recent scandal when his wife divorced him and he married an 18 year old girl from New York. He and his now expectant bride, Madeline, were returning from a winter trip in Egypt.
The Titanic was like a floating layer cake made up of a cross section of the society of that day. On the bottom were the manual laborers working in the heat and grime of the boiler and engine rooms. Next layer were the steerage or third-class passengers—mostly immigrants hoping to make a new start in America. After that came the middle class teachers, merchants, etc.—in second class. Finally, the icing on the cake: the titled and the rich.
There are several descriptions and other data in my regression experience that I have researched in order to verify my previous existence as Isabel Winsford. The following facts have come to light.
Wade (1979) describes the events on the morning of Wednesday, April 10, 1912: “Shortly before noon, which was sailing time, Second and Third Class were open to the public and on official display.”
It would have been easy to sneak someone on board at that time, but Isabel may not have been a stowaway. Her companion could have paid for her passage, since he was extremely wealthy and only winked at the steward (man in uniform) because he did not want it reported to his wife.
I said, “He’s a much older man, perhaps in his forties, light hair graying at the temples and a mustache.” A physical description of John Jacob Astor is given by Russell (1912): “John Jacob Astor was 47, light hair with a mustache.” There is also a photo in Ballard (1987) on page 14.
Colonel Astor, besides being fabulously wealthy, was enterprising and eccentric. He was very shrewd in business, having extended his family’s wealth through real estate holdings. But the public was even more interested in his matrimonial affairs. His wife had sued him for divorce because of his infidelities. He had spent the next two years (1909-1911) cruising in his yacht (Marcus, 1969).
My description of the cabin and the bed “like a bunk bed only attached to a wall,” can be seen in Ballard’s book. A drawing of a second class cabin on page 193 and a photograph of a third class cabin on page 184 can be compared.
I had described a rhythmic thumping noise that I could hear in my cabin. Wade describes the lower decks “G deck was designated for single males and females’ quarters. The males’ quarters were forward and the females’ quarters were aft, near the boiler room, where it was warmer.” (p. 37).
Marcus states “Those in the lower decks, near the boiler room, could hear the steady throb of the machinery mingled with the low hum of the turbine and the whine of the dynamos.” (p. 64).
Ballard’s book shows a photograph of a dinner plate (p. 176). The caption reads, “A plate from the third-class dining saloon bears the emblem of the White Star line on its rim.” This photo is not clear, but my description of that emblem can be seen on page 17 of the same book: a white star with ribbons flowing from either side of the rim.
In the regression, I refer to walking on the deck. Marcus gives a description: “There was a third-class promenade in the stern where one could look down on the dazzling white foam and swirling blue-green water churned up by the huge screws.” (p. 49).
On Sunday evening, at 11:40 A.M., the Titanic struck an iceberg, creasing her starboard bow. As Ballard describes:
At the bridge level, it seemed as if the ship might have escaped unscathed. Several tons of ice fell into the forward Well deck as it passed, but the ship only shuddered slightly and glided on. A few minutes later, she came to a stop. Down at the very bottom of the ship, the collision was perceived differently. Just when the ship stopped, there was an explosion-like noise and a jet of icy water hit members of the crew in boiler room No.6. The men ran aft, before the water tight door glided shut, and climbed to the safety of E deck (p. 152).
Isabel was knocked unconscious. She was on G Deck in the aft section. She heard the first explosion which was a matter of minutes after the collision. The hull was designed to keep the ship afloat with any two compartments flooded, even if the first four in forward were filled, but not the first five. The critical compartment was boiler room No.6. With the first five damaged, the water would eventually fill them and overflow into the rest in the aft section, one by one. The Titanic would be gone in an hour or an hour and a half at the most.
Isabel awoke and another explosion occurred. She heard the sound of water rushing into the aft section. As she tried to climb the stairs and reached F Deck, a man knocked her down and grabbed her clothes so he could escape. A comment is made that most of the men on the ship were small. Wade remarks “There were fifty young men, 18 to 20 years of age, who were shipped as bellboys to serve the first-class passengers. They were quartered in the stem of the lower deck” (p. 48).
These young men were filmed the day the ship sailed. Noxon’s (1986) video tape shows them to be of small stature, small enough to wear women’s clothing. But Russell reports that “A Mr. Dickinson Bishop from Michigan was rumored to have dressed in women’s clothes to get into a lifeboat. There were others who did so, but did not make it that far.” (p. 72).
According to Marcus: “F Deck flooded very fast, about an hour after the fatal collision.”
There is another interesting point I would like to make. I began to have these nightmares in July 1986. Dr. Ballard and his crew reached the Titanic by submarine on July 14, 1986. The number I saw on the cabin door, #1331, and my address at the time, 13103, were similar. Coincidence? I think not.
Tennyson once said, “None of the things worth proving can in fact be proved.” Six hundred years ago, there was no historic proof that America existed, nor was there any proof of the existence of the Dead Sea Scrolls until they were found.
Psychic research is concerned with what cannot be weighed or measured, and while it may not have established life after death, it has caused some speculation that there is no division between matter and spirit. As Wambach (1978) puts it, “Some scientists have begun to realize that material explanations are not enough. Hypnosis may well prove to be evidence for reincarnation, maybe not now but further doors will open.” (p. 26).
When asked if it is possible that hypnotized subjects are fantasizing some historical story heard or seen before, Bloxham (1958) says, “I can demonstrate that memory of a past life is distinct from any fund of memory normally acquired in this life.”
What have I concluded from my research? I believe that I have proven that this was not just some fantasy or dream. The dreams have stopped now, but I have continued the hypnotherapy sessions. I have been regressed through many other lifetimes. The regressions become more realistic and invalidating them becomes more difficult. I know that as I continue I will be able to see more detail and hopefully verify many of them. My research has not ended here.
Recalling a past life seems to be available to all of us, if we are motivated to allow it and our subconscious will permit it. The reader must make his or her own judgment as to the theory of past lives and reincarnation. My gain from being regressed is a new understanding of the soul’s immortality and much knowledge about myself. My beliefs have become intensified by this study and personal experience. I’m grateful for it.
Ballard, R.D. The Discovery of the Titanic. New York: Warner Books, 1987.
Bloxham, D. Who Was Ann Ockendon? London: Neville Spearman, 1958.
Jung, C.G. Memory, Dreams, Reflections. London: Collins & Routledge, 1933.
Marcus, G. The Maiden Voyage. New York: Viking Press, 1969.
Noxon, N. [Ed.] The Secrets of the Titanic. National Geographic Society. Videotape, 1986.
Russell, T.H. Sinking of the Titanic. No publication data, 1912.
Wade. W. C. The Titanic: End of a Dream. New York: Rawson, Wade, 1979.
Wambach, H. Reliving Past Lives. New York: Harper & Row, 1978.
Editor’s note: This article, like all submissions to JRT, was jury read. There is, particularly among clinicians, the need to seek validation. One might raise the question that if the author’s past-life recall was valid, why is there no record of an Isabel Winsford on the passenger lists? Assistant Editor, Thelma Freedman’s research resulted in several facts and led to some interesting speculations. In commenting on this article, Thelma wrote:
“Logan Marshall, in his book The Sinking of the Titanic and Great Sea Disasters, rushed out in 1912, gives the passenger lists for the first and second class cabins, both survivors and dead. However no third class passengers are listed and this note appears: ‘The total death list was 1635. Third class passengers and crew are not included in the list here given owing to the impossibility of obtaining the exact names of many.’ Very nice; the interest was all focused on the rich folks in first and second class but most of the deaths occurred in the third class and crew.
In fact, according to some of the stories in his book, doors were locked to keep third class people in their place and out of the lifeboats. There is no Winsford listed in first or second class, alive or dead, so if she was there she was in third, as she herself surmises. And very likely no record of her name in the first place, if she was really involved with Astor; he would have booked her under a false name. And even in the first and second class lists you see listings like ‘Rothes, Countess, maid of’ (This poor unnamed wretch died, but the Countess herself is on the other list, the survivors list.)”