Ian Stevenson. European Cases of the Reincarnation Type. Jefferson & Londen: McFarland & Company Inc. Publishers, 2003. ISBN 0-7864-1458-8.
American psychiatrist Dr. Ian Stevenson is especially renowned for his world wide reincarnation research among young children. Most of Stevenson's publications deal with non-Western subjects, especially in Asia. This is related to the frequency in which memories of previous lives among such children are reported. But also to this quest for cases with birthmarks and birth defects that often seem to refer to the death at the end of the previous incarnation. For these reasons, dr. Stevenson needed about 30 years to finish this latest book, dedicated to European cases.
The subjects of investigation in this book live(d) in Great Britain, Hungary, Iceland, Finland, Belgium, Italy, Germany, France, Austria and the Netherlands. Apart from young children with spontaneous memories, Stevenson also discusses recurrent dreams, and curious cases among adults, namely Ruprecht Schulz, Edward Ryall, Peter Avery and the Dutch lady Henriette Roos. The latter appeared to have been possessed by Goya's spirit while making what seemed like automatic paintings. A spiritualist medium told Henriette she would have taken care of Goya in her previous life during his long stay in France. There really turned out have been such a woman and the story even seemed to shed light on inclinations and talents of Henriette.
There are also two remarkable cases of possible memories of the Holocaust, that remind one of the books of Reb Yonassan Gershom and the Dutch case of S. of Amsterdam.
A relatively large part of the cases concern reincarnation within the same family or circle of friends, but this does not mean that they should be dismissed as worthless. It seems clear that they usually show the same structure as cases involving memories of the life of a deceased person who did not belong to the child's direct social environment.
The book's main message reads that there are classical cases of the reincarnation type in Europe, even among children of parents who had not believed in reincarnation before their cases developed. The cases are characterised with the same age category and show many other resemblances to non-Western cases. For instance, many European children recall a violent death, just like children in Asia and Brasil or among North-American native tribes. Some of them act out their memories of a previous incarnation by specific playing patterns. A number of them suffer from phobias and some have birth defects that correspond with the cause of death, or they show skills that they have never learnt in the present life-time. All of these children show noteworthy behavioural patterns which relate to the life they remember.
Ian Stevenson concludes that the information supplied by some of this children is paranormal, because they could not have gathered it in a normally way. The most impressive example of this, is probably the case of Helmut Kraus who recalled the life of a General Werner Seehofer and was even able to mention his exact address in Vienna.
More generally, Stevenson also regards the children's behaviour as paranormal, because it is impossible to give a mundane developmental explanation for it and because the behaviour is connected to the child's statements. The author certainly realises that most European cases are not as strong evidentially as many non-Western cases, but he does conclude that the reincarnation hypothesis is the best hypothesis for some of these European cases.
Whether deliberately or by accident some well-known sources about European reincarnation research have been left unmentioned, notably the work by Peter and Mary Harrison (although strangely enough their case Carl Edon is discussed in this book), the book Destiny by Martin Heald and the books by Jenny Cockell, a subject thoroughly studied by Mary Rose Barrington.
This book cannot be judged separately from the rest of Stevenson's monumental production. As such it can hardly serve as a general introduction to reincarnation research. Considering the increase of reported Western cases, European Cases of the Reincarnation Type is clearly essential reading for anyone who wishes to study the phenomenon. Let us hope that this 21st Century will bring the breakthrough in studies of spontaneous European memories of previous lives and that many books about this topic will follow. L'éminence grise of reincarnation research Ian Stevenson has doubtlessly laid a solid foundation for such developments.