CREEPY CORNER: Past Life Recall Edition

"I don't think past lives are real...but don't you think it's weird how some people just KNOW things? Like, how you knew about Uncle and the Rug?" -- Louise's Mom
Publish date:
November 19, 2015
childhood, creepy corner, memories, unexplained phenomena, creepy things, past lives

I'm not sure about past lives.

During much of my childhood, my mom went through a sort of "Religion of the Week" phase, many of which included some intense past life beliefs. As a kid, I didn't know those beliefs were "unusual" until one year when I wrote an essay for a scholarship to a fancy private school on "Why I Believe in Past Lives."

I still remember writing the phrase, "How can this be the only life we are given in our short time on earth?" Egads, I was 11.

My mom took one look at that essay and said, "Uh...maybe you should write about leatherworking." (I'd been given something akin to a "My First Leatherworking" kit for my birthday, and my mom decided it was my calling.) I got no scholarship and I did not even get into the school.

I don't know if my mom came to the realization that she was raising a kid that made other kids (and parents) uncomfortable, or if the next religion she got into just took hold, but from then on the "past life stuff" sort of faded away. And while my steadfast belief in it has faded too, I'm not entirely closed off to the idea.

Ask my mom now about past lives and she'll scrunch up her nose and wobble her head from side to side like she's wondering when the last time it was that I tooled the word, "PONIES" into a leather bracelet.

"Eh...I don't know. I mean, I don't think past lives are real...but don't you think it's weird how some people just know things? Things they shouldn't know? Like, how you knew about Uncle and the Rug?"

"Uncle and the Rug" is not the name of our one-hit-wonder Hung family band, but rather how my mom refers to the "evidence" of my past lives.

It's actually two stories. Two stories that challenge my skepticism on past lives, but also make me wonder if these are just two instances where a woman searching for faith glommed onto a small child's powers of observation.

The story of "The Rug" happened when I was about 8 years old. My parents home is, and always has been, full of antiques passed down from previous generations. Our home is an odd mix of new "Southwest-style" furniture from the 90s, and shit-tons of heavy, dark, ornate Chinese antiques.

Among those antiques was this small rectangular rug that sat in the downstairs hallway of my childhood home in Seattle. The rug had four panels woven into it, each depicting some complicated image in reds, browns, blacks, and greens — admittedly not a "cheery" rug.

For as long as I can remember, my mom and dad said the rug was "pretty but eerie." The "eerie" part, I'm not sure why. But for some reason the rug, my grandmother's rug, always looked "dark and foreboding" to my mom. Honestly, I still think it's just a rug, but in case you haven't picked up on it, my mom has a bit of a flare for the dramatic.

Regardless, nobody knew what the panels were supposed to depict. Not my grandmother, not my mom, not my dad. Until...

I remember standing in the hallway of our home with my mom and her friend, looking at the rug. Her friend was saying how beautiful the rug was, and asking my mom what the imagery was.

It's then that I piped up. I don't remember exactly what I said but it went something like, "It's the four seasons. Winter, spring, summer, fall. The man said it when he made it."

The rug had been in my father's possession since way before I was born, and was made in Hong Kong some time in the 40s or 50s.

It's pretty clear now that the rug does show the four seasons — a drab four seasons, but the four seasons nonetheless. My mom is convinced that I was recalling something from a past life. I wonder if I was just being a creepy, know-it-all kid.

The "Uncle" story is a little spookier. There are aspects of it that still unnerve me. I actually thought about scrapping this post because this story is one I rarely share — visions and unexplainable "memories" are the deep end of the creepy pool for me. (That being said, I'll defend your right to talk about visions and unexplainable "memories" to the DEATH.)

But I trust this Creepy Corner community. So here goes. This is the part where I'd be telling my best friend, "I know this sounds crazy but..."

For as long as I can remember I've "seen" the Man in the Gray Suit. In dreams, but also during brief, emotionally paralyzing "memories." I say "memories" in quotation marks because they are not actually any memories from my life. They bear no resemblance to anything I've experienced.

While I know memories can be buried, only to resurface later, these "memories" of the Man in the Gray Suit are so foreign, so beyond any of my experiences, that they feel like they were just randomly dropped into my consciousness. Has anyone ever felt something like this?

The memories come out of nowhere. I'll be going about my business when suddenly I'll be overcome with acute, tears-spring-to-my-eyes...mourning. That's the only way I can describe it. Like the heaviest sense of loss I've ever felt — longing.

I don't think it's a panic attack. I've suffered from severe anxiety for most of my adult life, and I know panic attacks quite well. When the memories hit, I don't feel panicky or fearful. I just feel LOSS.

The sense of remembering a great loss lingers for only a few moments, but during those moments all I can think about is the Man in the Gray Suit. He's tall and very slim. The suit has three pieces, and I always picture him standing on a hill. Sometimes it's different times of day, sometimes he's walking. I think he has a hat, his skin is tan. The same is true when I see him in dreams.

I have both an inexplicable fondness for and dread of the Man in the Gray Suit.

Anyway, when I was around 13 years old, my dad took it upon himself to make sure I knew about my family tree. Over dinner, on car rides — basically any place he could hold me captive — he'd tell me about his family, a little about my mom's family, and how Hong Kong, the US, India, and the UK figured into our lives.

On a car ride home one day he brought up an individual I'll just call "Uncle." Excuse me for being a bit vague on Uncle's details, but in respect to generations past, I'll just tell you what you need to know.

Uncle lived a short but notable life, and my family was very fond of him. He died in the late 40s, early 50s, and my dad remarked how he was quite striking, "a bit of a rascal."

When we got home, my dad brought out a box of old pictures and started pairing names with faces. When he got to the picture of Uncle, I felt momentarily sick.

It was The Man in the Gray Suit.

There was Uncle in a faded, sepia-toned picture, standing in a dark suit, hands in his pockets, looking "jaunty." The picture was dated in the early 40s. I felt an odd spark of recognition.

I'd never seen any of the other pictures in the box. It was a set of photos my dad had recently acquired. I even think I asked if Uncle's picture was in a relative's house and my dad said, "No, it makes [name of family member] sad. They really loved him."

To this day I've only ever seen that one photo of Uncle.

I still have those flashes of "memory" from time to time, and they still take my breath away.

I don't know if I saw Uncle's picture SOMEWHERE when I was a younger child and somehow became fixated on him? I don't know if he just bore a striking resemblance to someone else and the two got mixed up in my brain? And while they aren't panic attacks, I'm not even entirely sure if my Uncle "memories" aren't a symptom of my anxiety disorder.

My spooky mom thinks it's past life recall. I don't know what to think.

What are your thoughts? Has anything like this ever happened to you? Does this happen to you? What do you think about past lives? Have you ever tried leatherworking?