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  • The sudden shrieks of James Leininger shattered the quiet night and awoke his mother Andrea.

  • She hopped out of bed and rushed down the hallway to her toddler son's room.

  • Despite his ear piercing screams, 2 year old James was still asleep.

  • Andrea picked up her son and cuddled him.

  • Gradually he calmed down, and fell into a normal sleep.

  • Andrea chalked James' nightmare up to recent changes.

  • Just two months before, the Leininger family had relocated to Lafayette, Louisiana from

  • Dallas, Texas.

  • The house they had moved into was 70 years old and creaked at night.

  • The next day James was his usual happy self.

  • But that night James had another nightmare.

  • Again, Andrea soothed him until he went back to sleep.

  • The next night the same.

  • Soon, James was having nightmares on a regular basis, averaging 4-5 times a week.

  • Each nightmare was utterly terrifying for James, but also for his mother to witness.

  • He would contort and thrash about, wailing, but at the same time he was caught in a deep

  • sleep.

  • Andrea took James to a pediatrician, who couldn't find anything wrong.

  • Two months passed.

  • Due to James regularly having nightmares, Andrea was exhausted, on edge.

  • She now slept in her son's room to be able to soothe him quickly before he could wake

  • his father Bruce.

  • One night James was in the throes of a nightmare and Andrea was trying to calm him when she

  • suddenly realized that James wasn't randomly screaming, he was screaming words.

  • What he was saying sent a shiver down Andrea's back.

  • She ran to the master bedroom, shook Bruce awake and made him come listen.

  • Airplane crash!

  • Plane on fire!

  • Little man can't get out!”

  • James was screaming over and over.

  • His frightened parents didn't know what to think.

  • Andrea consulted her family.

  • Her mom and sisters thought James' nightmares were a normal stage of childhood and Andrea

  • should just wait them out.

  • They suggested James saw a plane crash on the news and the story became a part of his

  • nightmare because he was so interested in planes.

  • This would also explain why when playing James would crash his toy planes into the table

  • and break off the propellers.

  • They advised Andrea to get him interested in other toys.

  • James' aunt sent him some Thomas the Tank Engine toys.

  • Andrea and Bruce hid a Blue Angels flight squadron videotape James was obsessed with

  • watching, telling him that it broke, but still the nightmares continued.

  • August 11th, 2000

  • One night, while Andrea was reading James a bedtime story, he lay on his back and kicked

  • his feet as if he was trying to use his legs as a battering ram to escape a tight space.

  • Little man goes like this,” James said and kicked his legs some more.

  • Ohh!

  • Ohh!

  • Ohh!

  • Can't get out!”

  • It was the first time James had reenacted his nightmare while awake.

  • Andrea asked her son who the little man was.

  • James answeredMe.”

  • Struggling not to sound scared, Andrea told James that she was going to go get daddy so

  • he could tell him too.

  • When Andrea came back with Bruce, James kicked his legs and told him.

  • Bruce had always down played the significance of what James was dreaming, but now he wasn't

  • so sure.

  • Bruce asked what happened to his plane.

  • James told him it crashed while on fire.

  • Bruce asked how the plane crashed.

  • James said it was shot down.

  • When Bruce asked who shot down the plane, James replied 'The Japanesein an impatient

  • tone, as if the answer was obvious and he was done humoring his father's questions.

  • After their son had gone to bed, Andrea and Bruce talked about what James had said.

  • They decided to wait and talk to Andrea's sister Jenny who was arriving for a visit

  • tomorrow.

  • The next day, Bruce and Andrea told Jenny what had happened.

  • Jenny chatted with James and asked him how he knew that it was the Japanese that shot

  • his plane down.

  • He answeredThe big red sun.”

  • Referring to the sun symbol the Japanese painted on their planes.

  • That night Jenny finally saw one of James' nightmares in action.

  • She realized that her sister wasn't an overly worried mother exaggerating.

  • Andrea and Jenny called their mother as well as their other sister.

  • For the first time, the four women began to discuss the idea of a past life.

  • In fact, Bobbi, James' grandmother had been reading up on dream interpretation.

  • Though she had been raised Catholic, Bobbi felt there was a possibility and she wanted

  • to do more research.

  • Bruce, a Christian, who also took pride in being a rational thinker and problem solver

  • didn't believe in reincarnation, it simply conflicted far too much with his faith and

  • worldview.

  • Andrea, also Christian, was a bit more open to the possibility, especially since she couldn't

  • explain her son's behavior.

  • August 27th, 2000

  • Again during bedtime stories, James began to talk about the little man and the plane

  • crash.

  • Andrea went and got Bruce.

  • Together they gently questioned their son.

  • When asked what kind of plane crashed, without hesitation, James replied “A Corsair.”

  • Bruce knew that was a type of a World War II plane.

  • Further questioning revealed that James' Corsair had taken off from a boat called the

  • Natoma.

  • After James went to sleep, Bruce did some online research, mainly for his peace of mind,

  • to prove his son wrong.

  • But a Google search led to a boat called Natoma Bay; it was a United States aircraft carrier

  • which saw action in the Pacific theatre during World War II.

  • James's nightmares continued.

  • Whenever he brought up the dream, his parents questioned him gently, letting him lead the

  • conversation.

  • He was able to tell them of a friend who appeared in his dream, a pilot named Jack Larson.

  • Bruce looked for Jack Larson online, but couldn't find any info.

  • Not only was he on a slow dial up connection, but in the early 2000's the internet resources

  • weren't as extensive as they are now.

  • Nearly every evening after he got home from work, Bruce would research late into the night,

  • trying different angles and word combinations to try to verify the details James had provided.

  • Just after Thanksgiving Bruce bought a Christmas present for his father, a book about WWII

  • called The Battle for World War Two Iwo Jima.

  • Before wrapping it, he and James looked through the book.

  • James pointed at a photo of Iwo Jima and told his dad that the island was where his plane

  • was shot down.

  • Bruce checked and learned that the Natoma Bay had supported the US Marine invasion of

  • Iwo Jima in March of 1945.

  • Eventually Bruce came across a website for the Natoma Bay Association reunion.

  • He blindly reached out and was able to connect with Leo Pyatt, a vet who had flown at Iwo

  • Jima.

  • Bruce felt uncomfortable explaining about his son, so he pretended he was an amatuer

  • historian writing a book.

  • He asked Leo several questions, including whether the Natoma Bay had any Corsairs.

  • Leo's answer was no, which Bruce found to be a great relief.

  • On the other hand, Leo was able to confirm there had been a Jack Larson aboard the 'Natty

  • Maru' as the ship was nicknamed.

  • This and other details verified by Leo had Andrea believing that James had a past life

  • as a pilot aboard the ship.

  • In December, Bruce and Andrea both read Children's Past Lives by Carol Bowman, a therapist who

  • studies alleged cases of reincarnation.

  • It had been suggested by Andrea's mother.

  • Though Bruce didn't really believe the stories in the book, he didn't object when Andrea

  • sent the author an email, detailing some of her experiences with James.

  • Carol promptly replied, giving Andrea some suggestions for managing James' nightmares.

  • Among Carol's advice was to tell your child that happened before and that they are safe

  • now and in their bed, focus on open ended questions and not to ask leading questions

  • that prompt their answers.

  • Spring 2001

  • Andrea sent Carol a follow up email, thanking her for the suggestions.

  • James' nightmares had begun to taper off.

  • He went from having a bad dream several times a week to having one once

  • every other week.

  • However he talked a lot more about his so-called past life experiences.

  • In April James turned 3.

  • Just when things seemed normal in the Leininger household, James would say something weird

  • or far beyond his years and creep out his parents again.

  • In the summer he began drawing picture after picture of naval air battles and planes clashing.

  • The planes depicted in his drawings were always drawn with propellers, indicating that they

  • were old fashioned.

  • Sometimes he drew bombers with the Japanese sun symbol.

  • He always signed his name James 3.

  • When asked why, he simply said 'I am James 3', he didn't know why, but it was nothing

  • to do with his age.

  • Bruce continued his research.

  • He kept in touch with Leo, who managed to get Bruce an invitation to the Natoma Bay

  • reunion which was happening next year.

  • Spring 2002

  • Carol Bowman called the Leiningers.

  • She was working with Shalini Sharma, a TV producer for 20/20.

  • Shalini was putting together an episode about Unexplained Mysteries with a section about

  • children with past lives.

  • Surprisingly, Bruce was all for doing the show.

  • He thought the show might help unravel this mystery for once and all.

  • Andrea was a little worried about her neighbors' reactions, she didn't want to be shunned.

  • Not long after James' fourth birthday, the production crew met up with the family during

  • a trip to Galveston, Texas and shot James roaming through the Lone Star Flight museum.

  • Several weeks later, TV personality Shari Belefonte interviewed the family at their

  • home.

  • During the interview something odd happened.

  • Shari attempted to ask Andrea and Bruce if they believed in reincarnation several times.

  • The first time the sound man reported the battery for the recorder had gone dead, he

  • put in a new one.

  • The second time something went wrong with the charger and it wouldn't record.

  • While Shari was asking for the third time, the screw holding the camera tripod broke

  • and the camera crashed to the floor.

  • After that there was a camera glitch.

  • Then the TV in the next room suddenly came on, everyone felt an eerie chill so Shari

  • quickly moved on to the next question.

  • In the end, James' segment wasn't considered strong enough to air on primetime TV.

  • September 2002

  • Bruce flew to San Diego for the Natoma Bay Reunion.

  • Not wanting to explain the mystery of James to anyone, Bruce kept up the idea that

  • he was writing a book.

  • He was able to gather information, learning a little more about

  • the casualties from the ship, including a James M. Huston.

  • Records showed that on March 3, 1945 James M. Huston was killed while flying an FM-2

  • Wildcat on a bombing mission against Chichi-Jima, the Japanese supply base less than 200 miles

  • (321 km) from Iwo Jima.

  • Bruce returned home feeling bad about his deception.

  • He now wanted to write a book for real.

  • Andrea was becoming convinced that her son had a past life as James M. Huston.

  • One day Bruce was raking leaves in the yard, cleaning up after Hurricane Lili.

  • He gave James a kiss and said he was happy to have him as his son.

  • James replied back in an eerie voiceThat's why I picked you, I knew you would be a good

  • daddy.”

  • Disturbed, Bruce asked when.

  • James explained that he saw him and mommy in Hawaii at a big pink hotel.

  • In 1997 the Leiningers went to Hawaii for their 5th wedding anniversary.

  • Five weeks later, Andrea had gotten pregnant with James.

  • Christmas 2002

  • James received a GI Joe as a present, he named it Walter.

  • He already had 2 other GI Joes which he had named Billie and Leon.

  • When asked about the names, James saidthat was who met me when I got to heaven.”

  • Burce had heard those names before.

  • He dug through his research and found the names Billie Peeler, Walter Delvin and Leon

  • Conner.

  • They were in the same squadron as James M. Huston and were killed in 1944, while James

  • was killed in 1945.

  • February 2003

  • After a lot of research Andrea was able to track down Anne Baron, James M Huston's

  • 84 year old sister who lived in California.

  • After the women bonded on the phone, Anne sent them some photos of James, including

  • one of him posing in front of a Corsair.

  • Also, she learned that James M. Huston was a junior, named for his father, which is why

  • James always wrote James 3 on his drawings.

  • By now Bruce was beginning to entertain the possibility that his son was the reincarnated

  • James M. Huston, but he still struggled with it in terms of his faith.

  • He continued on with his research, wanting to know exactly how James' plane crashed.

  • June 2003

  • A veteran named Jack Durham found an old forum post that Bruce had made on the ChiChi-Jima

  • website and reached out.

  • He was able to provide an eyewitness account of James M. Huston's death and confirmed that

  • James piloted a Corsair.

  • The 21-year-old Navy pilot was on a mission near Chichi-Jima when Japanese artillery shot

  • down his plane.

  • The burning Corsair nosedived into the ocean, leaving James with no time to eject.

  • This matched the details that young James had told his parents 2 years ago.

  • That fall Bruce attended another veterans reunion, this time for the VC-83 squadron

  • of Sargent Bay, another escort carrier that fought at Iwo-Jima.

  • Because of how the firefight happened, it was the pilots in a second wave from the Sargents

  • Bay who actually witnessed James M Huston's plane crash.

  • During one of his stories a veteran mentioned that the shell that hit James's plane sheared

  • off the propeller.

  • This detail explained why James always crashed and broke the propellers off his toy planes.

  • Bruce ended up confessing to the vets about his son James having a past life.

  • To his surprise, they accepted it, telling their own stories of premonition and supernatural

  • occurrences during the war.

  • For the first time, Bruce found himself at peace about his faith and believing that James

  • had a past life.

  • Several days later Shalani, the young producer called.

  • The Leinigers brought her up to date on everything they'd discovered.

  • She now worked for ABC Primetime and wanted to do a story about James.

  • In addition to interviewing the Leinginger and talking to James, she wanted to interview

  • veterans from the Natoma Bay and other people the Leiningers had talked to on their search.

  • So Bruce ended up revealing the truth to the Natoma Bay vets and other people he had talked