Thursday


Could this girl have come back from the dead?



Bella French ran excitedly up the stairs and burst into the empty bedroom. Then turning to her mother who had followed her into the room, she said excitedly: "This is where I used to sleep. The bed was over there by the wall and there were two pictures of horses near the window."

It sounded a pretty harmless observation but it caused Mrs Jean French to involuntarily grip the edge of the door as though an invisible shock-wave had passed through her.

As her daughter moved around the room, remembering what had happened to her there in the past, Mrs French watched and listened in stunned disbelief. She knew without doubt that 12-year-old Bella had never set foot in that room before ... at least not in this life.

It's a case which psychic researchers find as baffling now as when it first came to their attention in 1985.  And, at the time, Bella seemed to have little idea of the sensation she was causing.

Today in her early 40s and living in Australia with a husband and two children, Bella is as bemused by the incident as everyone else.

The strange story began in 1984 when Robert and Jean French decided to move from their house in Bromley, Kent on the outskirts of London to a cottage near Rye in Sussex after Robert had been transferred by his firm of agricultural engineers.

The parents visited the cottage several times but the children, Bella and 10-year-old John, were at school and not able to get time off. So in the summer of 1984, John and Bella moved into their new home without having previously been inside.

It seems that from the start Bella had urged her parents to move to Sussex, saying that she "felt at home there."

When Mrs French said that as far as she knew, Bella had only been there once, the girl replied: "I know, but it seems as though I have lived there before. I can remember lots of things that happened."

Mrs French dismissed this as childish fantasy — until the family actually moved to Rye. The house, a rambling 18th-century former gamekeeper's cottage, stood on the edge of a wood at the end of a narrow lane and as the French's car slowly approached, the normally chatty Bella fell silent.

As her parents prepared for the arrival of the removal van later that morning they could hear the children talking in the garden. Robert French later recalled: "I heard Bella say: 'There was once a pond just here and a stream ran into it from that little hill.'

"Months later, when renovating the garden we found the remains of the pond and the stream that fed it under deep undergrowth. There was no way Bella could have known about it on that first day."

After the incident in the bedroom, her parents asked their daughter why she thought she had lived in the house before.

Bella told them: "It was a long time ago and I seem to think that I had a different mother and father and I was Rachel the eldest daughter.

My father's name was Charles Adams and my mother did sewing for local people."

Seeing looks of utter bewilderment on her parents' faces, she said: "It's like remembering a film you've seen. Perhaps I've dreamed all these things but somehow I don't think so."

As the reminiscences continued, Jean French finally confided in Bella's class teacher, Mrs Anne Feather who, after agreeing to keep the matter to herself, investigated the parish records and found that indeed a family named Adams had lived in the keeper's cottage in the 1820s.
Mrs Feather persuaded Bella's parents to speak to the local Rector, the Rev. Peter Craven, who had an interest in the paranormal and who later wrote a report on the phenomenon for the Society for Psychical Research.

In it, Peter Craven said he found Bella "charming, very natural and apparently unaware of the sensational nature of her revelations. I left pretty well convinced that whatever the eventual outcome, this was not a deliberate hoax."

Some time later, Jean French told the Rector of the latest chapter in her child's extraordinary story. "We found a dusty cupboard in an outhouse which was cleaned and polished and brought into the house.

"When she saw it, Bella immediately said: 'I wrote my name in there when I was that other little girl.' Sure enough, the name 'Rachel' was written faintly on the inside of the door. You could tell it had been written many years ago."

Apparent evidence of Bella's previous life continued to be uncovered until the family moved to Gloucestershire in 1990. Jean French remembered: "On leaving the house, Bella seemed to lose her other identity and never spoke about it.

"I must say I was glad. It's a strange and disturbing thing to have a daughter who, for want of any better explanation, has come back from the dead."

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