Why do so many people who claim to be reincarnated return to earth as celebrities rather than, say, car salesmen? Richard Macer tracks down some recent second comings for whom this is a matter of life and death
Since then Merlin found himself a hat and a silk cape and set off on an endless journey he refers to affectionately as the Magical Mystery Tour. I can't pretend I didn't have my doubts about Merlin. He wasn't a magician in an orthodox way like Paul Daniels. He didn't own a pack of cards. This was a man who claimed to have created Britain's most famous archeological site, Stonehenge, thousands of years ago. Not to be outdone with the endeavours of his prehistoric self, in this life Merlin had invented something he claimed the American military was desperate to get hold of. A machine which made you invisible.
Saturday April 28, 2007
"What do I have to do to make you believe that I am Elvis Aaron Presley?" So asked the overweight middle-aged man dressed in a white rhinestone jumpsuit. This conversation was typical of many I was having on a journey into the world of the famously reincarnated. I was intrigued that so many people who claim to have returned for a second time are equipped with glamorous new identities - like rock stars, or legends or even gods! Why is it that no one has ever been an estate agent or an insurance salesman in a previous life? Is it simply that these former incarnations are just too anonymous?
My journey had begun in Bristol where I'd heard the famous wizard, Merlin, had returned to life and was living in rented accommodation. George Vernon discovered he was Merlin while out fishing as a lad of 11 - voices in his head telling him "Merlin, Merlin, Merlin, you're back."
As if to prove a point later that day he took me to the place he'd been storing the invention - in a friend's back garden - but alas it had disappeared. I did wonder if George Vernon was just seeking a bit of exposure for himself and I wasn't convinced he really believed he was the wizard. It was difficult to prove since Merlin was more a legend than a fact. So I set off to Canada to meet up with the most famous reincarnated person - Elvis Presley.
He was living in a log cabin in the Yukon. Originally Elvis had been called Gilbert until some aliens from a UFO turned him into the King several years ago. Since that time he'd become disillusioned because people generally had refused to accept that he was the legendary singer. Elvis's failure to be accepted by society reached boiling point a few years ago when he tried to enter a nationwide competition to find the best Elvis Presley impersonator. The judges told him he wouldn't be allowed to take part because he'd insisted on playing new songs he'd written in the last few years. He'd never quite got over the ignominy of being banned from his own competition. One evening I watched him play a gig at a bar near where he lived. I was disappointed because all his old hits from the 1950s and 1960s were kept under wraps and he just played new stuff from his band the Armageddon Angels. It gave me an insight into what he might have been like if he'd never died and strangely it made me grateful that he had. But despite that it did make me aware that this Elvis really believed he was more than just an impersonator.
In Norfolk there was a man who believed he was God, which I suppose in terms of reincarnation is a bit like winning the lottery. Julian Bareham had a nervous breakdown at his mother's bungalow after his wife left him and then he lost a high-powered job. Since then he's described himself as "the biggest cosmic fruitcake to walk the face of eternity." He travelled to London with the aim of meeting the Queen and Archbishop of Canterbury. He wanted to tell them about his plans to save mankind but the police intercepted him at Buckingham Palace and shortly after this Julian found himself hospitalised. Since then he hasn't worked and is constantly on medication. While I was filming Julian, his brother-in-law, Jimmy, gave him a job working the lights at a concert he was performing as a Cliff Richard look-a-like. Everything was going well until Jimmy was halfway through singing Summer Holiday when Julian got distracted and started talking to me about a journey he'd made to the Ends Of Time. Even though he didn't try and look like God, it was absolutely clear to me that Julian really believed who he was. But to what extent did he need to be on medication?
I'd heard about a doctor in LA who turned medical opinion on its head and actually believed in reincarnation. I met up with Dr Adrian Finkelstein as he prepared to hypnotise a woman called Sheree Lee Laird. Eight years ago he'd placed her in a trance for the first time and Sheree had learned that she was also the Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe. On this occasion he was going to ask her about Marilyn's affair with Jack Kennedy. I couldn't help feeling excited that I was about to meet the real 1950s sex bomb. Maybe I believed her more because Marilyn was hidden away beneath Sheree's personalilty. But then after half an hour of listening to Monroe ramble on about the men in her life - I felt like saying give it a rest. Judging from the amount of time Sheree spent crying Marilyn must have had a pretty unhappy life.
Oddly enough, learning that she was Marilyn had saved Sheree's life. Before meeting Doctor Finkelstein she'd been suffering from depression and tried to kill herself. This was a theme which united many of the people I had spent time with. Embracing a new famous persona had made their current real lives more bearable. When I began making this film I had an open mind about the notion of reincarnation but the people I had met hadn't convinced me. What I had learned was just how thin the line is between reincarnation and insanity. It's just a matter of what you believe in. So, if your current life is getting you down why not treat yourself to a new famous identity - Vincent Van Gogh, Cary Grant, Alfred Einstein maybe?
· One Life: Famously Reincarnated, Tue, 10.45pm, BBC1
Source : The Guardian