In most respects Cameron Macaulay is a typical six-year old boy. He loves playing football and drawing pictures of his home. Except the pictures Cameron draws are not of his two-story house in Clydebank, Glasgow but of a single story house next to the beach, located on the tiny Scottish island of Barra. A house he claims he occupied in a former life.

As soon as he could talk Cameron started telling his mother, Norma, that he had lived in this house along with three brothers and sisters. Norma, who at first dismissed the stories as childish imagination, soon became disturbed when Cameron insisted his Barra parents collect him from school.

Cameron is one of several thousand children whose spontaneous recall of an apparent past life has been carefully examined by scientific investigators.






Reincarnation, the belief that the soul transmigrates from one lifetime to another, is popular among Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. But it is also surprisingly popular in the west. A 2001 Gallop poll showed that as many as one in four westerners believe in reincarnation. However belief in reincarnation is no measure of its possible reality. The scientific consensus, based on materialism, rejects any possibility of life after death. But not all scientists agree. The discoveries of quantum physics clearly show that the materialist paradigm cannot explain many aspects of reality. It is at best incomplete. And a huge body of evidence from survival research contradicts the materialist theory that consciousness is solely a byproduct of electrochemical activity in the brain. This includes: near death experience, mediumship, aparititions and the scientific investigations into reincarnation.








The late Dr. Ian Stevenson from the University of Virginia has conducted the most famous scientific investigation into the spontaneous recall of past lives. Stevenson’s research was only possible because of an endowment given to the university by the founder of the Xerox Corporation, Chester Carlson. Stevenson’s approach to investigating reincarnation was to find children who recalled past lives and then to try and locate friends and families they say they lived with in the former life. After forty years of research Stevenson cautiously stated: “My conclusion so far is that reincarnation is not the only explanation for these cases, but that it is the best explanation we have for the stronger cases.”

Today Dr. Jim Tucker, also at the University of Virginia, continues Stevenson’s research. Tucker was invited to participate in a documentary made for British TV on the Cameron Macaulay case. For the film he interviewed the family and then accompanied them to Barra to see if they could locate the house that Cameron claimed he lived in during a past life. I subsequently visited the family shortly after the film was aired in order to shoot interviews for my own documentary about the evidence for life after death.







“Virtually the third word that came out of Cameron’s mouth was Barra,” explains Norma Macaulay. “ He would tell everyone- I’m a Barra boy, I’m a Barra boy. He kept telling me over and over that he was worried that his Barra parents would be missing him and he really wanted to go back there.”

Norma could not understand Cameron’s obsession with Barra, since none of her family had any connections to the island nor had she ever mentioned the place to Cameron.

“At first we just put his stories down to a vivid imagination.”  Then she began to really worry when Cameron started to become distressed at being away from his Barra family. “It was awful and went on for years,” she states. “When he started nursery school his teacher asked to see me and told me all the things Cameron was saying about Barra. He missed his mummy and his brothers and sisters there.” Cameron also complained about how he missed playing in rock pools on the beach beside his house. He even complained about the fact that his Glasgow house only had one toilet while in his Barra home he said there were three. “He used to cry for his Barra mum. He said she’d be missing him and he wanted to let his family in Barra know he was all right. He was desperate to return there. It was very distressing. He was inconsolable.”





As Cameron played with his brother Martin I asked him if he remembered his father on Barra. “ Yes,” he states. “His name was Shane Robertson.” Whenever Cameron was talking about his claimed past life I was struck by how serious he became. It was quite clear that he completely believed what he was saying. Was it possible to see his father I asked? “No, because he is dead”, states Cameron bluntly. How did he die, I asked? “He didn’t look both ways,” replied Cameron. I ask his if he means his father was run over by a car and he nods his head.

When Norma asked Cameron how he ended up with her, he states: ‘he fell through a hole and went into my tummy.’



Cameron described to me the house he claimed he used to live in. “It was a white house by the beach,” he states. “ In the back there was a secret path that led to a gate and from there you could go down to the beach. I used to love to play in the rock pools on the beach.” Cameron also stated that the house was on one floor only. He also said that the family owned a black car had a black and white dog as a pet. But perhaps the most interesting piece of information, besides, the name of his father, was his memory of seeing planes flying over the house. “I could see the planes landing on the beach,” he told me. Norma and Martin kept telling him that planes don’t land on beaches. They land on concrete runways. But Cameron insisted that the planes he remembered landed on the beach. Subsequently Norma discovered that Barra is the only place in Britain that’s uses a beach runway. Norma insists that neither she nor any of her friends or family know anything about this tiny island or have been there.







Diane Miller used to live next door to the Macaulays. And her son Aaron used to go to school with Cameron. “One day, when Cameron was about four,” explains Diane, “he told Aaron not to worry about dying because after we die we come back and have another life. That’s a very remarkable thing for a small child to say.” When I spoke to Aaron he told me how Cameron would go on and on about Barra. “ It would drive me crazy,” he explains. “We kept telling him to shut up because we thought he was making it all up. But he never did.”


In 2006 Norma was told about a documentary production company in London that was looking for any children who had spontaneous memories of an alleged past life. She contacted October films who became intrigued with Cameron’s claims. For some time Norma had wanted to take Cameron to Barra to see if she could find the house he described. But being a single mother she lacked the money. October films agreed to fly child psychiatrist, Dr Jim Tucker into Glasgow so he could accompany the family on a trip to Barra. Norma was not convinced that Cameron’s memories were from a past life but she wanted to explore the possibility and believed that the trip would help ease Cameron’s amenities. This was not a view her family or Cameron’s father shared. Although already separated, once Norma made the decision to take Cameron to Barra her former husband was so furious he immediately cut her off financially. Skeptics who might accuse Norma of colluding in some kind of hoax would have to take this into consideration.

As part of the film psychologist Prof. Chris French, the editor of Skeptic Magazine in the UK, confronted Norma. French insisted that Cameron’s case was probably the result of false memory. That Cameron had picked up the information via TV or the Internet, forgotten where the information had come from and then twisted it into his story about an alleged past-life. “ I suppose that is possible,” replied Norma. “But I’ve never seen Barra on the TV and we don’t own a computer. Also October films checked to see if any documentary or news programs about Barra had been broadcast on British TV in the last six-years. And none had.” Norma also pointed out to French that Martin, who is inseparable from Cameron, had no knowledge of Barra and so thinks it unlikely that Cameron would have so much information and Martin would have none.

Norma was also introduced to Karen Majors, an Educational Psychologist who was asked to look at Cameron’s story and give her professional opinion. “How Cameron describes his world seems very different from how children with imaginary worlds and imaginary friends usually describe their experiences,” she states. “Cameron is saying his memories are real. Even very young children with imaginary friends will tell their parents these are imagination and call them my invisible friends. And they usually feel in control of this world. Cameron doesn’t appear to be able to control this world at all. So I would not say that Cameron’s experience falls into the usual pattern of children who create imaginary worlds. So it’s about looking at other ways of explaining his experience.”





Dr Tucker was enthusiastic about accompanying the Macaulay’s to Barra since the chance to follow a case as it unfolds is a rare opportunity. He also found the case interesting because Cameron claims to remember the family name and on a small Island like Barra if a Robertson did own a house this should be easy to trace.

The trip to Barra by plane takes about an hour from Glasgow airport. The Macaulay family and Dr. Tucker climbed aboard the small twin-engine plane. When the plane came into land on the beach Cameron proudly says. “ I told you so.” As he strode across the beach he shouted. “I’m back.”

Driving across the island to the hotel Cameron become very excited saying over and over’ “I’ve come home.” He frequently pointed places he says look familiar to him. The next day Tucker and the family contacted Calum MacNeil the local Historian and asked him to check if his records to see if any one called Robertson owned a house on Barra. Since Cameron has talked about planes landing on the beach as well as mentioning that in the house they had an old fashioned phone with a rotary dial, MacNeil believes the period he must look at would be after the second world war. At first he finds nothing. But then checking the names of families who owned holiday properties on Barra but are no longer residents of the Island, he discovered a Robertson family who owned a house on the cost.







October films then take Cameron to the house without telling him they have discovered a house formerly owned by the Robertson family. He is simply driven up to the front door and he reactions filmed. At this point something very strange happens. The normally bubbly Cameron becomes up-set and quite. He clings to his mother for reassurance and is reluctant to go into the house. Eventually they enter. Whilst going around the house Cameron points out the location of where he claimed to have once slept, along with which bedroom his sisters supposedly slept in. Cameron states that although much of the décor has changed the fireplace has not. The owners later confirm this to be correct. The house does contain three toilets as he recalled. At the back of the house a small path leads to a gate that goes down to the beach. ‘The Secret Path’ as Cameron previously described it. The beach has numerous rock polls.

Although excited by the visit Cameron was also visibly saddened. When asked why he replies.” I miss my Barra mum.”



After returning from the island a genealogist was hired to try and trace any remaining members of the Robertson family. A Gillian Robertson was located in the Scottish town of Sterling. She agrees to be interviewed. Gillian also agrees to share with the Macaulays her albums containing photos of Barra.  “Cameron was eager to see old family photographs in case he found his dad or himself in any,” states Norma. “He’d always talked about a big black car and a black and white dog. The car and the dog were in the photos.”

Gillian explained that she didn’t know of any family members called Shane Robertson, but she did have an uncle and a cousin called James. In Celtic, the name Shane and James are often interchangeable. However Gillian could not recall any family member who died in a car accident.

Since the family returned to their home in Clydebank, Glasgow, Cameron has been much calmer. Dr Tucker notes that this is a common feature among alleged past life cases he has investigated. Norma explains: “Going to Barra was the best thing we could have done. It’s put Cameron’s mind at ease. He no longer talks about Barra with such longing. Now he knows we no longer think he was making things up.”

Having had this experience Norma’s views about reincarnation have changed. “Before I never believed reincarnation was a possibility. Now my mind has totally opened up.”






Although not all the information Cameron provided was accurate Norma believes past life memories might be like ordinary memories. “ We often forget things or incorrectly remember them.” And she concludes -

“We didn’t get all the answers we were looking for — and, apparently, according to Dr. Tucker, past life memories fade as the person gets older.

“And when I ask him what his name was before, he says, ‘It’s Cameron. It’s still me.’


Tim Coleman has been working as a professional journalist for over thirty years. He has been published in a huge range of magazines and newspapers around the world including: The Guardian, The Independent, FHM Magazine, The Face, Focus, Sky, Skin and Ink, Wienner, Tatowier (Germany) Enigmas (Spain), UFO Magazine (UK and US) X-Factor, Encounters, Kindred Spirit and many more.
"As well as earning a living from being a freelance journalist, I have always found journalism to be the perfect medium to explore subjects that I'm passionate about. This not only allows me to enter deeply into the subject through the research, but it also provides me the honor of meeting key players in that field ."
Tim Coleman
Here is a small selection of my work.