The James Leininger Case Re-Examined

Journal of Scientific Exploration 35 (4) (2021)
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In this article, I examine an ostensible case of the reincarnation type previously investigated and analyzed by Jim Tucker, M.D. of the University of Virginia. The case concerns James Leininger, a young boy who beginning around age two in 2000 and for several years thereafter began exhibiting behaviors and making claims that were later believed to resemble the life and death of World War II fighter pilot James Huston, Jr. The James Leininger story is widely regarded as a superior American case of reincarnation. After a two-year investigation of this case, I present my findings and their implications for the evaluation of this case as evidence for reincarnation. The favorable assessment of the case is based on the assumption that there is a sufficiently robust and credible narrative of James Leininger’s experiences, behaviors, and claims. I will argue that the chronology of events which provide the factual scaffolding of this case is neither robust nor credible, especially with respect to what are presumed to be the case’s strongest features. The official narrative is not robust because it excludes salient contextual details related to James’s exposure to ordinary sources of information which plausibly shaped his experience. The narrative is not credible because the presumed facts of the case are based almost exclusively on the testimony of James Leininger’s parents, but their testimony suffers from a variety of significant credibility problems. These two defects – lack of narrative robustness and credibility – also vitiate Jim Tucker’s investigation and presentation. Consequently, his favorable assessment of this case as evidence for reincarnation is unwarranted.



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Michael Sudduth
San Francisco State University

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