Reincarnation: The strange case of James Arthur Flowerdew

Flowerdew was haunted by visions of a city surrounded by deserts for many years.

James Arthur Flowerdew was a man of dual parts. He was also a man who believed he had lived before. In fact, Flowerdew — an Englishman born on December 1, 1906 — claimed to have a detailed recollection of his previous life as one who had been born in a famous ancient city.

Reincarnation: The strange case of James Arthur Flowerdew 1
Buddhist Wheel of Life, in Baodingshan historic site, Dazu Rock Carvings, Sichuan, China, dating from Song of the South dynasty (AD 1174-1252). It stands in the hands of Anicca ( the impermanence), one of the three marks of existence as understood by Buddhists. Six reincarnations of all living creatures are displayed in the wheel, and show the Buddhist karma and retribution. © Shutterstock

But that wasn’t all. According to Flowerdew, he’d been reincarnated again as himself, some 2,000 years later, with all the details locked away inside his head once more.

In an era when few people would have heard of such ideas, or have questioned them so directly and so publicly, this declaration must have come as quite a shock to those around him at the time.
Unfortunately for us, however, little is known about James Arthur Flowerdew today — and much of what we do know comes from just some online articles.

The strange case of James Arthur Flowerdew

James Arthur Flowerdew © MysteriousUniverse
James Arthur Flowerdew © MysteriousUniverse

There was an elderly man in England named Arthur Flowerdew. He’d lived his whole life in the seaside town of Norfolk, and had left England only once, to journey to the French coast. All his life, however, Arthur Flowerdew had been plagued by vivid mental pictures of a great city surrounded by desert, and a temple carved out of a cliff. They were inexplicable to him, until one day he saw a television documentary on the ancient city of Petra in Jordan. To his amazement, Petra was the city he had imprinted in his mind!

Flowerdew soon became popular

Reincarnation: The strange case of James Arthur Flowerdew 2
Petra, originally known to its inhabitants as Raqmu or Raqēmō, is a historic and archaeological city in southern Jordan. The area around Petra has been inhabited from as early as 7000 BC, and the Nabataeans might have settled in what would become the capital city of their kingdom as early as the 4th century BC. © Shutterstock

Flowerdew spoke to people about his visions, and, as a result, the BBC came to hear about Arthur Flowerdew and put his story on television. The Jordanian government heard about him, and offered to bring him to Petra to see what his reactions to the city would be. Archaeologists interviewed him before he left on his journey, and recorded his descriptions of his mental impressions of this ancient city.

Archeologists were just baffled

When Flowerdew was brought to Petra, he was able to identify the locations of both excavated and unexcavated structures that had been part of the ancient city. To say, he described the city with astounding accuracy. He had memories of being a temple guard, and identified the structure that had been his guard station and where he had been murdered.

He also explained a very plausible use for a device whose explanation had baffled archaeologists, and even correctly identified the locations of many landmarks that had yet to be excavated. Many experts said that Flowerdew had more knowledge of the city than many professionals studying it.

Petra’s expert archaeologist was amazed, and told the reporters documenting Flowerdew’s journey:

“He’s filled in details and a lot of it is very consistent with known archeological and historical facts and it would require a mind very different from his to be able to sustain a fabric of deception on the scale of his memories — at least those he’s reported to me. I don’t think he’s a fraud. I don’t think he has the capacity to be a fraud on this scale.”

Many spiritual leaders, including Tibetan Buddhist lama Sogyal Rinpoche, believe that Flowerdew’s experience offers highly suggestive evidence for the existence of rebirth or reincarnation.

Final thoughts

James Arthur Flowerdew’s experience is one of many that offer suggestive evidence for the existence of rebirth or reincarnation. Though scientists have yet to find a concrete way to study this phenomenon, the stories of those who have experienced it are powerful and often life-changing. If you’re interested in reading more about cases like Flowerdew’s, check out some of the resources cited below. And if you yourself have had an experience that you believe might suggest reincarnation, we would love to hear from you!

If you enjoyed reading this article, then read the strange reincarnation stories of Dorothy Eady and the Pollock Twins.