The future of reality TV could be kids who think they’ve had past lives.
A Los Angeles production company is currently holding a nationwide casting call for children who claim to have, or have had, past life memories for a new reality series, “Ghost Inside My Child,” scheduled to air on the Bio Channel later this year.
A pilot episode of the series aired a few months ago, with three kids who had gone through various steps of recovering memories of their alleged past lives.
Now, producers Joke Fincioen and Biagio Messina — who are married to each other — are looking for other families with kids who, as the request states, “have inexplicable memories and experiences of another life.”
“We were pregnant at the time when the idea first came to us,” Fincioen told The Huffington Post. “We thought what would we do if this happened with our daughter? It really was a phenomenon. We wanted to tell these parents’ stories without trying to prove or disprove them.”
Messina said the “my kid has a past life scenario” can’t help but raise questions.
“I don’t know what I’d do if my daughter turned out to be Grandma Messina,” he told HuffPost. “What do you do? Ignore it? Explore it? Hope it goes away?”
Fincioen and Messina have worked on other reality shows like “Beauty And The Geek” and “VH1 Scream Queens,” but the idea that small children can remember details about a life they should know nothing about fascinates both of them.
“These kids are going through something and we’re trying to figure it out,” Messina told HuffPost. “A kid will say something about their life and we research it to see if it pans out.”
One case from the first show that still haunts them concerns James Leininger. At the age of two, Leininger reportedly started having terrifying nightmares of his death. Ultimately, the family came to believe that he was the reincarnation of James Huston, a fighter pilot who died in World War II at Iwo Jima.
Amazingly, Leininger not only knew the name of Huston’s ship without prompting — the Natoma Bay — but other details as well, such as the names of his shipmates.
As part of the show, Fincioen and Messina arranged a meeting between Leininger and a member of Huston’s family, a woman now in her 90s.
The woman felt a connection with this young kid and, now, they hope to do similar bits of “closure” with the new crop of past life preteens, but only those who can pass a rigorous screening process.
“We need to make sure the parents are of sound mind and can handle TV,” Messina said, adding that he wants to eliminate stories that are fabricated or kids whose tales of past life seem obviously prepped.
There is another criteria to which the reincarnated rugrats will have their alleged past lives explored: access to documentation.
“It would be difficult to find out if the kid was an Egyptian pharoah,” Messina said.
Parapsychology researcher Loyd Auerbach, who has helped the producers with reincarnation research said there are two major ways to tell if a child may have legitimate memories of a past life.
“Children like these seem to exhibit adult-like behavior and use vocabulary and speech patterns beyond their years,” Auerbach told HuffPost. “Also, look for statements like, ‘I used to be…'”
On the other side, parents should make sure to analyze possible sources of information that may have inspired a child’s “past existence.”
“Sometimes, kids pick up things from watching TV,” he said. “Also, if a child claims to be a dead grandparent, it’s possible they heard people talking about the dead relative or saw pictures.”
Cases like Leininger’s are rare, but Auerbach said that the original soul seems to have died from a traumatic death 15 months before the child’s conception.
But since there have been no widely accepted scientific studies supporting the existence of reincarnation, the casting call and proposed series is attracting the attention of skeptic organizations like the James Randi Foundation, an organization that works to, among other things, expose paranormal and pseudoscientific frauds in the media.
Organization president D.J. Grothe said that the show and the casting call is problematic for a variety of reasons, the main one being that there is no compelling evidence for reincarnation.
“Unfortunately, people use anecdote and stories as proof of these supernatural claims, and this is not dissimilar to ghost stories, or accounts of supposedly accurate psychic readings people will tell,” he told HuffPost by email.
He also has problems with the idea of going to family members of deceased people and telling them that a kid just might be a dearly departed loved one.
“The people who lost a loved one have to re-experience the loss, are told outlandish claims about their loved one being alive again and stuck in the body of a child somewhere,” he said. “I think this is a crassest manipulation of belief and of the fear of death merely for the sake of reality TV ratings.”
Although there are plans to provide counseling after the shooting for participating families, Messina admits a project like this can’t help attract skepticism.
“You can always come up with rational explanations,” he conceded. “But these are stories that inspire questions on both sides.”
People interested in participating can send their story to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (323) 410-0271.