ALFRED PEACOCK? REINCARNATION FANTASIES ABOUT THE TITANIC
by TITUS RIVAS
Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, Volume 58, 1991, 10-15.
A retired technical engineer claimed he could prove that he had been a drowned passenger of the Titanic. The person he would have been was the infant Alfred Peacock. However, his proof was shown to be invalid and attributable to inaccurate research. The subject also had some clear and verifiable memories of his claimed previous life. These too turned out to be incorrect.
The reincarnation fantasies are partly explained by his experience with sea-journeys and by fascination with the Titanic catastrophe, which took place only a few years before his birth. However, his choice of an infant and the dissociative certainty with which his fantasies imposed themselves as memories remain unexplained.
In 1988 I was approached via the Parapsychologisch Instituut in Utrecht (The Netherlands) by a Mr F. H. from A., a retired technical engineer.
F.H. was born in 1916 from Dutch parents in what is now Indonesia. Every four years his family travelled from the Dutch Indies to Holland. After having completed high school in the Indies, F.H. followed technical studies from 1934 till 1939 in Zurich. After the war he occupied for many years a leading position with an important enterprise.
He told me that for a long time he had been having separate 'images' that related to a maritime catastrophe. In 1973 he had reached a reconstruction or 'model' on the basis of those images. This reconstruction implied that in his previous life H. had left England for the U. S. as a young child, together with his mother. Two days before the departure of their ship, they would have left home. They would have stayed at an aunt's place and from there they would have been driven in a motor car to the Underground. By Underground and train they would have reached their ship. After travelling for several days the ship would have sunk and F.H. perished in this event.
Looking for a disaster to which all his images might be related, H. told his story to his married daughter and her husband. His son-in-law gave him his book on the Titanic (Walter Lord's famous best-seller). This was the very first book on this catastrophe that H. had laid his hands on. From certain details H. thought that it was indeed the disaster which had cost him his life.
Apart from that, he recalled an event wherein his name was mentioned: During the visit to his aunt they would have celebrated his second birthday. His cousin would have asked him to say his name. This sounded as "A .. ed" (English spelling). On the basis of this concrete reminiscence he searched through Lord's passenger list. Remembering he had travelled third-class, H. that way found one Alfred Peacock who would have made the journey together with his mother and sister.
Later on, in 1985, F.H. would have sought this name in the archives at St Catherine's House in London. He would have found an Alfred Peacock who really was born on the same day and month as the departure of the Titanic (10-4-1912), namely on 10th April 1910, in Romford (near London).
Mr F.H. regarded this date as a unique proof of the correctness of his reconstruction. His enthusiasm for his own case was, understandably, great and he was prepared to offer me any co-operation needed for a scholarly investigation of his claims.
For this purpose I asked Dr Alan Gauld of the University of Nottingham, a survival researcher of great merit, to help me. On his advice I also contacted writer George Behe, and Donald Lynch and Brian Ticehurst. They in their turn informed Geoff Whitfield, who was also of invaluable importance for this investigation.
LIST OF H.'s MAIN RECOLLECTIONS
1 His name was "A . . ed", which leads to the reconstruction: Alfred Peacock.
2 The day of the Titanic's departure was his second birthday.
3 They celebrated his birthday the day before departure, during a stay at his aunt's home. This was a maternal aunt who lived in or near Hampstead (London).
4 At the birthday party there was a 14- or 15-year-old (female) cousin.
5 His aunt was wealthy and possessed an old motor car (1903-1905).
6 In this car Alfred, his mother and his sister were driven to the Underground.
7 On board the ship he was the only child who stayed days over with his mum. The other children went to some kind of day care (or kindergarten).
8 He travelled third-class, but had a beautiful cabin in which the three of them slept, though it was meant for four persons.
9 All passengers were shown over the whole ship.
10 The Peacocks during the journey had access to the second-class, perhaps through social connections.
11 He remembered the location of his cabin.
12 Their bodies were found, and buried in the U.S.
13 His father had left for Canada or the United States before the disaster.
METHODS OF INVESTIGATION
Before trying to verify H.'s recollections, I made efforts to find witnesses for the various steps in H.'s demonstration of his proof. This met with great lack of understanding on the part of Mr H. and thus I did not really have the opportunity to undertake this.
Forced to skip this important phase, I sent a letter to Dr Alan Gauld with the request that he help me with the verification of the claimed memories.
Gauld had at his disposal a copy of Walter Lord's book and thus he could tell me that the relevant names in the passenger list were: Peacock, Alfred (infant); Peacock, Treasteall; and Peacock, Treasteall (child). He advised me to obtain a copy of the birth certificate at St Catherine's House. Also, I might try to get a copy of a possible will of Treasteall Peacock. Near the end of July 1989 I received the message that no will of Treasteall Peacock could be found. In October 1989 a copy of the birth certificate of the searched-for "Alfred Peacock from Romford" followed. However, this Alfred - contrary to H.'s claims - turned out to have been born on 3rd June 1910! Furthermore, his mother was not called Treasteall but Amy Emma Peacock. Gauld was kind enough to reinforce this strange falsification of the very core of H.'s 'proof. He made some phone calls to the local Registrar of Births, Death and Marriages, who confirmed that there had been registration of only one relevant Alfred Peacock in Romford. Also, the local library in Romford undertook a search through newspapers to see whether they mentioned Alfred Peacock's supposed death in 1912. This also led to no positive result. Therefore, Dr Gauld and I both concluded that this Romford Alfred could not be the same as the Alfred Peacock that was mentioned in Walter Lord's book. And this meant of course that F.H.'s 'unique proof had already basically fallen apart!
Following Gauld's advice I subsequently wrote letters to the British Titanic Society, to George Behe, and to the (American) Titanic Historical Society.
By the beginning of December 1989 I had already received a reply from Donald Lynch of the Titanic Historical Society. He shared with me the following information:
- According to London's Public Record Office Alfred E. Peacock was seven months old. According to the American National Archives his name would have been Albert Edward Peacock and he would have been one year of age.
- He travelled together with his mother, Treasteall Peacock, who was either 26 (London) or 27 (America), and his sister Treasteall, of 4 or 3,5 years respectively. According to London their address was: "Mrs Elkins, 35 Orchard Place".
- The National Archives mentioned Alfred's father's name as Benjamin Peacock.
- The British paper, Falmouth Packet, of 26th April 1912 states that Mrs Peacock was born in Carnkie, near Redruth, Cornwall. Her mother was one Mrs Nile from Carnkie, and she had a sister, a Mrs Goldworthy,who lived in Redruth. She was 28 years of age and had married in London in 1906.
- None of the Peacocks' bodies were found.
Some days after this, a letter from writer George Behe reached me, with some information on Benjamin Peacock from the newspaper, Newark Evening News, of April 1912. He would have left England one year before (1911) and would have left his wife and three-year-old child behind. After his arrival in the U.S. a second child, whom he had never seen, would have been born!
Near the end of 1990 I received a second letter from Donald Lynch, with the following content:
- Third-class passengers had no access to other parts of the ship during the voyage.
- There was no daycare on the Titanic.
- Unfortunately there are no registers of third-class cabins, so the memory related to the cabin remains unverifiable.
Finally, I received a message from Brian J. Ticehurst, who is a "Titanic Researcher and Shipping Historian". He told me that the Peacocks had stayed for a very brief period in Queens Terrace, Southampton, where they rented some rooms above a General Shop. They did not have any other connection with Southampton.
H.'s reaction to the 'falsification' of his recollections was, first of all, that there must have been yet another Alfred Peacock, who in fact was born on 10th April 1910 in Romford and who therefore was exactly two years old on the day of departure. For this reason, Alan Gauld at my request made a list from the archives of all relevant Alfred Peacocks from the period in question. All in all, there turned out to have been twelve persons of this name, but none of them corresponded to H.'s postulated 'real Titanic -Romford Alfred Peacock'. Thus, it had become very unrealistic to believe there could have been another such Alfred. H. must simply have made a very unfortunate error in 1985 when he collected his data at St Catherine's House!
Concerning the ages we had found (7 months and 1 year), H. suggested that his mother would have lied intentionally about Alfred's age in order to keep him with her during the day, which otherwise would have been impossible. However, as there was no daycare on the ship, we can exclude this possibility with absolute certainty.
Another observation H. made was that there would still be a strong taboo surrounding the Titanic, connected with long-standing financial claims that survivors might make. This surely cannot count as a valid reason for discarding data from serious historical societies.
Finally, he claimed that the information from America would be either of third-hand quality or totally unreliable. An assumption that H. could not substantiate in any way.
Summarizing, we can say that all of H.'s objections are valueless.
H.'s STRUGGLE F.H. simply would not give up. In the second half of 1990 he personally made a trip to London, and visited St Catherine's House again. Much to his surprise, he could not find the Romford Alfred he would have seen in 1985. He found only two other Alfred Peacocks, whom I identified as belonging to Gauld's list.
H. was baffled by this negative finding, and tried to make sense of it, by stating that he must have become the victim of a real conspiracy against him personally. His enemies, probably for financial reasons, might even have stolen some books from St Catherine's House (!), he told me.
F.H. invited me to visit his home in A., and convinced me he deserved a last chance. I would still write some letters to the Titanic researchers, as well as to Cardiff, namely to ask for the birth-date of the real Alfred.
Cardiff confirmed the other findings, saying that the Titanic A. P. had been born in September 1911, which would mean that he was 7 months old at the time of the tragedy.
The other 'blows' came from Geoff Whitfield. In three letters he revealed - among other things - the following facts, partly acquired through a relative of the real Alfred Peacock (a niece of Mrs Peacock) :
- It is possible that he was born in Plymouth, Devon, as the family almost certainly lived there for some time.
- Alfred's mother had only two sisters, these being Beatrice (born 1883), who married Tom Goldworthy, and Sarah Jane (born 1872), who when married moved to South Wales.
- In 1911 Benjamin Peacock left his wife behind, precisely because she was pregnant. probably the birth of their daughter had been a difficult one and Benjamin thought it safer for her to remain in the surroundings which she was used to.
- There was no form of daycare for the children on the ship. Amongst the survivors still alive today, several of whom Whitfield had met, there has never been mention of such a system. Of course all the people who are still alive would have been children at the time and so would surely have remembered.
- None of Mrs Peacock's brothers or sisters was old enough to have a 14- or 15-year-old daughter at the time.
F.H. still did not want to 'surrender'. There certainly must have been another Alfred Peacock, who would totally conform to his story. Besides, reacting to two photographs kindly sent to me by Whitfield, of Mrs Peacock and the infant Alfred, he remarked rather angrily that these people "obviously weren't the real Peacocks", since they did not resemble his 'images' of them!
Since I could not agree with his extraordinary grievance, I must be part of the deceivers or one of their incompetent victims, naively swallowing their 'lies'.
It is clear that H.'s recollections cannot in any way be considered as corresponding to the registered data.
H.'s objections against the reliability of the information on record are completely irrational and should therefore be rejected.
On the basis of these data we have no other choice but to consider this case a complex fantasy. To H. himself this has never been a reasonable option. Thus, he writes in a letter of January 11th 1990 :
-"This is (memory) truth - if they were just lies of mine, in other words, made up, then I have missed my vocation as a possible novelist, because these would certainly be marvellous lies or fantasies."
The reader may find this somewhat exaggerated, but he or she should know that H. did not in fact describe to me his separate images, but presented his meticulous reconstruction, which encompassed almost every notable event from the claimed departure from Romford to the burial of his body. Thus, H. spoke several times of a book he might fill with his recollections. In general it was clear to me that H. had a strong emotional involvement in his own case. At one time, this even seems to have led to a telepathic 'rapport ' between subject and researcher. Without H. knowing this, I had sent him an important letter. When the next morning I received a telephone call from H., I concluded that he had felt the - for him unusual - urge to react directly to my letter. However, this was not the case. The letter had not reached him yet and H. had just felt the urge to call me. Apart from that, he sent me numerous, very extensive letters, which clearly showed his frustration with our results and also a more general disappointment in Western orthodox science.
Unfortunately, I have not succeeded in convincing H. that most probably he never drowned as Alfred Peacock in the Titanic disaster. Neither have I been able to gather more information on H.'s psychological background, because H. lived in very delicate medical and social circumstances and was only available for matters that directly concerned verification and proof. There might be one exception to this: H. generally seems to suffer from paranoid fears of various kinds of 'conspiracies', mainly related to his professional career, which suffered a painful ending. This might explain his persistent claims that he could be the victim of a conspiracy in this case too.
Apart from the above I can only come to the following analysis:
1 It is certain that the subject of a 'big sea-voyage' played apart in F.H.'s early life, since as a boy he travelled several times from the Dutch Indies to Holland.
2 Besides, H. was born only a few years after the tragedy of the Titanic, which might have had a suggestive influence on his imagination. The reader will know that this was a very much discussed, if not the most notorious, disaster of twentieth-century history.
3 The details he presents as memories are totally nonsensical, so they should be seen as the product of arbitrary fantasy and over-enthusiastic reconstruction.
4 The clarity and vividness of the memories indicate a form of dissociation. However, this analysis leaves two questions unanswered:
- Why did F.H. choose an 'infant' as a previous personality?
- Why were the fantasies accompanied by a form of dissociation?
Perhaps the study of similar cases of fantasy may in the future solve these enigmas.
My thanks go first to F.H. himself, despite his rejection of all my conclusions. Additionally, I am grateful to Martine Busch, Don Lynch, George Behe, Brian J. Ticehurst, Eric de Maeyer and Geoff Whitfield, for their invaluable efforts and advice. And without the continuous and serious work of Dr Alan Gauld this investigation would have been totally impossible.
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Data with picture of Alfred Edward Peacock