The designer and builder of the Titanic, Irishman Thomas Andrews, went down with his ship 87 years ago next April, but a Gila Bend, Arizona, man believes Andrews's journey continues through him.
William Barnes, 45, believes he was Andrews in a past life, a claim based primarily on regression sessions with a clinical hypnotist in which he speaks with a deep Irish brogue while reliving details from the life of Andrews, the managing director of Irish shipbuilder Harland and Wolff.
The hypnosis, Barnes says, confirms what he had always suspected: that he was born with a "dual memory." When he was four, Barnes became obsessed with drawing "amazingly accurate" pictures of a giant ship he had never seen, the Titanic. "When my mother asked me about it I told her, 'This was my ship but it died,'" he says.
Barnes says his mother humored him, thinking it was simply a child's imagination at work. She became more concerned when Barnes asked about uncles and aunts she had never heard of and then insisted she call him Tommie.
Barnes says the lines of reality crossed even more dramatically during an algebra class at a Cleveland, Ohio, Catholic high school. "I was staring out the window at broken ice on Lake Erie," Barnes says. "Next thing I knew I was running around screaming at people to get into little boats." Barnes found himself in the principal's office, screaming that there wasn't much time. "I was quite a celebrity for a while," he says.
Barnes claims his nights have also been haunted with vivid dreams from another time. In one dream he finds himself standing on the Olympic (the Titanic's sister vessel), looking out at the Titanic and hearing the wail of a banshee, an Irish spirit thought to be a portent of death. Barnes says his own research -- after the dreams began -- uncovered that there actually were men who refused to work on the Titanic because they felt uneasy in its presence.
Barnes's mother, 71-year-old Ann Marie, confirms his claims of drawing the Titanic over and over and asking about relatives she had never heard of when he was very young. "He always loved the sea and was into all types of ships," she says. "His favorite programs were TV shows with boats like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea." She has never heard him speak in a brogue.
Phoenix clinical hypnotist Frank Baranowski has.
"It's really quite amazing to hear this voice and see how emotional he becomes," Baranowski says. A longtime Phoenix area community college teacher in parapsychology, Baranowski says he has had more than 12,000 clients referred to him from psychologists and psychiatrists around the world for hypnotic regression over the past 25 years. He has performed regressions on Larry King Live and has appeared on Unsolved Mysteries. "I've done over 300 regressions this past year alone," Baranowski says. "I've found that about 90 percent [of clients] have lived past lives. Many are even more tormented than Bill by some disturbing event they carried over into their present life."