Bloxham, Arnall (ca. 1881-?)

views updated

Bloxham, Arnall (ca. 1881-?)

British hypnotherapist who spent over 20 years tape-recording hypnotic sessions with subjects whose memories apparently regressed to former incarnations. Bloxham followed up on his tapes and attempted to uncover corroborating evidence relative to his subject's claims of former earth lives, un-like Morey Bernstein, who did little research on the claims of his hypnotized subject Virginia Tighe, whose reveries of a former life as "Bridey Murphy" were the subject of a best-selling book. Bloxham assembled data on some 400 cases of claimed reincarnation.

He grew up in Pershore, a small village in Worcestershire, England, and was educated at Worcester Grammar School. During childhood, he had vivid dreams of people and events that suggested past lives, and some of the details of these dreams were later verified in adult life. His interest in hypnotism dated from his schooldays, when he discovered his ability for mesmerism, as it was then called, and used it to cure a friend's headache. He planned to become a doctor and thought that mesmerism might be a useful asset. However at the age of 18, Bloxham joined the Royal Navy on the outbreak of World War I. After being taken ill with typhoid fever, he was told that he could never work in a hospital, so he became a hypnotherapist and practiced for more than 40 years.

During World War II he again served in the navy, this time as a naval lieutenant, and afterward he settled in Cardiff, South Wales. Here his reputation as a hypnotist gained him a thriving practice. He gave public lectures, appeared on television shows, and cooperated with a dentist to prove that teeth could be extracted under hypnosis instead of anesthetic. Hypnotherapy became increasingly recognized by the British medical profession. In 1972 Bloxham served as president of the British Society of Hypnotherapists.

The activity for which he is best known took place with the assistance of his wife, Dulcie, hypnotizing subjects, regressing their memories to "former existences," and making tape recordings of the sessions. Some of these tapes were played at informal meetings with individuals interested in reincarnation or the law of karma (the Eastern philosophy of action and reaction extended over several lives). In 1958 Dulcie published a book titled Who Was Ann Ockenden? about one of her husband's subjects, a schoolteacher whose memories under hypnosis regressed to seven different "lives." The regular meetings came to an end soon after the death of Dulcie Bloxham.

The 400 cases that make up the Bloxham Tapes are of ordinary people who lived humdrum lives and whose memories of previous "lives" are equally ordinary, although studded with circumstantial information that seemed as if it could be corroborated. For example, the tapes detailed the account of a Welsh housewife who described the massacre of Jews in twelfth-century York, a press photographer who claimed to have seen the execution of Charles I in Whitehall, London, in 1649, a Welshman who told of life aboard a frigate as a press-ganged seaman in Nelson's Navy. Some of the subjects, like the Welsh housewife, recalled six or seven previous lives.

During the 1970s the vast collection of tape-recorded material was painstakingly investigated by BBC radio and television producer Jeffrey Iverson. With the cooperation of famous television presenter Magnus Magnusson, they presented a television program titled The Bloxham Tapes, featuring actual hypnotic sessions with some of Bloxham's subjects and detailing how the evidence of the claimed memories of former lives was corroborated. Iverson's book More Lives than One? (1976) presents the results of his research on the Bloxham Tapes.

A more skeptical view of the Bloxham claims was presented by Ian Wilson in his 1982 text Reincarnation? Wilson suggests that some of the claimed former lives of Bloxham subjects were due to cryptomnesia, the recasting of subconscious memories from secondary sources into apparently real past life experiences. In the case of "Jane Evans," one of Bloxham's cases, Wilson claims that the source of her apparent recall of a past life in the twelfth century could have been an unconscious reworking of a historical novel since traced by an investigator.

Whether hypnotism can be relied on to create significant proof of reincarnation is itself a controversial contention. Researchers have continually shown problems generated by the hypnotist leading the person in the creation of a fantasy. Individuals in a hypnotized state also show an extraordinary ability to create very convincing stories out of a storehouse of memories in the manner that some artists claim they produced their results and some authors their fictions. Although many authors consciously research and develop plot, characters, and backgrounds, others, such as Joan Grant, for example, have found that their stories are "dictated" fluently from the subconscious, as if they were dreams or real memories.


Iverson, Jeffrey. More Lives than One? London, 1976.

Wilson, Ian. Mind Out of Time. London: Gollancz, 1981.

About this article

Bloxham, Arnall (ca. 1881-?)

Updated About content Print Article Share Article