Mary Four: The Ice Cave and the Amputation


Mary tilted her head forward, and then said matter-of-factly, “Oh. I’m a man.”

I had never encountered anything like this before. What were my next steps? Was I dealing with a fantasy or possible reincarnational being? What practical use would this be? How could I verify this unheard of situation?

I decided to end the session and took every precaution to bring Mary out of hypnosis safely. Afterwards, we spoke for a while. She remembered every aspect of the experience and seemed as puzzled about it as I.

While we talked, at first I didn’t notice that she rubbed her right arm. After a few minutes, it was obvious.

She put on her coat and started to leave, but paused at the door. She added more details, continuing to massage the arm through her coat.

Now, my suspicions were aroused. I asked if her arm bothered her. I thought that, as she was a nurse, she might have strained it that day.

That wasn’t the case. Troubled by this, I asked if she could stay a while longer, asked her to remove her coat and recline again. She agreed.

Because we had explored three time periods that day, I was unsure during which one her arm started to bother her. I helped her enter a deep hypnotic state again, then asked her to allow anything connected with her arm to enter her mind. She became quiet.

Tired, it was after midnight; I closed my eyes and waited for a reply. After a few minutes, I felt a sharp chill, real enough to cause me to open my eyes. I examined the drapes on the window over her, but felt no draft. Then, I asked, “Where are you?”

“The ice cave,” she answered. “”Look down at your arm and tell me what you see,” I said.

Under her lids, her eyes looked down and towards her right arm. Then she answered in the same untroubled tone: “Oh. I don’t have one.”

Surprised, I asked what had happened to the arm. “A bear,” she replied. “A white bear.”

A dark-skinned man wearing furs; an ice cave; a change in gender. All these things led me to suspect that, if there was any truth to this, he was possibly out of the past, perhaps prehistoric. However, my frame of reference may have been wrong. Instead, if this was a true reincarnational memory, it suggested a possible Inuit living closer to the present. Still, there was no way to verify the experience.

My immediate problem was clinical, not research! Somehow, she had brought the injury–fantasy or reincarnation–into the present. What could I do? My education and experience did not provide an answer to this problem. I reasoned that if her body image had changed while she was the man, I could alter it back to the original. I rubbed her arm, suggesting that it was like pliable taffy, capable of stretching to reach her fingertips. After a few minutes, I asked if she felt improvement. She did.

When she became fully aware again, the sensation was gone, vanished. She left with no aftereffects,

What had happened in this seemingly meaningless event? Something quite astonishing. According to the Journal of Trauma (2008), “phantom pain and phantom sensations are often long-term consequences of amputation. Amputees experience phantom sensations and phantom pain within 1 month after amputation, a second peak occurs 12 months after amputation.”

Mary did not report the missing arm during or after her “visit” to that time period; the “ice man” had already adapted to the missing arm. This suggests that, if this was a bona fide reincarnational memory, we detected it beyond one year after the injury when the man (and his body image) had adapted to loss of the limb.

This experience transcended a typical hypnotic session or ordinary reincarnational memory.

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