It all seems so familiar, somehow Reincarnation: An Alexandria, Va., woman says she can help people unearth memories of past lives as Civil War soldiers.

Revisiting Gettysburg

July 05, 1998|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- Under a large tent in the Confederate civilian camp, a woman in a period red plaid dress and feathered hat speaks to her audience about the ghosts of Gettysburg.

Barbara Lane, the speaker, thinks the spirits are not far from here. Indeed, she suggests, present-day Civil War re-enactors may have fought in blue or gray in a past life.

Stranger still, she says her hypnotic "regression" sessions can help take them there, back to the 1860s, to summon spirits and memories of who and what they once were.

"The Civil War is in our collective unconsciousness, the biggest scar on the American psyche," says Lane, a charismatic "forty-something" woman who lives in Alexandria, Va.

She traveled here to the Gettysburg battle re-enactment to promote her book, "Echoes from the Battlefield," and conduct several sessions which, she believes, can help heal the wounds of war.

The large group sessions under the tent are free and open to all interested onlookers; the private ones in a small tent cost a pretty price: $100 an hour.

In a soothsayer's voice, she tells listeners to close their eyes and picture a waterfall, a winding staircase and a state of awareness beyond the here and now, in which, she says, "you are effortlessly able to remember past lives."

Then she asks them to recall their name, state and unit, her questions eventually leading to the last day of their lives.

Lane admits that treading on the sacred ground of the Civil War dead is controversial, but, she adds, "You don't have to believe in reincarnation. Call it genetic memory. But if there were such a thing as reincarnation. "

She leaves the thought dangling in mid-air.

Over the five years she has specialized in Civil War memories, Lane has made believers out of some skeptics who have gone under her spell.

"Everything I felt, saw, smelled, heard -- it was like I was there on the field," said Mac Butler, 42, of Horsham, Pa.

At Gettysburg and elsewhere, Butler re-enacts the role of Henry Heth, the Confederate major general whose foray for shoes started the three-day engagement in the quiet Pennsylvania farm town just north of the Mason-Dixon line.

Butler does not imagine he was once Heth: "I'm not claiming to be the real General Heth," he says. However, he had severe swings of emotion as he lay on a cot in his small tent and saw an officer in his mind's eye. "I was almost crying over my men," he says.

"The experiences are real to the individual," says Lane, whose bright-red fingernail polish shows through her fishnet gloves.

"She put me through a lot of pain," says Ron Bieber, 55, of Allentown, Pa. "It is real."

Bieber says the name "William Clyburn" came to him during a session with Lane, and he discovered that a real Civil War soldier by that name had died while serving in the 2nd South Carolina regiment.

After group sessions, people often line up to tell Lane their tales. Rob Gibson, 38, from Rochester, N.Y., tells her he was a photographer's assistant who helped take photos of those accused of conspiring in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln before they were put to death.

A 47-year-old woman from Kansas, Kathleen Carl, said, "I was a Yankee who got stabbed in the stomach," with a bayonet by a rebel in a butternut uniform. In real life, "Sometimes I re-enact as a guy."

And a 19-year-old from Baltimore, Jeff Wallnofer, says he saw himself as "barefoot and bloody."

"It's like a movie in your mind," he said.

As for herself, Lane speculates she might have been an officer's wife during the Civil War. "I have sympathy for both sides," she declares, noting that officers and their wives were divided from former friends and comrades by the conflict.

Her work, she says, can help souls haunted by war-torn memories. Among her last words in a group session were, "Visualize forgiveness."

Pub Date: 7/05/98

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