Bruce Kelly believes he’s a reincarnated sailor from World War II.

Bruce Kelly wearing glasses

Bruce Kelly

A man trapped inside of a submarine with water leaking in from all sides

The USS Shark sank in WW2


A military transfer document saying that James Edward Johnston will be transfered to the U.S.S. SHARK

Transfer document for James Edward Johnston

Throughout his life, Bruce Kelly suffered from three overpowering phobias—a fear of flying, a fear of enclosed spaces, and a fear of water. Over the years, Bruce tried several different treatments for his anxieties, but nothing worked. In desperation, he went to Rick Brown, a hypnotherapist who specializes in past-life regression:

“Probably 99% of the people who come to me do not go into past lives. Probably only 1% of the people have spontaneous regressions when working with phobias. And Bruce did have a spontaneous regression to a past life.”

Much to his surprise, Bruce learned that his deep, irrational fears were the result of traumas that occurred years before he was born. During one session, Bruce was thrust into the life of an American sailor named James Edward Johnston.

Bruce said that Johnston had drowned in a submarine, the U.S.S. Shark, during World War II. He even named the man trapped with Johnston in the submarine, Walter Pilgram.
Bruce told Rick Brown that Johnston and Pilgram had both died at precisely 11:34 PM on February 11, 1942. Bruce recalled details that were vivid and specific:

James Edward Johnston in sailor uniform

James Edward Johnston

“The memories were just like it was something that happened yesterday. They were very close to the surface. They came up real easily. At first it was like I was just making it up, like this really can’t be happening. This really can’t be real. I have to be making this up. And I went to the library, more to prove that it didn’t happen than it did happen.”

Incredibly, Bruce found that the very first American sub lost in the war was the U.S.S. Shark. It was the same submarine Bruce had named under hypnosis.

Over the next six months, Bruce Kelly saw Rick Brown on an average of once a week. With each session, more details on the life of James Edward Johnston emerged. In time, Rick Brown talked to Bruce as if he was James Edward Johnston.

Bruce saw himself as Johnston at age 12. He was at his mother’s deathbed. A young cousin named Elizabeth stood with him.

Other memories were trivial. As Johnston, Bruce recalled that he always ate the end pieces from a loaf of bread.

In another session, Bruce remembered that Johnston was born in February of 1921. As a young man, he enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps, a depression-era government work program. The year was 1938. The place, Tule Lake, California.

Bruce talking to a member of the Johnson family outside their home

Bruce meets the Johnson family

Bruce and Rick began to research Johnston’s life, and Bruce’s memories checked out with remarkable accuracy. James Johnston had been in the CCC in 1938 and 1939, stationed at Tule Lake, near the California-Oregon border. And his birth certificate confirmed that Johnston was indeed born in February 1921.

Rick Brown was more than impressed by Bruce’s recollections:

“Bruce came up with a significant amount of information that was well past being coincidental. There were too many lines of… evidence that pointed to the fact that Bruce Kelly is the reincarnation of James Edward Johnston.”

In April of 1993, five years after first being hypnotized, Bruce decided to visit Johnston’s hometown in Jacksonville, Alabama. At the house where Johnston and his mother had lived, Bruce experienced a strong reaction:

“Moving to the side of the house when I could actually see the bedroom and I knew that was the bedroom, that’s when the feelings really started hitting. Remembering that he used to have to come in on the back street and come through the back door, the back porch, I remember that. I remember the feelings of, kind of feeling like a second-class citizen. They were poor. She was unmarried.”

Headstone that reads 'James E. Johnston Feb 1, 1921 - Feb 15 1942

James Johnston’s headstone

Afterward, Bruce Kelly met with several people who remembered James Johnston as a boy. One of them was Johnston’s cousin, Elizabeth “Betty” Watson. Bruce believed she was the same Elizabeth he saw under hypnosis—the little girl who was with James Johnston when his mother died.

Bruce then visited the Jacksonville cemetery where a memorial stone has been erected in honor of James Edward Johnston. No one knows the details of Johnston’s death, but Bruce Kelly’s visions provide a possible scenario.

According to Bruce, the U.S.S. Shark was hit by enemy fire. In his final moments, Bruce envisioned both Johnston and Pilgram struggling in the corridor of the submarine. The two sailors would both drown.

Perhaps his abrupt death signaled not the end, but the beginning for James Johnston. Perhaps his life was renewed in the person of Bruce Kelly.

Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season six with Robert Stack and in season two with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.



  1. Susan Lasser

    I’m Susan Lasser, but have a dog named Mollie, I think I may be the one they are looking for.


  2. ison van meter

    I visited a ww2 submarine in Boston Harbor last January 26th 2022, upon entering it it all felt familiar to me, I knew the workings of the equipment what the gauges meant, it was like I was home, I have always had a love for the sea and the Navy, coast guard. I was very comfortable on the sub
    When I was very young my parents took me to Disney land and one of the rides was 21,000 leagues under the sea, it was a submarine ride that never submerged I went total crazy and would not ride it, I was scared to death and knew I would die if I got on it, there was absolutely no reason for this fear and I had done other similar things like going into small caves crawl through culverts and other stuff .
    when I was a baby I would dream that I could fly and float and it was very real to me and normal for me


  3. Alan Tompkins

    Perhaps the Spirit of James Edward Johnston entered into Bruce’s body ….??


  4. James J

    I am not to much Christian. But everything in te bible has told me that there’s no reincarnation after death. This goes to everyone that claims to have been reincarnated. It’s a flop for people to lie about being reincarnated when all they did was read a lot as a kid and started to believe in the lies they where telling


    • Groovie

      Look into gnostic Christianity and you’d be singing a different tune. Plus this sect is older than the one you’re in most likely


    • Kaladin

      There’s about 8000 other religions besides yours, and some also claim it does happen. Your mythology isn’t any more legitimate than theirs, and the religions christianity incorporated and plagiarized from mithraism, the early gnostics etc differed on that as well.
      Your bible also says you can’t wear opposing colors, you can’t eat pork, if you wear torn clothes you’re going to die, you aren’t meant to eat fat either, or wear linen. Women are banned from church for weeks after giving birth..can’t trim your beard, can’t get tattoos, also you’re meant to be kind to foreigners, and not wear gold.
      The bible has a looot of very silly commands and beliefs people ignore and cherry pick. So I wouldn’t cite it or you’ll look really silly.

      I don’t believe in reincarnation and the story is impossible to verify, he isn’t a scammer like faith healers/psychics/mediums etc but hypnotic suggestion and a few ww2 documentaries can easily explain it.


  5. Nicole

    My name is Nicole
    I had a dream about James Edward Johnston we were always together we were in Love
    James is the one who told me that he is going to go war and he that he will come back to me
    Some day and we will be together forever and the two of us will get married when I get back
    I am still in Love James Edward Johnston my future was with him I am telling you the truth
    And then messager came to my House told me that my finance James Edward Johnston is died in war world two


  6. MP

    “I am a Gnostic Christian. The original version of what would become Christianity”

    Sorry, but no. To anybody who has read the early Fathers, the history is perfectly clear, and everything you allege is utterly false.


  7. Josephine Grey

    Does anyone know if this man is still alive?
    I too have had past life memories of WWII.
    I even found that the accident I remembered was the sinking of the USS Juneau.
    I’d love to speak with him or anyone else who has remembered a past military life.


  8. Michael

    I remember this. He burried just a mile away. This guy visited the Williams Community here in Jacksonville. It was a big thing here. Lol


  9. Ed

    He has a demon that spent years with James.


  10. walt landers

    What seems to be missing in this outstanding story is…what was going on in this man’s life for the eleven years between the 1942 death and the 1953 birth? Was there awareness of being? or was it similar to being under anesthesia, just blank time?


  11. Anonymous

    Maybe, he could write a book about James Johnson (his past self). Just an idea.


  12. Al. R.

    Did the hypnotist ask Johnston’s serial number, something unforgettable to a military person? Or other subtle details about Naval life? Presumably Kelly was not in the military.


  13. rama

    am catholic who is john the baptist and what did jesus says about him? reencarnation???I believe in it..


    • Robin Potter

      John the Baptist was the cousin of Jesus Christ. He preached that The Kingdom of His is already here, lived in the wilderness eating locusts and honey and baptized many people before Jesus Christ himself arrived at the river. John the Baptist baptized Jesus, a dove was said to appear and Jesus Christ came into His full power. The Baptist was born to an older woman who had been unable to conceive children. An Angel appeared to tell them John was on the way. Mary visited her, John the Baptist was said to have leapt in the womb as he knew Jesus Christ would soon be born. John the Baptist was eventually arrested. He was decapitated and his head was served on a platter. I am a Gnostic Christian. The original version of what would become Christianity in all it’s many various forms. They all attack each other, as Protestants and Catholics have, leading to war in Northern Ireland for decades or more. Gnostics were hunted down and killed by the organized religion of the time. We believe that The Church is inside and outside, above and below, that The Kingdom of God is accessible to all without having a ‘representative’ here on Earth to absolve you of your sins. Inside meaning inside of you, me and everyone, should they choose to realize it. Listen to your thoughts and intuition. God speaks to us. It’s up to us if we listen. I hope this helps you. You can find out more about John the Baptist using a search engine like Google. If you are interested in learning more about Gnostic Christians, try Read The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Sophia and The Gospel of Thaddeus for a start. These are part of the finds during World War2 known as The Dead Sea Scrolls and The Nag Hammadi. Blessed Be. May you find what you’re seeking.


  14. Lynnie

    I agree with DoyleB. I am a Christian and former missionary who considered myself more open-minded than most Christian evangelicals since I was not only open to, but frankly fascinated by, the possibility of reincarnation. I still think reincarnation is possible, but unfortunately there is no way of knowing. There are no guarantees that so-called “past life memories”–even real details from a deceased person’s life–weren’t impressed on our minds and emotions by deceptive spirits passing themselves off as “spirit guides.” After my daughter died under tragic circumstances, I found myself trying to communicate with her in my dreams. I prayed for visitations from her and I had several very vivid dreams of being with her, talking and laughing with her. In one dream, I was in the apartment where she died trying to convince her that she had in fact died. Still living in the apartment where she had died months earlier, she appeared devastated at the news. I felt guilty for bluntly telling her that I had seen her dead body in the coffin. In another dream, she told me that she had been “interviewing” (checking out) possible future parents for her next life. I began to search the scriptures for any evidence that these “visitations” were real and okay. What I found were scriptures that warned against the dangerous and potentially deceptive practice of “necromancy” or “communicating with the dead. The very fact that I was so desperate to see my daughter and hear her voice again made me a willing target for deceptive spirits/demons. I promptly repented for my sin and placed my little girl’s eternal soul in God’s loving hands and prayerfully let her go. Will I ever see her again? I hope so.


    • Kandie

      Why is it evil? We are all but energy. She still exists, but in a different dimemsion.
      Btw look up the theory of how we pick our parents, families, all the big points in our life for learning lessons before we incarnate? What she said makes sense.
      It’s her.


  15. Daphnie

    What do you mean there are no records?
    “The memories were just like it was something that happened yesterday. They were very close to the surface. They came up real easily. At first it was like I was just making it up, like this really can’t be happening. This really can’t be real. I have to be making this up. And I went to the library, more to prove that it didn’t happen than it did happen.”
    There’s a document of his transfer to the USS Shark and a photo of a WWII sailor, James Edward Johnson.


  16. lynne

    I have heard stories like this before. It is a bit like a haunting. Reincarnation is only one of a number of possible explanations. My favourite explanation would be the sadness Johnston felt at being not only illegitimate but losing his mother so young. In his sadness the young man projected his will into the future to be someone else, someone like Bruce. The fact that no mention of records showing Johnston was a sailor or submariner and no mention of the way he died suggests he was not on the Submarine but rather wished he was. The age and timing of his death and burial in the local graveyard also makes me think he was either a suicide or murder or unfortunate accident.


    • kandie



    • Robin

      Yes. Everything was documented. I googled this because I just saw it on Unsolved Mysteries. Birth certificate confirmed. Name of the submarine confirmed. First sub sunk. Confirmed. Name of the sailor he died with confirmed. His time of service in the conservation corps confirmed. Personally I believe in Reincarnation. The early Christians also did until Constantinople. Reincarnation is dangerous to the Church. They condemn you to hell. Ultimate power. They removed almost everything regarding reincarnation as heresy. They missed a few. Here’s one.

      John 9New International Version (NIV)

      Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind

      9 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

      3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

      6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes.7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

      HOW can one sin in the womb? Blind since birth, yet they asked who sinned, this man….
      How can you sin before being born?
      Anyone interested in Christianity should read the codices found at Nag Hammadi and The Dead Sea Scrolls. Many the Vatican will not release. The Gospel of Thomas is said to be Jesus own words.
      I am coming to think that Lord Krishna and Jesus Christ are the same Spirit. It says Lord Krishna will incarnate during times of trouble.
      Jesus also said He would be back.
      The Gospel of Sophia is very enlightening. The Bible doesn’t contain all the scriptures being written. These were written by The Apostles, in their language, not 300-400 years after He died. The main difference is that we are supposed to model our lives after Him and grow Spiritually and do good things.


  17. Bruce Kelly

    We’re not meant to know


  18. Doyle Barnett

    This is another possible explanation for Bruce’s insights into Jame’s life. It from my book Spiritual Growth is NOT What You Think -How Seekers Mistake the Evolution of Their Philosophy for Spiritual Progress by Doyle Barnett
    I had a psychic acquaintance who was the pastor of a church. Before he died at age seventy-eight, Reverend Ford told me of an experience he had. He said he used to travel around the country giving lectures about reincarnation; he would speak about his memories of being a servant to a Greek landowner in ancient Rome.
    One day a member of the audience so rigorously challenged the Reverend’s teachings that it upset him. That evening, Ford contacted his Spirit guide and asked it to show him who he was in his past life. His guide wasn’t able to show him, so he asked about his memories as a servant to a Greek landlord. The guide informed him that he (the guide) had actually been the servant and that he had implanted his memories into the Reverend Ford so the reverend could learn from the guide’s experiences.
    The Reverend later told me that after forty years of teaching people about reincarnation, he was able to summon enough humility to toss out many of his old spiritual beliefs and adopt a more open-minded approach toward reincarnation and spirituality—meaning there may be no such thing as reincarnation.
    Most of the evidence that I have seen points to reincarnation being real, but until I know for a fact that it is, I refuse to dumb myself down by believing it. I will try to stay open-minded.


    • Ronnie Safreed

      Looking at what is the afterlife, there is a dichotamy & a trichotamy like body/soul. body/soul/spirit, heaven/hell, heaven/hell/reincarnation! Reincarnation from a Christian perspective may be possible but it is not “redemptive”! Only through the cross & blood of Christ can we find redemption & our spirits can only be born again through the Holy Spirit of God through Jesus Christ! JC’s death on Calvary was a payment for our sin & a way for our spirits to be born again, so our souls can be saved & our bodies resurrected! Christianity is the way to break karma & reincarnation & hell !!!!! Yes a soul “reaps what it sows in an earthly life”! Very possible a soul that does good works can be rewarded & a soul can possibly be sent to hell possible temporarly or permantly commiting an unpardonable sin!However time & space will end & the “White Throne Judgement”!


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