A tale of a life twice lived

William Chapman White

As an author, William Chapman White is best remembered for his 1954 book "Adirondack Country", but White was also a well-respected journalist who penned columns for the New York Times and the New York Herald Tribune. As a correspondent during World War II, White served as an executive in the U.S. Office of War Information. His credentials earned him a great deal of trust, so it's difficult to overlook a strange incident he encountered in the early 1950s, an encounter that brought him face to face with the unexplained.

White was on a cruise ship enjoying a vacation around the world when he struck up a friendship with a middle-aged married couple aboard the same ship. Their last name was a Bralorne and they revealed that they had never been outside of the United States before. They were from a small town in the Midwest and the cruise had been a wedding anniversary gift from their son. Since White was an experienced world traveler, he assumed the role of guide for the couple, telling them about the various sights worth seeing during their vacation.

The Bralornes and William Chapman White were planning to explore Bombay, but White came down with a cold and the Bralornes were forced to explore the city on their own. When they returned to the ship, White was anxious to hear all about their sightseeing adventures.

"Never having been out of the States before, we obviously hadn't seen Bombay," explained Mr. Bralorne. "But as soon as we landed both my wife and I had the most peculiar feeling. As we started to walk the streets I said to her, 'When we turn that corner we'll come to a little church.'" And they did.

"A little later I said, 'Two streets down and we'll find De Lyle Road', and we did. Both my wife and I felt that we have been in Bombay before. It was almost as if we had lived there in a previous life."

After the first day of sightseeing, the Bralornes decided to put their eerie feeling to a test. Mrs. Bralorne told her husband that she remembered an old house at the foot of Malabar Hill and there was a huge banyan tree in the front garden. Mr. Bralorne was shocked, because he remembered the very same house his wife had described-- even though neither of them had actually seen it.

When the Bralornes reached Malabar Hill the next day they did indeed find the spot they had been looking for. However, there was no house there at all, only modern apartment buildings. Mr. Bralorne asked a policeman whether a large house had once stood on that spot. The policeman replied that the last time a house had stood on that spot was ninety years earlier.

"I heard the tremor in my wife's voice as she asked him, 'Would you know if a giant banyan tree stood in the front garden?'" said the husband to Mr. White. "The policeman nodded and said 'My father told me about that. The tree was chopped down.'" The policeman added that the house and the tree had belonged to a very rich and famous family named Bhan.

"There's one last detail," said Mr. Bralorne to William Chapman White. "For some reason that we didn't understand, my wife and I gave our oldest son a most unusual name. Neither of us knew where we had heard it before, if we had." As it turned out, the Bralornes had named their son Bhan.

Marlin Bressi is a freelance writer, creator of the Pennsylvania Oddities blog, and author of the book Hairy Men in Caves: True Stories of America's Most Colorful Hermits.