Reincarnation Case of Elsagene | Tikvah Dobsch with Past Life Phobias, Nightmares and a Near Death Experience
Case Proposed by: Ruth Dobsch, Tikvah’s Mother
Researched by: Tikvah Dobsch
Narrative by: Tikvah Dobsch
Tikvah Dobsch, her Childhood Past Life Phobias & Fear of Dying Young
My name is Tikvah Feinstein. I was born Tikvah Dobsch in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1944. We were a family of eight siblings. I am the sixth child born alive to the late Ruth and Rudolph Dobsch. My father emigrated from Sudeten, on the German border with Czechoslovakia as a youth. He worked in the steel mills. My mother, a US native, was a homemaker. My parents were raised Christian, but my mother, Ruth, converted to Judaism at about the time of my birth. I was raised Jewish. Neither of my parents graduated from high school, but that was not unusual for the time.
As a child, I had displayed acute phobias. I could not bear having anything around my throat, especially anything that was tied like a scarf. I could not swallow pills. I would panic immediately if a door was stuck or would not open. I absolutely avoided the dark.
As a toddler I refused to go to sleep due to my fear of the dark. Mother had to rock me, hold me while I sobbed until I fell asleep each evening before darkness set in. I had terrifying nightmares and would wake in cold sweats. The nightmares were about being held down and I could not call out for help, though I knew there were people in other rooms nearby, who would hear me if only I could scream to them for help. In the dream, my mouth is clamped shut and I can only moan through my teeth. I awoke to my own deep throaty awful sounds. The nightmares intensified during adolescence and continued into adulthood.
Death was a horror to me, a dreadful condition. I was acutely aware of death and instinctively feared dying young.
Tikvah’s First Grade School Photo and a Young Girl Found Dead in a Bathroom
My life became happier when I became old enough to go to school. I was excited about learning and thrilled by every new thing in my life. In first grade, we were having school pictures taken. To get me ready for the photo shoot, my mother cut, washed and combed my hair in a shorter than usual style.
It was at that time, in 1950, while getting me ready for my first grade photo, perhaps stimulated by a physical resemblance made clear by my new haircut, my mother shared a story regarding a girl who died 6 years before I was born. I remember the conversation with my mother vividly. It would be hard not to remember. The death of a child can never be an easy conversation.
The girl, Elsagene, my mother continued, was found dead one evening in the bathroom of the boarding house where she lived with her mother, whose name was Etta. The door was locked, my mother quickly added, as if that provided an explanation. My mother added that Etta ran a brothel.
The Sexual Abuse of Elsagene and her Desire to have Ruth as her Mother
Prior to Elsagene’s death, my mother said Elsagene had complained that she was very unhappy about intense physical tickling to the point of making her cry that she often endured from her mother’s boyfriend. Elsagene pleaded to be able to stay with my mother. Elsagene begged her, “Please, let me stay with you. Why can’t you be my mother?”
My mother, Ruth, explained that she had pity for Elsagene and wanted to help her, but my mother at the time was only a teenager herself, an orphan who lived with her deceased mother’s sister, Elsie and her husband, Eugene.
Ruth Believes Tikvah is the Reincarnation of Elsagene
To hear this story so young I was shocked, and at five or six years of age too immature to understand. At that young age, I had already been introduced to death. I knew of twin brothers, my parents’ premature first-born babies, who had died at birth. I also knew of the deaths of two neighbor children, one by drowning and one of disease, but it disturbed me greatly that a child can die alone in the bathroom!
Further, how could I be the dead girl? I wasn’t dead. I was living.
Life Goes On but Past Life Nightmares Increase
Aside from being present during several conversations concerning Elsagene that took place between my mother and her sister, that is all I knew about the little girl who was found dead in the bathroom of the boarding house where she lived. I let it go. What else could I do? Elsagene’s death remained a mystery for over 60 years of my life.
As an adolescent, though, my terrifying nightmares increased, nightmares of being held down, of something pressing down on me, of something clenching my jaw shut so that I was unable to open my mouth to call for help, all the while knowing that there were people in other rooms who would help me if I could just scream. I would wake up still paralyzed, terrified in a cold sweat. I was trapped in a body that would not move. I would not be able to move for some time after waking. I wouldn’t dare to go back to sleep for fear that I would have another nightmare.
Sometimes the nightmares began as a dream that suddenly became terrifying, always with a similar theme. One began with (I find this strange) a bird, high in a tree, staring at me, always the angry dark eyes, but I was not afraid at first. I saw the bird’s interest or anger, but I was aware in my dream that I was not doing anything to provoke the bird so I felt no threat. Until, that is, the bird with the angry eyes took off flying, dove suddenly at me and bit me, sank his beak into the skin of my hand. I could not shake him off as he hung on until he had bitten completely through the skin between my thumb and finger. He had clasped tight, until the flesh was cut completely through and there was nothing to hang onto. So released, the bird flew away, as it did it split into two birds. An identical bird of a gray color rose up from the body of the black bird. The dream is a metaphor of a violent death, as I see it now, taking into account the absolute terror and confusion I felt during and after the dream. In the dream, there is an attack, a struggle, and following a piercing injury, a spirit body is released, symbolizing death. I believe our spirits survive death. This belief is supported by an experience of a cardiac arrest in 2007, when I retained consciousness from above the chaos as the paramedics worked on my body.
In another nightmare that also began as a dream, an angry bull is staring at me with threatening eyes, pacing back and forth, glaring at me from within a corral. As he was penned, I wasn’t concerned. That is until the huge bull escaped the fence and rushed toward me.
Dreams like those immediately became the same nightmare. Always the same terrifying nightmare, with me being held down, unable to scream for help, knowing if only I could call out I would be helped. Waking in a cold sweat, I would be afraid to go back to sleep, anxious for weeks following. There were many such nightmares.
I also always had a persistent fear of dying young. I desperately wanted to live a long lifetime, like everyone, I suppose, but the possibility of early death was always in the back of my mind. It was an instinctual thing. I lived through a number of close calls in my life, but somehow I survived.
A Memoir and Discovery of a Photograph of Elsagene: A Past Life Physical Resemblance
In 2011, I began writing a memoir of my life and was in the process of asking family members for old photos. I had earlier received my first grade school photo. It was from among the possessions of my mother’s late sister. She had saved that photo of me all these years. If she hadn’t, I would not have seen it with my adult eyes.
At about that time, out of the blue, my sister arranged a meeting with a long lost family contact, a relative of an in-law, who had boxes of old photos to share. She asked me to come along.
During the lunch meeting I asked the woman if she knew about a girl named Elsagene. I was curious to see a photo because of what my mother had told me as a child. I was surprised that my sister did not know of Elsagene. I find it revealing that this sister who arranged the meeting is about five years older than I, yet our mother Ruth never mentioned Elsagene to her.
I was stunned when the woman said yes, that she had heard of Elsagene, a daughter of her relative Etta. The woman related that when Etta became elderly, she lived with this woman’s family. She didn’t have a photo of Elsagene with her, but a few days later, she forwarded an image of Elsagene to me. When I saw it, I was startled, as I saw myself in the image of Elsagene. She looked like I did in my first grade school photo.
The photo of Elsagene made me reflect on what my mother said more than 60 years before, that she thought that I am the reincarnation of this girl who was found dead in a bathroom. It was at that point, in the year 2011, that I decided to research the life of Elsagene.
Who was Elsagene?
I learned that Etta, Elsagene’s mother, as a teenager had been hit by a trolley, which resulted in a life long disability which made it difficult for her to walk. Etta’s husband, John, had died at the onset of the Great Depression when their youngest child, Elsagene, was just three years old. After John’s death, their older children, a son and a daughter, began living on their own.
Etta and her daughter, Elsagene, moved into the boarding house, near where Etta’s brother, Eugene, and his wife, Elsie, lived. Recall that Elsie raised my mother, Ruth, after Ruth’s mother died. Elsie and Ruth’s mother were sisters.
As such, Elsagene and I are related not by blood, but through marriage. In fact, merging the names of Elsie, Etta’s sister-in-law, and Eugene, Etta’s brother, was how the name Elsagene was created.
The Sexual Abuse of Elsagene
To make ends meet after her husband John died, Etta worked for people who ran a Speakeasy and brothel on the North Side of Pittsburgh during Prohibition and the Great Depression of the 1930s. Etta met a man through her employment who became a boyfriend. Recall that my mother shared that Elsagene complained that her mother’s boyfriend tickled her to the point of making her cry. Etta’s boyfriend was apparently sexually abusing Elsagene.
Children don’t leave a lot of footprints of their lives. It had seemed, while researching, for so long, that she just disappeared. But I did find out some information through census and other records. Through my research, I obtained Elsagene’s death certificate, which, coincidentally, I was able to obtain even though I am not related by family, when in 2010 it had been enacted to law that death records become public 50 years after the death of a resident of Pennsylvania.
Elsagene’s Autopsy Findings are Consistent with Tikvah’s Past Life Nightmares of being Strangled
I found her name in the indices and that she died on October 25, 1938. Although it was widely known that she died at home, the death record has recorded that it occurred at Allegheny General Hospital.
There was an autopsy. A subarachnoid hemorrhage was found at the base of her brain. Essentially, a blood vessel ruptured in her neck under her brain and bled into the space where spinal fluid bathes the brain and spinal cord, causing a dangerous increase in pressure on the brain. According to articles I read about the condition, this is a common injury found in shaken baby syndrome. Also, it can be brought on by choking and other violence to the head and neck, or extremely rarely can be spontaneous if a defect is present. Either way the result is a thunderclap headache, weakness, paralysis and death.
Reflections on Reincarnation and a Child’s Life Cut Short
After seeing the photo of Elsagene in 2011, I understood the nightmares of my childhood and adolescence. I have gathered a snapshot from Elsagene’s life. I have not solved the mystery of why, only what she died from and when she died.
For my part in this I have given voice to the girl who was silenced, who by her haunting reached out to me, to herself, through time and space to inhabit the world again within these pages of written words. I will share one last dream.
Tikvah’s Past Life Death Dream
In a dream I am lying on a bed. It is evening and a man, who is familiar to me, is sitting on the bed. We are both above the blankets. It feels safe and natural, like we have been together like this many times. I am on my back at the bottom, just small enough to fit with my legs bent slightly across the width of the full bed. I turn to my side. The room is bright and warm. The man makes a stiff figure sitting on the bed toward the head, reading something, intensely reading a page that is spread open, a neat fold in the center, it is shaped like, looks like a letter. I can only guess.
He is studying the information, numbers or a report or something with words on a page. He holds the letter up in his shaking hand and I see the sides of the folded paper bounce and tremble. That’s an odd reaction to a letter taken out of an envelope, I think. I don’t pay much attention. I am busy with reading a comic book. Even though I know he is upset about what he is reading, I don’t feel threatened. His eyes are glued on figures or something, impressing me that he has to somehow change the news he is reading. He is reading it over and over. It is important to him, but I am not aware of the disclosures and don’t believe I am involved in it, except for seeing how upset the man is. I do not feel I can do anything except remain quiet. I am not afraid. Even when the distressed man turns his attention to me.
Even when he makes a groan and says something I can’t make out in a low steady voice and moves towards me. Even when he reaches rather slowly up to my throat and gently wraps both hands around my neck. I am stunned. I am familiar with his touching, but not on my neck. I turn to face him. His eyes are scary. His pupils gone big and black as night. I jerk away from his hands. He tightens his lips, grimaces, hisses, and squeezes my neck with both large hands that surround my ears and neck completely. Again and again in bursts of great strength and what seems like anger, he squeezes. I hear the trapped air, as it rushes out of my ears, each time he moans, and grips his hands tighter around my neck, shaking my head back, like a whip, harder with each grasp.
There is extreme pain in my neck and head, an overwhelming terror and confusion take me over until I am consumed by a heaviness. My arms fall away from my body, my legs are exploding with electric shocks and I find I can’t lift them. My jaw becomes tight, then lax, like a seizure. My back arches and then my entire body goes limp. The pain in my head feels like thunder, like my brain has exploded. I think of my mother. I desperately want my mother. But she is not there. The last thing I see is his face, the expression of hate or something like it, his eyes gleaming, his breaths rapid. I am like a chicken gone limp, all the air is pushed out of me. He keeps pressing. I can’t breathe in. I am terrified, but can’t scream out. I know there are people in the other rooms; if I could cry out they would hear and help me. The world goes black. I wake up with a start. I am thinking of Elsagene.
That was my last nightmare. I am happy to share that I have not had nightmares since 2008 or so. It seems that the integration of my phobias and nocturnal fears with her life and death have brought peace to my soul.
What Happened to Elsagene?
What happened to Elsagene? If Etta knew, she never told. She died an old woman and is buried beside her husband in United Cemetery, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. I was told during a phone contact with United Cemetery that there is no record of Elsagene McCormick being buried there, although it is stated on her death record she was taken there.
If Elsagene has another life as me, she wasn’t a lonely child. Born into a large family, the sixth of eight children, she spent a childhood in many locations where she would discover and enjoy the outdoors enormously. She had early talents of art and writing, played the violin and guitar and wrote songs as a teen, would grow up to marry and divorce, learn empathy for Etta’s struggles by becoming a single mother of a daughter herself. She would become a nurse, earn a degree in English Writing from the University of Pittsburgh, work as a reporter, creative writer and editor, author several books, display her art, and by an astounding coincidence, she would be guided to rediscover her former self. I am telling you the story of Elsagene. That’s amazing enough, either reincarnation or coincidence. And this time she or I or we are leaving this record of a life or two. We will rediscover ourselves when or if we will live again.
“We are closer to God when we are asking questions than when we think we have the answers.”-Abraham Joshua Heschel
“The opposite of good is not evil, it is indifference.” – Abraham Joshua Heschel
Postscript by Walter Semkiw, MD
Though Tikvah’s story is very compelling and stands on its own, I did review it in session with Kevin Ryerson. Ahtun Re, the spirit guide channeled through Kevin who has demonstrated an ability to make accurate past life matches, agrees or affirms that Tikvah Dobsch is the reincarnation of Elsagene. The work I have done with Kevin can be reviewed at: Ryerson-Semkiw Reincarnation Research
Physical Resemblance in Reincarnation Cases
: There is a similarity in facial archtecture or bone structure observed in the images of Elsagene and Tikvah, which apparently was observed by Ruth, Tikvah’s mother, which prompted Ruth to disclose to Tikvah that Ruth believed that Tikvah is the reincarnation of Elsagene. Physical resemblance would be appreciated better if the photos were taken with similar expressions. Tikvah in her first grade photo has a wide grin, whereas Elsagene is captured with a smile.
Relationships Renewed through Reincarnation and Planning of Lifetimes: Prior to her death, Elsagene shared with Ruth the sexual abuse that she was enduring. Elsagene expressed unhappiness regarding her living situation and asked whether Ruth could be her mother. Six years after her death, Elsagene indeed appears to have been born to Ruth as Tikvah, which shows how souls can plan their lives and choose their parents.
Past Life Phobias & Nightmares: Tikvah had phobias as a child which seem to reflect being trapped in a room and being strangled to death in a past lifetime, which appears to have been the manner in which Elsagene died.
It is important that these phobias started before Ruth, Tikvah’s mother, told Tikvah at 5 years of age that she believed Tikvah is the reincarnation of Elsagene. If the phobias started after Ruth shared her belief that Tikvah is Elsagene reborn, the phobias could be attributed to suggestion.
Note: An earlier brief version of this reincarnation story and the photos are published in Music From a Broken Violin: A Memoir by Tikvah Feinstein, Taproot Press, 2011. Some part of the story of Elsagene will appear in Taproot Literary Review Edition 25 in 2014.