CLEVELAND, Ohio (WHNT) - Do you believe in past lives? An Ohio family says they didn't until their young son began making some startling claims.
At just two years old, Luke Ruehlman was unusually concerned about safety. His mother, Erika, says he was always worried about things like crossing the street or whether something was too hot to touch. Then, there was that other fixation.
Erika Ruehlman says her son named everything Pam, from his toys to his drawings. The family thought it was strange, especially since they didn't know anyone by that name. They chalked up to just being one of Luke's quirks, until his comments became increasingly peculiar.
Erika Ruehlman says Luke would refer to when he was a girl and had black hair, "or he'd say, 'I used have earrings like that when I was a girl.'"
Finally, the stay-at-home mom had enough. She demanded to know who "Pam" was. Luke's answer changed their lives forever.
"That's when he turned to me and said, 'Well, I was," Ruehlman recalls.
Luke reportedly continued, "Well, I used to be but I died and I went up to heaven and I saw God, and eventually God pushed me back down and when I woke up I was a baby and you named me Luke."
Ruehlman asked her son how he died and where. He told her it was Chicago and he had been killed in a fire, falling from a tall building.
An Internet search led Ruehlman to the Paxton Hotel in Chicago. In 1993, a fire there killed 19 people, including a woman named Pamela Robinson.
"Pam had jumped out of a window to her death," Ruehlman says.
Robinson, an African-American woman in her 30s, had reportedly been staying at the hotel while she looked for work. Ruehlman again went to her son for answers.
"I said, Lukey, what color is Pam?" she says, "and he looked at me like, duh, and said black. At that point, I was really weirded out."
Searching for answers, the Ruehlmans agreed to work on a Lifetime Movie Network documentary showed called Ghost Inside My Child. Luke, then 5 years old, was shown numerous pictures and asked if any looked familiar.
Among the photos was a single picture of Pamela Robinson. Luke pointed to it.
The Ruehlmans eventually got in touch with some of Robinson's surviving relatives. While they did not want to speak with the media, they did exchange some memories with the family.
Erika Ruehlman says they learned of other connections between Luke and Pamela, including a love of keyboards and Stevie Wonder music.
However, once these connections were made, Luke stopped talking about Pam. "It was like he got it out. He was finished and had nothing more to say about it," Erika says.
Still, the Ruehlmans continue to tell Luke's story. Whether others believe in past lives or not, Erika Ruehlman believes their experience is worth sharing, saying, "It's a positive one. It is one of unification. It is one of love."