Ryan’s Past Life:
When Ryan Hammons was 4 years old, he began directing imaginary movies. Shouts of “Action!” often echoed from his room.
But the play became a concern for Ryan’s parents when he began waking up in the middle of the night screaming and clutching his chest, saying he dreamed his heart exploded when he was in Hollywood. His mother, Cyndi, asked his doctor about the episodes. Night terrors, the doctor said. He’ll outgrow them. Then one night, as Cyndi tucked Ryan into bed, Ryan suddenly took hold of Cyndi’s hand.
“Mama,” he said. “I think I used to be someone else.”
He said he remembered a big white house and a swimming pool. It was in Hollywood, many miles from his Oklahoma home. He said he had three sons, but that he couldn’t remember their names. He began to cry, asking Cyndi over and over why he couldn’t remember their names.
“I really didn’t know what to do,” Cyndi said. “I was more in shock than anything. He was so insistent about it. After that night, he kept talking about it, kept getting upset about not being able to remember those names. I started researching the Internet about reincarnation. I even got some books from the library on Hollywood, thinking their pictures might help him. I didn’t tell anyone for months.”
One day, as Ryan and Cyndi paged through one of the Hollywood books, Ryan stopped at a black-and-white still taken from a 1930s movie, Night After Night. Two men in the center of the picture were confronting one another. Four other men surrounded them. Cyndi didn’t recognize any of the faces, but Ryan pointed to one of the men in the middle.
“Hey Mama,” he said. “That’s George. We did a picture together.” His finger then shot over to a man on the right, wearing an overcoat and a scowl. “That guy’s me. I found me!”
Cyndi Hammons wasn’t considering any of that when her preschool son was pointing himself out in a photo from more than 80 years ago. She wanted to know who that man was.
The book didn’t provide any names of the actors pictured, but Cyndi quickly confirmed that the man Ryan said was “George” in the photo was indeed a George—George Raft, an all but forgotten film star from the 1930s and 1940s. Still, she couldn’t identify the man Ryan said had been him.Cyndi wrote Tucker, whom she found through her online research, and included the photo. Eventually it ended up in the hands of a film archivist, who, after weeks of research, confirmed the scowling man’s name: Martin Martyn, an uncredited extra in the film.
Tucker hadn’t shared that discovery with the Hammons family when he traveled to their home a few weeks later. Instead, he laid out black-and-white photos of four women on the kitchen table. Three of them were random.
Tucker asked Ryan, “Do any of these mean anything to you?”
Ryan studied the pictures. He pointed to one. She looks familiar, he said.
It was Martin Martyn’s wife.
Not long afterward, Tucker and the Hammonses traveled to California to meet Martyn’s daughter, who’d been tracked down by researchers working with Tucker on a documentary. Tucker sat down with the woman before her meeting with Ryan. She’d been reluctant to help, but during her talk with Tucker, she confirmed dozens of facts Ryan had given about her father.
Ryan said he danced in New York. Martyn was a Broadway dancer. Ryan said he was also an “agent,” and that people where he worked had changed their names. Martyn worked for years at a well-known talent agency in Hollywood—where stage names are often created—after his dancing career ended.
Ryan said his old address had “Rock” in its name. Martyn lived at 825 North Roxbury Dr. in Beverly Hills. Ryan said he knew a man named Senator Five. Martyn’s daughter said she had a picture of her father with a Senator Ives, Irving Ives, of New York, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1947 to 1959.
And yes, Martin Martyn had three sons. The daughter of course knew their names.
The meeting later between Ryan and Martyn’s daughter didn’t go well. Ryan shook her hand then hid behind Cyndi for the rest of the time. Later he told his mother the woman’s “energy” had changed. Cyndi explained that people change when they grow up.
“I don’t want to go back [to Hollywood],” Ryan said. “I always want to keep this family.”
In the weeks that followed, Ryan spoke less about Hollywood. Tucker says that often happens when children meet the family of someone they claimed to have been. It seems to validate their memories, making them less intense.