“We used to laugh
and call my son
an old man.”
Erika found it quirky and cute that her young son, Luke seemed obsessed with safety in and around their suburban Cincinnati home.
“Very cautious about, like, crossing the street — anything that might be hot or dangerous or high,” Erika said.
And then there was that other fixation.
“I think I specifically asked him ‘why did you name your ladybug Pam?’ And he said ‘I just think it’s a nice name,’” Erika said.
Soon, everything was ‘Pam,’ with increasingly peculiar comments.
“He used to say ‘when I was a girl, I had black hair,’ or he would say ‘I used to have earrings like that when I was a girl,’” Erika said.
The stay-at-home mom wondered “where was he getting these ideas?” Luke’s answer changed their lives.
“I was like ‘who is Pam’ out of frustration, and that’s when he turned to me and looked at me and said ‘well, I was.’ And I was like ‘what do you mean you were?’ And he’s like ‘well, I used to be, but I died. I went up to heaven, and I saw God, and he pushed me back down and when I woke up, I was a baby and you named me Luke,’” Erika said.
Now, Erika was really confused.
“She called me and she said, ‘you know, something weird is going on,’” Erika’s mom, Lisa Trump said.
Lisa remembered the book by Dr. Ian Stevenson, called “Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation.”
“We started to realize that perhaps we did actually have something there,” Lisa said.
“I decided to go ahead and ask him further — ‘do you remember how you died?’ And he looked right at me, and he said ‘well, yeah. It was a fire.’ And then he made like, a motion with his hand. Like he was jumping off of a building,” Erika said.
A tall building, in a big city — where Luke said he walked a lot, and took the train.
“I was like ‘are you sure it was Chicago?’ And he was like ‘yes, I remember it was Chicago. It was Chicago,’” Erika said.
Erika plugged the information into the internet.
“And that’s when I came across the Paxton Hotel,” Erika said.
The Paxton Hotel was a residential building in a predominantly African-American Chicago neighborhood.
“You know, I just asked him — I was very casual about it, like — ‘Luke, what color was Pam’s skin?’ And he just looked right up at me like – ‘duh, black,’” Erika said.
In March 1993, a massive fire raced through the Paxton Hotel, trapping most residents. Nineteen people died — including a woman in her 30s named Pamela Robinson.
“Pam had jumped out of a window to her death. I was really kind of weirded out by it at this point,” Erika said.
While working with the Lifetime documentary series “Ghost Inside My Child,” Erika and Nick Ruehlman decided to put their now five-year-old to the test.
“I printed out a picture of Pam, and we had put it on a sheet of paper with a bunch of fake pictures. I didn’t really think that he was going to pick the right one,” Erika said.
But with the cameras rolling, Luke saw “someone I can recognize.” Luke said “I remember when this one was taken.”
“And he pointed to the correct one,” Erika said.
“It took me a couple days to wrap my head around it. I couldn’t sleep. I thought about it constantly,” Erika’s mother, Lisa Trump said.
Erika says she spoke with a family member of Pamela Robinson, and she discovered even more similarities.
“I know that Pam was a big Stevie Wonder fan, and Luke really likes that era of music. She played the keyboard a lot, and one of the things that Luke — his favorite toy at the time was this little tiny piano that he would tote around with him,” Erika said.
Just as Erika was becoming truly connected with Pam’s memory, Luke let her go.
“It’s like he got it all out and he was finished — and he had nothing more to say about it,” Erika said.
But the family continues to share their journey with anyone who will listen — not seeking fame or fortune.
“We didn’t receive any money from the (Ghost Inside My Child) show,” Lisa said.
They tell Luke’s story because, they say, it’s a message that needs to be told.
“It’s a positive one. It’s one of unification. It’s one of love,” Erika said.
“I think it tells us that we shouldn’t define the soul by race or gender. Out of the mouth of babes,” Lisa said.