Can Memory Be Inherited?

Can memory be inherited? We’ve heard the term ‘Racial Memory’ which basically means that when something happens to any animal, the event can be passed on to future generations so they don’t have to relearn it all over again. But does it apply to humans?

I have a distinct memory of playing with our dog, Lassie, whenever I visited Grandad’s. I would sit on Lassie’s back and ride her round the garden, playing cowboys and indians. There was a specific incident where you would say to Lassie, “Where’s the bird?” and she would run to the electric cupboard under the stairs and start scratching and sniffing at the door. Apparently, a bird had got into the house some years earlier and Lassie had chased it into the cupboard.

I was relating this incident one day when visiting my aunt, the only surviving member of my older generation. She went white when I told her about playing with Lassie, and she told me that I couldn’t possibly have known Lassie because she was knocked down and killed by a coal wagon in 1944 – a good 4 years before I was born.

So, either I was playing with the ghost of Lassie, on each and every visit to Grandad’s, or I somehow inherited the memory.

Similarly, I have a distinct memory of almost falling under a Manchester tram. I skinned my shin against the guard rail as I tried to jump down while the tram came to a stop on Oldham Road, opposite the Thorpe Road junction. I would have been about 8 years old in this memory which would place the incident somewhere in 1956. However, several members of my family have told me I couldn’t remember the trams because they were discontinued before I was a toddler. I have since researched this and it seems the last Manchester tram was taken off the road on 17th Jan 1949 – at that time I would have been just 11 months old and not in any way capable of jumping down from a tram and skinning my shin. So, either I interacted with the ghost of a tram (not likely) or the memory was inherited.

So, was it ghosts, interaction with the past, or a racial memory?

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