Bridey Murphy

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Virginia Tighe (Ruth Simmons)

Bridey Murphy is a purported 19th-century Irishwoman whom U.S. housewife Virginia Tighe (April 27, 1923 – July 12, 1995) claimed to be in a past life. The case was investigated by researchers and concluded to be the result of cryptomnesia.[1][2]

Hypnotic regression[edit]

In 1952, Colorado businessman and amateur hypnotist Morey Bernstein put housewife Virginia Tighe (Ruth Simmons) of Pueblo, Colorado, in a trance that sparked off startling revelations about Tighe's alleged past life as a 19th-century Irishwoman and her rebirth in the United States 59 years later. Bernstein used a technique called hypnotic regression, during which the subject is gradually taken back to childhood. He then attempted to take Virginia one step further, before birth, and was astonished to find he was listening to Bridey Murphy.

Tighe's tale began in 1806, when Bridey was eight years old and living in a house in Cork. She was the daughter of Duncan Murphy, a barrister, and his wife Kathleen. At the age of 17, she married barrister Sean Brian McCarthy, who she claimed taught at Queen's University Belfast, to which she moved. Tighe told of a fall that caused Bridey's death and of watching her own funeral, describing her tombstone and the state of being in life after death. It was, she recalled, a feeling of neither pain nor happiness. Somehow, she was reborn in America, although Tighe/Bridey was not clear how this event happened. Virginia Tighe herself was born in the Midwest in 1923, had never been to Ireland, and did not speak with even the slightest hint of an Irish accent.

Book publication and response[edit]

Hypnotist Morey Bernstein with Virginia Tighe.

The biographical details related by Bridey were not fully checked before the publication of Bernstein's 1956 book The Search for Bridey Murphy. However, once the book had become a bestseller, almost every detail was thoroughly checked by reporters who were sent to Ireland to track down the background of the elusive woman. It was then that the first doubts about her "reincarnation" began to appear. Bridey said she was born on December 20, 1798, in Cork and that she had died in 1864. There was no record of either event.[3] Neither was there any record of a wooden house called The Meadows in which she said she lived, just of a place of that name at the brink of Cork. Indeed, most houses in Ireland were made of brick or stone. She pronounced her husband's name as "See-an," but Seán is pronounced "Shawn" in Ireland. Moreover Queen's University Belfast did not exist at the time Tighe/Bridey claimed that Brian was working there.

Brian, which is what Bridey preferred to call her husband, was also the middle name of the man to whom Virginia Tighe was married. Some of the details did tally. For instance, her descriptions of the Antrim coastline were very accurate. So, too, was her account of a journey from Belfast to Cork. She claimed she went to a St. Theresa's Church. There was indeed one where she said there was, but it was not built until 1911. The young Bridey shopped for provisions with a grocer named Farr. It was discovered that such a grocer had existed.

The experts who examined the case of Virginia Tighe came to the conclusion that the best way to arrive at the truth was to check back not to Ireland but to Tighe's own childhood and her relationship with her parents. Morey Bernstein stated that Virginia Tighe (whom he called Ruth Simmons in the book) was brought up by a Norwegian uncle and his German-Scottish-Irish wife. However, it did not state that her actual parents were both part Irish and that she had lived with them until the age of three. It also did not mention that an Irish immigrant named Bridie Murphy Corkell (1892–1957)[4] lived across the street from Tighe's childhood home in Chicago, Illinois. Scientists[who?] are satisfied that everything Virginia Tighe said can be explained as a memory of her long-forgotten childhood.[5] They[who?] are convinced that cryptomnesia accounted for the information.[6][7][8] Because of these discoveries, scientists[who?] consider any paranormal interpretation of the case "thoroughly disproven."[9]

Virginia Tighe disliked being in the spotlight and was skeptical about reincarnation, although she said years later: "Well, the older I get the more I want to believe in it." She died in Denver in 1995.[10] Bernstein gave up hypnotism after Bridey Murphy and began working in business. Success followed and he became a prominent local philanthropist. He died in Pueblo, Colorado, in 1999.[11]

Film adaptation[edit]

The Search for Bridey Murphy was also made into a 1956 movie of the same name. Produced by Paramount, the film starred Teresa Wright (as Ruth Simmons), Louis Hayward, and Nancy Gates. It was directed by Noel Langley.[12]

References in popular culture[edit]

During the height of the Bridey Murphy craze, two popular songs were "For The Love of Bridey Murphy" and "Do You Believe in Reincarnation". There was a Bridey Murphy dance, "come as you were" parties[13] and a Reincarnation cocktail.[a] The 1956 film I've Lived Before was inspired by her story.[15] The film The Search for Bridey Murphy also came out in 1956.

Stan Freberg recorded a satire in 1956, with June Foray, titled The Quest For Bridey Hammerschlaugen, wherein Freberg hypnotizes Goldie Smith to regress to different eras with humorous interruption by Foray. At the end, Foray hypnotizes Freberg, who becomes Davy Crockett. When Foray tells him that he won't be able to profit on the recent Davy Crockett products, Freberg says that in his next life, he would become Walt Disney.[16]

"Bridey Murphy" was the name of a band consisting of Bill Cowsill, Paul Cowsill, Barry Cowsill, and Waddy Wachtel. In 1974 Capitol released one single, "The Time Has Come."[17]

In Robert Wise's 1963 film The Haunting, Julie Harris' character is jokingly accused of being a reincarnation of Bridey Murphy by Russ Tamblyn's character.


  1. ^ A March 1956 issue of Life Magazine attributes the cocktail to Walt McCrystal of the "Doctors' Club" of Houston, and gives the following recipe: "a jigger vodka and a 1/2 jigger of maraschino liqueur shaken with lemon juice and crushed ice and topped with a cupful of flaming rum."[14]


  1. ^ Gravitz, M. A. (2002). "The Search for Bridey Murphy: Implications for Modern Hypnosis". Am J Clin Hypn 45: 3-10.
  2. ^ Hines, Terence. (2003). Pseudoscience and the Paranormal. Prometheus Books. p. 107. ISBN 1-57392-979-4
  3. ^ Civil registration of all deaths in Ireland began on 1 January 1864. The General Register Office: History Archived 2010-07-01 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ U.S. Census, April 1, 1930, State of Illinois, County of Cook, City of Chicago, enumeration district 1955, p. 19-A, family 428. U.S. Census, Jan. 1, 1920, State of Illinois, County of Cook, City of Chicago, enumeration district 1548, p. 12-B, family 331. Obituary of Bridie Corkell, Chicago Tribune, August 10, 1957, part 1, p. . Bridie immigrated to the U.S. in 1908. Although Tighe claimed that she did not know Mrs. Corkell's maiden name, Bridie's spinster sister Margaret Murphy was living with the Corkells in the 1930 census.
  5. ^ Gardner, Martin. (1957). Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science. New York: Dover. pp. 315-320. ISBN 978-0-486-20394-2
  6. ^ Neher, Andrew. (2011). Paranormal and Transcendental Experience: A Psychological Examination. Dover Publications. p. 218
  7. ^ Cordon, Luis A. (2005). Popular Psychology: An Encyclopedia. Greenwood Press. pp. 184-185. ISBN 0-313-32457-3
  8. ^ Zusne. Leonard; Jones, Warren H. (2014). Anomalistic Psychology: A Study of Magical Thinking. Psychology Press. pp. 142-143. ISBN 978-0-805-80507-9
  9. ^ Shermer, Michael. (2002). The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience. Volume One. ABC-CLIO. p. 207. ISBN 1-57607-653-9
  10. ^ F. Morrow, "Homemaker known for reincarnation tale dies," Denver Post, 21 July 1995.
  11. ^ Robert McG. Thomas Jr., "Man who found 'Bridey Murphy' dies," Denver Post, 11 April 1999, p.7A.
  12. ^ Fowler, Christopher (29 September 2012). "Invisible Ink: No 143, Noel Langley". Independent.
  13. ^ Bridey Murphy Dance Held, St. Petersburg Times, 1956-09-10, webpage found 2010-05-02.
  14. ^ Brean, Herbert (19 March 1956). "Bridey Murphy Puts Nation in a Hypnotizzy". Life. pp. 28–35. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  15. ^ I've Lived Before Archived 2013-02-27 at the Wayback Machine at Webpage found 2010-05-02.
  16. ^ Capitol Records No. 3396, release date April 9, 1956
  17. ^ Bridey Murphy Music

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