Murphy, Bridey

The story of Bridey Murphy is one of the most famous cases of apparent reincarnation. In the 1950s hypnotist Morey Bernstein of Pueblo, Colorado, was working with one of his clients, a twenty-nine-yearold housewife and mother named Virginia Tighe when, during one of their sessions, she spoke with the voice and memories of a nineteenth-century Irishwoman named Bridey Murphy. The first time this occurred, Bernstein had been trying to help Tighe to remember her childhood and had casually suggested that she “go to some other place in some other time.” He meant for her to remember some other period of her life, but instead she seemed to jump to the life of someone else who had lived long before. In an Irish accent, she told Bernstein that she, Bridey Murphy, had been born in 1798 and died in 1864 of complications from a broken hip. In this and subsequent hypnosis sessions, she also provided Bernstein with numerous details about her family, experiences, likes and dislikes. For example, she gave the name of the Catholic church in Belfast, Ireland, where she had married Sean Brian Joseph McCarthy in 1818 and offered detailed descriptions of places where she had shopped for food. She also told Bernstein about the time in-between lives, when the spirit waited for a new existence. During this period, she said, she could travel anywhere with just a thought.

Bernstein tape-recorded each session, and in 1956 he published a book based on his work, The Search for Bridey Murphy. (Bernstein called Tighe “Ruth Simmons” in his writings in order to protect her anonymity, but journalists soon uncovered her real name.) Sceptics soon began noting flaws in Tighe’s story. Many of her place descriptions, including details about where Murphy had bought her food, were accurate, but other facts were not. The same was true of her language; some of the words she used were appropriate diction for a nineteenth-century Irishwoman, but others were those of a twentieth-century American. In addition, neither sceptics nor believers could find any evidence that anyone named Bridey Murphy had ever lived. Searches of church baptismal records and other records turned up nothing. However, historians note that because of carelessness and poor record keeping, the documents of many other, known historical figures cannot be found either, so the lack of documentation could not be considered conclusive.

Amidst the furor caused by attempts to track down evidence of the real Bridey Murphy, a Chicago, Illinois, newspaper published a series of articles that attributed Tighe’s knowledge of nineteenth-century Ireland to Bridie Corkell, who had been born and raised in Ireland but who had subsequently moved to Chicago. Tighe had grown up in Chicago, and according to the newspaper, her family had known Corkell. Consequently, the newspaper suggested that while under hypnosis Tighe was recalling stories she had heard from Corkell but had forgotten. This did not end the matter, however. The newspaper’s own credibility was called into question when it was revealed that Corkell had not actually spent any time with the Tighe family. Moreover, Corkell turned out to be the mother of the newspaper’s editor. Sceptics continue to contend that details of nineteenth-century Irish life were available to Tighe, and she was simply creating, probably unintentionally, a story that Bernstein and others wanted to believe. Tighe’s supporters, however, continue to insist that she really did live a former life as Bridey Murphy.


  • Reincarnation
  • Xenoglossy


The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning

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