The Search for Bridey Murphy


Poster for 1956 film

Poster for 1956 film

In 1952, amateur hypnotist Morey Bernstein put American housewife Virginia Tighe into a trance with the idea of using hypnotic regression to take her back to her earliest memories. He was astonished to hear Victoria start talking in an Irish accent, claiming she was Bridey Murphy, an Irish woman born 150 years earlier.

According to Victoria, Bridey Murphy was in born 1792 in Cork on the south coast of Ireland to Duncan and Katheen Murphy. At 17, she married a lawyer and went to live in Belfast. Her memories provided a wealth of convincing detail including Irish stories and songs.

Chillingly, Virginia told Bernstein she remembered her death from a fall. Bridey had watched her own funeral and described her headstone in detail. Life after death seemed to be something of a limbo, without pain or sadness, until she was somehow reborn in 1923 in the Midwest of America, some 59 years after later.

Bernstein’s 1956 book ‘The Search for Bridey Murphy’ became an international phenomenon, causing a craze in past life regression and reincarnation. Recordings of Virginia’s hypnotised ramblings were translated into dozens of languages and sold across the world.

Given the furore, it was not surprising American reporters went to Ireland to verify Virginia’s claims; something Bernstein had not done before publication. Sadly, Bridey Murphy did not stand up to scrutiny.

Virginia said Bridey was born in a wooden house called ‘The Meadows’. There was no record of such a place in Cork, where houses are generally built of stone or brick. The school she went never existed.

Bridey left no will. There were no obituary notices; no birth, death or marriage records for her, her parents or husband, who taught law at Queen’s College Belfast; which did not exist at that time.

She claimed she attended St Theresa’s Church off Dooley Road. There was no Dooley Road in Belfast, and the only St Theresa’s was built some 50 years after Bridey’s death.

St Theresa’s may provide a clue to the few reminiscences that could be confirmed; such the coastline around Belfast. Although Virginia was raised by an aunt and uncle, her parents were part Irish and she lived with them until she was 3.

As a girl she was friendly with a neighbour, an Irish immigrant called Bridie Corkell, and her spinster sister Margaret Murphy who lived in the same house. Both women may have provided details such as Virginia described – removed from Bridey’s lifetime by half a century.

No one doubted Virginia genuinely believed she had lived before. However the evidence indicated her memories were false; perhaps unconsciously recalled from childhood or even novels she had read.

Of all the stories surrounding Bridey Murphy, the most poignant concerns 19 year old Richard Swink.

He left a note…

‘I am so curious about Bridey Murphy I am going to investigate in person.’

Then blew his brains out with a shotgun.

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