Bernstein, Morey (1919–1999)
Businessman and hypnotist from Pueblo, Colorado, who
wrote the best-seller The Search for Bridey Murphy, published in
1956. His book opened public discussion of reincarnation and
uncovered a large popular interest and belief in it that had
been growing in the West through the twentieth century. The
book claimed that under hypnosis by the author, Colorado
housewife ‘‘Ruth Simmons’’ (pseudonym of Virginia Tighe) recalled
memories of a previous existence in nineteenth-century
Belfast, Ireland.
In a series of hypnotic sessions, Bernstein probed Tighe’s
early memories back to childhood, then as it seemed, to an earlier
life as Bridey Murphy, an Irish girl, for which Tighe was
able to provide many details. Bernstein instituted a search in
Ireland to validate these details. The Denver Post sent a reporter
to Ireland, and although the findings were somewhat ambiguous,
they were added as a supplement to the paperback edition
of Bernstein’s book.
The tremendous success of Bernstein’s book revived interest
in hypnotism and stimulated pop songs on the theme of reincarnation.
An album of some of Tighe’s trance sessions was
even released. In the wake of the attention given the book, the
Chicago American published a series of articles questioning wether
Tighe was really Bridey Murphy in a former existence. An
astute reporter investigated Tighe’s early childhood in Chicago
and identified names and places that had been woven into an
unconscious fantasy of previous life. Across the street from
Tighe’s girlhood home lived an Irish family with a Mrs. Corkell,
whose maiden name had been Bridie Murphy. The Chicago
American articles went into syndication by the Hearst press,
and they ran in the New York Journal American (June 10–18,
1956) and in Time (June 18, 1956) and Life (June 25, 1956). An
amusing and witty exposé of the Bridey Murphy story appeared
in Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science by Martin
The Bridey Murphy case highlights the remarkable ability
of the subconscious mind to create fantasies of other lives and
personalities that can be elicited under hypnosis. The same faculty
is present in the creative imagination of novelists, although
consciously controlled. Since the Bridey Murphy case was published,
there have been numerous cases of claimed memories
of former existence under hypnosis, but few have found them
evidential, given the inherent problem of hypnotists guiding
the sessions and making leading suggestions to the subject.
Hypnotism continues to be used in counseling situations,
and reports of past life recall have gained a large audience
among people who have already accepted reincarnation as a
Bernstein, Morey. The Search for Bridey Murphy. Garden City,
N.Y. Doubleday, 1956.
‘‘Bridey Murphy—Fact, Fraud, or Fancy’’ Special issue of
Tomorrow 4, no. 4 (summer 1956).
Fiore, Edith. You Have Been Here Before A Psychologist Looks
at Past Lives. New York Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1978.
Gardner, Martin. Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science.
New York Dover Publications, 1957.