The Mysterious Search for Bridey Murphy


At scene with Morey Bernstein interviewing Virginia Tighe in the 1956 Paramount movie, The Search for Bridey Murphy.
At scene with Morey Bernstein interviewing Virginia Tighe in the 1956 Paramount movie, The Search for Bridey Murphy.

“THAT WAS GOOD, Mama. Is it over?”

“They will do one more song, then, have a curtain call.”

“Mrs. Wright had taken her twelve-year-old daughter, Tricia, to see a play production in the city. She had been trying to inject some culture into her young daughter’s life for the whole summer, when opportunities arose. They both beamed and clapped as the ensemble cast finished singing, On a Clear Day, You Can See Forever.

As they set in an ice cream parlor later, over cherry sodas, Tricia asked her mother, “Is the story of the play true?”

“No, the play is a fictional script, but it is based loosely on the book, The Search for Bridey Murphy. Have you ever heard of Bridey Murphy?”

“I have heard that name, but I don’t know how. It has a ring to it.”

“Some people believe it is a true story, including the woman it happened, too, probably. Others don’t necessarily come out and call it a hoax, but they call it something like confusion. If some of the facts were confused, it was not done intentionally, but innocently.”

“What was the story?”


The real Morey Bernstein
The real Morey Bernstein

“In the early 1950s a woman from the Midwest area decided to go to a hypnotist, a Morey Bernstein in Pueblo, Colorado. The woman’s real name was not revealed for years. Bernstein called her Ruth Simmons when he discussed her case. Bernstein did hypnotic regressions on Simmons and taped them. He took her clear back to her earliest days of life. She was twenty-nine at the age of the sessions. Then he tried to take her back to a time before she was born.”

“I don’t get it. How could you have a life before you were born?”

“When she went back to a time before she was born, she became an Irish woman named Bridey Murphy.”

“Oh, that is where I have heard the name.”

“Bernstein was amazed when his subject began speaking the way that the Irish of the late 1700s spoke.   She was born in 1798 and described her life in Cork with her father, Duncan, a barrister, and her mother, Kathleen. She described her later marriage to Sean Brian Joseph McCarthy. They moved to Belfast and he taught at Queens University. Ruth Simmons was full of details about her Irish life. She described the Cliffs of Antrim. She described the shops she frequented, Farr’s, a food store and Carrigan’s—a greengrocery. She later described her own death from complications of a broken hip at age sixty-six, and her subsequent burial, accompanied by pipe-playing. At one point, Ruth even danced a ‘morning jig’ for Bernstein while under a post-hypnotic suggestion.”

“How did others find out about this?”

“Bernstein wrote the book, The Search for Bridey Murphy, published in 1956. He was already a successful businessman and did not need fame or money—this was the consensus of opinion. He did not reveal Ruth’s true identity, but a group of skeptics immediately set about to prove the contents of the book wrong. They could not find a Bridey Murphy, or any of her relatives in records, or a grave for such a person. There was a record of one of the churches she mentioned frequently and they did find a record of a similar shop and greengrocery of the same names. Her description of the Cliffs of Antrim was accurate as were the colloquial expressions she used, such as calling potato cakes, platters. She had mispronounced some other words, though.”

“I want it to be true, Mama. Couldn’t these people be wrong?”

“Yes, it is possible. There were many Murphys in Ireland at the time, and no doubt, not records kept on of all of them. It is also known that accurate records often did not go back that far, or, were accidentally damaged or destroyed. Uilleann pipes were often played at funerals. There were many things, Ruth Simmons said under hypnosis that it would have been impossible to know unless one were actually there. Denver Post newspaper reporter, William Barker, was convinced there was a ring of truth to Ruth’s accounts. Ian Stevenson, famous reincarnation researcher was also impressed by her story.”

“If she hadn’t really lived before, what could explain her trances, Mama?”

“She was raised by a Norwegian uncle and his German-Scots-Irish wife. It is unlikely that Ruth Simmons could have come by this detailed information about Ireland from her life with them. It also came to light that she had lived the first three years of her life with her biological parents who were part Irish, and there was a story put out by a newspaper editor that was trying to poke holes in her story. There was an Irish woman in the neighborhood where Ruth spent part of her childhood that was very similar to Bridey Murphy. Surely Ruth’s past life experiences were actually based on these two things—they were actually suppressed memories of her own.

These theories could not hold water under closer scrutiny and in fact the neighborhood Bridey Murphy turned out to be the mother of one of the fault-finding newspaper editors, and Ruth had never spent time with her.”

“Yes, that sounds fishy, Mama.”

“Virginia Tighe, aka Ruth Simmons, shied away from all publicity. She was a private, private person. Morey Bernstein asked Ruth where she resided between her two lives, and she replied that it was a place of waiting, where everybody waits. There was no day or night, disease, death or families there. She could move about by just wishing it so. One day some women came and told her she would be going into another life to be reborn, and she just passed into another existence.”

“Oooo. Now that is a little spooky, Mama.”

“It is very strange. If you like the story, I will pick up a copy of the movie made of the play. It was made long ago but the music and costuming are worth a look. We can also watch the old 1950s movie about Bridey Murphey.”

“Is the lady still alive—the one who got hypnotized?”

“No, Virginia Tighe died in 1995, maybe for the second time.”

Sara Marie Hogg is the author of Dark Continent Continental.



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