Bernstein, Morey (1919-1999)

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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 Gardner.

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 fact.


Bernstein, Morey. The Search for Bridey Murphy. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1956.

"Bridey MurphyFact, 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.

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Bernstein, Morey (1919-1999)

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