Saturday, August 25, 2018

Morphing into Bridey Murphy
by Robert A. Waters

On February 9, 1956, nineteen-year-old William Dean Swink shot himself to death.  His stated reason was to test the theory of reincarnation.  Swink’s suicide note read: “They say curiosity kills the cat.  Well, I’m a cat and I’m very curious.  I am curious about the Bridey Murphy story, so I’m going to test this theory in person.”

A month earlier, amateur hypnotist Morey Bernstein had published a book entitled, The Search for Bridey Murphy.  It became a sensation, selling 200,000 copies within a few months.  Later that year, a successful movie brought the story to the big screen.

The tale began in 1952 at a party in Pueblo, Colorado.  Bernstein asked for volunteers who wished to be hypnotized and housewife Virginia Tighe stepped forward.  What started as a lark soon became the backdrop for controversy.  Under hypnosis, Tighe (called Ruth Simmons in the book) claimed she had lived a past life in Ireland.

For the next few months, with Tighe’s husband always present, Bernstein conducted a series of hypnoses.  While under hypnotic regression, Tighe allegedly traveled back in time to 1806 in Cork, Ireland where her name was Bridgett “Bridey” Murphy.  According to the story, at 17, Murphy married a barrister and moved to Belfast.

The Long Beach Independent Press Telegram reported that “she told of falling down a flight of stairs, of dying, of living in a spirit world for fifty years, where she never ate, never slept.  In 1923, she was reborn in the U.S.A.”  During the hypnotic sessions, Tighe “became” Bridey, even speaking with an authentic-sounding Irish accent.

With the wild popularity of The Search for Bridey Murphy, reporters flew to Ireland in an attempt to check the facts of the story.  It turned out there was no record of the birth or death of Bridey Murphy.  (There was, however, an Irish immigrant named Bridey Murphy Corkell who lived across the street from Tighe’s childhood home in Chicago.)  While some details of Murphy’s tale were accurate, most reporters did not believe the story.

True believers in reincarnation, however, were unfazed.

To others, the story was ripe for laughs.  “Come as you were” parties became popular.  New parents would sometimes joke about reincarnation, telling their newborn infants, “Welcome back.”

Virginia Tighe, now Virginia Mae Morrow, died in 1995.  She never tried to cash in on her fame, and, in fact, said, “If I had known what was going to happen, I would never have lain down on that couch.”

As for Morey Bernstein, he managed a business founded by his grandfather, father, and uncle.  A generous man, Bernstein gave millions to organizations and universities in the Pueblo area.  The former hypnotist died in 1999.

William Dean Swink never came back in a different body—or at least, no one ever knew it if he did.  His grieving family buried him, and he became a footnote in history.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Keep up the good work. I enjoy reading your storys.