100 Years After She Died, Bridey Murphy Allegedly Came Back From The Dead As A Colorado Housewife

February 15, 2023 People's Tonight 683 views

Ada Hart

When they think about ’50s trends, most people conjure images of poodle skirts, soda fountains, and hula hoops. Not many people realize that, throughout the 1950s, the United States developed an infatuation with reincarnation due to the tale of Bridey Murphy. Under hypnosis, a Colorado housewife named Virginia Tighe claimed to be a reincarnated Irish housewife named Bridey Murphy. Speaking in a thick Irish brogue, Murphy told those in the rooms with her tales of her life in Ireland – which had taken place 100 years before. This case of Colorado reincarnation in 1952 led to a media frenzy and widespread fascination with the concept of past life regression and reincarnation.

As reporters researched the story, it became increasing apparent Tighe’s claims were inaccurate. After the discovery of a neighbor she had known growing up named Bridie, people came to believe this was a case of cryptomnesia. This is a phenomenon in which someone recalls lost memories and falsely believes them to be new, leading to confusing recollections that may explain past-life memories. Despite the fact Tighe was likely not the reincarnation of Murphy – Murphy had not been resurrected in her body – the case continues to be a fascinating study in public curiosity and the fallible nature of memory.


• The Bridey Murphy Identity Emerged During Routine Hypnosis

Bridey1Photo: The Search for Bridey Murphy / Paramount

The Bridey Murphy sensation began when a woman, Virginia Tighe, underwent a hypnosis session with the amateur hypnotist Morey Bernstein. For the first few sessions, Tighe talked about her early childhood in vivid detail. Realizing Tighe was far more susceptible to hypnosis than the average person, in a later session, Bernstein asked her if she remembered anything before her birth.

When the question was asked, Tighe immediately began speaking in a heavy Irish accent. This was surprising, as Tighe had never lived in Ireland. She claimed she was a 19th-century woman named Bridey Murphy. This was the first of many sessions between Bernstein and Murphy.

• • Over Time, Tighe Revealed Vivid Details Of Her Past Life As An Irish Housewife

TighePhoto: Morey Bernstein / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Morey Bernstein tried to gather as much information as he could about Tighe’s past life as Murphy in subsequent sessions. Over time, he collected a concrete biography – filled with colorful details of Murphy. He believed this information could be used to find records verifying the existence of Murphy – thus proving the reincarnation claims.

Tighe, speaking as Murphy, claimed to have been born on December 20, 1798 in Cork, Ireland. She claimed to have lived in a wooden house and to have been the daughter of Duncan and Kathleen Murphy, named after her grandmother Bridget. Moreover, she remembered that:

“After fracturing her hip in a fall while in her early 60s, she had died peacefully and without pain, although an invalid, on a Sunday in 1864 at the age of 66. She added that following her death she had lived a long time “in the spirit world” before her rebirth in 1923 as Ruth Mills in the American state of Iowa.”

• • Tighe Recalled Her Death, Funeral, And The Afterlife “Spirit World”

Tighe1Photo: The Search for Bridey Murphy / Paramount

As Murphy, Tighe recalled details of her death. But her details about the afterlife, which she called “the spirit world” – as she remembered it – were perhaps the most intriguing of her account.
She described watching her funeral, as well as the afterlife and purgatory. She said the afterlife was a neutral location, where she felt neither happy nor sad. In purgatory, she was able to speak with other people who had died and she knew during her lifetime, including her younger brother who had died during infancy.

• • The Case Led To A Public Obsession With Reincarnation

ObsessionPhoto: The Search For Bridey Murphy / Paramount

In total, Bernstein conducted six past life regressions with Tighe between November 1952 and October 1953. He recorded it on vinyl and wrote a book about it – and the American public was obsessed.

Bridey Murphy was an absolute sensation throughout the 1950s. Reincarnation-themed parties became a trend, the slogan for such events being, “Come as you were.” Bartenders often served reincarnation cocktails, and people became curious about their own past lives. Stories began to crop up of individuals claiming to have previously been royalty, animals, or peasants from medieval times.

• • The Media Could Not Find Official Records Of Murphy’s Existence

The tale of Bridey Murphy spurred a media frenzy. The public became fascinated with both hypnosis and reincarnation, and, in time, journalists began looking for verification of Bridey Murphy’s existence. They scoured records in Cork and Belfast to look for birth or death certificates regarding Murphy.

Unfortunately, all searches came up cold, and no official records of Bridey Murphy were ever discovered. However, journalists did find that some of the information Tighe provided was accurate. Despite never having been to Ireland, or ever showing interest in Irish culture, she described some areas of Ireland remarkably well. She also knew the locations of some buildings and the names of tradesmen.

• • It Eventually Came Out That Tighe Lived Next Door To A Bridey Murphy Growing Up

GrowingPhoto: The Search For Bridey Murphy / Paramount

As newspaper investigations continued, one discovery by a reporter at the Chicago American poked some serious holes in the reincarnation claims. Virginia Tighe apparently had a neighbor growing up named Bridie Murphy Corkell. While there aren’t a lot of details about Corkell herself, it’s possible some of Tighe’s memories of a wooden house and Irish landscapes may match stories Corkell told her of her childhood. This led to the theory Tighe was merely remembering stories she heard as a youngster and got confused under hypnosis.

• • The Widespread Obsession With Reincarnation Led To One Tragedy

The story of Bridey Murphy caused widespread curiosity about reincarnation across America. While some of this was relatively harmless interest, one case actually resulted in tragedy. A 19-year-old man killed himself and left a note behind, hoping to prove reincarnation by coming back in another life and recounting the contents of the note.

• • A Bestselling Book Furthered Public Fascination

SellingPhoto: Various Artists – Topic / YouTube

By 1956, the case had received so much attention that Morey Bernstein published a book on the subject titled The Search for Bridey Murphy. That same year, the book was made into a movie. The book quickly became a bestseller and further encouraged public fascination with reincarnation. During the time, it was customary for parents to jokingly greet their newborns in the delivery room with the words, “Welcome back.” In Bernstein’s obituary in the New York Times from 1999, Robert Mcg Thomas Jr. wrote that the book incited a “25-fold increase in the sale of works on hypnotism.”

• • Tighe Came To Regret Releasing Her Story

Tighe2Photo: The Search for Bridey Murphy / Paramount

Virginia Tighe came to regret her involvement in the Bridey Murphy phenomenon later in life. After the past life regressions, she divorced her husband and went on to remarry and have more children – and she largely tried to disassociate herself from the legendary case. She was once quoted as saying, “If I had known what was going to happen I never would have lain down on that couch.”

• • Morey Bernstein Challenged Criticisms

After the discovery of Tighe’s neighbor – in tandem with a lack of corroborating evidence in Ireland – the case faced widespread scrutiny and skepticism. Morey Bernstein deflected much of the criticism. He claimed Tighe never knew the first name of her neighbor, Bridey Murphy Corkell. He also pointed out Tighe had accurately described locations in Ireland in great detail, despite having never been to Ireland or shown much interest in the country.

• • The Story, While Likely False, Was Never Intended To Be A Hoax

SSPhoto: Morey Bernstein / Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Whether you think Virginia Tighe was Bridey Murphy or not, both Tighe and Morey appear to have sincerely believed their story. The Bridey Murphy sensation was not a deliberate hoax. Benstein’s sessions with Tighe have been confirmed to have occurred. Neither Tighe nor her family sought any fame or financial gain from the media coverage or book publication. While the reincarnation narrative seems pretty dubious, everyone involved initially believed their own claims.