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Bridey Murphy is the name of the person U.S. housewife Virginia Tighe (April 27, 1923 – July 12, 1995) claimed to be in a previous life.
In 1952, Colorado businessman and amateur hypnotist Morey Bernstein put housewife Virginia Tighe of Pueblo, Colorado, in a trance that sparked off startling revelations about Tighe's alleged past life as a 19th-century Irishwoman and her rebirth in the United States 59 years later. Bernstein used a technique called hypnotic regression, during which the subject is gradually taken back to childhood. He then attempted to take Virginia one step further, before birth, and was astonished to find he was listening to Bridey Murphy.
Tighe's tale began in 1806, when Bridey was eight years old and living in a house in Cork. She was the daughter of Duncan Murphy, a barrister, and his wife Kathleen. At the age of 17, she married barrister Sean Brian McCarthy and moved to Belfast. Tighe told of a fall that caused Bridey's death and of watching her own funeral, describing her tombstone and the state of being in life after death. It was, she recalled, a feeling of neither pain nor happiness. Somehow, she was reborn in America, although Tighe/Bridey was not clear how this event happened. Virginia Tighe herself was born in the Midwest in 1923, had never been to Ireland, and did not speak with even the slightest hint of an Irish accent.
The "facts" related by Bridey were not fully checked before the publication of Bernstein's book The Search for Bridey Murphy. However, once the book had become a bestseller, almost every detail was thoroughly checked by reporters who were sent to Ireland to track down the background of the elusive woman. It was then that the first doubts about her "reincarnation" began to appear. Bridey said she was born on December 20, 1798, in Cork and that she had died in 1864. There was no record of either event. Neither was there any record of a wooden house called The Meadows in which she said she lived, just of a place of that name at the brink of Cork. Indeed, most houses in Ireland were made of brick or stone. She pronounced her husband's name as "See-an," but Seán is pronounced "Shawn" in Ireland. Brian, which is what Bridey preferred to call her husband, was also the middle name of the man to whom Virginia Tighe was married. Some of the details did tally. For instance, her descriptions of the Antrim coastline were very accurate. So, too, was her account of a journey from Belfast to Cork. She claimed she went to a St. Theresa's Church. There was indeed one where she said there was, but it was not built until 1911. The young Bridey shopped for provisions with a grocer named Farr. It was discovered that such a grocer had existed.
The experts who examined the case of Virginia Tighe came to the conclusion that the best way to arrive at the truth was to check back not to Ireland but to her own childhood and her relationship with her parents. Morey Bernstein's book stated that Virginia Tighe (whom he called Ruth Simmons in the book) was brought up by a Norwegian uncle and his German-Scottish-Irish wife. However, it did not state that her actual parents were both part Irish and that she had lived with them until the age of three. It also did not mention that an Irish immigrant named Bridie Murphy Corkell (1892–1957) lived across the street from Tighe's childhood home in Chicago, Illinois. Scientists are satisfied that everything Virginia Tighe said can be explained as a memory of her long-forgotten childhood. The psychologist Andrew Neher wrote that as a child Tighe was a close friend to a neighbor whose life was very similar to Bridey Murphy's. Neher wrote cryptomnesia accounted for the information.
The Search for Bridey Murphy was also made into a 1956 movie starring Teresa Wright as Ruth Simmons.
Virginia Tighe disliked being in the spotlight and was skeptical about reincarnation, although she said years later: "Well, the older I get the more I want to believe in it." She died in Denver in 1995. Bernstein gave up hypnotism after Bridey Murphy and began working in business. Success followed and he became a prominent local philanthropist. He died in Pueblo, Colorado, in 1999.
During the height of the Bridey Murphy craze, two popular songs were "For The Love of Bridey Murphy" and "Do You Believe in Reincarnation". There was a Bridey Murphy dance, "come as you were" parties and a Reincarnation cocktail. The 1956 film I've Lived Before was inspired by her story. The film The Search for Bridey Murphy also came out in 1956.
Stan Freberg recorded a satire in 1956, with June Foray, titled The Quest For Bridey Hammerschlaugen, wherein Freberg hypnotizes Goldie Smith to regress to different eras with humorous interruption by Foray. At the end, Foray hypnotizes Freberg, who becomes Davy Crockett; when Foray tells him that he won't be able to profit on the recent Davy Crockett products, Freberg says that in his next life, he would become Walt Disney.
In Thomas Pynchon's novel V. (1963), a character called Esther is reading The Search for Bridey Murphy as she is sitting on a bus. This occurs in the fourth chapter of the novel, "In which Esther gets a nose job".
In the novel Passage (2001) by Connie Willis, the main character, Joanna Lander, references Bridey Murphy several times as she attempts to explain to her fellow researcher that she's certain of what she sees in the NDEs she's experienced. In an earlier Novel Lincoln's Dream (page 31) the main character references Bridey Murphy, too.
In the novel Time Out of Mind (1986) by John R. Maxim, Bridey Murphy is referenced as an example of genetic memory.
Audio clips from the movie The Search for Bridey Murphy have been incorporated into the live performance of instrumental band This Will Destroy You's song "Black Dunes," as is evidenced in their 2013 live album, Live in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Handwritten reports later published such as life after life, And Death is a Noun recall the story of Bridey Murphy in a more general understanding of death and life. This includes reports by doctor of a patient's experiences while pronounced clinically dead, moments after revival.