Mind Games


By Sam Garfield

Aug. 1, 1956

(The Human Mind)—If she were the guest on TV’s What’s My Line, how would she sign in? Bridey Murphy? Or…Virginia Tighe? Or…Ruth Simmons?

It all began at a neighborhood party in 1952, so the story goes. That’s when Virginia Tighe, a twenty-eight-year-old Pueblo, Colorado housewife first allowed herself to be hypnotized by an amateur hypnotist by the name of Morey Bernstein. With the lights dimmed and the record player turned off, Bernstein put the young lady into a trance to the delight of the partygoers. And apparently to the delight of Virginia Tighe, who agreed to continue her hypnotic episodes. Bernstein eventually parlayed these tape-recorded sessions into a runaway best-selling book, The Search For Bridey Murphy.

That’s where we are today, some four years after Virginia Tighe stretched out on a neighbor’s couch and entered the strange realms of hypnosis. But Bernstein’s Search has fueled a different kind of search—one rooted in skepticism. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. In case you haven’t read the book, here are some of the hypnotic highlights:

…Tighe—in his book, Bernstein calls her Ruth Simmons—recounts her childhood in Chicago and then goes back even further—to a life in 19th-century Ireland.

…She calls herself Bridey Murphy, age eight, in 1806 County Cork, where she plays hide ‘n’ seek with her brother Duncan.

…Speaking in an Irish brogue, Bridey describes “studying to be a lady’ in Mrs. Strayne’s school in Cork and then at age seventeen, marrying Brian McCarthy who takes her to live in Belfast, near St. Theresa’s Church.

…Bridey dances a Morning Jig for Bernstein, talks about her favorite Irish songs: The Minstrel’s March and Londonderry Air, and speaks lovingly of kissing the Blarney Stone.

…She then describes her death, how she fell down a flight of stairs and died in 1864, while her husband was at church. Bridey recounts watching her own funeral and explains how after death one feels neither pain nor sorrow.

As narratives go, this Tighe-Simmons-Murphy hypnotic journey is a puzzling one. And it has sparked national interest from cynical journalists and scholars. Newspapermen headed for Cork and found no birth or death record for Bridey Murphy; they also visited Belfast. A Chicago reporter discovered that a woman named Bridie Murphy Corkell lived across the street where Virginia Tighe had grown up. Psychiatrists, psychologists, scientists, and historians continue to put their two-cents in regarding the validity of Bridey Murphy…as Bernstein’s books continue to fly off the shelves. Was this truly a case of reincarnation? Or just a good story? Whatever it is, it sure has captured the fancy of many Americans: “Come As You Were” parties are quite popular these days, I’m told.

So…how would she sign in on What’s My Line?

Copyright © 2012. John Theodore — All Rights Reserved. Text may not be reproduced without permission.

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