Authors: Morey Bernstein
This is a report of actual events involving real people. The facts have not been altered, but the proper names of most individuals have been changed for obvious reasons.
Tonight I will attempt an experiment in hypnosis that I have never before undertaken. The subject will be Ruth Simmons. This is November 29, 1952.
I entered the note above into my personal record, and then I sat back and gave some thought to the technique I would use that night. It was late Saturday afternoon; I would be starting the experiment within a few hours.
I decided that I would use an ordinary hypnotic age regression to take my subject back to the age of one year. And then I would suggest that her memory could go even farther back. It seemed rather simple, but maybe it would do the job.
The term “age regression” refers merely to the directing of the memory of a person, under hypnosis, to recall or relive detailed episodes of the past, even such incidents as may have occurred when that person was an infant.
It was one night after a club dance that I had discovered Ruth Simmons’ ability to enter an uncommonly deep trance while under hypnosis. After the dance a group, about a dozen couples, had gathered together at the home of one of the club members. Several of the group were insisting that I give a demonstration in hypnosis. I explained as courteously as I could that I did not favor hypnotic “shows” but that I would consent to guide them in an exercise in progressive relaxation which might at least show them how a trance begins.
During the little experiment which followed, I spotted several among the group who were apparently good hypnotic subjects. But there was clearly one standout: it was Ruth Simmons. Weeks later I had still another opportunity to prove that my observation was correct; she was, indeed, a remarkable subject. She had the capacity, that is, for entering immediately into a deep trance.
So it was no accident that she would be here tonight. For this particular purpose, I knew, I must have a splendid subject.
This would be old stuff for Ruth Simmons; with me as hypnotist she had done the same thing twice before. On one occasion
she had shown conclusively that she could, while hypnotized, recall events which had taken place when she was only one year old. But tonight I was going to attempt something more than an ordinary age regression.
This time I would learn just how far back her memory could be taken.
I remember how long it seemed waiting for our guests. Finally Rex and Ruth Simmons arrived. Rex looks and talks, my wife keeps reminding me, like Tyrone Power. He’s an insurance salesman; one of the best. Ruth is a vivacious brownette on the smallish side; she’s trim, attractive, and one of the most sought-after partners at every dance. The two were an understandably popular couple, and it was getting more and more difficult to get them over to the house. Besides, they were not particularly interested in hypnosis.
I managed to sit through the conventional preliminaries of discussing everything from our new President-Elect to the fact that it was mighty cold outside. Rex explained that business was not quite what it used to be but he agreed with my sobering reminder that none of us had a right to expect it to continue at its past breakneck pace.
After what I considered a polite interval of conversation I turned to Ruth and asked whether she was ready to be hypnotized. With a shrug of her shoulders, she indicated that she was ready if I was. So I told her that tonight I would prefer that she would, instead of remaining in her chair, stretch out on the couch. I would get her a pillow and blanket to make her more comfortable. She thought that would be fine.
As soon as she had adjusted the pillow, pulled up the blanket, and become comfortable on the couch, I asked her to take seven deep breaths, just as deep as she possibly could. Because she was stretched out on the couch, I decided to use an old technique, the candle-flame method, to hypnotize her.
When she had finished with her deep breathing, I lit a candle and held it at about a 45-degree angle from her head and about eighteen inches from her eyes. I asked that she gaze intently into the candle flame while she listened to my voice.
It took only a few minutes to hypnotize her. No question about it, this girl was a rare subject; she slipped into a deep trance in a hurry.
As soon as I was satisfied that the trance was sufficiently deep I turned on the tape recorder and began speaking quietly.
“… Now we are going to turn back. We are going to turn back through time and space, just like turning back in the pages of a book… And when I next talk to you, you will be seven years old, and you will be able to answer my questions…”
I waited for a few moments. Rex and my wife, Hazel, and I sat watching silently as Ruth seemingly slept deeply.
Finally I asked, “Do you go to school?”
Her voice came, clear and small, as she answered my questions.
Later I asked, “Who sits in front of you?”
“And who sits behind you?”
In the same way Ruth was returned to her kindergarten days, when she was five years old. Asked who sat in front of her, she answered, “No one.” Then she explained that she sat at a long table; nobody, therefore, would have been sitting in front of her. But she gave us the names of those sitting on each side of her at the time. She told us, moreover, that her favorite game was hopscotch, that her doll’s name was Bubbles; and she described in considerable detail her black velvet dress with “little tiny” bows on the pockets.
Then Ruth at the age of three! She gave an elaborate description of her colored doll, and remembered her dog, Buster.
Farther and farther we went into memories stored deep, past the reach of the conscious mind, until Ruth remembered when she was only one year old. At the age of one year she had expressed her desire for water by saying, “Wa.” But when she was asked to tell us how she had asked for a glass of milk, she replied, “… can’t say that.”
And now–now at last I was in a position to try something I had never before attempted. I was ready, that is, to take her “over the hump.” In short, I was going to make an effort to determine whether human memory can be taken back to a period even before birth.
Only a few months before, such an idea had never even occurred to me. I had directed other subjects to recall or relive episodes of the forgotten past in age-regression experiments. I had even regressed some subjects to the scenes of their births, but who
would have supposed that one need not stop there? Logically that had seemed the end of the road.
But several books and a couple of authorities changed my outlook. I had read the report, for instance, of a famous English psychiatrist and scientist who had over a long period of years performed pre-birth memory experiments with more than one thousand subjects! I had learned, furthermore, that there were many doctors, engineers, ministers, and others who were actively engaging in the same type of research.
Now it was my turn.
I instructed the entranced Mrs. Simmons, who was now breathing very deeply, that she should try to go still farther back in her memory… “back, back, back, and back… until, oddly enough, you find yourself in some other scene, in some other place, in some other time, and when I talk to you again, you will tell me about it.” I finished, and then waited anxiously for a few long moments.
I returned to the couch and brought the microphone close to her mouth. This was the time, the important moment.
“Now you’re going to tell me, now you’re going to tell me what scenes came to your mind,” I said. “What did you see? What did you see?”
“… scratched the paint off all my bed!”
I didn’t understand. I hesitated, and then asked the only question logical under the circumstances. “Why did you do that?”
Then we listened to that small, relaxed voice, so remote and so close, telling the logical, touching story of a little girl who’d been spanked and who had taken her revenge against a grown-up world by picking the paint off her metal bed. She explained that they had just “painted it and made it pretty.”
This little girl seemed part of another place, another time. And when I asked her name, the answer came from my subject:
“Bridey… Bridey Murphy.”
Another Step across the Bridge
The Big Step
Hypnosis, the First Step on the Long Bridge
When the phone rang, it was night—a stormy night, at that—and I was at the office, in the middle of picking a winner in our slogan contest. I probably never would have answered the call had I known that it would send me spinning into a whirlwind investigation of hypnosis, telepathy, and clairvoyance; that it would have me experiencing electric shock treatment and truth serum drugs; and that it would start me, finally, probing the mystery of death.
At the moment I was measuring the huckster power of two slogans that had reached the finals. I was trying to keep in mind that the winner must be one which would help merchandise everything from toilets to tractors. Then the phone rang again, so I gave up and answered.
“Hello. I’m trying to find Morey Bernstein.”
“This is Morey.”
“I didn’t mean to bother you. But I took off in my plane from the Denver airport about an hour ago, and because of this sudden storm I’ve been grounded at Pueblo. So I called the hotels in town, but it seems that Pueblo is a Colorado boom town. No rooms anywhere. Then I remembered that my cousin, George Taylor, had told me to call Morey Bernstein if I ever got stuck in Pueblo. So I’m stuck; so I’m calling. Can you help me?”
When he mentioned the name George Taylor, I knew that the slogan contest was all over for that night. Taylor was a rancher, a big operator, and one of our best customers. Slogans were out; Taylor’s relative was in. So I assured Taylor’s relative that I would pick him up right away if he would only tell me where he was. And just before I put the phone down I remembered to ask his name. It was Jerry Thomas.
Thomas turned out to be about twenty-five, pleasant, and personable. As soon as I took him out to my house and stowed his stuff in the guest room I suggested that we join a party that was already in progress at a friend’s house.