Past-life Story


The Bookworm

(A Past-life Story)

by Kathleen Shannon

Selma Hogan was a forty-year-old factory worker in 1956. She led a very structured life ruled by the tick of a clock. Every weekday she got up at 5 a.m., caught the bus at 6:15, and arrived on the factory belt line by the 7 a.m. horn.  Another horn blast at 5 p.m. marked the end of the workday. She caught the bus at 5:30, arrived at her tiny apartment around 6:15, and usually climbed in her narrow bed to sleep, exhausted by 9 p.m..

   She jealously guarded her lunch hour because she had a secret lust.

   “Selma, join us for lunch!” Andrea said.

   “Where do you go all the time?” Marcia asked.

   “I can't.” said Selma. “I have an appointment.”

   “What, the doctor again?” Andrea said. “Aren't you feeling well?”

   “I'll  be back at one . . .”  Selma let her voice trail over her shoulder as she walked away and left the other women and the giant factory. Miss Hogan turned a corner feeling the chill Cleveland air and breathed a sigh of relief. The spinster felt a sensation of freedom. Selma rushed down the sidewalk to her favorite spot. It was a tiny forgotten park where she ate her cheese, tomato and lettuce sandwich and drank the hot tea she had brought in a Thermos. On that day, she took out a book. It wasn't just any old book--Selma had read plenty of those. She was a voracious reader, sometimes reading as many as four books at a time, all scattered around her modest apartment. One in the bathroom, one in the bedroom, one next to her placemat at the small kitchen table. And there was always a book in her purse, for her lunches.

   Selma liked nothing better than to read while eating. She knew it made her a loner, not eating with friends. Co-workers wondered why she shunned them and regarded her strangely. She couldn't tell them she preferred the people in her books to the people in her life. Miss Hogan had found a book at the library that challenged her imagination. She kept reading even though it was overdue. She seriously thought about not returning it at all. She thought she could say she had lost the book and pay the fine. Selma didn't know where someone could buy a book like that. The book was called The Search for Bridey Murphy--a true story about a woman named Ruth Simmons who remembered having lived a past life in Ireland. Why was she so drawn to this story? Maybe because Selma's own mother was from Ireland, and had filled her daughter's head with wonderful tales of her homeland. Or maybe she just longed for a life less urban. That night Selma had a dream about Bridey. She was so young and lovely, with porcelain skin, green eyes and long, wavy red hair. The young girl reminded Miss Hogan of herself when she was young. Bridey came up to Selma and took both of her hands in her own, looked deep in her eyes . . . then Selma woke up with a shock.

   The book became an obsession. This is the tale that Miss Hogan studied so intently--The author Morey Bernstein was a business man. One day he invited a stranded stranger to a neighborhood cocktail party. The stranger turned out to be a "parlor hypnotist" and was encouraged to show off his talents.  He successfully hypnotized a doctor's wife, the doctor confirming she was indeed in a hypnotic trance. Morey was so taken with the demonstration, he was inspired to learn how to do it himself. At the local library he checked out all the books on hypnosis. He learned hypnosis had practical applications such as eliminating bad habits, accelerating healing, and alleviating pain. He tried it on his wife Hazel who suffered from migraines. After he successfully cured Hazel, he found work as a hypnotist at the local hospital. He worked alongside the same doctor that was at the hypnosis demonstration, whose wife had been hypnotized. A friend of the doctor began to tell Morey about Edgar Cayce.

   Morey learned about Edgar Cayce and his teachings about past lives. Cayce could go into a self induced hypnotic trance in order to  diagnose sick patients and suggest cures. He was able to see and talk about these peoples' past lives, and tell them how some of their problems, physical or mental, came from these other lifetimes. Morey was so impressed, he became curious to see if he could get someone into a trance deep enough to go to a past life. So he implored his neighbors, Rex and Ruth, to let him try it. Rex did not approve, but Ruth was all for it. She was a somnambulist, which meant she was a very good subject. After two days of age regression, he pushed her to pass the pre-birth barrier. He asked her to just float, float back in time as far as she could.

   "Rest and relax . . . Back through space . . . Further than you've ever been . . . Do you  still see yourself? . . . Do you still know your name?" Morey asked.

   "Bridey,"Ruth said.

   "Do you have any other names?“

   "Bridey . . . Murphy."

   "Where do you live?" he asked.


   "What country is that?"

   "Ireland." she said, surprised, he didn't know.

   “How old are you?” said Morey.

   “Four years old" she said, sweetly.

   "What are you doing?" he asked.

   "I'm scratching the paint from the bed frame with my fingernails. I'm going to be in terrible trouble.”

    Her mother came in and spanked her. Bridey cried.

   "Without emotion, put that behind you, rest and relax . . . Move forward in time.... Try to see yourself a little older, how old are you now?"

   "8 years old"

   “If you're 8 years old you know what year it is.” he said.

   “1806” she answered.

    “What is your mother's name?”


   “And your Father's name?”


   “What do you do for fun?” Morey asked.

   “I like to dance.”

   “Would you like to dance for us now, Miss Bridey?”

   “Oh, yes. Yes I would.” she got up with a spring.

   “This is called the Morning Jig.” she explained.

   And she danced a little Irish jig. Ruth as Bridey did it really well. Her voice even changed when she sang with an Irish accent, singing a verse of the song. When Bridey was finished dancing, Morey brought her gently back to the present day, in her living room, and said "Ruth, you will wake up refreshed and full of energy."

   Morey the hypnotist/businessman took his neighbor Ruth back many times to her past life in Ireland. They were able to verify many of the places and people she talked about under hypnosis. He wrote a bestselling book about it that found it's way to Selma's neighborhood library, and she was lucky enough to have checked it out.

   Miss Hogan was absolutely riveted on the book. No one had ever talked about this at her church. Maybe it wasn't a church topic, she thought. “We only have one life and then we go to live with Jesus until the Judgment Day.” they preached. She began to look for other hypnosis books in the library, books that had instructions and scripts for self-hypnosis. There were all too few of them. Selma began to practice a lot of self-hypnosis. She practiced with the scripts in the books. She wrote her own scripts when she wasn't satisfied with the ones she had found.

   One evening after work Miss Hogan laid down and tried past-life-regression hypnosis. She had decided to go back to the life of Bridey Murphy in Ireland. She had worked on this idea for a week, writing out the details of the script. She had a lot of information from the book that would help her imagine what it was like. But why was she so drawn to the Bridey story? And that time?

   Selma told herself to float back . . . further back . . . further than she had ever been before. . . For an hour she worked and sweated to replicate that life. “Deeper, deeper, deeper, down, down down. I am in Ireland, and it's 1806” She had never felt so deep...

She finally began to perceive a land so green and pretty it dazzled her eyes. In the distance was a small village near the ocean, and a hay cart coming down the lane. A large stone cottage stood apart from the rest, near to where she stood.

   Selma walked carefully down through the heather to the cottage and knocked on the door. A beautiful red-haired girl flung open the door and shouted, “Mummy, you're back!” The lass blew a kiss to her mother as she ran past her out into the yard, chasing after her puppy. It was Bridey Murphy and Selma suddenly felt so at home. Marveling, she knew now that this lively girl had been her daughter. Just then she heard someone else at the door. A handsome man stepped out on the stoop. It was the girl's father. "Hey, Kathleen," he said to his wife. Selma wept with joy as she understood, and fell into his welcoming arms.                        

                                                                      -The End-

This short story is a work of fiction. The Search for Bridey Murphy is a real book, a memoir and a true story that started me and many others on the path to study hypnotherapy and make it a career. This fictional story was written at a creative writing class I took at Awakenings Metaphysical Bookstore on 3/16/08. Later, I watched the movie The Search for Bridey Murphy again to get some of the details I had forgotten. It was made in 1956 with Academy Award winner Teresa Wright. I have just re-read a copy of the book, published in Jan., 1956. I read it when I was 12 years old, when I found it in my stepmother's bookshelf, the only metaphysical book she ever owned. It started me on a lifelong search for esoteric books with information about the non-physical. It is a wonderful reference book.

About Selma Hogan: Selma was named after my paternal step-grandmother. She had the hair and  personality of an angel. Her and my grandfather had been grade-school sweethearts and finally married when they turned 80, having both lost their spouses that same year. They had each married their college sweethearts and they kept in touch through the years as they all lived in Portland, Ore. Grandpa died at 90 so Selma lived with her daughter until she died after turning 100 years old.

   The name Hogan was taken from my first mother-in-law's maiden name, who was very Irish. She was a sweet, modest woman, who I remember regularly used to have one drink with her sister across town and then  pass out; in which case my boyfriend-and-future-husband would have to cart her home.

About Bridey's mother, Kathleen and me: Kathleen was the name of Bridey’s mother in Ireland in the past life that Ruth Simmons remembered under hypnosis. I just happen to have the same name, but I am also a voracious bookworm like the character Selma and I identify with the Irish side of my family, my grandfather's side; Selma's husband, Elmo Shannahan, who along with Grandmother Vera, raised me.

Kathleen Shannon 5/17/08

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