For this edition of Flashback Friday, we have John A. Keel’s 1981 article: “Hypnotism: Learn Animal Magnetism at Home in Your Spare Time and Enslave the World.”
As you read this literary masterpiece by a famous Pulitzer prize loser, you will begin to feel drowsy. Literary masterpieces often have that effect on scabrous readers, but in this case your drowsiness will be part of a sinister conspiracy to destroy your mind and render you an unwilling slave. Even as you read these words your brain is turning into oatmeal.
You say you’ve never been hypnotized and, in fact, you regard yourself as too strong-willed, with such a towering intellect that you never could be hypnotized? Despite your overbearing ego, chances are that you have been zapped into a hypnotic trance many times… and completely without your knowledge or permission.
A large percentage of people are very prone to suggestion, which is what hypnotism really is, and can be triggered into a hypnotic state by nothing more than telephone poles whizzing past as they ride in a speeding automobile. Music also has powerful hypnotic influence, particularly rock ‘n’ roll, and it is not unusual for disco dancers to lapse into a semitrance. The CIA and other noble national institutions have been experimenting with involuntary hypnosis for years and have turned out innumerable “Manchurian candidates” such as the famous model and radio personality, Candy Jones Nebel, and, possibly, Jack Ruby. Candy’s schizoid escapades as an unwilling zombie for the CIA came to light when she was hypnotized by the late Long John Nebel and her story was turned into a book by Donald Bain (The Control of Candy Jones, Playboy Press, 1976). Some experts think that Jack Ruby’s peculiar behavior on the day he shot Lee Harvey Oswald was triggered by a mysterious phone call he received before he headed for the Dallas police station, that he had been preconditioned to lapse into a trance and carry out orders.
Hypnotism is becoming a big business today, with professional hypnotists collecting fees for helping you to stop smoking, overcome a fear of flying, or have bigger and better orgasms. Modern psychiatrists use hypnotism routinely to cure amnesia and explore hidden parts of the mind. Many dentists have abandoned standard anesthesia for hypnotism. What was once considered to be nothing more than a stage entertainment has now become an important tool for medicine, the law, and even for flying-saucer investigators. Those who aren’t openly paying for the privilege of sleeping through the 20th century via hypnosis are being entranced in other ways. Some zonk out in the presence of fluorescent lights, while many millions ingest daily a mountain of pills that are known as “hypnotics” because they are sleep inducers. Sit in front of a flickering TV set long enough and they can sell you anything because of the patholesiac effect (impairment of willpower). Entire audiences have flipped in movie theaters when the flickering image on the screen pulsed at just the right frequency and produced mass hypnosis (a very rare phenomenon). Hypnosis was a curiosity in the last century, embraced by occultists and debated by science. Today it has become a part of our daily lives.
Anybody can learn and practice hypnosis. The cartoon image of the sinister hypnotist with blazing eyes, wearing a long cape, belongs to another age. You don’t need to look deep into your subject’s eyes to induce a hypnotic trance. There are, and always have been, a few people who are natural hypnotists and can entrance suggestible persons with nothing more than a glance. Usually, natural hypnotists also have highly developed psychic abilities. One famous Russian psychic was able to hand a railroad conductor a blank piece of paper and he would study it carefully and punch it, thinking it was a real ticket. Some show-business personalities, and a random few politicians, have also been gifted with this “animal magnetism.” Al Jolson had it, as did Adolf Hitler. If you have this ability yourself you are probably reading this article while riding in your private jet or fighting off naked starlets in the bedroom of your penthouse.
Basically, the hypnotized state is a form of sleeping while the body remains conscious. The mind transfers many of its normal functions, such as judgment, to the hypnotist. Patholesia, the loss of willpower, is one result. (In fact, an early word for hypnotist was pathetist.) While entranced, the subject may be handed an onion and the hypnotist will tell him that it is an apple. The subject will know that it is an onion but will take a bite of it just to please the hypnotist. To his surprise, he will find it tastes exactly like an apple. This type of reaction is common because a hypnotized subject often does not believe he or she is really hypnotized. The mind is operating on two levels. On one level, the subject thinks he (or she) is fully conscious and fully in control of the situation. He thinks he’s just “playing along” with the hypnotist. But on another, deeper level, the subject has surrendered most of the perceptive equipment of his body and all of the decision-making apparatus of his mind.
There are three stages of trance. The first is a form of shallow sleep in which the subject is convinced that he is really fully awake and in full control. The second stage is a deeper sleep in which the conscious mind is less active. And the third is a very deep sleep in which the subject is totally unconscious and completely under the control of the hypnotist.
For thousands of years hypnotism was a closely guarded secret of secret cults, exalted priesthoods, witches and warlocks, and oracles. The hideous assassin cults of the Far East used hypnosis (along with drugs) to brainwash the members into committing suicidal acts. While it is true that no hypnotized subject will do anything that is against his normal sense of morality, it is easy for the hypnotist to trick him. For example, the hypnotist could hand the subject a loaded pistol and say, “This is a harmless squirt gun. Let’s play a joke on good old Charlie. Go up to him and squirt him in the face.” Scratch good old Charlie.
In secret societies everywhere (from Africa to the American Indian tribes), hypnosis was induced through dancing and music. Heavy bass sounds, i.e., drums, together with flickering fires, would produce almost instant trance in many of the participants. They would then hallucinate and see gods and demons, or have prophetic visions. We rediscovered this in the 1960s, with hard rock and the pulsating psychedelic lights of discos. Young people, on their way home from discotheques, often had frightening encounters with giant hairy monsters, little people in silvery suits, gruesome birds and assorted chimera. Repeated exposure to this conditioning produced hallucinosis in some, making them susceptible to trance just by listening to the car radio. The result has been a library filled with books documenting a wide assortment of visions and hallucinations that seemed very real to the subjects—so real that they reported them to newspapers and police—but that were really excursions into the inner reaches of the entranced and baffled human mind. As styles of music changed, and the psychedelic light fad passed, the quantity of such reports diminished.
Since the pristine minds of the young are more open to suggestion than the tired, cynical brains of the mature, it was natural that the youth-oriented 1960s also became the age of hypnotism. The explosion of belief in the occult and reincarnation led millions to submit to hypnotism to explore their alleged past lives. One of the uneasy facts about hypnotism is that once you have been hypnotized you can be rehypnotized with little effort. You become a potential robot waiting for the right buttons to be pushed.
There are several simple methods for testing someone’s suggestibility. One is the coin test. Here’s how it works. Ask your potential subject to extend his or her open hand. Place a coin in their palm while gazing steadily into their eyes. Never joke or clown around. You must always have a serious demeanor when you are experimenting with hypnosis. Slowly fold the subject’s fingers over the coin while giving him the following instructions:
“I want you to hold this coin as tightly as you possibly can. Hold it so tightly that no one could possibly remove it. Tighter. Your fingers are locking into place. You can feel them becoming rigid. They are locking tightly into place around the coin. You will not be able to open your hand until I tell you that you can. Your fingers are locking around that coin. You cannot open your hand. The muscles are frozen in place. You cannot open your hand.”
While saying the above, you should clench the subject’s hand in your own, squeezing it tightly. Now remove your hand and ask him to try to open his. If the subject is highly suggestible, he will be surprised to find that he cannot force his hand open. He is not in a hypnotic trance. He is fully conscious and aware, but you have suggested—convinced him—that he can’t open his hand. He won’t be able to unlock his fingers until you gently stroke his hand and tell him, “Now you can open your hand. You can feel the muscles in your fingers unlocking and you can open your hand.”
When you find someone who responds to the coin test, you know you have found a perfect subject for more elaborate hypnotic experiments. Experienced hypnotists can usually pick such people out of a large audience just from their general appearance and behavior. Hypnotism remained a forbidden secret of black magicians and witches until about 1772, when Friedrich Anton Mesmer, an Austrian physician, started to experiment with it. He developed a theory about the effect of magnetism on the human body, contending that numerous ailments could be cured by making passes with the hands and/or rubbing the affected parts of the body with the fingers while telling the patient that the pains were leaving. The technique became known as mesmerism and practitioners of the strange art called themselves magnetists. Mesmer and his followers actually did cure rheumatic pains, chronic headaches and other stubborn ailments of the nervous system. They were relearning things that had been known to primitive witch doctors and shamans for many centuries.
A wealthy Frenchman, the Marquis de Puységur, paid Mesmer 100 gold louis coins for a crash course in animal magnetism and quickly earned a place in history by hypnotizing a dull-witted peasant boy named Victor. He made many fascinating discoveries, most of which seemed utterly incredible in that far-off year of 1784. When “magnetized,” Victor’s IQ skyrocketed and he displayed phenomenal powers. Among other things, Victor was able to respond to unspoken commands. Puységur later wrote: “I have no need of speaking to him. When I think in his presence he seems to hear me and replies. When someone comes into the room Victor sees him only if I will him to, when Victor converses with him he says only what I will him to say, not exactly what I silently dictate but what the meaning requires….”
The Marquis de Puységur, and Victor, had discovered telepathy and extrasensory perception (ESP). Magnetists began to spring up all over Europe, performing miraculous medical cures and demonstrating such psychic wonders as clairvoyance-at-a-distance (the subject could describe events taking place miles away at that moment).
The establishment took a dim view of the growing fad and in 1785 the French government appointed a special commission of doctors and scientists to investigate the claims of the magnetists. It didn’t take the learned committee long to decide that Dr. Mesmer and his cohorts were a bunch of charlatans. Animal magnetism fell into disrepute and Mesmer plummeted into obscurity, where he remained for the last 30 years of his life.
The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars paralyzed further research in magnetism. Some of the magnetists fled Europe altogether, while others, including Puységur, languished in prison. But around 1815, the hypnotic experiments were resumed and by 1825, according to Prof. Clark Hull of Yale, all the major phenomena of hypnotism had been discovered and studied. Yet doctors who dared use hypnotic anesthesia in those days were drummed out of the medical societies. In one famous case in 1842, a surgeon was accused of fraudulent practice in England when he hypnotized a man and amputated his leg. Britain’s leading medical journal, the Lancet, soberly stated that the amputee was part of the fraud and had only pretended to be in a hypnotic trance while his leg was being sawed off!
Medical science flatly refused to recognize hypnotism for almost 200 years.
Phrenology—determining a person’s character by studying the bumps on his head—was a popular pseudo-science in the 1800s and traveling phrenologists were quick to recognize the possibilities of animal magnetism. By the 1840s, phrenomagnetists, as they called themselves, were attracting huge audiences all over the United States. They would read the bumps on your head and magnetize you for only ten cents a trance. Soon half the country was hypnotizing the other half.
One of the most famous hypnotists of all time was LaRoy Sunderland, a Methodist minister who apparently had great natural ability. Although he was only five feet tall, he had a resonant voice and powerful stage presence. While delivering a sermon in Dennis, Massachusetts, in 1824, 20 people in his congregation fell into a state of somnambulism and a magnetist was born.
In his book Pathetism, Sunderland expressed some surprisingly modern ideas. He knew that hypnotic trances were produced by the power of suggestion, and that the subject’s susceptibility was dependent on his or her belief in the magnetist’s reputation. So he made sure that he acquired one hell of a reputation. He merely had to walk into a restaurant and a dozen diners would fall over, their faces in their soup.
The phrenomagnetists did not regard Sunderland’s theories too kindly. They raged and railed at each other in public and in print, calling their competitors frauds and liars. When they had chance encounters in the street, fists flew and canes raised new bumps on heads.
Interestingly, the animal-magnetism fad of the 1840s served as a prelude to an even greater fad—spiritualism. The latter began in 1848 when two young girls, the Fox sisters, began communicating with the spirit world through mysterious rappings on doors and tables. But soon thousands of people were going into self-induced trances and producing all kinds of alleged spirit phenomena. The men and women who had sat in Sunderland’s audiences only a few years before were now adept at self-hypnosis. Religious fervor was running high in those days, with dozens of new religions appearing each year, and it was understandable that this fervor would spill over into the hypnotic sessions. The negative and positive hallucinations, discovered by the French experimenters earlier in the century, now became an integral part of the seance rooms. (A negative hallucination is not seeing something that is there; a positive hallucination is seeing something that is not there.)
The telepathic effect of hypnotism undoubtedly contributed to the growth of spiritualism. “Mediums” entranced at seances were able to pick up thoughts from the sitters. What Freud would later call hyperamnesia also played a part. Totally forgotten or emotionally blocked memories can be brought to the surface in a hypnotic trance. The unconscious mind can play wonderful tricks when the conscious mind is in the altered state of hypnosis. Elaborate fantasies are created and disgorged by the unconscious, drawing on all kinds of forgotten material—everything the subject has ever read or heard. So we have re-creations of heaven and hell, and other worlds, laced with just enough traces of our recognizable reality to make it all convincing. These confabulations, as they are called, form the basis for much of our folklore, religious beliefs, and the modern UFO mythos.
It is probable that the great spiritualism fad of the 1800s would not have sprung into existence if it had not been preceded by the nationwide animal-magnetism hysteria. Mr. Sunderland and his cohorts paved the way for a series of new belief systems.
A man named Ralph Slater became famous in the 1940s by hypnotizing people every week on a network radio program. He was an accomplished hypnotist and had to be very careful, otherwise thousands of people listening to him in their own homes would fall into a trance. He would select a group of suggestible subjects from his audience and hypnotize them before the show went on the air. While they were asleep, he would give them a post hypnotic suggestion. You can give a subject only one such suggestion at a time. For example, you might tell the subject: “Fifteen minutes after you wake up you will stand on a chair and crow like a rooster.” Then you bring the subject out of the trance. Fifteen minutes later he will suddenly have an uncontrollable urge to stand on a chair and crow like a rooster. He will be fully conscious and will have no idea why he is doing this. When Slater and other professional hypnotists entrance subjects before a performance, they leave them with a post hypnotic suggestion such as, “When I say the word bingo you will go to sleep instantly.” Later, during the performance, the hypnotist will turn to the fully awake subject and shout “Bingo,” and the person will go into an instant trance.
The key to hypnosis is the fact that the subject actually hypnotizes himself. You merely suggest that he wants to go to sleep. So you have to be something of an actor, posing as a deadly serious, authoritative figure. You have to convince the subject that you know what you’re doing and that he is in good hands. Assure him that there is no danger, and that you won’t make him do anything embarrassing, illegal or immoral. Winning the subject’s confidence is the first step.
Be sure that you are both comfortable. If you are sitting in a straight-backed kitchen chair, you could have a sore back and aching butt by the end of the session. The most direct method is to have the subject concentrate on a bright object such as a watch or ring, which you hold about a foot in front of his face and slightly above eye level. You want to produce the greatest possible strain on the eyes and eyelids. Contrary to all the movies you have seen, it is not necessary to swing the object back and forth. The subject must concentrate on it while you tell him how drowsy he is.
For the next ten minutes to an hour you must mindlessly repeat the suggestion that he is very tired, wants to sleep and is falling asleep. Your voice should be a dull monotone. (If you have a high squeaky voice, perhaps you should take up another line of work.) You are literally going to bore him into a stupor. Tell him how his eyes are getting heavier and he is going to sleep.
If you are dull enough, his eyelids will soon begin to flutter and he will settle back in his chair with a sigh. Tell him to relax his body completely and hope that he falls asleep before your hand holding the watch does. Once the subject has nodded off, you will want to test him before proceeding—to make sure he has really gone under. Your monologue can go something like this: “Nothing will wake you. Nothing can hurt you. You can open your eyes, but you will stay asleep. Now I am about to raise your arm, but you won’t wake up. Nothing will wake you.” Lift one of his arms straight up and rub it gently. “Your arm is becoming rigid. It is locking into place. You can’t lower it. Try it. See, you can’t lower your arm. You are sound asleep and you will do everything I tell you to do. But you will not wake up. You can’t wake up until I tell you.”
If the subject is really in a trance, he can hold his arm rigid for the next hour without wavering. Nor can you force the arm down. If he’s faking, you can tell in a short time. Once you are certain he is really asleep, you can lower the arm by saying, “Now the muscles in your arm are unlocking. Now you can lower it. Lower your arm.”
Your subject is now completely under your control. If you want to cure him of a bad habit like biting his nails, you just need to explain to him why nail biting is a rotten habit, then demand that he “promise, promise, promise, never to bite your nails again.” After he wakes up, he will never be a nail biter again. Unfortunately, amateur hypnotists with no knowledge of psychology can cause more harm than good. There may be a reason why the subject bites his nails and by making him give up that habit you may cause him to become a chain-smoker. If you order him to give up smoking, he may take to the bottle. Likewise, if he has been suffering a pain somewhere on his body, you can easily make the pain go away. But pain is a signal that something is wrong and, unless you are a trained doctor, you should not suppress that signal.
There are other more entertaining things you can do with a hypnotized subject. You can repeat the early experiments with telepathy. It is possible for you to merely think instructions to the subject (“Get up, close the door and open the window”) and he will silently carry out your mental commands.
Books on hypnotism are often sold on the premise that you can use it to have your way with the opposite sex. But, of course, if a woman trusts you enough to let you hypnotize her, she’s probably also a willing sex partner. However, a well-trained hypnotist can cure some cases of frigidity or impotence. It is not recommended that amateurs tamper with such delicate problems.
When you want to wake the subject up, you need only give a sharp command: “Wake up!” If that shouldn’t do it, tell him that you are going to count to ten and when you get to nine he will wake up completely. If he still doesn’t awaken, ask him what you must do to snap him out of it. Remember, he has really hypnotized himself and is now under his own control. He might tell you that he wishes to sleep for an hour. So let him sleep, and at the end of the allotted time order him to wake up.
If you plan to use the same subject for later experiments, give him a post hypnotic suggestion, telling him that when he hears a certain key word from you only he will go to sleep instantly. You can then hypnotize him over the telephone if you wish…just by repeating the magic word.
People who practice meditation have magic words of their own called mantras. Meditation is really a form of self-hypnosis and enjoyed great popularity a few years ago. The reason that it was so relaxing was that the mind was entering the alpha state, only a step away from total hypnosis. A computer expert who is into meditation uses as his mantra the old computer saying, “Garbage in, garbage out.” Repeat that phrase endlessly for several minutes and you are bound to slip into a state of altered consciousness.
Self-hypnosis is the ultimate high and, if nothing else, is a sure cure for insomniacs. If you want to brainwash yourself into believing, for example, that you are a superman capable of almost anything, you need only make a special tape recording to play while you are hypnotized. Leave the first 15 minutes of the tape blank, beginning your message with the usual admonition to “sleep…sleep…sleep…” Then say, “You are the world’s greatest human being, keen of intellect, superior in every way, capable of saving the human race from its own folly.” This tape will terminate your inferior manner and make you a leader of men. Or you can dictate a tape that will order you to stop biting your nails, or give up smoking. Rewind the tape to the beginning and relax in a high-backed chair so you can lean your head back comfortably. Hit the button on the tape recorder and relax while the blank part runs through. Let your muscles relax completely and close your eyes, turning your thoughts inward and concentrating on your breathing, mentally watching your inhaling and exhaling. This is called transfixion. After a few minutes you will experience a sinking sensation and will be powerless to move a muscle. Soon after that, you will drop into a hypnotic sleep. Then your taped message will begin. When you eventually wake up you will feel very refreshed and your mind will be invigorated. Incredible though it may seem, if you have other persons question you while you are asleep, you may prove to be clairvoyant, able to foretell future events in your own life, as well as incidents in the lives of others. No one understands exactly how this works, but apparently the human mind when in an altered state can make contact with a force field or intelligence that transcends space and time. The future already exists in another space-time continuum and when our minds are properly tuned we can perceive it. Hypnotism is a shortcut across the barriers of space and time, and self-hypnosis is a system for stimulating our latent psychic abilities.
In the 1960s and ’70s, hypnosis finally gained recognition and today a third of all American dental and medical schools offer courses in the subject. After two centuries of being ignored and scoffed at, hypnotism suddenly fell into the hands of the double-talking academicians. “Hypnotism is not a magical phenomenon—not a matter of simply making suggestions to change someone’s behavior,” Dr. Milton V. Kline, director of the Institute for Research in Hypnosis, said recently. “Rather, it’s a complex way of getting into a person’s ego functions, perceptions and physiological reactions. It requires careful evaluation of patients, their problems, and their total life situations. It is most effectively used by someone well trained in psychological and physiological processes.”
Have we really traveled very far since Anton Mesmer was branded a charlatan by his colleagues? In 1785 Tardy de Montravel wrote, “If the spirituality of the soul needs a fresh proof, magnetic somnambulism furnishes one such as even the most obstinate materialist can scarcely refuse to recognize.”