View Full Version : Stage hypnosis

One Fell Swoop
06-04-2008, 07:35 AM
I'm trying to hash out a story idea through research, but I'm having some trouble finding the info I need. I'm researching stage hypnosis as performed in 19th century America and/or England. The closest information I could find was on illusionists in late 19th-century England (think The Prestige) but it's not specific enough. Would anyone happen to have some good resources on this? At this point, anything on hypnosis would be great, including hypnotherapy, hypnosis as performance art, etc.

Thanks! :-)

Mike Martyn
06-04-2008, 09:21 PM
Google "Mesmer". He invented hypnotism for all intents and purpose back in the seventeen hundreds. From "Mesmer" is derived such words as mesmerize and mesmerism.

I expect that lots of 19th century showmen would have invoked the name of the famous Dr. Mesmer to legitimise their routines.

Bear in mind as well that although they were showmen, they would have presented their acts along the lines of a " scientific investigation for the edification of the public".

"And now ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, it is both an honour and a privilege that I present to you this evening the celebrated Dr. Jenkins arrived here in Wheatgerm, Idaho directly from the continent where he treated the crowned heads of Europe..."

One Fell Swoop
06-04-2008, 11:42 PM
Thanks for the tip! I've been hitting some dead ends lately, but this seems promising. :-)

06-05-2008, 01:56 AM
If that doesn't help, try "animal magnetism"....


06-05-2008, 02:00 AM
I can tell you that I have studied hypnotism for quite a while, and I have seen a chicken hypnotized. seriously.

One Fell Swoop
06-05-2008, 02:15 AM
DWSTXS - Do you have any information on hypnosis techniques, then? Like, how to induce a hypnotic state and make suggestions to the "subject?" I've found some great information on the history of hypnotism, but I'm short on descriptions of the act of hypnosis itself - i.e. how it looks/feels to be in a hypnotic state, etc.

06-05-2008, 02:36 AM
I've been hypnotized on stage. It felt like I was lightheaded, or a soft, buzzy drunk, when I hadn't been drinking. He had a very deep, commanding voice and strange eyes, and he kept telling us to relax, relax....

After the show I was tired and a little out of it for the rest of the evening.

06-05-2008, 07:41 AM
One Fell and the dalla boy are scaring me now. What suggestions would you make to a hypnotized chicken? Go cook yourself? Fart an egg? And I will go clubbing w/ Wedy, so she doens't end up on stage again.
Geez, people. I leave you a lone for a coupla days and...

On animal magnetism, Louis XVI was not pleased w/ MA's interest in Mesmer and had a commission of Ben Frnakling, Lavoisier, Bailly and Guillotin investigate the magnetism (which was a theory of an actual magnetism, not unlike a tide within the body) notion-the commission debunked the idea.

One Fell Swoop
06-05-2008, 11:24 PM
Heh, well, I'm not writing about hypnotized chickens per se. More like stage hypnotists/illusionists in late Victorian England. Think of a cross between Sweeney Todd and The Prestige, at least in terms of setting.

06-05-2008, 11:57 PM
the chicken hypnosis was funny.

I know that famers did it years ago, when getting ready to chop off a chicken's head before plucking the feathers, in preparation to cooking it.

You did it to stop the chicken from flopping around when you're trying to chop it's head off.

My brother did it for us 4 years ago at christmas in houston. he didn't actually kill the chicken, but just showed us how the 'hypnotism' was done.

grab the chicken. Hold it by it's feet. lay it down on the ground. hold it's head down to the ground. (it will be flapping it's wings wildly, trying to get away.)

Hold the chicken's head down in the dirt. Put it's beak on the ground, and have someone come up and, using their finger, draw a line in the dirt, outward from the tip of the chicken's beak.
The chicken will 'freeze' in place and you can slowly let go. It will lay there, frozen in place, 'hypnotized' for quite a while. As long as no loud noises startle it, or anyone touches it and/or moves it, it will stay there, and allow someone to chop it's head off without it flopping around.
I have seen it and done it.

06-06-2008, 12:02 AM
My dad used to hypnotize chickens. 'Tis true.

The Farmer's Daughter

06-06-2008, 12:38 AM
I've hypnotized my girlfriend. She doesn't believe in it, but she wanted to try a past life regression hypnosis session just for fun. I was able to get two past lives from her (thought we're tempted to think they're not actually past lives, but rather something else.) First, she believed she was a Polish girl during WWII, hiding in the sewer from the Nazis. She even started struggling against the German soldiers when she believed they were trying to capture her. Second, she believed she was Ponce de Leon, and she had been searching for the fountain of youth for she couldn't remember how long.

During the first past life, she spoke Polish to the German soldiers, but English to me (though her English was in a Polish accent.) And during the second past life, about half of what she said to me was in Spanish. She knows both Polish and Spanish, however, and I know enough to figure out what she was saying. Of course, we're tempted not to believe they're truly past lives, because she's been researching her family's past in Poland during the Holocaust for a novel she wants to write, and she once did a report on Ponce de Leon during elementary school.

But whether they were past lives or not, she was definitely in some sort of hypnotic state. I've seen many of my classmates hypnotized on stage as well, when a hypnotist visited my senior class in high school. He made them do things like believe they had no nose, and deliver a child.

Here's the script I read from to hypnotize my girlfriend:



The first time it didn't work, but the second time it did. It's all about speaking in the most relaxing, hypnotic tone of voice you can manage. I guess my voice managed to work.

Heh, well, I'm not writing about hypnotized chickens per se. More like stage hypnotists/illusionists in late Victorian England. Think of a cross between Sweeney Todd and The Prestige, at least in terms of setting.

Have you seen The Illusionist with Edward Norton? It's set in approximately the same time period and is also a great movie about, well, illusionists. I highly recommend it.

One Fell Swoop
06-06-2008, 12:51 AM
kuwisdelu - thanks for the links!

And yes, I've seen The Illusionist - multiple times, in fact. I recently re-watched these three films, and I just became so fascinated with Victorian England (at least as presented in Sweeney Todd and The Prestige) and the concept of illusion in general. And then the idea popped into my head and I can't stop thinking about it. :-)

06-06-2008, 01:21 AM
I have a friend that's a stage hypnotist. Let me know if you want to contact/interview him, he's very personable.

Smiling Ted
06-06-2008, 02:41 AM
The incident with Anton Mesmer is described in great detail in Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, written in the 19th Century. It's one of the great early works of skepticism. I highly recommend it.