DANGERS OF STAGE HYPNOSIS
Physical casualties are one of the dangers of stage hypnosis.
On many occasions people will sustain minor injuries. These can
occur from falling off their chair to the more dangerous accidents
like falling off the stage.
There was an episode during the early 1990s that was
reported in the press about a girl who walked off the edge of
the stage at Glasgow Pavilion. She asked the hypnotist if she
could go to the toilet, to which he said, "Yes of course,
take the nearest exit." His comment was given harmlessly,
yet the girl walked straight off the edge of the stage and injured
herself by breaking her ankle. Approximately five years later
it was Glasgow Pavilion that was sued for damages, not the hypnotist.
At a Christmas show for Plymouth University I had a girl slip
over on a wet dance floor. She badly dislocated her arm. The accident
was caused by the wet dance floor, with the responsibility falling
onto the owners of the venue where I was performing. Physical
accidents do happen, but fortunately the human body heals quickly
- it is the psychological accidents that can be so very dangerous,
and is one of the most common dangers of hypnosis.
DEPRESSION FROM REJECTION AND DAMAGE TO THE PSYCHE
a hypnotist asks for volunteers quite often a large number of
people, maybe 20 or 30, will put themselves forward. Very quickly
the hypnotist will reduce this number of people down to 15 or
20, take them all into trance as he continues with the start of
show. His eventual goal is to have 10 or 12 subjects all of whom
are in deep somnambulism. Quite shortly it becomes obvious to
the stage hypnotist (and to the audience) that 2,3 4,5 or 6 or
more of the volunteers are not in very deep trance, and not responding
to his suggestions like some of the other volunteers are, so the
hypnotist sends them back into the audience. He really only wants
to work with subjects that are in true somnambulism, so he can
produce these wild hallucinations and other bizarre post-hypnotic
Now the volunteers he has sent back into the audience because
their depth of trance wasn’t deep enough, even though they
were in a level of trance, for some, not all of them, but may
be just one of them, they could well feel, “I wasn’t
good enough.” This rejection, and the feeling that comes
with it may only last a minute or so, or may be for the evening
, or may be even the next few days, or may be stuck in the subconscious
mind permanently. There is no rule of thumb with hypnosis. “The
I am not good enough” could be a direct cause for severe
depression, and the subject not even aware of the original trigger
that created it.
It is this rejection feeling of, 'I'm not good enough', which
can happen so very easily, and then be trapped in the subconscious
mind. Again it depends upon the individuals’ own personal
psychological and neurological make up. No one can tell what that
is until the damage has been done, and then it can't be proven
that this person's personality change was caused through the medium
of hypnosis. This is what I mean by depression from rejection
and damage to the psyche.
MISINTERPRETATION OF SUGGESTIONS
When giving a suggestion to someone under hypnosis it is very
easy for them to misinterpret what you have said. The above story
of the girl at Glasgow Pavilion is an example of this. Also, one
of the most important things that a stage hypnotist must do is
to remove all suggestions at the end of the show. Sometimes when
you give a suggestion to just one particular individual another
person also will react to the suggestion given. Occasionally this
will be a member of the audience. As previously mentioned true
stage hypnosis is mass hypnosis. Without the hypnotist realizing
this, how is he to know that the suggestion has been removed not
only from the individual involved, but also from everyone's subconscious
mind, including the audience, which then leads us onto the next
RE-STIMULATION OF A POST-HYPNOTIC SUGGESTION
back to serious accidents happening in hypnotic shows reminds
me of another story. It was during my early days as a stage hypnotist.
A young lady had been involved in a hypnotic show that a colleague
of mine, by the name of Ian, had performed. Ian was the very same
person I had talked to in Malta about stage hypnosis. Four days
later, having been in Ian's hypnotic show, this young lady was
in a supermarket carrying out some shopping. Music started to
play in the background. It was the very same music that she had
heard during a suggestion she was given while in his hypnotic
show. Suddenly she stopped shopping and started to prance around
the supermarket as though she was a famous model. She was with
some friends fortunately; they realized exactly what was happening.
They took her to see three or four different hypnotherapists who
couldn't help this young lady. Her friends then contacted the
venue where the show had been performed. The venue contacted the
agent and the agent contacted Ian the hypnotist. He in turn contacted
me and asked if I could help (because he lived 200 miles away).
Back through the chain, and the young lady eventually turned up
on my doorstep in Nottingham. I could see immediately that she
was in a very deep trance. A click of my fingers, a glare into
her eyes, simultaneously stating, "Sleep", and she fell
into the armchair behind her. I suggested she was in the hypnotic
show in which she had participated. I had a good idea of this
other hypnotist's act and ran a super-fast scenario of it. I then
brought her out of trance slowly and gradually. She was in a level
of shock not knowing where she was, how she got there, or what
had happened over the previous week. I spent some time talking
to her ensuring that she felt re-adjusted, and never saw or heard
of her again.
LOSS OF CONTROL
for my own show, I would adjust the show to the audience. Family
shows were always a little tamer than an adult show, and a lot
would depend upon the audience’s reactions to how risqué
I would allow the show to become. I have never told or suggested
for anyone to strip naked. Having said that, quite often I would
end my show with the Chippendales. As soon as the men had stripped
off to their boxer shorts or 'Y' fronts I would stop the music,
and the volunteers would come back to a level of waking consciousness.
One show at Butlin's, over two years ago, I was performing in
front of a family audience of around 3,000 people. It was the
end of the show and the male volunteers thought they were the
Chippendales. The moment this man undid the belt on his trousers
a drunk member of the audience, in fact his wife, rushed up on
stage and pulled his trousers and under pants down. The man was
stark naked in front of this family audience. Fortunately everyone
seemed to see the funny side of the situation. I didn't. I was
quite upset, and took offence to the action from this member of
the audience. When situations like that arise it means that the
hypnotist has lost control of the situation, something that surprisingly
can happen quite often.
ALCOHOL AND DRUGS
about loss of control reminds of a show I performed in Germany,
and another danger of hypnosis. I was under contract to perform
for the British army. Having travelled overland to Germany I arrived
at this base camp to discover that a weekend charity event was
taking place. All the soldiers were paralytically drunk. It did
not seem right to perform my show; everybody was too drunk to
start with, and I felt nobody would appreciate
it anyway due his or her drunken intoxication. My fee was £500,
plus my expenses for petrol and the ferry crossing. I protested
to the agent who was at the camp, and advised him it was not a
good idea for me to perform my show. His only comment was, no
show, no money, no expenses and his commission would still have
to be paid. That would have meant I would have been hundreds of
pounds out of pocket and at a huge loss. This conversation between
the agent and myself created bad feelings. My hands were tied
so I performed the show with the agreement that he, as the agent,
would take full responsibility for any mishaps. The show went
well. The drunken soldiers enjoyed it, and everyone seemed impressed.
Sadly one of the members of the audience became unconsciousness.
He couldn't be aroused from his stupor. He had obviously fallen
into trance while watching the show. The combination of alcohol
and the natural mass release of endorphins in his brain led him
into a comatose state.
Incidentally, endorphins are your minds own natural opiates but
thousands of times stronger. When a subject enters trance endorphins
are released into the brain. The deeper the level of trance the
greater the release of endorphins.
An ambulance was called and he was rushed to hospital. That young
soldier spent the night in hospital attached to a heart monitor
machine. The alcohol poisoning in conjunction with his brain's
own release of endorphins could have led to death.
Usually as a professional hypnotist I would never use volunteers
who were drunk to perform in the show, although often this is
unavoidable. Also, basically you don't know how much someone has
had to drink, or if they are under the influence of drugs.
the most common occurrence and dangers of hypnosis is what I call
a "grief charge". The volunteer in question suddenly
drops into deep trance. When a person experiences deep hypnosis
the brain waves slow down into a cycle known as theta. The brain
waves are slow, 4Hz to 7Hz cycles per second. It is in theta that
the subconscious mind really opens up. When we experience painful
and traumatic events in life the emotions are sometimes locked
away and forgotten about in the subconscious mind. As soon as
the subconscious mind is opened up the emotional pain is released.
When I wrote about the therapy case histories in the earlier chapters,
these clients overcame their psychosomatic disorders through the
safely run re-stimulation of their past upset emotions. Sadly
for a few individuals, during a hypnotic show, their subconscious
minds open up and they will
suddenly for no apparent reason go into fits of hysterical crying
or depression. (During a situation like this in a show it is not
possible to aid the subject as you are entertaining an audience,
not practising as a therapist.)
They are in reality experiencing a re-stimulation of emotions
of a past traumatic event in their life, and may not even know
what it is. This re-stimulation of negative emotions usually only
lasts for a few minutes, or for a few hours. However, if the psyche
or ego is damaged through this uncontrolled re-stimulation of
emotions it could well lead to depression or personality changes
OBSERVER BECOMING THE VICTIM
as we have already stated in previous chapters, stage hypnosis
is mass hypnosis. In some ways this might be the biggest danger
of all. On numerous occasions I have had members of the audience
fall into trance, and even follow the suggestions given to the
participants on stage. Also I have had audience members experience
a grief charge. Any danger that could befall a volunteer on stage
could also happen to an audience member.
When a subject is on stage at least the hypnotist has a certain
amount of control over that person. But what about the audience
consisting of several thousand people, all of whom are in an element
of trance, some deeper than others. Accident possibilities are
With an audience of several hundred there are bound to be one
two people at least, who sometime in their life have had some
form of psychiatric problem. These people may well have gone to
the show just as an observer, but have ended up on stage due to
their own susceptibility to mass hypnosis.
When the hypnotist has made the call for volunteers an inner compulsion
has taken control over their sick and weak minds. The hypnosis
can then fire them into psychosis.
HYPNOSIS CAUSING PSYCHOSIS
at a Butlin's holiday camp, right at the start of a show I dropped
this man into instant trance. A few minutes later I said, "Wakey
wakey, what are you doing down there lying on the floor?"
The young man, around the age of 30, leapt to his feet, turned
to the person next to him, and put his hands around the person's
throat in an attempt to strangle him! I quickly intervened with
the word "Sleep", and the subject fell back to the floor
in a trance. I quickly gave suggestions of inner confidence, ego
and suggestions of peace-of-mind and well-being. I then awoke
him and he returned back to the audience. All this happened within
a few minutes, the audience didn't really know what was happening
and I had a show to perform. Unfortunately the story doesn't end
there. Immediately after I had finished the show there were further
problems with this individual. He had turned insane, and was acting
like a madman thinking he was a soldier. He was out to kill, and
not to be captured.
Due to the strong emotional content I would rather not recall
this story in detail, but will say that it was a very frightening
experience for myself and the other people involved. Luck being
on my side the situation was resolved, and the young man concerned
spent the night in a local hospital.
He had already been bordering on the verge of psychosis, and the
hypnosis had acted like a trigger. That night driving home, I
was in a state of shock. Nothing had ever happened like this before.
My main concern was for the young man, and also how could I avoid
something like this ever happening again? The answer was, I couldn't.
There is no way that you can tell whether a volunteer is bordering
on a level of psychosis or neurosis. If a person is bordering
on the level of psychosis, then hypnosis can be the trigger that
fires them into insanity. I have hypnotized thousands of people,
and fortunately have had only a few casualties that I am aware
of. Even one casualty is one too many.