Hypnosis Hysteria

Under the spell in the early hours of Sunday, May 5th


photo by Kristen Chomos

Jack Wright is the only one awake during a segment of the group hypnosis that brought Post-Prom to an end.

Valerie Davis, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Prom. The big word that every senior had been thinking about since elementary school. Well, maybe not for everyone, but it had been for me.

When I was in third grade, my family hosted a foreign exchange student from Iceland for the school year. I loved hearing her stories about her experiences at NASH and being with all the “older kids.” However, while I cherished everything she taught me, one thing that stuck with me quite permanently was her experience at Post-Prom. Not just the entire Post-Prom experience, but one particular part of the night: the hypnotism.

Ever since she told me the stories of some of her classmates getting hypnotized by a man at 3 o’clock in the morning in the NASH auditorium, I have been fascinated by the entire concept. How could someone have full control over a group of people and make them do anything and everything? I could not wrap my head around it. Until I experienced it first-hand.

I knew I was probably at least a little bit vulnerable to hypnosis because we had done a few susceptibility tests in AP Psychology. I’m not saying I knew how invested I’d become, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to at least try to get on stage. So, when Hypnotist Dan told the seniors in the auditorium to run on stage, I bolted. Luckily, I snatched a seat. My heart was racing, and I can honestly say that I was not expecting what was to come next.

video by Alex Dunmyre

As the hypnosis began, I immediately started to feel tired. At first, I thought to myself, “It’s 3 am. That’s why you feel this way. Don’t worry.” But when the hypnotist told us to focus on a light on the ceiling, I knew something started to feel different. I felt dizzy, sleepy, and confused all at the same time. I remember him telling us to count down from 100 and to feel more and more relaxed as each number goes by. Before I knew it, my eyes were closed and I was hunched over. The man’s voice was the only voice I cared about from that moment on.

I’ve received a lot of questions as to whether I knew what was happening around me and if I was “conscious.” To best describe the feeling, it felt like I was in a dream. Everything felt blurry — I remember other students doing things on stage, but it felt like I was outside of my body watching in. I vaguely remember hearing laughter and applause from the audience because I was completely dialed into Hypnotist Dan’s voice. I was aware of what was happening around me when my eyes were open, but when my eyes were closed, all I noticed was my racing heart and his voice.

Furthermore, I knew what he was asking each of us to do. In fact, everything that he commanded of me, I wanted to do. For example, when he told us to pick our favorite celebrity and see them in the crowd, Bruno Mars was very much so in the audience. I remember running up to Bruno Mars (also known as Luke Rafferty) and staring at him in utter amazement. In that moment, I thought I was staring into the eyes of my celebrity crush.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. How is that even possible? Although somewhere in the back of my mind I knew I was looking at one of my fellow classmates, my mind wouldn’t let me believe it. I was staring at Bruno Mars because the hypnotist had told me to see my favorite celebrity — so I did. No questions asked.

I don’t know how they do it, but it is effective. I was controlled in a way I will never understand.”

Not only was the experience itself the weirdest sensation of my life, but I must also mention the way I felt after Dan “woke us up.” After he talked us through snapping out of the hypnosis and I sat up in my chair, I instantly felt nauseous. It felt like I had just taken a 20-minute nap on a roller coaster, even though I was actually running (literally), dancing, and sleeping all over the stage for an hour and a half.

When I arrived home at approximately 5:15 am, I couldn’t fall asleep. Like I said, it felt as though I had already taken a nap so I wasn’t even tired. Let’s just say it took awhile for me to put my racing mind and churning stomach to rest.

If you think about it, the whole concept of hypnotism is quite scary. To think Hypnotist Dan, and really any hypnotist all over the world, can manipulate someone’s mind in such a way will forever leave me astonished. I don’t know how they do it, but it is effective. I was controlled in a way I will never understand.

I know there are speculations as to whether hypnotism is real. Even further than this, there are speculations as to whether I was faking my hypnosis. But let me clarify — I wish I was faking the excessive amount of tears I shed when I genuinely believed Bruno Mars was sitting right in front of me. I wish I was able to fake my body going completely limp every time Hypnotist Dan would say the word “sleep.” And I wish I was able to fake the feeling of wanting to do everything Dan would say with no hesitation.

You can have all the opinions you’d like, but let me tell you — hypnosis is real.