By Jessica Cassyle Carr
While the realm of hypnosis is vast, wide and malleable, there are a few souls whose legacies have manifested in our collective imaginations. Without their enduring imprints, Western civilization would be void of hypnotizing stereotypes and reputations. Below are some of the modern age's more famous hypnotists.
Franz Anton Mesmer
Father of the word “mesmerized,” and sometimes considered the father of hypnosis, Mesmer "discovered" what he called animal magnetism, alleging he could summon a healing tide of yet-to-be-discovered bodily fluid controlled by the cosmos. This animal magnetism, which accumulated in his own body, could be passed on to others. Mesmer therefore thought he had the power to cure people. The intricate ritual involved in the process, which came to be known as mesmerism, was eventually investigated in Paris (after Mesmer may or may not have been driven out of Vienna). The nine commissioners, one of whom was Benjamin Franklin, concluded that there was no fluid and any benefits of Mesmer's treatments were imaginary.
A Scottish surgeon, Braid coined the term hypnosis (from the Greek, Hypnos, god of sleep). He also investigated and developed trance-inducing techniques which he correctly reckoned could be used as anesthetic for surgeries.
The Svengali character is a manipulative, dominative, offensive and creepy person who harbors evil intentions. Originating with the fictional hypnotist Svengali in George du Maurier's 1894 novel, Trilby, this character helped form the villainous hypnotist stereotype.
Once on “Gilligan's Island,” the Professor had to become an amateur hypnotist to help the Skipper remember how to repair a radio transmitter. See, the Skipper was the only person on the island who knew how to do such a thing, but he could only remember how when asleep and dreaming. What happened? Well, I don't think they got off that island.
Not exactly a hypnotist, The Amazing Kreskin is an amazing television mentalist. What's a mentalist, you ask? Someone who predicts the future and reads minds. Kreskin is actually a former hypnotist, but in the '70s he decided hypnotism doesn't exist. Why all the italics? Kreskin and I are trying to mystify you.
A self-proclaimed skilled hypnotist, Gellar is an Israeli-British performer who, along with believing in a spectrum of paranormal phenomenon such as UFOs and Atlantis, claims to have psychic powers. His claims have been refuted by scientists and magicians. His work with high-profile hypnosis subjects has also met with scrutiny. Allegedly, he hypnotized Michael Jackson for peanut butter cravings, determining in the same session that he was innocent of you-know-what.
Supposedly sliding, slithering, swaying snakes can hypnotize birds by moving back and forth. "Experts" say this isn't the case, but what do they know?
Betsy's Wedding (1990) at KiMo Theatre
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