Hypnotizing on the Stage--"You Can't Pull Your Hands Apart"--Post Hypnotic Suggestion--The News boy, the Hunter, and the Young Man with the Rag Doll--A Whip Becomes Hot Iron--Courting a Broomstick--The Side Show.
Let us now describe some of the manifestations of hypnotism, to see just how it operates and how it exhibits itself. The following is a description of a public performance given by Dr. Herbert L. Flint, a very successful public operator. It is in the language of an eye- witness--a New York lawyer.
In response to a call for volunteers, twenty young and middle-aged men came upon the stage. They evidently belonged to the great middle-class. The entertainment commenced by Dr. Flint passing around the group, who were seated on the stage in a semicircle facing the audience, and stroking each one's head and forehead, repeating the phrases, "Close your eyes. Think of nothing but sleep. You are very tired. You are drowsy. You feel very sleepy." As he did this, several of the volunteers closed their eyes at once, and one fell asleep immediately. One or two remained awake, and these did not give themselves up to the influence, but rather resisted it.
When the doctor had completed his round and had manipulated all the volunteers, some of those influenced were nodding, some were sound asleep, while a few were wide awake and smiling at the rest. These latter were dismissed as unlikely subjects.
When the stage had been cleared of all those who were not responsive, the doctor passed around, and, snapping his finger at each individual, awoke him. One of the subjects when questioned afterward as to what sensation he experienced at the snapping of the fingers, replied that it seemed to him as if something inside of his head responded, and with this sensation he regained self-consciousness. (This is to be doubted. As a rule, subjects in this stage of hypnotism do not feel any sensation that they can remember, and do not become self-conscious.)
The class was now apparently wide awake, and did not differ in appearance from their ordinary state. The doctor then took each one and subjected him to a separate physical test, such as sealing the eyes, fastening the hands, stiffening the fingers, arms, and legs, producing partial catalepsy and causing stuttering and inability to speak. In those possessing strong imaginations, he was able to produce hallucinations, such as feeling mosquito bites, suffering from toothache, finding the pockets filled and the hands covered with molasses, changing identity, and many similar tests.
The doctor now asked each one to clasp his hands in front of him, and when all had complied with the request, he repeated the phrase, "Think your hands so fast that you can't pull them apart. They are fast. You cannot pull them apart. Try. You can't." The whole class made frantic efforts to unclasp their hands, but were unable to do so. The doctor's explanation of this is, that what they were really doing was to force their hands closer together, thus obeying the counter suggestion. That they thought they were trying to unclasp their hands was evident from their endeavors.
The moment he made them desist, by snapping his fingers, the spell was broken. It was most astonishing to see that as each one awoke, he seemed to be fully cognizant of the ridiculous position in which his comrades were placed, and to enjoy their confusion and ludicrous attitudes. The moment, however, he was commanded to do things equally absurd, he obeyed. While, therefore, the class appeared to be free agents, they are under hypnotic control.
One young fellow, aged about eighteen, said that he was addicted to the cigarette habit. The suggestion was made to him that he would not be able to smoke a cigarette for twenty-four hours. After the entertainment he was asked to smoke, as was his usual habit. He was then away from any one who could influence him. He replied that the very idea was repugnant. However, he was induced to take a cigarette in his mouth, but it made him ill and he flung it away with every expression of disgust. *This is an instance of what is called post-hypnotic suggestion. Dr. Cocke tells of suggesting to a drinker whom he was trying to cure of the habit that for the next three days anything he took would make him vomit; the result followed as suggested.
The same phenomena that was shown in unclasping the hands, was next exhibited in commanding the subjects to rotate them. They immediately began and twirled them faster and faster, in spite of their efforts to stop. One of the subjects said he thought of nothing but the strange action of his hands, and sometimes it puzzled him to know why they whirled.
At this point Dr. Flint's daughter took charge of the class. She pointed her finger at one of them, and the subject began to look steadily before him, at which the rest of the class were highly amused. Presently the subject's head leaned forward, the pupils of his eyes dilated and assumed a peculiar glassy stare. He arose with a steady, gliding gait and walked up to the lady until his nose touched her hand. Then he stopped. Miss Flint led him to the front of the stage and left him standing in profound slumber. He stood there, stooping, eyes set, and vacant, fast asleep. In the meantime the act had caused great laughter among the rest of the class. One young fellow in particular, laughed so uproariously that tears coursed down his cheeks, and he took out his handkerchief to wipe his eyes. Just as he was returning it to his pocket, the lady suddenly pointed a finger at him. She was in the center of the stage, fully fifteen feet away from the subject, but the moment the gesture was made, his countenance fell, his mirth stopped, while that of his companions redoubled, and the change was so obvious that the audience shared in the laughter--but the subject neither saw nor heard. His eyes assumed the same expression that had been noticed in his companion's. He, too, arose in the same attitude, as if his head were pulling the body along, and following the finger in the same way as his predecessor, was conducted to the front of the stage by the side of the first subject. This was repeated on half a dozen subjects, and the manifestations were the same in each case. Those selected were now drawn up in an irregular line in front of the stage, their eyes fixed on vacancy, their heads bent forward, perfectly motionless. Each was then given a suggestion. One was to be a newsboy, and sell papers. Another was given a broomstick and told to hunt game in the woods before him. Another was given a large rag doll and told that it was an infant, and that he must look among the audience and discover the father. He was informed that he could tell who the father was by the similarity and the color of the eyes.
These suggestions were made in a loud tone, Miss Flint being no nearer one subject than another. The bare suggestion was given, as, "Now, think that you are a newsboy, and are selling papers," or, "Now think that you are hunting and are going into the woods to shoot birds."
So the party was started at the same time into the audience. The one who was impersonating a newsboy went about crying his edition in a loud voice; while the hunter crawled along stealthily and carefully. The newsboy even adopted the well-worn device of asking those whom he solicited to buy to help him get rid of his stock. One man offered him a cent, when the price was two cents. The newsboy chaffed the would-be purchaser. He sarcastically asked him if he "didn't want the earth."
The others did what they had been told to do in the same earnest, characteristic way.
After this performance, the class was again seated in a semicircle, and Miss Flint selected one of them, and, taking him into the center of the stage, showed him a small riding whip. He looked at it indifferently enough. He was told it was a hot bar of iron, but he shook his head, still incredulous. The suggestion was repeated, and as the glazed look came into his eyes, the incredulous look died out. Every member of the class was following the suggestion made to the subject in hand. All of them had the same expression in their eyes. The doctor said that his daughter was hypnotizing the whole class through this one individual.
As she spoke she lightly touched the subject with the end of the whip. The moment the subject felt the whip he jumped and shrieked as if it really were a hot iron. She touched each one of the class in succession, and every one manifested the utmost pain and fear. One subject sat down on the floor and cried in dire distress. Others, when touched, would tear off their clothing or roll up their sleeves. One young man was examined by a physician present just after the whip had been laid across his shoulders, and a long red mark was found, just such a one as would have been made by a real hot iron. The doctor said that, had the suggestion been continued, it would undoubtedly have raised a blister.
One of the amusing experiments tried at a later time was that of a tall young man, diffident, pale and modest, being given a broom carefully wrapped in a sheet, and told that it was his sweetheart. He accepted the situation and sat down by the broom. He was a little sheepish at first, but eventually he grew bolder, and smiled upon her such a smile as Malvolio casts upon Olivia. The manner in which, little by little, he ventured upon a familiar footing, was exceedingly funny; but when, in a moment of confident response to his wooing, he clasped her round the waist and imprinted a chaste kiss upon the brushy part of the broom, disguised by the sheet, the house resounded with roars of laughter. The subject, however, was deaf to all of the noise. He was absorbed in his courtship, and he continued to hug the broom, and exhibit in his features that idiotic smile that one sees only upon the faces of lovers and bridegrooms. "All the world loves a lover," as the saying is, and all the world loves to laugh at him.
One of the subjects was told that the head of a man in the audience was on fire. He looked for a moment, and then dashed down the platform into the audience, and, seizing the man's head, vigorously rubbed it. As this did not extinguish the flames, he took off his coat and put the fire out. In doing this, he set his coat on fire, when he trampled it under foot. Then he calmly resumed his garment and walked back to the stage.
The "side-show" closed the evening's entertainment. A young man was told to think of himself as managing a side-show at a circus. When his mind had absorbed this idea he was ordered to open his exhibition. He at once mounted a table, and, in the voice of the traditional side-show fakir, began to dilate upon the fat woman and the snakes, upon the wild man from Borneo, upon the learned pig, and all the other accessories of side-shows. He went over the usual characteristic "patter," getting more and more in earnest, assuring his hearers that for the small sum of ten cents they could see more wonders than ever before had been crowded under one canvas tent. He harangued the crowd as they surged about the tent door. He pointed to a suppositious canvas picture. He "chaffed" the boys. He flattered the vanity of the young fellows with their girls, telling them that they could not afford, for the small sum of ten cents, to miss this great show. He made change for his patrons. He indulged in side remarks, such as "This is hot work." He rolled up his sleeves and took off his collar and necktie, all of the time expatiating upon the merits of the freaks inside of his tent.