The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Arts September 8, 2006

Hypnotist Puts Writer to Sleep

As Finney Chapel filled up last Saturday evening, there was a mist of apprehension in the air. Posters flashing “Hypnosis: fact or fiction?” beckoned a hefty crowd eager to decide for themselves.

Nearly twenty minutes after the 7:30 p.m. scheduled starting time, a heavy-set man wearing black emerged with a microphone in front of thirty empty chairs set in a crescent formation.

It was clear that this was not your ordinary orientation event.

His ninety-minute rapid-fire routine began at full speed. Combine the voices of Bob Barker and the Cookie Monster and you have the speech of Chuck Milligan, world-traveling hypnotist, who ejaculated his memorized act so quickly and flawlessly that it was clear from the onset that he had recited this spiel several hundred times.

The jubilant Milligan selected thirty eager first-year hands from the crowd, making sure to divide the chosen equally by gender. I was lucky enough to be one of the male participants, for both personal enlightenment and your reading entertainment.

I decided at that moment to throw my skepticism aside in order to provide an accurate account of whether hypnotism in this fashion is indeed possible.

Early in his speech, Milligan stated that there would be no “magic mumbo-jumbo garbage” in his act.  He explained that his subjects would simply enter a prolonged pre-sleep cognizance, recognizable more specifically by the predominance of beta brain waves. Apparently, it is in this state that we are most susceptible to suggestion and free of inhibition.

Once put into the hypnotic state through a surprisingly turbulent yet successful rant, the other brave participants and I were subjected to a series of humorous shenanigans. One boy was convinced that he was a lifeguard who was outraged at the audience for urinating in his pool. A usually reserved girl danced elatedly to Britney Spears, and another was a sullen Snow White who had lost her friend Dopey.

My personal experience was rather varied; my level of consciousness fluctuated from awareness to being “out cold.” During the latter state, I was genuinely persuaded that the sum of any numbers was two, an experience of which I have no recollection. One of the less exceptional moments was an instance of crude sexual innuendo that I do remember, if only hazily.

Undoubtedly the piece de resistance was the finale, when an entranced girl’s arm was twisted a full 540 degrees, much to the horror of the crowd. 

While everybody gave their undivided attention to the show, opinions as to its validity after the fact were varied.

“At first I thought it was total bullshit, but now I think it’s possible. I’m still not totally convinced; it would have to happen to me,” said one senior.

Others rationalized what they had seen:  “He isolated and sustained a perfectly normal state of being that we all experience and that is why it was believable,” said a first-year.

One common consensus could be found with regards to Milligan.

“He was annoying and really offensive,” proclaimed one student on the steps outside of Finney, much to the agreement of everyone around her.

While the “fact or fiction” question may have been left undecided, contestants and audience members alike agreed that it “shows how powerful words are,” to quote another student.

Milligan is off to Iraq next month to perform for American troops, and, given the power of his talent, I hope he puts it to use getting high-ranking military officers to see the light. 


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