Hypnotized in Hanover
It was a typical rainy May afternoon when a certain Marko the Magician and Hypnotist paid Psychology 28, “Cognition,” a special visit. After professor Bill Kelley introduced Marko, the full auditorium was visibly jittery in anticipation of the alleged hypnosis that was about to occur. Marko, whose website reads, “Book Now — Marko will blow your mind!?!,” had the students giddy with excitement.
If anyone is qualified to hypnotize, it is Marko: he is a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, the Society of American Magicians and the National Guild of Hypnotists. After introducing himself, Marko launched into what was clearly a well-rehearsed and familiar spiel on what would happen during his set. He was witty and quick, and everyone in the audience was scratching their heads, wondering when their 2 period class became such a treat.
His three conditions for volunteers were to be serious, be willing and be honest.
Marko continued to clarify that the volunteers would do nothing they were uncomfortable with, as this was not his “R-rated show.” A volunteer would potentially act in ways they normally would not; however, no one would do anything against their ingrained core values, no matter how hypnotized.
Students filed into the two rows of chairs at the front of the room. Once everyone was settled in, Marko began his actual hypnosis process. He told the volunteers to close their eyes and imagine a hot wax pouring all over their bodies. His next scenarios included driving a race car, watching a horse race with shoes as binoculars, becoming both hot and cold on a bus, forgetting their last names and taking a spaceship adventure to see and speak to aliens. Sometimes, he would call up smaller groups and have them complete other activities like incorrectly counting their fingers and writing their names with the ability of a 5 year old on the board.
After the initial wax-pouring and eye-shutting, a variety of different volunteer reactions began to emerge. For the most part, everyone began uniformly. Most students even appeared to fall asleep as he commanded them. However, as the act progressed, more students began to return to their seats, wink at their friends, giggle and otherwise demonstrate the failure of an effective hypnosis.
“It seemed to work differently for each of the volunteers,” onlooker Jordan McDuffie ’20 described. “For those who didn’t successfully become hypnotized it was mostly apparent because their actions differed substantially from those of the other volunteers and they would later return to their seats in the audience.”
McDuffie said that he thought the hypnosis was genuine.
“The behaviors of the individuals that I know well differed greatly from their usual,” he said. “I think it worked by reducing their inhibitions. They just became more compliant to instruction than normal.”
From the audience’s perspective, the volunteer reactions varied dramatically, from fully immersed to not impressed.
“I expected hypnosis to be this compelling force but it wasn’t like that at all,” volunteer Alain Carles ’20 said. “I saw no reason not to do what he was telling me to do, so I did it.”
Carles returned to his seat about halfway through the act.
“I wasn’t as hypnotizable as some of the other people, and I think that was because it was hard for me to stay relaxed and focused with the large audience laughing in front of us,” he said. “I think a big part of it is just letting your guard down and being open to the hypnosis.”
This was not Nikita Shaiva ’18’s first hypnosis rodeo, however, and she said she felt the full effects of the hypnosis. Shaiva said that she had been hypnotized twice before, once on graduation night in high school and another time at a Collis Commonground event when she was a freshman. However, neither experience was with Marko.
“The feeling is trance-like,” she said. “It’s not like you’re completely unconscious and you have no idea what’s going on. You’re aware of everything that’s happening. The only difference is that everything you’re doing feels like the natural state of things. Like that’s the way things are supposed to be.”
She described some of her more specific experiences with Marko.
“He said, ‘Okay. Now you can open your eyes,’ and I was literally incapable of opening my eyes,” she said. “They were glued shut. He said, ‘Now you’re cool,’ and I got goosebumps.”
Shaiva accepted that some of the other volunteers were playing along in good humor but swears this was not the case with her. The only time she feels the hypnosis did not reach her was at a point when Marko told the volunteers to use their shoes as binoculars.
“I’m kind of a germaphobe,” she said.