Stage hypnosis is an offshoot of hypnosis, in which people carry out acts that are used to entertain and delight an audience. In other words, stage hypnosis is one of the popular forms of entertainment, which combines hypnosis techniques as well as manipulation. The history of stage hypnosis dates back to the late 18th century when stage performers participated in shows to attract paying clients. Later, during the early 20th century, several reputable stage performers like Ormond McGill, a popular clinical hypnotist as well as the author of many hypnosis-related books such as The Encyclopedia of Genuine Stage Hypnotism, entered the field. As a result, stage hypnotism became one of the famed parlor games in most of the European and American nations. Nowadays, stage hypnosis finds a prominent position in both corporate and public entertainment. Even online and professional courses are available to master the techniques of stage hypnosis. At times stage hypnosis has also proved beneficial for clinical procedures.
Stage hypnosis is entirely different from clinical hypnosis or hypnotherapy, in which a therapist, with his/her knowledge of hypnosis and psychology, works to identify the client’s specific needs, thereby helping them for the betterment of their life. However, the techniques employed in hypnotherapy and stage hypnosis are the same, that is both of them inhibit the conscious control of the mind, thereby awakening the subconscious mind. This enables the hypnotist to plant any suggestion into the unconscious mind, but, the similarities end here. As mentioned earlier, hypnotherapy is applied to cure the emotional, physical, and psychological disorders of a patient. On the other hand, stage hypnosis is primarily undertaken to entertain the audience, and once the participant is in an unconscious state, the stage hypnotist suggests for him to act like a duck, to talk like a robot, or to dance like a doll.
Now we will have a closer look on how stage hypnosis works. First of all, a stage hypnotist conducts a test to find out who is the most suggestible amongst the audience, i.e. volunteers who readily respond to suggestions. Suggestibility tests are of different types. For example, the hand clasp test is a kind of suggestibility test. In this kind of test, participants are asked to stand up and hold their arms. They are then asked to clasp their hands together. Later, the participants are told that when the hypnotist counts up to a certain number, their hands will be stuck together. When the hypnotist reaches the final number, he asks the participants to unclasp their hands. In contrast to a veteran who easily succeeds, a novice struggles to unclasp his hands, although he tries harder. The hypnotist asks people those who were unable to unclasp their hands to remain on the stage, and then asks them to relax their hands, which will enable them to clasp their hands effortlessly. There are also suggestibility tests that are exclusively focused on large audiences. In this case, performers are invited to the stage and asked to sit on a chair already arranged. However, stage hypnosis mostly depends on the crowd’s behavior and emotions, the nature of participants or volunteers, social psychology, and showmanship.
There are certain important things that a stage hypnotist should consider before carrying out stage hypnosis. Since stage hypnosis is primarily focused to entertain the audience and make them laugh, a stage hypnotist should carefully select the subject or topic for stage demonstration. It is important to avoid topics like religion for stage hypnosis. Further, a good stage hypnotist must be a good stage performer and at the same time an adept in inducing hypnotic trance. A carefully selected topic coupled with the dazzling as well as brilliant performance of the stage hypnotist is sure to make any stage hypnosis a dynamic, as well as interactive event.