In 1950, a Los Angeles magician hypnotized teens for a twisted school sex ring

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What is the current thinking on how much effect hypnosis can actually have on people? My understanding is that it increases suggestibility, but doesn’t actually turn people into the totally pliant zombies you see in fiction.

My guess would be that if this had been investigated and reported more scrupulously, it might have just been a fairly banal case of sexual abuse, with the typical features of abuse cases (coercion, deception, power disparity, instructions to keep silent etc.) Also, the article doesn’t explicitly say – as far as I can tell – that he actually hypnotized the victims, only that he had an “almost hypnotic power” over them.


I spent a decade working with a hypnosis show, and have seen thousands of people hypnotized. There’s a lot of misconceptions about how it works.

Firstly, you don’t just black out or anything, it’s basically the same state that you’re in when you hit the snooze bar on your alarm: You’re physically kinda sleeping, but you’re still aware of what’s going on.

You know what you’re doing, but you don’t really care quite as much- Like being a little drunk, except that you WILL sober up immediately if you have a reason to. Nobody does anything under hypnosis that’s actually against their will, but you definitely have fewer inhibitions. If it’s something you subconsciously want to do but don’t allow yourself… You know that quiet, reserved friend that gets four drinks in and starts dancing on the tables? Those folks were always the star of the show.

In one of my favorite examples, we had a bit where we told them they were all naked. Everyone else usually tries to cover themselves up, but this one woman just covers her eyes all embarassed. We ask her what’s going on, and she says “everybody’s naked!” We ask if she’s naked too, and she says, utterly shocked, “Oh, god no- I’m not naked!”


Booze… booze and drugs have same effect on people and their inhibitions.

And lets be honest, the guy wasn’t swinging his watch telling them to study.

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Same thoughts here.

I guess in the 1950s it still seemed reasonable to some people to think you needed magic to coerce teens to do sexual things with each other with approval/instruction from authority figures.


As if all that other stuff wasn’t bad enough.

Excellent summary. I use hypnotherapy in my practice sometimes and you nailed the description. It is helpful in assisting folks get past some internal blocks that they really want to overcome but can’t quite work through because the issues are deeply rooted. I’ve had good luck with trauma survivors who had some lingering bit of their past blocking them from shifting away from their intrusive thoughts. I suspect that the growing research into psychedelics and EMDR and trauma will eventually find that there are similar neurological things happening across the board that all serve to achieve the same goal of untethering people from that internal anchor. Different paths, but similar effects.

This dude? Just another creep with power he abused to exert influence over the vulnerable, I should think.

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