University of Wisconsin – 1920

Clark Hull
Clark Hull

In the 1920’s a scientific study of hypnosis was performed at the University of Wisconsin, in America, led by Clark Hull (1884 – 1952). Hull continued his research at Yale University. He is often credited with having begun the modern study of hypnosis.

Emile Coué – 1922

Self Mastery Through Conscious Autosuggestion by Emile Coue 1922
Self Mastery Through Conscious Autosuggestion, Emile Coue

French pharmacist turned hypnotherapist, Emile Coué (1857 – 1926) was an influential figure at this time in the field of hypnosis. He was interested in the use of placebos (pretend cures, that patients think are real, and feel that they are improving their health) and the power of suggestion to encourage healing. He published ‘Self-Mastery Through Conscious Autosuggestion’ in 1922.

Svengali – 1932

Svengali movie poster
Svengali movie poster

Svengali’ is a movie about how through hypnotism and mind control, a sinister music maestro controls the singing voice of the woman he loves.

The Hare-Brained Hypnotist – 1942

The Hare Brained Hypnotist, 1942
Bugs Bunny

The Hare-Brained Hypnotist is a Bugs Bunny cartoon that aired on October 31, 1942.

The Brighton Hippodrome – November 30, 1948

Newspaper clipping from the Blacker archive
Newspaper clipping from the Blacker archive

During a stage show at The Brighton Hippodrome in December 1948 an 18 year old girl, Diana Grace Rains-Bath, was hypnotised by Ralph Slater. During the show she was told, “You will be like a little baby that is going to be frightened and crying for its mother”. After the show, Diana Grace Rains-Bath seemed fine. However, within 10 days she felt ‘clouded’. She lost interest in everything, became miserable and had long fits of crying. Her parents blamed Slater for not releasing their daughter from the hypnosis and sued him in court. He was forced to leave the country.

Ralph Slater – 1950

Ralph Slater Hypnotism and Self Hypnotism, 1950
Hypnotism and Self Hypnotism, Ralph Slater

Russian born American hypnotist called Ralph Slater. He wrote a popular book entitled ‘Hypnosis and Self Hypnosis’ in 1950.

The Amazing Kreskin – 1950

The Amazing Kreskin
The Amazing Kreskin

American magician and performer, The Amazing Kreskin (born 1935) did lots of performances using hypnotism on stage. He did it without using any hypnotic induction (that’s the bit where you lull the subject into a trance). By his teens he became nationally recognized in the United States as “The World’s Youngest Hypnotist”.

The Hypnotism Act – 1952

Stage hypnotist Arthur D. Houghton, with subject, 1890s
Stage hypnotist Arthur D. Houghton, with subject

In 1952 ‘The Hypnotism Act’ came about. This regulated what stage hypnotists could do on stage and the way they were supposed to hypnotise people.

Stage Performers and Popular Culture – 1952

Press cutting from Picture Post, 31 May 1952
Press cutting from Picture Post, 31 May 1952

Scientific experiments in the past were often performed in front of an audience. This was a good way for scientists to excite the public but also to increase awareness of their research.

The She-Creature – 1956

The She-Creature, 1956
A poster advertising The She-Creature

In this movie, a mysterious hypnotist turns his beautiful assistant back into the form of a prehistoric sea monster that she was in a past life.

Pixie and Dixie – 1959

Pixie and Dixie – Hypnotize Surprise,  1959
Pixie and Dixie

In this episode, called ‘Hypnotize Surprise’, the two mice Pixie and Dixie try some hypnotism on Mr Jinks, the cat. It all goes wrong when they make him think he’s a mouse.

The Hypnotic Eye – 1960

The Hypnotic Eye, 1960
The Hypnotic Eye

In this movie a stage hypnotist’s ugly helper suggests terrible things to beautiful hypnotised women.

Pat Collins – 1960

Pat Collins - The Hip Hypnotist
Pat Collins – The Hip Hypnotist

Pat Collins was a famous female hypnotists. Known as ‘The Hip Hynotist’ she frequently appeared on TV, talk shows and movies in the 1960’s.

The Jungle Book -1967

The Jungle Book
The Jungle Book

Scooby-Doo – November 15, 1969

Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! Bedlam in the Big Top, 1969
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!

In the episode called ‘Bedlam in the Big Top’ an evil clown hypnotises Daphne, who is a member of the Scooby-Doo team.

Dave Elman – 1970

Dave Elman
Dave Elman

Dave Elman (1900 – 1967) was an American radio host and songwriter, who went on to become an influential hypnotherapist. He wrote the classic manual ‘Hypnotherapy’ in 1970.

Ormond McGill – 1994

The New Encyclopedia of Stage Hypnosis, Ormond McGill
The New Encyclopedia of Stage Hypnosis, Ormond McGill

Ormond McGill (1913 – 2005) wrote a book called ‘The New Encyclopedia of Stage Hypnosis’ (1994). In it he describes ways that fake hypnosis is done on stage “I have been to a stage hypnosis show and I got the feeling that people pretend to be hypnotised.

The Demon Headmaster – 1996

The Demon Headmaster
The Demon Headmaster

Gillian Cross’s “Demon Headmaster” novels tell the story of an evil headmaster who uses hypnosis to control his school. The first book was adapted into a TV series in the UK by the BBC. The first episode of ‘The Demon Headmaster’ was aired on the 2nd January 1996.

Zoolander – 2001


Zoolander is a movie about a fashion model who is hypnotised to kill the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Derren Brown – 2007

Derren Brown (born 1970) is an English stage performer with hypnotism in his act.

Christopher Gree – 2013

An artist in Residence at the British Library, and supported by the Wellcome Trust

Hypnotherapy now – 2015

Hypnotherapy is still used today for medical purposes and to sort out of people’s psychological problems.

It is used all over the world to help people break habits. The NHS (the UK’s National Health Service) states that there is no strong evidence to show that hypnosis really works. Hypnosis does seem to have an effect, though scientists disagree about how it works. Some experts see it as a relaxation technique that uses the power of suggestion and relies on the placebo effect (this is when people believe that a medicine is working, even if it doesn’t have the power to work, so that actually it is their belief and not the medicine itself that is curing them).