Is stage hypnosis real?

Most of us have seen stage hypnosis shows on tv where people are made to quack and acts like ducks, eat onions and think they are eating an apple. I was wondering if this is actually real or if is group conformity or not daring enough to call bullshit.

Also, there was an english guy that had a show on tv where he would go to banks and hand the teller blank paper the size of bills and tell the teller it was a 50 and ask for change and the teller would give them real money in exchange.

Is this real or not?

Yep. Real people get up on a stage and do the crazy things that the hypnotist suggests. People not so suggestible are asked to sit down early. By the time the embarrassing stuff comes around, all the less suggestible people have been weeded out.

A long while ago (must be almost 20 years) a stage hypnotist named Marshall Silver appeared on Letterman’s NBC show. It was both hilarious, sad, and embarrassing because Dave didn’t buy any of it for even a second! The guy selected a woman from the audience and tried to do his whole spiel. Dave kept commenting and even yelling at the guy, mainly because he didn’t like the way Silver appeared to be almost groping her at times. The woman just kept laughing.

Silver was a good sport overall, but he clearly wasn’t real happy. He claimed that Dave’s comments were preventing it from ‘working’. He must have whined a lot afterwords because they had him on again a few weeks later. This time he brought his own ‘volunteers’ who clucked and barked at his command etc. Dave just kind of sat on the sidelines and laughed knowing that everybody watching still wasn’t buying it.

It was the ‘Showbiz-is-all-bullshit’ Letterman at his best. And to be fair Silver was a great performer. He had a real stage presence about him. He always wore a pair of dark sunglasses which, when he turned his back to the camera and took them off and looked at Letterman, even Dave couldn’t help but play along and pretend he was getting the whammy from the guy!

And in a way Silver was right about Dave’s comments preventing it from working, in that like the above post says its not about hypnosis but the power of suggestion and, mostly, the power of conformity. The people who volunteer are intrinsically afraid that if they don’t play along, if they make the host look like the ass that he is the audience will still be on his side and somehow blame them for ruining the show! And to a large degree they’re absolutely right!

No idea whether its real or not, but the English guy is Derren Brown. The clip can be seen here.

I think I remember that episode, didn’t the guy say to Letterman something like: “I’m staying for another segment, or I will sue you?”

It’s not just suggestibility – the people who aren’t weeded out are often people who just love to show off (I took part in a show once and noted one of the people who were allowed to stay had done it before and was eager to do it again). The “hypnotism” lets them show off in front of a crowd without anyone holding them accountable.

I have a very good friend who is a stage hypnotist. Some people go under, deeply, for the whole show, some go under a little bit, and some are totally faking it. He begins by letting anybody go on stage and then continuously weeds people out and sends them back to their seats. He only keeps those that are entertaining, whether they are actually under or not. Very rarely he keeps the fakers, because they are not really all that entertaining - usually they are just being stupid. I’ve seen his show a dozen times and at first didn’t buy any of it, but I now believe people can be hypnotized (just not the way people think of hypnotism - it is more of a very relaxed state where you are open to suggestions. He can’t make people do things that they normally wouldn’t. He just suggests they do it on stage…or something like that.)

There have been a whole bunch of threads on this in the past. I will just add to the above answers that there is not really even a consensus in the scientific community on what hypnosis is, and no way to tell experimentally from monitoring brain activity if someone is under hypnosis. So lacking an objective definition it is probably difficult to say if stage hypnosis is “real.”

Derren Brown himself, in his excellent book Tricks of the Mind, says he thinks it’s mostly bullshit. And yet… he’s pretty amazing at making it appear real.

Wasn’t there an episode where Biff Henderson was accidentally hypnotized?

Remember the show by Bill Cosby where the kids say funny things? I’m sure there were lots of unfunny kids that were weeded out. This is probably, as other posters have said, how it’s done. Just weed out the ones that won’t hypnotise.

I remember that one, too, and was coming in here to ask if it was the same hypnotist. The way I recall it, the hypnotist had made Biff susceptible to falling asleep whenever anyone ordered him to do so.

The following night or so (without the hypnotist present), Letterman was joking around with Biff, saying “SLEEEEEP!” to him over and over again. At one point, it seemed like Biff really DID fall asleep–and nobody could get him to snap out of it. I think Letterman had to call the hypnotist and have him reverse Biff’s condition over the phone.

I just saw that bit last night on TV, and I love the hot-dog cart guy completely refusing to accept the trick…

No. There are those in the scientific community that doubt any part of hypnosis is real.

I went to a hypnotist with a friend of mine. He went up on stage and drank some water out of a sealed water bottle that the hypnotist suggested was skunky. After the gig was over he swore that something was put in the water. I don’t think so, other people drank water out of the same bottle for different effects and didn’t react like it was skunky.

The hypnotist was Flip Orley.

I don’t doubt that there are people who willingly go along with stage hypnotists and convince themselves the experience was real.

Yes, but the question is; is that all there is to it?

They’ve used monitoring brain activity specifically as a way to test the depth of hypnosis on the Mythbusters.

I guess a definition of ‘hypnotized’ should be set forth first.

The one hypnotist I saw in person (at the California State Fair in the early 90s) seemed to do that, even pulling one person from the audience who didn’t go up, but went under with the people on stage. It was funny and looked very real.

A friend of mine worked in one of the stands that faced him. According to him, it got really boring when you realized that the ones actually going under were a paid part of the act. He would pull up ten people, six of whom worked for him, then send back all the people who weren’t in on it. It wasn’t obvious, but when you watched the act twice a day for two weeks you noticed that the same people were going under each time.