Complete Hypnotism, Mesmerism, Mind-Reading and Spiritualism


Simulation.--Deception in Hypnotism Very Common.--Examples of Neuropathic Deceit.--Detecting Simulation.--Professional Subjects.--How Dr. Luys of the Charity Hospital at Paris Was Deceived.--Impossibility of Detecting Deception in All Cases.--Confessions of a Professional Hypnotic Subject.

It has already been remarked that hypnotism and hysteria are conditions very nearly allied, and that hysterical neuropathic individuals make the best hypnotic subjects. Now persons of this character are in most cases morally as well as physically degenerate, and it is a curious fact that deception seems to be an inherent element in nearly all such characters. Expert doctors have been thoroughly deceived. And again, persons who have been trying to expose frauds have also been deceived by the positive statements of such persons that they were deceiving the doctors when they were not. A diseased vanity seems to operate in such cases and the subjects take any method which promises for the time being to bring them into prominence. Merely to attract attention is a mania with some people.

There is also something about the study of hypnotism, and similar subjects in which delusions constitute half the existence, that seems to destroy the faculty for distinguishing between truth and delusion. Undoubtedly we must look on such manifestations as a species of insanity.

There is also a point at which the unconscious deceiver, for the sake of gain, passes into the conscious deceiver. At the close of this chapter we will give some cases illustrating the fact that persons may learn by practice to do seemingly impossible things, such as holding themselves perfectly rigid (as in the cataleptic state) while their head rests on one chair and their heels on another, and a heavy person sits upon them.

First, let us cite a few cases of what may be called neuropathic deceit--a kind of insanity which shows itself in deceiving. The newspapers record similar cases from time to time. The first two of the following are quoted by Dr. Courmelles from the French courts, etc.

1. The Comtesse de W-- accused her maid of having attempted to poison her. The case was a celebrated one, and the court-room was thronged with women who sympathized with the supposed victim. The maid was condemned to death; but a second trial was granted, at which it was conclusively proved that the Comtesse had herself bound herself on her bed, and had herself poured out the poison which was found still blackening her breast and lips.

2. In 1886 a man called Ulysse broke into the shop of a second-hand dealer, facing his own house in Paris, and there began deliberately to take away the goods, just as if he were removing his own furniture. This he did without hurrying himself in any way, and transported the property to his own premises. Being caught in the very act of the theft, he seemed at first to be flurried and bewildered. When arrested and taken to the lock-up, he seemed to be in a state of abstraction; when spoken to he made no reply, seemed ready to fall asleep, and when brought before the examining magistrate actually fell asleep. Dr. Garnier, the medical man attached to the infirmary of the police establishment, had no doubt of his irresponsibility and he was released from custody.

3. While engaged as police-court reporter for a Boston newspaper, the present writer saw a number of strange cases of the same kind. One was that of a quiet, refined, well educated lady, who was brought in for shop-lifting. Though her husband was well to do, and she did not sell or even use the things she took, she had made a regular business of stealing whenever she could. She had begun it about seven months before by taking a lace handkerchief, which she slipped under her shawl: Soon after she accomplished another theft. "I felt so encouraged," she said, "that I got a large bag, which I fastened under my dress, and into this I slipped whatever I could take when the clerks were not looking. I do not know what made me do it. My success seemed to lead me on."

Other cases of kleptomania could easily be cited.

"Simulation," say Messieurs Binet and Fere, "which is already a stumbling block in the study of hysterical cases, becomes far more formidable in such studies as we are now occupied with. It is only when he has to deal with physical phenomena that the operator feels himself on firm ground."

Yet even here we can by no means feel certain. Physicians have invented various ingenious pieces of apparatus for testing the circulation and other physiological conditions; but even these things are not sure tests. The writer knows of the case of a man who has such control over his heart and lungs that he can actually throw himself into a profound sleep in which the breathing is so absolutely stopped for an hour that a mirror is not moistened in the least by the breath, nor can the pulses be felt. To all intents and purposes the man appears to be dead; but in due time he comes to life again, apparently no whit the worse for his experiment.

If an ordinary person were asked to hold out his arms at full length for five minutes he would soon become exhausted, his breathing would quicken, his pulse-rate increase. It might be supposed that if these conditions did not follow the subject was in a hypnotic trance; but it is well known that persons may easily train themselves to hold out the arms for any length of time without increasing the respiration by one breath or raising the pulse rate at all. We all remember Montaigne's famous illustration in which he said that if a woman began by carrying a calf about every day she would still be able to carry it when it became an ox.

In the Paris hospitals, where the greater number of regular scientific experiments have been conducted, it is found that "trained subjects" are required for all of the more difficult demonstrations. That some of these famous scientists have been deceived, there is no doubt. They know it themselves. A case which will serve as an illustration is that of Dr. Luys, some of whose operations were "exposed" by Dr. Ernest Hart, an English student of hypnotism of a skeptical turn of mind. One of Dr. Luys's pupils in a book he has published makes the following statement, which helps to explain the circumstances which we will give a little later. Says he:

"We know that many hospital patients who are subjected to the higher or greater treatment of hypnotism are of very doubtful reputations; we know also the effects of a temperament which in them is peculiarly addicted to simulation, and which is exaggerated by the vicinity of maladies similar to their own. To judge of this, it is necessary to have seen them encourage each other in simulation, rehearsing among themselves, or even before the medical students of the establishment, the experiments to which they have been subjected; and going through their different contortions and attitudes to exercise themselves in them. And then, again, in the present day, has not the designation of an 'hypnotical subject' become almost a social position? To be fed, to be paid, admired, exhibited in public, run after, and all the rest of it--all this is enough to make the most impartial looker-on skeptical. But is it enough to enable us to produce an a priori negation? Certainly not; but it is sufficient to justify legitimate doubt. And when we come to moral phenomena, where we have to put faith in the subject, the difficulty becomes still greater. Supposing suggestion and hallucination to be granted, can they be demonstrated? Can we by plunging the subject in hypnotical sleep, feel sure of what he may affirm? That is impossible, for simulation and somnambulism are not reciprocally exclusive terms, and Monsieur Pitres has established the fact that a subject who sleeps may still simulate." Messieurs Binet and Fere in their book speak of "the honest Hublier, whom his somnambulist Emelie cheated for four years consecutively."

Let us now quote Mr. Hart's investigations.

Dr. Luys is an often quoted authority on hypnotism in Paris, and is at the head of what is called the Charity Hospital school of hypnotical experiments. In 1892 he announced some startling results, in which some people still have faith (more or less). What he was supposed to accomplish was stated thus in the London Pall Mall Gazette, issue of December 2: "Dr. Luys then showed us how a similar artificial state of suffering could be created without suggestion--in fact, by the mere proximity of certain substances. A pinch of coal dust, for example, corked and sealed in a small phial and placed by the side of the neck of a hypnotized person, produces symptoms of suffocation by smoke; a tube of distilled water, similarly placed, provokes signs of incipient hydrophobia; while another very simple concoction put in contact with the flesh brings on symptoms of suffocation by drowning."

Signs of drunkenness were said to be caused by a small corked bottle of brandy, and the nature of a cat by a corked bottle of valerian. Patients also saw beautiful blue flames about the north pole of a magnet and distasteful red flames about the south pole; while by means of a magnet it was said that the symptoms of illness of a sick patient might be transferred to a well person also in the hypnotic state, but of course on awaking the well person at once threw off sickness that had been transferred, but the sick person was permanently relieved. These experiments are cited in some recent books on hypnotism, apparently with faith. The following counter experiments will therefore be read with interest.

Dr. Hart gives a full account of his investigations in the Nineteenth Century. Dr. Luys gave Dr. Hart some demonstrations, which the latter describes as follows: "A tube containing ten drachms of cognac were placed at a certain point on the subject's neck, which Dr. Luys said was the seat of the great nerve plexuses. The effect on Marguerite was very rapid and marked; she began to move her lips and to swallow; the expression of her face changed, and she asked, 'What have you been giving me to drink? I am quite giddy.' At first she had a stupid and troubled look; then she began to get gay. 'I am ashamed of myself,' she said; 'I feel quite tipsy,' and after passing through some of the phases of lively inebriety she began to fall from the chair, and was with difficulty prevented from sprawling on the floor. She was uncomfortable, and seemed on the point of vomiting, but this was stopped, and she was calmed."

Another patient gave all the signs of imagining himself transformed into a cat when a small corked bottle of valerian was placed on his neck.

In the presence of a number of distinguished doctors in Paris, Dr. Hart tried a series of experiments in which by his conversation he gave the patient no clue to exactly what drug he was using, in order that if the patient was simulating he would not know what to simulate. Marguerite was the subject of several of these experiments, one of which is described as follows:

"I took a tube which was supposed to contain alcohol, but which did contain cherry laurel water. Marguerite immediately began, to use the words of M. Sajous's note, to smile agreeably and then to laugh; she became gay. 'It makes me laugh,' she said, and then, 'I'm not tipsy, I want to sing,' and so on through the whole performance of a not ungraceful giserie, which we stopped at that stage, for I was loth to have the degrading performance of drunkenness carried to the extreme I had seen her go through at the Charite. I now applied a tube of alcohol, asking the assistant, however, to give me valerian, which no doubt this profoundly hypnotized subject perfectly well heard, for she immediately went through the whole cat performance. She spat, she scratched, she mewed, she leapt about on all fours, and she was as thoroughly cat-like as had been Dr. Luys's subjects."

Similar experiments as to the effect of magnets and electric currents were tried. A note taken by Dr. Sajous runs thus: "She found the north pole, notwithstanding there was no current, very pretty; she was as if she were fascinated by it; she caressed the blue flames, and showed every sign of delight. Then came the phenomena of attraction. She followed the magnet with delight across the room, as though fascinated by it; the bar was turned so as to present the other end or what would be called, in the language of La Charite, the south pole. Then she fell into an attitude, of repulsion and horror, with clenched fists, and as it approached her she fell backward into the arms of M. Cremiere, and was carried, still showing all the signs of terror and repulsion, back to her chair. The bar was again turned until what should have been the north pole was presented to her. She again resumed the same attitudes of attraction, and tears bedewed her cheeks. 'Ah,' she said, 'it is blue, the flame mounts,' and she rose from her seat, following the magnet around the room. Similar but false phenomena were obtained in succession with all the different forms of magnet and non-magnet; Marguerite was never once right, but throughout her acting was perfect; she was utterly unable at any time really to distinguish between a plain bar of iron, demagnetized magnet or a horseshoe magnet carrying a full current and one from which the current was wholly cut off."

Five different patients were tested in the same way, through a long series of experiments, with the same results, a practical proof that Dr. Luys had been totally deceived and his new and wonderful discoveries amounted to nothing.

There is, however, another possible explanation, namely, telepathy, in a real hypnotic condition. Even if Dr. Luys's experiments were genuine this would be the rational explanation. They were a case of suggestion of some sort, without doubt.

Nearly every book on hypnotism gives various rules for detecting simulation of the hypnotic state. One of the commonest tests is that of anaesthesia. A pin or pen-knife is stuck into a subject to see if he is insensible to pain; but as we shall see in a latter chapter, this insensibility also may be simulated, for by long training some persons learn to control their facial expressions perfectly. We have already seen that the pulse and respiration tests are not sufficient. Hypnotic persons often flush slightly in the face; but it is true that there are persons who can flush on any part of the body at will.

Mr. Ernest Hart had an article in the Century Magazine on "The Eternal Gullible," in which he gives the confessions of a professional hypnotic subject. This person, whom he calls L., he brought to his house, where some experiments were tried in the presence of a number of doctors, whose names are quoted. The quotation of a paragraph or two from Mr. Hart's article will be of interest. Says he:

"The 'catalepsy business' had more artistic merit. So rigid did L. make his muscles that he could be lifted in one piece like an Egyptian mummy. He lay with his head on the back of one chair, and his heels on another, and allowed a fairly heavy man to sit on his stomach; it seemed to me, however, that he was here within a 'straw' or two of the limit of his endurance. The 'blister trick,' spoken of by Truth as having deceived some medical men, was done by rapidly biting and sucking the skin of the wrist. L. did manage with some difficulty to raise a slight swelling, but the marks of the teeth were plainly visible." (Possibly L. had made his skin so tough by repeated biting that he could no longer raise the blister!)

"One point in L.'s exhibition which was undoubtedly genuine was his remarkable and stoical endurance of pain. He stood before us smiling and open-eyed while he ran long needles into the fleshy part of his arms and legs without flinching, and he allowed one of the gentlemen present to pinch his skin in different parts with strong crenated pincers in a manner which bruised it, and which to most people would have caused intense pain. L. allowed no sign of suffering or discomfort to appear; he did not set his teeth or wince; his pulse was not quickened, and the pupil of his eye did not dilate as physiologists tell us it does when pain passes a certain limit. It may be said that this merely shows that in L. the limit of endurance was beyond the normal standard; or, in other words, that his sensitiveness was less than that of the average man. At any rate his performance in this respect was so remarkable that some of the gentlemen present were fain to explain it by supposed 'post- hypnotic suggestion,' the theory apparently being that L. and his comrades hypnotized one another, and thus made themselves insensible to pain.

"As surgeons have reason to know, persons vary widely in their sensitiveness to pain. I have seen a man chat quietly with bystanders while his carotid artery was being tied without the use of chloroform. During the Russo-Turkish war wounded Turks often astonished English doctors by undergoing the most formidable amputations with no other anaesthetic than a cigarette. Hysterical women will inflict very severe pain on themselves--merely for wantonness or in order to excite sympathy. The fakirs who allow themselves to be hung up by hooks beneath their shoulder-blades seem to think little of it and, as a matter of fact, I believe are not much inconvenienced by the process."

The fact is, the amateur can always be deceived, and there are no special tests that can be relied on. If a person is well accustomed to hypnotic manifestations, and also a good judge of human nature, and will keep constantly on guard, using every precaution to avoid deception, it is altogether likely that it can be entirely obviated. But one must use his good judgment in every possible way. In the case of fresh subjects, or persons well known, of course there is little possibility of deception. And the fact that deception exists does not in any way invalidate the truth of hypnotism as a scientific phenomenon. We cite it merely as one of the physiological peculiarities connected with the mental condition of which it is a manifestation. The fact that a tendency to deception exists is interesting in itself, and may have an influence upon our judgment of our fellow beings. There is, to be sure, a tendency on the part of scientific writers to find lunatics instead of criminals; but knowledge of the well demonstrated fact that many criminals are insane helps to make us charitable.

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