MINISTERS TO REVIEW HYPNOTIC STAGE ACTS

The safety of stage hypnotism is to be reviewed by the Home Office after claims that volunteers have died or become suicidal after undergoing hypnosis.

In one case an adult man is said to have regressed to an eight year old.

The investigation was announced by Michael Forsyth, the Home Office minister, yesterday morning. He said it would examine evidence of risks to volunteers taking part in stage hypnotism and the Hypnotism Act 1952.

It will also scrutinise the Home Office guidelines and consult with interested parties including medical professionals and local authorities.

Mr Forsyth said it was clear that unlicensed performances were taking place but that local councils were not taking any action and suggested it was likely the Act, passed after a woman became traumatised by regression hypnosis, would be updated.

His announcement follows a spate of cases where hypnotism has allegedly caused death, disability and regression.

In September last year Sharron Tabarn, a 24-year-old mother of two, who died after being hypnotised at a show in Leyland. She was ordered to kiss a stranger in the audience before being told she would wake up when10,000 volts was shot through her chair.

Mrs Tabarn, of Clayton Brook, Lancs, was frightened of electricity. She died five hours later, after complaining of dizziness. Although her inquest found that it was an accidental death, the Home Office pathologist said it was hard not to believe there was a link.

In March, Christopher Gates, believed to be in his twenties, was given regressive hypnosis on stage. Afterwards he went into a decline and now behaves like an eight-year-old boy.

Mrs Tabarn's death led her mother, Margaret Harper, 48, to start a campaign to ban stage hypnosis. She says it frequently causes headaches, nausea and fear of sleeping.

Her concern has been taken up by Colin Pickthall, the Labour MP for Lancashire West. In a Commons debate yesterday morning he revealed he had had letters from all over the country giving disturbing accounts of the effects of stage hypnosis.

One Blackpool man's arm was paralysed for a week afterward. Another man attempted suicide and one volunteer became a compulsive eater of onions after being told to eat them instead of apples.

Mr Pickthall said: "This is plainly a highly dangerous business with potentially, perhaps actually, huge consequences for the national health service as well as the people concerned."

He said the guidelines, which lay down that local authorities must licence hypnotism performances, were worthless because they were largely ignored.

The regulations forbid hypnotists to harm the public and ban them from suggesting volunteers behave in an indecent or offensive way. They are not allowed to carry out age regression.

But Mrs Harper claimed she came across hundreds of hypnosis acts taking place without permission, partly because local authorities frequently did not know about the Act.

"All the hypnotists' shows inflict mental pain. Nobody knows what happens when somebody is hypnotised. Unqualified people should not be tapping into the unconscious mind," she said.

Dr Godfrey Briggs, past-president of the British Society of Medical and Dental Hypnosis, said he did not want a complete ban on stage hypnotists but called for them to be registered and properly trained.

The rise of the popularity of stage hypnotism follows the success of Paul McKenna, the former Radio One disc-jockey who became a millionaire by performing on television.

His set-piece suggestions include telling male volunteers they are contestants on Blind Date where the female line-up is indescribably ugly. He hypnotises more than 2,000 people a year in stage shows.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£17900 - £20300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An enthusiastic Marketing Assis...

Recruitment Genius: Chef / Managers

£24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This contract caterer is proud ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Health & Safety Consultant

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic and exciting opport...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'