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

Recruitment Genius: Systems and Network Support Analyst

£26000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a rapidly expandi...

Recruitment Genius: IT Systems Support Analyst

£20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a rapidly expandi...

Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

£20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker / Trainee Broker / Closer - OTE £250,000

£30000 - £250000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker/ Trainee FX, Stoc...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests