Unhypnotic night left man with age of 8

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The Independent Online
It should have been a night to remember; an evening with Paul McKenna, arguably the most charismatic and skillful showman hypnotist on the lucrative theatre circuit. But for Christopher Gates, it ended in disaster.

Mr Gates, in his twenties, complained of not feeling well after being hypnotised as part of a show at the Swan Theatre in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. Nine months later, he is still receiving psychiatric treatment, having regressed to a mental age of eight.

His case was one of several highlighted in Commons debate yesterday during which Michael Forsyth, the Home Office minister, promised a review of the guidelines governing stage hypnosis shows.

According to Tim Smith, MP for Beaconsfield, Mr Gates was hypnotised for more than two hours. "Home Office guidelines were not followed, as he was put into regression and left unattended throughout the interval," he said.

"After the show, he felt unwell. He was referred to a psychiatric unit for four weeks. Nine months later, his condition has deteriorated severely, and he now thinks of himself as eight years old and . . . must be accompanied by an adult at all times."

Mr Gates's family was involved in negotiations with up to five national newspapers for his story yesterday, according to his sister-in-law, who asked not to be named. "Christopher now has certain needs and the money will come in handy," she said.

Stuart Griffiths, general manager of the Swan Theatre said Paul McKenna was due to play the theatre again in February. "We have him about six times a year and we've never had any problems," he said. "Nothing was drawn to my attention the night Mr Gates is supposed to have been affected." Harvey Goldsmith, Mr McKenna's promoter, could not be contacted last night.

Government review, page 3