On October 19th, 1983 I went to the Moncton Coliseum with a few friends to see renowned hypnotist and mental acrobat Reveen or, as his promoters would put it: The Man They Call Reveen.
I was on the floor in a packed house, there must have been 7,000 people in the room. Reveen came on stage with his wife and children (his assistants) and wowed the crowd with a series of staggering mental tricks, including a memory test where the mentalist asked audience members to pick a number between one and thirty-six. Then he would ask some other audience member to name any item, maybe a car or a pet, a house or a toy train and to list off some details about said item. His assistants would be writing all this stuff down on a large whiteboard out of Reveen’s view, so for example someone yelled out the number “nine”, and someone else called out their pet cat. The assistant would then write in box number nine the name and age of the cat, it’s colour and the colour of the cat’s collar. Then someone would yell out “twenty-seven” and in box twenty-seven the assistant would write “blue 1984 Buick Skylark, license plate EBD593, bucket seats and air-conditioning.” At long last all the boxes were filled in and Reveen then listed off the details written in each box in numerical order and didn’t miss a thing. For a guy like me who can’t remember what he had for breakfast, that’s a pretty amazing trick.
But Reveen’s big thing was hypnosis. He put out the call for volunteers to come up on stage and whattya know, I jumped up out of my seat. Onstage Reveen had to whittle the eighty or so volunteers down to a manageable (and susceptible) number, so there were a couple of pre-tests. First he had all the guys line up facing the audience. I was about halfway to the end of the line on stage left, with Reveen standing off to my right addressing all of us in his soothing, sleepy voice.
He urged us all to concentrate on the sound of his words and I did. He told us to clasp our hands together over our heads and I did that too. I soon started nodding off a bit, and then in the blink of an eye Reveen was right in front of me, walking down the line touching people’s heads. Like, I literally just blinked (such was my perception) and Reveen went from standing twenty feet off to my right to touching my head and moving on down the row.
I was too startled to notice that my hands were still clasped together, as were the hands of a couple dozen men standing alongside me; the rest, sadly unhypnotizeable, were ushered offstage.
Then Reveen asked us to simply unclasp our hands and of course I couldn’t do it.
I tell you, it was freaky. I pulled and I pulled. I stared at my hands and commanded them to obey. I wedged my knee in there are tried to force my hands apart but nothing, and I mean nothing would get my hands to unclasp. I forget the “magic” word he used, but when Reveen uttered that single syllable that he had conditioned us to respond to under hypnosis all of our hands came apart, just as simple as you please.
He then got the girls together and put them through a similar yet different trial, but I remember none of it. I do remember standing on the side of the stage tingling with excitement over what had just happened and in fear with the knowledge that if I passed the next trial I would actually be part of the show and would be doing unimaginable things in front of a huge crowd that included my family, my friends, and probably half the people I knew at school.
For the next trial he had all of us, guys and girls alike, sitting together in folding chairs. Again he spoke to us in those even tones compelling us to concentrate and again I started feeling sleepy. I could tell “it” was going to happen again and just then the wristwatch worn by the guy sitting beside me beeped for some unknown reason, pulling my attention away right at the moment I was going under.
Reveen asked those under his spell to imagine themselves as virtuoso musicians on the instrument of their choice. I started lamely air-drumming before meekly giving up and walking off the stage, clearly unhypnotized. I rejoined my friends and had a great time watching the show, as dazed zombies acted out one humorous vignette after another. I laughed my head off as people acted out their innermost thoughts completely unrestrained from the natural inhibitions of consciousness.
Frankly, had I not actually felt the power of hypnosis first hand earlier in the night I’m not sure I would have believed what I saw, and still I think at least one or two of the people up there was faking it, but I tell you, I could not get my hands apart no matter what I did, and I have never had any recollection of what Reveen said while I was “out”. In short, this hypnosis stuff is real, and when the guy’s got you, he’s got you; there’s nothing that will stop you from doing what he tells you to do.
I’m glad I got to watch the show rather than be the show, but I sure did think it was pretty cool of Reveen to tell his performers that for the rest of their lives they would be unaffected by any minor headaches and should they ever desire to quit smoking or drinking they would be able to do so easily before waking them up once and for all and closing the show. Pretty sweet parting gift.
And you know what else is nifty? Reveen would probably remember me if he saw me in the street. “Hey,” he would say, “I tried to hypnotize you in Moncton on October 19th, 1983, right? You had long hair back then and a bit of an attitude and if I’m not mistaken you were wearing a Rush t-shirt…”