What Is Stage Hypnosis And How Does It Work?

There have been wide debates and general confusion over whether stage hypnosis is real or not.

Opinions are split between those that believe participants are actually in a hypnotic trance (making them more susceptible to suggestions), and others who think that they’re just deliberately playing along with the act.

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The truth is that they’re both are true. There are some that are genuinely in a state of altered consciousness and others fake it.

Usually, the people that do fake it, they get found out and are weeded off the stage.

Stage hypnosis shows incorporate  a variety of different topics for the audience to focus on. Among them are amnesia effects, mood altering, hallucination and more increasingly as of late, comedy has played a big role in these shows(e.g. Marc Savard’s Las Vegas Comedy Hypnosis Shows).

But where and how did this all begin?

The Origins Of Stage Hypnosis

In the 18th and 19th century, mesmerists would put on shows that would later evolve into what we call stage hypnosis today.

what is stage hypnosis

One of the earliest accounts of this is by Scottish physician, surgeon and hypnotist, James Braid.

He witnessed a stage performance in 1841 by a Swiss mesmerist called Charles Lafontaine. It was from this show that he developed his own hypnosis techniques.

In those times, there were indeed many “phoney” stage hypnotists although that term wasn’t coined until the late 19th century.

Many participants were not in a hypnotic trance but yet, some hypnotists claimed they were using telepathy and other supernatural powers.

However, others were the real deal as proven in the 1890’s in the US, where Thomas F. Adkin toured the country leading a group of highly skilled hypnotists to perform in packed venues.

There are little differences between those early stage shows by mesmerists and today’s stage hypnosis shows. The main difference being the process of hypnotic induction.

The development of stage hypnosis has of course had a bigger impact on society with all the media outlets now showing it, for example Derren Brown’s widely popular live shows.

How Does Stage Hypnosis Work?

There have been different explanations of how stage hypnosis works. Some cater to the theory that the human mind is manipulated and consciousness altered to some degree, while others say that it’s just an act of peer pressure and following along with the act.

  • Animal Magnetism: The transmission of thoughts from one individual to another in what’s known as “thought projection”. There are two types of mental energy. The first being magnetic energy produced by the body and telepathic energy produced by the mind. Both work together as a single unit to generate a powerful hypnosis termed as “animal magnetism”.
  • Social Factors: Skeptics believe that what is seen on stage at hypnosis shows is completely normal and that it results from social psychological factors including participant selection, peer pressure, social compliance, ordinary suggestibility, and some degree of physical manipulation and stage trickery.


No matter whether you’re a believer or not (see for yourself in our hypnosis videos section), there is little dispute that hypnosis does work but whether it’s as effective on stage compared to in a one-on-one session is still up for debate.

A truly skilled stage hypnotist can instil trust and deep beliefs in his subjects after they’re in what appears to be a “trance-like state”, therefore making his suggestions incredibly irresistible. Whether you wish to call this stage hypnosis or something else is up to you to decide.


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