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Deception in Hypnotism Very Common.--Examples of Neuropathic

Deceit.--Detecting Simulation.--Professional Subjects.--How Dr. Luys of the

Charity Hospital at Paris Was Deceived.--Impossibility of Detecting

Deception in All Cases.--Confessions of a Professional Hypnotic Subject.

It has already been remarked that hypnotism and hysteria are conditions

very nearly allied, and that hysterical neuropathic individuals make th

best hypnotic subjects. Now persons of this character are in most cases

morally as well as physically degenerate, and it is a curious fact that

deception seems to be an inherent element in nearly all such characters.

Expert doctors have been thoroughly deceived. And again, persons who

have been trying to expose frauds have also been deceived by the

positive statements of such persons that they were deceiving the doctors

when they were not. A diseased vanity seems to operate in such cases and

the subjects take any method which promises for the time being to bring

them into prominence. Merely to attract attention is a mania with some


There is also something about the study of hypnotism, and similar

subjects in which delusions constitute half the existence, that seems to

destroy the faculty for distinguishing between truth and delusion.

Undoubtedly we must look on such manifestations as a species of


There is also a point at which the unconscious deceiver, for the sake of

gain, passes into the conscious deceiver. At the close of this chapter

we will give some cases illustrating the fact that persons may learn by

practice to do seemingly impossible things, such as holding themselves

perfectly rigid (as in the cataleptic state) while their head rests on

one chair and their heels on another, and a heavy person sits upon them.

First, let us cite a few cases of what may be called neuropathic

deceit--a kind of insanity which shows itself in deceiving. The

newspapers record similar cases from time to time. The first two of the

following are quoted by Dr. Courmelles from the French courts, etc.

1. The Comtesse de W---- accused her maid of having attempted to poison

her. The case was a celebrated one, and the court-room was thronged with

women who sympathized with the supposed victim. The maid was condemned

to death; but a second trial was granted, at which it was conclusively

proved that the Comtesse had herself bound herself on her bed, and had

herself poured out the poison which was found still blackening her

breast and lips.

2. In 1886 a man called Ulysse broke into the shop of a second-hand

dealer, facing his own house in Paris, and there began deliberately to

take away the goods, just as if he were removing his own furniture. This

he did without hurrying himself in any way, and transported the property

to his own premises. Being caught in the very act of the theft, he

seemed at first to be flurried and bewildered. When arrested and taken

to the lock-up, he seemed to be in a state of abstraction; when spoken

to he made no reply, seemed ready to fall asleep, and when brought

before the examining magistrate actually fell asleep. Dr. Garnier, the

medical man attached to the infirmary of the police establishment, had

no doubt of his irresponsibility and he was released from custody.

3. While engaged as police-court reporter for a Boston newspaper, the

present writer saw a number of strange cases of the same kind. One was

that of a quiet, refined, well educated lady, who was brought in for

shop-lifting. Though her husband was well to do, and she did not sell or

even use the things she took, she had made a regular business of

stealing whenever she could. She had begun it about seven months before

by taking a lace handkerchief, which she slipped under her shawl: Soon

after she accomplished another theft. I felt so encouraged, she said,

that I got a large bag, which I fastened under my dress, and into this

I slipped whatever I could take when the clerks were not looking. I do

not know what made me do it. My success seemed to lead me on.

Other cases of kleptomania could easily be cited.

Simulation, say Messieurs Binet and Fere, which is already a

stumbling block in the study of hysterical cases, becomes far more

formidable in such studies as we are now occupied with. It is only when

he has to deal with physical phenomena that the operator feels himself

on firm ground.

Yet even here we can by no means feel certain. Physicians have invented

various ingenious pieces of apparatus for testing the circulation and

other physiological conditions; but even these things are not sure

tests. The writer knows of the case of a man who has such control over

his heart and lungs that he can actually throw himself into a profound

sleep in which the breathing is so absolutely stopped for an hour that a

mirror is not moistened in the least by the breath, nor can the pulses

be felt. To all intents and purposes the man appears to be dead; but in

due time he comes to life again, apparently no whit the worse for his


If an ordinary person were asked to hold out his arms at full length for

five minutes he would soon become exhausted, his breathing would

quicken, his pulse-rate increase. It might be supposed that if these

conditions did not follow the subject was in a hypnotic trance; but it

is well known that persons may easily train themselves to hold out the

arms for any length of time without increasing the respiration by one

breath or raising the pulse rate at all. We all remember Montaigne's

famous illustration in which he said that if a woman began by carrying a

calf about every day she would still be able to carry it when it became

an ox.

In the Paris hospitals, where the greater number of regular scientific

experiments have been conducted, it is found that trained subjects are

required for all of the more difficult demonstrations. That some of

these famous scientists have been deceived, there is no doubt. They know

it themselves. A case which will serve as an illustration is that of Dr.

Luys, some of whose operations were exposed by Dr. Ernest Hart, an

English student of hypnotism of a skeptical turn of mind. One of Dr.

Luys's pupils in a book he has published makes the following statement,

which helps to explain the circumstances which we will give a little

later. Says he:

We know that many hospital patients who are subjected to the higher or

greater treatment of hypnotism are of very doubtful reputations; we know

also the effects of a temperament which in them is peculiarly addicted

to simulation, and which is exaggerated by the vicinity of maladies

similar to their own. To judge of this, it is necessary to have seen

them encourage each other in simulation, rehearsing among themselves, or

even before the medical students of the establishment, the experiments

to which they have been subjected; and going through their different

contortions and attitudes to exercise themselves in them. And then,

again, in the present day, has not the designation of an 'hypnotical

subject' become almost a social position? To be fed, to be paid,

admired, exhibited in public, run after, and all the rest of it--all this

is enough to make the most impartial looker-on skeptical. But is it

enough to enable us to produce an a priori negation? Certainly not; but

it is sufficient to justify legitimate doubt. And when we come to moral

phenomena, where we have to put faith in the subject, the difficulty

becomes still greater. Supposing suggestion and hallucination to be

granted, can they be demonstrated? Can we by plunging the subject in

hypnotical sleep, feel sure of what he may affirm? That is impossible,

for simulation and somnambulism are not reciprocally exclusive terms,

and Monsieur Pitres has established the fact that a subject who sleeps

may still simulate. Messieurs Binet and Fere in their book speak of

the honest Hublier, whom his somnambulist Emelie cheated for four years


Let us now quote Mr. Hart's investigations.

Dr. Luys is an often quoted authority on hypnotism in Paris, and is at

the head of what is called the Charity Hospital school of hypnotical

experiments. In 1892 he announced some startling results, in which some

people still have faith (more or less). What he was supposed to

accomplish was stated thus in the London Pall Mall Gazette, issue of

December 2: Dr. Luys then showed us how a similar artificial state of

suffering could be created without suggestion--in fact, by the mere

proximity of certain substances. A pinch of coal dust, for example,

corked and sealed in a small phial and placed by the side of the neck of

a hypnotized person, produces symptoms of suffocation by smoke; a tube

of distilled water, similarly placed, provokes signs of incipient

hydrophobia; while another very simple concoction put in contact with

the flesh brings on symptoms of suffocation by drowning.

Signs of drunkenness were said to be caused by a small corked bottle of

brandy, and the nature of a cat by a corked bottle of valerian. Patients

also saw beautiful blue flames about the north pole of a magnet and

distasteful red flames about the south pole; while by means of a magnet

it was said that the symptoms of illness of a sick patient might be

transferred to a well person also in the hypnotic state, but of course

on awaking the well person at once threw off sickness that had been

transferred, but the sick person was permanently relieved. These

experiments are cited in some recent books on hypnotism, apparently with

faith. The following counter experiments will therefore be read with


Dr. Hart gives a full account of his investigations in the Nineteenth

Century. Dr. Luys gave Dr. Hart some demonstrations, which the latter

describes as follows: A tube containing ten drachms of cognac were

placed at a certain point on the subject's neck, which Dr. Luys said was

the seat of the great nerve plexuses. The effect on Marguerite was very

rapid and marked; she began to move her lips and to swallow; the

expression of her face changed, and she asked, 'What have you been

giving me to drink? I am quite giddy.' At first she had a stupid and

troubled look; then she began to get gay. 'I am ashamed of myself,' she

said; 'I feel quite tipsy,' and after passing through some of the phases

of lively inebriety she began to fall from the chair, and was with

difficulty prevented from sprawling on the floor. She was uncomfortable,

and seemed on the point of vomiting, but this was stopped, and she was


Another patient gave all the signs of imagining himself transformed into

a cat when a small corked bottle of valerian was placed on his neck.

In the presence of a number of distinguished doctors in Paris, Dr. Hart

tried a series of experiments in which by his conversation he gave the

patient no clue to exactly what drug he was using, in order that if the

patient was simulating he would not know what to simulate. Marguerite

was the subject of several of these experiments, one of which is

described as follows:

I took a tube which was supposed to contain alcohol, but which did

contain cherry laurel water. Marguerite immediately began, to use the

words of M. Sajous's note, to smile agreeably and then to laugh; she

became gay. 'It makes me laugh,' she said, and then, 'I'm not tipsy, I

want to sing,' and so on through the whole performance of a not

ungraceful giserie, which we stopped at that stage, for I was loth to

have the degrading performance of drunkenness carried to the extreme I

had seen her go through at the Charite. I now applied a tube of alcohol,

asking the assistant, however, to give me valerian, which no doubt this

profoundly hypnotized subject perfectly well heard, for she immediately

went through the whole cat performance. She spat, she scratched, she

mewed, she leapt about on all fours, and she was as thoroughly cat-like

as had been Dr. Luys's subjects.

Similar experiments as to the effect of magnets and electric currents

were tried. A note taken by Dr. Sajous runs thus: She found the north

pole, notwithstanding there was no current, very pretty; she was as if

she were fascinated by it; she caressed the blue flames, and showed

every sign of delight. Then came the phenomena of attraction. She

followed the magnet with delight across the room, as though fascinated

by it; the bar was turned so as to present the other end or what would

be called, in the language of La Charite, the south pole. Then she fell

into an attitude, of repulsion and horror, with clenched fists, and as

it approached her she fell backward into the arms of M. Cremiere, and

was carried, still showing all the signs of terror and repulsion, back

to her chair. The bar was again turned until what should have been the

north pole was presented to her. She again resumed the same attitudes of

attraction, and tears bedewed her cheeks. 'Ah,' she said, 'it is blue,

the flame mounts,' and she rose from her seat, following the magnet

around the room. Similar but false phenomena were obtained in succession

with all the different forms of magnet and non-magnet; Marguerite was

never once right, but throughout her acting was perfect; she was utterly

unable at any time really to distinguish between a plain bar of iron,

demagnetized magnet or a horseshoe magnet carrying a full current and

one from which the current was wholly cut off.

Five different patients were tested in the same way, through a long

series of experiments, with the same results, a practical proof that Dr.

Luys had been totally deceived and his new and wonderful discoveries

amounted to nothing.

There is, however, another possible explanation, namely, telepathy, in a

real hypnotic condition. Even if Dr. Luys's experiments were genuine

this would be the rational explanation. They were a case of suggestion

of some sort, without doubt.

Nearly every book on hypnotism gives various rules for detecting

simulation of the hypnotic state. One of the commonest tests is that of

anaesthesia. A pin or pen-knife is stuck into a subject to see if he is

insensible to pain; but as we shall see in a latter chapter, this

insensibility also may be simulated, for by long training some persons

learn to control their facial expressions perfectly. We have already

seen that the pulse and respiration tests are not sufficient. Hypnotic

persons often flush slightly in the face; but it is true that there are

persons who can flush on any part of the body at will.

Mr. Ernest Hart had an article in the Century Magazine on The Eternal

Gullible, in which he gives the confessions of a professional hypnotic

subject. This person, whom he calls L., he brought to his house, where

some experiments were tried in the presence of a number of doctors,

whose names are quoted. The quotation of a paragraph or two from Mr.

Hart's article will be of interest. Says he:

The 'catalepsy business' had more artistic merit. So rigid did L. make

his muscles that he could be lifted in one piece like an Egyptian mummy.

He lay with his head on the back of one chair, and his heels on another,

and allowed a fairly heavy man to sit on his stomach; it seemed to me,

however, that he was here within a 'straw' or two of the limit of his

endurance. The 'blister trick,' spoken of by Truth as having deceived

some medical men, was done by rapidly biting and sucking the skin of the

wrist. L. did manage with some difficulty to raise a slight swelling,

but the marks of the teeth were plainly visible. (Possibly L. had made

his skin so tough by repeated biting that he could no longer raise the


One point in L.'s exhibition which was undoubtedly genuine was his

remarkable and stoical endurance of pain. He stood before us smiling and

open-eyed while he ran long needles into the fleshy part of his arms and

legs without flinching, and he allowed one of the gentlemen present to

pinch his skin in different parts with strong crenated pincers in a

manner which bruised it, and which to most people would have caused

intense pain. L. allowed no sign of suffering or discomfort to appear;

he did not set his teeth or wince; his pulse was not quickened, and the

pupil of his eye did not dilate as physiologists tell us it does when

pain passes a certain limit. It may be said that this merely shows that

in L. the limit of endurance was beyond the normal standard; or, in

other words, that his sensitiveness was less than that of the average

man. At any rate his performance in this respect was so remarkable that

some of the gentlemen present were fain to explain it by supposed

'post-hypnotic suggestion,' the theory apparently being that L. and his

comrades hypnotized one another, and thus made themselves insensible to


As surgeons have reason to know, persons vary widely in their

sensitiveness to pain. I have seen a man chat quietly with

bystanders while his carotid artery was being tied without the use of

chloroform. During the Russo-Turkish war wounded Turks often astonished

English doctors by undergoing the most formidable amputations with no

other anaesthetic than a cigarette. Hysterical women will inflict very

severe pain on themselves--merely for wantonness or in order to excite

sympathy. The fakirs who allow themselves to be hung up by hooks beneath

their shoulder-blades seem to think little of it and, as a matter of

fact, I believe are not much inconvenienced by the process.

The fact is, the amateur can always be deceived, and there are no

special tests that can be relied on. If a person is well accustomed to

hypnotic manifestations, and also a good judge of human nature, and will

keep constantly on guard, using every precaution to avoid deception, it

is altogether likely that it can be entirely obviated. But one must use

his good judgment in every possible way. In the case of fresh subjects,

or persons well known, of course there is little possibility of

deception. And the fact that deception exists does not in any way

invalidate the truth of hypnotism as a scientific phenomenon. We cite it

merely as one of the physiological peculiarities connected with the

mental condition of which it is a manifestation. The fact that a

tendency to deception exists is interesting in itself, and may have an

influence upon our judgment of our fellow beings. There is, to be sure,

a tendency on the part of scientific writers to find lunatics instead of

criminals; but knowledge of the well demonstrated fact that many

criminals are insane helps to make us charitable.