This past Saturday, dozens of participants wandered around the Pine Knoll Tent stage waiting for hypnotist Evan Gambardella to snap his fingers and fall into his trance. Sharing several truths about the mind, Gambardella explained that hypnosis is truly about relaxing and accessing the subconscious mind.
Allowing any willing student to participate, Gambardella only eliminated those who failed to follow directions during his hypnosis performance. He performed several hypnosis comedy routines, and at any given moment during the performance, with a snap of his fingers and the word “sleep,” students would drop like flies on the stage without any hesitation.
One particular segment, titled “World’s Worst Superheroes,” sparked much laughter as students watched their fellow peers run around the tent pretending to be superhumans with useless powers, some even elaborating on their abilities to the crowd. As she reflected on the experience, participant Stephanie Li ’24 mentioned that she was fully conscious throughout, despite her silly response during the hypnosis.
“I kind of willed myself to really stay focused on his voice…nothing felt out of the ordinary. And I was happily going along with everything that he was telling us to do. So with the superhero thing, I don’t really know, for some reason, I just thought grape popcorn. I wanted to be like Groot, but grape popcorn. So I’m just going to say group popcorn,” said Li.
Audience member Miles Palmer ’23, was one of many students who believed the entire show was a hoax, and that students weren’t really hypnotized. He had concerns about whether participants were actually under a trance, or if they were just going along with the show for fun.
“I came to the show because my brother got hypnotized before and I wanted to see if I could be hypnotized or not. This was my first time and I enjoyed it even though I still think it’s fake,” said Palmer.
Despite the audience’s wariness, Gambardella put on a show that grasped their attention, even if it strayed from the portrayal of hypnosis depicted in modern media. He emphasized that anxiety was merely a figment of imagination, and that hypnosis was meant to ease that anxiety, rather than leave people dazed and in zoned-out trances often seen in movies and television. According to Li, this idea aided in the hypnosis.
“I didn’t really feel embarrassed and I was happily doing everything. I think a big part of that was because he was talking about anxiety being just imagination at the beginning… I think I enjoyed the experience; I would do it again, if I could,” said Li.