The ephemera assemblyman blog has a mesmerising gallery of last century stage hypnotist posters that are an irresistible combination of camp send-up, schlock horror and roll-up roll-up razzmatazz.
If you’re familiar with the history of hypnosis you’ll notice more than a few passing references to George du Maurier’s 1894 novel Trilby, titled after a beautiful but tone-deaf young woman who is transformed into a breathtaking singer through through the power of hypnosis.
But Trilby is unaware of her transformation and is not a willing participant, being under the thrall of the manipulative hypnotist Svengali.
Indeed, we still used the word ‘svengali’ to refer to a manager or music mogul, although it has lost many of its more sinister associations.
The novel is notable for its anti-semitic undertones, as the hypnotist fulfils the racist stereotype of the ‘cunning Jew’, but it has also been the basis of hypnosis myths to the present day – not least the idea that it can be used to ‘enthrall’ people against their will.
I also suspect that the novel is largely responsible the remarkably extensive hypnosis fetish community who get kicks from roleplaying sexual ‘mind control’ fantasies.