You won't feel a thing

Warning: This record is for MEDICAL USE ONLY

Considering that last week the globe (or a transfixed portion of its population) celebrated World Hypnotism Day, what better time to explore Lesson 1 of A Visit to Dave Elman Classrooms in Medical Hypnosis, a vintage slab o' vinyl from 1960, purchased at a local library book sale.

But first, since we're discussing a medical procedure, you should be advised of the warning printed on the label: "This record is for MEDICAL USE ONLY. It may not be reproduced in any form whatsoever. Its use is forbidden in lectures, in radio, on television, on film or tape or any medium in which communication is possible."

The three-record set is a bizarre trip to a classroom in which Elman is teaching several doctors and dentists how to use hypnotism on their patients, promising the physicians "can get two to three times as much work done when the patient isn't raring back."

"While many people regard me as the person who knows more about hypnosis than anybody on earth," Elman says, humbly, "I am a layman, not a doctor.

"If you take longer than one minute you're wasting your time," Elman sternly advises. "If hypnosis is ever to have respect, it must be available instantly. No man can afford to give three minutes to two hours waiting for it to succeed."

Nor can any patient with a hemostat on his appendix.

Side 2 is titled "The Entering Wedge to Hypnosis," an explanation of a prehypnotic state that requires a patient to "bypass the critical factor" - the sense of judgment - to fall into a deeper hypnosis. Apparently, tort reform was in its infancy, because Elman instructs the physicians not to tell patients that they're undergoing hypnosis.

"Don't use the word 'hypnosis.' You want the benefit of the state without using the word or generating fear. Do you know why prescriptions were written in Latin? So patients wouldn't know what they're getting. Do you name the ingredients in prescriptions to your patients? Seldom, if ever."

Instead, doctors should ply their patients with double entendres suited for a singles bar, and refrain from using words like "hurt," "knife," "stitches," or "pain": "I notice how tense you are. How would you like to enjoy a dental visit?"

If the bedside manner fails, Elman reassures doctors that "you can give them Novocaine or anesthesia if you don't have faith in yourself."

Elman, now deceased (think of it as permanent hypnosis) started working in show business in his teens, usually as a comic, according to an article by Martin Segal, also now a victim of permanent hypnosis. "One season Ellman did a hypnosis act, but soon gave it up when he found that parents objected to their daughters dating him. They were actually afraid of the power he'd wield over them."

If the fear of backseat hanky-panky with Elman isn't frightening enough, he also reportedly worked as an FBI spook in the mid-'40s, when he used his radio show about hobbies to flush out alleged Nazi spies. He'd take personal information he learned on the program and pass it on to the feds. Which brings us back to the record:

"Don't try to prove the value of hypnosis to a disbeliever. Don't treat it as a joke or a parlor game. I feel sorry for someone who puts on an amusing spectacle. Isn't it a pity that they're not putting hypnosis to good use?"

See a related story on World Hypnotism Day in this issue of the Current.

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