The line between wakefulness and sleep is a thin one, and comedic hypnotist Dan Lornitis took to the stage at Friday’s Rowan After Hours (RAH) to explore and skewer this area.
Lornitis’ career stretches far back to his childhood, when he first began comedic magic. In high school, he was hypnotized and soon became hooked on the craft.
“A good friend of mine who’s a professional entertainer on college campuses is a mentalist and a hypnotist,” Lornitis explained. “He trained me to do hypnosis shows. I went on the road with him for about two months to learn the show and for sixteen years I’ve been doing college campuses and hypnosis shows all over the U.S.”
According to Lornitis, the theta state of hypnosis is “the midway point between being awake and asleep,” which he compared to daydreaming.
Fifteen brave Rowan students raised their hands following the go-ahead from Lornitis.
“I can’t make you do anything against your morals or ethical code, so therefore if you have no morals, by all means please raise your hand and volunteer,” Lornitis said at the beginning of the show.
Those picked joined Lornitis on stage and sat in chairs. Slowly but surely and with gentle prodding from the hypnotist, the volunteers slipped deeper and deeper into a trance-like state. Breathing techniques, music and a visualized “blanket of comfort” were used to bring about the theta state among the volunteers.
Once all volunteers had seemingly slipped into hypnosis, the mystery of the event faded away and the comedy entered.
Lornitis took the hypnotized on a first-class plane ride to Honolulu – in their minds, at least. As he detailed the engines revving up, the volunteers began to visibly shake from the supposed turbulence.
The plane took off, and the passengers were told they were flying over a nude beach for supermodels. Each excitedly looked out of the invisible windows. Suddenly, Lornitis revealed that it was actually a nude beach for senior citizens. Most passengers recoiled in disgust.
Further hijinks ensued as the hypnotized participated in a cow-milking contest and then watched Bambi’s mother get shot, survive and then get run over by an eighteen-wheeler truck. Real tears seemed to be shed at this turn of events.
Once released from their trances, the volunteers returned dazedly to the audience, where many friends waited with stories and pictures of what had just transpired on stage.
Freshman disaster preparedness and emergency management major Kevin McCarthy was one of the volunteers.
“I remember crying profusely,” he said, referring to his reaction to the death of Bambi’s mother. “I did not have control. I knew what was going on, but I didn’t know why I was doing it. I’ve been hypnotized before, so I really enjoy it, and I also like it when I come back out and people say ‘Oh, you were funny.’”
RAH hosted hypnotists in the past, and this was not Lornitis’ maiden voyage to Rowan.
Megan Henry, graduate coordinator for RAH, revealed her motivations for bringing Lornitis back to perform.
“Dan was actually on our campus a number of years ago back in 2011,” Henry said. “We like to shuffle through artists so that we have a nice variety on campus. He has a really interesting show. It’s very comedic and I thought it would be a great idea to bring him back.”
Henry’s choice of performer paid off, as the audience laughed at and then interacted with the hypnotized volunteers once they left the stage.
Freshman exploratory studies major Jared Salasko was skeptical at first.
“For part of it, I thought people were faking it,” Salasko said. “After talking to [participants] afterwards, it seemed like it was real. It was definitely really entertaining.”
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