Let’s Abolish the Hypnotic Bridge

hypnotic bridge

In the world of entertainment, few acts draw as much intrigue and skepticism as stage hypnotism. The lure of watching someone seemingly command the will and actions of another is undeniably fascinating. As more performing hypnotists come into the marketplace and want to get noticed, there's an old technique that seems to be making a comeback with some hypnotists: the hypnotic bridge technique. If you're unfamiliar, this is when a hypnotist places a person between two chairs, rendering them supposedly so physically rigid that the hypnotist can stand on them. And while it may elicit gasps from the audience, there are several compelling reasons why it should be relegated to the annals of stage history.

Physical Danger to the Volunteer

First and foremost, the potential for physical harm is evident. No matter how deep a trance someone might be in or how convinced they are that they're a rigid piece of timber, the human body has limits. The spinal cord, for instance, isn't designed to bear the weight of an adult standing on it. People have thrown their backs out by the simple act of sneezing; why would you stand on a human being whose back is unsupported?

Even with proper positioning, the sheer pressure placed on a volunteer's body can lead to injuries ranging from strains and sprains to more severe skeletal and muscular damage. While some who perform the bridge argue that they "do it the right way" or that they've performed this act countless times without incident, it only takes one mishap for life-altering consequences.

At the time of my writing this article, a new video has been making the rounds on Tik Tok. It shows a hypnotist doing the bridge technique with a male volunteer. His neck is bent up at an awkward angle because he has been positioned against the back of the chair without enough room for him to lay completely flat. The hypnotist steps from the floor level up onto the volunteer's abdomen. Imagine the pressure being put down on a point when one stands upward on that point with a single leg from sixteen to twenty inches below! After the technique is complete, the volunteer stands up from the chairs and walks off the stage, stopping and leaning over in clear discomfort. He takes another couple of steps, and then leans over again in discomfort. It makes me uncomfortable just watching it. I can only imagine how the volunteer must have felt.

It's Simply Unkind

Beyond the physical risks, there's a more subtle, but no less essential point: kindness and respect. Volunteers at hypnosis shows may not fully understand what they're signing up for. They have some expectation of a show based on previous shows they've seen, or videos they've watched online, but the hypnotic bridge technique has been largely abandoned by most hypnotists throughout the profession. It's safe to assume that nobody volunteers for a hypnosis show thinking that they're volunteering for the hypnotic bridge.

If you did tell your audience, "Oh, and at some point in this show, I'm going to lay you down over two chairs and stand on you" how many volunteers do you think you would get? But these hypnotists seem to be working it into the show like it's any other bit, when it really isn't. Later in the show, under the influence of hypnosis and the pressure of an expectant audience, volunteers might agree to things they'd otherwise balk at. This is not consent in the true sense of the word.

Placing a person in a vulnerable position, both physically and psychologically, purely for the sake of entertainment feels inherently unkind. There's a significant difference between asking someone to do some goofy things on stage and having them act as a bridge for a grown human. The former is harmless and comical, while the latter borders on exploitative.

Ego Over Entertainment

One might argue that such feats are all in good fun, and they certainly do have shock value. But who is this performance really for? Is it for the audience's entertainment, or is it more about the hypnotist showcasing their prowess?

When you strip away the veneer of spectacle, the hypnotic bridge technique seems driven more by the hypnotist's ego than by the desire to produce an amazing effect for the audience. A good entertainer can captivate an audience without resorting to dangerous or potentially degrading stunts. True talent lies in the ability to weave a story and create an atmosphere, not in the ability to stand on another human being. Surely we can create awe-inspiring performances and "wow moments" without the human bridge. It's up to us to commit to working on our craft and continuously working to improve our shows.

Hypnosis is amazing, and there are so many ways to showcase the power of the mind. The hypnotic bridge doesn't need to be one of them.

Let's Have a Higher Standard

Stage hypnotism, like all forms of entertainment, must evolve with the times. While the hypnotic bridge technique might have been a showstopper in the past, today's audiences value safety, respect, and genuine talent over cheap thrills.

As with any form of entertainment, the wellbeing of the participants should always be the top priority. There are myriad ways to dazzle and entertain without resorting to potentially harmful stunts. Hypnotists are gifted performers with a unique skill set, and their acts can be just as mesmerizing without standing on volunteers.

I can already hear the response of some of these hypnotists. It will be statements around creative freedom and artistic expression. "I should be able to do my show the way I want." At the most reductive level of the conversation, I agree with that, but when we get to where the rubber meets the road, things change. In the moment of performance, your artistic expression is not the highest priority. Taking care of people, keeping them safe, and honoring the trust they've put in you by volunteering for your show should take a higher priority than your freedom of expression.

For the sake of safety, respect, and true entertainment, it's time for the hypnotic bridge technique to take a bow and exit stage left. And to the entertainment hypnotists out there – your craft is incredible, and your audience will still be in awe without the need for dangerous displays of dominance. It's time to prioritize care and creativity over shock value.