It’s 7 P.M. on Friday, March 6th- Two hours before Chris Jones will take the stage at the campus union and make college students do things they wouldn’t normally do. He hangs around Cheney Hall, walking by the salad bar to get something into his stomach before he nearly coughs it all up laughing at the people he hypnotizes. As I walk by him on my way out, I ask him “Hey, got anything new for us tonight?” Without hesitation, he immediately shoots his answer right back at me, as if he had planned for someone to ask him that; “Yeah, and tonight, I’m not asking for volunteers to come up on stage. Some people won’t see it coming.” Needless to say, I’m now making damn sure I watch the show with added caution.
Fast forward a few hours (and change the tense of this article) to 9 P.M, to when Chris Jones took the stage Friday night. After a short delay due to Best of Broadway’s “Wizard of Oz” show just finishing, he started by first introducing himself, and then others who were walking by. He seemed to be trying to get everyone more comfortable with him, as soon enough, he was going to be telling them what to do- and they would do whatever he said. Fortunately, Jones was not out for blood, and made sure everyone knew that he would not make them do anything inappropriate or make anyone tell any secrets. Like most hypnotists, he was fully aware of boundaries and knew that you don’t need to be inappropriate to be a good hypnotist.
As the Union filled up with students, some not even there for the show, Jones began with a simple exercise: Put your right hand in a fist, your left hand flat out. Upon hearing his instructions, everyone was to imagine that their right hand had the strings to balloons in it, and that their left hand had bricks in it. Naturally, the hand with a fist went up and the hand with the palm out went down. This was to prove hypnosis is possible for most people, as a bunch of people aren’t quite comfortable with the fact that they lose the ability to say “no,” and don’t think they can possibly succumb to hypnosis. After this, Jones started to do what he was talking about, what he had talked about in Cheney; it was time to put people under, before they could even think about how they didn’t want to.
Usually, hypnotists will ask 10-15 people to come up on stage, to be the guinea pigs. At this point, most hypnotists will say something to the effect of “feel free to try to get hypnotized even though you’re not up on stage,” but Chris Jones had a plan on this night. About 10 minutes in, he told everyone to put their chins to their chest and relax. Naturally, there were people who tried to look up without anyone noticing, seeing if anybody else wasn’t obeying or people who didn’t even try to participate. Probably the most memorable point of the night came next, when Jones said, without using the mic, “now look around at the people who are still down.” There were seve7 or eigh8 people who were out cold. He brought them up to the stage, and the fun started.
There were house parties, cops, Barack Obama, quite a bit of dancing, and most importantly, crowd interaction. On multiple occasions, the seven or eight participants went out into the crowd. They went out to the crowd as zombies, nibbled at people’s necks, went back to the stage, returned as exotic dancers looking for a partner, went back, kept changing, kept transforming, all seeming to know what they were doing, but just not caring.
You have not lived until a hypnotized girl sits next to you and stares into your eyes thinking she is an exotic dancer, and you can’t tell if it’s harder not to laugh or to join in with her. People you don’t know cheer you on because this possessed person chose you. The hypnotist is busting a gut because he started all this and wants to keep you in the cage with this loopy brain-science project.
At the end of the show, Jones pulled out his best and most interesting trick of his show: Letting the participants forget everything until they walk off the stage. Chris Jones had left the stage, but the show was not over. Watching the faces of the now-normalized students engage in the absolute epiphany of what just happened for the past 2 hours can only be described with the ever-persistent cliché that no writer (including this one) wants to use more than once in his or her career: priceless.
Chris Jones sits in the booths, talking to his film crew about the shots they got and the way the show was filmed. He glances over at the wad of students, observing the results of the work he has done. He chuckles to himself, then quickly turns back to his filming crew, continuing his dialogue with them.