Whenever I finish a talk, I can always guarantee that at least one person in the audience will raise their hand and say ‘That’s fine, but do you know how to hypnotise animals?’

Just kidding. Actually, no one has ever asked me that, but I came across a great section in Ormond McGill’s wonderful 1947 book, ‘The Encyclopedia Of Genuine Stage Hypnotism’ about how to place any animal in a trance, and thought that I would share it with you.

orm21McGill was a great guy. Born in 1913, he worked under the stage name of ‘Dr Zomb’ and pioneered many of the techniques used by modern-day hypnotists. Eventually becoming known as ‘The Dean of American Hypnotism’, McGill lectured right up until a few days before his death in 2005.

Anyway, back to the book. The vast majority of it describes some really great material on human hypnosis, but I found the few pages on animal work especially fascinating.

McGill describes how various animals can be positioned to ensure that they become motionless and thus appear hypnotized.

First, frogs or lizards. Here it is apparently just a case of flipping the unsuspecting reptiles onto their backs and carefully laying them on a table.


Next up are lobsters. This time you have to stand them on their heads, using their claws as supports.


Finally, we come to chickens. Here readers are advised to catch the bird by the neck, place it on its front on a table, and rest its head on the table. After that, draw a two-foot long chalk line along the table, directly out from its beak.

Apparently whilst in trance, the animals can be made to eat an onion, wear X-ray glasses, and perform a striptease (I made this bit up). To awaken the animals from their hypnotic state, simple dislodge the frog, invert the lobster, and push the chicken’s head away from the chalk line.

So, next time you are at a party and spot a lobster or lizard across the room, you are all set up for some fun and games.

So does this stuff really work, or was McGill straying into the realms of fantasy?


  1. When I was little and caught frogs in my pond at home I found that if I turned them upside down then they wouldn’t move and I could look at them properly
    (PS. I did always safely return them to the pond afterwards)

  2. Profesional shearers can keep even fractious rams from kicking and protesting by specific positioning that enables them to be moved as the fleece is taken off without fighting.

  3. As children growing up on a farm in Northern Ireland, my brothers and I would catch my aunts chickens and leave rows of them looking down lines a plie of buiding sand. We would then spend the rest of the day ensuring she didn’t catch us.

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