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Did Dr. William J. Bryan Hypnotize Sirhan?


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I've never put much faith in hypnotism.  But the Lisa Pease book does raise this possibility.  The CIA considered it worthy of consideration through MKULTRA via ARTICHOKE.

Bryan claimed "under long term hypnosis, and, probably drugs". Under that combo , yes you could brainwash a person to just about  anything.

Long term is a key.  I don't believe Sirhan was a victim of self hypnosis after reading the book,

In a 1974 interview for Betsy Langman  for Harper's Magazine he told her he was probably the expert on hypnosis in the world.  He was the only other one to have claimed to have hypnotized Sirhan than the prosecution or defense.  Which he bragged to two prostitutes.   

When asked about it, the possibility of Sirhan being hypnotized, he became agitated and walked out of his own office.

Edited by Ron Bulman
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While I've always been skeptical about the effectiveness of hypnotism I have to admit there is something to the power of suggestion.  I remember in a freshman psych class being surprised that an experiment in a self relaxation technique seemed to work.  I used it a few times in years afterward with limited success.  

The Mind Games chapter in Lisa Pease book A Lie too Big To Fail is both an education in the field of hypnosis, referencing the work of many expert psychiatrists and related cases, and, the interest of our government in the subject regarding mind control experiments.

Just the acronyms begin to get confusing.  MKULTRA was about mind control, using various methods.  ARTICHOKE was a part of ultra involving hypnosis.  MKULTRA became MKSEARCH.  ZRALERT was a hypnosis program within ZRIFLE.  In 1963 Richard Helm wrote CIA deputy director Carter regarding the use of unsuspecting field recruits for tests strongly suggesting success in this area for eight years.  "In June 1960 the Technical Services Staff (TSS) of the CIA, in conjunction with the CIA's Counterintelligence unit, then headed by the notorious James Angleton, launched a joint program of "operational experiments" in hypnosis."  Psychiatrist Dr. James Hamilton of San Francisco who worked with George White in the OSS was the west coast supervisor of MKSEARCH, successor of MKULTRA for project director Sidney Gottlieb.  Involved in mind control experiments at Vacaville prison.

Being the self promoter he was Dr. Bryan, after the assassination called a radio station KABC talk show and suggested Sirhan might have been under the influence of Hypnosis.

In the 1974 interview Bryan was "loquacious" until Langman brought up the subject of hypnotizing someone to harm another.  When Sirhan came up he became irate, volunteering "I didn't hypnotize him.".  She changed the subject.  When she brought him back up Bryan went on a rant and, once again, stormed out of his own office.

In regards to a 1969 article "Hypnotists Claim Suspects Won't Violate Moral Code" author Shaw added Bryan became "infuriated" at the notion someone could be made to do something against their will under hypnosis: "I'm the best hypnotist in the world" he shouts.  "Don't you think I'd hypnotize me a bank president and make him give me a couple of million dollars if I could?"  It just can't be done". 

"Three months later Bryan was put on probation by the California State Board of Medical Examiners "after having been found guilty of having sexual relations" with four women he had hypnotized.  … Had Bryan admitted that a hypnotist could manipulate others into doing something against their will or moral code, he might have had to face multiple charges of rape.". page 411.

 

Edited by Ron Bulman
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I thought this was one of the best parts of the book.  (Aside from the brilliant introduction of course.)

It seems to me to be obvious that the CIA was working on conditioning a mind controlled assassin for about a decade or more before RFK was killed.

In fact one of the most memorable parts of  John Marks' The Search for The Manchurian Candidate, is when he interviews a hypnotist about this subject and the guy replies it would take three months to program an assassin, and about six to program a patsy.

When you throw in the fact that Dr. Herbert Spiegel, the preeminent doctor in the field at that time, said that as far as being susceptible to hypnosis, he would rank SIrhan as a Five on a scale of 1-5; plus Professor Dan Brown, the preeminent expert in the field today said he would rank Sirhan  on a scale of 1-10 as an 11.  He said the problem he had was not hypnotizing Sirhan, but getting him out of a trance state once he was in.

It was also clear to Simson Kallas, Sirhan's prison psychologist,  that someone had placed certain mental blocks in his mind. This prevented him from recalling who had done the programming. But I agree with Ron that the interview that Langman did with Bryan is quite incriminating.  

Edited by James DiEugenio
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That is another of the things brought out in the book I'd never considered.  Some people are Much more susceptible to hypnotization than others.  I always thought of it as a watch swinging in front of me or someone commanding "you are getting very sleepy".  I could never see myself being affected by such, rubbish, ridiculous.  But that's not how it's done.  And it seems apparent now that hypnosis is effective to varying degrees on some.

Jim refers to Dr. Brown.  He's written four books on the subject.  Trained several thousand others in it.  Chose by Sirhans current lawyer, Willliam Pepper who exonerated Ray in Tennessee for the King family, Dr. Brown is the one who found still programed into Sirhans mind in 2011 "range mode".  

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Ron, I was talking to a friend of mine who is a Professor,  in Criminal Psychology who appears on many British t.v programmes about various murders and he insisted that nobody can be hypnotised to murder somebody, until I showed him this programme by a hypnotist  well known in the U.K. Darren Brown,  where he hypnotised a guy to "murder" a  famous t.v. star whilst the star was on stage. He now doubts his first opinion.See this.

 

Edited by Ray Mitcham
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Hi Ron, I recently finished reading a book that is considered to be a classic in the field of the history of psychology: "The Discovery of the Unconscious: The History and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry" by Dr. Henri F. Ellenberger. It's a 900-page tome, and the first half is largely devoted to the history of mesmerism (which preceded hypnotism) and hypnotism. Many of the "discoveries" of modern psychology were actually first discovered by the mesmerists and hypnotists, whose work fell into such obscurity that they were later "rediscovered" by psychologists. One thing that is really astonishing and that shows the power and reality of hypnotism is that surgical operations were successfully performed on patients in France who were hypnotized not to feel any pain. They were operated on without anesthesia. I found that to be rather compelling evidence of its potential.

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Ray, that show was really something.  What an eye opener to the audience.

 

Rob, that is what happened to Sirhan during one experiment.   The psychiatrist had him  stick a hat pin into his forearm until it was bleeding but h told him not to cry out in pain.  And he did not.

People do not understand how powerful hypnosis is if you have the right subject.  John Newman told me that they would have these seminars at NSA and they would do these kinds of things to subjects who would get called up to the stage.  And they they would not believe what they did after.

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24 minutes ago, James DiEugenio said:

The psychiatrist had him  stick a hat pin into his forearm until it was bleeding but h told him not to cry out in pain.  And he did not.

Jim, That's right - I nearly forgot about that! I think the keynote element of Sirhan's hypnosis is that, as you posted elsewhere, one hypnotist had never seen a patient who was so hard to take OUT of the hypnotic state. Also I recall reading years ago (or perhaps it was in a docu with S's brother) that Sirhan was a member of some occultist group, and that an intelligence asset or agent in the group spotted him as being good Manchurian Candidate material. I think that was after his accident of falling off the horse. I have not finished Lisa's book yet so I don't know if she goes into that anywhere, or if it was accurate. PS: Imagine if the wounded soldiers of the Civil War had access to hypnotists when they were operated on without anesthesia. So many died of the shock of the operation itself. And of course from infection.

Edited by Rob Couteau
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7 hours ago, Ray Mitcham said:

Ron, I was talking to a friend of mine who is a Professor,  in Criminal Psychology who appears on many British t.v programmes about various murders and he insisted that nobody can be hypnotised to murder somebody, until I showed him this programme by a hypnotist  well known in the U.K. Darren Brown,  where he hypnotised a guy to "murder" a  famous t.v. star whilst the star was on stage. He now doubts his first opinion.See this.

 

Thanks Ray.  Lisa describes this example in the book.  Interesting to watch, maybe a bit dramatic at times.  In the end he does look kind of dumbfounded by what he's done, but not shocked.  She also references a Discovery Channel 2012 show called "Brainwashed" featuring a hypnotist named Tom Silver which supposedly has a very similar story.

"Sticking Pins" and what followed it impressed me.  They stick a pin in a hypnotized person's hand to prove they are.  The person shows no reaction to pain.  In 1961 O J Simpson and the Boston Stranglers future lawyer F. Lee Bailey attended a seminar in San Francisco hosted by future, briefly, in both cases, the  Rolling Stones and Jack Ruby counselor Melvin Belli.  The feature of the seminar was a hypnosis demonstration by Dr. William J, Bryan.  Bailey was a volunteer.  He was awoken with a hypodermic needle sticking through his hand, the book quotes.

Bailey as an attorney in the Boston Strangler investigation called in Dr. Willian J Bryan from the west coast to hypnotize Albert DeSalvo who had confessed to the crimes but was never convicted.  Bryan led the witness, under hypnotization.  Telling him, "You were strangling Judy (DeSalvo's wife) when you were strangling them, weren't you".

Bryan was president of the American Institute of Hypnosis and living in LA at the time of RFK's assassination.  He wasn't consulted by the LAPD.  They flew a guy down from San Francisco for all the sessions and court testimony. 

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I should probably chime in here, because I am a Board Certified psychiatrist (1989) and a graduate of Harvard Medical School (1983.)

During my 35 year career as an adult psychiatrist, I have observed many adults experiencing hypnotic trance states, psychogenic amnesia, fugue states, and even true multiple personality disorders.  In fact, I worked for awhile in the late 80s on a psychiatric ward here in Denver that specialized in the treatment of MPD.

These dissociative phenomena are very real.  And the hallmark of dissociation is amnesia.  (Benzodiazepine, barbiturates, and alcohol can also cause amnesia.)

I have also conducted amytal interviews, with some positive results.

People have variable susceptibilties to hypnosis.  Some, like Sirhan, are easily induced.

I believe that Sirhan fired a gun at RFK in response to a conditioned post-hypnotic suggestion, and that he has amnesia for the event, which is psychogenic, and, possibly, drug-induced.

Edited by W. Niederhut
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The mental health angle becomes very important in this context, because when a patient has a particularly weak ego structure - one that is already so easily overwhelmed by unconscious complexes - he is more likely to be susceptible to the type of suggestion that is utilized by hypnosis. It's no accident that the Agency was working closely with the various presidents of the American Psychiatric Association for many decades, or that they were seeking to experiment on patients in mental health facilities in their nefarious quest for Manchurian Candidate types. As Dr Niederhut says above, amnesia goes hand in hand with dissociation, and the hypnotists of the 18th century observed that phenomenon all the time, as did the later psychiatrists and psychologists such as Jean-Martin Charcot and Pierre Janet in Paris (who first coined the terms "subconscious," "psychological analysis" and "autonomous sub-personalities," which preceded Jung's identical concept of "complexes"), or Jung in Zurich, who also used hypnotism in his early career. 

Edited by Rob Couteau
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In the 2012 Discovery Chanel show "Brainwashed" hypnotist Tom Silver says '"I believe hypnosis does have the potential to control someone' mind and actions... That's something a lot of hypnotherapists don't want to talk about".  Lisa P, pg. 414, "could potentially be held financially or criminally liable for the actions of their subjects".  "There will always be those who refuse to believe the evidence... who insist on faking...to believe otherwise makes them personally uncomfortable."

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