Sunday, September 2, 2012

The time my brother convinced me he could make me levitate—and other hocus pocus

Getting my mail hasn’t been a big priority with me lately.  Most of my bills are sent directly to the bank now, and since closing my Netflix account a month or so ago (needed to take a break, is all) I haven’t exactly felt the need to rush downstairs and retrieve the latest LL Bean catalog. 

But my retired neighbor doesn’t know this, so he had no problem knocking on my door while I was getting dressed this morning, just to let me know something has been sticking out of the bottom of my mailbox since Friday.  Thanks Jim!

My older brother Duke & me in the summer of ‘69; I’m getting to this

Anyway, after I thanked him & sent him on his way, I went downstairs & collected my mail—Kuhn’s Market flyer, credit card offer, Entertainment Weekly magazine—and then I noticed this postcard for a new Hypnotherapy office in the North Hills, offering a 20% discount on my first visit:

Our unique, effective and specific techniques will help you:


Improve my golf game?  Where do I sign?  Okay that’s not fair, I haven’t a clue of this shaman’s prowess and for all I know he’s working wonders.   (Hmm… I do see a couple items on this list I wouldn’t mind going into a trance for…)  But the thing is, everytime I see something related to hypnosis, I can’t help but wonder if it’s the real deal.  I’ve been duped before.

Way back in the summer of ‘69, when we still lived in town, my brother Duke approached me one afternoon & said “Let me hypnotize you.”   (That’s my brother & me in the photo above, that same summer.  He was 10, I was 7.)   While I struggled to come up with an answer (I didn’t want to hurt his feelings but I was sure he couldn’t do it) he said “Do you doubt my abilities?  Look what I have!” and held up a hypno-coin.  I think my jaw dropped—I was all too aware of it’s power!

 As an avid comic book fan, I was accustomed to seeing these mysterious devices in every issue of Superman & Batman I could get my hands on.  But where I read the books solely for Supe’s exploits in the 40th century or to drool over Batman’s latest bat-gadgets, my diabolical brother pored over the ads & sent away for stuff like spy scopes & books on becoming a Judo Master. 

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when he pulled out that disc, but I was.  I quickly said no.

Duke wasn’t about to let me go that easily though, and asked why not.  I told him I was afraid what he would do once I was under his control.  He thought for a moment, then said “But I can make you levitate.  Wouldn’t you like to float up in the air like Superman?”

Aargh!!  He knew me too well.  As my sister Shawn can attest, it was around this time I was going through a “Please God help me fly” phase, where I would kneel on the sidewalk & pray to God for the ability to fly, then take off running down the street & jump into the air—only to crash on the cement.  God, didn’t you hear me praying up there?  What’s this going to take?  Duke won.  I said yes.

When I asked my brother how this was even possible, he scoffed and reminded me of those magicians that made women float on tv, and said “they don’t use wires, you know.  If you put someone under a deep enough trance, you can command them to float.”

It’s pretty sad, what a seven year old will swallow.

 But you have to understand, Duke was known for being a bookworm; he read constantly, and what kid asks for high school textbooks for Christmas?  My brother, that’s who!  I said it made sense to me, and my thoughts danced with the idea of hovering in the air… maybe after I got good with it, and with the right costume and cape… I told him I was ready.

Duke had me lie down on the couch, while he hovered over me, twirling that infernal disc in my face.  I got the standard routine:  “You are getting very sleepy… when I count to 10 you will fall into a deep sleep…1…2…” 

After he finished counting, I closed my eyes (it seemed like the thing to do) and he asked me if I was under.  I sure didn’t think so, but played along and murmured yes.  Duke then said “If you are REALLY under my control, raise your right arm… your right arm…” I slowly lifted my right hand into the air, and I heard a small, excited gasp.

Now at the time, this was a sensitive topic between Duke & me—I constantly forgot what my right & left was, which angered him to no end.  He would often test me by saying “Hold out your right hand” and I’d give him my left, and he’d yell “You have a 50% chance of getting this correct and you always get it wrong!”  So I think my getting it right this time confirmed to his supercomputer brain I must indeed be in a hypnotic state.

So as I’m laying there, eyes shut & knowing I am NOT hypnotized and wondering how I’ll fake levitating, I hear him get up and move away.  I open my eyes a tiny bit, and see him in the other corner of the room, going thru our mom’s sewing basket.  He pulls out her tomato pin cushion and I shut my eyes again as he makes his way back over to the sofa. 

 Duke bends down and whispers “It is a scientific fact that when a subject is in a deep hypnotic state, you can stick needles in him and he will not feel the pain, and he will not bleed… he will not bleed.  Repeat after me, I will not bleed…” 

What!?  It suddenly dawns on me—Duke wasn’t interested in making me levitate so much as he wanted to create some kind of human pin-cushion.  Why I continued laying there, I don’t know; but now I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed it wouldn’t hurt.  It was right around then that I heard an “OOMPH” sound and opened my eyes.  My dad was standing there, holding Duke by the back of his neck.  He said “What’s wrong with you, boy?  Why are you standing over your brother with a needle?”   Duke looked properly annoyed and Dad looked down at me.  “Were you sleeping?  Did you know this maniac was going to stick you?!”  

I can’t remember what happened after that… you know how kids are, I’m sure I went on my merry way while poor Duke went back to the drawing board.  But to this day, everytime I see one of those twirly-gizmos (which thankfully isn’t often) I can’t help but flinch a little.  My brother wasn’t your typical big brother—but I wouldn’t have wanted things any other way.



  1. I loved every bit of this post Doug. :) Oh the longing to fly! I applaud your efforts as a kid. I've been there myself. My brother and I used to leap off the living room couch in hope of the impossible (with towels as capes). I once knew a kid who leapt off his roof after watching Superman, thankfully he only broke his leg. I think big brother's have special powers of persuasion over younger siblings. Had my brother (back in the day) urged me to squawk like a chicken in the middle of the road, I certainly would have done so. He loved to kid around and tease me and I took his advice seriously always. But he was also a good egg: after all he managed to convince me that I was similar to a super hero (heroine actually) who looked and dressed just like me—all so I could boost my self confidence at a young age.

    Your brother sounds like a cool guy and reminds me of the Great Brain character from John Dennis Fitzgerald's series of books.

  2. Crazy ass story, crazy ass sure made me laugh!

  3. Chelly, thank you as always for your heartfelt comments, I'm glad you had an older brother who could be such a positive influence--I'm not sure I would say mine was cool, but I LOVED the "Great Brain" reference! That was Duke alright!

    Pam, I cannot stop laughing at your feedback--that pretty much sums it up!! :)

  4. Very informative post. Thanks for taking the time to share your view with us.

  5. Um, you're welcome :) Thanks for reading...

  6. Thanks for sharing the memory! Good thing your Dad intervened in time!
    I remember convincing a neighborhood kid that I was creating a hovercraft in our garage, which was actually an old fan turned face down, with some other junk stuck at odd angles on it with wires sticking out. I told him it would be finished in a few days and he would see it flying around the yard. Then we moved and I never saw him again. I often wondered if he thought how he missed seeing it fly. We moved a lot, on the average of every three months.

  7. Haha!! Awesome story Frederick, thanks so much for sharing (and taking the time to read my blog). I bet you were a fun kid to hang out with, I'm sorry to read you had to move so often though...

  8. First off, I adore reading stuff like this because I can just hear it... I mean, I cried-laughing when Duke said, "you have a 50% chance of getting this right..." Because he's mean & technical at the same time, & I KNOW you're spot-on.
    ... and even though I'm your littlest sister, making you seem always beyond reach in experience, etc. I can appreciate how darn cute you were on that sidewalk praying.
    ... And then Dad... The most esteemed person I'll ever know... "Boy, what are you..."
    Lord, this was a good one

    1. Thanks Courtney, that means a lot to hear. Much appreciated :)


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