JMU apologizes for hypnotist show that left some in a trance

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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — James Madison University apologized for a hypnotist's show that left some new students some feeling uncomfortable.

All last week, first-year students went through an orientation program called "1787." Events were put on throughout the week to welcome students to the university, including a hypnotist show on Saturday in the Convocation Center.

Students who were at the event, like Dausny Cruz, said the event was supposed to be fun — but as it went on, not everybody was laughing.

"We kind of just went along with it and it was pretty fun, but towards the end, it started getting a little bit anxious," Cruz said. "As a lot of people needed help when they weren't just getting out of the trance."

In a reddit post sent to WHSV, someone said throughout the show, the hypnotist kept having to get an abnormal amount of people out of their “trance” because they were crying or shaking.

Dr. Tim Miller, the university's Vice President of Student Affairs, said the university has been hosting hypnotist events for welcome week since the 1970s. He also said this was the first year they had used this hypnotist. When staff started seeing students feeling uncomfortable during the show, they decided to end it.

"We ended up ending the show early and had to help ten or so students who sort of reacted negatively towards it, certainly getting out of the hypnotism was a little more challenging for them," Dr. Miller said. "So between us, our staff, as well as the staff we already had on the scene, we were able to support those students and everyone by the end of the night was fine and went home."

Dr. Miller said after Saturday's incident they will not hire the hypnotist again for next year and may take the show out of the week completely.

"We apologize for the students that were negatively impacted, but we do think though we've prepared our students to start school," Dr. Miller said. "Students have loved it. We're doing class day pictures out on the quad today, so it's been a great start for our students and we have to learn from this and make sure our students don't experience this in the future."

WHSV did reach out to the management of the hypnotist involved for a comment, but we have yet to hear back.

Dr. Miller said this only affected a small number of first-year students.

He said counselors were also on campus over the weekend and on Monday to provide students with help for anxiety from the show or just from starting college.