“The Witch Hypnotizer” by Zena A. Maher (1892)

Such a promising title.

Such a profound disappointment.

To put this bluntly, this is a Biblical tract, not a story. Each chapter is wholly or in part a morality play in miniature, complete with such nameless stock characters such as the man who drinks too much, the gambler, the unfaithful husband, the false witness, the beset-upon Chinaman (yes, this work is reflective of the period and therefore there are definite strains of racism and misogyny within) and the “fallen woman”. There is little dialog and very few attempts at character description or characterization. Each story involves the Witch Hypnotizer as she wanders through the town, encountering individuals with problems or moral flaws. Then comes several Bible verses, single verses carefully selected and disjointly assembled, then comes the demonstration of the reformation of the particular individual and the resolution of the existing problem or situation. End of lesson.

The unnamed protagonist, the Witch Hypnotizer, is equally obscure and occluded: no physical description of her is ever given, but there is a description of her power:

It was nothing tangible, but an indescribable something which gave her influence over other minds, to bend them to her will.

She is also completely certain of her mission of the spiritual and social reformation of others according to the mores of the day, including the proper place of women (in the home and without the vote). By her certainty, does not feel the need to seek informed consent. Furthermore, there is never any kind of demonstration that the Witch Hypnotizer actually performs any kind of act to induce the reformation. (That, apparently, is left up to the imagination of the reader.)


This work was found at Project Gutenberg, in a variety of electronic forms, here. There is very little to recommend it.

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