“Svengali of Sex!” — Detective World Magazine

Expose of Carnival Hypnotism Racket
September, 1948

When I awoke I found myself in bed in a trail­er, and some­one had tak­en my clothes. The door opened and Rein­hardt entered. 

Thus begins a lurid tale of the exploits of a car­ni­val sideshow hyp­no­tist as told by the woman he swept away from her life, among the many oth­er women he sim­i­lar­ly seduced and stole away and pressed into ser­vice at the car­ni­val, man­ning the booths, with no way or no desire to return. 

Helen was a nor­mal adult woman, liv­ing a nor­mal life. Until, that is, she attend­ed a carny sideshow magi­cian and hyp­no­tist show. She found her­self drawn to the hyp­no­tist, drawn up on stage, drawn to watch and lis­ten as the hyp­no­tist began speak­ing to her, and, well, that’s the last she remem­bers until the end of the show. But she was still drawn to the hyp­no­tist, return­ing night after night, until the last night of the show, when she was drawn to meet him after the show.

And then she wakes up the next morn­ing, head pound­ing, pound­ing in response to the bounc­ing of the trail­er she was rid­ing in. Rein­hardt, the hyp­no­tist, told her she told him she want­ed to run away with him. As for him, he pro­fessed his love for her and offered to mar­ry her at the next town. Thus began their three-year long rela­tion­ship, where she learned that she was not alone in her plight: oth­er women, too, ran away to join the car­ni­val, and were put to work run­ning the sim­ple carny games. But Helen was dif­fer­ent, smarter, and was shown how to run the crooked wheel to fleece the marks. It would have worked, except for two things: one, where she finds out how the oth­er girls were being recruit­ed, deep in a hyp­not­ic trance and lost in a haze of mar­i­jua­na, and two, when she found Rein­hardt with anoth­er woman. 

That’s when she learned the truth: their mar­riage was a lie, and the man she thought she loved was just anoth­er carny hus­tler. That’s when he pulled out the pis­tol and in their strug­gle, it went off. Rein­hardt the hyp­no­tist was made pow­er­less as the dis­charge blind­ed him. And as for Helen, once she recov­ers from the shock, tells her tale as a warn­ing to oth­ers and sets out to start her life over. 

Com­men­tary: I have more than enough doubts about the valid­i­ty of the sto­ry here to make me want to assign it as a work of fic­tion, but my assign­ment phi­los­o­phy is to assign it to non­fic­tion if the author intend­ed it to be non­fic­tion. That said, I still think the whole sto­ry is either com­plete­ly fic­tion or else the com­bi­na­tion of a num­ber of stereo­types and sto­ries regard­ing hyp­no­sis and the carny trade turned cau­tion­ary tale and tittilation. 

Cer­tain­ly the staged and stereo­typ­i­cal pic­tures accom­pa­ny­ing the arti­cle don’t help the over­all feel­ing that I have about the valid­i­ty (or, rather the lack of it) regard­ing the article. 

Hav­ing only the indi­vid­ual pub­li­ca­tion, I can­not make a def­i­nite deter­mi­na­tion whether the oth­er sto­ries were meant to be true or false, although some (the ones told fac­tu­al­ly as opposed to first per­son) seem more real and more valid (if still a lit­tle lurid in their own right.)

One Response to ““Svengali of Sex!” — Detective World Magazine”

  • Kenneth Keith says:

    The first-per­son sto­ries in these True Detective/Real Crime mag­a­zines are about as true as the sto­ries in Pent­house Forum.

    The same holds true for the True Romance mag­a­zines. I recall read­ing a cou­ple of such “I Was Hyp­no­tized!” sto­ries about 20 years apart, and it was the same sto­ry. Only the race of the cou­ple was changed.

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