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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