SIU grad returns to hypnotize students (PHOTOS)

From left: Heather Duzan, a sophomore from Robinson studying psychology, shares a moment with Eliana Tiggens, a sophomore from Chicago studying cinematography and animation, Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, during Chris Jones’ performance at the Student Center. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

From left: Heather Duzan, a sophomore from Robinson studying psychology, shares a moment with Eliana Tiggens, a sophomore from Chicago studying cinematography and animation, Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, during Chris Jones’ performance at the Student Center. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

By Marnie Leonard

Hypnotist Chris Jones entranced Salukis with a spellbinding performance Friday night in the Student Center ballroom.

Jones, an SIU graduate from Chicago’s south side, gained fame last year after appearing on “America’s Got Talent.” Most notable was his hypnosis of judge Howie Mandel, who suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder.

“[‘America’s Got Talent’] called me and said they had never had a hypnotist and they wanted to see what I could do,” Jones said. “I made Howie shake hands. Nothing was set up. When it was over, he said ‘F— you’ to me, twice. He was pretty mad, actually.” 

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Despite Jones’ experience performing for the huge viewership of “America’s Got Talent,” he was still nervous before SIU’s show.

“I want to do a good job in front of people no matter what,” he said. “And there’s some young people in the audience. I want to be a role model. And it’s a small room — I’m really scared there’s going to be no one there.”

Hypnotized students slump in their seats Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, during Chris Jones’ performance at the Student Center. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)
Hypnotized students slump in their seats Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, during Chris Jones’ performance at the Student Center. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

These fears proved unfounded. In fact, Jones ended up having more students volunteer to be hypnotized than there were chairs on stage.

“When I tell people I’m a hypnotist, they think three things,” Jones said as he opened the show.

“They think one, ‘I don’t believe in that.’ Two, they think, ‘Oh my god, I hope he doesn’t embarrass me.’ And three, ‘Hey, has anyone ever told you that you look like the rapper Drake?’” Jones said, earning big laughs from the audience.

Jones began the performance by first attempting to lull the entire audience into a deep slumber before pulling those most susceptible to his voice onto the stage.

Then the fun began.

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Jones started by convincing his volunteers they were onboard a wild rollercoaster. Shrieks filled the room as hypnotized faces took on looks that alternated between terror and excitement.

Then, the stage was filled with Michael Jackson impersonators.

“Do exactly as I do,” Jones commanded of the slumbering Salukis as he began to dance to “Thriller.”

Hijinks ensued as Jones in quick succession made students forget how to pronounce their own names,  pick prom dates from the audience to dance with and convinced them they were zombies.

Or superheroes.

“I am Wi-Fi woman. I bring hotspots to all,” said Margaret Lopez, a freshman from Westchester studying biology, after Jones made her declare her special power to the audience.

After the show, Lopez admitted she still felt like she was in a daze.

“It was like you watched yourself as you moved, but you couldn’t control it,” she said. “I tried opening my eyes, but I just couldn’t.”

In 2010, Jones earned a master’s degree in recreation from SIU, where he worked as a resident assistant. He used magic and hypnotism to connect with his residents.

“I would knock on doors and say, ‘Hey, how’s it going? Want to see a card trick?’ and I practiced that way and made friends,” he said. “Then, when I was learning hypnosis, I would knock on doors and try to hypnotize them. If it didn’t work, I would move on to the next person.”

Margaret Lopez, a freshman from West Chester studying biological sciences, places her hand on sophomore Heather Duzan’s head while under hypnosis Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, during Chris Jones’ performance at the Student Center. Lopez said she thought the beginning of Jones’ performance was funny, but at the end she was confused and her memory was hazy. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)
Margaret Lopez, a freshman from West Chester studying biological sciences, places her hand on sophomore Heather Duzan’s head while under hypnosis Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, during Chris Jones’ performance at the Student Center. Lopez said she thought the beginning of Jones’ performance was funny, but at the end she was confused and her memory was hazy. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

Jones said the most rewarding part of his job as a performer and hypnotist is when he can convince a skeptic that hypnotism works.

Andrew Dust was another of Jones’ volunteers. He spent the night doing things such as holding up a pretend Simba as “Circle of Life” blared over speakers, imitating how he thinks girls at SIU dance and attempting to guess the thoughts of audience members at the hypnotist’s command.

“It’s like you’re watching through another person,” Dust said. “I knew I believed in hypnotism and I’ve seen hypnotists before, but this just confirmed it.”

Staff writer Marnie Leonard can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @marsuzleo.

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