Kinderen geïnteresseerd in het dierlijk magnetisme

Playing with fire? Or just instructive

Boy makes hypnosis moves as game
Source: Unknown

Children are good hypnotizers. They are imaginative and blessed, love to play along and are great at imagining.
Therapists and scientists like to claim that these traits are biologically determined.
Whether this is so remains to be proven but, as with any language and math prodigy, young hypnosis prodigies must first learn the tools. A language requires elementary knowledge of grammar and vocabulary. Before a math prodigy can get started with numbers, it will first need to know the numbers to be able to recite the tables.
Even children with an aptitude for hypnosis will need to be introduced to the phenomena of trance, suggestion and how to respond to them.

And it does!

Cartoon about hypnotizing children
Even children must first learn to respond. ( Rotterdamsch nieuwsblad 03-11-1928)

And this has been happening since time immemorial. As early as the introduction of animal magnetism, children were watching. While the noble ladies sat glued to Mesmer’s baquete, children clambered over the tray of glass and iron filings and watched as their mothers, aunts and neighbors’ wives were magnetized, reacted to them and cured of their ailments. Even during the home magnetic treatments, children were not sent out of the room and were free to participate in the rituals.


Later, children who could read had an edge in understanding what suggestion is. In 1872, Hermann Wagner’s “New Playbook for Boys” was published. In it, the boys read about THE MAGNETIC HAND:

You make a speech to your audience about animal magnetism, magnetizers and medicine and declare that you have discovered a strong talent for magnetism in yourself. °You are willing to give your friends a taste of it, although it takes a lot of effort, yes, even pain. At this you stroke your left hand in a mysterious way, behaving as if you were experiencing, I don’t know what, special sensations, and perhaps trying whether magnetism is already present in it. Finally, you hold it with fully extended fingers over a knife, a ruler or something similar lying on the table and grasp with your right hand yourself around the wrist, as if to lessen the pain, indeed to grasp with the index finger the knife unnoticed and press it from below against the flat hand. It seems to remain attached to it by some mysterious magnetic force

But there was also something for the girl to learn: In the “New playbook for girls,” entertaining and instructive amusements, games and tricks by A. Ter Gunne (1870), they were told how to act as somnambulants:


Two girls come into the room, where the others are gathered. One of them advertises himself as a magnetizer, the other as a somnambulist, someone who knows more in sleep than ordinary people in a waking state. The magnetizer introduces her, says, she can trace the most secret things, yes, even the future must lift the veil for her, when she falls into the magnetic sleep.
At this he brushes her eyes three times with his hand, mutters some unintelligible words, which sound like hocuspocus, and finally ties a black cloth around the eyes of the somnambulle, so that the strong light does not fall into her eyes.” Now the questions begin.
The magnetizer steps mysteriously to one of the spectators, who is sitting closest, and requests a handkerchief. He then turns to the sleeping star.
“Seest thou what I have in my hand?”
Answer A handkerchief.
“Is he solid or variegated in color?”‘
Answer Fur.
“What is the ground color like: black, blue or red?”
Answer Blue.
Is the sample flowered, plaid or striped?”
Answer Checkered.
The company is dumbfounded. Some people are even tempted to believe in witchcraft and sorcery; but to those who understand the matter, everything seems very simple. Here is the key: Magnetizer and somnambulist have agreed beforehand on some words, to which the latter directs her answers. Thus have the word for handkerchief, which would have been used for brooch (the magnetizer would have had to ask, ” What is that?”); this for a ring etc. When two properties or qualities are asked, the latter is always the correct one, as here” fur, and when three properties are mentioned, the magnetized person must choose the middle one as answer. In this consists the whole of witchcraft.

Gerard Keller’s “Illustrated Expense Book for Boys” (1876) also knows one:

Be magnetized.

Thereby one from the company takes a table plate, and gives him, who is to redeem his pledge, another plate in his hand, which is first blackened from underneath.
Now he has to follow all the movements of the magnetizer. This one rubs his hand under against the plate and then on his face; if he does this himself, he gets a numerous black smudge.

It is the time when animal magnetism is being replaced by suggestion, trance and hypnosis although not everyone wants to get into that immediately. The Zaanlandsche Courant reported on 1898-07-06;

– To keep children sweet. These days, people are inventing all kinds of new ways to raise children, and if possible, make miracles of them! In Chicago, they now have a means of making children sweet all day. Instead of admonishing them while they are awake, the mother waits until the child is asleep, then sits in front of the cot and tells it what it would like to do the next day and how to behave. According to those mothers who have practiced this method of suggestion, the child wakes up the next morning in exactly the mood desired by the mother and follows throughout the day the instructions given to it by the mother in the evening. It is maintained that this “suggestion “* has nothing to do with hypnotism, but that the influence exerted is merely that which the active mind has over that rendered passive by sleep.


Children naturally want to put what they have learned into practice.
In the book Javanese Girls’ Games and Children’s Songs, Description of the Games, Javanese Song Texts, translated by Overbeck, H. in 1938 we read about PITIK – PITIK TOEROEWA.

This song was sung when “hypnotizing” chickens. A chicken is grabbed, one of its wings opened, and head and neck bent over until the head comes to lie under the wing. With the left hand one holds the wing, so that the chicken cannot pull its head out from under it, and with the right hand one repeatedly taps it gently on the back, while singing: Pitik – pitik toeroewa, mboerimoe ana koewoek, koewoeg, koewoeg, koewoeg! (Chicken, chicken, go to sleep, Behind you is a forest cat [tijgerkat], Coward, coward, coward! [Q o o v.h. sound of forest cat] ). The song is sung repeatedly, and to its beat the chicken is patted on the back, until the animal becomes silent. If one releases her, she still remains still with her head under the wing. That this is not a local issue is evidenced by the notification that the French entomologist J.H. Fabre tells of “one of his mischief-makers hypnotizing turkeys, when he and his companions found a flock of them unguarded in the field: Each one of us took a turkey, put its head under the wing, rocked the animal up and down in this position a few times and then laid it on its side on the ground. We put the entire troop to sleep, and soon the meadow looked like a battlefield full of dead and dying.

Van hypnotisme en stoute kinderen (Translation: Of hypnotism and naughty children). – And it doesn’t stop at hypnotizing poultry. Though not everything was without obligation. You had to know what you were talking about. Warnings could also be read as in the Algemeen Handelsblad of 24-01-1917 in the section ‘Below the line. Creepy stories’.

After dinner, we talked about telepathy, hypnotism, thought power and ghosts. We told stories and horror duly. Fortunately, the evening ended happily with a childhood memory.
I was ten or eleven years old and quite mischievous. In our town there was a famous doctor, a nerve doctor, who cured people of soul diseases with hypnosis. His consultation hours were always busy, and many parents had their children treated by him to make them obedient and well-behaved. I learned that hypnosis is dangerous and should only be used in exceptional cases.
I too had to go to the doctor because I disobeyed, snacked and joked. My oldest brother had been there, but his stories didn’t make me any wiser. The doctor lived in a big house with a garden and a pond with turtles. When it was my turn, I stood before a large man with bright blue eyes. There were two witnesses, because hypnosis was only allowed to happen with witnesses.
My name, age and ailment were recorded in a large book. Then the hypnosis began. The doctor held my hands and looked at me sternly. He spoke quietly but firmly, telling me to sleep. My eyelids did not fall shut, so he pressed them himself and continued with his suggestions. He asked, “Do you see the queen riding by?” I squinted my eyes, but the street was empty.
Disappointed, I understood that I was being fooled. The hypnosis began again, and the doctor thought I was asleep. He began his speech about my sinful disobedience and commanded me to be obedient. I kept my eyes closed and remained silent, angry at the deception. Finally, he blew on my eyelids and said, “Wake up.”
I stood up, a little dozy. After twenty minutes of sitting still, this was not surprising. That was the first part of the farce.

The hypnotizing child. –

Shortly thereafter the vacation began and I went to stay with relatives outside. I had not forgotten my hypnosis experience. History had made a deep impression on me, and from time to time they caught me at home in front of the mirror, looking fearfully into my eyes and commanding, “You will sleep, you must sleep.”
I brought my suggestion knowledge into the village, determined to proliferate with it. And there, in the quiet village, where there were more lonely places for mischief than in the big city, the plan matured to try my strength on a younger edition than myself. The opportunity did not present itself so soon, because my cousins of ten and twelve would not leave me alone, but one morning, when they both had punishment, I took the chance and walked with all but the youngest child, from my aunt’s family, a three-year-old girl, to the neighboring bleaching field.
While chatting, we got there. Still, my heart did beat a little as I made niece sit on the grass and began the hypnotizing. I did it according to the rules of art, placed myself in front of the girl, grabbed her pouty little fists and asked her to look at me.
Yep, bring that on such a hummel. And then on a lawn, She looked at everything but me. I then tried without that and began my oratory “You’re asleep! – You go to sleep,” I put in with a great voice and rolling eyes. “You must sleep,” I called out to her forcefully. That’s as far as I got. The child looked at me – now that it was too late – pulled a lip and said threateningly, “I don’t want to sleep.” “You must sleep,” I replied urgently, taking advantage of the fact that she was looking at me. “Neeeeh!” she replied with a raucous cry and began to cry.
“You go to sleep. Your eyelids are closing!” I hastened to add, wanting to make the crying give way to a restful doze in time. (What I would have said to the child, had it really fallen into hypnotic sleep, I had no idea.) The child violently resisted the treatment: “Neeëëë!”it moaned and tried to tear itself away. I held her hands even tighter.
“You have to sleep,” I said with all the emphasis I could muster in my childish voice.

“Boo! Aaai! Hoeoeoeoe!” bellowed Cousin Love, and the crying turned into an ear-shattering scream. At that noise, some mothers came running from the houses nearby.
My niece, wet with tears and screaming with fear, was taken in and brought home. I believe, I received a few ear-flaps: in any case, I was called out for all that was ugly.
I then walked a long way before gathering enough courage to return home. Auntie did not receive me kindly. “What have you done with Wiesje!” she asked

“Nothing,” I said. “Why did the child have to sleep?” I didn’t answer. Auntie has never known that I tried to hypnotize her daughter, and I later consoled myself with the thought that this violent doctor had not succeeded in putting me – a small child – to sleep either, even though I was an obedient sujet and my niece completely unruly. T G.-B.”

It also went really wrong sometimes. This was reported by the Dagblad van Zuidholland and ‘s Gravenhage on March 2, 1900:

In the Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung we read How enthusiastic practitioners of spiritualism are found among Berlin schoolchildren. Parents of several boys aged 12-14 had noticed for some time that their children were returning from their play dates nervous and upset. After careful investigation – the boys would not release anything – it turned out that they met regularly for spiritist séances, where they practiced table dancing and hypnosis.
Eventually the boys fell through and admitted that their “union” was not the only one in Berlin.

“La Grande Somnambule”

Poster about hypnosis showing a woman hypnotizing a doll“La Grande Somnambule” is an 1879 burlesque parade written and composed by L. Durbec. It is a humorous and satirical play that plays with the idea of clairvoyance and sleepwalking, presented in a theatrical and comic style.
The play is about a doll or little girl who is performed as a sleepwalker. The chorus invites the audience to come in and see the great sleepwalker who can reveal the past and the future. The first verse introduces Mademoiselle Maniack, the sleepwalker, who hails from Africa. She came to France from Africa via a telephone cord, according to the narrator.
The second verse promises that the sleepwalker can reveal both the past and the future without any preamble.
In the spoken part, the narrator pretends to magnetize the sleepwalker by putting a handkerchief on her and sending her fluids. He makes funny comments while “treating” her.
The third stanza describes how the sleepwalker will give answers while she is asleep. And In the spoken part, the narrator asks the sleepwalker questions about various objects and situations, and the sleepwalker, supposedly in her sleep, gives correct answers. It ends with a funny revelation that the biggest liars are the narrator and the sleepwalker himself.

Remarkably, elements are introduced to make some things plausible. For example, Mademoiselle Maniack, comes to France via the telephone cord from Africa. It is a phenomenon that has prevailed throughout the development of hypnosis. Along with the development of hypnosis, technological inventions are used in the story. But first, hypnosis and suggestion are themselves such scientific and technical novelties.
Author Jules Verne is known for using science and technology in his stories. In “Mathias Sandorf,” he presents hypnosis as a powerful tool. The character Dr. Antekirtt, an alias of Count Mathias Sandorf uses it to obtain crucial information from people involved in the betrayal and capture of Mathias Sandorf. Dr. Antekirtt also hypnotizes individuals to recall hidden or forgotten details that would not otherwise be available. This helps him uncover the true facts of the plot and formulate his revenge plan.

It was the time of the rise of hypnosis but also of steam engines. Every year, Dordrecht hosts “Dordt in Steam. During that event, you can nostalgically enjoy the historical and cultural value of steam technology. The Steam Festival brings the history of steam transportation and machinery to life with interactive exhibits, tours, rides on historic transportation vehicles and model-making shows.

Red circle as a hypnosis symbol
Part steam engine circa 1950. Own collection

Steam engines and hypnotism were also a combination. Sometimes that realization comes back for a moment: Catharine Kloens, hypnotherapist in Dordrecht writes on the occasion of “Dordt in steam. 𝐒𝐓𝐎𝐎MT𝐑𝐍𝐂𝐄: Focusing on the moving, rotating parts of a steam engine has a hypnotic effect. It can break your usual thought patterns. Get totally into it and forget everything around you for a moment, just like a good hypnosis session!
Until the 1950s, toy manufacturers such as Fleischmann and Wilesco made steam engines to which a tin movable hypnotic disc could be coupled.
Cartoon with Deer on which gun is pointed by childrenIn those years, not only the cold war and the arms race come upon the Netherlands. Hypnosis is also going fast. Especially from America, Ericksonian hypnotherapy is coming this way and with it countless things to educate children about it, One of the great propagandists is the Donald Duck. In “The Hypnotizer Gun” from 1952, the year the Dutch Donald Duck started is the first of many stories featuring hypnosis. In “The Hypnotizer Gun,” the nephews play with a harmless hypnotizer toy gun, but Donald Duck thinks it’s real. Of course, he is the only one gullible enough to give in to the device. ……. This is the kind of story that only Donald can convincingly portray. Mickey could never be “hypnotized” by such a simple device, and Goofy could be hypnotized too easily.
Automated spiral machineAlmost imperceptibly, steam was exchanged for electricity. The company Slimspul offers a kit for 15 euros with the text: ‘The world is at your feet with this machine. One minute looking into the spiral and you can make your victim do whatever you want. (in theory then)’
It is a text that hopefully will not fall into the hands of artificial intelligence because it is ready to replace these machines.Visualization of child with robot


  • No author listed New playbook for girls: entertaining and instructive amusements, games and tricks, for body and mind, both at home and out Ter Gunne, Deventer, 1874
  • Durbec L., La Grande Somnambule, 1879,
  • Keller, Gerard, Illustrated entertainment book for boys, G.J. Thieme, Arnhem, 1876
  • Overbeck, H., Javanese girls’ games and children’s songs, Java Institute, 1938
  • Verne, Jules, Mathias Sandorf Elsevier, Amsterdam 1917,
  • Wagner, Hermann ; New playbook for boys: entertaining and instructive amusements, games and tricks, for body and mind, both at home and outdoors, A.Ter Gunne, Deventer, 1872,

©2024, Johan Eland