A traveling hypnotist came to Grand Forks in March of 1897 and mesmerized his audiences night after night in seven performances. The hypnotist, known as the “Great McEwen” or as “Professor McEwen,” had a wonderful stage show in which he entertained large audiences with startling feats of mind control and suggestion, all done with care and good humor towards the subjects who volunteered.
Professor McEwen’s performance was publicized in the Grand Forks Herald on this date, explaining how the hypnotist had been performing as a “mesmerist” across the nation for the past five years, and that he had recently been in Fargo for a week of performances, where he earned praise for his “amusement making powers.”
And McEwen lived up to the hype.
He induced two young men into a trance and had them imitate heavyweights in a boxing match with one foot fastened to the floor.
The hypnotist then put a strong young fellow into a deep trance, commanding him to become stiff and then placed him in a position where five men sat upon him like a park-bench. After awakening, the man said he felt fine.
Professor McEwen also hypnotized a dozen men and had them assume a rigid position. He then stacked them like cordwood, crisscross, in a human woodpile.
Another night, the hypnotist induced a willing subject to pantomime that he was fishing. The audience howled as the angler pretended to bait his hook, cast, and catch imaginary fish.
The Great McEwen gave the hypnotic suggestion to a “score” of young men and boys to play a baseball game on the stage, pitching, catching, and fielding an imaginary baseball. One participant attempted to steal a base and got so enthused that he slid clear over the edge of the stage – head-first into an audience that went “nearly wild,” because the “fun was so funny.”
McEwen also put a volunteer into a deep sleep one night, put him on display in a store window all the next day. He awakened him the following evening.
We do not know if Professor McEwen used the classic hypnotic inducement of “you are getting sleepy, sleepy.” But we do know, from old newspaper stories, that it was a “week of wonder,” when Mesmerist McEwen mystified, surprised and entranced his audiences in Grand Forks with his skill and showmanship.
Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, MSU Moorhead History Department.
Sources: “Amusements,” Grand Forks Daily Herald, March 4, 1897, p. 3.
“They Played Ball,” Grand Forks Daily Herald, March 11, 1897, p. 4.
“The Great M’Ewen,” Grand Forks Daily Herald, March 9, 1897, p. 4.
“A Week Of Wonder,” Grand Forks Daily Herald, March 14, 1897, p. 4.
“In The Field Of Psychology; The Phenomena of Hypnotism,” New York Times, November 5, 1893, p. 18.
“What Is Hypnotism,” Grand Forks Daily Herald, September 10, 1887, p. 2.