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Professor Alexander Erskine - A Hypnotist’s Case Book – Curing paralysis caused by trauma



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

A Hypnotist’s Case Book – Professor Alexander Erskine

They seemed to specialize in sailors up Newcastle way in those days, for on another occasion, when I was lecturing there before an audience of doctors, they brought me a test case which they thought would certainly be beyond me.

He was a young man about twenty-four, who had been paralysed about seven years before in a gun explosion on board ship.

He could scarcely move a muscle in his body, and certainly not one in his arms or legs. He could not speak.  He was, in fact, a perfectly inert mass ; more dead than alive ; incapable of doing a single thing for himself ; dependent on others for the slightest act.  He was a well-known "case" in the north of England.

The finest specialists of the day had done what they could for him ; every resource of science and medicine had been lavished on him without achieving the slightest sign of improvement.

In those days I was always ready to accept any test the medical profession cared to bring to me, for I knew that it was only by such means that I could convince them of the truth of my claims. To do many of the profession justice, they often warned me that failure in any particular case would not be counted as conclusive against me, for they considered that only by a miracle could I achieve any result in some of their test cases.

And in fact in some instances where I was successful, my very success did as much harm to my cause as failure, for they considered the case so hopeless, and against all reason, that they were unable to accept the evidence of their own eyes when they saw the cure, and looked upon it as a sort of magic accident which could not be repeated.

The present case of the paralysed sailor was one of those. I think he was personally known to every doctor in the room, and all had tried in vain to do something for him.

Now I have elsewhere explained that the most spectacular cases are, from my point of view, often the most simple. This case was one of them. The sole question was whether or not the man could go to sleep ; though I had little doubt that he would do so, for it is my almost invariable experience that the lower working classes are, along with the upper professional classes, the best patients.

The lower classes accept what you say without question: the professional classes, capable of concentration, are able to help you. It is the middle classes, with too many brains to accept what you say blindly and not enough to argue out the truth of your arguments and incapable of great concentration, who are the difficulty.

This man, then, who was wheeled up to the platform in his chair, was the perfect patient. Within a minute I had him in a deep sleep.

With the help of two doctors from the audience I then lifted him from the chair and laid him on his face on a number of pillows on the platform.

"Now," I said, speaking sharply to him, "you are on board ship. I am your commanding officer. You will obey me."

The man did not move a muscle. Someone in the audience laughed.

I continued: "We are going into action. Action has begun. Steady; we've been torpedoed. . . .We are sinking. Look out!"

A groan came from the man. Sweat was running down his face. He was suffering a mental agony.  Someone in the audience shouted out to me. I turned to the interrupter and silenced him. The man, I knew, was in no pain, but the position was beginning to live in his mind. He wanted to move and knew he couldn't, for I had not yet told him to do so.

I turned to him again: "Now, get ready. She’ll go down in a minute. We've got to jump.  Don't be afraid, I'll jump with you. We'll go together. I'll look after you. Now then.  Ready. Jump. . Swim. Swim for your life. ..swim.. .. Arms and legs. ... Swim. . . . Swim. . . ."

A great roar went up from the room as the man obeyed.  That sedate medical audience rose to its feet and cheered. With strong, steady strokes the man began. That he was lying on the pillows didn't seem to matter. His hands swept over the hard floor, grazing the skin off them as he swept them through his imaginary water. His legs went in unison. The muscles of his body came into play.

He breathed and snorted, turning his head this way and that. The pillows on which he had lain were swept away in his struggles, and still he "swam" on. I turned him over on his back and told him to "float", and he lay quiet, stretching his arms out straight from the shoulders and gently moving his hands.

I looked at his muscles. They were pitiably weak. Even the massage and electrical treatments he had had , had been unable to preserve their strength. But some of it was left. They had not entirely disappeared.

At last I let him rest. We put him back into his chair, and there he slept. After a time I spoke to him, telling him to forget all he had been through, and that when he woke up he would feel no pain, and would have the full use of all his muscles.

Then I awoke him.

He seemed rather surprised when he found he was just in the position in which he had been when he had dropped off to sleep, and, as he confessed after, thought he was still paralysed.

"Put up your arms," I said.

He hesitated.

"Come on, you can, you know."

Half-heartedly he tried. Then the truth dawned on him.

With a shout of joy he shot them out. He sat up and found his legs were his again.

In a moment he had bounded off his chair on to the platform, but he would have fallen had I not jumped forward to hold him ; not from weakness, but from sheer inability to balance himself.

It is strange how a grown man should have to learn to walk again ; but one has to do so after years of lying in bed.

They wheeled him away in the end, and that was the last I saw of him. But I knew that he was cured, and that the cure would remain.

I heard of him two or three years later when, by accident, I met one of the doctors who had been present on that afternoon.

The use of his limbs had never disappeared again.

A short course of physical exercises had restored the muscles. His dwarfed limbs had grown to their normal size, and the man had a job and was doing well.

The source of the experience

Erskine, Professor Alexander

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps