Jessie: Glad to be seeing the sun for the first time in days!
I had the pleasure of being on a panel with Tamara Berry a couple of years ago at The Poisoned Pen, in Scottsdale, AZ. She was funny and articulate and a total delight. I am so pleased to welcome her here to the Wickeds blog today!
But I Was Hypnotized! The Ultimate Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card
One of my favorite parts about writing cozy mysteries is pulling a story from real life…and then twisting the narrative to fit my own nefarious plans. As the title of my newest Eleanor Wilde Mystery Hypnosis Is for Hacks suggests, I dug deep into the world of hypnosis to help plot, pull off, and obscure a murder. Not only did I learn how to hypnotize someone—“you’re getting verrrrrry sleepy”—but I looked up the ways and means of using hypnosis as a means for getting away with murder.
As it turns out…you can’t. Not legally. Not in the modern age.
Everything we know about the science of hypnosis suggests that you can’t make anyone do something against their will, no matter how good of a hypnotist you are. You can lower inhibitions (much like drinking alcohol) and you can help people reach a state of mindfulness (similar to meditation), but you can’t actually force someone to get up and dance like a chicken, quit smoking…or murder an enemy in cold blood.
Yet, that’s exactly what happened in a famous case from 1895. According to newspaper reports, a Kansas man named Thomas McDonald shot and killed his neighbor, Thomas Patton, while under hypnosis. He was arrested and underwent a trial, but was later acquitted because he wasn’t in control of himself at the time. Instead, he claimed to be under hypnosis thanks to a third party, Anderson Gray, who orchestrated the whole thing from afar.
Naturally, there’s a lot more to this story than a dangling pocket watch and a man with shotgun. As it turns out, Gray was in a land contract dispute that Patton could bear witness to, so he needed Patton out of the way to win. What better way to do that than murder? Only instead of hiring a hitman or doing the deed himself, Gray convinced McDonald that Patton was sleeping with his beloved wife. This incentive, when added to a deep hypnotic state, was all McDonald needed to go and commit the murder for him. Fortunately, Gray was eventually convicted of planning the whole thing, so he couldn’t go around hypnotizing the enemies of his enemies as a means of getting his way for long.
These days, a defense of murder-by-hypnosis is much less likely to fly, so I don’t recommend following in McDonald’s footsteps. Of course, that didn’t stop me from using hypnosis in my own mystery tale. In Hypnosis is for Hacks, no one commits any actual crimes while deep under, but they do experience all that’s weird and wonderful about this tale.
Readers, aave you ever undergone hypnosis (whether for personal growth or entertainment)?
About the Book
Eleanor Wilde has traded a career as a sham medium for a (relatively) respectable life in a small English town, providing the locals with herbal remedies and elixirs. But on a trip to the seaside town of Brighton, her past comes calling–and so does a killer…
Though Eleanor is delighted that her brother, Liam, is visiting her in England, she must reluctantly agree that her quiet village lacks something when it comes to sightseeing–namely: sights. True, there’s nearby Castle Hartford, belonging to the family of Ellie’s boyfriend, Nicholas. But even Nicholas’s mother is eager to ditch sleepy, sweltering Sussex for a vacation in Brighton, taking Ellie and a relieved Liam with her. Yet hopes of a breezy seaside holiday quickly turn stormy, in every sense…
The ominous change in weather is accompanied by the reappearance of Ellie’s former partner-in-crime, Armand Lamont. Back when Ellie earned a living as a phony medium, Armand’s hypnosis skills helped the pair persuade many gullible marks to hand over their savings. Ellie assumes that Armand has resurfaced with blackmail in mind, but before she can figure out his angle, she and Liam witness a man being pushed from a boat by two shadowy figures who then vanish into midair.
Phantoms? Demons? Though Ellie doesn’t believe in either, the recovered body is real enough, as is a string of thefts plaguing their luxury hotel. Ellie has a theory, and it requires inviting Nicholas to join them under a fake identity. Their evolving relationship is as complex as this case, and Ellie’s authentic supernatural abilities too are developing in surprising ways. But as for whether the outcome will be good or bad, not even her witchy powers can say…
About the Author
Tamara Berry is the author of the Eleanor Wilde cozy mystery series and, as Lucy Gilmore, the Forever Home contemporary romance series. Also a freelance writer and editor, she has a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a serious penchant for Nancy Drew novels. She lives in Eastern Washington with her family and their menagerie.
Find her online at http://www.tamaraberry.com.