The Las Vegas Hypnotist

Photo courtesy of Kellie Karl

Kellie Karl doesn’t command people to quack like ducks or cluck like chickens. She doesn’t turn you into a zombie.

Up to 10 times per month, Karl travels around the world – or sometimes just down the Las Vegas Strip – to perform hypnosis on hundreds of people at shows in casinos, on cruises, and at special events, like after-proms or on MTV’s My Super Sweet 16. This year alone, she’s been on about 12 cruises.

As one of very few female hypnotists, Karl offers a behind-the-curtain look at her techniques, dealing with skeptics, and getting physical with volunteers.

Age: I never tell, but I’m not in my 20s.
Salary: Each job or show ranges from $500 to $5,000, so it depends on how many you book per year.
Status: Single
In the industry for: 11 years
Graduated from: University of New Orleans, degree in business
Previous jobs: Can-can dancer in New Orleans; owner of production company; professional dancer; choreographer; singer
Job description in one sentence: I encourage people to focus on their own relaxation, for therapeutic or entertainment purposes. Hypnosis is a deep state of relaxation.

How she got the job: I moved to Las Vegas to be a singer. One of the girls in a show that I was in had a part-time job as a hypnotist’s assistant at the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Vegas. She asked me to audition to take her place, so I did, and I got the job. I stayed there almost 10 years.

Where she performs now: Cruises, casinos, special events, clubs, and fairs. One of my first shows was at a party featured on MTV’s My Super Sweet 16. That was fun – I asked the crowd for volunteers, and 250 hands went up.

Typical crowd size: Around 1,000 people; the largest crowd I’ve worked with has been 5,000 people. I usually hypnotize about 30 people per show on stage, and many times people in the audience go under hypnosis as well.

Best parts of the job: The back-and-forth energy with the audience; the ability to capture people’s minds and have them trust you; the combination of work and travel.

Hardest part of the job: A lot of people think it’s fake – that I ask people to come and act in the shows. I find myself constantly having to answer questions like, “You’re not going to make me cluck like a chicken, are you?” No, I’m not.

How do you convince them it’s legitimate? If someone is determined not to believe me, they won’t. Unless you’ve experienced [hypnosis] or think it can be real, it won’t be real for you. Most people have an unrealistic sense that hypnosis is getting turned into a zombie.

Kellie Karl hypnotizing a group of participants on stage.

Can skeptics get hypnotized? You have to be willing – otherwise, it won’t work. You need to relax and set aside your conscious mind so your subconscious can receive the suggestion offered by the hypnotist or hypnotherapist.

What’s something people don’t realize about your job? There are tons of everyday forms of hypnosis: watching TV and losing track of time, driving long distances and accidentally passing your exit, reading a book and not remembering what you just read.

Funniest reaction from a participant on stage? I told one young man that it was his job to be a policeman and keep the audience from laughing. He got so upset by two women who wouldn’t stop laughing that he went off the stage, arrested them, and brought them back up on stage. He told me, “I can’t make it stop! I have to arrest some people!”

Most embarrassing moment during a show? Once, I told a volunteer that he was to have a huge crush on me, but every time I turned away, he would think I had a hideous backside. I’d done this skit hundreds of times. But this time, when I turned my back to him, the man – who was about 6’5” – came lunging at me, and I didn’t know what to do. I had to say, “your feet are now stuck to the ground!” But for those two seconds, it was like, Oh, my God.

How often do you perform? I usually do between four and 10 shows per month. I’ve been on about 12 cruise ships this year, and sometimes, I only have a few days between cruises – so I’m often gone about half the year.

Have you ever been hypnotized? Hundreds of times, for therapy, training, and experimenting with new induction techniques. Sometimes I fly across the world to do shows, and listen to self-hypnosis CDs on those 15-hour plane rides. But I’ve really been hypnotized too many times to count, since we go in and out of hypnosis all the time.

Any personal trademarks of your shows? I sing and dance, and encourage participants to dance with me. Being female is also sort of a niche thing – very few female hypnotists perform regularly today.

One thing you would change about yourself? Something that I am unable to change via hypnosis? My height. A few inches taller would be nice.

1. When you’re first getting started, call up practicing hypnotists in your area and introduce yourself. Most will be more than happy to talk with you and offer suggestions. Offer to treat them to coffee and get to know them.

2. Train with a national organization, such as the National Guild of Hypnotists, Inc., and find mentors that inspire you. Your teachers should not only teach you the words to say, but also give you a background in what you’re actually doing. It’s your responsibility to know what the mind of the individual is receiving.

3. Form networks with other hypnotists to whom you can consult and pose questions. Use blogs and chatrooms like The Hypnotists Convention and to find locals who are practicing in your area.

Have you ever tried hypnosis or hypnotherapy? Do you believe it really works? Comment below!

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