Lurid tales of the criminal use of hypnosis captured both popular and scholarly attention across Europe during the closing decades of the nineteenth century, culminating not only in the invention of fictional characters such as du Maurier's Svengali but also in heated debates between physicians over the possibilities of hypnotic crime and the application of hypnosis for forensic purposes. The scholarly literature and expert advice that emerged on this topic at the turn of the century highlighted the transnational nature of research into hypnosis and the struggle of physicians in a large number of countries to prise hypnotism from the hands of showmen and amateurs once and for all. Making use of the 1894 Czynski trial, in which a Baroness was putatively hypnotically seduced by a magnetic healer, this paper will examine the scientific, popular and forensic tensions that existed around hypnotism in the German context. Focusing, in particular, on the expert testimony about hypnosis and hypnotic crime during this case, the paper will show that, while such trials offered opportunities to criminalize and pathologize lay hypnosis, they did not always provide the ideal forum for settling scientific questions or disputes.
- © 2017 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society.