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Wednesday, July 22, 1998 Published at 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK


'Losing willy was pleasant experience'

Paul McKenna performed the lost willy routine in the US

A man who was tricked into thinking he had "lost his willy" has written to lawyers representing Paul McKenna to assure the hypnotist he enjoyed the experience.

The letter was produced in the High Court while Mr McKenna was being cross-examined by Anthony Scrivener QC, who is representing Christopher Gates.

The £200,000 damages action against the hypnotist by Mr Gates follow claims he suffered psychiatric injury through being hypnotised at the Swan Theatre in High Wycombe in March 1994.

Mr McKenna denies negligence and contends Mr Gates's illness was not caused by being hypnotised.

'I found the experience interesting'

The letter, addressed "Dear British people", was sent by an American named Benji, who acted as a volunteer on a recent American TV chat show.

In his letter, Benji said: "I found the experience to be interesting and I was not distressed while hypnotised or when told my willy had gone.

"I know it appears I was distressed and upset, but I was not in any way. To say it was anything less than a pleasant experience would be wrong."

[ image: Christopher Gates claims he suffered psychiatric injury through being hypnotised]
Christopher Gates claims he suffered psychiatric injury through being hypnotised
On Tuesday, Mr Justice Toulson watched an hour-long video of the chat show, hosted by American star Howard Stern, featuring the "lost willy" routine, a woman under hypnosis believing she was having an orgasm and a man who thought he was pregnant.

Mr Scrivener told Mr McKenna on Wednesday: "Looking at that tape, it is obvious that the man who was told he had lost his penis is very distressed."

Mr McKenna said that was not true, as was clear from Benji's letter.

He said "The comedy is in the ludicrousness of his situation. He knows he hasn't really lost his willy, but at the same time he is behaving as though he has.

"He is merely acting a role."

Mr McKenna agreed with Mr Scrivener that the "lost willy" routine would probably be banned in the UK today under Home Office rules on stage hypnosis.

He said he was not paid for appearing on the Howard Stern show but did it to publicise his Broadway show.

The show, which he admitted was "tacky", was risqué by British standards but was not regarded as such in America.

The women volunteers who were told they were having an orgasm would not have been distressed - they were lap dancers and used to taking their clothes off in public.

'No signs of distress'

It was the second time the "pregnant" man had volunteered and he had enjoyed taking part, the court heard.

Mr McKenna said that, after the High Wycombe show he removed all hypnotic suggestions from Mr Gates and was satisfied he had come out of hypnosis.

Mr Gates had showed no signs of distress during the performance, in which he was asked to believe that he was, among other things, a ballet dancer, Mick Jagger, an interpreter for aliens from outer space, a Blind Date contestant, an orchestral conductor and a naughty schoolboy.

Mr Scrivener said: "The problem with stage hypnosis is that these acts may appear to be perfectly harmless, but you know nothing about the participants.

"If you were dealing with them in a hypnotherapy session, you would take their history and find out about things that would disturb them."

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