Christian Procida twerked in front of 125 people on Friday night of homecoming – and he doesn’t remember it at all.
He can thank comedic hypnotist Eric Mina for that.
Mina’s visit to campus left entranced students powerless against his goofy commands and audience members howling.
But he did not wake up one morning and decide to become a Hypnotist.
“I actually saw a mentalist come to my school first, and I started learning magic,” he said.
“A year later that guy came back and he said to me ‘You’d make a good Hypnotist’; and I saw a Hypnotist, and I thought ‘he was right.’ He was very, very right.’”
It wasn’t long before those who volunteered to be hypnotized Friday night were out like a light, slumping forward in their chairs with arms dangling beneath their heads. Participants were bathed in red and blue light, the chatter in room 1787 became quiet, and Mina started the main portion of the show.
Hypnotized individuals were thrown into different scenarios, established from Mina’s suggestions and the corresponding light. Red light illuminated the participants in scorching heat and caused participants to fan themselves feverishly. Then students huddled together as blue light saturated the stage, indicating sub-zero temperatures.
During the blue light portion, Mina – who is bald – was described by one hypnotee as resembling “Smurf Vin Diesel,” which made him howl.
Thirteen students initially took the stage, but those numbers would shift throughout the performance.
“You’ll sometimes see a student who isn’t truly under and they’re trying to go along. He (Eric) picks it up and sends them back to their seat,” said Matt Patry, director of Student Activities.
In fact, two students who snapped out of hypnosis during the performance were sent back to their seats, only to be replaced by two members of the audience who had been hypnotized where they sat.
“I was on the edge of my seat the entire performance,” said sophomore Elizabeth Boutin, “He is a natural entertainer. He is very good at keeping the audience intrigued. Eric belongs on the stage.”
Later in the performance, Mina remarked “I still can’t over the Vin Diesel” as he attempted to catch his breath from laughing. “Oh my word, I love you guys.”
The Campus Activities Board is in charge of choosing entertainment for students on campus. This choice, based on the audience reaction, was a great one.
“I encourage them to mix it up and not have the same person over and over again,
unless it’s somebody that the students really just gravitate to, that they truly love,” Patry said.
Like Eric Mina.
“He’s wonderful because he loves people, and he wants to interact with people,” Patry said. “Every entertainer when you have them here, part of their contract is that you have to feed them, and he always asks to have a student eat with him so that he can chat with them. Eric is one of the kindest entertainers out there.”
Mina trained with the National Guild of Hypnotists and became certified in hypnotherapy, training in subjects such as smoking, weight loss, and stress management. He then received a personal mentorship with comedy hypnotist Don Spencer, and later spent time perfecting his craft in Vegas with Marc Savard, also a comedic hypnotist.
Junior Matt Gay was in the audience and watched the crowd erupt into constant laughter.
“Seeing everyone having fun and laughing together really made it feel like we were a community,” he said.
Two days after the performance, seniors Toné Sawyer and Christian Procida, who were both hypnotized by Mina, sat down with a reporter and viewed footage of themselves.
Bracing his face in his hands, Sawyer watched himself on screen with a combined expression of horror, concern and disbelief.
“It seems fake even though I was there and I know it’s real,” he said. “I don’t even like watching myself when I’m not hypnotized.”
One of the first clips showed the group rising slowly from a slumped-over position as they prepared imaginary instruments.
“It’s like the army of the undead raising and getting ready to perform in an orchestra,” Sawyer said.
Another segment showed them flexing their glutes, prompting an “I don’t want to see this,” from Sawyer, who was sighing disappointedly.
Procida had seen minimal footage of himself since the performance, and was caught off guard watching replays.
“There were some things people were telling me, and I was like ‘no way, no way’” he said.
Procida peered through his hands as he watched himself take a deep breath on stage, and exhale invisible dust toward other participants, knocking them unconscious.
“That’s crazy. That’s crazy!” he said, shaking his head.
But there were moments Procida did not find “hilarious,” especially when he watched himself in disbelief as he performed like a cheerleader.
“I’m pretty sure I just did the YMCA,” he said, “I couldn’t imagine being in the crowd watching this.”
Just when he thought it was over, he was hit with an unexpected surprise.
Procida shielded part of his face as he hesitantly watched himself twerk on stage.
“That is probably a once-a-year thing, for sure” he said.
Sawyer and Procida also explained what it felt like to be hypnotized.
“It’s weird because you’re kind of aware of what’s going on, but at the same time you’re not. It’s so hard to explain,” Procida said.
“It’s different for everyone. For me, I was aware of everything that I was doing, I just couldn’t control what I was doing.” Sawyer said, “You have to be open minded. If you don’t think it’s going to work, you’re going to make it not work. You have to be willing to let it happen.”
Mina has performed at Castleton for several years in a row, and explained that 80 percent of his business is at colleges.
“I’m just happy to be back,” he said. “I love you guys. You’re so ripe and ready for the world.”