It’s the biggest roller coaster they’ve ever seen. They settle into their seats, and with a lurch, the ride commences..

  As they crawl into the clouds on the first rickety, nosebleed-high ascent, they wonder if they’re ever going to reach the top of the mammoth hill. The relentless, ratchety cranking of the chain dragging them to the crest might as well be heavy bells tolling their doom; is that the quiver of anticipation in their stomachs, or altitude sickness?

  Finally, they reach the summit. The coaster pauses for a moment – just long enough for a flurry of fleeting prayers and a tighter grip on the restraints…

  And then . . . they plummet into nothing.

   The girl in front throws her arms straight up in the air and a wild whoop of exhalation tears from her throat. The girl behind her, eyes peeled as wide as moon pies, opens her mouth and screams and screams and screams one piercing terror after another, and the guy in back grips the seat and screws up his face like he’s working real hard on a bathroom champion. The only things keeping them from hurling straight off into the wild blue beyond are the people splayed across their laps, acting as safety restraints.

   Mark Hamilton, a.k.a. HAMILTON “The Magical Hypnotist”, stands on stage in front of them, choreographing the chaos. With a wave of his hand, he directs every loop and twist, and after a few minutes he brings their “virtual roller coaster” to a gentle stop. The riders, all hypnotized and reacting through their minds’ eyes to Hamilton’s suggestions, rearrange their seats at Bellis Fair’s Elephant and Castle Restaurant and await further magical instruction from his imagination.

It all started in Disneyland when I was eight years old,” Hamilton said for his love of stage entertainment. “I went into a magic shop on Main Street. A guy was performing with some of the stuff they had for sale. I was enthralled. I kept telling my dad, “I wanna do that! I wanna do that!”

“It all started at Disneyland when I was 8 years old”

   “He bought me some tools and tricks, and I began doing magic,” he said as he poured herbal tea from a rose-flowered china teapot and his assistant, Jill Johnson, offered the latest batch of warm chocolate chip cookies from the oven. The wood-burning stove in the corner of the cozy A-frame they share spreads warmth and a homey glow over the room, making the chil winter damp outside seem like a distant dream. Hamilton continued . . .

   “The hypnosis came a little later, when I was 14 or 15. I was conducting some experiments with my friend Bobby and his girlfriend, Cindy. We were practicing the Ganzfeld effect, using Ping-Pong ball halves over the eyes, with a red light shining on them so all you see is a red glow, and a headset tuned to radio static which creates ‘white noise’ ,” he explained. “I hooked them up to a biofeedback machine and played mind games with them during this procedure,”

  Cindy’s mind produced distinct constructions of imagination on the biofeedback monitor. She had gotten hypnotized by the white noise,” Hamilton said. “That’s when I converted to using hypnosis as a tool for self-development and self-discovery.”

“I wanted to add hypnosis to my act, but I wanted to be responsible about it”

Hamilton, who is licensed and registered as a counselor and hypnotherapist, has been putting on magic shows for about 32 years. A native of southern California, he moved to Arizona at age 22, where he began a formal study of hypnotherapy – combining hypnosis and psychotherapy to combat smoking, weight problems, and other health and self-esteem issues – and went pro with his magic act in 1986.

   I wanted to add hypnosis to my act, but I wanted to be responsible about it” and receive the proper training for practicing it, he explained.

   In 1988, he began using hypnotism in his stage performances after passing the Arizona Society of Professional Clinical Hypnosis’ Board Certification Test and completing the Institute of Medical Hypnosis advanced courses on Medical Hypnotherapy.