The power of belief 

Preston is good, clean fun, limited only by the imaginations of the participants

WHAT: Shannon Preston’s World of Hypnosis

WHERE: Buffalo Bill’s

WHEN: May 2 & 3

Hypnotists have proven to be a locals’ favourite in Whistler and this week’s performance at Buffalo Bill’s promises to be another crowd pleaser – and more!

This show is just a little different, as the star is a woman. Although there are many women in the hypnotherapy field, Vancouver’s Shannon Preston is just one of three female hypnotists on the Canadian entertainment stage.

"I was always intrigued by the concept of hypnosis, but I didn’t necessarily believe in it,’ says Preston. "I had seen a few hypnotists and it didn’t work on me, so that only convinced me that it was fake and I wanted to find out more about it…

"Once I did get hypnotized, that was it. I was hooked. Now it’s 12 years later and I’m still going."

Preston became fascinated by what she thought was one person’s power over so many strangers. This, she discovered, was not the case at all. Preston says hypnosis is more about communication and co-operation. Starting her studies in the late ’80s, there weren’t many formal schools teaching the art of hypnosis. Instead, Preston set out to experience the mystery hands on. Along the way, she met a stage hypnotist who would become her mentor, co-performer and husband. Tragically, he passed away after suffering a heart attack during a performance.

"We were married for 10 years and worked together on creating this show. It’s important for me to keep that going."

Preston has been performing solo for about two years now and is showing that she has enough spark to carry the show on her own. A self-proclaimed "glitter bug" with a penchant for anything show biz, Preston’s flair and natural ability keep the houses packed.

"I try to create a safe environment. When they come to the show, I don’t want people to be apprehensive about what’s going to happen to them. I don’t turn anyone into exotic dancers, or bring out their deep dark sexual secrets. All your skeletons remain in the closet," she laughs. "If I see someone who has those exhibitionist tendencies, I might make them into Madonna and give them a microphone and a boa, but it would be a dead mic. I wouldn’t make them sing or do anything they would regret."

Preston points out she can’t hypnotize someone who isn’t willing and certainly can’t make them do anything they wouldn’t do under normal circumstances. By reassuring her audience she isn’t out to make them look foolish, she finds more participants fall genuinely under her powers of suggestion.

"My favourite intermission is to have everyone in the audience appear to be a celebrity in the minds of the hypnotized. It becomes very interactive for the audience too. Some of us bear a small resemblance to someone famous, and those features can be accentuated when someone is in a hypnotic state, much like you would see them if you were sleepwalking or dreaming. And because they believe they’re meeting someone famous, it’s also a really fun experience for those who are hypnotized."

Being of the fairer sex may also help explain Preston’s near perfect hypnotic success rate of 98 per cent.

"It’s kind of interesting that in emergency situations, like an evacuation in a building, it’s most often a woman’s voice doing the countdown or giving instructions. Psychologically it’s more soothing, nurturing and instils a sense of safety subconsciously that wouldn’t be derived from a male voice."

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