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The Girl in the Lion Cage: Regulating Hypnotism in Nineteenth Century France

November 26, 2019 by

NLM History of Medicine In 1890 in the southern French town of Beziers, a ” carnival hypnotizer ” put a sleeping young girl, one “ Miss Sperling, ” in a lion ’ s cage, in an effort to demonstrate how profound – and authentic – her hypnotic trance was. The awe of the assembled crowd soon turned to horror, however, as the lion seized “ Miss Sperling ” in its jaws, parading her around the cage. The victim was eventually extracted and taken to the hospital but soon died from the injuries she sustained. This incident was just one of a number of stories circulating in the French press in the late nineteenth century that vividly demonstrated the dangers of the popular hypnotism shows that captivated audiences across the European continent. Doctors seized on such episodes to argu...

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