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By The Notorious Doctor Zoom Zoom   


      Falsely credited with creating hypnotism (he didn't, actually). He was a quack doctor who promoted the belief magnets could induce healing powers, called "animal magnetism"...the forerunner of quack magnetic healing practices of today. Mesmer believed in astrology, and thought the planets moved about in an ether, which caused tides. Disease was caused by blockage of these tides. Mesmer thought magnets were magic (as do superstitions people today) and could cure these “astral blockages”.

    Mesmer was somewhat of a gold digger, and married an older woman who had been one of his patients, and moved into her palace outside of Vienna. There he set up shop. He took special interest in some patients whom he allowed to live in his estate so he could heal them...all of them pretty young women, oddly enough. He also began to neglect his elderly wife about this time, focusing all his attention on his "special" patients.

     Local authorities became suspicious of Mesmer, because his treatments involved massaging the thighs and breasts of his young female patients while they wore only a loose smock.. Maria Paradies, a blind 16 y.o. girl live-in patient that Mesmer claimed he was curing, was examined by a real Doctor and discovered to be in fact still blind. However, not wanting to miss out on the really neat “treatments” he was giving her, she refused to leave when her parents tried to retrieve her.  Eventually the police intervened, and Mesmer left Vienna for France to avoid being arrested.

     Mesmer set up shop in Paris, and became a big hit. Patients would swoon and shudder during some of Mesmer’s dramatic magnet treatments, and the phenomenon soon was called "Mesmerism".  Mesmer’s healing sessions were theatrical, not therapeutic. The healing sessions often dealt with men and women sitting next to each other in a darkened room pressing their hands against the inner thighs of the person next to them. It’s certainly not hard to imagine ulterior motives for people participating in the “healing” rituals!
     A cocky Mesmer approached King Louis the XVI of France for an endowment of 250,000 francs. The King agreed, but only if Mesmer would allow his methods to be examined by a committee first (French Physicians had been requesting the King do this for some time).  Furious at the King’s requirements, Mesmer refused and left France, knowing he’d be exposed as a fake under such an examination. Rich clients of  Mesmer’s began to pledge money to him, and soon the totals reached 350,000 Francs, much more than he initially asked the King for, in the first place. Mesmer returned to France, and now it was the King’s turn to be furious. The King ordered a commission to investigate Mesmer, who was now compelled to comply.

     In 1784 by the French Academy of Sciences, including  the company of U.S. ambassador Benjamin Franklin, drew the conclusion that Mesmer’s miraculous “cures” were merely due to suggestion (or probably due to what Psychologists would now call “the Placebo Effect”).  A Physician pretending to be ill went to Mesmer who treated him. The Physician later revealed Mesmer could not correctly diagnose illness with magnets as he claimed. About this same time, news of the Maria Paradise incident surfaced in Paris, and he became a laughing stock. Mesmer lost his fortune after being exposed as a fraud, subsequently planned a comeback in Vienna, but was turned away at the border by authorities. He lived out a modest retirement, never achieving his previous success.

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