Overview of Forensic Hypnosis

By Genviev, September 12, 2018

When law enforcement officials need witnesses or victims to relay information from a crime scene, their memories are not always as helpful as they would like them to be.

According to Senior Special Agent John Kilnapp of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, hypnosis may be the only way to recover the details of a traumatic event crime victims blocked out of their mind. Kilnapp uses forensic hypnosis to help victims’ recall. It is estimated that most people only use in average 3 to 5% of the potential of their mental abilities on a day-to-day basis. Hypnosis is the most powerful tool available to help us access more of the potential of our minds. By helping witnesses and victims tap into more of the potential of their minds, we have the possibility to enhance their recall, thereby providing law enforcement officials with vital information and leads. When conducted properly, forensic hypnosis can be an important element in the preparation and outcome of a trial.

The use of forensic hypnosis in criminal justice and law enforcement discovery dates back to 1845 when it was used to solve a burglary case. The same year, Dr. James Esdaile successfully began performing surgical procedures using hypnosis as anesthesia, rendering his patients analgesic and rapidly gaining worldwide reputation for his painless surgeries. Even though forensic hypnosis is a crime-fighting tool that is often kept secret, it has been used in a number of high-profile cases including the criminal prosecutions of Ted Bundy, Dr. Sam Sheppard, the Boston Strangler and New York City’s Mad Bomber. In 1976, the use of forensic hypnosis gained national recognition when a school bus driver and 26 students, aged 5 to 14, were kidnapped and buried alive. The driver escaped and was able, under hypnosis, to remember the license plate number of the abductors’ white van.

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