The state of Indiana launched a unique program to license lay hypnotists three years ago, and the feuding hasn't stopped since.
Allegations of greed, lies, favoritism and even satanism abound in the bitter battle surrounding the Indiana Hypnotist Committee and its work.
The committee finally began to certify hypnotists this summer. People presenting themselves as hypnotists without being certified are guilty of a crime punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Doctors, dentists, psychologists, police and entertainers are among those exempt from the hypnotism licensing requirements.
Members of the 49-year-old, 6,000-member National Guild of Hypnotists fear the Indiana Hypnotist Committee will unfairly apply the law to stop about 200 guild members from practicing in Indiana -- unless they take costly courses at a school owned by the wife of an Indiana Hypnotist Committee member or at a California school tied to a rival hypnotist organization.
That fear is not well-grounded, says the Indiana Hypnotist Committee's new administrative director, Matthew Hopper, who has gained some respect from people on both sides of the battle.
But currently, Indiana only recognizes one in-state hypnotism school.
That school, now known as the Indiana College of Hypnosis, initially was recommended by the Indiana Hypnotist Committee, and approved by the State Medical Licensing Board, early in 1999, when Jack Mason served as the committee's chairman.
Three months later, Mason's wife bought the school.
Mason played a key role in the five-year effort to pass the hypnotist licensing law.
"This is going to be a gold mine" for the Masons, predicted Scot Giles, a director of the National Guild of Hypnotists and a Unitarian minister who uses hypnotism to help ease the pain of cancer patients in Chicago.
Mason said he had nothing to do with his wife's decision to purchase the college. In fact, he said he advised her against buying it. He said she only did so because the school's former owner got sick and died -- a circumstance he attributed to members of the National Guild having harassed her.
Although it is administratively based in Mason's home town of Milford between South Bend and Fort Wayne, the Indiana College of Hypnosis holds classes in Indianapolis motels. It reported to the state having just one student in 1997-98, no students in 1998-99, and 20 students this year.
A student can qualify to become a certified hypnotherapist, without taking a state test, by completing 300 hours of course work at the college for $4,790.
Mason said it is not uncommon for only one professional school to exist in a state.
He declined to discuss the school's enrollment or his own background.
Lies and ethics
Mason was not reticent in expressing opinions about members of the National Guild of Hypnotists.
"They tell the awfulest lies, blatant lies," he said.
Giles, in turn, said it is Mason who tells lies.
"I'll tell you how ethical they are," said Mason. "It's against the law in New Hampshire to use hypnosis" except by licensed doctors and other health care professionals. The National Guild of Hypnotists is headquartered in New Hampshire.
Not true, said Giles, who faxed over this year's proclamation by New Hampshire's governor proclaiming Aug. 7-13 to be "National Guild of Hypnotists Week."
Mason declined to provide a citation of state law, but said his information came in part from Giles himself. Checks by The Times with various state agencies were not successful in unearthing any such rule in the state.
Mason accused the National Guild of Hypnotists members of having a darker side.
"They want devil worship, Satanism, satanic rituals and demon repossession. ... It's horrible what's going on," he alleged.
Nonsense, said Renee Fromm, a non-practicing Munster hypnotist and the named plaintiff in a class action lawsuit challenging parts of the hypnotism law.
"The guild doesn't have any demon stuff. ... It's very reputable. ... Its integrity is impeccable. ... For (Mason) to make these outrageous, left-handed accusations is just insane," said Fromm who was honored as "member of the year" of the National Guild of Hypnotists.
Going to court
Represented by the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, Fromm filed her lawsuit this summer.
She sought to force the Indiana Hypnotist Committee to administer tests so Indiana hypnotherapists can work even though they do not have the required hours of training at authorized schools.
The committee now has scheduled testing for late September.
Fromm's suit also challenges a newly adopted law prohibiting hypnotists from using, teaching, advocating or condoning satanism, spiritualism or demon depossession,
Upon learning of the statute, "I went ballistic because the last time I looked, there was a definite separation between church and state," Fromm said.
Mason said hypnotists still can advocate anything, just not while engaged in the practice of hypnotism or in advertising hypnotism.
"We do not think a hypnotist should be running around as a hypnotist doing exorcism," agreed Giles.
But he objected that Indiana's law is so broadly written that a hypnotist couldn't even encourage a dying cancer patient to pray.
"The state is regulating the spiritual lives of its citizens in Indiana, and that's screwy," he said.
Fromm said the hypnotist statute is unnecessary.
"We don't need this whole law," she said. "It's ridiculous and expensive and time-consuming."
Former Gov. Evan Bayh agreed when he vetoed the first hypnotism law to pass the legislature in 1996. Without concrete evidence of rogue hypnotists wrecking havoc, Bayh said the state should not embark on creating yet another government bureaucracy.
Dealing with the Indiana Hypnotist Committee has been particularly time-consuming for Highland hypnotist Michael Redell, who said the new law has forced him to suspend his business of helping people stop smoking, lose weight and deal with stress.
Redell spends days writing detailed complaints accusing the Indiana Hypnotist Committee of violating public records laws and accusing the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners, the National Guild's principal rival, of misleading advertising.
At times, Indiana Public Access
Anne O'Connor has found Redell to be in the right on the public records matters, through she questions his deeper suspicions of the Indiana Hypnotist Committee.
"I can't say they did everything well, but I don't know there's a conspiracy out there," O'Connor said. "I think a lot of things can be attributed to a lack of administrative planning."
Fear of favoritism
Redell, Giles and Fromm believe Mason and other members of the committee are firmly on the side of the American Council to the detriment of the National Guild.
Not so, say Mason and Valparaiso hypnotist Greg Frye, a member of the Indiana Hypnotist Committee who has studied under Mason.
"It's not the intent of the law to freeze anybody out," Frye said. "It's just to have people come who are qualified to practice."
Giles said the guild is hopeful that things may work out, but remains distrustful since the guild doesn't have even one representative on the Indiana Hypnotist Committee.
The guild, he said, was promised a representative in return for its support of the hypnosis licensing statute. Gov. Frank O'Bannon, Giles added, could easily solve the problem by replacing committee members whose terms are up.
Frye suggested people with the National Guild could start up a hypnotism school of their own, either in Indiana or another state.
George Baranowski, who has employed hypnotism to help police and lawyers refresh the recollections of victims, once had such a school in Michigan City. But he dropped it.
Baranowski said he felt the Indianapolis school was getting more favorable treatment.
"Oh, that's baloney," said Rebecca Carter, director of regulatory compliance for the Commission on Propriety Education, which is solely responsible for the approval of hypnotism schools.
Carter said Baranowski's school took a relatively long time to be approved because he was slow in returning paperwork, not because COPE had given special treatment to the school Mary Mason later purchased.
Redell feared the commission will be forced to rely on the Indiana Hypnotist Committee for standards to judge other schools by. But Carter said COPE will not do that, and that National Guild members are free to start hypnotism schools in Indiana.
But before using the word "hypno," the individuals who start such schools will have to be licensed in Indiana.
Only 17 individuals are now certified hypnotists by the state of Indiana.
Giles said he understands that only one of those people is also a certified member of the National Guild of Hypnotists.
Meanwhile, the Commission on Proprietary Education, which primarily licenses trade schools and specialty colleges, now has sole responsibility for approving hypnotism schools in Indiana.
COPE has only two hypnotist colleges on its approved list -- the Indiana school owned by Mason's wife and a Los Angeles associated with the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners, a rival organization to the National Guild.
Carter said COPE will recognize as valid the credentials of any out-of-state hypnotist school which has been approved by an equivalent agency. All states, she said, have such agencies which primarily regulate vocational schools and specialty colleges.
Because hypnotism schools are licensed in other states, "there are many schools out there that people can attend," Hopper said. "It's not narrowed down to a select few."
National Guild members hope that the laws will be applied to prove Hopper correct, but they still have doubts.
Meanwhile the friction among the competing groups of hypnotists is unlikely to vanish.
The way Carter puts it, the rivals are so locked in battle they could be in a trance.
"I've never seen anything so vicious as this," she said, "except for the dog grooming and modeling schools in the 1980s."
Carter attributed fights between those beauty schools to "vanity and ego" and passionately felt differences in the "perceptions of beauty."
She said the hypnotists fight carries the addition dimension of the licensing of a profession.