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Magician Miller Zambrano Posada was taken into custody after 41 students went into a hypnotic trance after his show in Mocoa, Colombia. The Institución Educativa Ciudad high school’s “fun day,” complete with circus acts, clowns and the much awaited hypnotism act turned awry after several children went into a mass panic attack and had to be taken to the hospital. In what was supposed to be the highlight of the day, 590 high school students paid 700 pesos ($0.40) to witness a few of their class mates obey suggestions given by a hypnotist magician.

Twelve children were called to the stage, and then four were returned to their seats; the remaining eight were put into trance by Zambrano with hand movements, deep eye contact and a monotone voice. Zambrano made them lift their arms, walk in circles, cry like babies, laugh hysterically, bark like dogs and act like chickens. Students laughed and clapped at the end of the show and when Zambrano left the stage, the students were ushered back to their classrooms.

As the students returned, several developed bizarre symptoms. Police at the scene reported some of the students were crying, others dived into the ground for no reason, others hit their chest with their palms. One girl went as far as to scream that she was seeing the devil, and before too long a larger group had a mass panic attack. Strangely enough, only one of the 36 girls and 5 boys affected, had shared the stage with the hypnotist, who was put in police custody as parents, students and a few teachers accused him of witchcraft.

Doctor William Orlando Galarza, director of the José María Hernández hospital where the pupils were taken, said that to different degrees, all children presented symptoms of collective hypnosis. Most of the children have been released from hospital and only one had to be re-admitted. Mortified Zambrano, told police he has been doing this very act for many years in different places, and it is the first time something like this happened.

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