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"You are getting very sleepy..."

Across the University, students are getting that feeling in the pit of their stomachs that somehow brings to mind the final agonizing days of an adolescent Christmas season. And even though they've been in town for less than a week, first-year students have begun to speak his name in tones of wonder.

Indeed, he is coming.

His name is Tom DeLuca and since the 1980s his show has proven to be as much of a tradition at the University as streaking the Lawn or wearing a tie to football games.

Today, some of his most dedicated fans will begin staking out a space in the University's Amphitheater while others will start designing elaborate posters and signs in hopes that DeLuca will take notice and grant them a coveted seat on stage.

The hypnotism show, sponsored by the University Programs Council, likely will draw around 8,000 screaming students again this year and DeLuca said he could not be more excited for the show.

"U.Va. is the biggest show I do and I think in my heart of hearts it's my most exciting show," DeLuca said. He added that this year's show will incorporate seven or eight "new bits," including a routine involving fruit.

Today DeLuca is in Ohio doing a show at Bowling Green State University and tomorrow he will swing through Georgia before his show Friday night in the Ampitheater. By the end of this week DeLuca also will have appeared in North Carolina, South Carolina and Pennsylvania. The nationally recognized hypnotist, who does shows for not only colleges but corporate groups and television specials, will only have had three days off between April 17 and Sept. 30 of this year.

Is this for real?

But what really happens when students make it on stage? Each year students are left scratching their heads, wondering, "is this for real?"

John D. Boyd, a licensed clinical psychologist in Charlottesville, said the ability to be hypnotized is very real. Clinical hypnosis has been used in a medical setting for over 100 years by licensed professionals, said Boyd, who worked as a professor in the University's institute of clinical psychology for 14 years. Boyd sees 100 to 150 patients in Charlottesville each year and uses clinical hypnotism to help them tackle anything from smoking cessation to weight loss.

According to Boyd, most people are somewhat hypnotizable and 8 to 10 percent of the population has a high level of hypnotizability. Some people have such a high level that they can even undergo surgery using only hypno-anesthesia, he said.

But, for Boyd, entertainment hypnotists sometimes give the wrong impression of clinical hypnotists.

"You really can't force someone to do things against their will, if people really didn't want to bark like a dog they wouldn't," Boyd said. DeLuca "will select people with a desire for exhibitionism who are good for the act."

"The only concern I have with entertainment hypnotism is for people who might have been abused as a child," Boyd said. "If a hypnotist is not careful he could bring back that experience on stage and exacerbate the problem."

DeLuca said he is well trained in clinical hypnotism and that his acts do not use reversion techniques. DeLuca himself hypnotized over 3,000 people in a clinical setting while he was working toward earning his masters in psychology at the University of Illinois.

Getting on Stage

This year, some students have two ways of getting up on stage. While most students can only hope DeLuca will pluck them out of the crowd and make their dreams of hypnotism a reality, fourth-year students may land themselves a chair another way.

At the Class of 2003 pizza party, which will occur on the South Lawn beginning at 5:30 the evening of the show, fourth years may enter their name in a drawing that will be held for 10 seats on stage. Fourth-Year Class President Kemper Steele will announce the winners on stage at the beginning of the show. Steele, who admitted he was very excited for his last DeLuca show, said, "it will be an honor just to share the stage for a while with Tom DeLuca."

So what should the rest of the University do to convince Tom to pick them to join the show up on stage?

"I'm biased toward good signs," DeLuca said. "Good signs show imagination and the whole show is based on imagination."

DeLuca's manager Sara Schlossman, who said that DeLuca loves the creativity of his student audiences, recalled that last year one sign that caught the hypnotist's eye was a giant "DeLuca 3:16" sign held by one lucky University student.

On Friday, thousands of spectators will see just how far some students will go to get a coveted spot on stage.

"What wouldn't I do to get on stage with Tom DeLuca? Getting on stage would be like getting beads at Mardi Gras," said Katie Montgomery, fourth-year class vice-president.


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