For the second year, Hypnotist and Mentalist Brian Imbus has brought his show to the Hamilton County Fair.
He demonstrated hypnosis at a show on Thursday afternoon. In one instance, he told hypnotized participants that they were at a game show. One participant was brought on stage and was told they would win one million dollars if they could tell Imbus their name.
However, under his hypnotic direction, the participant wasn't able to recall their name.
Brian Imbus, right, instructs several hypnotized participants to act like they are DJs spinning turntables at a show on Thursday afternoon at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds. Imbus is set to host several free shows today at 1 p.m., 3 p.m., and 5 p.m. at the Ed Prince Stage.
Imbus, who regularly tours in areas near his home in Dubuque, said he enjoys entertaining people. But, in his show, the laughs come from the people he's hypnotized.
"The great thing about the show is the fact that it's not about me. I get credit for it, which is nice, but without an audience I can't do a show. They're the entertainers. I'm essentially the orchestrator of everything," Imbus said.
Imbus first became interested in hypnosis as a sophomore in high school when a hypnotist performed at a school assembly. Imbus said he was very skeptical.
"I didn't believe in it," Imbus said. "I grew up as a magician, so I was always one to figure things out. I figured it was a trick."
At the performance, Imbus was seated next to one of his friends who shared his skepticism. As the hypnotist performed the induction and on-stage participants became hypnotized, his friend's eyes began to close and flutter. Then, he began to tip over.
"My friend from the audience, he was concentrating on the hypnotist on stage and he actually got hypnotized in the audience," Imbus said.
He tried to wake his friend up by poking him in the shoulder, but he fell out of his chair. Imbus said it caused a commotion and he wasn't sure what to do. He called the hypnotist down from stage.
"He snapped his fingers and he said some word, I can't remember what it was, and my friend's eyes popped wide open. He followed the hypnotist on stage, he re-hypnotized him and my friend was a rock star," Imbus said.
After the show, Imbus said his friend didn't remember anything from the performance and refused to believe he was hypnotized.
Imbus, however, found himself interested. He studied books, videos, and attended classes to become a certified hypnotist. His interest first manifested as a hobby. Imbus and other students at his school made his shows a weekly tradition during lunch time. When some of the students who saw his show were late to class, the school principal took notice.
However, the school's administration did not stop Imbus from performing. They invited him to host an assembly. It was his first paid performance as a junior in high school.
As his high school career neared its end, Imbus knew he wanted to be an entertainer. However, he said his parents still saw it as a hobby. They asked Imbus to come up with a more concrete career plan than heading to Hollywood to be discovered. So, he served in the Navy for four years. In the service, Imbus said he traveled the world and continued to hone his craft.
After leaving the Navy, Imbus attended the University of Northern Illinois and performed on weekends. Following college, he began performing between 60 and 75 events a year. He also found a job with CDW Corporation for one year.
"I was the junior salesman of the year and I quit two days later," Imbus said. "My manager tried to talk me out of it, but I said, 'My passion is in performing. If I put half the effort in selling myself as I am with this company, I think I'm going to do well.'"
Imbus has been performing full-time since 1999. He performs about 250 times each year. Imbus said he likes to keep his performances close to his home and family, but also hosts shows around the world.
The Hamilton County Fair marks the beginning of his fall tour. He plans to go to Okoboji this weekend and then begins a college tour in August. During his travels, Imbus said he's never bored.
"Every show, there's a few things that happen that make me laugh and entertain me," Imbus said. "That's another great aspect of this type of show."
Imbus will perform his free show on the Ed Prince Stage at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds today at 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. He invites those interested in learning more about hypnosis to visit his website, brianimbus.com, which has free lessons on how to use self-hypnosis in daily life.