After students went to their principal for special “hypnosis” sessions, horrified families began finding dead bodies, leading police to make a shockingly sinister connection.
While the mind is a powerfully resilient institution, it can also be incredibly vulnerable to outside influence. This is why the science of psychology is better left to professionals who understand the monumental risks involved in delving into the psyche.
Unfortunately, the lack of reverence for such a delicate issue led to a horrific chain of events.
At Florida’s North Port High School, principal George Kenney thought he was helping his students when they came to him for unlicensed “therapy” sessions. Hoping to quell their anxiety over upcoming tests AND SPORTING EVENTS, Kenney agreed to hypnotize three students using unconventional methods. Disturbingly, the results of Kenney’s makeshift counseling appointments culminated the most sinister of outcomes.
According to the Daily Mail, Wesley McKinley, 16, Brittany Palumbo, 17, and Marcus Freeman, 16, all died in a series of back-to-back suicides after George Kenney had given hypnotized them during illegal therapy sessions. Although the correlation may not have constituted causation in this case, the attorney representing the families maintains that Kenney “altered” the students’ perception “and they all ended up dead because of it.”
Damian Mallard, the attorney representing the families, added, “It’s something they will never get over. It’s probably the worst loss that can happen to a parent is to lose a child, especially needlessly because you had someone who decided to perform medical services on kids without a license. He altered the underdeveloped brains of teenagers, and they all ended up dead because of it.”
Freeman, a quarterback for the school’s football team, was the first to die after undergoing one of Kenney’s therapy sessions. The teen’s girlfriend testified that, while driving home from a dental appointment, Freeman appeared to be in a state of hypnosis before a strange look came over his face and he veered off the interstate. Although the girlfriend survived her injuries, Freeman later died.
Only a month later, McKinley hanged himself in an apparent yet unexpected suicide. The teen’s friend Thomas Lyle told authorities that McKinley had gone to principal George Kenney for hypnosis at least three separate times to help him with his guitar audition for Julliard. Perhaps the most disturbing detail is that McKinley’s friends confirmed that he wouldn’t know his name or who they were immediately following the sessions.
“I would say that he was in a distant phase. He wasn’t all there mentally, it seemed like, after the sessions,” Lyle said, according to a deposition.
The next month, Palumbo committed suicide by hanging herself in her closet after a strange meeting with Kenney. Her parents accused Kenney of diagnosing her with anxiety and recommending that she undergo hypnosis to help improve her SAT scores. When Palumbo’s scores didn’t get better, she grew depressed over her college options and eventually killed herself.
However, not everyone was critical of Kenney’s hypnosis abilities. Former student Eric Williams, who was the first person to undergo the principal’s therapy, told Good Morning America that his SAT scores “went up 500 points after the hypnosis.”
Kenney reportedly learned his hypnosis techniques at the Omni Hypnosis Training Center in Deland, Florida. He later published several audiobooks purporting to help overcome anxiety and improve physical skills.
The families were finally awarded $200,000 each in a lawsuit settlement with the Sarasota County School Board. The board’s attorney explained that the district was simply “happy to put this behind them.” The parents added that the lawsuit wasn’t about the money but about ensuring that nothing like this horrific series of events ever occurs at the school again.