3 Kids Die Mysteriously After Principal Hypnotizes Them & Parents Deserve An Apology

george kenneyIn a story that's as sad as it is incredibly strange, a Florida high school board will pay out $200,000 each to the families of three students who died after being hypnotized by former principal George Kenney. Wesley McKinley, 16, killed himself the same day he was hypnotized in 2011; Brittany Palumbo, 17, committed suicide five months after being hypnotized; and Marcus Freeman, 16, died in a car crash the same year he was taught self-hypnosis by Kenney.

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Why did being hypnotized lead to the deaths of these teenagers -- and why was their school principal hypnotizing them in the first place? Unfortunately, even after all this time we still have more questions than answers, but here's what we do know: 

Kenney reportedly hypnotized over 70 students, faculty, and staff over the span of five years, though he didn't have a state license and was given at least three warnings to stop. Kenney, who was a member of multiple hypnotists' groups and trained at a hypnosis center in Florida, says he hypnotized the students to help them improve both their academic and athletic performance. All of that sounds legit enough, but he pleaded no contest to practicing therapeutic hypnosis without a license and resigned in June 2012. According to a 134-page independent investigative report released by the school board in 2011, Kenney admitted using "poor judgment several times."

"I'm not saying I used great judgment all the time here," he said.

Well, obviously not. But what exactly went wrong? Why would a hypnosis session meant to help a kid do better in school drive that kid to kill himself? Making the whole thing even more bizarre is the fact that it seems as if Kenney was pretty serious about his hobby, even selling hypnosis albums on Amazon, as seen in this video from when the case first broke:


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In a deposition, McKinley's friend Thomas Lyle said that McKinley went to Kenney to be hypnotized at least three times because he wanted help preparing for his guitar audition for the Julliard School of the Arts. But following the sessions, McKinley displayed some very odd behavior, Lyle also said: Sometimes he would get on the school bus and not know his name, or ask who his friends were. And on the day he died, he asked Lyle to punch him in the face.

Freeman's girlfriend, who was in the car with Freeman at the time of the crash that took his life, said he "got a strange look on his face" while driving home from a painful dentist's office visit and then veered off the road. Freeman learned self-hypnosis from Kenney to help him deal with pain during football games and improve his concentration. (Palumbo was hypnotized to help with her SAT scores.)

More from The Stir: High School Principal Deserves to Lose His Job for Texting Student 3,000 Times 

Damian Mallard, an attorney representing the families of McKinley, Palumbo, and Freeman, claims that Kenney "altered the underdeveloped brains of teenagers, and they all ended up dead because of it." And it seems as if that is indeed the case, but how? And why didn't the rest of the people Kenney hypnotized suffer any ill effects (as far as we know)? 

It's mysterious enough to qualify as the plot for an episode of The X-Files, and I'm not sure we'll ever know what truly happened here. Clearly there's a lot we don't know about how hypnosis works, and there's a lot we don't know about how the teenage brain works, either. Let's just hope that Kenney (who served a year of probation) has given up hypnosis for good, and that the families of these teens are able to find some peace. 


Image via abcnews.go.com

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