It was 1991, and Toni Natalie was smoking again. She had thought that she had kicked the habit, but when her brother fell ill, she found herself spending all of her time at the hospital. “It was stressful,” she says. “You know how it is.” When his girlfriend offered her a cigarette, she took it.
But she wanted to quit. So when Keith Raniere, who claims to be in the 1989 Guiness Book of World Records for “highest IQ,” offered to help her, she thought, “Great! The world’s smartest man wants to help me quit smoking?” Raniere told her that they would need to go to a quiet place, where he could talk to her.
“So we go into his office, and I remember him asking me questions like, ‘What makes you nervous?’ and ‘What relaxes you?’ Talking to me; touching my knuckles, using that as trigger points [for hypnosis]. And I came out of the room, and my husband says to me, ‘Geez, what were you doing in there all that time?’ And I was like, ‘What do you mean all that time?’ ” She felt as though she had been alone with Raniere for 15 minutes. Her husband informed her that, no, she had been gone for almost two hours and 45 minutes.
“I guess some people are more susceptible to this stuff than others,” she says. “I was the prime candidate. And that was the beginning of the end.”