The Ghost of Dave Dobson

The last time I saw Dave Dobson was in the nursing home in Friday Harbor located on his beloved San Juan Island.

Dave had retired to the San Juan Islands but I pulled him out of retirement to begin doing Fun Shops again.

He was one of the most amazing and incongruent teachers I ever met. Amazing because of the keen insights he had on human nature and helping people evolve. And incongruent because of his fear that someone was going to rip him off and steal his life’s work.

At times Dave would roar “Rip me off dammit. Just use my stuff.” And at other times, he would accuse people of stealing his teachings.

And after a lifetime of teaching, he made sure no one else would be able to do his work.

He left behind no writings other than a book I had transcribed for him as a birthday present.

His Fun Shops recordings aren’t very useful to people who can’t see the non-verbals Dave was using.

And the video recordings Dave hoarded will probably never see the light of day and even if they did – Dave forbade anyone from ever explaining his work.

That’s why 20 years from now, no one will have heard of Dave Dobson – one of the greatest hypnotists who ever lived.

On the other hand, there is a legacy of teachings of Milton Erickson.

Maybe some of the people teaching Ericksonian hypnosis got it wrong.

Maybe they are mis-teaching what Milton tried to give over.

But Milton spent a life time making sure his techniques and content got out there.

He cooperated with the researchers. Made abundant videos available.

Today, there are conferences all over the world teaching Ericksonian hypnosis.

Today, there are many excellent practitioners of Erickson’s techniques all around the world.

But there are no Dobsonian practitioners.

And I’m sure the Ghost of Dave Dobson is not happy.


  1. I’ve made the same argument against keeping secret recipes. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard about Grandma taking her recipes to the grave with her. Now no one gets to enjoy what she made.

    Other people, whenever they make Grannie’s lemon bars, they get to remember those good times in the kitchen with her.

    I guess sometimes you can take it with you. But why would you want to?

  2. Harlan,

    I could not agree with you more.

    It is sad indeed the way he left things. More so that one of the best minds in hypnosis has nothing in the way of a documented legacy for people to study. And in my opinion it is inexcusable. There is video footage of him and of course, the book you had transcribed for him. I guess when a person gets old, they just want to hang on for dear life to what they have. Let’s learn from this.

    One of the things I’m most sad about is that I was not able to study personally with Milton Erickson. I am glad to have been able to do so with Dave Dobson.

    I only hope he is occupied with all he loves, where ever he is now.

    The spoonerisms he told us when you and I were there still have me laughing uncontrollably.

  3. Kenrick, he’s probably telling some really raunchy jokes to break up patterns.

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