So you say you want to be a better bowler, you want a larger bust, you want painless dentistry or that you just want some peace of mind.
Well, fall asleep and pay attention.
Barrie Konicov, a bald hypnotist from Michigan who calls himeself "disgustingly rich," and his Washington distributor, Dean Sos, claim they have the answer -- "hypnotic sleep tapes."
These are tapes that you listen to when you are asleep -- tapes that Konicov and Sos claim can change your life.
"Let it go. Let it go," coos they hypnotist in his silky little voice on the tape entitled "How to Attract Love." The tape advises you to mentally project all your quivering weakness and sense of worthlessness into one of your fists, hold it until the count of four, and throw it away. "Let it go. Because that's the only way I know that you'll find love and peace and happiness and rainbows in the sky. Let it go."
Claims that it's possible to learn while one sleeps -- "All you have to do is lie there and let your subconscious do the work" -- have been made all over the world since before World War II. Yet, leading experts in psychiatry and sleep research say these claims are mostly bosh.
"I am not aware of any convincing evidence that any significant learning can occur from listening to tapes while asleep," said Dr. J. Christian Gillin, a psychiatrist and the director of sleep laboratories at the National Institutes of Health.
Nevertheless, Konicov, 40, who lives on a 23-acre estate near Grand Rapids Mich., and whose company, Potentials Unlimited, reputedly sells more than 6,000 tapes a week, claims that 85 percent of his business is made up of repeat customers.
"Scientific proof is fine," Konicov said. "But on the other level it is more important to me that people get results."
In the past two years, Konicov, a former encyclopedia salesman and failed restaurateur, has recorded 122 45-minute tape cassettes on subjects ranging from "Thumb Sucking" to "Divorce" to "Getting the Raise You Deserve." He has about 100 mail order distributors around the country and has spent more than $200,000 this year advertising in publications ranging from the National Inquirer to Psychology Today.
The hypnotist, who graduated with a business degree from the University of Kentucky and who studied at the Ethical Hypnosis Training Center of South Orange, N.J., says his knowledge for the tapes comes from life itself.
"I'm incredibly awed at what's happening to me," said Konicov, referring to the profits from his company that have made him a millionaire. The man who in 1973 had his license to sell insurance revoked by the state of Michigan for unethical practices, including forging a signature on an insurance application, said his newfound success "is a beautiful thing to have happen to any individual."
Dean Sos, the Washington distributor of the tapes, says he's sold 660 of them by mail this year. Sos (pronounced sauce), a parts manager at a Northern Virginia Cadillac dealership, says he's being forced to turn the tapes business over to his son because it's become a full-time job.
Here and around the country, there appears to be no consensus among customers on whether the tapes are worth $9.98.
Susan Koon, 29, a budget analyst at the General Services Administration, says the tapes work for her. She bought the "Bust Enlargement" tape from Sos last year. She listened to it two or three times a day for more than a month, both when she was asleep and when awake. Now, she claims that her bustline has grown nearly 1 1/2 inches -- from 35 to 36 1/2.
"It is a shame, you know," Koon said in an interview this week. "My girl friend is an excellent photographer and we had meant to take 'before' pictures. Now it is too late."
A Fairfax County mother who bought the bust enlargement tape for her 14-year-old daughter has another view: "No, the tape doesn't work at all," she said.
"I would call it [the bust enlargement tape] nonsense," said Dr. David Fram, a Washington psychiatrist with an interest in sleep research. But Fram said it's possible that some of the other tapes, those instructing listeners how to relax or get to sleep, might be beneficial.
Dr. Preston Horstman, a former psychologist for the Prince George's County Police Department who now works with police in Seattle, argues that the tapes -- some of them at least -- are a "good product."
"I listened to one [a tape on good health] and it put me to sleep," said Horstman. "That's the worst thing that can happen from listening to this guy's voice. It's an inexpensive prescription for sleep."
Konicov, who says he has known he's had a gift for hypnosis since he was 11 years old, doesn't mind putting people to sleep. He's proud of it and his tapes says so. On the bust enlargement tape, the hypnotist says in his monotone purr:
"During the evening time, due to the tone of my voice and the nature of the time you've chosen to play the tape, no doubt you will find yourself drifting into a deep, restful, refreshing sleep before much of the tape has played through. This is high acceptable . . . ."
The hypnotist argues that sleep is a "receptive state" during which his voice "can feed in all the good stuff" on how his listeners can "upgrade the quality of their thinking."
Konicov claims his tapes can influence sleeping people so their breasts will grow, their financial condition will improve and their lost hair will grow back. Konicov says he didn't like being bald. "I look incredible bald," he says.
At the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Gillin advises those interested in buying Konicov's tape to request documentation that they work.
"People shouldn't be satisfield with patients who testify that they benefited. If people put time and money into this, they have the right to documented evidence that something will happen."