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Former Policeman and Actor Turns Hypnotherapist

Author: Ellyn Pak

Date Published:
Publisher: The Orange County Register

Bill Engle, 64, of La Habra has always wanted to help people.

Brea, California - It'll look a little weird, but the pain will go away, he says. Bill Engle always explains his methods, though they might sound a little wacky. He says so himself.

His clients trust him, for the most part. That's why they hold up their fists and let him tap them and hum the first line of "Happy Birthday to You." They let him make his way into their subconscious and help them dull the pain in their joints or control the itch to light up a cigarette.

Gary Silverman, a 43 year old truck driver, arrives to see Engle about several issues, including the persistent pain in his neck and knee. He towers over the hypnotist who does a milder version of The Three Stooges' "nyuk nyuks" between his eyes and on his temple, upper lip, chest, fist and fingers.

Silverman's eyelids flutter when Engle tells him to imagine that helium balloons are lifting his hand and there's a magnet on his forehead. Silverman's right hand slowly lifts and stays pinned to his head. Stretched out on a leather chair, Silverman falls into slumber faster than Engle can say, "I completely and thoroughly accept myself."

Silverman says later that his pain is gone.

Engle says that's all he's wanted to do - as an actor, a cop, a business executive and a traffic-school teacher - to help people.

Engle, 64, of La Habra grew up in Hawthorne, a talented kid who acted in community theater and wrote a play that landed on PBS.

At 19, Engle moved his wife and daughter to Buena Park, where he pursued a master's degree in theater arts and communication at Cal State Fullerton. To support his family, he also worked nights as a police officer.

"I was still scared of the dark and never seen real violence," he says. "I had never touched a gun."

As a young police officer, Engle delivered a baby, responded to an accident in which a 6 year old boy shot a 4 year old in the head, and found a man mutilated by a train near Knott's Berry Farm. He also taught law enforcement at Cypress College for a few years.By age 24, he had four daughters and had worked his way up at the force.

After a five year stint, a starry eyed Engle left police work for show business. He landed small parts in movies, including the 1972 film "1776" and the 1974 flick "Big Bad Momma." His career took a detour when he took a job as a strategic planner, doing distribution, procurement, logistics and supply management for several companies.

At about the same time, a trip to a bookstore triggered his fascination with a method of healing called hypnotherapy. Inspired by a book on the topic, he tried hypnosis on a friend and two of his daughters. His friend didn't budge when he yelled in her ear and tried to bend her arm. With a suggestion that she act like a puppy, his daughter leaped on the couch and nuzzled his leg.

"That was amazing because you read about it, but you don't know it's going to work," he says.

In 1985, Engle headed back to Hollywood, where he first managed distribution of products like makeup and lumber for 20th Century Fox. He then managed procurement and security.

But his 12 year career there was not glamorous. He worked long hours to shape up departments, handled multimillion dollar budgets and managed hundreds of employees. His devotion took a toll on his health, his weight shrinking to 135 pounds on his 5-foot-8 frame.

"That industry is like a street fight every day," he says. "I've always been, 'Let's see if I can kill myself doing all these things.'"

Engle managed his stress by retreating into his office and hypnotizing himself for 15 minutes. He says it felt as if he had slept for six hours.

On top of those responsibilities, Engle took a job teaching traffic violator school in Orange County in 1992.

In 1997, he left Fox to do something to keep himself sane and help others.

Engle was certified by the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in Tarzana in 2000.

"What inspired me was the ability to help people," he says. "To me, I almost feel like I'm helping people more now than when I was a cop. It has always been in my blood to teach and help."

Engle also continues to teach traffic school to nearly 8,000 students a year. He keeps more than 100 traffic violators awake during night and weekend classes by interspersing humor in the lesson plan.

Often, Engle is a human punching bag for those who complain about their tickets. One guy is miffed that he got a citation for tossing cherry pits out of his car window.

Engle plans to take his comedy to the stage in the fall. He's preparing a comedic hypnosis show. He's found his niche helping people like Carlos and Claudia Flores, a Stanton couple.

Carlos Flores, 37, suffers from stress related irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and made many trips to the doctor. Now he wants to try an alternative and asks Engle to help.

"I said, 'If I'm going to do this, I have to go in there accepting and being open to what he tells me,' " Flores says. "I went in there accepting it with a little bit of skepticism." After a few sessions earlier in the year, Flores says his stress level is under control.

His wife, who also underwent hypnosis because she was unable to get pregnant, is now expecting.

"Life is really wonderful and we can always improve ourselves," Engle says. "We never have to settle for where we are. Each and every job that I've had I became fulfilled and moved on. You can be fulfilled in many ways in this life."

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