APPARENTLY there are three types of people who cannot be hypnotised - alcoholics, the mentally insane and the simple-minded.

So it was with some trepidation that Lifestyle's Catherine Lawler arrived at the house of a local hypnotist all ready to go under'

PAST life regression is always an interesting dinner party subject, as almost everyone has an opinion on who they used to be'.

Here at the Lifestyle office, we were a real famous bunch of people, with everyone from Vivien Leigh and Cleopatra to Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and various legendary footballers.

However, hypnotist Alan Bates, from Port Sunlight, says that in actual fact, out of all the people regressed' by him, there's never been anyone famous.

"If you go back in time, most people were poor and leading a very simple life," he said. "The people who've been regressed have been either very poor or very unhappy. There was one guy who discovered he'd worked on a farm in Kent about 100 years ago and had died of consumption.

"Many of us have experienced the near reality of a memory, indelibly imprinted on our minds, as we conjure up almost forgotten images from some important event in our lives. So it is with the regressed subjects. Back they go, beyond the first memories of childhood, deeper and deeper they travel passing the point of birth, conception and on into the mysteries of their previous life."

While in the regressed trance-like state, people can recall details that can then be recorded and subsequently checked. Some have been known to speak a foreign language fluently, even though they have no knowledge of it in their current lives.

"Such specifics as dates of birth, addresses, details of family and everyday life can be examined," explained Alan.

"Should these prove, as many do, to be verifiable, then surely this is proof that even the most hardened sceptic must accept.

"Past-life regression offers an insight into the true nature of our own soul's eternal existence."

Alan is not just known for past-life regression, but also his popular comedy hypnosis' shows, which have been performed throughout the world.

He has also worked closely with TV psychic medium Derek Acorah.

"A special bond of friendship developed between Derek and I when we were working together," said Alan.

"We're both hyperactive with a zest for life and had loads in common.

"Derek would ring me and say Alan - another ghost-busting job has cropped up, do you want to come? I was there in a flash; I was now mentally strong enough to handle possible paranormal activity. We successfully exorcised several homes and business premises and toured together for two years.

"But our paths then went in very different directions and sadly, our friendship ended."

A member of the Federation of Ethical Stage Hypnotists, Alan prides himself on the respectability' of his show.

"I always respect the wishes of the people I hypnotise and they can stop taking part whenever they want," he said.

"You also will not do anything against your own personal moral values, which is why I look for volunteers that don't have any!"

He emphasises that there is no trickery involved in his power of the mind' stage shows and he hasn't a clue who is going to be up on stage beforehand.

Alan was just seven years old, when he had a strange, inexplicable feeling that he was going to be different from everyone else, but it wasn't until he was much older that he was first introduced to hypnosis from an illusionist who had a cabaret act on a cruise ship.

He has since performed in Cyprus, Malta, Switzerland, Africa, Egypt, Singapore, the Middle East and America. But the highlight of his overseas tour was an invitation to perform for the Brunei Royal Family, for Princess Hamada's 15th birthday.

"It felt like a dream to be on my way to Brunei to perform a hypnosis show for the richest family in the world.

"I was not allowed to hypnotise any member of the Royal Family and I did struggle at first getting some willing volunteers, but I ended up with three people hypnotised. To my standards, this was a poor show. The Royal Family didn't have a clue what it was all about, but I pulled it off and everyone was happy."

Alan began to tell me about his former house in Bebington, which was, he described "full of other inhabitants that were not paying their rent". But time was pressing and I'm not keen on ghosts, so we adjourned to his studio to see if I could be hypnotised.

I put on some headphones, where I could hear Alan's soothing voice over some calming music. About 10 minutes later, I began to feel very relaxed and quite sleepy, but I didn't completely go into a trance as it were, even though I have a relatively open mind to the whole concept. This may have had something to do with the image of Kenny Craig, the hypnotist from Little Britain, who entered my head giving me the strong urge to laugh, which hindered my ability to relax and concentrate.

I did, however, come away from the experience feeling completely energised and in a very positive state of mind.

But what now? As I wasn't hypnotised, does this mean I'm definitely an alcoholic or perhaps insane?

Alan assured me that no, this was not the case, and perhaps the fact that I was there for work purposes might have hindered the situation or that my mind was simply too active.

"Those who fall asleep easily are good volunteers," said Alan.

"A lot of the time I get people who come up on stage, pretend to be hypnotised and then make faces behind my back, but I can suss them out.

"I'm looking for certain traits such as Rapid Eye Movement. Hypnosis is when you're not awake, but you're not asleep either."

What does he think about those people who suggest there is something evil or sinister about his ability?

"People have mixed feelings about it," explained Alan. "I've practised it for so long that if I thought for a minute that what I was doing was wrong or bad, I wouldn't be doing it. It is well-known that hypnosis is a science and part of psychology; it has nothing to do with a special power'."

Alan is a also a hypnotherapist and can help people give up smoking, adopt a healthier attitude towards food or tackle phobias such as a fear of flying or spiders.

Alan admits that it is a mix of both skill and training that's got him where he is today.

"You can train to become a hypnotist, but whether you could pull it off on stage in front of 1,000 paying customers is another thing," he said.

"I still really love my work and I feel sorry for those people who wake up in the morning and think I've got to go to work today.' I wake up with a feeling in my stomach which is whooaa'."

Alan has written a book Hypnotic Star', which he dedicates to his two children.

"I suppose I wanted to leave something behind," he said. "What do any of us know about our great, great grandfather, for example? The answer is absolutely nothing for most of us. I wanted to leave something for my kids' kids to remember me."

Alan Bates is currently on tour with leading medium, Shaun Dennis, with their show Psychic Extravaganza: The Life After Death Experience'. They will be appearing at Wallasey Town Hall on Wednesday October 4 and Neston Civic Hall on Thursday October 5 at 8pm. For further details, call 0151 281 5539.