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Victims claim man hypnotized, sexually assaulted them

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Authorities have arrested a man suspected of sexually assaulting as many as 20 male college students by placing them under hypnosis, police said.

Clemson University police said they arrested John Calvin Holland, 33, Saturday and charged him with one count of third-degree sexual conduct in an alleged assault of a Clemson freshman March 31.

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He was later freed on a personal recognizance bond.

'Hypnotism is what the victim related to us,' campus police administrative officer Thea McCrary said of the Clemson assault. 'I'm thinking along the lines of mental incapacitation. He mentally coerced (the victim).'

McCrary said the 18-year-old student was in his dormitory room when the suspect knocked on the door and asked to use a student directory, saying he had an appointment with the student's roommate, who was not there.

The freshman said the man then offered to perform an experiment on him, promising that it would help him improve his grades, McCrary said.

The suspect, described by the student as 'mild-mannered,' used pressure on the student's neck and counting tricks to confuse the freshman and gain his confidence, McCrary said.

Although the student 'didn't realize what was going on' at the time he remembers the incident 'quite vividly,' McCrary said. The man is alleged to have sexually violated the student during the three hours he was in the dormitory room.

'It's not rape,' McCrary said. 'It is sexual assault.'

Since a story about the assault and a police sketch of the suspect appeared in the Clemson student newspaper, authorities have received calls from 19 other male students from Clemson, Furman University and Presbyterian College reporting they were sexually assaulted by the suspect using the same techniques, McCrary said.

Holland, a Laurens resident, lingered around Presbyterian College for several years in the late 1970s, according to Grey Mayson, chief of the school's Public Safety Department.

Mayson said Holland was active in area tennis tournaments and 'was a pretty good tennis player.'

'He was built like a tennis player, very athletic,' McCrary said.

Joe Nixon, Presbyterian dean of students, said Holland never attended the school but took part in several tennis activities on campus.

Mayson said he recalls two incidents at the school involving Holland.

In July 1979, Holland was asked to leave a tennis camp for high school boys being held on campus because he was not a student and had no involvement in the camp.

'We felt like he didn't belong there,' the security chief said.

In December 1980, Mayson said he arrested Holland for loitering after reports from a dormitory that 'there was a fellow doing some kind of hypnotism on the students.'

'Some of the boys at the time said he was talking some way-out religious things,' Mayson said.

Furman University officials have forwarded information about Holland to Clemson, said Shirley Dewitt of the Furman Public Safety Department.

Mayson said he has asked for recent pictures of Holland to distribute to his officers, but he did not believe Presbyterian would be taking legal action.

McCrary said the cases will be forwarded to 13th Circuit Solicitor Joe Watson.

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