Tired? Stressed out? Need a vacation, but haven't got the time? Or, perhaps you're concerned about the dangers of air travel or political unrest. Or frustrated by your need for a vacation from your vacation, because it's never really relaxing enough. Well, in 1990, German anesthesiologist, Dr. Joseph Schlafer (a.k.a. Joey Skaggs), had a remedy -- Comacocoon.
In the Fall of 1990, Dr. Schlafer, German for sleeper, sent out 1,500 letters with an accompanying brochure and questionnaire. The letter was written in such a way as to appear to have been sent to the general public as part of a market research project. In actuality, it was sent only to the media.
The letter offered the world's first comprehensive dream vacation package. Its purpose being to combat the ever increasing risk involved in traveling away from home, as well as the negative effects of tourism on native environments.
Utilizing the revolutionary and totally safe pioneering BioImpression(tm) computer system, the company would, at its New York City facility, provide a state of total suspended animation and intensive, concentrated regeneration through anesthesiology and subliminal programming. The company guaranteed complete relaxation while the client's imagination was guided to their destination of choice. Clients could simultaneously quit smoking, lose weight, learn to speak a foreign language, and go home with a tan.
The brochure, which sported a photo of an anesthetized client on a gurney under palm trees by the beach, offered information on the trademarked BioImpression computer system and offered options such as behavior modification, environmental cleansing, nutritional rejuvenation, skin care, and fitness and body toning.
Vacation packages included the Sleeping Beauty (weekend special), Gulliver's Travels (the week-long version), and the Rip Van Winkle (2 full weeks of bliss). One could choose from an inventory of journeys including, the Magical Mystery Tour (where one could be a rock star on a sellout concert tour), the Thrill Seeker (to ride the rapids of a selected adventure), the Don Juan (for the lady's man), the Mata Hari (for the woman seeking romance and adventure), the Time Traveler (a Jules Verne fantasy) and the Stop-the-Clock (no frills, no extras, just deep penetrating rest). The Honeymoon Tour was particularly enticing. Both parties could have the honeymoon of their dreams, all the while believing their partner was having an equally good time.
The accompanying market research questionnaire, which was to assist the company in better servicing its clients, asked multiple choice questions such as:
Q: How has the news media affected your concerns for personal safety and environmental issues? Answers: Has made me less concerned. Has had no effect on my feelings. Has made me more concerned.
Q: Where do you feel least safe? Answers: Major metropolitan city. Foreign country. In an airplane. In a car. On a boat.
Q: On your next vacation, where would you like to go? Answers: A tropical island. A foreign country. Outer space. Back in time. Forward in time. Other.
Q: While on vacation would you like to: Answers: Have a total absence of mental stimulation. Learn a foreign language. Read the classics. Lose weight. Have cosmetic surgery. Undergo behavior modification such as quitting smoking.
Q: On your next vacation, would you like an imaginary romantic encounter? Answers: No. Yes, with a member of the opposite sex. Yes, with more than one person. Other.
The office was manned by actors fielding calls from journalists pretending to be clients wanting to visit the facility. Requests for appointments were politely deflected for several months due to the supposed overbooking of the facility. All phone conversations were recorded and logged and the ensuing press coverage was collected. When Dr. Schlafer refused to be interviewed by The Globe (a national supermarket tabloid), the paper instigated an investigation by alerting pertinent New York City authorities and the police. The Globe said they believed the facility might be a front for the sale of hallucinogenic drugs.
The first raid was by gold shield-bearing detectives from the New York Office of Professional Discipline, who had spent days trying to locate the Comacocoon office. In fact they had raided the wrong premise due to a telephone company error in the address listing for the auxiliary phone. After listening to compelling evidence for over an hour, the police not only believed Skaggs' story, but offered him a job teaching detectives how to detect scams. It was they who told him about The Globe's allegations.
The hoax continued, only to be interrupted a second time by a subpoena by the Department of Consumer Affairs (headed by Mark Green who, coincidentally, had been the subject of another Skaggs hoax, Bodyguard to the Stars, four years earlier) alleging 17 charges. Dr. Schlafer, was asked to provide answers to questions such as the names of all drugs used to facilitate sleep-dream cycles and dates of FDA approval of such drugs as safe; documentation relating to the infusion systems and supporting the claims that such therapies have been approved and thoroughly tested as safe and effective; and documentation of any and all benefits derived from the computer directed BioImpression System.
Skaggs, accompanied by an attorney, several actors and journalists cheerfully answered the subpoena and revealed that Comacocoon was a hoax -- much to the chagrin of the Department of Consumer Affairs.
Skaggs, when interviewed by The New York Times said, "As Joey Skaggs, I can't call a press conference to talk about how the media has been turned into a government propaganda machine, manipulating us into believing we've got to go to war in the Middle East. But as a media jammer, I can go into these issues in the process of revealing a hoax. Comacocoon had nothing really to do with dream vacations. It was about mind control. I'm making a statement about how easy it is for governments and big business to pull the wool over our eyes."