Thief Hypnotizes Checkout Staff

The BBC reports that police in Italy are searching for a thief who hypnotizes checkout staff and orders them to hand over money.

In every case, the last thing staff reportedly remember is the thief leaning over and saying: "Look into my eyes", before finding the till empty... A female bank clerk reportedly handed over nearly 800 euros (£630)...
Italian police believe the suspect could be of Indian or North African extraction.

The BBC has a video of the thief in action. It's interesting, because he pulls off his heist in full view of other customers, who are apparently oblivious about what's going on.

This is not a new method of robbery. Back in Oct. 2007 I posted about a thief in New Hampshire who was said to be using hypnosis to rob convenience stores. In that case, the thief was also Indian, which is significant because the art of hypno-robbery seems to have originated in India.

It sounds like a method of robbery that's too good to be true, but I think it is real (i.e. the store clerks aren't secretly in collusion with the criminal. They really do unwittingly hand money over to him). But I don't think the criminal is actually hypnotizing the clerks. They don't go into a trance. Instead, the method takes advantage of a psychological trick -- that if you catch people off guard, they'll often do whatever you tell them to. The British magician Derren Brown demonstrates the principle in a number of his videos. I think you need a combination of a very self-assured thief who projects an air of authority and a highly suggestible victim to get this to work.

Law/Police/Crime Psychology

Posted on Sun Mar 23, 2008


There was a TV special (I dunno if it was a series or just the one episode) about a guy who would stop someone on the street & ask for the time. Then he would ask for their watch...wallet, keys...bottled water. They handed it all over to them & then he thanked them & they parted. The camera crew kept their view of the "victim" and about 45 seconds down the street they would stop. Turn around...and look really confused. Then the "thief" would go back to them & say he had hypnotized them into giving up their things. I thought it was just a weird pre-arraged hoax. The people always seemed really shocked & surprised that they just handed everything over. I guess the reason I thought it was so weird was that there were a few onlookers who seemed surprised by someone handing stuff over to another...but for all they knew it was a friend handing over car keys to a borrowed car or something. Nothing about it ever seemed specifically "fiendish" enough to grab why was it getting attention from them???
Posted by Maegan  on  Mon Mar 24, 2008  at  09:44 AM
Jedi Mind Trick....."You wish to give me all the money in the register."

"I wish to give you all the money in the register."

Posted by Josh  on  Mon Mar 24, 2008  at  06:17 PM
Arrest Derren Brown! (not for this, just cos he's an annoying git)
Posted by Nona  on  Tue Mar 25, 2008  at  07:05 AM
20 years ago when I was working on a locked inpatient psychiatric unit, I was unlocking the door for a doctor, when a patient who was restricted to the unit came up, smiled and said, "Excuse me please." I held open the door for him, he went through, and a fraction of a second later I realized my mistake! Did I feel like an idiot. The patient was found and he teased me about this from then on.
Posted by Nancy  on  Tue Mar 25, 2008  at  04:10 PM
It's not hard to SEND any kind of subliminal messages thru common exchanges of conversation, but for ME, it's always been about YOUR level of ability to be distracted, but the best bang for the MONEY has got to be cleavage. Makes me drool and drop things, NOW that I think of it.
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Tue Mar 25, 2008  at  08:24 PM
And you think it's genuine, do you, Alex? I see...time for your rest now.
Posted by Mr Henderson  on  Thu Mar 27, 2008  at  03:03 PM
Yup I wonder how they can hypnotized us with their eyes? In my place, the crime often use this way to robber someone. How we can avoid what they do (hypnotize us)??
Posted by Little Wings  on  Mon Oct 20, 2008  at  01:34 AM
I understand what you're saying about catching someone off guard, and in Ericksonian Hypnosis this is called a pattern interrupt. It does actually cause trance because it bypasses the "critical faculty" of the mind and allows messages to be passed directly to the unconscious. There is a famous induction called the handshake interrupt that can be used to hypnotize a person. He may be using a variation of this. We cant' really be sure what this guy is doing, but I believe it is real also. There are great YouTube videos of Derren Brown, as you mentioned.
Posted by Chris on Self Hypnosis  on  Wed Dec 10, 2008  at  09:37 AM
When I was in college, there was a crime committed in town. It was reported that the car involved resembled mine. The Dean of Men, who was a crack hypnotist called me to his office to ask me about it. About two minutes into the conversation, I found my self getting dizzy and I had tunnel vision. I also felt the room spinning. I starred at the floor and concentrated hard and it went away. He tried to get me to admit to the crime which I had nothing to do with. I am convinced this day that he tried to hypnotize and have me confess. Several days later, the perpetrator was arrested. Shortly there after the Dean apologized to me. The whole thing was weird
Posted by Jefferson Ogden  on  Thu May 13, 2010  at  09:22 AM
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