Hypnotist Thief in Italy

Okay, this is weird:

Police in Italy have issued footage of a man who is suspected of hypnotising supermarket checkout staff to hand over money from their cash registers.

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.

Posted on March 26, 2008 at 10:30 AM • 46 Comments

Comments

QMarch 26, 2008 10:52 AM

If only people were that easily duped into a hypnotic state in an openly public setting. I smell a rat....or a conspiracy.

Nick LancasterMarch 26, 2008 11:01 AM

No induction (the usual patter that accompanies hypnosis)? This sounds like comic-book hypnosis - the villain uses their mind-controlling powers on the hapless civilian. And the Jedi Mind Trick only works on weak-minded fools.

Nobody noticed a customer talking to a teller in this manner, or the teller emptying their drawer?

I doubt this very much.

Jamie McCarthyMarch 26, 2008 11:15 AM

My guess is that this was a series of inside jobs, with hypnotism being the cover.

I would have thought it was too silly to work, but I've read about this in several places and apparently nobody else is thinking "inside job," so maybe the thieves really did throw the authorities off the scent with this silly cover story.

I hope the tellers negotiated the lion's share of the take, because they're the ones who are easy to find once it dawns on the cops what went down.

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?...

D0RMarch 26, 2008 11:18 AM

I live in Italy and I've already heard this story. A few years ago a shop's owner gave a man several banknotes after the man allegedly hypnotized him by repeating the sentence "give me... give me... give me...".
I am curious to know whether this is a hoax or not.

D0RMarch 26, 2008 11:28 AM

An inside job would most likely fake an usual robbery. They wouldn't have chosen hypnotism as a cover because it is so weird and unbelievable that authorities would suspect an inside job.
Of course this could be what they want us to think, so it could be as well an inside job ;-)

movealongMarch 26, 2008 11:51 AM

He didn't ask the tellers to forget that he was there? Every real hypnotist thief knows that's rule number 2.

Matthew SkalaMarch 26, 2008 12:10 PM

There are a lot of people on the Net who want to make money by selling high-priced "how to hypnotize people" e-books - more often with the implicit application being rape instead of robbery, but the usual advertised claim is that the reader can use the techniques to get anything they want, from anyone they encounter. If I were in the business of selling those e-books, then I would want to make sure that stories like this one got a lot of distribution.

LeoMarch 26, 2008 12:35 PM

There was an interesting show on television here in the U.S. this past fall but I can't remember the name of the show or the network. It was about a British man who was able to get people to do very strange things just with words and body language. Sometimes he explained it and sometimes he didn't but he always insisted that it was nothing supernatural, just simple psychology and other techniques. On one show he was able to purchase things with blank pieces of paper, although he did show some times when it failed. He also was able to get people to give him their wallets while asking for change. It wasn't hypnosis but it was bizarre and rather frightening to see how easily people could be tricked. I wonder if this is the same sort of thing with the thief simply giving it the pretense of hypnosis.

MircoMarch 26, 2008 12:42 PM

I live in Italy and this story is not unusual.
It is reported on the newspaper sometimes.
I don't think this is an hoax, simply someone is able to confound the victim (this usually happen to a single person), and often they work with another person.

This last episode was recorded from the security cam, so it is difficult to think this is an "inside job".

My explanation is that the people at the cash is not the smarter and they have a job very repetitive. So they are more susceptible to be distracted or confused when they go on "autopilot".

Trimble EpicMarch 26, 2008 12:47 PM

Is it conceivable that the thief's request for them to look into his eye was a way to coax them close enough for him to spray them with some sort of drug?

ax0nMarch 26, 2008 12:50 PM

Rapid induction hypnosis only works on a small percentage of highly-susceptible people, but it can work. I can't view the footage (it wants windows media player and/or Real Player which my computer doesn't have and I'm glad) but hypnosis is real and for certain people it can be a state that is freakishly easy to manifest.

If the hypnotic induction fails to work, the would-be thief can simply comment on the intended victim's beautiful eyes and go on his merry way.

I'm not sold that it's real, but I'm not quick to call it a hoax, either.

xd0sMarch 26, 2008 1:25 PM

I'd bet on them being trivked or duped, then when faced with the aftermath and repercussions, they had to choose between "I'm stupid" and "He hypnotized me" as their defense.

Determining the truth is an exercise left to the reader. :)

a nonny mouseMarch 26, 2008 1:39 PM

Reminds me Kreskin. This was a guy who did a stage show of mind control tricks pulled on audience members.

GweihirMarch 26, 2008 1:50 PM

I agree that this looks very much like collusion between cashier and "hypnotist". Hypnosis has some prooven capabilities, like allowing people to tolerate pain at the dentist's (personally I can do that pretty well without, but fortunately have not needed to for quite some time), but it is not an immediate knockout tool, as, for instance, GHB.

ciotjkvdi3w9dMarch 26, 2008 3:18 PM

Don't be so quick to dismiss this as a hoax. I've heard of at least two similar incidents.

In one incident that happened many years ago, a businessman allegedly was hypnotized into writing a check to a stranger, who visited him to solicit "donations". The alleged victim had no memory of ever writing the check. Reportedly, the victim had lit a cigarette but had no recollection of ever smoking it. The next thing he remembered was noticing that the cigarette had burnt all the way to the filter, suggesting that a certain amount of time had passed, although he had no memory of what had happened.

Another incident happened to someone I know. As the story was related to me, two strangers approached the victim in a public place and started a seemingly innocent conversation. The victim felt strangely compelled to comply with the verbal commands of the stranger as if under a spell, although no weapons or threats were used to effect the coercion. The victim was instructed to withdraw all money from the victim's account and hand it over to the perps, who gave the victim a ride to the bank. The victim reported understanding the situation but was strangely unable to disobey the instructions given, even when talking to the bank teller alone in the absence of the perps. The victim is embarrassed to talk about the experience. People close to the victim but who have not heard the story directly pretend not to have heard about it, to spare the feeling of the victim.

I have no reason to doubt the veracity of this story.

mattMarch 26, 2008 3:38 PM

Maybe they used scopolamine? It's a drug that makes you totally pliant, without free will, yet still conscious, and conveniently wipes your memory after a while. Deliverable to the victim as a whiff of powder.

Problem is, the fatal dosage is very very small.

Just a guess.

Timmy303March 26, 2008 3:41 PM

Hypnosis is BS. It does not and can not happen the way the individuals in this story claim it did. The cashiers were obviously in collusion with the thieves, and hypnosis, as it is difficult to disprove, was used as the cover story. That there were "similar incidents" doesn't lend credence to the story, it merely suggests that other thieves use the same cover story with their inside confidantes.

And "look deep into my eyes"? Give me a break.

Some of you need to go back to the first Cryptogram ever and re-read all of them, because you are still WAY too credulous.

Nick LancasterMarch 26, 2008 5:48 PM

Credulous? Not with remarks like "Comic-book hypnosis" and "Jedi Mind Trick".

I'm seeing more people trying to figure out how this would be possible, debunking ideas like previous encounters and administering substances like scopolamine. (I'm actually checking with an acquaintance who is a bit more familiar with hypnosis.)

But to me, it sounds like a story that occurred back in the 70's, IIRC - a government employee was caught shoplifting and related a tale of an unidentified Asian woman blowing some kind of perfume or dust in her face that smelled like jasmine, and then ... oh, dear, how did those stolen items wind up in my purse?

Here, fishy fishy fishy ...

Ian WoollardMarch 26, 2008 6:44 PM

Normally hypnotism won't make the hypnotised subject do anything that they really don't want to.

So I'm thinking it's an inside job.

There is some wiggle room though; particularly if the hypnotist had met the cashier before he could have inserted a pre-hypnotic suggestion and built trust, and then later got the cashier to hand him the money, (which he would do because he trusted him) and then the hypnotist could abuse the trust by leaving. But in most cases the hypnotised subject would wake up at that point and give chase.

ciotjkvdi3w9dMarch 26, 2008 7:21 PM

Ian Woollard: "Normally hypnotism won't make the hypnotised subject do anything that they really don't want to."

Don't count on it. Even if that purported "fact" is true, a hypnotist can still make the subject follow his directions by re-framing the setting to make the subject believe that they are not doing anything inappropriate under the circumstances.

LouisMarch 26, 2008 7:50 PM

Here's another one for the fans of epic storytelling, lost classics of late 70`s

A canadian movie (NFB) depicts a plot to induce people to consumerism through the household electronic device called Televison

The Bronswik Affair

ref.
http://www.nfb.ca/collection/films/fiche/?...

One interesting sequence I remember is a man standing at a bus stop with a pile of tires he just bought.

MattMarch 26, 2008 9:01 PM

Leo posted above about a British TV show with a hypnotist. The hypnotist is called Derren Brown and you can see some of his work on YouTube, just search for Derren Brown.

The following link shows him buying stuff with blank pieces of paper: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Vz_YTNLn6w

It could of course be a set up but he is a well known in the UK for doing this stuff.

Milton E.March 27, 2008 5:24 AM

"When NLP is outlawed, only outlaws will have NLP."

It's not like typical "NLP" hypnosis at all. Much faster, for starters.

" Even if that purported "fact" is true, a hypnotist can still make the subject follow his directions by re-framing the setting to make the subject believe that they are not doing anything inappropriate under the circumstances."

1) It's true, numerous studies confirmed that. So, as you said, hypnosis is much like social engineering in regard to inducing people to do something illicit, - perpetuator creates a situation where what she suggests _seems_ to be legit. something like "Yes, it's end of your shift and I'm your manager"... Only you can't do anything so complex quickly...

Paul RenaultMarch 27, 2008 5:51 AM

I actually took a college course in hypnosis, some time ago, so here's my considered, informed opinion of this story: Bull feathers!

Unless, of course,the thief used one of those little disks with radiating black and white lines, as advertized in the back of comics books...

claudioMarch 27, 2008 6:51 AM

This kind of stories is very common in Italy since long time. It was reported to usually happen to money changers, which have a lot of cash, and need to compute how much money to give for the money they get. It happened to a colleague of a friend of mine, some years ago: she didn't tell that she was hypnotized, she told that somebody started "speaking slowly and strangely" and she was then convinced to give him the money he was asking for, in exchange of very little money. This is usually summarized as "being hypnotized", so maybe she was just confounded as much as needed to accept the wrong exchange rate. In that case it wasn't an "inside job", since she had to refund the shop for the money she lost. Note also that no "physical" tricks with money were used.

SejanusMarch 27, 2008 7:59 AM

Lets cut this hypnosis bullshit using the right cutting tool: Occams razor.

AnonymousMarch 27, 2008 11:31 AM

Ask Frank Abagnale how ease it was to sweet-talk certain tellers. Maybe it wasn't really hypnotism this Italian theif was using, but old con tricks of distraction, etc.

claudioMarch 31, 2008 6:11 AM

News: the thief has been arrested, he used some of the stolen phone cards for his cell phone. Maybe now we will now something interesting and "real".

JJApril 1, 2008 2:45 AM

ciotjkvdi3w9d wrote at March 26, 2008 03:18 PM:
[snip]
The next thing he remembered was noticing that the cigarette had burnt all the way to the filter, suggesting that a certain amount of time had passed, although he had no memory of what had happened.
[/snip]

That sounds like some of the stories involving extra-terrestials.

LesyeuxdeserpentApril 24, 2008 10:50 PM

Although involuntarily hypnosis is obviously impossible, this case shows how unbelievably easy it is to fool people into believing any rubbish they hear! If it were that easy to hypnotise people against their will, do you think this individual would be wasting his time stealing from supermarket cashiers, considering what he could be doing? Hypnosis can work wonders in curing addictions and phobias, but think about it, if it was this easy for some people to hypnotise people AGAINST THEIR WILL, phobias and addictions would have been wiped off the face of the Earth! As for that story about the strangers who hypnotised that man into withdrawing his funds, I found it interesting that I had never heard this potential front-page story before and that you were unable to give a location or any other details. The robberies in Italy were obviously inside jobs, and the hypnosis and handing over of the money was a stage-show for the cameras so that the police would believe the story. Sorry to burst your bubbles, guys, but eventually we all have to come back to the real world!

ajeziahJune 30, 2008 2:17 PM

I think its interesting how people who know absolutely nothing about a subject , are the first ones to proclaim that its impossible and cannot happen. Even more interesting is the need to impose their belief system upon others, as if their reality will shatter if their world view is not followed.

pauljohnyAugust 10, 2008 11:22 AM

i think this is fake..this could be inside job.. i myself know hypnosis.. the way it works is the person is confused and at taht state you can make him do thigns. so the person could be confused cause of fear.. or sleep or daze.. the person is not alert that is the real reason..but the way he did with eyes..there could have been a immediate response by the cashier.. now the othe rpart..i know such people who are very famous in india who..do these stuffs in banks..etc..
they even did manage to get my cousin sister give her gold chain to give it to them.. can have the full explanations..
regarding derick brown he is fooling people.. cause what he does he tells he usses some hypnosis but usually it is.. 90% of cases he has his own guys planted..remaining 10% case he might do real experiments..but how will the audience know ..which one is real... which one is fake.. urgi geller another fake.. proven beyond doubt..
now this robber this hypnotist robber.. i am trying to figure out what actually happened.. could be inside job, could be the staff was stupid ,,and by fear the staff got paralysed..and he tookthe money away.. ..when the staff got paralysed.. he took the money. . by fear..

paulAugust 10, 2008 11:26 AM

I have been spending a lot of time knowing hypnosis.. the goverment should ban it if it proven unrela..now this has to be insidejob..or a sort of paralysis.very hard to figure out since sometimes the volunteer he himself volunteers to give the mind in the control of hypnotist ..so ............. a fix.
so it is no ta inside job..but could be th eperson is shocked that she gave in thi guys control..but this shock which he tried...was easy to come out with..still tryin gto figure out ..what happens or the other explanation is inside job..and people dont read all those instant hypnosis books and waste time.. no hypnosis is actually possible against the will of a person..even if a person is hypnotised..he does thigns cause he enjoys.. the moemnt u tell him to do things which he doesnt want to he wakes.up..

TinaMarch 13, 2009 1:22 AM

Hypnotized to turn over my mother's money?

Hi All, I was informed by my mother that her ATM was gone and withdraw all her money. I am shock when my mother asked me if I took it from her locked drawer. I answer her “why should I” and “how”, I don’t even know her PIN no… then I start think of it... until my mother told me that I was in the ATM with video and it was recorded withdrawing her money for several times... I really don’t know I did that stupid thing…. Come to think of it that I have good work and earn enough money to sustain my kid’s needs.. The question is “where is the money?” I don’t even know how much it is…

I am really depressed because it’s my mother’s pension… she told me that there is evidence it was me… I think I need help from the police and investigate me… its really sounds weird…


HarryJune 11, 2011 1:16 AM

My wife, who runs her own hair salon by herself, was just robbed by a female
con-artist using hypnosis. Thief came in to her shop for a shampoo, after shampoo
thief asked her to go with her to get a massage. My wife said: are you nuts? I
have to work, keep the shop open. Next day, thief comes back, gets shampoo,
asks again, and grabs my wife's hand this time. Thief tells my wife to put her
valuables in her purse, she obeys, and they go to the massage shop. Along the
way the thief instructs my wife NOT to talk to the many people she knows around
her shop, which she normally does, even too much so, she obeys again!
Thief also instructs her to tell the employees of massage shop that thief is
her sister, which she then obeys yet again. At massage shop, thief tells my
wife that she will watch her purse while she showers AND to take her jewelery
off and put it in the purse! She EVEN OBEYS this outrageous command!!!
After about 1-2 minutes in the shower she comes out of trance and goes outside,
too late, thief is gone with ALL her valuables! This just happened,
June 7, 2011

This crook hypnotist put my wife under a spell really fast and COMPLETELY,
had her under complete control AGAINST HER WILL and WITHOUT HER
KNOWLEDGE!!! Robbed her of all her valuables.
-----------------------
Reg, My wife was put into an unwilling state of compliance in the earliest
phase of the encounter, fully before anything happened that could produce
an emotionally charged situation. Her sister runs the shop right next to hers
and people she knew from other nearby shops were outside. She could
not utter a single plea for help from friends or family that were within arms
reach as the criminal hypnotist con-artist walked her to the massage shop
down the road, telling her NOT to talk to anyone she knows. Also, from
research I did after this happened, I learned about the Pattern Interrupt Handshake
to put a victim quickly into hypnotic trance. This is what happened on the crooks
second visit, the crook grabbed my wife's hand and held it, the same as I saw
demonstrated in videos.
------------------------
Oh, I didn't mean to suggest that hypnotism is a bad thing or that only bad people use it. In your burglar scenario, the crime would be the same to courts, but it would
greatly benefit the neighbors to know that break-ins were occurring on 2nd floor
windows by ladder or hover boots so that they could secure their windows. Hypnotizing
someone to make them fully helpless and even HELP the crook against their will
is scary. After it was over, my wife felt she was to blame because she didn't do
anything to stop it, she couldn't. She calmly walked with the crook, didn't even balk at taking her gold jewelery off. Now she feels violated, like the crook
raped her mind or something of that sort. She can't understand how she couldn't
defend herself, from seemingly nothing, some words and a hand grab in under a
minute.

But my point is that crooks that use hypnotism should be publicized more, to
let the public know, and hopefully learn how to protect against it. I think a large
amount of victims don't report it because they, like my wife, feel it was their fault
for "being stupid" when they were really helpless. While telling her friends about
this, she found one that was also robbed the same way. Her friend cashed a
Western Union check for a fairly large chunk of cash, the crook approached her
as she left the WU office, hand grab again, then commands her to walk to a less
crowded area and commands her to give crook all the cash, which she helplessly
did.
So now I search for a defense against this sort of attack that is most sinister to
people since it can happen in broad daylight right in front of friends and family
making you feel unsafe even in your own shop/neighborhood. I read that if you
learn to do hypnosis, a crook can no longer do it to you. Is this true? If so, you
know a good book to learn it from? H

asdJune 11, 2011 6:15 AM

@Harry , tell youre friend if you notice someone, slowing down there speed during words and the whole sentece, walk away or interupt them

Leave a comment

Allowed HTML: <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre>

Photo of Bruce Schneier by Per Ervland.

Schneier on Security is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Co3 Systems, Inc..