look deep into my eyes… and hand over your cash

Now cluck like a chicken and tell me your ATM PIN...

According to a story from the Jakarta Post, “As reports abound of people being lulled, allegedly through a mass-hypnosis technique, to hand valuables or cash to strangers, police arrested suspects after they viewed CCTV footage from a supermarket in Lampung, which caught robbers in the act… Earlier in January, the Jakarta Police also arrested three suspects, who allegedly hypnotized their victims to withdraw  cash at ATMs after undercover detectives trapped them in the act.” 

When I first saw this article, I thought that this was one of those one off news stories which end up in the “odd news” section of the newspaper along with stories like this.  However, consulting The Google yielded other news reports of criminals using mesmerism to compel their victims to hand over their valuables in the US, in Italy, in Russia, and the Phillipines.  There are even some videos purporting to show hypno robbers in action:

Hypno-robbers supposedly use the technique of “fascination,” the process of inducing a hypnotic state by focusing the subject’s attention on a small or shiny object.  According to the 1901 tome Practical Lessons in Hypnotism, the process of fascination is as follows:  “Stand directly in front of the subject, about five feet from him; have him stare at you blankly while you assume a fierce expression of determination; raise your hands and separate the fingers; gradually move your hands toward him, and then suddenly seize him by the shoulders and give him a slight but quick shove backward; rivet your eyes upon his in the greatest earnestness and intensity. If this method succeeds the subject will assume a peculiar and unmistakable expression of submission.  This same method may be carried out with the operator and subject in the sitting posture, as mentioned in method one, your hands resting upon his instead of being uplifted. This is the old Puyse-gurian method, and is still employed by many expert hypnotists.”

Here’s a not very convincing report on hypno-robbery, along with a  very questionable looking “demonstration” of the technique:

Not everyone buys into the hypno-robbery idea, including some hypnotists, such as this one interviewed on CBS news in 2008, who points out that hypnosis cannot be used to make people perform actions which are against their will and that the process of inducing a hypnotic state takes much longer than described in these robbery reports.  He (like I) feels that it is much more likely that the hyno-robber and the “victim” were working together in these cases. I, for one, don’t think we need to be worried about a new breed of robbers relieving us of our valuables via mesmerism, but just in case… LOOK DEEPLY INTO YOUR SCREEN AND TAKE OUT YOUR CHECKBOOK…

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