Staring bandit prompts notions of hypnosis robbery

Can you be hypnotized into handing over your valuables? Not really. But some people suggest this and the media oversimplifies the idea into a sensational story about the Hypnotist Bandit.

Bank Robber in Manhattan Beach Could be Hypnotist Bandit: FBI | KTLA 5.
The FBI was investigating a robbery at a Bank of America branch in Manhattan Beach on Friday that could be linked to a series of other unsolved heists.

Investigators were reviewing this case to determine whether it may be connected to a series of robberies by a man known as the “Hypnotist Bandit.”

The Hypnotist Bandit was suspected in two bank robberies on June 3 in the cities of South El Monte and Temple City as well as a third robbery in Pasadena on May 27, according to a news release from the FBI.

The man got his nickname based on descriptions by tellers indicating that he “stared at them and continued to make eye contact during the robbery,” the release stated.

And that’s it. HOLD ON! He threatened with a weapon but he did not “hypnotize” anyone. Maybe that’s just the way he is when he’s nervous. You can’t magically make someone do something just by staring at them. Sure, it makes they very uncomfortable but so does the threat that he has a weapon. This article is not the first I’ve seen that mentions that robbers and scam artists use hypnotism. Often, it seems to be an excuse used by the victim to describe their reaction.

A very clear picture of the bandit.

A very clear picture of the bandit.

Here is a story from Russia, 2009, where a bank teller says she was subconsciously coerced, peacefully, into giving up money to a woman. In Jakarta, 2010, there was a street scam that was said to be perpetrated by robbers who hypnotized people into giving them valuables.

We reported two cases here as well:

Hypnosis robbery in Chinatown | Doubtful News.

Robbery victim claims to have been hypnotized | Doubtful News.

Hypnosis is suggestion. It can not compel you to do something you don’t want to do. However, such threats can be compelling. The people are not hypnotized in some mystical sense but the situation compels them to comply with the scam artist because they feel threatened.

As with other media stories about hypnotism, the news has a tendency to make something more out of it. It’s not someone carrying a pendulum ordering you to obey. It’s just social pressure.

hypnosis – The Skeptic’s Dictionary – Skepdic.com.

Hypnotism: Hijacking Your Brain?.

  1 comment for “Staring bandit prompts notions of hypnosis robbery

  1. robbrownaswood
    June 26, 2014 at 2:32 PM

    I remember during the US elections there were people saying Obama was hypnotizing peopke with particular hand movements. I think I even saw a pamphlet about it.

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