Hocus Pocus Your Purse Is Gone

Martin Susanto, Writer

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In Indonesia, a woman is taking a crowded, public bus heading towards central Jakarta. Two men start conversing with her and continue conversing even after she reaches her stop. Eventually, she discloses to them her frustration with searching for a husband. The men then ask for her absolute trust, and give her a bag of leaves to dump into the river to ward off bad luck in exchange for her handbag. When she realized her situation, her handbag was gone and the two men were nowhere near.

This description of events was submitted to The Jakarta Post in 2015 by an anonymous woman. She claimed that these men hypnotized her in order to steal her handbag. Her case is one of the many hypnotism robbery cases that date back as early as 2010. These cases share much in common. In exchange for the victim’s belongings, the “hypnotists” often offer miracle cures, such as special medicine or good luck charms. The victims are also usually people who are preoccupied with emotional issues, who would want to believe in some miracle cure.

Romy Rafael, a famous hypnotherapist and an entertainment figure, emphasizes that hypnotism is just persuasion that requires the consent of the hypnotee in an interview with a representative of Vice News: “the pre-condition for hypnosis is the hypnotee’s consent. I can’t stress this often enough. If the hypnotee resists hypnosis, nothing can be done about it.” He theorizes that there is little difference between these hypnotists and conmen. The victim plays the largest role in his or her loss by willingly accepting these fake explanations.

The public locations of these hypnotism crimes also play a role in the victim’s suggestibility. Crime analyst Mardigu Wowiek Prasantyo states that “In hectic environments like airports and terminals, it is very easy for someone to be distracted. It’s like your brain ‘hangs,’ and what these criminals do is ‘flood’ your mind by touching and talking to you.”

In order to combat this issue, the Indonesian police suggests that travelers stay occupied and alert in order to stay focused on the surroundings. The police have also put up banners and announcements in public transit locations that contain instruction on how to avoid hypnosis. Sindo News also created an archive containing exclusively hypnotism crimes. Throughout the articles, the primary advice is to doubt any claim made by strangers. After all, victims of hypnotism crimes have never been stubborn people.