Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Curious Case of the Roaming Hypnotists

One of late father's favorite quotes was from the James Bond film Goldfinger in which the villain Goldfinger runs into James Bond way too many times and declares:
"Once is 'happenstance'. Twice is 'coincidence'. Three times is 'enemy action' "

Picture Above: 007 and Goldfinger at their upteenth encounter. By that time, Mr. Goldfinger was clearly ticked off with all the run-ins. SOURCE: www.cbanews.ca

The take-home message I have always held dear is that one has to be wary of things that come in threes. This brings me to the bizarre new breed of tricksters operating in Accra. I'm not referring to the much hyped so-called Sakawa Boys who according to some newspapers seem to engage in everything from internet fraud to turning people into snakes. Yes, you heard me....snakes. Nor do I refer to the confidence tricksters who usually manipulate their victims' religious beliefs to dupe them out of everything leaving them down to their last coin and underwear. What I'm talking about are a new garden variety of crooks that have been sighted at various points across the sprawling Accra metropolis. Here are three accounts I have heard highlighting their modus operandi.

Story 1: Kaneshie Market
A year ago my office-mate told us about something that had happened to a friend of his. She was at the Kaneshie Market when she was approached by a group of men in search of directions. She was not sure what happened next but before she knew it, she had chartered a taxi that was heading straight for her house in North Kaneshie. Upon arrival, she found all the mobile phones in the house, loaded everything up into the waiting taxi and sped off straight back to the market where the mysterious men were lingering patiently. Sometime after handing over the phones, she realised what she had done but unfortunately, the men had evaporated into the crowd.

Story 2: Tema/Sakumono (Not quite Accra but you catch my drift)
A month ago, a national service lady working with us ran into two gentlemen looking for directions. Before she knew it, she was leading these men to her house. She politely asked them to wait outside while she entered and retrieved her mother's and brother's mobile phones. She handed over the items to the men but not before adding her own phone. The grateful tricksters took off leaving the national service girl still in a daze.

Story 3: Somewhere in Accra
Just a couple of weeks ago, a prospective national service person who is currently interning with us was approached by two gentlemen very close to her home. Apparently, one can be described as short, very light-skinned with some sort of foreign accent (whatever that means!). The men were looking for some directions as usual. It appeared the light-skinned one was particularly taken by the young lady....at least that is the impression she got! He started to rub her hands while he asked her for the directions. Next minute, she was leading an expedition bound straight for her house. She asked her new friends to wait outside while she prepared a package for them; mobile phones, her new laptop and her ATM bank-card. She was sure to include her laptop password and ATM pin.

I've actually heard a 4th story but that would defeat my whole point about things coming in threes. What could explain these bizarre tales of crookery? Most people believe that black magic/charms/juju were involved but I'm a little more skeptical. Aside from the common thread running through the stories which is that that they all involve young women there is the fact that they were rendered into some sort of trance-like state by the tricksters.

I believe that these crooks are using hypnosis to make suggestions to their victims and getting them to steal for them. What is hypnotism/hypnosis anyway? According to the good folks over at Wikipedia:

Hypnosis is a mental state or set of attitudes usually induced by a procedure known as a hypnotic induction, which is commonly composed of a series of preliminary instructions and suggestions. Hypnotic suggestions may be delivered by a hypnotist in the presence of the subject , or may be self-administered ("self-suggestion" or "autosuggestion").
SOURCE: wikipedia.org

The Wikipedia article actually gives quite a lot of background to hypnosis.
I've only seen hypnosis in operation once. That was back in college at some entertainment events. I was a little skeptical then but when the hypnotist was able to get people to bark like dogs and do all sorts of crazy things I realised that there was much more to it. It did appear to work.

Alas, there is no way to prove that these criminals are using hypnosis but in the meantime, beware of people seeking directions and holding your hand while asking!!


Kwegyirba Aggrey-Orleans said...

I've heard of these stories too. What worries me most is that they make bad 'neighbours' of us all. We would start denying people in real need of directions and maybe one day WE ourselves would be denied too. And if you are like me with no sense of directions, well thats another story.

Abena said...

Kwegyriba, I never thought of that! We will all suffer as a result of the dubious and the shady in the system.God help us all!

Anonymous said...

Whoa. Now they took their cunning activities to a whole 'nother level. WOW. Gotta give it up to those crooks, they are very creative....in a very negative way of course.

I'm a little skeptical myself, you know us Ghanaians like to exaggerate stories. Which reminds me, does the "newspaper" P&P aka People and Places still exist?

Anonymous said...

Cute profile picture!

PS. I took an epidemiology class in college and it wasn't as bad as I thought. With a name like epidemiology, I expected very horrible things.

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

thanks for this Abena. Haven't heard of it. However, yesterday a man approached. He told me the usual story of going to some place and being short of transportation. Before he could call me I jumped and it was later that i could wait for him to talk...but i didn't bother to help, which is bad but which is as a result of me being afraid. So we are our own evil

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

Anonymous don't be skeptical. Do you believe somebody turned into a snake...I heard the other two guys confess. There are stranger things in this world.

Abena said...

@Anonymous: I'm a complete skeptic and actually laughed at the first two stories. Unfortunately, hearing the 3rd girl's story first-hand makes me feel her pain. Plus, losing my laptop is enough to render me crazy.
I think P&P still exists but have not really noticed it at the news-stand...*Hehehehe* Have not really looked :)

Abena said...

@Anonymous: *LOL* Glad to hear that you feel epidemiology is off the hizzle! I live for epi, figuratively and literally. BTW; I sometimes trip up saying it myself..
thanks for the pic props...i always make sure I keep out of focus, blurry pics for profile pics...Mmm I wish I was joking!

Abena said...

*LOL* I don't blame you Nana F-A, these days I'm freaked out by everyone. I once sat in a 4 person taxi occupied by shady tricksters on the prowl...2 women and 2 men. That was a really close-call. This morning a decent well-dressed man flagged me down asking for a lift thru Achimota forest. Even though my ride is quite seriously beat-up, I was still scared about stopping!
About them snake stories....mmmmm....Really not too convinced..

novisi said...

i delve not into the 'super-natural'
not hypnosis not illusions!


are these tales told after imagining a good feed from a potent weed?
i wonder...
praise be to Jah!

but a better feed: lovely pic!

awura ama said...

actually a similar thing happened to a friend of mine back in uni. she gave them all her pocket money! it's happening.

Nana Yaw Asiedu said...

I know I am not superstitious. I also know that I will not say I do not believe in these stories, which I have also heard. Respectable people claim to have fallen victim. I believe that belief systems give life to their very underpinning beliefs. And (yes KAO) I will not be stopping to give directions to the president himself, if he stopped me to ask for directions.

posekyere said...

Geez Abena!

Don't know what to say to the whole story.
Hypnotism as far as I know requires the utter submission of the one being hypnotized for it to work. So I have serious doubts about these acts being hypnotic.
If these stories are true -- and my 'if' is weighed heavily towards disbelief -- then there is a need for a serious work by sociologist and psychologists as to hoe to combact it.
As to the snake story that is nothing more than BS!
It is nothing more than those stories where guys were crying out that their willies have been made to shrink by others.
Ghanaians have the unprecedented capacity to tell tall tales simply because there are many that will believe them.
I am sorry but that is my take on this.

Abena said...

@Novisi; I think your take sounds alot more plausible...I totally did not take into account the use of mind-altering drugs such as LSD. I ought to be ashamed since I used to work in drug addiction research some years ago but that was more heroin/cocaine. BTW: thanks for the pic props:)

@Awura Ama: indeed, it is definitely happening! Really would like to know how they are doing it.

@Nana Yaw: I totally agree that it is the underlying belief systems give rise to some of these activities. There is too much superstition, gullibility and plain naivety going around in this our country. On another note, shame Nana Yaw! you wouldn't stop for anyone even our dear Prez? Alas, I think others are inclined to agree but for different reasons.

@Posekyere: I like your approach. Perhaps I was too eager to subscribe to the hypnosis explanation. I like the idea of researching into the underpinning religious/sociological and cultural factors unique to our society that gives rise to such phenomena. As for the crazy snake stories...don't get me started!!

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

I am curious how people are shying away from the 'super natural' being possible here but these same people believe in God. Hahaha...there would be no light without darkness...see? It is possible that all these stories are not true and are perhaps fabricated. It is also possible that they are true. Is someone here claiming that juju and voodoo do not work or are figments of our own abused imaginations?

B.O.N.T.I said...

I don't believe in juju either... and i doubt they were hipnotized too..
For girl number #3 i think she was and maybe still is lonely and wanted some kind off affection from the opposite sex and thus when the guy was rubbing her hands, she felt a little chill.. Chill(some feeling of want, that girls have when they think they are being wanted...needed...or loved.)
so i guess she behave like a typical girl who gets controlled by a some guy with false intentions

Girl number #2 was confidently tricked. no juju hear.. they manipulated her religious sentiments and as usual ghanaian women are the once these people will get their attention
note: too much church going by the ghanaian population... ie we put our faith too much in religion...

Number #1 in summary is the stupid girl syndrome..

Abena said...

@Nana F-A: Mmmm that's a hard one. Indeed, there is a dichotomy of good + evil/ darkness + light but I guess it all depends on what we define as evil. I simply cannot believe that people have been turning into snakes or that you can kill someone to make yourself rich.

novisi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
novisi said...

i had a school mate (gal) who claimed to have suffered similar 'thing' about 5yrs ago in Accra. so it's not new to me too.

more interesting comments here!
i'm loving it!

i believe there are powers in this universe (universe! hehe!). some are good, some are bad and some may be good or bad (power-duality if you want) depending on how they are used. like the knife, you may either chop up garden eggs with it or cut a man's throat to let flow his blood. this i believe!

and to believe something is not a difficult task right. you just believe!

but the more important thing for me, and which i believe (believe again!) is more demanding is to have knowledge!

and here i dare challenge any mortal like me to tell me he/she knows (knowledge!) the 'fullness' of power (good or bad) that exists in this universe. that is why i say i delve not into such things. i don't lose sleep over this kind of matters at all.

for me the only 'quest' that is close to anything like a 'true-religion' is science! which seeks to find answers (knowledge), but even so i don't go for the Robert Gallo HIV/AIDS hoax kind of science.

things must just make sense! if they don't i will keep searching till i find!

so i delve not into the 'super-natural' and i won't pretend like a lot of the faith leaders come claiming to know.

nobody knows God and nobody knows the devil. it's that simple and complex all woven into one piece!


Abena said...

@Bonti: So from what I hear you say(please correct me if I’m wrong), these are clear examples of lonely stupid, easily manipulated overly religious girls seeking some kind of attention from the opposite sex? I wish it was that simple! Mmmm or is it?! I don't know. I do remember other confidence tricks in Southern Africa that also manipulated belief systems but this type I never came across...which makes me still wonder what are the socio-cultural factors unique to Ghanaian society that give rise to such things? Well, aside from one that you identify which is ‘too much church-going by the Ghanaian population’? BTW; what is too much church going?

Abena said...

Hey Novisi, you had me going until you said "i don't go for the Robert Gallo HIV/AIDS hoax kind of science."
*Yikes* I almost thought you were an HIV denialist subscribing to the Duesberg School of 'Thought'. Didn't Prof. Duesberg sit on Ex-South African President Thabo Mbeki's HIV/AIDS panel debating whether HIV causes AIDS while South African died of AIDS? Luckily, reason reigned supreme, anti-retrovirals were rolled out and they are prolonging life much to the shock of the HIV denialists! Anyway, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Well, as long as it does not threat, harm or kill others :)

novisi said...

hahahaha Abena,
i plead for forgiveness for any 'attempt' to change the topic.

but let me say that i'm no 'denialist' of AIDs.

i think both Gallo and Duesberg went to the extreme of things without 'reasonable' proofs.

but the fact still remains that HIV has not been proven to be the cause of AIDs. and the poisonous nature of AZT is known. in fact, AZT instead of 'prolonging' life of AIDs' patients or at least keeping it 'static' (hehe) has cut it short for many people all over the world.

there are serious questions which my 'religion' science is yet to answer.

Mbeki did a good thing by raising questions (which science encourages). just that! even though i'm not sure about what was really killing the people while Mbeki did not show interest in the anti-retrovirals.

questions must be asked. how the questions are asked, like Mbeki did may be 'questionable'. but questions must be asked. and that is where i stand.


Abena said...

Hey Novisi, I agree, Mbeki did stimulate debate but I'm more concerned about the lag-time. While questions were being raised and debate stimulated, people were dying...That was my issue.

Anonymous said...

Lemme see - even with my education in the sciences, i do beleive with all my heart in juju, just like i believe with all my heart in my religion. It does sound like these men are using hypnotising techniques, but i also know that hypnotism cannot compel anyone to do anything they don't want to do, so..... (here's where i would think they employed a bit of 'agbala' to go along with their hypnotism). I also have no problem believeing that hypnotism and a bit of agbala have been employed in ages past in what we call 'juju.' Just because the westerners came up with a name for it doesn't mean it didn't exist before they cam up with a name for it.

Abena said...

Thanks Anonymous....I find myself very fascinated by the general topic of African belief. I guess a belief in juju does make sense when you have a dichotomy of good and evil. Good being Christian beliefs and evil being juju/witchcraft although I personally still do not believe in witchcraft.

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

I know a lot of people are beginning to shed off certain beliefs. And like it is said, he who feels it knows it more. I don't believe, as Abena said, that the good is the Christian beliefs and evil being juju/witchcraft. Nope. Good is good no matter where it comes from. Good is not good because of the source. Source don't matter. If it is good it is simply good. In Haiti and other countries, there is voodoo to kill and voodoo to heal. So do you call it evil when a voodooist heals your child of his disease. The world is more complex than we see. Christianity is a young religion, especially in Ghana. We should know that we have been practising our religious belief ever since, before the whiteman sets his foot onto our land. Were we therefore all evil before he came. Hehehe...

Abena said...

@Nana F-A: it is indeed a complex issue....bound to make your head hurt!