9 People Who Committed Crimes While Allegedly Under Hypnosis

It seems like many criminals have an excuse for their actions. However, few criminals resort to such far-fetched excuses as those of these criminals - that they were hypnotized when they committed their crimes. 

Just 100 years ago, the defense that a killer was hypnotized while committing a crime was, in some instances, sufficient for a criminal to walk free. Many criminals who give a hypnosis defense claim to be helpless pawns of mind control, puppets of some powerful mastermind. It even has its own name - the Svengali defense. Whether the following "hypnotized" criminals were really victims themselves or not, you'll have to decide for yourself. 

  • Susan Atkins Claims She Was Hypnotized By Charles Manson Prior To The Tate Murder
    Photo: California Department of Corrections / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Susan Atkins was one of the most infamous members of the Manson Family cult. In 1969, Atkins and three others murdered the pregnant Sharon Tate and her friends in a Hollywood abode at the order of cult leader Charles Manson. The murder was one of the most grisly and famous in the history of American crime as it brought an end to the hippie movement of the '60s and showcased a deeply evil side of a modern cult.

    While Atkins was convicted for her role in the murder of Sharon Tate, she never truly claimed responsibility for her actions - claiming she was "under the hypnotic spell" of Charles Manson at the time, but not in the way you might think. This type of hypnotism didn't involve a psychiatrist's chair, but instead involved a long, drawn-out type of brainwashing that cults have become so famous for following incidents like Jonestown and the Waco siege.

    Atkins claimed that because she was deprived of food and water and constantly forced by Manson to consume LSD, he had essentially hypnotized her into a state of ultimate cronyism. She was left with no ability to think for herself. While there may be some validity to this claim, it certainly wasn't enough for the grand jury that convicted her. Whereas courts in the past had considered hypnotism grounds for acquittal, the modern jury did not - perhaps due to the extremely brutal, calculated details of the murders involved.

  • Thomas McDonald Murdered A Man And Was Acquitted Because He Was Hypnotized

    The murder of Kansas man Thomas Patton in 1894 was a highly unique case in the American courts. Local wealthy landowner Anderson Gray was embroiled in a legal case at the time, to which Thomas Patton was a witness against him. Gray resolved to kill Patton - but he wouldn't do the deed himself.

    Gray went into the nearby city of Wichita, where he recruited a local farmer named Thomas McDonald. Allegedly, Gray hypnotized McDonald, handed him a rifle, and took him to Patton's house. McDonald then shot Patton to death. 

    A jury of McDonald's peers acquitted him. They instead convicted Gray of the murder, believing Gray's use of hypnotism to be the culprit and that McDonald had no control over his actions.

  • Jerome Ferreri Was Murdered By A 'Hypnotized' Handyman

    Los Angeles has long been the setting for dark, mysterious murders - but few share the same oddity as the murder of Jerome Ferreri at the hands of his wife, Betty, their handyman, Allan Adron, and a neighbor.

    Jerome and Betty had been married and living in the Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles for several years. During that time, Jerome regularly beat Betty, causing her to regularly fear for her life. Jerome also cheated indiscriminately, often bringing women home with him. On one such occasion in 1948, Jerome came home with a model. Betty, wielding a pipe wrench, chased the couple away. Their handyman, Allan Adron, arrived to defend Betty, as did neighbor and local gangster Charles Fauci. Fauci gave Adron a gun, and when Jerome returned, Adron shot him twice. Betty finished Jerome off by striking his skull with a meat cleaver.

    Betty, Adron, and Fauci were all found not guilty of the murder. Betty and Charles Fauci were both acquitted, and Adron, though he initially pled guilty, was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Two psychiatrists, working for the defense, argued that Adron had become hypnotized by the power of suggestion when he was handed the gun, and was thus hypnotized prior to shooting Jerome. 

  • A French Playboy Was Murdered By A Man And Woman Who Claimed To Be Hypnotized

    A French Playboy Was Murdered By A Man And Woman Who Claimed To Be Hypnotized
    Photo: Henri Meyer / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Augustin Gouffe, a Parisian bailiff, was well-known throughout the community for his impressive sexual exploits. One summer day in 1889, Gouffe was walking around town when he ran into his acquaintance Michel Eyraud. This chance meeting led Eyraud and his lover Gabrielle Bompard - who knew of Gouffe's extreme wealth - to hatch a murder plot against Gouffe by tempting him with a novel sexual exploit.

    Eyraud invited Gouffe to Bompard's apartment on her behalf, saying the two had broken up and Bompard hoped to witness Gouffe's sexual abilities for herself. When he arrived, the woman seduced Gouffe while Eyraud waited behind a curtain. Above the curtain, a metal hook was affixed with a rope threaded through it. Bompard held a scarf in her hand, which she wrapped around Gouffe's neck in a flirty manner and attached to the rope. Once the scarf was attached, Eyraud pulled the rope, hanging and strangling Gouffe.

    When Gouffe's body turned up on a river bank several miles south of the city, investigators managed to connect the crime back to Eyraud. Shortly thereafter, Bompard turned herself into police, insisting "Eyraud had forced her to act as his accomplice by hypnotizing her and enslaving her will." She detailed how Eyraud was practiced in the art of hypnotism, but the police were not convinced. Eyraud and Bompard were both sentenced to death.

  • Hans Wisbom And Kaj Moller Were Murdered By An Allegedly Hypnotized Prisoner

    Palle Wichmann Hardrup attempted to rob a bank in Copenhagen in 1951, killing bank employees Hans Wisbom and Kaj Moller in the process. Hardup was quickly captured by police - but claimed none of the illegal actions were his fault because he was hypnotized.

    Hardup, a former convict, claimed that during a three-month period, his prison cellmate conditioned him using hypnosis to commit the robbery, running through the crime step by step - and even instructing him on who to kill in the process. Strangely, the justice system seemed to believe the story, or at least part of it. Ultimately, Hardup's cellmate Bjorn Schouw Nielsen was sentenced for helping to plan the robberies, while Hardup himself was committed to a mental institution.

  • Hypnotized By A Stranger, The Young 'Ms. E' Tried To Kill Her Husband

    When Anna Evan, AKA "Ms. E," a 17-year-old German girl from the town of Heidelberg, entered a train compartment one day in 1927, she encountered a man identifying himself as Dr. Bergen. Shortly into the train ride, Dr. Bergen had Ms. E completely hypnotized simply by taking her hand and staring into her eyes. The spell went on to last a total of seven years.

    Dr. Bergen wasn't a doctor but a con artist known by the name "Walker." Over the years of Ms. E's hypnotic state, the faux doctor convinced Ms. E to give money and sex to him and his friends. Though he was no doctor, it seems the hypnotism did really work, at least until Ms. E met and married Mr. E a few years into her hypnotic experience.

    Mr. E noticed things were amiss in the two's relationship quite quickly and did all he could to break Dr. Bergen's spell over his wife. He went to the police, but not before Dr. Bergen could convince Ms. E to try and kill her husband. She tried to poison him and sabotage the breaks on his motorcycle, but Mr. E survived.

    Eventually, the police caught up with Dr. Bergen. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison, while Ms. E spent over a year in a different hypnotist's office in an attempt to break her original hypnosis.