Something I’ve always been a bit dubious of in the movies is pickpocketing. We’ve all seen it: a scene where a guy bumps into someone and steals their wallet or keys while the person is distracted by being bumped. It’s just a little hard to accept that a simple jostle would be enough of a distraction to not notice someone reaching into your pocket and removing something.
After reading this fascinating profile of Apollo Robbins in the New Yorker, and watching videos of his work on YouTube, it’s a lot easier to accept. Granted, Robbins is a performer and magician, allowing him to engage in far more complicated distractions than simply bumping into someone on the street, but it’s still pretty jaw-dropping to see him work. Or to try to see him work. He removes people’s watches and puts them on his own wrist without them noticing. He lifts wallets and removes or adds things to them. In just a few seconds of work he can pilfer phones, keys, scarves, even, in one case, taking one woman’s eyeglasses off her face without her noticing.
Here’s some videos. It’s neat that even once he’s explained some of his tricks, and you can see them happening, it’s still extremely hard to see everything that’s happening.
On the Today Show, he gives items to Matt Lauer, Ryan Seacrest, and whoever the third guy is, then steals them back, while performing a magic trick with a $100 bill.
Starting about a minute in to this next video, Robbins performs some neat coin tricks while simultaneously stealing watches from a group of women.
Here he is demonstrating and explaining his talents on the author of the New Yorker piece.
And below is portion from a National Geographic show Test Your Brain (called Brain Games in the U.S.) where Robbins pilfers a number of items from one hapless participant, with some explanation on how and why your brain allows him to so mercilessly strip you of your belongings. Here’s the full episode of the U.S. version (includes a glimpse of him stealing glasses off a woman’s face.)