“In the latest of many appeals filed on behalf of Sirhan, the attorneys are seeking to overturn his conviction,” washingtonpost.com reports. “They repeated a previous assertion and presented reports from experts who said Sirhan was programmed through hypnosis to fire shots as a diversion for the real killer.” Huh. I’d never encountered the suggestion that Sirhan Sirhan was a non-lethal diversionary patsy—which seems as far-fetched as an Antarctic takeaway pizza. Nor have I read the experts’ reports suggesting the convicted killer was hypnotized to shoot at (near?) the presidential candidate. But as a former professional hypnotist, I feel qualified to comment on the question of whether or not Sirhan Sirhan could have been hypnotized to shoot Bobby Kennedy. And the answer is an unqualified . . .

Yes. In fact, anyone can be hypnotized to shoot someone “against their will.” (“Their” meaning the shooter, of course. Whether or not the victim wants to get shot is another matter.) For that kind of murderous weirdness to occur, a few factors must be in play. For the sake of argument, let’s restrict ourself to the case of Sirhan Sirhan.

1. Sirhan Sirhan must have been hypnotic

Some people are naturally better subjects than others. These “somnambulists” are completely susceptible to the hypnotist’s command. Whatever the watch swinger says goes, and these subjects can enter a deep hypnotic state at the drop of a hat. Literally. A hypnotist can put them in trance and tell them “the moment you see a hat hit the ground you will close your eyes and fall into a deep sleep.” Or squawk like a chicken. Or shoot a presidential candidate.

The counter-argument to this frightening level of control: a person can’t be hypnotized to do something against their moral code or survival instincts. Nice thought. Not true. If a subject is in a deep enough trance, the hypnotist is large and in charge of their moral code, which may or may not be important anyway. If morals are an issue, they’re easily bypassed by manipulating the somnambulist’s perception of reality.

“You hate Jews, Bobby Kennedy is a Jew who wants to kill you to hide his identity.” Or just “Shoot the bastard.” Click here to watch an entirely plausible illustrative clip from The Manchurian Candidate.

Survival instincts are also based on sensory input. A skilled hypnotist can distort the subject’s reality at will—depending on the subject’s trance depth. You don’t tell a subject to run out into the traffic. You tell them there isn’t any traffic.

So, is Sirhan Sirhan a somnambulist? A few simple hypnotic tests could establish his ability as a subject; simple experiments that can’t be defeated by play-acting (such as hypnotically-induced anesthesia). At the moment, we have no clue—aside from Sirhan’s contention that he was duped and expert opinions which I haven’t read.

Time to throw in a monkey wrench: experts can create a somnambulist using standard brainwashing or “boot camp” techniques: sleep deprivation, nutritional deprivation, physical abuse, isolation, over-stimulation, etc. Certain drugs can help too. But it ain’t as easy as it sounds . . .

2. Sirhan Sirhan would have had to have been hypnotized

If Sirhan was hypnotized to shoot at/near Kennedy, someone must have done the hypnotizing. Regardless of Sirhan’s natural or nurtured ability to go into a somnambulistic state, programming a presidential assassin requires a high level of skill. Just as not everyone can be a Marine Drill Sergeant, not every hypnotist can program a killer.

IMHO there aren’t a lot of hypnotists who could tackle that challenge, to the point where their paymasters would have enough faith in the subject’s programming to authorize such a high profile assassination. Legendary hypnotist Erik Erikson disappeared for ten years, but he was a bit of a wimp. A stage hypnotist would be the best choice, but they’re an extremely flaky bunch. Mind you, there is history . . .

The CIA dabbled with hypnosis in the 60’s—as well as putting LSD in the water supply and “remote viewing.” Speaking of which, the psychic powers-obsessed Russians were big into Pavlovian reprogramming (dog + bell = dinner, bell = dinner). But my research indicates that Russia and its allies didn’t hypnotize Americans (including John McCain) and Uncle Sam abandoned any efforts in that area after a few spectacular failures (e.g., an abortive attempt at surprise hypnosis).

You’d kinda think someone on the government side would have squealed on an anti-Bobby Kennedy hypnosis-based conspiracy by now. The lack of corroborating testimony and the idea that Sirhan Sirhan had a secret [even to him, until later] accomplice adds nothing to the credibility of this Manchurian theory. You will shoot at but not hit the Senator? I don’t think so. Speaking of bizarre . . .

3. If Sirhan Sirhan was hypnotized to kill Bobby Kennedy, he would have been hypnotized to forget he’d been hypnotized

Any hypnotist devious and talented enough to hypnotize Kennedy’s assassin would be smart enough to erase all memory of the hypnosis after the programming. And they’d know to make the subject impervious to future hypnosis (so much for our tests then).

In The Manchurian Candidate, our man Sinatra remembers the commie hypnosis in his dreams. Subconscious seepage? Again, nice idea but no. If a hypnotist erases a memory in a suitable subject, the memory’s gone. Period. So either Sirhan Sirhan had a lousy hypnotist or he wasn’t hypnotized to shoot/kill Kennedy.

As much as I like the idea of “command hypnosis” receiving the attention it deserves, I’m going with B. I don’t think Sirhan Sirhan was hypnotized to kill Kennedy. Those of you more familiar with this assassination can fill in the blanks about Sirhan’s crazy ass notebook and such, but it seems clear to me that the man is just making shit up (to use the technical term).

When weighing-up the possibility of a hypnosis-based conspiracy to kill the aspiring president, remember that The Manchurian Candidate hit the silver screen in 1959. Sirhan Sirhan shot Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on June 5, 1968.

18 Responses to Was Sirhan Sirhan Hypnotized to Shoot Bobby Kennedy?

  1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t a somnambulist need to have at least a rudimentary intelligence? ‘Cause that would eliminate Sirhan Squared. I mean, even a supremely talented hypno-murder-killer couldn’t mezmerize, say, a sea turtle into thinking it was a cormorant, right?

    And right now I’m wondering whether mikey could be hypnotized. Hmmmmm.

  2. ‘ “You hate Jews, Bobby Kennedy is a Jew who wants to kill you to hide his identity.” ‘

    Always have to make a jibe on behalf of the tribe,eh?

    Most would be presidential assassins (with the exception of John Wilkes Booth) seem to be deranged. Some crazed mestizo shot at the Whitehouse recently thinking he was Jesus. Hinckley was in love with Jodie Foster before shooting Reagan. Didn’t a Manson girl pull a gun on Ford (interestingly she had no round in the chamber, but that’s another story)?

    • Booth was narcissistic and would have been classified today as NPD according to DSMIV, giving him an excuse for the jury to hear. Some would argue that wanting to kill the president is in itself evidence of a mental illness worthy of sympathy but I don’t excuse it from legal punishment. A trial for Booth was not required although some of his conspirators straightened rope eventually. It’s been a while since assassins have been neutralized immediately.

      • JWB had NPD? That’s actually rather interesting. What’s your source on that? It would make excellent reading. Didn’t he leave a diary of some sorts?

    • Sirhan Sirhan was an anti-semite. Wiki:

      “Sirhan was a Christian Arab born in Jerusalem who strongly opposed Israel. In 1989, he told David Frost “My only connection with Robert Kennedy was his sole support of Israel and his deliberate attempt to send those 50 bombers to Israel to obviously do harm to the Palestinians”. Some scholars believe that the assassination was one of the first major incidents of political violence stemming from the Arab Israeli conflict in the Middle East.”

      educationforum.ipbhost.com:

      Sirhan also explained he’s Palestinian, born in Jerusalem in 1944, “alive during the turmoil that erupted when the United Nations stole our country and gave it to the Jews.”

      In fact, its 1947 Partition Plan (General Assembly Resolution 181) gave them 56% of historic Palestine, placing Jerusalem (declared a corpus separatum, a separate body) under UN trusteeship as an international city, binding to this day. At the time, Palestinians comprised two-thirds of the population, owning 93% of the land, most of it now stolen. All of it occupied illegally.

      Ever since, Israelis treated “my people….like dogs. (They) shoot rockets and tank fire into the West Bank (and Gaza) killing everyone, including women and children. They drop bombs and spray machine gun fire into crowded marketplaces. They are treating my people the same way they were treated by the Nazis….It breaks my heart to see how my people are suffering.”

  3. Hinkley is vying for release and the Norway shooter just got a pass for being insane, maybe he thinks it’s a good time to get out.

  4. Robert Farago was hypnotized to say Sirhan Sirhan wasn’t hypnotized. The conspiracy runs even deeper than I originally thought.

  5. Interesting post, I’ve always found hypnotism fascinating. I saw a stage “show” in Mississippi back in the day and wouldn’t have believed it except that I knew the people who were chosen from the audience. Powerful and amazing stuff.

    …a person can’t be hypnotized to do something against their moral code or survival instincts…

    I was one of those under the impression that this is not possible – learn something every day – thanks for the info.

  6. I don’t care if this fool was hypnotized, they should still have fried his sorry ass in the electric chair or a good ole fashioned firing squad would have been fine. This moron now wants to be released, but I have a better chance of turning into a gun grabber than he does of ever getting out of jail.

    • He killed a Kennedy, so he’ll rot in prison. If he’d killed a Smith or Jones, he’d be walking the streets by now.

  7. Hypnotized 10 years to quit smoking with 3 other people that I knew and we all wanted it to work. Apparently that didn’t work, we are all still smoking. To the best of my knowledge I haven’t assinated anyone, guess it did kinda worked. Uncle Ted was the POS in that family

  8. Well, the writer of this article obviously read next to nothing about the RFK assasination. So a few FACTS are in order.

    Fact #1: RFK was hit with four shots–all from the BACK, when Sirhan was positioned in the the FRONT: the fatal penetration to the brain, the shot that passed through the right shoulder pad of the Senator’s coat, and two additional bullets that entered Kennedy’s body were all fired from the back and all produced powder residue patterns which indicated that they were all fired from a distance of only a few inches. Since RFK was walking towards Sirhan, and his body was always facing Sirhan during the shots even as he fell backwards it is impossible these shots originated from Sirhan’s weapon.

    We could stop here, but it gets worse for the morons who think Sirhan assasinated RFK all by his lonesome:

    Fact #2: Where did all those bullets come from? Sirhan’s gun could hold only eight bullets. Seven bullets were removed from victims, an eighth bullet was traced through two ceilings into airspace, and two more bullets were identified as lodged in the door frame of the pantry by both LAPD and FBI personnel. Let’s see, that adds up to 10 bullets shot from a gun that can only be loaded with 8 bullets. Sirhan has obviously bested Oswald’s magic bullet by causing his bullets to multiply as well as boomerang to hit RFK in the back of his head.

    Shall we go on?

    Fact #3: Powder burns on RFK’s clothing reveal that all three of his wounds were from a gun fired from 0 to 1-1/2 inches away. And yet, all witnesses claim that Sirhan, who was in front of Kennedy, never got closer than three feet away. Hmmm, maybe this damage was actually cause by Oswald’s magic bullet. That would explain this problem away.

    Are we getting it yet? Or are you still in fantasy land. Clearly, anyone who believes that Sirhan killed RFK has been BRAINWASHED, or is simply mentally impaired such that he/she has been programmed to believe any story and COMPLY OBEDIENTLY TO AUTHORITATIVE INSTRUCTIONS as long as it’s been presented as OFFICIAL, as in the famous Milgram experiment.

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