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  • Writer's pictureMadison Hagler

The Wondrous World of Pickpocketing by Hector Mancha

Wanna steal stuff from people on the streets!?


This book teaches you how to steal wallets, phones, watches, glasses, and even ties from random people! Oh wait, I'm reading the first page again.. oh shoot, it seems Vanishing Inc and Hector make it very clear this is taught for entertainment purposes only. I guess that's the only place you can do this then! *wink wink*

This book is gorgeously produced as all of Vanishing Inc’s books are. The cover is eye catching and the inside cover is just as striking. This book is an easy read at 113 pages. I read it over the course of two hours. It’s covers pickpocketing in a theatrical context utilizing various magic routines as a place for you to practice genuine pickpocketing. Each chapter begins with a cute cartoon and a comical quote. Hector’s personality shines in the writing, and his comedic nature is littered throughout. Let’s dive into the contents.

Prologue by Woody Aragon - This is a fun prologue to read because Woody gets pickpocketed as you read it. It’s a nice first step into the world of Hector.

Introduction - This describes Hector’s love of pickpocketing. It also is quick to point out that this book is not trying to give you in-depth stealing techniques. Instead, its primary focus is on teaching the psychological elements that make the steals invisible and providing routines to practice the techniques within. A brief bibliography is given at the end of the book for those who want to take a deep dive into the stealing techniques.

Before You Start

Preventative Measures - This outlines six bullet points for things to keep in mind when preparing to pickpocket for entertainment purposes to ensure you won’t get sued. I’d say it’s a rather important chapter!

How to practice - This outlines a practical way to practice pickpocketing for those with no friends (it’s perfect for me) as well as general ideas to keep in mind both when practicing on friends, and when performing for an audience.

The Auditions

Studying the Value of Your Audience - This serves as a guide for how to choose your participants for your pickpocketing demonstrations. The moral of the story: choose people who have stuff you can steal from them! It also details some personality types to stay away from. This is the type of knowledge that clearly comes from Hector choosing the wrong participant once or twice. Hey, he did it so we don’t have to!

Let’s Start Pickpocketing - This lays out a simple thing you can say to your participant to help the demonstration be successful. It also discusses how to bring participants onto the stage for a pickpocket demonstration–maybe even stealing a thing or two in the process

The Groundwork

The Groundwork - As you would expect, this lays the groundwork for the psychological elements to pickpocketing. You get tips such as, “keep close physical contact,” four types of distraction you can use while you’re doing your steal, and some tips for what to do immediately after the steal to make the participant “forget” any suspicions they may have had.

A Brief Guide to Pickpocketing

The Watch Steal - This briefly outlines three different ways to steal a watch. All of the actual stealing techniques are taught primarily with illustrations and very few words. Even though the goal isn’t to “dive deep” into technique, I think these descriptions are some of the best I’ve read. It doesn’t belabor the point, and it shows you enough for you to start practicing without bogging you down on minute details that don’t particularly matter when in the heat of the moment. The most interesting steal is the last one taught; it is Hector’s own “King’s Watch” steal. It is a two-handed steal that happens during a handshake. It’s very similar to an Apollo Robbins steal, but with a few minor changes.

The Tie Steal - Hector calls the tie steal the “king of all steals” and I would agree. It is always so impressive seeing a tie being stolen–it looks so impossible! Luckily, it’s actually rather easy mechanically. The illustrations make it very simple to follow.

The Belt Steal - Hector says this is the most difficult steal possible. However, Hector has a little trick to help make the belt steal much easier. The illustrations for this steal are drawn sort of like an illustration of a dance.

The Front Pocket Steal - Hector calls these the mysterious steals because you never know what you’re going to find. The technique outlined here is a really solid method and it’s actually quite easy again. There’s a certain aspect to this that I have never considered, but it makes the steal exponentially easier than trying to just stick your hand into someone’s pocket–they’ll feel that every time.

The Blazer Steal - Don’t get too excited, this isn’t how to steal someone’s blazer off of their back. Instead, it’s how to steal items out of a blazer. It teaches how to steal items from the side pockets as well as the breast pockets. Once again, this is far easier than you’d expect. I may would even say these are the most accessible steals taught.

The Glasses Steal - Hector teaches how to make stealing glasses easy as pie. It gives you the same great reveal of them not realizing you’re wearing their glasses, but it is at least 50% less work.

A Basic Pickpocketing Script

Scripting - This is a basic outline for a script that can be used to steal anything and everything from a member of the audience. This is gold. The psychological nature of this scripting lets you practically get away with murder. Hector has laid it out so that you see what he’s saying as well as what actions he is doing as he makes each statement. The script essentially allows you to perform a pickpocket act under the camouflage of a completely different task. It’s something you could put anywhere in your show. It’s not a magic routine that uses an additional method to accomplish the task; it’s pure pickpocketing. The script fully justifies all of the touching they feel, and it is an entertaining premise even if you weren’t doing the stealing. This script is worth the price of the book. Seriously.

“Magic” Routines

This whole section of the book teaches magic routines that have a pickpocketing premise. These routines also all include a moment that you can use to practice genuine pickpocketing if you choose. Each routine has a “When to Steal” section that describes the best place within the routine to perform any genuine pickpocketing.

Himber Night Revenge - The basic premise is that you tear a corner from a selected card and leave the card in a wallet in the spectator’s pocket. The performer is left holding the torn corner. After the lights flicker on and off, the torn corner is now in the wallet in the spectator’s pocket and the rest of the card is found in an unexpected location. There is no work at all on the part of the performer for the routine. It’s not the most effective routine taught, but it’s an easy intro to pickpocketing.

Pick Bill in the Shadows - The performer brings someone on stage. They remove a bill from their wallet, sign their name on it, put it back in their wallet, and put their wallet back in their pocket. The performer attempts to remove the bill from the wallet just by bumping into him. He fails several times “accidentally” removing the participant’s credit cards instead! Finally, he succeeds and removes the bill. I enjoy this routine. It’s easy to do, and it looks impressive. It is a bit bold, but in the right hands, it will be wonderful.

Ring Over the Rainbow - Three people come on stage. The first removes her ring and is given the performer’s wallet in return for the ring. She puts the performer’s wallet in her pocket. The other two spectators stand behind the performer. One of them grabs the first spectator’s ring and hides it anywhere they want on their person. The performer attempts to pickpocket the ring but fails… because the ring is in the wallet that is in the first spectator’s pocket! This is the first routine that definitely has a more magical feel to it. But the middle section of the routine allows you to perform a full pickpocket act on the two spectators on stage all the while knowing that you have a strong ending already prepared. It’s a clever method with some very nice psychology.

The F***ing Awesome Robbery of the Unicorn - The performer removes a spectator’s wallet (or phone) from their pocket without them feeling a single thing. As a bonus, the performer can steal their credit cards from their wallet to return at a later point. This is a bold routine that allows you to seem like the world’s best pickpocket. It’s a pseudo pickpocket routine meaning no real pickpocketing takes place, but it will look exactly like the real thing. Hector does note that there are some bad angles to it (specifically behind the spectator) but it’s a great routine if you’re looking to add a pickpocketing routine into your act without much work.

The Doppelganger Comes Round for Coffee - Hector says he has never performed this and probably ever will, although, that’s a shame because it’s a solid routine. The performer places his wallet in a spectator’s pocket. And without the spectator feeling a thing, the performer is able to sneak a named card into the wallet. This is essentially the reverse of pickpocketing. Instead of sneaking anything out of a pocket, you actually sneak something INTO a pocket. This utilizes a clever method which reminds me of PK Touches because it relies on a difference in time perception to accomplish the effect. This allows for a very clean presentation and there’s no real skill involved at all.

The Impossible Robbery of the Invisible Man -

This is a pickpocketing presentation of an invisible deck. I won’t speak too much about the presentation because if I did, you would be able to put the pieces together. This one is less of a realistic pickpocket demonstration because you leave evidence that you’ve picked a pocket but the audience doesn’t get to see you actually performing the pickpocketing in a satisfying way. It’s more “magical” than the others, but again, if you just want a pickpocket vibe in your show, this is an easy way to add it in utilizing something you’re already comfortable with.

Johnny Slates Steals a Bill - A bill is borrowed and the serial number is noted by a member of the audience onto a chalkboard. The bill is kept in an audience member’s possession between two chalkboards. Moments later, the bill is gone and can be reproduced anywhere you’d like. You can probably guess the method from the title and the description. This is one that again feels more like a magic trick than a true pickpocket demonstration, but the construction allows for a really hands off effect. My main gripe with this routine is that it uses chalkboards as a means to “safely hold a bill.” That’s not the most logical choice in the world, and certainly not the most natural. But if you’re into it, the method is sound and practically self-working.

The Wallet is Under Where? - The performer wraps a participant’s wallet in a handkerchief and secures the handkerchief into the waistband on the trousers of the participant. The performer attempts to remove the wallet but comes out with the participant’s underwear! He continues to steal other items including his belt and other belongings ultimately ending up showing the handkerchief empty and handing their wallet back to them. Hector uses this as the finale to his pickpocket act. I mean once you steal someone’s underwear… where can you go from there?? It’s a pickpocket free way to steal a wallet, it provides comedy, and it allows you to practice the belt steal. The handkerchief seems to make the steals more impossible, but in reality, it makes the entire routine as easy as taking candy from a baby—or in this case—underwear from a grown man.

The Elegant Robbery of Sean Connery - The performer steals money from a wallet in a participant’s pocket and leaves behind a thank you note that was signed by them–all without them feeling a thing. This is the last full routine taught in the book. It is a beautifully designed routine that appears to show off some extreme pickpocketing talent, when in reality, the participant unknowingly does everything for you. It’s a fantastic routine that is sure to amuse and amaze. I think it would be most effective if it was set up at the beginning of a genuine pickpocketing demonstration so that the bill can be revealed as the finale to the whole demonstration. It would essentially allow you to fail miserably at the genuine pickpocketing and still end with a bang that would leave them speechless.

Other Tricks

Other Tricks - This entire section describes fourteen little tricks and thoughts to help improve a pickpocketing performance. These are not full routines, but more suggestions or ideas. They include: An idea to double the amount of items you return, a way to get a free steal before a performance, a classic rouse to make it appear as if you’ve stolen much more than you truly have, some joke items to return, returning something that you never stole, gifting someone an item, using keys from a keyring to return more objects, using cigarettes from a box to return more objects, how to use one object to get multiple steals, a way to apparently steal wallets and phones with no effort, how to steal the ring off of someone’s finger, an impromptu underwear steal, stealing headphones, and how to ensure you have the most places possible to steal from.

Final Words

Final Words - A comical final word.

My Mother’s Hot Sauce Recipe - Truly, his mother’s hot sauce recipe.

Thank-Yous - A list of thanks

A Brief Bibliography - Six books that Hectors believes to be required reading for those wanting to dive deeper into pickpocket techniques.

I was really surprised by this book. It is a very funny read and thoroughly entertaining from beginning to end. It does a great job of simplifying pickpocketing to the point where it feels like anyone could do it. This book has made me go down the rabbit trail of famous pickpocketers on youtube. In the opening of the book, Hector says it’s less about technique and more about confidence and psychology. I didn’t believe him at first, but after watching these famous pickpocket experts on youtube, he is absolutely right. You don’t have to be subtle, you don’t have to be sneaky, you just have to be able to psychologically lead them and have the confidence to just go for it. As someone who has never performed a pickpocket routine, this book has inspired me, and I feel confident that if I wanted to add a pickpocket portion to my show, I would definitely use a routine or two from this book. For those who are already familiar with pickpocketing, get this for Hector’s “Basic Pickpocketing Script.” It’s worth buying for that alone.

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