A Pickpocket's Tale: The Spectacular Thefts Of Apollo Robbins

Adam Green, writing for The New Yorker:

A few years ago, at a Las Vegas convention for magicians, Penn Jillette, of the act Penn and Teller, was introduced to soft-spoken young man named Apollo Robbins, who has a reputation as a pickpocket of almost supernatural ability. Jillette, who ranks pickpockets, he says, “a few notches below hypnotists on the show-biz totem pole,” was holding court at a table of colleagues, and he asked Robbins for a demonstration, ready to be unimpressed. Robbins demurred, claiming that he felt uncomfortable working in front of other magicians. He pointed out that, since Jillette was wearing only shorts and a sports shirt, he wouldn’t have much to work with. “Come on,” Jillette said. “Steal something from me.” Again, Robbins begged off, but he offered to do a trick instead. He instructed Jillette to place a ring that he was wearing on a piece of paper and trace its outline with a pen. By now, a small crowd had gathered. Jillette removed his ring, put it down on the paper, unclipped a pen from his shirt, and leaned forward, preparing to draw. After a moment, he froze and looked up. His face was pale. “Fuck. You,” he said, and slumped into a chair. Robbins held up a thin, cylindrical object: the cartridge from Jillette’s pen. The article is amazing. Read it. After having done so, check out this follow-up done by Jason Kottke that includes a video demonstration by Apollo Robbins himself. Also, there are numerous videos on YouTube that you can watch. Some good ones: * Neil deGrasse Tyson & Apollo Robbins on NOVA's scienceNOW * Apollo Robbins' "Great Pickpocket Routine"