lockpicker-paranoia1I was wondering how to call this post: Lockpicker-paranoia or paranoia lockpick-zophrenia. But in all seriousness, ever since we have been in the New York times (that was followed up on by various media) I have received lots of calls and e-mails from people who are ‘troubled by a lockpicker’. The story all these people tell is more or less the same and basically boils down to this: there is a lockpicker who picks the lock of their house, goes inside and does nothing but just move the furniture a little or leave subtle clues they have been inside. And all people who contact me have one burning question: What lock should I buy to keep this evil lockpicker out. *sigh*

I know that no matter what lock I will advise, they will always come back to ask more questions as the lockpicker will always be able to get in and ‘move stuff’. In one case I advised to install a 3KS+ lock and ensured them that I personally do not know people who can open them without damaging the lock. Yet, one day later I received a call from the same person questioning my advice. *more sighs*

Now the interesting part: I spoke with some people about this, and they too receive inquiries like this once in a while. What intrigued me most was one quote from someone who told me he personally knew of two cases where there actually was someone picking the lock (or duplicating a key) and moving stuff! In one case the ‘lockpicker’ even cleaned the house of his victim and used a vacuum cleaner to clean the carpet! Asked why these ‘lockpickers’ went to all this trouble to harass someone the motive was a little vague. Someone who does not like their neighbors or personal motives concerning intimate relationships.

I was baffled to hear about this an am very curious if other sources can confirm stories like this. Anyone got juicy stories to tell?

20 Responses to “Lockpicker-paranoia”

  1. Urb Anwriter says:

    Ah, welcome to the ‘real world’ of locksmithing… hehehe. I’ve been in, and out, of the game over 35 years and the ‘someone has a key’ provides some small business, and many, many headaches.

    ‘My landlord comes into my place and goes through my files. They’re important files you know. I’m saving them for my children. All of them are about health issues (a bit fuzzy here) and I’m saving all the information I can, so they will know what to do. And can I get locks for my suitcases? To keep my landlord out of them too? I think he has a ‘master key’ (you know the one, opens all locks, not just the ones on Primus, or WR5, or any of the Abus keyways…) and I don’t want him to get into my files.”

    I could go on, but you get the drift.

    Vancouver, BC

  2. Ron says:

    Heh, I always considered doing that, in a joking sense. It would be funny to re-arrange stuff.

    I was probably inspired by the movie Now You Know (by Jeff Anderson, from Clerks) where the protagonists did just that. They did a couple weird things, like turn pictures upside down, switch the furniture between rooms, etc. In the movie they were hired by an alarm company to do it, to help improve business, but I’d find it funnier to do it without a motive.

  3. jos weyers says:

    I pay someone to do this weekly.
    (mind you : cleaning MY place, not other random houses)

  4. tballard says:

    I think you tagged it correctly: “paranoia” I suspect there is probably an actual mental illness which manifests this way. Just like people who freak out about “chips” being secretly implanted in them. It’s a common enough delusion, and while theoretically possible, usually it’s all in their head.

    (embarrassing personal story: in junior high (around 12-13 years old) some friends and I repeated tampered with the contents of a girls locker at school. Every day we moved something. And she _never_ noticed. Finally we cleaned it drastically, and it was only after a couple of pointed “hey did you notice anything different” questions did she figure it out. In general, humans don’t notice subtle unexpected changes)

  5. Barry says:

    Thanks for the comments so far … hope there is more to come. Also received some interesting stories in private. One of them is about a story of two people having a some sort of conflict. One of these people sent out a clear message: he picked his way into the other persons apartment (using an e-pick) and left a 9mm bullet on the desk … brrr … not my cup of tea 🙁

  6. Right after reading the headline of you post, a story flashed up in my mind… Some month ago someone mailed me, asking for help. Someone would enter his flat every 2 or 3 days an changing some things (opening doors etc). He said the police does not listen to him any more and he does not know what to do. He said he moved 4 times into other cities to escape from the mysterious person entering his flat. Nothing helped.
    After 6 or 7 Emails going around I was stunned. His doors and Windows where absolutly safe, he spend a lot of money for them. But the spy-cam he installed in his living-root was destroyed an his shoes where taped together with black duct tape. You can’t imagine that. But as I said, his flat was a stronghold.
    I suggested him to stack 5 dices right behind the door, noting which pips where on the top face. If someone would enter his flat, he would smash the dice-tower an coud never stack them with the same faces pointing to the top.
    He stated that the intruder used a x-ray scanner to scan all things right behind the door and could easily restack the dices correctly. What sould I answer to that?
    After all, I couln’t not help him.


  7. mh says:

    There doesn’t seem to exist much psychological research on this, according to one of the 2 sources that wikipedia lists; the other one states: “The current interest in stalking is promoting false claims of being stalked. […] appropriate intervention (is) essential to both minimising abuses of resources available to true victims and equally to ensure appropriate care for those who express their own disordered state in false claims of victimisation. ” ( http://bjp.rcpsych.org/cgi/content/abstract/174/2/170 ).

    A more simplistic view would be that being harassed helps the false “victim” to feel more important.

    Anyway, in the case we have encountered during our monthly meetings, it seemed to put significant stress on the family of the “victim”.

    They came a long way to visit us to “hear from the experts” that her locks were secure. But apparently this didn’t help, so they came back again to get a second opinion that if the security camera didn’t record the stalker, he wasn’t there. But well, it couldn’t record him, because the guy worked in an electronics store and is an expert on manipulating cameras.
    She had already tried a number of locks, incl. 2 EVVA MCS (and we did NOT point her to our research about that – I guess this is a case where non-disclosure is actually the better way) – still, the stalker would again and again walk into her appartment while she wasn’t there and do little things to annoy her, like moving her chairs and scratching her Tupperware containers.
    The word Tupperware now has a similar effect like the word Kuchenblech… but overall, it’s a sad story.


  8. NKT says:

    I know of someone who had a client like this, who put eventually Bramah everywhere. Still their client insisted that someone was unlocking doors, etc. Turned out that the person was quite mad, and wasn’t locking the doors on the way out, so needless to say, when they came back and they were open…

    The best solution for sleeping well at night is a good bolt on the back of the door. It rates only slightly below having no enemies who would do this.

  9. DfD says:

    I got some equal calls and emails too. High security locks like Simon & Voss, Alarm system with direct line to a guard service, cameras and a bolt on the inside… nevertheless the intruder was (apparently) in the appartment in a high rise building.

  10. Scott_93 says:

    I once did work experience with a very large locksmith / security company and I heard of a very similar story. They were approached by an elderly lady who feared that someone was entering her home and moving/damaging stuff. They fitted a top of the range alarm system and at regular times the alarm would be activated and nothing would be found, they then upgraded all the locks to ASSA Twin Combi’s and still the same things were happening to the extent that everyone was confused, ideas from ghosts to a very skilled lockpicker were being thrown around. Eventually it was decided to fit covert CCTV cameras that only her and the installers knew about. What was found will surprise you greatly . . . . .

    . . . . . She had a group of squirrels who where gaining entry thought her loft and sneaking down into the house only to be scared away by the alarm, over-active minds and all (:

  11. David says:

    As a commercial and industrial locksmith, I occasionally get inquiries concerning this.

    Oddly enough, they are usually from older, retired women, who live alone, and often have quite a bit of money. They, like other posters here, ask for ‘fort-knox’ type security.

    “My ex-husband hired someone to stay in my attic. And they break in every night. But they don’t steal anything. Just move things around”

    ….this will be often followed up with “So I want every door keyed differently, with high security locks, and, do you install security cameras? I want to catch the SOB”


    “I have security cameras, but I think they’re looping the image, you know, like they do in the movies? And they keep moving all my important papers!”

    We will install good locks on their door, if they want it. The cameras we usually dissuade from, because at that point we would be just taking advantage of them.

    Welcome to the world of crazies.

  12. Around 2004, I lived in a roach-hotel, in San Francisco. The woman across the hall from Me actually was crazy, in some form.

    She kept saying someone was coming in her room, and raping her. Management put in one of those bars which fits in a hole in the floor, and attaches to the door. She put in a TV camera and VCR.
    Being friendly, and unflappable, they eventually get to Me! She told Me, “It was the ugly black guy, downstairs.” “Which ‘ugly black guy’?” “The one who is always down in the lobby.” “You mean Harry?” “Yes, that’s his name.”
    She told Me Harry had gotten past the bar-lock, raped her, and left. His image somehow did not appear on the video recording.
    At this point, I just said, “Oh, well, I don’t know what to do.”, and left it at that. I did not tell anybody anything about that conversation.

    A few weeks later, walking into the community room, there were people around Harry, who was saying, “But I wasn’t raped anybody.” The others were telling the stories they had been told. I said, “Yeh, I was told that, too.”
    Harry looked at Me, in wonder. I said, “Isn’t it lousy, that you’re the LAST person to find out what you did?” My attitude made Harry’s innocence clear to the others.

    A few weeks later, she left to more-supervised housing, and they removed the door-bar, covering the hole with new carpet. Oh, yes: Harry is gay.

    The world of crazies certainly is inventive, but it scores poorly in logic!

  13. Mark says:

    The particular tactic you’re talking about (making small changes in someone’s personal space to instill fear or make them doubt their own recall or sanity) is known as, “gaslighting.”


    There aren’t a lot of documented examples of it out there, but I can think of one offhand: “operation freakout.” Google that phrase and you’ll find references to how the Church of Scientology tried to take down a woman, Paulette Cooper, who wrote one of the first books critical of Scientology. They went well beyond “gaslighting” and successfully framed her by making it appear she had been making death-threats. The plot wasn’t discovered until the FBI raided Scientology offices in Washington DC…. the evidence collected there completely exonerated her (Google “Operation Snow White” for more).

    I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I usually take reports of such things with a grain of salt… but in the case of gaslighting, there are solid examples of it out there.

  14. Eyes_Only says:

    I did a couple of jobs like this when working for a locksmith shop. It was for an older lady who was convinced her home was being constantly broken into. In just the first couple minutes of entering her home I was thoroughly convinced she was somewhat mentally ill. The whole house was a complete mess, boxes everywhere and the smell of human urine was unmistakable just to name a few, and in her bedroom had a hospital bed with a large naked cupie doll lying in it. Found out later that those boxes were full of diapers for adults with incontinence problems.

    If I ever decide to start my own business I’ll only do automotive work to avoid most of these kind of nut cases and pain in the butt situations.

  15. Griffiti says:

    Some sort of dementia is often the cause – particularly when the customer says that things are being stolen – it’s often things that they’ve given away recently. They remember they used own it because that’s long term memory but forget they’ve given it away – short term memory. I had a customer who accused the neighbour of stealing the paint off her door but said it was okay because a relative of the neighbour put it back during the night but in a different colour! I felt sorry for the neighbour!

  16. mhole says:

    I’m surprised you’ve not had evenmore replies – this industry is a magnet for paranoid individuals. If you grabbed a random group of 20 people off the street, I’d bet that the paranoid delusional folks would outnumber the lockpickers, and that informs my general assumption that anytime somebody complains of inexplicable movement of objects, it’s because they’re delusional or forgetful, rather than the targets of a highly skilled practical joker.

    My favorite example of this was getting called back to a previous customer, who had wanted her locks changed on the front door, as ‘someone’ had keys for the door. A few months later she called back, wanting the back door changed, as someone was still getting in, and had changed the settings on her boiler, and moved a dish-cloth from the kitchen to the bathroom.

    The back door opened onto a single balcony on the 9th floor of a tower block…

  17. mercurial says:

    I have seen this phenomenon deveop in a person as a result of dementia.

    This person was my piano teacher when I was very young. Initially, whilst elderly, she was completely normal, and a very well respected performer and teacher. She was very sharp and intelligent – no sign of madness/delusional behaviour whatsoever.

    Fast-forward approximately six years, and I’d arrive for my piano lesson & get no answer at the front door. When she eventually became aware of my presense, she’d let me in, usually by the back door. She had barricaded the front door because she believed that her son was sneaking in and moving things around, and he was also apparently stealing her address book/diary.

    At this point in time her ability to play and teach music was still very much intact, but as the dementia progressed she had to be put in a home. Shortly before this, she had the security and locks at her house upgraded several times.

    A great shame to watch this happen to somebody.

  18. Parautoptic says:

    My former girlfriend really did have a landlord who was entering the flat she shared with her friend…. They each thought that the other was going through their underclothes etc. After a few months of this they caught him at it, he made some excuse about needing to check the pipes or some such BS. Very shortly after that they both moved out.

    “just because you are a paranoid it doesn`t mean they are not trying to get you!!” 🙂

  19. Nick P says:

    They are probably mostly crazy, but some are undoubtedly correct. My high school days were full of action and various pranks were the greatest source of amusement in the small town. The mention of “Gaslighting” is all too true. Teens like to just go do random stuff and teens like to mess with people. If you combine the two with a teen skilled in the black arts, of which my town had many, then you get a ton of B&E’s and mostly harmless sabotage. We used to break into apartment clubhouses for casual hangouts, office buildings for raves, etc. For the casual stuff, we always took pictures of the place before and removed all traces afterward. We would usually leave one or more signs that we were there just to mess with security or the owners. Sometimes, security scared us out of the building without even realizing we were there. Dude has a “something is weird around here” look on his face, walks right past us several times, and then leaves. I remember my heart was pounding.

    We would have done this stuff much more except we were hackers and preferred messing around on computers. We also weren’t particularly into causing innocent people harm: we mainly annoyed a$$holes. I remember a real Gaslighting trick I did on a friend with the Subseven script and some little audio toys. Kept messing with him by generating certain noises in his house on and off. We made random stuff happen on the computer, like the CD-ROM open, when the noises started. When he asked about it, we acted nonchalant and suggested it was all in his head. He was simply “stressed out” from school and work. At the point that we almost drove him nuts, we popped up the Matrix-style chat mode and started a conversation that let him know he was on the local version of Candid Camera. Gaslighting is good fun for smart, bored people. That was a long time ago, though. I try to stay “clean” these days. I guess I grew up. 😉

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