The Most Famous Case of Stockholm Syndrome in History

There is a strange psychological trick that will cause a person who has been kidnapped to develop feelings for their kidnappers. One of the most famous occurrences of Stockholm Syndrome in history was the case of Patty Hearst.

Who is Patty Hearst?

Patricia Campbell Hearst was born on February 20, 1954. She was the granddaughter of newspaper mogul, William Randolph Hearst who became famous for creating the largest newspaper, magazine, newsreel, and movie business in the world. Her great-grandmother was philanthropist Phoebe Hearst. The family was associated with immese political influence and anti-Communism going back way before WWII.

Hearst was born in San Francisco, California, the third of five daughters of Randolph Apperson Hearst and Catherine Wood Campbell. She grew up primarily in Hillsborough. She attended Crystal Springs School for Girls in Hillsborough and the Santa Catalina School in Monterey. Patty attended Menlo College in Atherton, California prior to transferring as a Junior to the University of California, Berkeley. Despite her wealthy grandfather, Patty Hearst’s father was only one of a number of heirs, and did not have control of the Hearst interests. Her parents did not consider it necessary to take any measures for her personal security. At the time of her abduction, she was a sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley, studying the history of art, and living with her fiancé, Steven Weed.

And if you are thinking that the last name sounds familiar, Patty is the mother to Lydia Marie Hearst Shaw, the wife of TV personality and “Talking Dead” host, Chris Hardwick. The couple were married on August, 20, 2016 in Pasadena California.

Her Kidnapping that led to Stockholm Syndrome

Patty was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974 and was held by them for over a year before the FBI captured the kidnappers and arrested them as well as Hearst

During her time with the army, Patty joined them and participated in multiple bank robberies. There were images taken by surveillance cameras showing that Hearst committed armed robbery. Due to her part in the crimes, she was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 1975, and was later released by President Carter in 1979. Later, when President Bill Clinton was in office, he gave her a full pardon. It is believed that Patty Hearst suffered from Stockholm Syndrome, and she is often used as the textbook example of the disorder.

The Normalmstorg Bank Robbery – The Beginning of Stockholm Syndrome

The term “Stockholm Syndrome” was fairly new when Patty Hearst was captured. It is named for an event that occurred in Stockholm bank in 1973. An escaped convict entered the bank in Normalmstorg Square and held four employees hostage.

The hostages were placed inside the bank vault for more than five days. By day two, the hostages were on a first-name basis with their captor. They became hostile with the police who came to check on them during negotiations. They didn’t gain freedom until the police pumped teargas into the vault. The hostages hugged their captor before they left and protected him from police so that he would not be shot. They even collected money for his defense attorneys.

The story baffled the public who watched the events unfold on the news. Within a few months of the bank robbery, psychiatrists had come up with the name Stockholm Syndrome.

The Kidnapping of Patty Hearst

On February 4, 1974, Patty Hearst was kidnapped at the age of 19. She was taken hostage by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, who had plans to gain a large ransom from her wealthy family. Yet in a strange turn of events, two months after she was captured, Hearst recorded an audiotape that would soon be heard all around the world.

The recording announced that she had become part of the SLA. In the months that followed, there were more audio recordings released by the group. Hearst had started to actively participate in SLA-led criminal activity in California, including robbery and extortion. She even got away with stealing an estimated $2 million from her father during her months in captivity.

On September 18, 1975 after spending more than 19 months with the SLA, the FBI captured Hearst. In the spring of 1976 she was convicted of bank robbery and sentenced to a prison term of 35 years. She would end up only serving two years however, and was released in 1979 after President Jimmy Carter commuted her prison term.

Hearst Becomes the Poster Child for Stockholm Syndrome

Hearst’s experience with the SLA, particularly the details of her transition from victim to supporter, has sparked interest for the past several years, including countless psychological studies both inspired and bolstered by her story. The shift in Hearst’s behavior with the SLA has been widely attributed to a psychological phenomenon called Stockholm syndrome, in which hostages begin to develop positive feelings toward their captors, an effect thought to occur when victims’ initially frightening experiences with their kidnappers are later countered with acts of compassion or comradery by those same individuals.