Joe Schmoe was six years old when he killed his best friend; it wasn't his fault, it was just the way that he was made...

Joe was born with an auto-telepathic telekinetic feedback ability - he has the ability to unconsciously kill anyone who has thoughts of killing him. It doesn't matter if those thoughts are intended to be carried out - "it's the thought that counts" (to re-use a phrase). If someone has an idle though that the world would be better off without Joe being alive, then they die.

As a young adult, Joe is eventually incarcerated in prison, in solitary confinement. But he's still killing - everyone who benevolently wishes to end his solitary suffering, the relatives of those that he's inadvertently taken from their families.

How can we end this cycle of pain and suffering?

EDIT: Burki raised the question of suicide. While this might be an elegant idea, it bypasses other creative ideas. For the sake of the story, let's say that this ability is borne of self-preservation and suicide is not an option here (sorry).

Interesting discussion overnight and some clarification has been asked for.

In essence, Joe's defence is this: If someone wishes him dead, then they die. Thinking of Joe, or being afraid of him isn't necessarily fatal.

Let's put it another way. Consider any mass-murderer/psychopath/dictator and how many people would wish them dead.

Or another way. A cute girl/guy sells you coffee this morning - if you subsequently have a sexual fantasy about him/her, you die. If you're happy with just getting your coffee with a kind word, you're pretty safe.

It's also worth considering the new title of this question and spinning it around - who is the thought-crime killer - Joe, or the people who wish him dead?

Nevertheless, Joe is in solitary confinement - whether he got there by turning himself in, or was dragged in is open for interpretation. I'm not saying either happened, I'm just providing a framework for your imagination.

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    $\begingroup$ Please avoid making new tags for questions if possible. You defined 4 new tags: telekinesis, thought-crime, criminal, and consequences; none of which look generic or suitable for new questions. $\endgroup$ – person27 Sep 23 '16 at 3:02
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    $\begingroup$ Does the thought have to be specifically about joe? if someone who doesn't know he exists decides to cut the budget for a program that's providing him with dialysis do they die? Does someone who thinks about something that might kill him die? If bill just wants to kill anyone and thinks about laying a landmine on joes street without knowing joe exists does bill die? Does someone who simply decides to be reckless near joe die? "lets get drunk and fire guns in every direction! wooo!" $\endgroup$ – Murphy Sep 23 '16 at 15:05
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    $\begingroup$ How can the rules even be known by anyone with the power to act on that knowledge? I don't think it is possible to formulate the concept of "thinking about killing Joe", without, as part of this, also having the concept of "killing Joe" in one's head. Bang, everyone who even gets close to understanding that rule is dead. $\endgroup$ – Henning Makholm Sep 23 '16 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ My basic problem with this question is that it doesn't make sense. How would anyone ever know/figure out that Joe has this power? If a 6 year old dies, just suddenly, how would anyone know that the thought of killing Joe kills? And, if they did find out, just thinking about the fact that thinking about killing Joe will kill you, will, in all likelihood, kill you. Because you'd have to think about killing Joe. $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Sep 23 '16 at 23:56
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    $\begingroup$ Need clarification: how quickly does a person die after thinking the thought? Need clarification: (as asked by Malakai9999) what is the distance range of joe's powers? Need clarification: are there any materials or fields that block Joe's powers? (A tinfoil hat?) $\endgroup$ – Don Hatch Sep 24 '16 at 2:13

33 Answers 33


Warning: This answer is pretty dark, not suitable for all settings or for those of a delicate disposition.

Put him in a medically induced coma (permanent vegetative state) and then start performing non-lethal brain surgery until his ability stopped working. Test his ability by bringing in prisoners on death row and saying that if they kill him their sentence will be commuted to imprisonment. If removing bits of his brain doesn't work start on limbs and bodily organs till you find whatever the source of the power is, then send that off for studying. In fact the "kill switch" the prisoners have been given is not lethal so setting it up or telling them to use it will not kill the organizers. Only the prisoner thinks he is going to kill Joe so only the prisoner is at risk.

Once Joe's ability stops working keep him alive until he dies of side effects or natural causes (since intending to kill him once it stops working might trigger it before you disable it).


Using the statement of having to think about his death.

If you have someone who is intent on killing the warden of the prison where Joe is being held uses any killing device (bomb, nuke, chemical gas, etc.) on the prison. The intended target is the warden (not Joe) but there would be massive amounts of collateral damage. Joe can be one of those killed in the collateral damage and the killer wouldn't be killed by Joe's thought killing.

Now the killer having killed so many will have a whole new set of problems.

  • $\begingroup$ You can't tell someone to kill the warden with a bomb because you actually hope it'll kill Joe, without thinking of Joe's death and dying first. Hoping someone wants to kill the warden that way would also kill you. It isn't a plan anyone can implement, it's just something that might happen. $\endgroup$ – rek Sep 27 '16 at 15:47

Cross the motorway

Release him from prison but let him cross a busy motorway blindfolded. None of the drivers have the thought or intent of killing him and the prison warden doesn't have the explicit thought either.

Even if the driver realizes he might kill Joe, the weight of the vehicle etc would still carry enough momentum to cause a fatal crash.

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    $\begingroup$ Making him cross the motorway blindfolded is clearly trying to kill him. I don't think this works. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Sep 21 '16 at 8:55
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    $\begingroup$ The warden or whoever came up with the plan would have died before even having the chance of doing it. Why? because the plan has the intention of killing him. I would do things differently, in fact, If I wanted to kill him I w $\endgroup$ – Theraot Sep 21 '16 at 9:56
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm... this might work, but only if it was suggested, and done, by a psychopath whose goal was to use Joe to cause chaos, rather than to kill him. After all, when everyone sees Joe walking across the motorway, their first thought will likely be "Omigod I'm gonna hit him!" They will think about killing him, as to think of how to avoid killing someone requires the thought of them dying. And then they would die, and they would crash. It would be one of the biggest pileups in history, and Joe would likely be hit by a stray car. $\endgroup$ – Justin Time Sep 23 '16 at 1:47

protected by Community Sep 21 '16 at 20:44

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