Blog Post

Can Psychics Solve Crimes?

PS wrote: “The other day you posted a story about why Catholics should never consult psychic mediums. What do you say about all those psychics who solve crimes and find missing persons?”

As far as psychics who allegedly solve crimes, allow me to refer you to what the FBI told the television show, Inside Edition, a few years ago – that they were “not aware of any criminal investigation that has been resolved as a direct result of information provided from a psychic.”

That’s right. Contrary to all the sensational tabloid headlines, not a single crime has ever been solved – or a missing person found – as a result of the advice of a psychic detective.

But there have been a host of spectacular fails. For example, over 1,000 psychics claimed to know where Elizabeth Smart was, including some famous psychics such as Allison DuBois of the NBC show Medium. None of them were right.

Hundreds more weighed in on high profile cases such as that of Natalee Holloway, Laci Peterson, Chandra Levy, and every single psychic turned out to be wrong.

When it comes to solving murders, the failure rate is even more dramatic. I have never read of even one case of a psychic solving a crime with his or her psychic abilities. Instead, it was usually solved by employing conventional investigative techniques and making it look like it was their psychic ability in order to impress a gullible public.

Take the late TV celebrity-psychic, Sylvia Browne. She claimed many times to have used her psychic powers to solve crimes, but an analysis of the 115 cases reviewed with Lexis Nexis and newspaper sources in which she was involved, Brown was flat-out wrong in 25 cases and the remaining 90 cases either had no available details outside of the transcript or the crime is unsolved, leaving no way to confirm Browne’s claims. Another analysis of the 35 cases she spoke about on a series of Montel Williams programs found that her success rate was still in the pits. In 21 of the cases, the details she gave were too vague even to be verified. Of the remaining 14, either law enforcement or victims’ family members said Browne played no useful role in solving the case.

Her most spectacular fail involved the case of the missing Shawn Hornbeck, an 11 year-old boy who went missing on October 6, 2002. Browne appeared on the Montel Williams Show and told Hornbeck’s parents that their son was no longer alive. She gave a detailed description of the abductor and where Hornbeck could be found. When the boy was found alive four years later, almost none of the details given by Browne were correct. Craig Akers, Shawn’s father, said Browne’s declaration was “one of the hardest things that we’ve ever had to hear,” and that her misinformation diverted investigators and wasted precious police time.

Browne’s sad history is just the tip of the iceburg when it comes to psychics claiming to be able to solve crimes. Thankfully, as this article details, Inside Edition set up a “sting” to test whether these claims were viable. In one particular episode, they featured a clairvoyant named Laurie McQuary from Portland, Oregon. One of the show’s producers posed as a distraught brother of his missing sister and hired McQuary for $400 to help find her. McQuary looked at a photo of the girl and claimed she had been sexually assaulted and killed. She went so far as to indicate a remote location on a map where the body could be found.

The next day, Inside Edition taped an interview with McQuary in which they informed her that the photo was that of an Inside Edition correspondent and not the missing sister of the show’s producer. When asked how she could be so wrong, the psychic ended the interview and then walked off the set.

Just to prove that this wasn’t an aberration and that maybe there was such a thing as a bona fide psychic detective, 10 other psychics were contacted by the show with the same tall tale about the producer’s sister and all 10 reported that the girl had been murdered.

The same article reports on another case where dozens of psychics failed to discover a 20-year-old from Tennessee who has been missing since April. None of them were able to locate the missing person and succeeded only in draining police resources. One of the psychics even participated in a cable TV show devoted to psychic detectives (which was cancelled after 22 episodes failed to demonstrate a single case solved with paranormal skills).

Then there’s the case of the Long Island murder victim whose remains were supposedly found by psychic detectives. According to the New York Post, “A psychic eerily predicted where the victim of a suspected serial killer could be found — nine months before cops dug up the corpse and that of three other young women on a Long Island beach, police sources said.”

But when one examines the story a bit closer, the facts become much more clear. The psychic claimed to have seen the body in a grave “overlooking a body of water” with a sign nearby that had the letter “G” in it. However, the body was not found in a grave and just about any location on Long Island would be near a body of water. Plus, no sign was found nearby. But even if it had, would a sign containing the “G” in it be all that unusual in a place named “Long Island”?

It’s almost embarrassing to report the simple tactics psychics use to snooker the public into believing them. For instance, even to pronounce a missing person to be dead or alive has a 50 percent hit rate. If a psychic predicts that the person is dead, they usually go on to make other “startling predictions” such as the fact that the person is buried in a shallow grave. (How many murderers take the time to dig a deep grave?) Or they’ll predict that this grave can be found in a remote or “wooded area.” (How many killers bury their victims in the middle of the front yard?) Other psychics might say “I see water near the body” or “I see trees”, information which can be easily gleaned from looking at a map of the area.

This is not to say that all psychics are frauds and that no one has psychic abilities because some people do indeed have the power to see into the future. But where does their information come from? It can’t come from God because He denounces all soothsayers in Deuteronomy 18. It can’t come from good angels because they exist solely to do the will of God who would never contradict Himself by allowing an angel to participate in the work of a soothsayer. Disembodied human souls no longer have the capacity to communicate with the material world and can only do so through a supernatural (God) or preternatural (angelic) agency – and this can only be done with the express permission of God.

That leaves only one being who has both the motive and the power to seduce a soul into turning away from God and toward a psychic for help.

The devil.

This is why Catholics should stay away from psychics - regardless of the headlines.

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