News Flash: Psychics Still Useless

You may have heard about this bizarre story out of Texas this week, where a self-proclaimed psychic called police with a tip that a certain home was the site of a mass grave containing dozens of dismembered bodies, including the bodies of children. A swarm of reporters, FBI agents and Texas Rangers promptly converged on the address, bringing cameras, news helicopters and cadaver-sniffing dogs.

At first they found spots of blood on the porch, seemingly proving that the psychic tip-off was good as gold. But after obtaining a search warrant and examining the property in more detail, they found that the blood had a mundane explanation, and there were no bodies, no mass grave, and indeed no indication of any crime at all.

“With the assistance of various agencies out here at the scene,” Captain Evans said, “we were able to search the premises after the arrival of a search warrant, and we have no indication that there are in fact any bodies located in the residence, the shed, or any property here at the scene.”

(Some news agencies excitedly and mistakenly reported at first that bodies had been found, only to be forced to retract that claim subsequently.)

Are any of us surprised? Of course not, because as this story demonstrates further, all psychics are worthless frauds and con artists. Shame on the Texas police for not knowing that from the beginning and treating her “tip” as the useless hoax it was. How do they justify this colossal waste of time and resources chasing a wild claim from a posturing charlatan?

“Some of the information that was provided to us did specifically match information we found at the scene,” Mr. Evans said.

Ah yes, of course. Because there was in fact a house at the location described by the tipster, that means that the wild claim of a mass grave was plausible? This reminds me of the Christian apologists who say that if the places described in the New Testament were real, that proves that Jesus really did walk on water and come back from the dead. You can’t justify an extraordinary claim with merely ordinary evidence.

The obvious explanation for how the tipster was able to describe the house is that it’s someone who knows the people who live there. That was in fact suggested by one of the homeowners, who believes the source was a mentally unstable neighbor with a vendetta against them. The Texas police say they plan to track down the tipster and charge her with filing a false police report, as they should, and I hope this embarrassment is an object lesson to them the next time some deluded person calls in with another wild story.

But the most comical part of it all is the “real” psychics claiming – wait for it – that this sort of thing makes them look bad!

“Oh my God, now we’re all going to get a black eye,” was Jacki Mari’s first thought when she heard that a false tip from a psychic had led law enforcement officers on a fruitless search for a mass grave in East Texas on Tuesday night.

Ms. Mari, also known as Sherlockjackie, has, by her own reckoning, helped solve more than 400 murders and missing persons cases around the world — all without leaving her office outside Chicago. Her own psychic powers — she calls it “extrasensory intelligence” — told her that the informant’s tip was spurious, Ms. Mari said…

You’ll also note that, once again, a credulous media has given a pretender unrebutted column space to claim they’ve “helped” in dozens of cases, without debunking this claim or even asking for follow-up details about which cases these were. The standard M.O. for psychics in a real police investigation is to provide dozens of tips, ranging from the absurdly specific but unverifiable to the uselessly vague (“The body will be found near water,” “The body will be found near a church”), and then claiming that they “helped” if any of those statements turn out in retrospect to be true – even if many more of them are wrong, and even if the “psychic”‘s advice played no role in actually helping the police find the body or catch the criminal. (Another classic example was the “remote viewing” company which wrongly claimed kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart was dead.)

When a psychic can provide a convincing demonstration of their powers in a controlled test, I’ll believe there may be something to their claims. Until and unless that ever happens, the only reasonable conclusion is that psychics are all either self-deluded or deliberate fraudsters, and don’t deserve to be taken seriously by the police or anyone else.

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About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Arc of Fire, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.


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