Great Texas massacre hoax wrecks the reputation of psychics everywhere

Great Texas massacre hoax wrecks the reputation of psychics everywhere June 8, 2011

YESTERDAY woo-woos everywhere were in their element, revelling in the news that Texas police – acting on a tip-off from an unidentified  psychic – had uncovered a mass grave containing 30 bodies.
Today, disappointment set in like cement when the local plods admitted they had been duped.

Some of the police who were involved in the hunt for a mass grave in Liberty County. The operation is said to have cost around $1-m.
According to the Telegraph, all the police had found at the scene of the alleged crime was some rotting rubbish but no bodies. Said one official:

There’s nothing that matches what the psychic said.

Joe Bankston, the bemused man whose home was raided exclaimed:

This is like something out of a novel. Finding out that the police are in my yard for dead bodies? That’s kinda panicking me. I ain’t killed nobody.

Commented the Telegraph‘s Brendan O’Neill:

On the back of one phone call by someone who claims to be able to read people’s minds, a massive police operation was launched, a man’s privacy was violated, and around the world breaking news alerts informed millions of people that 30 dismembered kids had been discovered in Texas.

He added:

You couldn’t have asked for a better snapshot of the astonishing credulity and weakness for crankiness amongst people in positions of power today. Police are now trying to track down the psychic. But when one psychic can impact on the world in this way, it is quite clear that the problem is *us*, and our capacity to believe the worst and our penchant for hocus-pocus, rather than them. It’s a daft world indeed that can allow itself to be led astray by an eccentric on the end of a phone.

One alarmed woo-woo, identifying himself as IgonikonJack left this comment beneath O’Neill’s piece:

This psychic has damaged the credibility of psychics. Next time when a psychic issues a premonition, the public are unlikely to listen. In a world where scepticism still looms in the field of parasychology, extra-sensory perception, esotericism and transcendental mysticism, anti-psychic Crying Wolf Syndrome would likely descend on Texas and other places regarding the role of psychics …

While on the subject of barminess, we learn that one Christopher Anthony Roller has applied to patent Godly Powers in the US.
The holy Roller says in support of his application:

Christopher Anthony Roller is a godly entity. ‘Granters’ had been given my powers (acquired my powers) (via God probably). These ‘granters’ have been receiving financial gain from godly powers. These ‘granters’ may be using their powers without morals. Chris Roller wants exclusive right to the ethical use and financial gain in the use of godly powers on planet Earth. The design of godly-products have no constraints, just like any other invention, but the ethnic consideration of it’s (sic) use will likely be based on a majority vote of a group, similar to law creation. The commission I require could range from 0-100% of product price, depending on the product’s value and use.

Hat tip: Pete H (psychic report) and Simon Butler

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  • Stonyground

    I first came across this story at the Daily Mash:
    I sometimes hold my head in my hands in despair when confronted with stupidity on this scale, what hope is there for humanity?

  • mikespeir

    Reputation means nothing. Believers gonna believe.

  • StaggerLee

    Wouldn’t gawd have to patent the gawdly powers? I mean what that guy is doing is equivalent to buying an i-phone and trying to patent it. He’s merely the user not the inventor. Gawd is, duh. Then again technically wouldn’t gawd have the ultimate patent? After all “it” created everything.
    *Disclaimer- I am only accepting gawds existence here for the sake of argument, i do not believe in gawdly powers nor gawd. People who use gawdly powers should consult a psychiatrist before setting out to claim to have or attempt to use gawdly powers. Some side effects of using gawdly powers include megalomania, delusional thinking, sexual dysfunction, and hair loss. Please do not use godly powers if one has already used superhuman, psychic or mutant paowers. Those taking MAOI inhibitors should avoid using gawdly powers.

  • AngieRS

    Well, if it puts an end to unlicensed yogic flying, I’m all for it!!!

  • Angela_K

    “This psychic has damaged the credibility of psychics.” This guy’s brain is so befuddled with woo that he doesn’t realise the irony in his statement.

  • Binky

    I am not surprised by anything that occurs in Baja Oklahoma.

  • Thoreau

    Off topic – half-hearted apologies, etc.
    I was just ruminating on the links made between religious bigotry and the kind of bigots you encounter who read the Daily Mail.
    Next time you see a Daily Mail reader look them in the eye.
    Keep looking.
    Talk about the enemy within. Creepy doesn’t cut it. All they need is a Hitler figure, or a Jesus.

  • It’s up there with the popes xmas prayers never ever working, churches taking out insurance of any kind and the muzzies losing the Crusades.

  • Bob

    Another question is question is “who the hell signed the warrant?”

  • Paul M

    The psychic had to leave due to unforeseen circumstances.

  • AgentCormac

    I just love the fact that IgonikonJack assumes that psychics somehow have ‘a role’.
    No they don’t. Like everybody else who claims to be in touch with or speak for the supernatural, they should wake up, grow up and shut up.

  • Anonymous

    NY Times, ladies and gentlemen:

    “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, even before the news media frenzy over the search in Texas died down and the spokesman for the sheriff’s department confirmed that no bodies had been found in Hardin, northeast of Houston.
    (Brownie points for including Joe Nickell and Skeptical Inquirer)

  • remigius

    I’m surprised the police didn’t recognise Mr Campings voice.
    And let’s not be too quick to judge psychics eh. Remember Paul the Octopus. I rest my case.

  • Stonyground —
    Belated thanks for turning me on to the Mash! I have a real hoot on Monday evenings, when I hold my Stammtisch (get-together) explaining the stories and the humour to my (mostly German-speaking) students!

  • The Woggler

    This might be considered racist, but we are talking about Texans here.

  • mikespeir

    Hey, I’m a Texan, Woggler!
    Hold it. I take that back. Forget I said anything. 🙁

  • Stonyground

    @Tim Danaher
    Glad to be of help, there is a similar site called News Thump which often covers the same stories but from a different angle.
    Having read more about this particular story, it appears that it is not as silly as it first appeared. It is possible that the psychic angle was not actually present in the original tip off to the police and that their early investigations gave them good reason to think that there may well be something in it. I am left with the impression that that particular area has more than its share of whacky and dysfunctional people though.

  • Stonyground

    News Thump are bashing the AB of C so I suppose it is my duty to post a link.

  • Stonyground,
    Yes, NewsThump is OK (why did they change their name from NewsArse?), but nothing can reduce me to tears of paroxysmic laughter like the Mash can. Odd thing about it, though, is it’s run by two ‘serious’ journalists: one a chief political editor, the other a chief business editor… I’d never have imagined that two such ‘staid’ writers could come up with that shit (Yes, I know they have a writing team. as well…)
    There’s News Biscuit, as well, but… meh… and it’s John O’Farrell, who I normally really like.
    This correspondence has prompted me to head over to Platitude for the Day, to check up on the latest musings of the good Doctor Reverend Peter Hearty.
    And your link also threw up this earlier delightful NewsThump article, which I link to here for our posters’ delectation and delight:

  • barriejohn

    My immediate thoughts, too, were: “Who the bloody hell voted for Rowan Williams?”
    I love this from NewsThump, though:
    Andy Murray to watch Wimbledon final in 3D.

  • For some of the best musings on psychics look no further than the razor-tongue of Charlie Brooker who has written about them a number of times. One of my favourites was in March 2005:
    ‘Here’s how to solve the psychic problem; make it a jailable offence for any ‘medium’ to charge for their services without a licence. How do they get a licence? Simply by demonstrating their abilities under laboratory conditions (something not one has ever been able to do). That’d sort ’em out.’

  • Alan Murdie

    I think the view that this incident ruins the credibility of psychics everywhere may be a bit premature.Your correspondent suggesting laboratory testing and scientifc analysis makes a good point.
    Anyone informed on the subject may be aware of the substantial collection of research conducted since the 19th century regarding psychic phenomena. Much has been accumulated in laboratory tests.
    To give two examples published since 2010, note the study of Dr Barry Colvin published an acoustic analysis of poltergeist raps recorded around the world, over a 40 year period.(1) This indicates that whilst poltergeist raps and normally produced raps sound similar, instrumental analysis reveals a different sound pattern with each of the alleged poltergeist raps. If this effect stands up it constitutes the first instrumental, as opposed to anecdotal evidence for a spontaneous paranormal effect.
    Colvin’s research lies in the area of spontaneous cases occurring outside laboratories where statistical techniques and analysis are rarely possible to apply as a method of proof for paranormality. In contrast, research into psi abilities in laboratories have made great use of statistics with paranormal being raised as the explanation – so far as it can be – of test results. Decades of result in laboratories and testing centres across the world have established that anomalous results occur in psi-testing.
    Yet further findings which pose a major challenge to orthodoxy were announced in November 2010, emerging from research into pre-sentience – literally ‘feeling the future’ – conducted by Professor Daryl J. Bem of Cornell University (2). Professor Bem has reported positive results from tests involving nine different sets of experiments into pre-sentience, indicating the human body reacts to stimuli that have yet to arise; the explicit nature of images used also ensured some popular press attention on this.
    More seriously, the impact of Bem’s research was heightened by the announcement that the results would be carried in the prestigious Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, a publication enjoying an international reputation as the world’s leading journal in its field, and for imposing stringent standards on contributors. The appearance of Bem’s paper in such a prestigious journal is hard to dismiss by anyone informed in the subject, and has forcedsceptics to take notice. Critics of Bem’s conclusions have broadly accepted that he was working to the established scientific rulebooks and obtained significant results. However, so uncomfortable are the implications, that some are now questioning how science typically operates, particularly with statistics (see New Scientist November 20 2010)
    So the upshot is, don’t look at popular press reports for possible evidence of psychic phenomena, take a look at specialist literature and try to think beyond popular press stories….
    (1) ‘The Acoustic Properties of Unexplained Rapping Sounds’ in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research [2010] Vol 73.2 Number 899 pp 65-93. April 2010.
    (2) ‘Feeling the Future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences on Cognition and Affect’ by Daryl J. Bem. A version text has also been published by Bem on his personal website: See: