TV and film are packed with sensational stories about psychics who discover “whodunnit” way before the police get the cuffs out. However, as with most things, there’s no smoke without fire. There are recorded incidents where psychics have been used to aid police in criminal investigations. But are they as spectacular as Hollywood might have us believe, and have these individuals been a help or a hindrance?
Who Hires the Psychics?
The word ‘psychic’ tends to draw belly-laughs from the majority of police muster rooms. They see mediums as purveyors of New Age nonsense and believe there is no substitute for cold, hard evidence. However, the greatest supporters of psychic investigators tend to be the families of victims.
Statistically, when it comes to involving psychics in investigations, those who are most likely to hire the services of a medium or clairvoyant are often the victims of crime or, in the case of murder, the families of the victim. You could argue that these people are at their lowest ebb, vulnerable and are just looking for any way they can to achieve a sense of justice. However, you could also argue that they are people who are determined enough that they will suspend their disbelief in a sustained attempt to catch a criminal.
It might surprise you to know that, as recently as 2007, the Ministry of Defence was forced to admit that it had spent in the region of £18,000 conducting experiments into whether or not psychics can locate hidden objects. In America, this is old news. The Stargate Project, started in the 1970s and finishing in 1995, was used for similar research, costing the US Government millions of dollars.
However, neither study was able to come up with firm results, with the Ministry of Defence stating that there was “little value” is using psychics in the defence of the nation. So far, the evidence seems to suggest that there’s no worth in using psychics to help the police. So why then would a force be prepared to spend £20,000 in employing one?
Psychic, Joe Power, says that he was contacted by the Metropolitan Police in 2009 and asked to help them with a high-profile murder. Power says: “I got an email from the Met, asking for assistance. I gave them some information that was coming through the murder victim and people on the other side. Without a doubt, they followed up on it.” However, when they were first asked about Power’s involvement, the Metropolitan Police Force initially denied that he was connected in any way.
A subsequent investigation by the TV journalist Donal MacIntyre revealed that Power had been sent a number of emails from an officer working on the case. One asked whether Joe “or the victim” could “assist with any landmarks that would assist in narrowing the search down?” Another email asked “What sort of vehicle does the killer use; is it a car or a bike? Can the victim be more specific to Joe as to what happened at 2.10am?”
With these revelations, the police were forced to make a statement, but it remained characteristically non-committal: “We do not identify people we may or may not speak with in connection with enquiries. We are not prepared to discuss this further.”
Part of the problem in saying whether psychics help or not is the number of fraudsters and charlatans in the arena. Keith Charles, a former officer at Scotland Yard, says that: “I think the police are sceptical, but they have a right to be so because some mediums and psychics make false claims. But, ultimately, officers don’t mind where the evidence comes from, as long as it proves or disproves the case.”
Psychics in America
The scientific evidence of psychic success in cracking criminal cases is minimal, to say the least. In America, in 1993, 50 of the country’s largest police forces were interviewed as to whether they used psychics for help. 75% of those asked said they had no dealings with psychic investigators, whatsoever and, according to the research conducted by Marc Durn, Professor of Psychology at Athens University, Alabama, many of them claimed that psychics are an active hindrance.
This feeling has even been supported by the relatives of victims. John Ottobre, whose sister, Danielle, vanished in 2005, says that the psychics who offered their services ended up wasting valuable time. One psychic who contacted the police, suggesting she knew Danielle’s whereabouts, prompted a massive search in which dogs, divers, helicopters and officers on foot were deployed. “They gave up after she changed the location like six times,” Ottobre stated.
Marc Klaas supports Ottobre’s beliefs. His daughter, Polly, was kidnapped and murdered in 1993. Before her body was found, the police acted on advice from a psychic and spent hours searching the property of a man who was later found to be entirely innocent of the crime. Klaas’ views have, unsurprisingly, been tarnished by the experience: “Psychic detectives do not possess supernatural insight; they do not converse with the missing or the dead; they never bring children home. However, their rambling predictions may have filled in enough gaps to pad their resumes and claim the reward.”
Klaas feels so strongly against the use of psychics in criminal investigations that he regularly uses his website, the KlaasKids Foundation, as a platform from which to denounce them as meddlers and frauds.
With police across the world unwilling to confirm or deny the involvement of psychics in their enquiries and a stark lack of any evidence to support any purported successes, the current view is that mediums and clairvoyants are best left to tell fortunes to the living and conduct séances for grieving relatives.
However, Joe Power believes that there will come a time when the services of psychics are used as regularly as those offered by other specialist experts. He says that: “I predict that in the next 30 to 40 years you will actually get people like me who will find bodies, where there’s no question about it. The psychic world is moving on very fast and it’s getting more accurate with information all the time.”