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August 25th, 2009

Psychic Detectives

I’m going to be on the Ed Norris Show this morning at 9:05, 105.7 in Baltimore, talking about psychics and crime solving. You can listen to it here, just click on Listen Live at the top right. Ed Norris was the first commanding officer of the NYPD’s Cold Case Squad, and I wrote about psychics who tried to help find a missing boy in 1960 in my book after this one, Unbelievable: Investigations into Ghosts, Poltergeists, Telepathy, and Other Unseen Phenomena from the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory.

This is a picture of Norris on the job.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 mf folz donahue // Dec 16, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    Unbelievable is right. CSI (formerly CSICOP) did some fact-checking on psychic detective claims and the results are shockingly bad. Seems like good old police instinct has the upper hand on “intuition.” One so-called psychic detective, Sylvia Brown, turned up wrong in 100% of the cases investigated (for example, telling families that the person was alive when they were dead and vice versa, or giving completely wrong “clues” about the case). You’d think she would have been right a few times just by chance. Coincidence? *cue spooky music*

  • 2 Stacy Horn // Dec 16, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    My chapter about psychic detectives was negative on the whole. That said, from my book:

    The authors of The Blue Sense, an exhaustive study of psychics and their work solving crime, concluded that the existing evidence of a “blue sense” did not yet meet the burden of proof, but they added that a lack of proof does not equal disproof, and that more study was required. While stories of psychic’s abilities were exaggerated, they weren’t as insubstantial as debunkers insisted, and the authors compared them in usefulness to FBI profilers. Interestingly, in a 2007 New Yorker piece about criminal profiling, famed FBI profiler John Douglas is quoted as saying, “If there’s a psychic component to this, I won’t run from it.” (Since this was a skeptical piece about profilers, the author Malcolm Gladwell likely intended that as further evidence that the work of profilers is suspect.)

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