Psychic Detectives Part IV: Other "Notables"
Part I: Intro
Part II: Dorothy Allison and Noreen Renier
Part III: Sylvia Browne, Psychic Clown
Arthur Price Roberts
Roberts was one of America's first psychic detectives. Little is known about him, the main source of information being Frank Edwards' book Strange People (Lyle Stuart, 1986). Edwards reports that Roberts remained illiterate throughout his life because he feared that learning would dilute his gifts, which he used to predict disasters and identify criminals in the '30s.
In 1935, Roberts warned Milwaukee police: "Going to be lots of bombings - dynamitings! I see two banks blown up and perhaps the city hall. Going to blow up police stations. Then there’s going to be a big blowup south of the Menomonee river and it’ll be all over." Edwards writes, "As Roberts was known for his predictions, extra precautions were taken. Eight days later the village hall was blasted to bits. Two people died and others were injured. The next day the dynamiters blew up two Milwaukee banks and two police stations. In spite of extra patrols, a sixth explosion took place. It was heard up to eight miles away. The garage where it had been centered was obliterated. Two young men, Hugh Rotkowski, and Paul Chovaonee, were inside when the fifty pounds of dynamite for their sixth bomb accidentally detonated."
These bombings did occur, but Edwards got many of the details wrong. There is no indication that Milwaukee authorities were in any way prepared for the bombings, and the bombers were Isador "Idzi" Rutkowski and Paul "Shrimp" Chovenec. With information about Roberts being so scarce and unreliable, it would be foolish to declare the case an example of successful psychic detection. Likewise, Edwards' descriptions of Roberts' other cases are too vague for them to be identified and confirmed.
British psychic Chris Robinson, a former janitor, sees visions of future crimes and disasters in his dreams with 50% accuracy. He claims to have predicted several IRA attacks of the early '90s, 9/11, Chernobyl, deaths in his family, etc. All are unconfirmed. You'd think that years ago he would have started recording his dreams and secreting his predictions in a secure location in front of witnesses, to be confirmed later. Somehow he just never got around to doing that. Futurist and paranormal enthusiast John Peterson's Arlington Institute is attempting to do something similar with its online "Whether Map", but it's not operative yet. In the meantime, Robinson hopes that we'll take his word for it all.
Robinson calls himself a dream detective, and couches his abilities in Christian terms (though not as strongly as Sylvia Browne does). However, Chris openly admits that his gifts really aren't of much benefit to society yet. From his website: "At first I was accepted by Scotland Yard and other local police forces as being a credible source of information even though it was impossible most of the time to act in a meaningful way to prevent the crimes foreseen taking place. This proved to be very frustrating and after 10 years of the authorities monitoring and working with me there [sic] interest faded. The reason was that no academics in the UK or elsewhere seemed remotely interested in working with people like me on research into this subject." I think it's much simpler than that: Chris's tips weren't useful in preventing crime, and the tests he has undergone produced unimpressive results.
In 2001 Chris traveled to Arizona to be tested by University of Arizona professor Gary L. Schwartz, and produced what he considered decent results. But when Richard Wiseman and Dr Susan Blackmore tested him in controlled experiments, his performance was lackluster (and that's being generous). Chris seems to believe he was a success despite the poor results, and blames his failures on skeptics. One has to wonder why he bothers subjecting himself to tests at all, since he summarily rejects all scientific psi testing that does not support his own conclusions. For instance, on his website he promotes "the girl with X-ray eyes", who has also failed miserably at tests of her superpowers.
To be blunt, Allison DuBois is barely worth mentioning here. Her mediumistic experiences and her "internship" in the Homicide division of her local district attorney's office in Pheonix have been the subject of her three books, Don't Kiss Them Good-bye, Secrets of the Monarch, and the weirdly titled We Are Their Heaven (really? dead people have nothing better to do than watch us get on with our boring lives?), and Gary L. Schwartz vouches for her abilities as a psychic. She was the inspiration for the popular TV series Medium. But unlike Patricia Arquette's character, DuBois admits her information usually doesn't solve crimes. Some of the law enforcement agencies she claims to have worked with have declared she had no involvement with their cases, and others say she didn't provide any useful information. It's quite telling that Pheonix investigators never turn to her for help. Detective Alex Femenia denies she provided any useful information in one of her few claimed successes, the Baseline rapist case. Her insights into high-profile cases are less than astonishing (she told MSNBC she saw Natalee Holloway "near the water", which is an outrageously safe bet when someone disappears on an island). In short, her image as a psychic soccer mom and a "criminal profiler" doesn't seem earned.
Mary Ann Morgan
Morgan is a trim, middled-aged blonde best known for her involvement in the Laci Peterson case (the Petersons hired several psychics in an effort to find "the real killer", including Noreen Renier and a pet psychic who interviewed the only living witness in the case - Laci's dog).
On an installment of Psychic Detectives, she was credited with locating the body of Loretta Bowersock in the Arizona desert. Bowersock's boyfriend, Taw Benderly, claimed that she vanished while they were passing through Pheonix en route to their home in California. There were some holes in his story, big enough to arouse suspicion, but his suicide took him out of the running as the prime suspect. The case remains officially unsolved.
Moore was brought into the case by Loretta's daughter, Terri. Though Terri gives some credit to several of the psychics she hired, including Morgan, her account of the case makes it clear that psychic Tammy Holmes was actually the one who contributed most to the discovery of Loretta's body. Holmes was in such close contact with the spirit of Ms. Bowersock that she was able to tell Terri a little of what to expect in heaven: free purses.
Morgan also inserted herself into the Natalee Holloway case, accompanying Texus EquuSearch to Aruba. She pinpointed an area of ocean in which Natalee's body had been dumped, and since her information dovetailed with the fact that a cage used by fisherman had been stolen around the time of Natalee's disappearance, divers from EquuSearch and the University of Florida scoured the spot. Nothing was found. Dave Holloway says some of the information Morgan provided about the night his daughter died seemed accurate, but notes, "the jury is out until she finds my daughter." (1)
Once an opera singer, Martin promotes herself as a "medical intuitive", a psychic detective, and a ghostbuster. As a detective, she runs a psychic detective agency called Closure4U. Sgt. Detective Richard Keaton of the Marin County Sheriff's Department vouches for her help in solving cases, notably the disappearance of an elderly former paratrooper named Dennis Prado. On a map, she circled a small area of a park in which he was believed to be, and he was found within that area, but as in so many "psychic detective" cases her reading did not actually lead to the discovery of Prado's body. Skeptic Joe Nickell pointed out to 48 Hours that Martin was able to draw lots of useful information from the police prior to drawing her circle.
As a medical intuitive, she channels the spirit of famed psychic healer Edgar Cayce.
Martin has had a long string of claimed successes over the past three decades, and has been involved with a few high-profile cases in California. Information on her cases is extremely sparse, and like Chris Robinson she doesn't record any of her predictions for future confirmation. She claims she foresaw the death of John Denver in a plane crash 15 years before it happened, when he came to her for a reading, but has nothing to back up her story. She can't even prove he consulted her.
Perhaps the strangest moment in Martin's career: She became the first psychic to testify in a criminal trial when she testified for the defense in the Susan Polk murder trial. Polk, a deeply disturbed and delusional woman, was representing herself after her lawyer's wife was brutally murdered by a neighbor boy. She accused him of doing the deed himself. She also insisted that there was a conspiracy among friends and neighbors to frame her for Dr. Polk's murder; later, after her conviction, she admitted that she had stabbed him "in self-defense".
Martin came into the picture because Polk was trying to convince the jury she was psychic, and that Felix routinely drugged and hypnotized her in order to obtain accurate forecasts of world events. In this way, he found out about 9/11 in advance and told Israel's Mossad about it. You see, Susan insisted her husband was a Mossad agent even though he had no known connections to the intelligence agency, never worked in a government capacity, and had never even been to Israel. (I've written about some of Susan Polk's other delusions and allegations here.)
Judge Laurel S. Brady called the psychic issue "tangentially relevant" to the case (2), but I think she was far too generous. Remember, Susan Polk was arguing that she had nothing whatsoever to do with her husband's death, so his alleged hypnosis sessions didn't have any bearing on Susan's guilt or innocence.
Martin's testimony consisted only of a rundown of her own work as a psychic detective; she was not allowed to weigh in on the reality of psychic phenomena. She said she had assisted in about 100 criminal cases and was successful in all of them, but didn't provide any specifics.
There have been numerous instances of non-psychics receiving flashes of insight that enable them to find a body, solve a murder, or locate a missing person. These cases are far more baffling than those of psychic detectives, because the non-psychics involved typically don't continue to solve crimes after their experiences; they're one-off events. The strangest such case occurred in 1980, when Los Angeles nurse Melanie Uribe went missing. A woman named Etta Smith told investigators she "sensed" Melanie's body was in Lopez Canyon, but her information was ignored. So she went to the canyon on her own, and "felt" her way around until she discovered the body. Naturally, she was considered a suspect in the murder until three men were arrested and charged. In cases like this, it's entirely possible that the person has gained information about a crime through normal means, such as gossip, acquaintance with the criminal(s) or someone close to the crime, etc., and simply doesn't want to admit it. It's also possible that once in a while, out of the blue, someone receives a message from a place or a time we don't even know about yet.
1. Dave Holloway, R. Stephanie Good, Larry Garrison. Aruba: The Tragic Untold Story of Natalee Holloway and Corruption in Paradise. Thomas Nelson Inc., 2006.
2. Carol Pogash. Seduced by Madness. Harper, 2007.
3. "Psychic Detectives" by Katharine Ramsland, at TruTV's Crime Library