A Modest Proposal

Psychics don’t solve missing person cases, yet they insist upon injecting themselves whenever a missing person report reaches the media. Psychic saturation in a given case is dependent upon how widespread it has been reported, the amount of reward offered, and the location from which the person was reported missing. In other words, a case reported in suburban San Francisco will receive more psychic chatter than a case reported out of Western Texas. At best psychic involvement constitutes a distraction, at worst it diverts resources and delays resolution.

Psychics exploit family member’s fears and a desperate desire to know what happened. Psychics don’t have special insight; in fact their predictions tend to veer widely off the mark. They are either impossible to prove, or they tend to be so generic as to be useless. They may say that the missing person is dead and at the bottom of a body of water, or they may say that they see rolling green hills, a highway off ramp, and hear a babbling brook. Well you can’t check at the bottom of every body of water and the geographic description includes all of Northern California and beyond.

The temporary hope delivered by psychic predictions is dashed by the realization that they are inevitably wrong. Any other profession with a zero success rate would be acknowledged utter and hopeless failure, but psychics deny their reality and move onto the next case. Peer review doesn’t exist, but if it did, the baseline for judging and evaluating performance would be a continuum of total failure.

Psychic involvement could be curtailed if there was a consequence for inaccurate predictions, thereby allowing investigative resources to continue pursuing viable leads. One logical way to achieve this goal is to charge psychics for resources wasted when diverted to their unfounded predictions.

Obviously, families are not in a position to charge for this information because they are desperate for information, regardless of the source. And psychics can be very convincing through a combination of lies and fear. However, law enforcement is another matter all together. If the jurisdictional law enforcement agency secured a written promise from psychics that any resources diverted to their involvement in a case would be charged to them should the investigation prove fruitless, you wouldn’t find a psychic in America willing to sign on the dotted line.

The trickledown effect of this action might conceivably impact so-called psychic credibility. Once it became known that psychics are unwilling to put their money where their predictions are, they would be exposed for the frauds that they are. All of the relevant parties would be better served. Families wouldn’t hang false hope on mindless guesses and law enforcement wouldn’t have to distract attention away from a viable investigation.

If you don’t believe me just ask Shawn Hornbeck’s parents. In 2003, Browne claimed that eleven year old Shawn Hornbeck had been abducted by a very tall man with long black dreadlocks and a blue sedan, and that his body could be found near two large, jagged boulders in a wooded area about 20 miles southwest of Richwoods, MO. Shawn Hornbeck was found alive 4-years later. Sylvia Brown has never apologized for the agony that she put Shawn’s parents through.

Psychic Detectives & Other Nonsense

Psychic detectives are the vanguard of a second wave of predators that also includes tabloid journalists, cheesy defense lawyers and photo-op politicians.  They use tabloid newspapers and talk shows to boast about their accomplishments and predict success.  They materialize whenever children are kidnapped and circle the cases like vultures on a fresh carcass.

They scan the media for the haunting eyes of desperate parents willing to do anything to recover their children and then they show up on your doorstep, literally or figuratively, to make the pitch.  They claim to be on the cutting edge of communications, able to predict future events and reach into heaven and hell with their mind.  They hold your hand, massage your psyche and convince you that the only thing separating you from their extraordinary gift is your money.  However, some simply require airfare and living expenses, what we call a vacation.  They seem to answer the prayer that ends the nightmare, but only if you can afford the ticket.

Frantic parents will do anything and they offer something, which is better than nothing.  Few of us posses the resources to underwrite crisis, let alone psychic detectives so they should be reminded that a substantial reward awaits whoever solves the case and returns the stolen child.

Although that strategy eliminates most psychics, some maintain a foothold by appealing to superstitiously vulnerable family members.  They make provocative predictions.  In California, rolling hills, a road or highway, perhaps a building or a bubbling brook.  In Arizona, sand dunes replace rolling hills and cactus substitutes the bubbling brook: In other words, they describe ninety-five percent of the geography of the western United States.

Psychic detectives do not posses 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.

A few months after Polly was recovered a psychic claimed that she solved Polly’s case on the television program Hard Copy.  Not only was she using my daughter’s death to promote herself, but she also dismissed all of the wonderful people: police, media, and volunteers who worked so hard and tirelessly to locate my child. 

In truth, that psychic detectives contribution to the case was counter productive.  As always seems to be the case with psychic predictions, her interference created distraction.  Law enforcement resources are diverted toward useless endeavors as phantom leads disappear into thin air.  One cold and dark November evening many of us were lurking around somebody’s property because the psychic said that it held the key to my daughter’s disappearance.  With the heightened sense of paranoia that already existed in the community that property owner would have been well within his rights to blow us away on the spot for trespassing.  We were very fortunate that night, because although he did angrily confront us, he had absolutely nothing to do with the crime we were investigating. 

In the end, and despite their protests, there is not even one case of a psychic truly assisting or solving a missing child case.  It’s just smoke and mirrors.  Their references do not support their claims and law enforcement cannot acknowledge their existence.  Instead, their wishful thinking collides with your desperate hope and leaves you diminished. 

Unfortunately, the next time a little child is kidnapped and mom and dad reach the end of their emotional string the vague, empty promises of the psychic detective will rebound off the stark walls of the missing child’s bedroom and a photo or toy will be palmed as the negotiations are engaged.  It is inevitable: I predict it.