You Didn’t See This Coming: The Use of Psychic Detectives in Murder Investigations

Although often a last resort, law enforcement has been known to make use of psychics as a part of ongoing murder investigations. There are stringent guidelines in places for when they are used – the police should follow-up and corroborate any information provided by the psychic and that the psychic themselves should have a distinct method of operation.

The use of mediums is often perceived, at best, as a desperate last attempt for investigators. Nevertheless, gaze into our crystal ball as we take you on a surprise journey through real murder investigations where psychics have been used, and even a few cases where this has been somewhat successful (for whatever reason!).

I see a man in a black coat and deerstalker hat: Jack the Ripper

You might be surprised to hear that psychics, known as spiritualists at the time, were involved in the investigation of the 1888 Whitechapel murders. The perpetrator, Jack the Ripper, killed and mutilated at least five prostitutes in London’s East End in a spree that lasted approximately three months.

Spiritualists would gather across Britain to summon their psychic powers to figure out who the killer could be — from his address, to his clothes, they presented whatever information they could about the killer to the police. One man even took the police to the home of a doctor who was later institutionalised for mental illness. No conclusive evidence came from these impressions.

The psychic investigation didn’t stop there. Nearly a century later, Pamela Ball attempted to spiritually contact the victims and even the killer himself. She claimed to have received visions of several men (suggesting more than one killer) as well as feelings of sickness and dread. Ball was, quite conveniently, also told by the spirits that Jack’s identity would never be known.


When the devil is in the detail: The 1982 Lake Waco Murders

When three teenagers (a boy and two girls) were found stabbed to death in a park near Lake Waco, investigators’ initial thoughts were that they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Believe it or not, not one, but two unrelated individuals claimed to have psychically witnesses the murders as they were occurring.

The most surprising vision was that of Glenda Thomas who, while taking a study break, was confronted with a series of vivid images. She saw three men — the leader had an eagle tattoo on his arm. These men had not known the victims and had faked needing assistance before attacking. Glenda purportedly made contact with one of the female victims using automatic writing (a psychic communication method) — she told her that she would be discovered with a bra around her leg.

This small fact about the crime scene was never released to the public or reported in the papers.

Unfortunately, aside from minor details, there wasn’t much accuracy in these visions and, unsurprisingly, the case wasn’t solved through any psychic powers. In fact, the forensic evidence was even called to question in this case. One of the prosecuted was exonerated as a result of what has been referred to as “false or misleading evidence”.


The girl who cried wolf? The case of missing Melanie Uribe

Even throughout her childhood, Etta Smith had claimed to have a perception of future events. While working as shipping clerk in the 1980s, she heard an announcement on the radio about a nurse, Melanie Uribe, who had gone missing. Etta had an extremely strong feeling that the woman was located outside in a certain area around Lopez Canyon. Overwhelmed by the intensity of this, she reported it to the police, even pointing out the exact location she felt the body was on a map. She even claimed she knew how the nurse was killed: she had been struck in the head.

As the detective did not take her claim seriously, Etta decided to take matters into her own hands and drove to the area she had envisioned. As she approached it, she got a strange feeling of urgency, and sensed the incident had occurred near the location of some tyre tracks and a pair of white nurses shoes.

Once Etta had alerted authorities, Melanie’s body was found. Despite her entirely good intentions, she was arrested and accused of being involved in the murder. It was only once the real killers, three men, confessed that she was released.


Psychic detectives: fact or fiction?

Just the like three stories we’ve chosen to share with you, the accuracy and reliability of psychic predictions is varied. Unsurprisingly, many investigators are highly skeptical of psychic claims and while these visions are sometimes impressively accurate, many claim that they are merely lucky guesses based on obvious facts.

Gary Posner, a skeptic stated, “There has not been a single iron-clad case, bulletproof case that has been convincing.” This is certainly true, and most documented cases are merely anecdotal.

In fact, the involvement of psychics has actually been known to hinder an investigation. Jim Wilcox was accused of the murder of nineteen year-old Nell Cropsey despite the fact that no physical evidence linked him to her death. Instead, a medium known as Madame Newman claimed that Jim had killed her. The community, already angry and scared, launched a witch hunt against this possibly innocent man.

Regardless of your stance on the use of mediums in murder investigation, you will agree (it’s true — we foresaw it) that this is a fascinating niche of police investigations.

Your turn: What is your stance on psychic detectives? Mystifyingly accurate or are they utterly bogus? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!



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