Having written a lengthy article on “psychic detectives”, I thought it would be a good idea to write a book on them. In one of my many telephone conversations with Mike Hutchinson, he mentioned a book of American origin called The Blue Sense. I looked it up in American Books in Print and was unimpressed to learn that it had been published by The Mysterious Press. such a title is a dead giveaway, but I ordered it through the inter-library loan anyway, expecting it to be a totally irrational endorsement of psychic nonsense.
When it arrived from the Police Staff College, Bramshill House, near Basingstoke, I received a pleasant surprise, for, although it is indeed written by two researchers who want desperately to believe, it is very well-researched, thoroughly documented, and, in many ways, the book I wanted to write. The only serious criticism one can make of it is that, in spite of their demonstrating overwhelmingly what total nonsense and garbage the whole psychic detective syndrome is, the authors virtually endorse “psychic detectives”, and, in places, make some absolutely frightening recommendations about how “psychics” should be used in criminal cases.
I was surprised at how much authors Lyons and Truzzi have covered. I realised of course that books have been written about “psychic detectives” before, but I had taken these all to have been of much the same kind as Nella Jones and her collaborator and partner in fantasy Shirley Davenport have produced. Here then is an in-depth review and critical evaluation of The Blue Sense. (1)
Arthur Lyons is the author of Satan Wants You: The Cult of Devil Worship In America. He is also a thriller writer. Marcello Truzzi is a sociologist. Both Lyons and Truzzi are mentioned favourably in Robert Hicks’ skeptical study of “Cult Cops”, In Pursuit of Satan. (2)
Chapter 1 is called, Blue Sense or Nonsense?, appropriately. They start off on the wrong foot with an apparent endorsement of American psychic Greta Alexander, who, on page 2 is said to have aided police in the case of Mary L. Cousette, a 28 year old woman who disappeared on 24th April, 1983. Her boyfriend was already facing trial for her murder, and had in fact been in custody some seven months when in November, Alexander appeared on the scene. Pinning a murder rap on a suspect is always a lot easier if there is a body, and this is what Alexander is supposed to have found. The authors claim that she was instrumental in finding the body of the unfortunate woman, and a footnote on page 258 boasts, Psychic Help: Searchers Find Body of Slain Alton Woman. the reference is given as November 15th, 1983, page 3A (presumably page 3, column A) of the St Louis Post Dispatch.
Alexander is said to have scored an impressive 22 “hits”, ie to have supplied 22 relevant snippets of information about the location of the body. However, investigative reporter Ward Lucas made a minute examination of Alexander’s alleged hits. The authors detail them extensively on pages 179-183. (3) To the current writer they appear convincing, but Lyons and Truzzi are dismissive.
On page 5, it is claimed that a California Department of Justice survey of eleven police agencies found eight reported some help, including three missing bodies found in areas described by psychics. This is at odds with the Reiser report (4) that “psychics” have never contributed anything useful to any investigation... in Los Angeles. One should also bear in mind here the previously cited diplomatic observation that:
“[A Scientific Evaluation] revealed little correspondence between media reports and later objective documentation.”
In fact, one should never forget this when investigating anything with a psychic or supernatural bent. Distortion, lies and outright fraud are the consistent hallmark of all “psychics” and fellow wanderers of the astral plane.
Also on page 5, Kurt Longfellow of Pomona, California Police Department is quoted thus: “Even though they’d never admit it, LAPD has been using psychics for years.”
There are several possibilities here. One is that this quote is totally fabricated. Another is that the officer did say this, but that he is simply misinformed. Another is that he is lying. But the most likely possibility is that individual officers have indeed “used” psychics for years. But what does this mean? Most likely it means that “psychics” simply turn up at police stations and the scenes of murder enquiries and volunteer “information”. It may also be that some individual officers do actually believe in psychic nonsense. Indeed, this is not just a possibility, but a reality, as my own investigations into Nella Jones have demonstrated. (5) But all this means is that policemen are human like the rest of us. Let us never forget that even the then Chief Constable of Manchester, James Anderton, was widely quoted in the media as believing that he was a servant of God!
On page 6, reference is made to a 1989 article in Policing magazine which reported that Lieutenant Kozenczak advocated police departments consult psychics. He is supposed to have said that two of them had given useful information to his department in the John Gacy investigation. This is totally at odds with the investigation as reported by Terry Sullivan (see Part One). On page 140, Kozenczak is said to have driven “psychic” Dorothy Allison over 1,000 miles searching for Rob Piest’s body over a period of a week.
As has been established in Part One, there was never really any doubt that Rob Piest had been murdered by Gacy; the case was solved by routine police work, and the final victim’s body was fished out of the river some months later. Kozenczak is not the only person to have received poor value from “psychic” Allison. She is one of the thousands of “psychics” who offered assistance in the search for the Atlanta child murderer, Wayne Williams. (6)
Allison claimed to have given the name Williams, and this may well be true. As Lyons and Truzzi point out on page 82:
“An investigation by the authors indicates that she may indeed have mentioned the name Williams - along with every other name in the Atlanta telephone directory.” (7)
On page 225, she is said to have indicated that the killer was a black male, while on page 226 an astrologer concluded that the killer “was probably a woman or a man dressed as a woman”.
As all the victims of the Atlanta child murderer were black, and as the killings took place in a predominantly black area of the city, this was hardly a meaningful prediction. There were really only two likely possibilities. Either the killings were racially motivated, eg by rogue “Nazis” or white supremacists, in which case it would have been likely that there were several killers working as a team. Or the killer was himself black and engaged in the sadly too prevalent pastime of recreational murder. Although there are people who will always try to make political capital out of the murders of minorities, the racially motivated hypothesis was never a serious contender. This left a common or garden serial killer, which is exactly what Williams was. The idea that the killer might have been a woman was pure speculation. In any case, the astrologer was wrong on both counts. Let us make an interesting diversion here.
The authors claim that almost 2,400 “psychics” contacted the Atlanta Police Department in connection with these murders. (8) If this is the case (and who can doubt it?) it would be almost statistically impossible for some of them not to have given uncannily accurate “information”. It is quite likely for example that several or even several hundred of them would have guessed the exact killer’s age. If they had all attempted to predict his star sign, then one would expect 2,400/12 or 200 hits. If each of these “psychics” had attempted to guess the killer’s birthday, we would expect 2,400/365 or between 6 and 7 hits.
It is not unlikely that there are individuals who have made such spot on “predictions” either about the Atlanta child murders or about other crimes etc., who to this day are held in esteem by people who heard their predictions at the time and erroneously attributed them to their wanderings of the astral plane. Subsequent and blatantly wrong predictions are rationalised or explained away. (9)
A certain Uri Geller is mentioned in this book, naturally. Unfortunately, the claim is made that Geller is also a “psychic”. Geller’s claim (on page 6) that he has worked for the FBI, deserves as much credibility as any of the other claims that have been attributed to the charismatic but transparent Israeli charlatan. (10) Geller has fooled many people who should know better, including scientists. (11) The reader though is referred to James Randi’s definitive study of the prince of chutzpah for a realistic evaluation of Geller’s “psychic” powers. (12)
A claim which, sadly, cannot be disputed, is that Geller is laughing all the way to the bank. But the following statement: “Psychics like Uri Geller and ‘Doc’ Anderson claim to have brought great wealth to themselves and to the clients who consulted them...” (13) is only half true. Geller and his fellow travellers have indeed made a lucrative income (or in his case a fortune) out of people with more money than sense. (14)
The Pentagon may indeed have financed remote viewing experiments; the CIA may indeed have experimented with “psychics”, and the DIA. (15) Like SRI they have been led up the garden path. (16)
The authors raise this nonsense again later in the book. On page 211 they refer to “investigative reporter” Howard Blum, who claimed to have unearthed a secret DIA report on remote-viewing. They reference Blum’s Out There, (17) and the extraordinary case of the CIA operative who had used a 9 year old girl “psychic” to “find” a terrorist! This is Chapter Ten, The Spook Circuit: Psychic Espionage. The CIA man was sacked, thankfully. Obviously he should have been on the kook circuit rather than the spook circuit!
The reference to Blum’s Out There is rather unfortunate. Around 1992, I was sent a review copy of this book, which, broadly speaking, is about the UFO government cover-up conspiracy theory. (18) Not knowing quite what to make of it, I contacted Mike Hutchinson, who sent me a review of it which was published in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. (19)
The reviewer was none other than long time UFO debunker Philip Klass, (20) who demonstrated convincingly that Blum’s book is a pack of lies from beginning to end. One of the book’s main characters, Commander Sheila Mondran, did not exist, nor did the DIA’s Colonel Harold E. Phillips; Klass counted over two dozen factual errors concerning his own career alone, which was summarised by the author.
On page 77, Lyons and Truzzi repeat the oft’ made claim that Ingo Swann as well as Geller and others have been hired by corporations to find oil etc. This also is true. Clearly this is a matter for the corporations to explain to their shareholders.
The authors make a fairly skeptical assessment of psychic sleuths in history. Janos Kele for example was one of several European psychic detectives in the 1930s. Kele was said by a parapsychologist to have been an “extraordinary psychic” and a “classic clairvoyant.” He was very successful in finding missing persons, but he himself claimed that he was only a good psychologist, (page 25). Here then is a rational explanation provided by an alleged “psychic detective” himself. So what was psychic about his feats? (21)
The case of Gene Dennis, recounted on pages 28-30 is a classic of self-deception, although again the authors seem fairly impressed with her, while testimony to the psychic abilities of Mrs Florence Sternfels reads very impressive, endorsements by police, prosecutor’s office etc. She is said to have found two missing boys in Philadelphia, but not one of these extraordinary claims stands up to a critical examination of the facts, (pages 32-3).
On page 11, the authors produce another quote from officer Longfellow:
“We’ve had police in this department who are psychics whether they want to call themselves that or not...Cops who go back to a gas station on the feeling that a robbery is in progress there, things like that.”
This, apparently, is where the term Blue Sense comes from. But is there anything psychic about it? At this point I’d like to recount something from personal experience.
A few years ago when I was living in a shared house, I had a noisy quarrel with one of the other boarders on a Sunday morning. I can’t remember what it was about, something trivial probably, but he became very emotional and was on the point of attacking me. Later that same day, I went to my cupboard and opened it to find that somebody had been there already and had liberally decorated it with the contents of my mustard jar.
Now the “obvious” culprit was the person I’d been arguing with that morning. So I led him into the dining room and asked him. Not me, he said. I believed him because I realised instinctively exactly what had happened. There was another person living in the house who had taken a dislike to me - though this had been entirely one-sided - and obviously he had overheard us quarrelling and decided to mix things. To me, and to my one-time protagonist, this was as clear as mud, yet there was nothing psychic about this “revealed truth”.
Most people have had similar experiences. Haven’t you? The classic is the arsonist who sets fire to a warehouse then stands around watching it, asking the fire crew questions etc, and wonders how it is he was even suspected. Then there is the murderer who returns to the scene of the crime, and so on. (22) The point is, in these and countless other situations, we pick up “psychic” clues: slight, imperceptible, unconscious. Things we can’t put our fingers on, or are maybe not even aware of. This can happen with the scene of a robbery: someone who doesn’t quite fit in; a man wearing gloves on a summer’s day; acar number plate. It can be literally anything. (23) Then these must be weighed against all the hunches which lead us up the garden path. It may indeed be strange, mystical even, but there is nothing psychic or supernatural about it.
In their chapter on Peter Hurkos, the authors literally tear this famous Dutch “psychic detective” to shreds. His autobiography is shown to be a tissue of lies. For example, his claims of having outfoxed the Nazis and his daring escapades during the War had no basis in fact. Other sources are hardly anymore reliable. (24) The claim that we have heard so often from others is of course also made by Hurkos. Ie, the police won’t admit they use psychics for fear of ridicule, (page 110). Hurkos also claimed (page 112) that Hitler was alive in 1952 and travelling through Spain disguised as a monk! Other claims are even more outrageous.
On page 116, Hurkos is described by one critic as a master of “sleight of tongue”. On pages 117-8, the story is related of how in 1959, he was hired by a psychiatrist in a double murder case, that of a woman and her four year old daughter. This resulted in the wrong man - a suspect already - being sent to a lunatic asylum. Another man was later arrested and sentenced to death.
Hurkos was brought into the Boston Strangler case by an industrialist. He picked out an innocent shoe salesman, and, even when the real Strangler was revealed, insisted against overwhelming evidence that Albert de Salvo was not the murderer, (page 119).
One detective who had played a key role in the investigation commented “He contributed nothing to the investigation. He did nothing...He did not contribute one thing to the solution of the Boston Strangler murders.” (Page 121). This is as emphatic a rebuttal as one can make.
On page 125, Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecutor in the Manson case, which Hurkos also got wrong, said, “...those in law enforcement have a standard procedure for handling such ‘information’: listen politely then forget it.”
Not that his myriad proven failures (and lies) put everyone off.
“For those truly convinced of Hurkos’s psychic powers, disenchantment may be impossible.”
“...it is this very fallibility that gives him the ring of genuineness.” Says one dupe on page 118.
Ditto Lyons and Truzzi, for in his photograph, Hurkos is captioned, “...one of the 20th century’s most famous psychic crime-busters.”
In view of the outright duplicity of this proven liar, fake, charlatan and rogue, which Lyons and Truzzi do not take issue with, this is an incredible thing to say.
Another less (in)famous charlatan than Hurkos was Dr Marinus B. Dykshoorn, who claimed in his autobiography that he was licensed as a clairvoyant by the Dutch government. This was subsequently found to be rubbish. (25) This sort of nonsense is widespread.
In 1958, Dykshoorn claimed to have solved a theft, identified the thief and found the stolen goods by long distance telephone to Germany. The police flatly denied it. Here is what Lyons and Truzzi have to say:
“...considering the dubious nature of many of Dykshoorn’s claimed hits, it is not unlikely that the police version is correct.” !!! (26)
However much some of us may distrust the police, even after the proven fabrications of sometimes quite senior officers, even when the Guildford Four, Birmingham Six and numerous other cases are taken into consideration, it still takes a quantum leap of the imagination to rewrite the laws of physics on the word of a proven liar.
Throughout this book, the authors consistently refer to “pseudo-psychics”, thereby implying that some “psychics” are not pseudo. Page 152 contains some interesting speculations that the police have used psychics as disinformation, eg if they have uncovered info from an illegal wire tap. It goes without saying that if they ever take anything a psychic says at face value, they are the ones who have been disinformed.
Chapter Six does for Gerard Croiset what the following chapter does for Peter Hurkos. Croiset may have taken on 20,000 cases in his career. An investigative reporter named Piet Hein Hoebens (27) systematically went through many of his cases with predictable results, while one parapsychologist who had known Croiset a considerable time confided that Croiset was at least a part-time cheat and that there was some evidence that Croiset sometimes employed confederates in his experiments. (28)
This would be more than enough to damn any con-man, flim-flam artist or common or garden crook, but because Croiset’s rip-offs were of a “psychic” nature, the authors conclude:
“The case for Croiset remains unproven, but we need to remember that nonproof is not the same as disproof.” (29)
If prosecutors were required to prove their cases to the extent that Lyons and Truzzi infer, juries would never convict anyone of any crime.
On page 155, Lyons and Truzzi state that:
“Discounting fabrications and confabulations by psychics and their biographers, media distortion, and cases of outright fraud, there remains a considerable body of documented cases in which psychic sleuths have scored impressive and seemingly inexplicable successes.”
We have already met the fallacy of experience (see footnote 9). When we take this into account, the reality is that there probably remains a very small number of cases in which a “psychic” here and there may have scored a “success” by some very weak criterion. However, given a sufficiently large number of guesses, most of us could make some accurate predictions about a murderer etc. And, as any police officer will tell you, in all cases of any complexity, there are always some (albeit small) inconsistencies in the evidence, be it those of eye witnesses, forensic scientists or whatever. Life is like that. The classic case has to be the Kennedy assassination. A whole industry has grown up around this, yet all the reliable evidence indicates that President Kennedy’s death was the work of a lone assassin, the oddball Lee Harvey Oswald. (30)
A high ranking commission of enquiry was set up immediately to investigate the President’s murder and the subsequent murder of the alleged assassin by small-time hood, Jack Ruby. The Warren Commission may not have been perfect, certainly it was working under pressure, and just as certainly, not everyone was totally honest, either with the Commission or with the public, but the evidence that Oswald worked alone is overwhelming. Yet over a period of three decades, everyone bar the Martians has been implicated in the assassination of JFK. There has been talk of Oswald having a double, a second assassin, the KGB has been accused, the CIA, the Mafia, the CIA working with the Mafia...The public has been deluged with conspiracy “theories”, ie idle speculations, books, magazine articles, films, but none of it leads anywhere.
The assassination of a President is one thing; rewriting the laws of physics is entirely another. The standard of evidence demanded for us to do so has to be extremely strong, and naturally it never is. Psychics may promise the Earth, but in the final analysis they deliver little - interesting anecdotes and plausible coincidences - or in the overwhelming majority of cases, nothing at all.
Notwithstanding the impressive case they have marshalled against psychic nonsense, Lyons and Truzzi remain totally unconvinced, and without so much as batting an eyelid, they launch into a discussion of how “psychic testimony” could be used as “evidence” in court cases. On page 242, they paint a terrifying scenario:
“Although psychic testimony is not now admissible as evidence in court, with the growth of public acceptance that could very well change, especially if a strong enough scientific case is made.”
It has taken the British public many years to realise that the testimony of experienced police officers cannot be trusted. Men of good, or in many cases, exemplary, character, who it has been proven will fabricate confessions, doctor evidence, lie to the courts and mislead the public. The American public may not quite have woken up yet, but the brutalisation of Californian motorist Rodney King has done much to shake the faith of even the police’s staunchest supporters, the white, conservative middle classes.
It should also be noted that in the overwhelming majority of police frame-ups, the officers concerned have had no axe to grind beyond improving their clear-up rates. Into this scenario, jump Lyons and Truzzi who suggest not that we should take police officers at their word, but that we should admit as “evidence” the ravings of proven liars, sensation seekers and charlatans. Nay, they go further than this and suggest that even the ravings of the mentally defective should be admitted in court as “evidence”.
“...the law of parsimony does not prevail here. A person may have a lifelong history of severe mental disorders and, at the same time, experience some bona fide psi effects...” (31)
The law of parsimony, better known as the principle of Occam’s Razor, means basically that when you hear hoof beats you should think of horses before zebras. Ie, the simplest explanation. If somebody tells you they have seen a ghost or witnessed a dematerialisation, the simplest explanation is that this person is lying, or is honest but mistaken.
The authors’ suggestion of special pleading is even more outrageous than it is ridiculous. The testimony of a person who has a lifelong history of severe mental disorders should by any yardstick be regarded as less reliable than that of the man or woman in the street, just the same as the word of a convicted perjurer or a recidivist should be regarded as less reliable than that of a police officer, a vicar or any man or woman of good character. Turning this common sense argument on its head is novel to say the least.
On page 246 they claim that:
“A psychic is not a detective, but...a kind of extraordinary informant and must be treated as such.”
The first part of this statement is unquestionably true. The way such an informant should be treated was best summed up by Vincent Bugliosi, (already cited):
“...those in law enforcement have a standard procedure for handling such ‘information’: listen politely then forget it.”
On page 247, the authors quote a Deputy DA who says that police are allowed to lie to a suspect in order to get admissions from him, so that “Telling a suspect a psychic can read his every thought would be like telling him that his partner had already confessed, when he hadn’t...”
This is true, telling a suspect that his partner has confessed often does induce confessions. Unfortunately, many such confessions are spurious. It is a well-documented fact that people often confess to murders they not only did not commit but which they could not possibly have committed. Very great care must be exercised when interviewing minors or people of low intelligence or high suggestibility in connection with crimes. There is also a very great problem with interrogating suspects with known criminal connections. The case of the murder of PC Keith Blakelock illustrates the problems that arise here.
Three men were convicted of PC Blakelock’s murder during the Broadwater Farm riot of 1985. After they were convicted, one of those men, Winston Silcott, was revealed to be have been out on bail on a murder charge. When the verdict was announced, the public was horrified that Silcott should have been at liberty and it was argued that had he been remanded in custody, PC Blakelock would still be alive today. (32) All three men have since been cleared of PC Blakelock’s murder, and although at the time of writing Winston Silcott is languishing in jail after having been convicted of the other murder with which he was charged, the smell of miscarriage of justice hangs heavily in the air. It is into this scenario that Lyons and Truzzi introduce “psychics”.
Unfortunately, a jury in at least one case has already been hoodwinked by a “psychic”. In 1986, a jury in Philadelphia awarded a psychic $986,000 after a CAT-scan gave her headaches whenever she tried to use her psychic powers [sic]. (33) Fortunately, this was later overturned.
One “psychic” who appears to have had some success in his chosen profession is Phil Jordan. Jordan has found missing persons, something Richard Broughton would undoubtedly regard as evidence. However, the authors reveal that Jordan, a former schoolteacher, has been through police academy, (page 61), so one need look no further. Jordan was appointed an officer of the court in New York, though his “psychic” powers don’t appear to have aided his ability to select juries. On page 10, it is revealed that he was used by the defence in two cases. Both trials resulted in murder convictions! But in any case, what is this sort of nonsense supposed to prove?
“What is going on here anyway? Are seemingly otherwise rational attorneys, political and military leaders, and police lapsing back into an age of superstition and witchcraft...” ask Lyons and Truzzi on page 10. The logical answer to that question is yes.
“If two thirds of the population believe they have experienced ESP, why should cops be exempt?” (34)
No reason at all. Better still, why not take a vote on it? If two thirds of the population say ESP is real, then surely it must be. But what if two thirds of the population think the Earth is flat? This is the problem one encounters when one attempts to “democratise” science. If two thirds of the population believe something in spite of the evidence against it, then they are wrong!
Jordan was also called in on a child killer case in the Oakland area. Five “psychics” were nominated by SRI. Jordan was the only one who was picked. Five senior investigators concluded that his “information” was “vague, contradictory, and basically useless.” (35)
On page 10, Lyons and Truzzi claim that:
“When interviewed [police] usually say they agreed to bring in a psychic as a last ditch desperation measure, simply because they had no leads and therefore ‘nothing to lose.’” (36)
It may indeed be the case that the police feel they have nothing to lose, but if they do, then they are wrong. As were the parents of Rob Piest; as are the rest of the public.
Terry Sullivan, whom we have already met, had this to say about Lieutenant Kozenczak’s affair with the “psychic”.
“I don’t have much faith in psychics, and I was particularly soured on the subject when I learned that Kozenczak’s ‘anonymous woman caller,’ whose leads we actively - and unsuccessfully - pursued in the week before the arrest was actually a psychic whose help he had requested. I thought Kozenczak’s failure to tell us this at the time was an unforgivable breach of conduct.” (37)
And, at the risk of repeating myself, might I refer the reader to footnote 7 in Part One?
...considerable police manpower and equipment, including dogs, helicopters, boats and trained divers were wasted. All searched fruitlessly. Leaving aside the expense of police investigations, (which comes out of the public purse), while these precious resources are tied up chasing psychic nonsense, they could be employed in tracking down other killers. Killers who may perhaps strike again.
In their substantial and well-researched book, the authors reveal that Peter Hurkos wrongly identified an innocent man as the Boston Strangler, that another man was sent to a lunatic asylum on his say-so, and that thousands of man hours and massive amounts of money and limited resources are regularly squandered while investigators are led up the garden path chasing psychic nonsense. Lyons’ and Truzzi’s enthusiastic endorsement of “psychic detectives” is in reality as damning an indictment as any skeptic could ever hope to write. (38)
To Notes To Part Two Of This Pamphlet
Letter Marcello Truzzi to Alexander Baron (JPG) [Response to this pamphlet]
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