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Why 'Psychics' Need to Stop Pretending They Can Solve Crimes

Last week Casey Anthony was found innocent of murdering her 2-year-old daughter despite overwhelming evidence that she probably did it. Now everyone who followed the case can only shake their heads, speculating loudly on why the legal system failed while privately acknowledging that maybe there are some jobs at which blind people just aren't any good.

"I can still hear, you jerk."

But one of the biggest travesties that will come out of the Casey Anthony fiasco will not be an original movie on Oxygen or the book she inevitably writes to maintain some semblance of relevance after the country moves on. No, it will be the illustrious career of Gale St. John, the psychic detective who assigned herself the case and accidentally succeeded at helping a little, despite herself. You probably haven't heard of her yet, so let me prepare you.

When a child initially disappears there is pandemonium. The news presents a grief-stricken family in front of a house over-run by police while neighbors look on. But after the camera crews leave and the dust settles, there is a moment of quiet.

That's when the psychics arrive.

"I sensed you were vulnerable needed me."

They call the families of victims or just show up on doorsteps, wandering into the investigation with their palms out and their eyes closed, pointing at coffee tables and picture frames while accusing those objects of giving off signals. What those signals signify, however, they can't always say. "What we do isn't a science" they will tell you, "it isn't rational." It isn't anything.

"To date there is no recorded instance in England of psychics solving a criminal case or providing evidence of information which led directly to its solution." Edward Ellison of the U.K.'s Scotland Yard

"No psychic detective has ever been praised or given official recognition by the FBI or US national news for solving a crime, preventing a crime, or finding a kidnap victim or corpse." The Blue Sense: Psychic Detectives and Crime by Arthur Lyons and Marcello Truzzi

Even with a track record of zero wins throughout the entire history of psychic detectives, they can still get work consistently. They generally find clients by watching the news, or websites that compile all of the latest information on missing persons around the United States, specifically for psychics. Psychiccrimefighter.com in particular functions a lot like Facebook, allowing psychics to friend one another, share their psychic detecting techniques and even organize leagues of supernatural crime fighters, should they want to. There are no licenses required, there is no training, you can just announce that you are psychic, then start calling up the families of missing children. And that's exactly what they do.

"According to this, Jason is buried on Sweet Hill. Also you're soul mates."

Gale St. John contacted Caylee Anthony's family and invited herself to work their case. In fact, nearly every case psychic detectives procure starts with a cold call like this. They'll hunt down families who are desperate enough to exhaust every option, then they will offer to help for a small fee. To truly understand how completely soulless the practice is, consider the reasons why any human being would turn this into a lucrative opportunity: Either they genuinely believe they can save the victim or at least find the body --in which case it's deplorable that they would charge money for information that could save a life-- or they are lying about their ability in order to exploit families at their weakest moment. Either way it's the moral equivalent of stumbling across a car accident and taking money out of the victims' wallets before performing CPR.

Additionally, the type of "CPR" psychic detectives perform on these cases is usually more damaging than had they done nothing at all. In 2007 a psychic detective in Illinois was adamant that the body of a missing girl was in Silver Springs State Park. After days of scouring the area police finally turned up a skeleton, not of a young girl, but of a deer. Earlier this year a psychic in Hardin, TX convinced police that there were 25 to 30 bodies buried on a rural property outside of town. This time the police found absolutely nothing. You can even see renowned psychic detective Sylvia Browne consistently destroy the faith of desperate people on national television:

No one is more cavalier about tossing around bullshit in the face of atrocity than Sylvia Browne. She has given up on the foreplay that most psychics swear by, there's no holding photographs and concentrating on the face or pretending to channel a spirit, she just gets right to the business of fucking those sad people. Psychics are notoriously good at taking credit for successes and shirking responsibility for failures when they do readings, and that ability is what keeps their jobs lucrative.

When psychic Joe Power helped a Karen Matthews try to find her missing daughter in 2009, he made several oblique predictions about the kidnapper and where he had taken the girl. In actuality, Karen Matthews herself had kidnapped her own daughter and was holding her bound and drugged in another town. After the mother was tried and sentenced, instead of apologizing for his mistake, Joe Power claimed to have suspected all along that the mother was responsible and to this day touts it as one of his great successes in his books and seminars. What he doesn't mention is why he never said anything and allowed the nine-year-old girl to stay drugged and bound for another six days before police finally figured it out on their own and made an arrest.

No context here, just a thank you for sticking around through stories of child abduction.

Gale St. John now has a success under her belt as well which is gaining her national renown. Her psychic ability allows her to drive around in a minivan, feeling for the remains of victims like a human metal detector, except one that only finds corpses. She aptly named the method Blind Driving. And while driving blind around Orange Country, Florida in 2008 looking for Caylee Anthony, she pulled over (very close to where police would later find the body), and said into a camera, "I feel drawn to this spot."

God damn it.

There's no way to know whether or not there are hours of extra footage of her doing this same thing all over Florida, but the fact remains that this video sure makes it look like her psychic powers worked. The consequences of this perceived achievement may seem negligible on the surface but it doesn't just lend credibility to the ridiculous bullshit that Gale St. John calls a job, it adds fuel to the argument that psychics aren't completely inept, and it perpetuates their ability to prey on grief-stricken families every time someone disappears.

For our collective cultural intelligence, this is potentially a big, stupid step backward and I'm just trying to curb it by providing some context. There is no such thing as a real psychic detective, there are just terrible people who are willing to capitalize on the misfortune and weakness of others.

"Hey, I heard there might be some sadness around here?"

And before anyone accuses me of getting self-righteous, I will also acknowledge that writers, in a lot of ways, are no better than psychics. We both spend every day pretending to know what we're doing, pretending that we see an element of the world beyond the scope of normal human senses. But we are lying. In the end we are just regular people who happen to be good at making things up. I'd like to set a precedent and be the first to come clean and say I'm sorry.

Your turn.

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Soren Bowie

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