Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Psychic Detectives

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Allison DuBois
Allison DuBois
Allison DuBois calls herself a criminal profiler, a misleading label that gives the impression that she has trained with the FBI, a forensic psychologist, or some type of law enforcement agency that offers such programs.  In fact, shes a psychic, and even her own book Dont Kiss Them Good-bye fails to affirm that she solves murders or finds killers. Nevertheless, a television program, Medium, based on her life, framed its pilot episode around her first case and leads viewers to believe that DuBois spends most of her time working crimes for the cops.  In an interview with the press she claimed that many of the incidents in the first episode were true (the police mislead her, for instance) and that one other episode was based in reality, but that seems to be as far as it goes.

<em>Don't Kiss Them Good-bye</em>, by Allison DuBois
Don't Kiss Them Good-bye, by Allison DuBois
Her author profile indicates that she interned in Homicide with the district attorneys office, where she discovered that she could see through the eyes of the perpetrator.   (This kind of statement perpetuates the television-based myth that actual criminal profilers have some kind of psychic ability, which they all adamantly state is false.)  Her ability to receive psychic impressions was tested for three years at the Human Energy Systems Laboratory by University of Arizona professor, Dr. Gary E. Schwartz, who wrote the Foreword to her book.  Dubois had seen a Dateline program about him testing psychics such as John Edwards and then contacted him.  Over time in several different types of experiments, she scored high on accuracy and specificity.  She then became what she calls a research medium and Schwartz insists she is the real deal. 

Having tested the abilities of mediums for years, Schwartz swears by his methods for singling out gifted psychics.   Yet not everyone agrees that what hes doing is science and skeptics are quick to point out the problems.  The Arizona Daily Star included comments by Dr. Ray Hymen, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Oregon, who has researched psychics and paranormal experiments that pose as science.  He indicated that Schwartz deviates from proven scientific methods and uses poor statistical analysis.  Professional skeptic James Randi asked Schwartz to submit his research for analysis by an independent panel, but as of yet, it has not been so scrutinized.  Both sides of this question view the other as over-engaged in an opposing world view and thus nonobjective.

Du Boiss book is less about criminal cases (there are very few mentioned) and more about what its like to be psychic.  She offers nothing new, and if one watches the television show, where murders get solved via psychic impressions coupled with rudimentary police work, DuBoiss actual story is disappointing.  Nor does a sampling of media interviews with her indicate just why her life inspired the television show.  She conducts readings, to be sure, and has a number of celebrity endorsements-- including from Deepak Chopra, who said she was 77% accurate--but whiles she claims that shes regularly contacted by police agencies for assistance in missing or murdered persons cases (and attorneys for assistance in jury selection), she offers no evidence that her abilities have actually solved a crime.

The show <em> MEDIUM </em> logo likeness
The show MEDIUM logo likeness
In one episode of Medium, which Dubois said was based on a true incident, the psychics daughter had a dream about a child imprisoned in a castle who was about to be killed by an evil ogre.  The dream led to the true account of a child who had been grabbed by a pedophile and held captive for two years.  Thanks to a series of dream details, from the childs name to the fact that she would shoot her captor, in short order the police tracked down the pedophiles brother and returned the captive to her family.

One can only wonder, if its that easy, why havent psychics solved some of the more high-profile, horrendous crimes in our country?  How about Jon Benet-Ramsey or the long-elusive BTK?  Yes, television is entertainment, but psychics who claim to be criminal profilers ought to have more success stories.  DuBois does discuss the information she provided about the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart, but apparently failed to have it taken seriously.  She says that its accurate and on record, but she does not offer a copy of the record itself or its location for people to check.  Nor does she say anything in her description of the perpetrator, aside from a first name (which was correct), that a regular criminal profiler wouldnt also say.  In other words, much of what she offered in this case was basic psychology or common sense.  Its likely, for example, that law enforcement was already checking people who knew or had worked for the Smarts.

In defense, DuBois points out that the sixth sense is as fallible as our other five senses, so we cant expect 100% reliability.  Thats probably correct, but it raises the question of how the police ought to treat psychics.  If many are frauds and those who are authentic are only about 75% accurate at best (and get validation only in retrospect), then any leads they receive via this sixth sense may potentially waste resources and lead them up blind alleys.  We certainly do have examples of supposedly accurate mediums getting the case entirely wrong.  So what should the police do?

In an interview for 14 WFIE, Dubois insists that investigators use psychics a lot more than  theyre willing to admit.  So then, its difficult to know if they do or they dont.  She also says that the people who do what I do, we dont really want to talk about cases and specifics, and we dont need to be acknowledged as the person who cracks the case, or who gave the information that unjogged the cold case.  So according to her, neither the police nor the psychics are talking.   That makes the idea of psychic assistance for solving crimes even less credible: We could prove our abilities but were not going to offer a way to do so or verification from those we help.

Allison DuBois
Allison DuBois
DuBois actually claims she can read minds or hear peoples thoughts (she calls it head tapping).  She also sees dead people, as in the film, The Sixth Sense.  That ought to make her a must for any unsolved case.  In fact, she ought to be interrogating suspects.  Yet this Phoenix-based wife and mother states her goal as more humble and limited: she wants to find missing people and use her abilities to help ease the pain of those who have endured the death of a loved one.  So despite all the hype, we still dont have a clear instance of someone in real life who psychically offers accurate and specific leads that have solved crimes.

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