Psychic helped find a body? Not so fast or impressive.

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Police: Psychic Found Body Of Murdered 11-Year-Old Boy « CBS Los Angeles.

A woman who found what appears to be an 11-year-old boy’s body says she knew where to look and police Thursday are not refuting her claim.

Pam Ragland, who says she has psychic ability, knew where to look for Terry Dewayne Smith.

The psychic joined searchers – and she says with the help of a fire fighter — she located Smith’s home and the body.

[…]

Police confirmed to Wait that Ragland did find the body and say they questioned and released her.

According to the AP story, Ragland saw the report on TV of the missing boy and felt something odd. Then she had a haunting vision. The sheriff said that Ragland called a tip line (apparently being clear it was a psychic vision) and she was invited to join the search. This is confusing issue number one. I wonder what is missing here?

The boy’s body was found in a shallow grave near his home. The sheriff’s spokesperson said that it’s true Ragland did find the body but was not confirming her “ability”. One witness to her find said he was impressed at her actions.

He was impressed that it was found, but we do not know if this recollection of the find is exactly true. We also do not know that ANYONE else could have found the body, considering it was near his home. But, read this very convincing story about the compulsion she felt.

She called the tip line Tuesday and a sergeant directed her to the sheriff’s command center in Menifee, more than an hour’s drive away. She piled her kids — a 10-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter — into her car.

By the time they reached the town 80 miles southeast of Los Angeles, it was pitch black and the third day of a massive search was winding down for the night.

Ragland said she had a powerful sensation as she pulled into the gravel parking lot of the rustic market was serving as an impromptu search headquarters.

“I literally physically turned my body all the way around like a compass and I looked at the store … and I said, ‘He’s back there,'” she recalled.

An off-duty firefighter agreed to drive her behind the store and within minutes Ragland had spotted the distinctive hay barn-type building that she had seen in her vision.

Let’s unpack this with some rationality.

The search location was publicly known, apparently, for days. According to a comment on story, the boy’s half-brother was under suspicion already and was eventually arrested under suspicion for murder. Since the suspect was young (16), the fact that the body was found in a shallow grave close by, the location of the body is not surprising. They were already searching this obvious area so anyone could have found it if not her. I don’t see that she was such a big help here. What did she notice from the TV report? What details could have been gleaned without special powers? I’ll bet QUITE a bit. On the other hand, they did not know the boy was dead. He could have been just missing.

She attempted to help find missing kids once before and did not have success. It sounds like she truly believes she has some powers so the compulsion she felt to help is not unusual. Her strong feelings does not make her claim that she is having an actual vision is true. There is a test she can take if she feels that she has this special power. I hope that for society’s sake, she submits to more rigorous tests to show that she actually has such a skill. Somehow, I sincerely doubt she will since she will be too busy basking in the glow of the media.

Radio interview with Ragland.

Addition: Ben Radford writes on this case

What seems at first like an amazing, iron-clad “best case” of psychic detective powers may not be so unexplainable with the application of critical thinking, psychology, and skepticism. The scientific principle of Occam’s Razor suggests that, other things being equal, the simplest explanation is often the correct one. Either Pam Ragland is the first person in history to find a missing person through psychic visions, or the accuracy of her predictions was due to a combination of psychology, statistics, and luck.

A more indepth look is coming up on LiveScience from Ben.

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  6 comments for “Psychic helped find a body? Not so fast or impressive.

  1. Graham
    July 14, 2013 at 2:01 AM

    There is a thread about this on JREF:

    http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=262003

    From the news article I found:

    “A woman who found what appears to be an 11-year-old boy’s body says she knew where to look and police Thursday are not refuting her claim.”

  2. July 14, 2013 at 9:25 AM

    I spent much of yesterday researching and writing up my analysis of this case, which is sure to be the next “best case” for psychic detectives. I expect it to be available soon, be interested to see what people think. It’s certainly an interesting case…

  3. July 20, 2013 at 10:39 AM

    There is a thread on the JREF forum including Pam Ragland’s response to skeptics (that is, to Ben). It’s not impressive, neither is this case. http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=262356

  4. Mickey Houlahan
    July 24, 2013 at 3:45 AM

    Most accounts are omitting the fact that Ragland’s twelve-year-old daughter also claimed to have had the same vision. Here’s a link to an early local newscast.
    http://ktla.com/2013/07/11/woman-claims-visions-led-her-to-menifee-boys-body-2/#axzz2ZwjqNBxt

    • July 24, 2013 at 7:49 AM

      Mickey: Another anecdote. That means nothing.

  5. Mickey Houlahan
    July 24, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    I wasn’t suggesting it means anything beyond the apparent paranormal free-for-all rampant in the Ragland family. I do find it interesting that the daughter’s claim has been pushed aside, considering the uncritical treatment this flapdoodle has been given in most of the mainstream coverage. Shouldn’t this make it all the more amazing and spookerrific? (When I saw that you thought I was offering evidence in favor of this baloney it made me psychokinetically hurl my ouija board across the room, damaging my meditation pyramid and scaring the heck out of my ficus.)

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