Psychic Tip About Mass Grave Turns Out to Be False

June 7th, 2011
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And another television news report, this one from NBC.

Note that in this earlier report the word “may” is left out and Fox News reports that bodies were found.

(Fox News should not be singled out in this case, however. Sky News, NBC, CNN, the BBC and other news outlets reported basically the same thing)

NOTE: NO BODIES WERE ACTUALLY FOUND

Numerous media reports indicated that a mass grave containing children “may have been found” (just like cell phones may cause cancer.) It has since been confirmed that no bodies were found. No grave was found. There was no evidence that a violent crime had been committed on the property

Here’s basically what happened:

Police in Texas were contacted by a self-proclaimed psychic who indicated that they had information, presumably from a psychic vision, which indicated that a mass grave containing thirty or more dismembered bodies could be found at a home in Hardin, Texas, about 70 miles from Houston. The caller never gave their name but called at least twice. It’s worth noting that there are no reports of 30 missing persons in the area or of ongoing kidnappings or anything else which might lead authorities to believe they were looking for a mass murderer. None the less, the tip was apparently taken seriously. It has been reported that the called seemed to know details of the property and the interior of the house.

The local sheriff’s office investigated and found that nobody was home at the house and the occupants had not been seen in about two or three days. This is by no means sinister. The couple who owned the home are long haul truckers and are often away for several days. Their 16 year old daughter had also lived in the home until recently. Background checks of the home owners came up clean and neighbors said that they never saw anything suspicious. The owner was eventually tracked down – he was in Georgia on a trucking route and expected to be back in a few more days.

Police checked out the property and noticed an unpleasant smell in the back yard. As it turns out, this was just uncollected garbage. They also noted what appeared to be blood on the back porch. The blood apparently was left from an incident that occurred about two weeks prior. The ex-fiance of the couple’s daughter had apparently had some kind of domestic dispute in which he got drunk and slit his wrist in a suicide attempt (or possibly not a real suicide attempt so much as a dramatic act). He didn’t die, but left quite a bit of blood which the home owners had tried to clean up, although it seems traces were left. Of course, police were able to verify this as the incident had been reported and an ambulance called.

None the less, police were able to get a search warrant for the property. At least 15 police vehicles were on the scene. They searched it, brought in cadaver dogs and found…. nothing. Surprise? No, not really.

Thankfully, the daughter of the owners was located and able to get to the scene with the keys to allow investigators in, thus avoiding a broken down door.

And to make matters worse:

Despite the fact that no bodies were found, it seems that there was some confusion over whether there was a tip about bodies or whether they were actually found. A number of news outlets jumped the gun and reported that 30 bodies had been found in a mass grave.

Such as this press outlet, which is a fairly typical example of how this was reported in the US and around the world today:


Mass Grave Full Of Childrens bodies

There’s been a gruesome discovery in the United States.

A possible mass grave has been uncovered in Texas with up to 30 bodies reportedly found at the rural property east of Houston.

Many of the bodies are reportedly those of children who have been dismembered.

It’s believed US federal agents received a tip off from the public.

They want to search the home on the property but so far , the FBI says the residents have been “unco-operative’.

CNN Initially reported (before retracting the story):

At least 20 bodies, including those of children, have been found at a home in Hardin, Texas, a federal official told CNN. Officers are securing the scene, the official said.

Now, why this really really really bothers me:

I understand that the police need to investigate even the most non-credible claims from a self-proclaimed psychic. While psychics are complete hogwash, it’s always possible that a person who has genuine knowledge of a crime might use the claim of being psychic to report it. So the police were justified in at least doing a basic check into the owners of the property and asking neighbors.

However, in the United States (and many other places for that matter) police are not supposed to be allowed to just invade your property and conduct an invasive search on a whim. They need a warrant, a document signed by a judge certifying that the police had probable cause to search the property. What that means is that they had solid evidence that would lead them to the reasonable conclusion that the property contained evidence of a crime. There are some exceptions to this, such as if in hot pursuit of a known criminal who is seen fleeing onto private property, but in general the police can’t just walk into your place and demand to search it.

And not only that, it was totally inappropriate for the police to be telling the news media that there was suspicion of a mass grave on the property when there was no evidence of it. This is all the more horrifying considering the false reports that bodies actually were found!

I’d love to know who the police officer who told news outlets they had found dozens of bodies was. Somebody is badly in need of being fired.

If an anonymous psychic tip constitutes probable cause, what the hell doesn’t? Could an officer have a dream that you had a body hidden at your place and submit that as evidence?

At this point the police are trying to find the anonymous psychic hoaxer. Reports are that it was a female. However, I would not be surprised if the mentally unstable ex-boyfriend who cut his wrist weeks ago was behind this. After all, it’s a great way to make the life of the property owners a living hell.

So be careful you don’t ever piss me off, or I just might call the police and tell them I had a magical vision that Jimmy Hoffa is hidden in the walls of your house and that they need to tear down the place to find him.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 7th, 2011 at 10:48 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Culture, Just LAME, media, Misc, Paranormal. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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21 Responses to “Psychic Tip About Mass Grave Turns Out to Be False”

  1. 1
    MikeC Says:

    Have any of those “psychics solve the case” TV shows ever actually solved any cases through psychic means?

    Way down here in New Zealand we had our own one for a couple of years – it never solved anything…..


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  2. 2
    Brian-M Says:

    What annoys me more is the false reporting. I don’t like being lied to, especially by a presumably trustworthy source.


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  3. 3
    Q Says:

    Who dropped the ball on stating that bodies had actually been found? Clearly the media outlets didn’t get any direct confirmation, but some reported that sources in the police/federal government had told them that bodies had been found or something. If an actual official came out and said directly that bodies of dismembered children were there then it’s their fault more than the news.

    This whole thing sounds like a ridiculous keystone-cops style bungle. What a mess. Just so stupid. Nobody seems to know their ass from their elbow and then they call in the feds and get a judge to sign a warant.

    I wonder how much this bull**** ended up costing the local state and federal governments?


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  4. 4
    DV82XL Says:

    And we are surprised because…?


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  5. 5
    Anon Says:

            DV82XL said:

    And we are surprised because…?

    Actually I doubt any of the regulars here are surprised.


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  6. 6
    Nick P. Says:

            DV82XL said:

    And we are surprised because…?

    Not surprised, just very disappointed.


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  7. 7
    drbuzz0 Says:

            DV82XL said:

    And we are surprised because…?

    I’m not surprised that the tip didn’t pan out.

    I am surprised at what an astoundingly bad job the authorities did. Even by the low standards I’ve seen, this is amazingly bad. The most they should have done for a crackpot tip like that is had an officer drive by the place, ask the neighbors a few questions and do a quick search for any previous reports on the place and then concluded it was a crack pot idea.

    Certainly not start telling the media that they may have discovered 30+ dismembered children.


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  8. 8
    Patrick Says:

    Well, the psychic was right about the bodies and the grave, she (they are always women) just didn’t get my address right…


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  9. 9
    Engineering Edgar Says:

    I would blame the authorities for being complete idiots here. They should have done some basic research, google earth looks at the place, talk to neighbors, drive by and then realize it was an outlandish claim.

    What can be done about the person though? Assuming they catch the self-proclaimed psychic, what could they be charged with?

    Falsely reporting an incident? I don’t see how. They never claimed direct knowledge of the mass grave. They never claimed that they were there and saw bodies. They made it clear that what they reported was a psychic vision, such as a dream or something. It would be impossible to prove they lied. Maybe they did have a dream that the place had bodies in it. Maybe they truly believe it was a magical vision of what really happened. The statement “I had a vision of bodies at that house” may well have been true.

    The police should be savvy enough to know when a source has no credibility.


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  10. 10
    jon Says:

    I’m just glad they didn’t try to cover up their embarrassment & stupidity by trumping up some fake charge or another against the property owner anyway. That seems to be the standard procedure in cases of police screw-ups.


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  11. 11
    Brian-M Says:

    What can be done about the person though? Assuming they catch the self-proclaimed psychic, what could they be charged with?

    I don’t know about the USA, but over here they could be charged with Wasting Police Time. Do they have an equivalent charge over there?


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  12. 12
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Brian-M said:

    What can be done about the person though? Assuming they catch the self-proclaimed psychic, what could they be charged with?

    I don’t know about the USA, but over here they could be charged with Wasting Police Time. Do they have an equivalent charge over there?

    Yes, there are smilar charges that can be brought (falsely reporting an incident, for example) which is basically the same thing – police waste time and resources on a false lead and possibly end up causing harm to others because the police are busy when needed.

    Edgar makes a valid point though: The person who called didn’t claim to have first hand knowledge of the bodies. They said they had a psychic vision of them. This is not disprovable. They might have had some kind of vision/dream/halucination/sudden thought. The authorities knew this. THey decided that the psychic vision was grounds for a full blown search with a press confrence and multi-agency inspection of the area.

    I can think of a parallel example: You are talking to a police officer and say “There’s a guy down the street from me. I’ve really got a bad feeling about him.” Because of your bad feeling, they pick him up, tear apart his house, grill him for hours to try to get him to confess to something. Turns out he’s never done anything wrong. Is it really your fault? I mean, maybe you really do get a bad feeling about him.


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  13. 13
    adam Says:

    drbuzz0;

    If you had no relation to the person you “had a bad feeling” about, then no, it’s not your fault. If it turns out that in fact, you know the guy, and are currently in the middle of a dispute with him, it would not be hard to show that it was likely you intentionally misled the police in order to cause him harm.

    It’ll go the same way with this psychic case. If it’s a random stranger, they really can’t prove anything and it’ll most likely get dropped. If it turns out to be someone who’s had past disputes with the family, well…


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  14. 14
    drbuzz0 Says:

            adam said:

    drbuzz0;

    If you had no relation to the person you “had a bad feeling” about, then no, it’s not your fault. If it turns out that in fact, you know the guy, and are currently in the middle of a dispute with him, it would not be hard to show that it was likely you intentionally misled the police in order to cause him harm.

    It’ll go the same way with this psychic case. If it’s a random stranger, they really can’t prove anything and it’ll most likely get dropped. If it turns out to be someone who’s had past disputes with the family, well…

    Good point. If it turns out to be someone who was somehow involved with this family then that would strongly indicate malicious intent.


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  15. 15
    Kate Says:

    I thought your points about the warrant and the media jumping the gun were spot on. First, the police did get a warrant, but I don’t know if they should have been able to. Don’t they need to have a reasonable suspicion that something was going on on the property in order to have a judge sign a warrant to enter? They didn’t have any proof other than a psychic’s word. Secondly, the media shouldn’t have been informed about this before any proof was found; it’s both amusing and disappointing how quickly even established outlets jumped all over this sensational story and were wrong. That’s why the media is supposed to go off facts, which clearly, they didn’t have in this case. I wanted to share this video on this event, which I hope shamed the media and cops into rethinking their procedures for responding to these types of scenarios. I think you’ll appreciate how it analyzes news coverage from different sources to show various perspectives on the media’s response and how outlets fanned the (nonexistent) fire on this one. I hope you’ll considering embedding the video in your post.

    http://www.newsy.com/videos/media-race-to-report-tx-mass-grave-leads-to-false-reporting/


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  16. 16
    ebohlman Says:

    Kate: One nitpick: the standard for getting a warrant in the US is “probable cause” which is stricter than “reasonable suspicion”; the latter is the standard for an officer being able to pat down a suspect to make sure he isn’t carrying a weapon.

    In this case, they probably did have probable cause because they noticed an odor that was consistent with (but turned out not to be) decomposing bodies.

    Fully agree that they should have maintained media silence.


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  17. 17
    I'mnotreallyhere Says:

    Don’t mess with Texas.


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  18. 18
    Anon Says:

            I’mnotreallyhere said:

    Don’t mess with Texas.

    No, you wouldn’t want to wind up on the bad side of their Department of Transportation would you?


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  19. 19
    Bob the unbeliever Says:

    TEXAS, Original home of the uneducated redneck….


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  20. 20
    skappelat Says:

    that always reminds me of an episode of family guy:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JaRObcLsds


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  21. 21
    Walker Boh Says:

    This is ridiculous, it also shows that judges rubber stamp warrants without bothering to ask about anything? Seriously the warrant request should have died when it arrived on hizzoner’s desk! But no, no matter how tenuous a possibility of a crime existed, (and overwhelmingly issued for non-violent, usually consensual “crimes”) the warrant is signed off.

    Second fact – the fact that any law enforcement body in the country even entertains the fact of relying on a psychic for any purpose is disgusting. The moment the call came in, the police should have traced the call and visit the person asking the question of WHY they know this crime happened? Any detective worth his salt should be questioning this crank. If they think it’s possible, then why not camp out for a day or two and gather some intel first.

    The fact it happens in Texas is immaterial – law enforcement insanity is spread across the nation. Remember Texas is the third most populous state (and that’s a tight third place, New York is barely ahead population wise and given the growth of population and the rate of intrastate immigration into Texas from other states, in a few years Texas will be number two in population), you are going to get a generous share of bureaucratic and LEO nonsense. My anecdotal experience with sites like “Injustice Everywhere” and others, Texas comes off at average or less than average for per capita level of LEO nonsense.

    Another factor – the major media outlets are worse than useless. They will hype a story without fact checking of any type, with no suspicion of the quality of information, and then when it blows up in their face – there is virtually no correction, just the story vanishes or a pathetic sheepishness that pushes way down on the list. At least it was only “murder” – had these couple supposedly had molested children by the dozens, they would be excoriated in the public sphere and that scarlet letter would be painted on them even if evidence is strongly contrary to that initial accusation. You can be accused and indicated of about any crime other than something sexually related to minors and be given the benefit of the doubt – including murder, bank robbery, vicious battery with the intent to kill, white collar crimes – but child molestation/rape and the accusation might as well be summary judgement with on the spot execution. The accusation sticks while acquittal and exculpatory information doesn’t sink into the public consciousness. That makes this even worse, because some people see “children” anywhere in the title and make the assumption that kids were molested/raped (as if it were only torture and/or only murder was somehow not as bad). Run over a bunch of kids using a car and you will have defenders, be accused with no evidence other than a psychic’s mumblings and you’re toast.


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