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Old 3rd July 2006, 12:07 PM   #1
Your friendly local necromancer
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Te Awamutu, New Zealand
Posts: 100
New Zealand Psychic helps search for Alzheimer's sufferer

This news story appeared on the wires this morning (http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,3719861a11,00.html):
A search resumed today for a missing 73-year-old Palmerston North man after a psychic helped police find his personal items on the bank of the Manawatu River.

Sergeant Bill Nicholson said a local woman, who did not want to be named, contacted police on Friday night and described a location to police.

James Alexander, an Alzheimer's sufferer, has been missing more than a week.

The area the psychic described was familiar to police, who launched a search late on Friday.

On Saturday morning the psychic accompanied Land Search and Rescue and police on another search. Mr Alexander's personal items were found on the banks of the Manawatu River shortly after 11am. They found a hat, a shoe, a watch, a lighter and a pair of glasses.

"The thing about it that really got me was that she had never been to this area but she was describing to me an area that was familiar to me because back in February we had a search for another Alzheimer's patient who had gone missing from a different rest home," Mr Nicholson said on Radio New Zealand.

"Some things she said prompted me to take it further. If I hadn't been involved in that search in February, then I might have just passed it off. But it was worth a crack and it paid off."

Mr Nicholson said Mr Alexander was most likely to be in the river, which has been high, but was now dropping.

The dive squad was due in the area today. There was a log jam about 150m down from where Mr Alexander was believed to have entered the river.
It's no secret that I'm a skeptic but part of being skeptical is to be open-minded. This case appears to have some merit but like so many similar cases, there's not enough information to decide whether the psychic really did provide genuine information or not. I'm leaving an open verdict but the skeptical side of me feels the need to point out a few things:

- Most psychics involved in missing persons cases say "look near water", because statistically this strategy has a reasonable chance of success.
- The Manawatu River would be one of the most obvious places to look for a missing person in Palmerston North.
- If the psychic was able to provide such specific information, why didn't they say what had happened to the person or where the body is?
- Psychics regularly make calls to the police in regard to these cases. Statistically, every so often a psychic must get it right - just like I would if I made regular guesses.
- Most importantly, there's no way to verify any of the claims in this story. How do we know the psychic didn't simply take a walk by the river and spot the clothing, then make a call to police? There are good reasons for doing so, such as gaining credibility with police for herself or psychics in general. Actually, how do we know it was a psychic at all? Maybe it was someone who knew something and wanted to cover their tracks by pretending to be a psychic?

As is so often the case, we're left wondering if this is real or not. Being a skeptic I lean towards the simpler explanation that this was just another fraudulent case. I would love to be able to investigate further.
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