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Although skeptics galore deny the use of psychics for anything but entertainment, police departments around the country call on certain psychics when all else fails. They've been doing that for more than a century, and when forbidden to do so, they sometimes use unofficial means. The first official use of "psychic sight" during a trance in a criminal case was in 1845, when a clairvoyant fingered a juvenile suspect, who subsequently confessed. The details of the case aren't documented well enough to decide whether the psychic was making a good guess, perhaps knew the boy, or actually "saw" the crime with her sixth sense.

Regardless of whether intuitive "flashes" of information can best be interpreted in retrospect, they nevertheless have supported searches that yielded evidence and given specific information about crimes, even if they've rarely prevented one. Supposedly Jeanne Dixon tried to warn the White House of a vision she had just before President Kennedy was assassinated, but either she didn't or no one noticed (or cared). Kennedy was assassinated. Psychic Chris Robinson reports that he foresaw a murder, contacted the mother of the soon-to-be victim, was ignored, and the murder took place. Yet Dorothy Nickerson called a store in Arizona in 1982, certain they would be robbed the next night, and police who acted on this did arrest an armed man loitering nearby. Whether he had planned to rob the store is anyone's guess (she actually envisioned two men doing it), because once a crime is foiled, who can say what would have happened?

Belief in "seers" continued through the ages€”the 16th century mystic Nostradamus for example and Victorians produced spiritualists (many of them bogus) who invited people into seances to communicate with the dead. In 1888, psychics got involved to some degree in the case known as the Whitechapel murders, or the crimes of the man known as Jack the Ripper. In 10 weeks, from the end of August into November, someone killed five prostitutes (two of them on a single night), slitting their throats and removing pieces of them to carry off. The murders stopped as quickly as they had begun, and Jack's identity was never conclusively resolved. There were a handful of suspects, but no one was ever charged or convicted of any of these brutal crimes. To try to discover who this killer might be or when he might strike again, spiritualists all over England held sittings, the details of which were sometimes revealed to the press. From his scars to his residence to his accomplices, spiritualists provided what information they could about the killer from their impressions. One man said that he was wearing a tweed suit, and he took the police to the home of a doctor, who was subsequently hospitalized for mental illness, but no psychic provided information that conclusively solved the crimes.

Over a century later, Pamela Ball tried to contact the victims or the killer through channeling, in which a living person becomes a means through which the dead can speak. Calling her method "evidential Mediumship," she used several different means, including astrological charts of the victims, to contact someone with "inside" knowledge. She received feelings such as nausea and resignation, and images of several different men, which indicated that there may have been more than one killer. She tried contacting various suspects and came to the conclusion that there were political secrets that most of the victims knew, and that's why they had been killed.

Dr. Gabrielle Mancuso has consulted officially and unofficially on several cases in the Silicon Valley and San Francisco areas. Call for further information. 831 626-6565.