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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

police dowsers (first see dowsing) These are dowsers who claim they assist the police by sensing the presence of bodies or murderers while consulting maps. This is only a variety of the police psychics phenomenon, but shows some specifically unique aspects. An example follows.
      One of the most prominent serial killer mysteries ever to take place in the United States became known as the Hillside Strangler case. Over a long period of time, a number of women had been murdered in southern California and the police were baffled. California dowser Verne McGuire, who used a pendulum swinging over a map, confidently told a writer for the Ridgecrest Daily Independent newspaper how he had helped to solve that case. McGuire told the Independent that the police refused to listen to him at first, but that finally he and his dowser friends  

      got the Los Angeles police and sheriff's department, the Marshall Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They told us that if we knew where the Hillside Strangler was, we must be involved with him. To prove we weren't involved, we had to find him in such a way that it was impossible we could be involved, so we moved in with some cops. Then he killed again. Because he would now be on the run, we thought this was the best time to look for him.

      These amateurs proposed to find the strangler by using their pendulums over a map of the area. According to McGuire, they actually located him by this means and sent the police to a certain spot on the map, where he was found in his car sitting at a service station, and in the trunk of the car were articles of clothing and a purse belonging to one of his victims. When the murderer was arrested, said McGuire, “He knew they had him. We were vindicated.”
      Not according to the police, who in fact solved the case by totally different means. First of all, the Hillside Strangler turned out to be two persons working together, not just one. The U.S. Marshal's Office was not involved at all in the investigation, nor was the FBI. As for the Los Angeles police, who actually solved the case, they reported that McGuire's description of how and where the killers were found is quite fictional:  

      McGuire's statements concerning the “Hillside Strangler” case and his involvement are in conflict with what occurred. One of the suspects was arrested in Bellingham, Washington, and the second was arrested at his place of business in the City of Glendale. No clothing belonging to any of the victims was ever found.

      The case provides an excellent example of unchallenged claims uncritically published by the media, the kind of claims which unfortunately are usually not again examined and which thus go into the literature of the paranormal as factual. In this case, Mr. David J. Simmons contacted the editor of the Ridgecrest Daily Independent newspaper and informed him of the facts. The editor ignored this and neither acknowledged the contribution of Mr. Simmons nor published it. The Independent continues to promote belief in unproven claims.

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