That’s what Allison DuBois claims she is – “I'm a secretary to the dead. I take notes and I pass them on. I'm a bridge”. These mixed metaphors brought to you courtesy of last Monday’s Paula Zahn Now.
Unlike some of her colleagues on CNN, Zahn at least tries to give the skeptical side some airplay, although in an extremely courteous way and with a major concession to the credulous that I’ll cover at the end. But first, let’s have a look at DuBois’ customary claims. From the transcript:
ZAHN: …One of the first cases that DuBois says she worked on, which also became the pilot episode for "Medium," was the abduction of a six-year-old girl in Texas.
DUBOIS: Where she was abducted from, I was taken right to that house.
ZAHN: DuBois says she was contacted by the Tarrant County sheriff's office in conjunction with the Texas rangers. Law enforcement had convicted a man for kidnapping the girl, but had not been able to find the child's remains.
DUBOIS: And they drove me by the car that he had switched into after he had abducted the child… I put there was horseback riding near back stables. And then I put the horses get spooked in the areas of this child's remains. I also kept seeing small planes, so there had to be a landing strip nearby.
ZAHN: DuBois says she also told investigators that the remains of the child would be found within five years of the girl's disappearance. The child's remains were found four years and nine months after her abduction. Authorities say on the side of a horseback riding trail, in an area next to a military air base. DuBois points to these elements, among others as proof she was able to give useful information to the rangers.
Even if all this were true, it seems to me this is pretty underwhelming. If DuBois really was psychic and could see these things, why didn’t she direct law enforcement to the location of the body? By her own account the body was not found based on DuBois’ information, it was found some years later, so what use was DuBois really? And that’s even if her story were true. But as The Two Percent Company found, DuBois’ claim was not true. They asked the Texas Rangers about this claim, and they replied “the Rangers have not used psychics, including Ms. DuBois”.
To Zahn’s credit she does bring this up with DuBois:
But despite DuBois's claims, the Texas rangers deny ever having worked with her.
(on camera): We couldn't find one single person within the Texas rangers who would even admit to having talked with you. They said never happened.
DUBOIS: I know. The last thing they wanted was for it to be made national or world news where they have to answer for it.
ZAHN (voice-over): But a member of the Tarrant County sheriff's office did confirm part of DuBois's story. Sergeant Bobby Adabere (ph) told us that he not only met with DuBois about the case, but that he was put in contact with her through the Texas rangers.
DUBOIS: I wasn't lying I guess is what it tells you.
ZAHN (on camera): But Sergeant Adabere (ph) also downplayed your efforts. He ended up saying that any information you gave him was pretty darn generic and wasn't that helpful.
Also to her credit there was a brief snippet with Joe Nickell, explaining how “psychics” fit their generic guesses to the facts. But why did she have to spoil a reasonable attempt to report on this with integrity, by ending with:
ZAHN: We've got one more thing to add here. We did speak with another well-placed law enforcement official in Phoenix who said DuBois's information has helped on at least a half dozen cases. Her employer, though, wouldn't allow us to identify her, but this is exactly what she told us. "DuBois has been specific enough in details that it seems impossible that she would know this information any other way."
So just because this unnamed person, who can’t be questioned, says she can’t see how DuBois would have known what she remembers DuBois as knowing – just because this one person couldn't figure it out - DuBois must be psychic. The problems with this statement must be obvious. We don’t know:
- If this anonymous person is telling the truth.
- What it is she claims DuBois knew. They could have been generic guesses and there could have been many wrong guesses the woman has forgotten about.
- If she remembers correctly what really happened. Just ask Elizabeth Loftus – memories are unreliable.
- What other explanations there could be for DuBois knowing things that this person is just too credulous or unimaginative to think of. Just look at John Edward’s lame guesses that seem to fool callers on Larry King.
- What other ways DuBois would have of knowing things.
In other words, Zahn went for ratings at the end. Lame.