(Investigator 95, 2004 March)
Some psychics put their remarkable clairvoyant talents to work helping the police solve crimes. One such psychic detective was Dutchman Gerard Croiset (1909-1980), whose career has been fully documented by the late Professor Tenhaeff of Utrecht University.
Croiset's paranormal abilities began to emerge when he was only six years old, but it was not until thirty years later and while attending a lecture on parapsychology given by Professor Wilhelm Tenhaeff in his home town of Enschede, that his extraordinary powers were given a chance to make him the most celebrated clairvoyant in Europe.
Tenhaeff invited Croiset to visit his parapsychology laboratory at the university, where he had forty-seven other psychics and sensitives, to undergo scientific experiments. Croiset was by far the most outstanding.
The police in Holland are less prejudiced than their foreign counterparts towards the use of psychics in their investigations, and often approached Professor Tenhaeff to see if his clairvoyants could provide clues in difficult cases. Croiset being his star subject, began working for the police and came to be looked upon not only as Holland's chief psychic detective but was soon in demand by the police of half a dozen other countries to help them in their search to find children who had disappeared.
In addition to solving some of the century's most baffling crimes, Croiset is also credited with tracing countless lost objects and locating hundreds of missing persons; accurately foretelling the future, and excelling in paranormal healing.
Many of his achievements were carried out spontaneously and at a considerable distance from the scene of the crime or incident. One case recorded by Professor Tenhaeff in December 1959, relates how Professor Sandelius, chairman of the Political Science Department of the University of Kansas, in the USA, worried about the disappearance of his daughter Carol, contacted Croiset via Tenhaeff to see if he could help locate her.
From an office at the Utrecht University, Croiset described how he could see Sandelius's daughter running across a lawn and crossing a viaduct. Then near a large body of water, landing stages and boats, and finally riding in a truck and in a big red car. He assured the professor that his daughter was alive and that she would return home within six days. As Croiset predicted, the professor's daughter did return home sixth day and she confirmed that the psychic detective had been uncannily accurate in his description of her wanderings.
While the better known characters in fictional detective stories enjoy a reputation created for them by the author, when the character is a real life psychic sleuth and vouched or by a professor of parapsychology, it is little wonder that he name of the late Dutch clairvoyant became world famous.
However, like all other psychics who have claimed to have been able to help police in their investigations, when the evidence is objectively examined the claims made on behalf of Croiset remain unsubstantiated.
Most of the information about Croiset has come from two sources, Professor Wilhelm Tenhaeff's books and articles on Crolset, and a biography, Croiset the Clairvoyant: The Story of an Amazing Dutchman (1964), by Jack Harrison Pollack. The biography being based almost entirely on information supplied by Tenhaeff.
The late professor (he died in 1981, one year after Croiset), was appointed to the first chair of psychical research ever established (Utrecht 1953), and studying Croiset became his virtual monopoly.
Unfortunately, Tenhaeff was not beyond fraudulent editing and making false claims and statements, and wherever it has been possible to check his reports against those in police files and the testimony of impartial witnesses, those reports have proved to be utterly unreliable.
He was also reported as being absent-minded and sometimes led astray by his own enthusiasm.
Croiset, like other psychic detectives, relied for his alleged success on vague, ambiguous, verbose, contradictory and rambling statements. He had good relations with the media and law officers and had access to information not available to the general public. Fiction also seems to have played a large part in earning him an undeserved reputation. The story about Croiset's investigation into Professor Sandeluis' missing daughter for example, promoted in Hibbard and Worring's 1982 book, Psychic Criminology, appears to be without foundation.
According Walter F. Rowe (1993), a professor of Forensic Sciences at the George Washington University, he contacted the present department chairman Paul Schumaker, and his predecessor Earl Nehring, who became chairman in 1972, and had worked in the department for many years prior to that, and neither had heard of any such missing-child case.
Although Croiset had an international reputation as a psychic crimebuster, the number of cases which would actually qualify him as such are few and far between.
One case cited time and time again by Croiset admirers is the Wierden affair where Croiset is supposed to have identified the assailant of a young girl by simply handling the hammer with which the crime had been committed. In ESP: A Scientific Evaluation (1978) by C.E.M. Hansel, the author reports that he made enquiries of the local authorities and was told that Croiset's endeavours had been of no use.
What appeared to be an iron-clad case in Croiset's favour was published by Professor Tenhaeff in the September 1980 issue of the German monthly Esotera. In essence, Tenhaeff claimed that on November 15, 1979, Commander Eekhof, a state police officer, visited Croiset and asked him to identify an arsonist active in the Woudrichem area. Eekhof did this hoping to get definitive information from Croiset concer-ning the culprit. According to Tenhaeff, this interview took place when all other attempts to identify the arsonist had failed.
Croiset described the arsonist as a man who "sometimes wears a uniform...lived in an apartment building...and had something to do with toy airplanes." When asked by Eekhof whether it could be "model airplanes," Croiset replied "yes." Eekhof was allegedly shocked by the statements, "for the clairvoyant's description fitted a quarter-master in his own police group."
When this remarkable claim was checked with Commander Eek-hof by Piet Hein Hoebens, an investigative journalist with the leading Dutch daily, De Telegraaf, the police officer asserted positively that it contained "outright falsehoods" and invited the journalist to listen to a tape recording of what Croiset had really said.
The inaccuracies in Tenhaeff's report included:Croiset was brought to Adelaide in 1966, to help solve the mystery of the three missing Beaumont children. Prior to his arrival, he was supplied with a considerable amount of information regarding the disappearance — video film of the area, photographs and maps. He claimed while still in Holland, that he believed the children to be "under the earth in a cave", then on October 16th "lying dead under a cave-in of sand", and in Adelaide, said on November 9, the children were "buried in the grounds" of Minda House, North Brighton. Finally on November 11, he announced that the children were "buried 8 to 10 ft. under the concrete floor of a newly built warehouse" in Wilton Avenue, Paringa. Park.
The consultation took place on November 15, 1977, two years before the date given by Tenhaeff. The quarter-master was not arrested until March 1980. Croiset did not mention "toy airplanes" although he did speak of "airplanes", "sitting in airplanes", "airfields", and "airplane construction." When asked by Commander Eekhof whether it could be model airplanes Croiset first said "yes maybe", but then retracted and said, "No, these are big airplanes." While it is true that the quartermaster liked to build model airplanes, this was first mentioned by Eekhof and not Croiset. Croiset, who in an earlier attempt to "see" the culprit, had put the police on a false track identifying the wrong person. Eekhof was not "shocked" by Croiset's statements because he could not possi-bly recognize a fellow policeman from Croiset's confused "images." The quartermaster, who did not live in an apartment building was suspected for reasons other than Croiset's "vision." Tenhaeff's claim that a protocol was "checked and signed" by Commander Eekhof was categorically denied by Eekhof, who said that he had never seen a protocol.
The warehouse walls were pulled down, the concrete floor dug up and the ground excavated to a depth of 2.2 metres. No clues were discovered and it's not known to this day what happened to the missing children.
It would seem despite Croiset being given an enormous amount of information both prior to coming to Australia and while he was here which would enable him to make an educated guess, he was no wiser than anyone else.
Do psychics ever help to solve crimes? Many will only work with police if the police will work with them, this provides the psychic with information not available to the general public. They characteristically claim no background experience or training, they proffer a "resume of success" drawn from news-paper articles and testimonials from law enforcement officers and relatives of victims.
Psychics appear both credible and neutral and cannot be evaluated on their alleged skill. Consequently officers investigate their past successes. Two favourite techniques of the psychic crime solvers are "shotgunning" in which the psychic provides a steady stream of information keying into police reactions, groping along to provide what the police see as useful information, and "post-facto prophecy", in which the psychic "interprets" a vague prophecy after the fact to make it seem that the fact was a prediction.
Psychic detectives cause harm by their involvement in police investigations, costing the taxpayer money by diverting police attention from the facts of the case thus wasting valuable investigation time. There have also been cases of false arrests being made on the basis of incorrect information provided by psychics.
An enquiry made of the eight Australian police forces disclosed that seven had no records of a case where a psychic or clairvoyant had assisted them to solve anything, the eighth said that all information was received in confidence and they could not answer. This latter response is worth noting for it provides psychic detectives with both a testimonial and a cop-out.
In an address to the New Zealand Skeptics at their conference in 1993, Ian Holyoake, the Police Region commander for Otago and Southland, dealt in some detail with the subject of psychic detectives. He was adamant that psychics provide no assistance whatsoever and having canvassed all of the police districts in New Zealand found that no psychic had been able to provide any details which would confirm accurate predictions.
Mr Holyoake gave examples of overseas police tests of psychics (Los Angeles Police Department) (Reiser, Ludwig, Saxe and Wagner. 1979), to determine whether they could solve crimes, the results were no better than a chance level of expectancy. He concluded by saying, "psychics and clairvoyants would be better off concentrating on Lotto numbers and race horse winners so that the profits thereby gained could be used to develop their science further and thus convince my colleagues and me of their ability."
Notwithstanding the Commander's remarks, one can legitimately claim to have "helped" the police by providing information (albeit quite useless) in a letter to them, and if an enquirer receives a non-committal answer, the matter remains unsolved and the psychic can, (at least in the minds of believers) enhance his standing by pointing to the information's confidentiality.
My own experience bears this out. In Old Moore's Almanack (1984) I came across the following "testimonial" in an advertisement by "Erik", a self proclaimed astrologer and numerologist:"Thank you for your letter of the 6th December 1980. The contents have been noted and the appropriate action will be taken."
(West Yorkshire Metropolitan Police - Yorkshire Ripper Squad) NB. Arrest made on 2nd January 1981 – four weeks later.
Although the above is a standard response from officialdom, and it refrains specifically from saying that the writer had supplied police with information leading to the arrest of the notorious Yorkshire Ripper, it implies as much, thus providing a testimonial in the form of a legitimate claim, i.e. that he did write to the police.
"Erik", in fact, according to a letter I received from the Chief Superintendent of the West Yorkshire Police in response to my query, never wrote to them at all!
Our reference CA32/MPT
23 February 1984
With reference to your letter of 20 January 1984, despite a search of our files there is no record of the letter to which you refer. In any event I regret to have to inform you that it is not our practice to disclose this type of information.
I am sorry we are unable to assist you with your research, and wish you every success with it.
A N Cooper
Adelaide Advertiser, 1966, August 2/3, October 17, November 10/ 12.
Brionk, F. 1960. Parapsychology and criminal investigation. International Criminal Police Review. Vol. 134. pp3-9.
Edwards, Harry. 1995. "Psychic Detectives or Bumbling Clouseaus?" the Skeptic, 15(4). Australian Skeptics Inc. Sydney.
Hibbard, Whitney S. and Worring, Raymond W. 1982. Psychic Criminology. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas.
Holyoake, Ian. 1993. "Police Use of Psychics" New Zealand Skeptic. No. 30. pp 18-19 December 1993.
Reiser, Ludwig, Saxe and Wagner. "Evaluation of the Use of Psychics in the Investigation of Major Crimes." Journal of Police Science and Administration. March 1979.
Rowe, Walter F. 1993. "Psychic Detectives: A Critical Examination." Skeptical Inquirer. 17(2):159-165.
White, Michael. 1988. Police Use of a "Psychic" in Tasmania. the Skeptic, 8(l):31-34.
From: Edwards, H. A Skeptic's Guide to the New Age.
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