Your Radio Has Let You Down
You turn on your radio, and are surprised to hear a talkshow host gushing “Oh wow!” over “psychic detectives” and “forensic astrologers.” Did you accidentally tune in to the home of the fringe, “Coast to Coast?” You check the dial. Nope, it’s right there on your usual NPR station… in this case, WNPR News, Connecticut Public Radio.
Has your faith been misplaced? No, seriously, what is Faith Middleton doing, this award-winning long-time contributor to NPR news programs All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition? You’re listening to the latest episode of the 50-minute Faith Middleton Show, Retired Law Enforcement Working With Psychics to Find Missing Persons, Solve Murders. You think, Oh, I get it, she’s looking into their claims, good. You expect what any good journalist would bring: challenging questions, rational skepticism, and at least some basic factchecking.
You’d be wrong. The show was a tribute by a fan.
Middleton understands the power of the “I was skeptical but then convinced” trope, which she uses in the podcast’s written intro:
“When I first heard about the work of Find Me, I wasn’t sure what to think… Here was a team of experienced professional investigators teaming up with psychics, forensic experts, handwriting analysts, and others to solve the unsolvable. It was the stuff of fiction, except that it’s happening now.”
She opens by justifying having psychics on a news-talk show, as a breaking news “discovery”:
This is a story unlike anything we’ve covered across decades on this show. It’s not fiction. …We’ve discovered an organization of mostly retired law enforcement personnel who are teaming up with psychics around the world to solve the unsolvable – missing persons cases, homicides… Does it work? I leave it to you to decide…
The group calls itself “Find Me,” and it is attracting some influential supporters… We’ve learned that “Find Me” now has 12 current and retired law enforcement officers who work with 158 psychics worldwide. They have aircraft, rescue dogs, and a variety of forensic experts on the team… Especially for those who think they’re living in a rational world, how often do the psychics get an accurate hit that leads to solving the case?
Just who are these “experienced experts” and “influential supporters”?
That last question of hers she makes no attempt to pursue. The “influential supporters” seems to be mostly a reference to Joni Evans, retired publisher with Simon & Schuster and Random House, now on Find Me’s board of directors. Perhaps she’s also referring to fundraiser Bruce Willis, whose face is plastered across the top of Find Me’s Facebook page, along with graphics offering cocktails with “A-lister celebrities”– gossip columnist Liz Smith and “Queen of Madison Avenue” advertising guru Mary Wells Lawrence. Middleton makes much of Evans’ involvement, describing her as:
“A highly respected person, a highly rational person, who has become very intrigued and very supportive of this work… Just an extraordinary thing that’s happening.”
Middleton’s implied characterization of Evans as one who had to set aside her rationality in the face of Find Me’s supposedly undeniable success is belied by Evans’ own description of how she got involved:
Joni Evans: “I’ve had experience with psychics in the past, and I asked [Find Me’s board member and psychic Peggy Rometo] to do some readings for me, and she was really talented… She introduced me to Kelly [Snyder, Find Me’s president]… For me, it’s miraculous. I’ve always believed in psychic phenomena, always been frustrated that intelligent people do not respect it, are not even curious about it, and here was this organization with proof, with psychic talents be used for a remarkable cause.”
The team this journalist calls “experienced professional investigators” and “forensic experts” features:
- President Dan Baldwin, “whose skill is pendulum dowsing.”
- Sunny Dawn Johnston, who communicates with “spirits, guides, and their loved ones who have crossed over to the other side,” and “as a child possessed an innate wisdom and profound awareness of the angelic realm and Spirit world.”
- Krystaline Pomeroy, a “pioneer in the field of Crystal Healing.”
- Dave Campbell, “forensic astrologer.”
Any success the group has actually had–and it remains to be seen whether there has been any at all–may have more to do with Snyder’s other team:
“The 30 search dogs that we currently utilize are from an organization that I teamed up with fourteen years ago when I was with the National Center for Missing Children, and it’s Arizona Search, Track and Rescue, and these are true professionals, and the reason I’m still with them is because they are the best of the best. And if there’s a person we’re looking for and they’re anywhere in the general vicinity of where we’re looking, then we never miss – we’re 100% accurate.”
One would think a journalist would ask to clarify his “100% accurate” claim – does he mean they’re only this accurate when using these dogs? What’s the accuracy of the psychics without dogs? How do they determine “accuracy?” But Middleton asks none of these.
Find Me’s supposed “success story” #1: Shawn Fowler
Her interview opens with Find Me’s president Kelly Snyder taking credit for finding Shawn Fowler, a Kansas man who drowned in the Delaware River six years ago:
Snyder: “We provided information as to where the psychics believed Mr. Fowler could be located within the river. Quite a few of the psychics–in fact, eleven of the psychics–in my group identified an area not too far from his home where there was a tree that had been submerged and fallen into the river…”
Middleton: “You send out the information… you’re working now with 158 psychics around the world. You send out this information to them and then you’re waiting to see if you get multiple hits on the same information.”
Snyder: “When I get multiple hits – anywhere from 10 to 20 hits from the psychics in the group – and they’re all saying the same thing, then I believe that there’s some kind of reliability there… Out of 158 psychics in the group, I average anywhere from 60 to 80 responses… In this particular case, 11 said he was deceased, he was in the water, and he was snagged up against this tree that was in the water not far from his residence.”
Local news had already been running stories like “Perry man fears son, 44, fell into Delaware River,” or “Search continues along Delaware River for missing Perry man,” which revealed that “Fowler’s house is near the river and he has a medical condition that could cause him to become disoriented and confused.” So it seems more striking that only eleven of 158 psychics predicted what most local residents surely had guessed: that he’d be found in the tree-lined river near his house, snagged by a tree.
Middleton next turns to the group’s board member Peggy Rometo, whose “Find Me” bio explains she is an “Intuitive Healer, Psychic-Medium and Energy Expert,” who has “received praise from some of the world’s most famous professionals in their fields… Deepak Chopra, Donna Karan, and Demi Moore.”
“I felt… that his body was connected to a tree…then I have to go to Google Earth and I’ll go, “OK, this is the last place where he was seen. Now I’m seeing in my mind… we know it’s a river, there’s trees on Google Earth, and I’m trying to find my way to that place that feels right…”
Middleton reads an ambiguous letter from the sheriff’s department thanking Find Me for its work, implying it credits the psychics with finding Fowler, but news reports show otherwise:
“Jefferson County officials searched the area and river for weeks following his disappearance. Jefferson County Sheriff’s officials said Fowler was found about 3:36 p.m. Thursday by a man fishing in the Delaware River in Perry.”
In another story, a local pastor agrees on who found Fowler:
“According to Rick Burcham, pastor at Williamstown Assembly of God in Perry, a fisherman found a body floating in the Delaware River south of Fowler’s home just after 3 p.m. Thursday.”
Just round up all Geminis and Capricorns!
But Middleton’s not interested in such basic factchecking. She’s more interested in Find Me’s vice-president, who wrote a book advocating “astrological criminal profiling” based on the zodiac. Starting apparently, with the zodiac signs he claims are most likely to murder and rape — Geminis, Capricorns and Sagittarius:
Middleton: “There’s a man on your board, his name is Dave Campbell. He identifies himself as a ‘forensic astrologer.’ How are his services used?”
Snyder: “Dave is not only a forensic astrologer, he’s also a medium and a clairvoyant… The forensic astrology portion of it is a unique system; it’s difficult to try to explain it… Dave is incredibly accurate…
She doesn’t think much of her listeners if she doesn’t think we’d want to know how Dave’s “incredible accuracy” was determined.
Find Me’s supposed “success story” #2: Dylan Redwine
She moves on unquestioningly to the next “success story” claimed by Find Me — Dylan Redwine:
Middleton: “How many cases are you working on right now?”
Snyder: “Unfortunately there are thirty cases pending that need to be assigned. We try to get as many as four a month, but we only work them one at a time.”
Middleton: “What’s the most recent case that you’ve located somebody from the hits that you’ve gotten back from the 158 psychics that you’re working with?”
Snyder: “Well, the best one that comes to mind is a child out of Bayfield, Colorado. His name was Dylan Redwine, and we were working with the sheriff’s department there in La Plata County. They had been looking for this child for seven months and the psychics said where he was, and we went there with the Arizona Search and Rescue dogs and I was on the search. And the very next day, when we started searching, we found him within about six hours.”
Middleton: “Wow! Who called you in, the family or the police?”
Snyder: “Originally it was the family, then once they contact me, I always contact the police department to see if they want my assistance. And in this case, the lead detective on the case said that he did want our help, but we would have to wait until the snow melted, so that delayed the search for another 4-1/2 months. Then one day he called me, and said the snow’s melted, when can you be here? And we were there the following week.”
Middleton: “Wow! So, fascinating story!”
Unsurprisingly, a quick google reveals that the authorities contradict Find Me’s version of events:
“About 45 law enforcement and search and rescue workers discovered Dylan’s remains and other items while searching along 12 miles of Middle Mountain Road, said sheriff’s department spokesman Dan Bender. They worked more than 1,600 man-hours during the five-day search on the rugged, unpaved road, which runs parallel to the road Mark Redwine lives on… Searches for the boy, which had been called off during the winter months, resumed in the spring. The latest searches, through deep canyons, dense forest and extensive ground cover, were not the result of new information, Bender said. They were part of a series of follow-up searches conducted after the snow melted.”
Ouch! Another report makes the same point, almost as if aimed directly at Find Me’s claim of providing the new tip that led searcher’s to the remains.
Members of the LaPlata County Sheriff’s Office spent the last five days searching for clues related to Dylan’s disappearance… Bender said the search was not based on any recent tips or new information. It was part of a series of follow-up searches conducted in the Vallecito area since snows melted in the spring.
Yet another report discredits Find Me’s tale of how the sheriff wanted their help, called them immediately after the snow melted, and voila’!
“[S]heriff’s office spokesman Dan Bender said… investigators earlier spent five days building a dam in a fruitless attempt to search the reservoir, and searches have occurred weekly since the snow melted.”
The website set up by Dylan’s family and friends did not include Find Me in its list of those they sadly thanked for finding him:
It is with a heavy heart that we have to announce that the remains of our sweet precious boy Dylan were found during the most recent search on Middle Mountain in Vallecito Lake… The Hope for Dylan Redwine Organization would like to thank the many people and agencies that participated in the most recent search for Dylan to include but not limited to the following: La Plata County Sheriff’s Office; Durango Police Department; Bayfield Marshal’s Office; Dept of Homeland Security; U.S. Forest Service; La Plata Search & Rescue; La Plata Mounted Patrol; AZSTAR K-9 teams (Arizona); members of the Southwest Drug Task Force; Necro Search; Upper Pine Fire Protection District; Durango Fire & Rescue Tactical Team; anthropologists and archaeologists from Fort Lewis College; FBI.”
Despite Find Me’s 158 psychics and continued loud touting of the case, three years later there are still no suspects in Dylan’s murder.
Did Find Me’s prediction in fact “help the police” find Myra Lewis?
Little wonder the group focuses on these old cases, no matter how unhelpful, to base their claims. In more recent cases they fared even worse. Two recent predictions in Mississippi fizzled, after Find Me had arranged a flurry of news coverage. There was, of course, no newspaper followup to report on the fizzle. In October, local papers that were obviously tipped off by Find Me reported about their “help” with missing toddler Myra Lewis:
“A team of psychics has now filed a report with the Madison County Sheriff’s Department proclaiming to have a location where Myra can be found.”
The sheriff, forced by policy to redirect valuable time and resources from more fruitful efforts in order to check every psychic tip out, wasn’t impressed:
“Madison County Sheriff Randy Tucker says he has received thousands of tips in Myra’s case, some from other psychics. ‘We check every one of them… Somebody’s going to have to prove to me that actually works. In law enforcement we have to work on facts, but at the same time, it tugs at my heartstrings, if I don’t go, what if they’re right?’”
Madison County Sheriff Randy Tucker will hold a press conference today announcing leads from the psychic group Find Me on a missing toddler’s location yielded nothing.
Last month, the volunteer organization that uses psychics to locate missing people filed a report with the sheriff’s department that identified specific GPS locations where they believe Myra Lewis could be located.
…A lengthy investigation by federal authorities, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the Madison County Sheriff’s Department turned up nothing.
Sadly, little Myra remains missing.
Did their “help” succeed in locating Desmond Moore?
Nevertheless, Find Me’s PR agent got them more coverage for new predictions in November, also in Mississippi:
“A group of psychic detectives believe a man missing from Gautier for several months is still in the area. Desmond Moore, 24, was last seen August 30 leaving his mom’s home to meet friends.
“We do have quite a bit of information on locations there where he could be,” said Kelly Snyder founder of Find Me, a national search and rescue team committed to helping police and families find missing persons or homicide victims. Those locations were identified by 63 of Find Me’s volunteer psychics after Snyder shared Moore’s picture and other biographical information with them earlier this month. “They basically tell me what happened and what their rendition of the circumstances is surrounding his disappearance,” Snyder explained.”
Once again, there is no newspaper followup to report the psychics’ failure to find him. Desmond Moore is still missing.
Now that Find Me has public radio cred and artificial intelligence, a TV reality show is a shoe-in
It would seem the group should focus on at least getting one thing right, which it doesn’t seem to have done yet, before it gets a TV show, tries to develop “artificial intelligence,” and branches out into human trafficking:
Middleton: “There might be a national show based on what you’re doing, is that true?”
Snyder: “Well, we’ve been asked to look into that, and we do have some people looking at us. I actually have a manager/agent that is trying to help us get something going.”
Middleton: “The Find Me organization says it intends to expand its efforts into the area of human trafficking once it has fully developed its computer programming, which will make use of artificial intelligence, among other things, to solve cases… Artificial intelligence–how will you use that?”
Snyder: “…Literally, like you’ve seen in the movies, where the computer then sort of takes over and you don’t need to feed it anymore; it’s actually learning as it’s going and developing its own interior intelligence system.”
Middleton: “…There’s a link to “Find Me” on our website at WNPR.org… Thank you to ‘Find Me.'”
Sigh. If that were my local NPR news-talk station, I’d have to rethink my annual donation. And them know why.