Friday, April 20, 2012

Psychic Peter Hurkos and the John Norman Collins Case

Dutchman Peter Hurkos billed himself as the first police psychic and parlayed that into a career in the 1950s and 1960s. After making many claims about his extrasensory abilities in Europe, he came to wider attention after he volunteered to look into the Stone of Scone theft from Westminster Abbey in 1951. He did so at his own expense without official sanction. Hurkos was among several others who were allowed to examine the throne where the stone should have been lodged.

Hurkos made a great show of it by doing a "cold" reading of the area in front of some French reporters, who wrote articles which described his examination of the area in great detail. Thanks to the French press and his adroit self-promotion, Peter Hurkos became a European sensation despite British Home Secretary, Chuter Ede's official statement made on behalf of the British government, "The gentleman in question... did not obtain any results whatsoever."

Peter Hurkos called his gift "psychometry" - the ability to see past-present-future associations by touching objects. He claims he discovered this ability after a serious accident. He was painting a building several stories up in Hague when he fell off a ladder and lapsed into a coma for several days. When he awoke in the hospital, he had the gift.

Hurkos was invited to The United States in 1956 by Andrija Puharich, a parapsychologist and researcher into ESP. After getting Puharich's public approval and a wealth of free publicity, he became a popular nightclub entertainer.

From time to time, Hurkos would involve himself in high-profile police cases such as The Boston Strangler, the Michigan Murders, and The Sharon Tate Murders. The Boston Police found Hurkos a nuisance. He was arrested and convicted of impersonating a police office trying to gather information he could later claim were psychic revelations. With the Manson case, he claimed to identify Charles Manson when it was Susan Atkins, Manson's supporter, who dropped his name in jail.

In the case of John Collins, he proclaimed that the murderer had blond hair and at other times said it was brown. He described the murderer as five foot five or six inches tall and weighing 140 pounds; Collins was over six feet tall and 180 pounds. All of Hurkos' other "revelations" regarding this case could have been easily derived from newspaper articles on the murders, which he insisted he never read. After an unsuccessful week in Ann Arbor, the psychic left for home discouraged, blaming his failure on lack of police cooperation.

Peter Hurkos had an uncanny ability to promote himself on talk shows like The Tonight Show and The Merv Griffin Show. He appeared in several documentaries about himself, and he was portrayed in the movie version of The Boston Strangler by veteran actor, George Voskovec. Peter Hurkos played himself in the never-to-be released movie about John Collins and the coed killings called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.

In 1960, the futuristic show One Step Beyond, brought to you by Alcoa Aluminum and hosted by John Newland, produced a two part show on Peter Hurkos' life story. I've attached the YouTube link below which includes the show's vintage opening. If you are sufficiently interested, the rest of the episode's segments can be found on that page's right sidebar.