Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Psychic Peter Hurkos vs. John Norman Collins

Ancient myths and tales abound with stories about oracles, seers, soothsayers, sorcerers, and fortune tellers. Common among these legends is an appeal to a charmed man or woman who has the gift of inner vision. Usually, the person comes from outside the village or town where an overwhelming problem is plaguing the community and he or she agrees to relieve the populace from their resident evil.

Since Jack the Ripper cast a pall over London's East End in 1888, in virtually every serial murder case that goes unsolved for any length of time, a psychic is called in to relieve the public of their collective angst. It is a common appeal for supernatural assistance when confidence in local law enforcement erodes.

Murderous crimes that go beyond simple killing and become ritualized orgies of carnage and butchery evoke antediluvian images of blood thirsty ghouls, evil witches, and demons in league with Satan. These images are deeply embedded in the human psyche and express our deepest psychological fears.
Enter psychic Peter Hurkos, the self-proclaimed first police psychic, arguably the most famous psychic of his day.  Hurkos believed he had a "psychometric" sense, the ability to gain information about people from physical contact with inanimate objects they had touched. He also believed he could enter a crime scene and pick up an aura. "Vibrations" he called them.

Peter Hurkos honed his skills into a popular nightclub act and rubbed elbows with many Hollywood and Las Vegas celebrities. He was a favored guest on the talk show circuit and appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, The Merv Griffin Show, and The Dinah Shore Show to name just a few.  

After an inauspicious performance and ensuing bad publicity from his work on the Boston Strangler case in 1964, his bookings were fewer and farther between. He just wasn't news anymore.

His agent fielded an offer she took over the phone for him to go to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and see if he could help with the coed killer case there. At first, Hurkos declined, but his agent convinced him that if he could help find the killer, his career would get a boost.

On Monday, July 21, 1969, as he was getting off the plane at Detroit's Metropolitan Airport, Hurkos noticed a cadre of media waiting on the tarmac to interview him. There were too many newsmen chasing too little news in Ann Arbor, and Hurkos put some new life into the story, so they were there to welcome him, and he didn't disappoint them.

With characteristic bravura, the Danish psychic challenged the killer, "He knows I'm coming. I'm after him and he's after me. But I am not afraid. I come thousands of miles to find him and I won't give up." 

While he was in the area, the Danish psychic wanted to examine the landmarks of the cases and handle items of evidence obtained from earlier police investigations. What harm could there be with that?

Taking exception to Peter Hurkos' unauthorized collaboration on the case was Washtenaw County Sheriff Douglas Harvey. There were chain of custody issues regarding the collection, cataloging, storage, and admissibility of evidence. Law enforcement didn't have the time to waste on a man who some people thought was a media hound.

Peter Hurkos, with five police escorts, explored the Friday Ann Arbor nightlife to get a feel for the area. Hurkos also wanted to personally thank John Sinclair and members of his commune at Translove Energies on Hill St. in Ann Arbor. They were the people who raised the money to summon the psychic from California. 

When Hurkos returned to the Inn American early the next morning where he was lodged, the desk clerk told him that a young man about six foot tall with slicked down hair and wearing a turquoise colored shirt, handed her an envelope at about midnight addressed to Dutch psychic/Peter Hurkos

When his police security detail asked if she could recognize him again, she said, "No. I was busy with another customer and it happened so quickly. He was gone."

Hurkos opened the letter and read it silently. It directed him and the police to search for a burned out cabin on Weed Rd. in the northeast corner of Washtenaw County not far from where several other murder victims were found. They would find "something interesting" there the note assured them. The psychic had finally been enjoined in direct communication with the killer.

Hurkos had a "feeling" about this message and gave it to the police to investigate. Then he went to bed. A crew of investigators was hastily formed to investigate the tip in the middle of the night in the pouring rain. They searched the entire area for a burned out cabin they would never find. After an hour, the police returned to the Task Force Crime Center. They had had their fill of Mr. Hurkos. 

Three days after Karen Sue Beineman had been reported missing on Wednesday, July 23, her nude body was found in Ann Arbor township, face down in a small gully. The dump site was less than a mile from the Inn America where Hurkos was staying and the Holy Ghost Fathers Seminary where the crime task force was headquartered. 

The latest murder and the disposal of the body were a blatant affront to everyone connected with this case. Even worse for Hurkos, news of the police finding Miss Beineman's body was kept from him. When he was asked by a reporter for a comment on the matter, he was totally in the dark. The Dane was furious and complained to the prosecutor's office.

During his uneventful week in Ann Arbor, Hurkos cast a wide net. He variously described the killer as a troubled genius, an uneducated vagrant, a sick homosexual, a transvestite, a member of a blood cult, and a drug crazed hippie.

Arrow points to site where Karen Sue Beineman's body was discovered
Once Miss Beineman's body was removed from the gully and the scant evidence secured by the State Police Crime Lab, Hurkos was escorted by the assistant prosecutor and permitted to examine the drop site. Under the withering glare of Sheriff Harvey from the street above, Hurkos made his way down the gully to the spot where the body had been found.

He got down on his haunches and spread both hands out and felt the ground where the body had been. Try as he might, the spot was cold, no vibrations or emanations of any sort.  

With growing resistance from the police and his press entourage shrinking, there was little to be gained by staying in Ann Arbor. Hurkos and his assistant, Ed Silver, left town on Monday, July 28th, headed for the West Coast.

In the end, Sheriff Harvey turned out to be the only clairvoyant on this case. He predicted, "I think these murders will be solved with good old-fashioned police work." Their prime suspect was under arrest within a week. 

One Step Beyond: "The Peter Hurkos Story" 1/6