Yesterday the news wires lit up with an alarming story about a mass grave found in a small town outside of Houston, Texas. This grave, reported the New York Times, Daily Mail, and countless local news media among others, was said to contain the dismembered carcases of 30 some children, and that police were already in the grisly process of digging them up.
Last evening, there were at least 15 police vehicles, a dozen journalists, and corpse sniffing dogs on the property. The FBI, Texas police, and the major news media had stumbled upon a case that finally proved how scary Texas really was.
Or did they?
Today it was revealed that the story was a hoax. Well, that’s what reporters and police said. In reality, what happened was police received an unsubstantiated tip from a self-professed psychic, and instead of doing the logical thing and hanging up when no evidence was presented, they launched a massive scale police operation. Then the media, always hungry for the grisly murder of a child to spike the ratings, simply went ahead and reported it as fact. CNN actually “confirmed” that 20 bodies had been found.
Today, on the other hand, a police spokesman had to begrudgingly admit to the Houston Chronicle that, “there’s nothing that matches what the psychic said.”
Meanwhile, 44 year old Joe Bankson, the poor long-haul trucker who owned the property, was having a nervous breakdown.
“Finding out that the police are in my yard for dead bodies? That’s kinda panicking me. I ain’t killed anybody. And I have a lot of friends, but I haven’t helped anybody bury any bodies,” he told the Houston Chronicle.
Police told reporters that a woman claiming to be psychic had called the station and given “a very good description of both the outside and interior of the brown brick home”, and once they found traces of blood on the porch, they had enough cause to receive a search warrant.
As it turns out, the blood on the porch belonged to the boyfriend of Joe Banskon’s daughter, who had unsuccessfully attempted suicide several weeks ago and ended up in the psychiatric hospital. A far stretch from the gruesome murders of two dozen children.
Head of the county commissioners, Craig McNair, expressed his frustration about the bunk information.
“There’s no crime scene. Whoever this person was who gave this tip we’ll be in touch with her and we could hold her responsible for giving a false tip and creating this havoc,” he told reporters.
The most interesting part of this case will be watching what happens to the psychic after the dust settles. Mediums and fortune tellers usually have an out in the event that their predictions fall through. They simply mention that their powers work in ways they do not understand, and that they were undoubtedly correct in some way, it must have been the fault of the mark interpreting the message incorrectly. The question is, will the police, the FBI, and the mass media be as easy on her as a guy who simply wasted fifty bucks on a cold reading? Hopefully, the answer is no, and we’ll see less law enforcement officials working with boardwalk mystics in the future. It probably wouldn’t stop psychics from claiming to work with police, but it would keep people like Joe Banskon from having their lives invaded thanks to the musings of a charlatan.
Law enforcement and the media have learned a valuable lesson this week: there is a reason that, by law, psychics must include the disclaimer “for entertainment purposes only”. But then, watching the FBI and major news corporations like CNN make public fools of themselves by following a psychic tip was, to be honest, pretty entertaining.
For more, visit The Telegraph.