The occult has its place in American courtrooms—and police stations, and even business strategies.
Lawyers sometimes use psychics to select favorable juries, for example. Or they may consider including paranormal phenomena in their clients’ defense. Proprietors of historic sites, restaurants, and other allegedly haunted places consider how their ghosts should figure in their business plans.
Consultant Loyd Auerbach helps in all these situations.
He holds a Master’s degree in parapsychology, he is the director of the Office of Paranormal Investigations (OPI), a professor at Atlantic University in Virginia and at JFK University in California, and he is the creator of the Certificate Program in Parapsychology Studies at the HCH Institute. His OPI work involves not only investigating paranormal phenomena, but also acting as a consultant on all things paranormal.
His background in the legal world has especially helped him to advise lawyers. He used to work for LexisNexis Group, a company that provides online legal and business research, as well as risk management services. Auerbach said that lawyers often consult him to see whether they should include an argument related to the paranormal in their cases.
Killing a ‘Witch’
For example, a husband and wife in San Francisco, Calif., killed their roommate, believing her to be a witch. The wife thought this roommate, a self-professed Wiccan, was stealing her beauty and energy. The Caucasian couple had been raised Christian. They had recently become fundamentalist Muslims, and they said they were following the Koran in not suffering the witch to live.
The law does allow for people who believe they are being attacked physically to retaliate, within reason. Their lawyer decided to use this, and asked Auerbach to testify that a psychic attack could lead to such a belief.
The prosecutor asked Auerbach whether—within the belief that a witch can do physical harm—the couple could have taken a different course of action to defend themselves. Was it necessary, within their belief, to kill the “witch”? Auerbach said it could be argued that there were other means of dealing with the situation, even from an occult perspective.
In the end, the couple was convicted.
In another murder case, a defense attorney asked Auerbach whether “possession” would be a potential defense, since his client believed himself to be possessed when he committed the crime. “I advised the attorney to have the client evaluated for psychological/psychiatric issues, since that defense had already been tossed out in other courts,” Auerbach said.
When lawyers or police ask him about using psychics, Auerbach’s main job is to direct them toward psychics who seem more genuine, and to manage their expectations.
Psychics don’t solve cases necessarily, but they may provide leads. They also work in various ways. Some don’t want to be told anything about the case and will just see what they can come up with on their own. Some want to be told everything so they can focus on finding the new or missing information.
In the first case, it may be more amazing for the police officers. “Wow, this psychic didn’t know anything about the case and he came up with all these details we know to be true.” But where does that take the investigation if the police already knew those details?
In the second case, the officers may be more skeptical. “Pschh, there’s no magic here. He just made a good guess based on the information we gave him.” But instead of wasting time on what they already know, they got a hint in a new, right direction.
Psychics also have different talents, Auerbach said. He knows one psychic whose special talent seems to be visualizing a perpetrator. She works well with a sketch artist. When she describes the face she “sees,” it often turns out that face matches one of the suspects and can help police be a little more attentive to the case against that suspect.
One of the most useful questions Auerbach tells police they can ask a psychic is, “Where can we find hard evidence?” This is what they need, after all, to secure a conviction.
Should I Use My Ghost to Make Money?
Proprietors of public “haunted” locations also come to Auerbach for advice. Most of these locations tend to be restaurants, he said. The owners want to know what to do with their stories; would it be good for business to publicize it? What would the potential effects be?
He often asks them, “Is your food good?” Customers may come once for the ghosts, but they will only return if they like the experience—including the food. Return customers are better for business than many one-time customers.
Auerbach has helped business owners build stronger stories around their hauntings. He helps gather witness testimonies, investigate the claims and the history of the locations, and build true ghost stories.
Media professionals are the largest group of OPI’s consulting clients. Auerbach has observed a strange reversal in how the paranormal is treated in movies and on TV.
“The Reality TV folks don’t seem to care whether they talk to anybody in the field, or not these days—they used to, but they don’t [now],” he said. It’s the screenwriters working on fiction who want to have a strong understanding of the reality first.
He’s also noticed a change in the news media. When “Ghostbusters” came out in the ’80s, for example, he would receive media inquiries along the lines of, “We know it’s not like that in real life, what do you guys [paranormal investigators] actually do?” Now, however, with paranormal movies focused on phenomena that are supposed to be more true to life, reporters ask Auerbach to take them to real locations to witness such phenomena. This is a less realistic request than those he got in the “Ghostbuster” days.
He encourages reporters to carefully check the credentials of the paranormal “experts” they interview.
More than 3,000 amateur ghost hunting groups now exist in the United States. Many of them label themselves as professionals, though they clearly aren’t, Auerbach said. Using some devices to measure electromagnetic fields, et cetera, does not qualify a group’s work as “scientific,” he said.
In the Classroom
It’s hard to find accredited courses in parapsychology in the United States. But, Auerbach noted, the United Kingdom has more than 20 universities that offer paraspsychology courses.
Auerbach teaches some courses in various formats—some as free webinars, some in university classrooms. These include courses at the Rhine Research Center, the HCH Institute, and JFK University, as well as mentoring for ghost hunters and psychics. He encourages anyone interested in learning more to contact him through his website Mindreader.com for more information.
Many in the academic community are skeptical of paranormal phenomena, preventing them from being widely studied.
“I deal with skeptics all the time, and I’ve dealt with some of the top guys over the years. People have these experiences, and the scientific and academic community wants to simply write them off,” Auerbach said. Auerbach would be happy even if these skeptics decided to thoroughly investigate these phenomena to disprove them instead of ignoring them or immediately attributing them to normal explanations, such as hallucination.
“You’ve got millions of people who have these experiences,” he said. “You can’t just write them off.”
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