Monday, March 20, 2006

3/20/06 (PMP) The Shovel Lady

I’ve never met her, but when I picture her in my mind, she is an older woman, slightly hunched over, holding a shovel in her hands. I call her the “Shovel Lady”.

One day, I received a letter in the mail from her. She is a local woman who claims that spirits contact her and write messages through her. Her name is Terri, and she is from Papillion, which is a small community just south of Omaha. She says there is one spirit in particular, who speaks to her often. He was her son’s friend who had killed himself. Her claim is that he talked to her about Jason.

This “spirit” said that Jason is "on the other side", and that the spirits gave her clues about where his body is located. Terri told me the location, and said she had been going there looking for it, trying to get enough information from the spirits to determine the exact burial place. She told me that she is older and not physically able to dig for him, or look under piles of rubbish, but yet she took a shovel with her every time she went there. She said that she was tempted on several occasions to ask someone nearby to dig for her, but she never did as, in her words, “They would think I was crazy.”

Crazy is the key word for me in this case. It was clear to me after reading that first letter that Terri was living under the delusion that spirits were talking to her. Her words and the supposed words of the spirits, did not bother me like some of the others did. I would have never even called her, but I felt some pull to attempt to sway her from what she was doing, or thought she was doing.

In her letter, she explained that she is a Catholic, and that somehow God gave her these new-found abilities to communicate with the dead. I wanted to try to set her straight by reminding her of the Catholic position on pursuing these types of activities. I figured that while I was at it, I would see what else she had to say about Jason so I could help her realize what nonsense she had come to believe.

If a person were really communicating with spirits from beyond, and spirits who were in Heaven with God, surely they would not provide incorrect information. That would be lying. IF indeed she were communicating with Jason, or the spirit of the dead friend were, then they should most definitely be able to answer questions from me about him.

Terri emphasized Jason’s desire to be found and for justice to be served. If it were all true, then surely it would be logical for her to do anything and everything possible to convince me that she really was talking to Jason or at least to other spirits who were with him.

In my mind, there were two possibilities, with the first one having the highest likelihood.

1) She was under delusions, and either imagined or dreamed the presence of the spirits.
2) She really does communicate with spirits, but these spirits are not of God, nor in communion with Him.

Terri said that these communications had been going on since before we were on the Montel Williams Show, (11/04) but that watching it prompted her to finally write to me. She said she could see the pain in my eyes, and felt it was not right to not tell me. Frankly, I could have done without.

I called her one day, and after allowing her to talk about her story, I told her in no uncertain terms that Catholics were not to engage in such practices. Sadly, she was closed to this, so convinced her “gifts” were from God. She also told me that she’d been reading Sylvia Browne’s books and trying to learn from her. I had many things to say about Sylvia and her self-made religion and other deceptions, but it fell upon deaf ears. The only thing I had left was to place doubt in her mind about the source of these revelations.

In relaying what the spirits told her, Terri said that three men took Jason and killed him. She said they were just driving around, looking for someone to hurt, and he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. They offered him a ride, and he took it. (Why he would take a ride from strangers is beyond me, not to mention the fact that he had a ride waiting for him only blocks away.) She said she had the impression that the three men suffocated Jason, and that his body was placed either in a plastic bag, or in plastic, and hidden under rubbish near a ravine behind a car wash, which is about 15 miles from our home. The area behind the car wash is close to some railroad tracks, and no one generally walks back behind it.

She said that she had asked the spirits for other information about the place where they (the spirits) are, but they told her she must find Jason's body first. She said that she did "talk" to Jason once just briefly, and that he told her that he also wanted her to find him for his mom. I asked her questions that she states she posed to the spirits and to Jason.

It turned out that everything she told me about Jason was something that could be found on the Internet, so there was no mystery there. The only thing she said that wasn’t available to the public was dead wrong. She said that when Jason was alive, he looked forward to the times when I served him ice cream the way he liked it, with everything on it. What Terri wrongly assumed, was that I was a typical mom, comfortable in the kitchen and with related domestic duties. She didn’t seem to be put off by that error, so I asked her the question we asked of these so-called psychics about Jason.

If it really was he they were talking to, and as they said, he wants to be found so badly, then surely he would answer the question correctly, so that we would believe and look for him where suggested. While I won’t reveal the question or answer, I will say that there is no trick to it, nor is it a question with the possibility of having unlimited answers. When I posed it to Terri during a period of spirit contact, she answered immediately, and with confidence, but her answer was dead wrong.

Regardless, she would not admit to the possibility that she was wrong. I asked her, if she felt so confident in her abilities, and what the spirits told her, to go to the Omaha police and tell them. She was very hesitant about doing this. I told her that I knew that Omaha PD followed up on all leads, including psychic ones. It took some convincing, but she finally agreed to call them. Weeks later, I asked my OPD detective if he’d heard from her, and as he had not, I called Terri and asked her about it.

She still expressed the same hesitancy. She said the cops didn’t listen to her in the case of *Janelle Hornickel and her boyfriend, Michael Wamsley. (They were a young couple who froze to death after wandering away from their vehicle in a deadly snowstorm. They were high on meth, and could not tell dispatchers an accurate location in time to find them before they froze to death.) Terri claimed to have assisted with the search and that she continually tried to tell search officials where Janelle and Michael could be found. I told her that she was dealing with a different jurisdiction, and that the case of the two young people, and the law enforcement reaction to her, had nothing to do with Jason’s case. She bought into that, and again agreed to call OPD.

So, on a spring day, the Shovel Lady and several members of the Omaha Police Department went to the location specified. They took their shovels and dug where she told them. They dug fairly deep, but the only thing they uncovered was junk. There was no body. There was no Jason.

I never heard from her again, nor did I attempt to contact her. I had hoped that she came to the conclusion that she was wrong, and that there were no spirits, only voices in her head.

Recently, I found out that she had sent a letter to the family of a local case of ours. The mother described the contents of the letter to me. I knew it was from Terri, only this time, she had expressed a desire to remain anonymous. I guess she’s no longer as confident in her abilities, and I find it sad that she’s still living in her world of delusions.

You can watch the clip of our appearance on the Montel Williams Show here:

The story of our trip to NYC and the Montel Williams Show is here:

We understand that many people believe that psychics are effective in solving crimes and finding missing people. Please keep in mind that the goal of this series is to help families understand techniques used by persons making these claims and make better decisions about the use of psychics.

Project Jason and its volunteers cannot act as a clearinghouse for persons claiming success in using paranormal means to locate missing persons. We will be unable to respond to emails or other correspondence sent to us from persons making these claims or persons offering information about or referrals to psychics.

We instead invite those persons to present their evidence to the members of the James Randi Educational Foundation. They have a forum available for you to discuss your claims.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oy vay. There are some weird people out there.

8:59 PM  

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