Did a Psychic Uncover a Fifty-Seven-Year-Old Murder?
November 15, 2018
While scrolling my social media newsfeed recently, I came across an article shared by my colleague Ben Radford. The headline of a FoxNews.com story proclaimed “Psychic, Ghost Hunters Helped Long Island Man Find Dad’s Remains in 57-year-old Mystery” (Gearty 2018). This piqued my interest since I make it a hobby (almost a full-time career) of investigating such claims. So I clicked on the link to take a closer look.
According to the story, “bones found in a Long Island basement were discovered after a family consulted a psychic and paranormal investigators, according to reports.”Mike Carroll, the owner of the house (which was his family home since 1955), is convinced the bones are those of his father, George Carroll. George disappeared without a trace in 1961, leaving a wife and four children behind. Carroll’s mother, Dorothy, never gave the children a “straight answer” on what had happened, only saying “he went out and just never came back.” Dorothy passed away in 1998, taking any information about their missing father with her (absent a Ouija board revelation). A missing persons report was apparently never filed, though authorities are now checking on that detail.
If one only reads the headline, the reader would get the impression that a psychic and several ghost hunters teamed up and discovered the remains of Carroll’s father. However, as Radford points out in his Facebook post: “If you read past the headlines you find that a) the remains haven't been identified, so the bones may or may not be of that man; b) he *was last seen* in that basement; and c) he was widely rumored to have been buried in that basement” (Radford 2018). Radford is correct; as of this writing, it is only speculated that the remains belong to George Carroll. The Suffolk county medical examiner will be performing DNA testing on the bones. According to Suffolk Chief of Detectives Gerard Gigante, it could take months before they can determine who the bones belong to.
After reading through the Fox News story, the reader would get two distinct impressions; first, ghost hunters detected an “energy” in the house, giving the reader the idea there was a spirit inhabiting the house. Second, a psychic pinpointed the burial spot without any help or hints—despite Carroll explicitly telling WABC-TV there was a family rumor that his father was buried in the basement. When one follows the links provided to other sources used to write the (FoxNews) article, we find that the psychic and ghost hunters are barely mentioned in relation to locating the remains. “The bones were discovered Halloween eve Tuesday in a spot in the basement that had been flagged by a psychic, the New York Post reports.”
I checked the New York Post article that was referenced and found that Carroll is quoted stating “there was a guy who came to my basement, and he went to the right spot and said, “The energy is here.” Despite this prediction, the family continued to dig elsewhere first, before eventually making it back to the spot that was “flagged.” (Sheehan 2018). The “guy” said to have flagged the spot is not identified, nor is he referred to as a psychic in the New York Post article. I pondered whether, in the course of so many reporters trying to cover the story, the previous attempts to ask a psychic somehow got mixed up with the guy Carroll hired to run the ground-penetrating radar.
In a previous FoxNews article reporting on the same story, but posted the day before (November 1), there is no mention whatsoever of a psychic or ghost hunters being involved. In fact the story clearly states, “Based on the rumor that his father might be buried in the home, his son Michael Carroll, 57, hired a company with ground-penetrating radar to examine the basement” (Suarez Sang 2018). It was based on these results that Mike Carroll’s sons began digging months before they eventually found the remains on the Tuesday night before Halloween.
A Newsweek article, referenced by both FoxNews stories, mentions “Steven Carroll, 61, and his brother Michael Carroll, 57, said they have tried everything — including ground-penetrating radar, psychics and paranormal investigators — to find out what happened to their father” (O’Keeffe 2018). Further along in this article, Carroll is quoted saying, “a psychic and ‘a person close to the situation’ told the family their father’s remains were somewhere in the basement of the house,” but doesn’t mention a psychic flagging a specific location. Carroll also fails to credit (in this version of events) any psychic or paranormal investigators with the discovery of the remains; his sons are, “who spent several months excavating the basement in an attempt to solve a half-century-old family mystery.”
We also learn in this version of the story that Carroll “began digging in the basement a few years ago in an attempt to find his father’s remains but stopped because he feared he would cause structural damage to the home. He resumed the hunt for his father after an associate used ground-penetrating radar in the basement, which indicated a place where there was a disturbance in the soil — a rock or a body — 5 or 6 feet below the surface.” (O’Keeffe 2018).
Kristin Thorne, reporting for Eyewitness News ABC7 from the house, states Carroll started digging three years ago (Thorne 2018). Thorne also reports that the ground-penetrating radar pointed to a “possible spot in the basement” (and thus no psychic mentioned in locating the spot). In the interview with Caroll and his brother, Steven, neither mention a psychic connection with the discovery.
In the original FoxNews article and the New York Post article, the headline credits a psychic with finding the remains. I can’t help but doubt the validity of this claim, since Carroll had hired a ground-penetrating radar crew and had been excavating the basement for at least three years! After so much digging, there was most likely not many more undisturbed areas left to dig up. In addition, it was a well-known family legend that their father was buried in the basement; this was the reason Carroll began excavating the basement in the first place, not due to any psychic or psychic impressions.
In fact, in yet another article, the second I found from Newsday, Carroll related “Over the years, the family had searched the internet for clues of their father's fate, the son said. When they bumped into people who could help, including psychics, he'd ask, ‘Do you know where my father is?’” (Yan 2018). Despite this plea, there was no mention of a psychic being the one that eventually locates the remains in this article.
The details of this story seem to change with each version; an unidentified psychic pointed to the exact location, an (unidentified) psychic and a person (also unidentified) told them the remains were “somewhere” in the basement some time ago, and finally we have ground-penetrating radar—rather than a psychic—locating a disturbance. If I didn’t know any better, I would think the story evolved to include a more supernatural feel. But why?
In the Newsday article, “Remains found in Lake Grove Home Believed to be Missing Father, Brothers Say,” Steven Carroll, Mike’s brother, made a comment after we learn that their sister arranged for a team of ghost hunters to investigate the house. The comment that stood out and caused me to pause was this: “Mike’s been watching too much Haunting of Hill House … he is kind of sensitive to certain things and maybe he has more sensitivity to energy in the house” (O’Keeffe 2018). The Haunting of Hill House is a current Netflix series loosely based on the 1959 novel of the same name, written by Shirley Jackson. The plot surrounds the Crain family as they attempt to renovate and flip a mansion, which is haunted. The story jumps back and forth through time; we see both the younger version of the family dealing with the paranormal activity as renovations continue, and the older version of the family (twenty-six years later) coming together to confront the effects of the house again. One of the main characters, Steven Crain, becomes a famous (and wealthy) author after writing about his family’s dark past and paranormal experiences, i.e., their story.
Toward the end of the New York Post article, it implies that Michael Carroll “continues to guard many more dark family secrets” (Sheeham 2018). After that sentence, Carroll is quoted several times referring to the murder as a story; “the murder is a story,” “when you put all five of us together (siblings), it is an amazing story,” “No family is perfect, [but] we have an interesting story,” “This story is not your average story,” and so on. These statements echoed some of the family drama played out in The Haunting of Hill House series. I could not help but feel Carroll was strongly suggesting the idea that his family’s story, and the other alleged “dark family secrets” would make a successful (and profitable) series, just like The Haunting of Hill House.
I have no idea if the psychic aspect was a mistake on the part of the reporting (misidentifying the ground-penetrating radar guy as a psychic) or if Carroll is looking to profit from the family’s murder mystery (there is a basement that requires repairs after all the digging). If it’s the latter, to be frank, it’s none of my business. There have been plenty of people that have sold the rights to their personal stories and made a nice profit; as is their right. What I am concerned with is the (seemingly inspired) inclusion of supernatural powers being credited (depending on which version you read) with an important discovery; one that breaks the decades-old mystery and overshadows the science, technology, and widely known rumor—all of which actually led to the discovery.
Murder/missing person cases in which psychics have claimed to have solved, after being thoroughly investigated, have failed to show the claim was valid. Investigators such as Joe Nickell, Ben Radford, Michael Dennett, Gary Posner, and many others, have tackled case after case (Nickell 1994; Radford 2010) and found psychic claims falling short of being any help to these cases whatsoever. They most often just waste time and resources, distracting detectives from genuine investigative work.
In the end, when the results of the tests come back, I sincerely hope that the Carroll family finally obtains the closure they have wanted for these past fifty-seven years. Knowing that one’s father (or any family member) was murdered is painful enough, but I think it is far worse not having an idea what became of a loved one. I hope the test results indeed confirm the remains belonged to their father, and they can give him the proper burial he was denied so long ago.
- Gearty, Robert. 2018. Psychic, ghost hunters helped Long Island man find dad’s remains in 57-year-old mystery. November 2. Accessed on November 7, 2018. Available https://www.foxnews.com/us/psychic-ghost-hunters-helped-long-island-man-find-dads-remains-in-57-year-old-mystery?fbclid=IwAR1lFIa6qgctfphlnQ4NlbjetriVYpDx_aKaAU1GOtBKOQZ7O45kjyWE7gE.
- Nickell, Joe. 1994. Psychic Sleuths: ESP And Sensational Cases. Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY.
- O’Keeffe, Michael. 2018. Remains found in Lake Grove home believed to be missing father, brothers say. November 1. Accessed on Nov. 8, 2018. Available https://www.newsday.com/long-island/suffolk/bones-found-lake-grove-basement-1.22728551.
- Radford, Benjamin. 2018. Facebook post. November 5.
- Radford, Benjamin. 2010. Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries. Rhombu Publishing Company. Pg. 163.
- Sheehan, Kevin. 2018. Psychic helped me find my missing father’s remains. November 1. Accessed on November 8, 2018. Available https://nypost.com/2018/11/01/psychic-helped-me-find-my-missing-fathers-remains/.
- Suarez Sang, Lucia. 2018. New York family hopes human remains found in basement will lead to answers about missing father. November 1. Accessed on November 8, 2018. Available https://www.foxnews.com/us/new-york-family-hopes-human-remains-found-in-basement-will-lead-to-answers-of-missing-father.
- Thorne, Kristin. 2018. Skeleton found in Long Island basement decades after owner went missing. ABC7 Eyewitness News. Accessed on November 8, 2018. Available https://abc7ny.com/skeleton-found-in-li-basement-decades-after-owner-went-missing/4592413/.
- Yan, Ellen. 2018. Human bones found in basement of Lake Grove home, Suffolk police say. November 1. Accessed on November 8, 2018. Available https://www.newsday.com/long-island/suffolk/human-bones-lake-grove-basement-1.22702735#user=5acf3974fbd29770ea7407f0&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Morning-Update.