Thursday, September 8, 2011

Checking Sources

I often here the excuse why "I don't edit Wikipedia anymore is because the paranormal people just change everything that I write and put up whatever links to support their point of view".  Well that might be a valid argument for someone who is looking for a reason to not edit.  If you follow that same logic then there seems to be little reason to clean up litter or graffiti as it is just going to occur again.

If this is genuinely happening then we need to know how to combat it.

Firstly you can't just change an article and expect it to remain that way, unless no one is watching the page (see watchlists blog) Or the changes you make needs to be well written and cited.  The paranormal point of view has every right to be mentioned when done correctly.  Wikipedia isn't trying to be balanced, but it does try to be neutral.

If a secondary source is written giving a positive slant to the article then good!  Lets put that in and cite it.  The reader should be able to follow the link (if given) and/or be able to go to the document (at a library or write to the publisher) and obtain the reference.

When done correctly the cite should be left for all to read, but if there is counter-evidence that refutes the cite then that should also be referenced.  And it should not come down to a argument, just state the facts of each article and try to remain neutral

This blog is about guerrilla skepticism, my bias is obvious, but I do support good research from both sides.  Not only is it important for the skeptical community to find critical thinking articles and insert them into paranormal Wikipedia pages, but it is also important to make sure that all cites are "real" and truly represent the original article in the secondary source. 

Working on the Psychic Detective page today I noticed these blurbs and thought "that's odd, I've never heard of a psychic ever finding a body, I should read that cite". 
However, psychics in Australia have successfully located the bodies of victims, the disappearance of whom were under investigation, on three occasions. In 1996 The body of Paula Brown, who had gone missing, was found after her family contacted Simon Turnbull and two other psychics. They indicated that she had been killed and told the family the location of the body, in Sydney at Port Botany. An initial search missed the body, a second search found the body 15 meters from where the initial indication of the location was.[22]

^ Kerry Anne Kennerly interviewing Psychics on "Midday Show" 1996
 So I tried to follow these links to discover the original article.  The link is broken to the youtube site, it says that the owner has removed their account.  So then I tried to find the article somewhere else on the Internet, I've discovered this woman Kerri-Anne Kennerley who is a Australian news-anchor who had been given the "Bent Spoon" award by the Australian Skeptics.  Just because I can't find the reference to check it does not mean it does not exist.  But in the mean time I'm removing the citation to the discussion page where I will note that someone needs to find a citation for this claim.  

Lets just say that there was a citation we could read for ourselves, and the article did interview some psychics that said that they found the bodies.  What then?  A psychic on a news interview claiming to have found a body is not newsworthy enough alone as evidence.  Otherwise anyone could get an interview saying that they have traveled to the moon and ate some of the cheese they found there and that is why they are over-weight.  Saying something like that does not then get added to the cheese or moon Wikipedia pages.  That isn't noteworthy.  

If it is a prominent psychic that has a Wikipedia page of their own, then maybe the reference will go up, but with counter evidence from another secondary site saying that they are nuts.  (I'm sure they wouldn't actually say nuts, but you know what I mean).  Both references would be in the same blurb on the page.

Here is another reference from the same Wikipedia page.  

In 2001, the body of Thomas Braun was located by Perth based clairvoyant Leanna Adams in Western Australia. Police had initially been unable to find the body. They later confirmed the remains to be his using DNA testing.   ^ Butler, Paul Milton "DNA test proves body was Braun's" Centralian Advocate, 23/2/2003 p3
This is a bit harder to check.  They have given us the reference but there is no on-line link to the article.  That does not make it incorrect but it does make it more difficult to find.  I often site books or magazines that are not on-line.  But it is easy to find the publisher's website and order a copy of the article, or possible to go to a library and find the reference (or order it).  It is unlikely to that would do this, but it is possible.

But this isn't a simple statement that is being made.  The editor is making a giant claim that this body was found by a psychic.  This should be front page news all over the world, proof of psychic ability?  Yes!  Yet I'm searching all over the place and can find no reference to it.   I can't even find a way of contacting the "Centralian Advocate".  I did manage to find this site and I did ask them if they can provide me some way of contacting the Centrailian Advocate or finding the article (I gave them the cite, it should be easy for them to search for the reference).  In the mean time I am also going to remove the reference to Leanna Adams (who is so not-noteworthy that she does not have her own Wiki page).

The title of the above article is "DNA test proves body was Braun's" not "Psychic Leanna Adams finds body of missing hiker, Thomas Braun".  That alone should say something important about the reference. 

Leanna Adams psychic does turn up these articles.  Fails to find body of Peter Falconio. And this reference to finding the before mentioned Thomas Braun.

A Perth-based psychic, Leanna Adams, who led the family of a missing Alice Springs man to his body last year, was convinced Mr Falconio was buried near a creek bed near Barrow Creek, after she had visions of his murder, the newspaper said.

Again she was not even helpful enough in finding Thomas Braun that this pro-paranormal site "The Age" doesn't give her much more credit other than a quick mention of a "missing Alice Springs man".  According to this article a family member took Adams to the place where Braun was last seen and they found his body there.  Wow!

Does this belong on a Wikipedia page for psychic detectives?  It is under the heading "Prominent Cases".  I'm sure that if the psychic had indeed found Mr. Braun then that might be prominent.  But this reference is just not up there with any kind of real evidence.  So off the page it goes.  If some other editor wants to put it back in, my watchlist will tell me that it happened and I can take issue with it, unless the reference is really good.

Lastly, there is one more reference that needs checking on the psychic detective page.
In August, 2010, Aboriginal Elder Cheryl Carroll-Lagerwey claimed to have seen the location of a missing child, Kiesha Abrahams, in her dream. The missing child's disappearance was being investigated by police. She took them to a location where a dead body was found, however it was of an adult woman and not the body of the child.
  1. ^ Arlington, Kim "Supernatural sleuths and the search for truth" The Sydney Morning Herald 30/12/2010, p4
  2. ^ Cuneo, Clementine "Kiesha searches stumble on Corpse" The Daily Telegraph, August 13. URL =

Checked these sources and they are valid and correctly cited.  I'm not going to touch this reference at the moment.  I'm sure a case could be made that this is neither positive or negative psychic detective.  She made a claim, they followed up on it and indeed there was a body.  End of story. 

So in a nutshell, this blog is to remind anyone interested in editing Wikipedia for skeptical content that it isn't ONLY about inserting well written, well cited skeptical/scientific references.  Something just as important is to check existing sources, not only the pro-paranormal ones, but even references left by skeptical editors.  We can't be leaving litter or graffiti laying around either. 

Found this interesting essay on Wikipedia today that was written by an editor.  I think his points are relevant to the psychic detective page.
  "All material added to articles must be attributable to a source with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy, and one appropriate for the information in question. In practice you do not need to attribute everything; only quotations and material challenged or likely to be challenged must be attributed, through an inline citation that directly supports the material." 
Things "difficult to believe" are very important to make sure are cited.  That someone has graduated from a specific college with a certain degree in X year isn't really up there on the difficult to believe level.  If someone is claiming that they have regrown a limb, well then that needs to be referenced.  The source you are getting the info from also is important.  A tabloid newspaper might not be the best reference for celebrity updates that are likely truthful.  Thou I'm sure we can find exemptions, those would be further backed up by more reputable sources as the story breaks into the mainstream.

Also I want to add that the additions to the psychic detective page are all recent.  And probably are there because of a call out I made to the paranormal community to bring references to the article.  Here is the discussion thus far. 

I've just added a bit more Australian content, as psychics in Australia have located at least three bodies as far as my research shows. Like elsewhere, police in Australia do not seem to like to admit to officially using psychics, but in fact they actually do on occasion. In particularly NSW Police, a number of whom have sought advice from Debbie Malone. Interesting stuff, and wouldn't have believed she actually does as much as she does until I read some of these articles.... and I'm naturally a skeptic. Deathlibrarian (talk) 13:49, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
Deathlibrarian, your citation was already in use on this page, so I used the multiple reference tag for it. By the way, I'd like to consolidate this whole section of the article as I see the same thing being said multiple times. — Preceding unsigned comment added by John.Farquhar (talkcontribs) 14:42, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
I'm removing the articles below as there is no citation to the first paragraph and the second is not re searchable. If you would like me to give more detail why these articles are not noteworthy I will elaborate when asked. Sgerbic (talk) 23:11, 8 September 2011 (UTC)


  1. Can't understand why this came to my email but did not publish here as the email says.


    I'm the poster of these contributions. I'm naturally a sceptic, but I think an article should reflect the facts as they are reported. Professonally, I'm a researcher.

    Firstly, the Kerry Anne Kennerly video disapeared after I posted it..... I suspect it was taken down as a result of it being linked to on Wikipedia. To replace it, I found 4 articles discussing the psychic that supposedly found Paula Brown's body in that incident. So that section is back in the article now.

    Secondly the Centralian Advocate on the Braun body finding is a legitimate article I found on a newspaper database. You may not be able to find it on a free search like Google - if you use a commercial service you should be able to. Certainly just because something can't be found on Google doesn't mean it isn't a legit reference. In any case, I have backed it up with 3 other references, and...yep, that section is back in the article as well.

    Lastly, you mention "this pro-paranormal site 'The Age' ". "The Age" is Melbourne's Broadsheet Newspaper, has been going since the 1850s and has a daily circ of 160,000. It is certainly not a Kooky new age publication.



  2. Thank you Deathlibrarian.

    I'm just getting home from work so will give it all a look. I did notice the changes last night but it was late.

    One thing I did notice is that these two paragraphs are the same. We need to clean this up and only have one paragraph.

    While official policy for Police Forces in Australia does not advocate the use of psychics for investigations, a number of police in NSW have used pyschic and author Debbie Malone (who has been profiled in the TV show Sensing Murder). Malone has been used by a number of NSW Police officers to corroborate theories and confirm information, though no evidence she has supplied has solved murders investigations on their own. Multiple police have indicated that she knows information about investigations that they only know because of their investigations, that has otherwise been unreleased to the public. In some cases, she has given detailed information that the police only knew, including details of what clothes the victim were wearing, what they looked like, and exacty how they were killed.[5] [6] However, her information is not always helpful, in one case, Police conducted a search based on Malone's information, but nothing was found, and sometimes she provides no new information that can be used. [8]

    The NSW Police Forces' Missing Persons Unit has referred families of missing persons to psychic Debbie Malone. One former Detective Senior-Constable, Jeffrey Little, felt her description of what happened was "exceptional", while other NSW officers felt she had not helped solve any cases. Sergeant Gae Crea and Detective Sergeant Damian Loone, state that she did not give us anything the police and the public didn't already know. Crea recounts "I've dealt with a lot of psychics, but no one has ever said, 'I can see where the body is buried and I'll take you there'". Crea hower, did recount a "bizarre" incident, where Malone recounted some knowledge of one of the missing backpackers to their mother, who confirmed the information was true and that only the mother herself had known it.[5]

  3. I would dearly appreciate any material involving my father Thomas Braun as even 16 years on this is still a very painful and sensitive subject, and I absolutely hate coming across material where people have assumptions over his death and the way he was found. If Leanna Adams had not helped our family find dad he may not have been found and put to rest at all. Regards Brooke St Clair-Braun

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