The following appears as chapter 6 of Joe Nickell, editor, Psychic Sleuths: ESP and Sensational Cases (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1994), pp. 86-103.

Marcello Truzzi's review of the book Psychic Sleuths in the Journal of Parapsychology 58(4, December 1994):432-441 said "Jim Lippard's essay on Bill Ward is, in my view, the most judicious and fair-minded appraisal in the book. In an exemplary fashion Lippard concludes his analysis by simply and moderately saying 'the case for Ward's psychic abilities remains at best unproved, and certainly does not support his own claims of success and accuracy.' Lippard's essay strikes me as the main analysis in the book clearly out for truth rather than blood."

Gayle Pasternak (then Crnkovic; Pasternak is her maiden name) privately published Tour of Duty: The Diaries of Psychic Bill Ward, An Authorized Biography in 1994.

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Bill Ward: Veteran Psychic Detective

By Jim Lippard

In September 1965, 23-year-old army medic Bill Ward and his fellow soldiers found themselves under heavy fire in Vietnam. Enemy bullets struck a nearby officer, who collapsed and fell into a water-filled ditch. Ward moved to the officer's side, administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and applying first aid. As fighting continued, Ward supervised the helicopter evacuation of the wounded officer. The officer's life was saved, and Bill Ward was decorated with a Bronze Star Medal with valor for his efforts.[1] In the course of his ten-month military service, Ward also earned two Purple Hearts.[2]

After returning home from Vietnam in 1967, Ward resumed his work at the Will County Printing Company in Lockport, Illinois, from which he has only recently retired. But for Ward, as for many other Vietnam veterans, his life was not quite the same. Before he had been back home for a year, he found that his exposure to many violent deaths had affected his perceptions of the world in a radical way: he had developed psychic abilities.[3]

Since 1971, Ward has assisted in over 400 homicide cases, for which he has claimed a 75-to-80% success rate.[4] He is supported in his claims of psychic powers by private and police investigators around the country who say he has provided them with assistance in solving crimes. In the course of his more than two decades of psychic sleuthing, he has shunned most publicity (initially he even required anonymity as a condition of assistance) regarding his police work and, until recently, has worked entirely on a volunteer basis.[5] His motivation, therefore, has been neither fame nor money. Investigators he has worked with are quite convinced of his sincerity.

What is it, exactly, that Bill Ward claims to be able to do, and what evidence is there to support his claims? Is the evidence strong enough to establish the validity of paranormal abilities, or the usefulness of Bill Ward as an investigative tool? The following is an attempt to critically analyze Bill Ward's claims and answer these questions, despite objections from Ward's publicist, Gayle Crnkovic, that it is an attempt to do the impossible.[6]

The objection is frequently made that the scientific examination of paranormal abilities is futile, because somehow these abilities evade attempts to study them.[7] But how could this be the case? Even if Ward has little or no control over his abilities, even if he doesn't know when he's on the mark, any genuine ability should show up as an above-chance effect in a controlled experiment.[8] Those who have worked with Ward seem to think that he can tell when he is accurate or not--he frequently supplies not only his impressions, but how strongly he feels about a particular statement. If he really can do this, then testing his abilities is even easier. Unfortunately, Ward refuses to undergo testing, which he refers to as "play[ing] games."[9] As a result, this examination of his claims relies mostly on testimonial evidence, with all of its limitations.[10]

What Does Bill Ward Do?

"I get pictures as soon as [investigators] say something--faces, scenes, areas, just like you turn on TV,"[11] says Ward, who indicates that violence is the easiest thing for him to pick up on. In addition to using his innate (or, as he would probably prefer, God-given) ability to receive images from spatially and temporally distant locations, Ward makes use of some other tools in his practice of psychic detection--including psychometry (handling objects in order to obtain information about people who have been in contact with it), seeing auras, biorhythms, and both Chinese and Western astrology.[12] A flyer advertising "Bill Ward: Psychic Investigator of Crimes" lists "HYPNOSIS & ADVISOR" and "PSYCHOMETRY & CHIROMANCY" among his skills.[13] One published article about Ward states that he "reportedly can read minds and bend objects, such as keys, by concentrating on them," but also notes that he refers to such feats as "junk" and "circus tricks."[14]

The ABC's of Ward's paranormal toolkit (astrology and auras, biorhythms, and chiromancy) involve widely made claims which are not only subject to scientific examination but have also been carefully examined. Proponents of astrology, biorhythms, and chiromancy, at least, have even frequently claimed scientific validity for their practices. They claim that anyone, using them properly, can achieve repeatable success. But these claims are not supported by the experimental results. None of them has any demonstrated ability to predict human behavior or personality characteristics, contrary to their practitioners.[15] No reliable correlations have been observed between astrological horoscopes and personality characteristics, between biorhythm cycles and human performance, or between palm creases and future actions. Astrological readings from incorrectly drawn horoscopes, biorhythms based on incorrect dates, and palm readings opposite what the lines are supposed to indicate are perceived by their recipients to be just as accurate as those based on the correct information.[16]

The detection of human auras has also failed the test. Since auras are claimed to extend beyond the boundaries of the skin, they should be detectable in some cases when the body they surround is not. For example, a person standing to just one side of an open doorway, behind a wall, should be visible to an aura reader when the aura extends into the doorway. But the ability of aura readers to detect persons in such conditions at a rate better than expected by chance has yet to be demonstrated.[17]

Rosalyn Bruyere, the founder and director of the Healing Light Center Church in Glendale, California, has published a description of how anyone can learn to see human auras.[18] Her method requires the would-be aura reader to "Focus on a person, setting your focal length on their forehead. As you look, your peripheral vision will give you a kind of shadow image. ... The way to improve is by relaxing and letting your peripheral vision come into play."[19] This technique will produce "a kind of shadow image" for any kind of object in your field of vision, not just people or other biological organisms. If you focus at one point and look at another, the separate images from your two eyes will not be consistent with each other. The image from one eye will be shifted with respect to the other, which can appear as a transparent "fuzz" on the edge of the object--an "aura."[20]

This evidence strongly suggests that any success Bill Ward has achieved is not due to his use of these ABC tools, but due to some other skill he possesses. The above-mentioned candidates remaining are his ability to see images of spatially and temporally distant occurrences (perhaps a form of telepathy or clairvoyance) and psychometry. These are abilities which have been widely claimed, and which have also been subjected to scientific experiments. The results here, however, are not so clear cut as with the ABC's. The Parapsychological Association (PA), whose members are devoted to the scientific examination of such abilities, is affiliated with the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). There are several active journals in the field which regularly publish both successful and failed experimental results. Unfortunately, there is no consensus about what, exactly, has been established in the field. While most parapsychologists are confident that anomalies have been clearly demonstrated, there is significant disagreement about the proper explanation for these anomalies. Outside the field of parapsychology, critics claim that the existence of anomalies themselves is not well established.[21]

Perhaps most relevant to Ward's claimed abilities to see distant events as though watching a movie are experiments testing what is known as "remote viewing." Some experiments in remote viewing have produced above-chance results, but even ignoring the criticisms that have been made of these experiments, they do not provide support for claims of psychic powers as dramatic as those claimed by most psychics.[22] While Ward has claimed to be more than 80% accurate in his work in over 400 homicide cases,[23] psychologist Louise Ludwig, who has worked with many psychic detectives and advocates their use by police, suggests that a more reasonable figure is 20-25% accurate, with higher accuracy on rare occasions.[24] Even this lower figure, however, is a rough estimate rather than the result of careful calculation. Accuracy figures are also subject to varied interpretations. Does "accuracy" refer to number of accurate statements made, number of verified statements, number of cases in which the police believed the psychic to be right, number of cases in which a conviction was obtained, or number of cases in which some useful information was provided?

Ward has given one answer to this question in his claim that arrests have been made due to information he provided in 75% of his homicide cases.[25] Of the eight homicide cases this author has specifically discussed with investigators who have worked with Ward, arrests have been made in two. In none of those cases is the arrest attributable to evidence provided by Ward. (In one case, the suspect turned himself in, in the other the suspect was arrested in another state on other charges. Both cases are described below.) An examination of all the published articles on Ward cited in this investigation reveals a total of eleven homicide cases, six of which are included in the above figures. Of the five additional cases, arrests were apparently made in all of them, all possibly on the basis of information provided by Ward. This makes a total of thirteen cases, with arrests in eight, five possibly due to Ward, giving a "success" rate (by Ward's definition) of 42%. The published information about all five of these cases comes, directly or indirectly, from Bill Ward's publicist, Gayle Crnkovic.[26]

Bill Ward's Case File

Despite the fact that none of the cases examined as part of this investigation resulted in arrests due to information provided by Ward, all but one of the investigators contacted were convinced that Ward was helpful. Most have used him in more than one case and said that they would gladly use him again as the need arose. What follows are descriptions of several of Ward's cases, focusing on his contribution to each.[27]

The Jeanie Bennett Case

In February 1978, 37-year-old Floy Jean "Jeanie" Bennett, a court reporter in Beaverton, Oregon, disappeared. She had left home, reportedly to go shopping. She has not been seen since. Her checks and credit cards have remained unused, and most of a $90,000 inheritance vanished with her.[28]

Jeanie Bennett's husband, Robert Eugene "Bob" Bennett, reported her disappearance to the police. According to Bennett, he and his wife had fought and she had left him for another man. Bennett became the prime suspect in his wife's disappearance, but police were unable to collect enough evidence to charge him with any crime. The case remained open but inactive.

In 1988, Portland private investigator Ray Montee, working on the Bennett case, decided to contact Ward after reading about him in the National Examiner. Montee sent Ward copies of materials regarding the Bennett case and spoke to him on the telephone. Bill Ward told Montee that either Jeanie Bennett's body or something belonging to her was buried in the backyard of the home of Bob Bennett's deceased brother-in-law. The outdoor barbecue was specifically mentioned as the most important place to dig.

Bob and Jeanie Bennett had themselves once lived in this house, which was noteworthy for various do-it-yourself improvements that had been made. The driveway had been repaved, a former greenhouse in the backyard had been converted into a storage shed, and a concrete patio and outdoor brick barbecue had been built in the backyard.

Montee obtained permission from the present owner of the house to do some digging, and began to remove bricks from the barbecue "with a soup spoon and a screwdriver."[29] The Beaverton Police Department learned of Montee's activities, and had him removed from the site so they could dig it up themselves. According to Detective Dan Kelly, this was done "to preserve evidence and the integrity of the site."[30] Two holes, three feet by five feet in area, were dug in the backyard by police and public works employees, but no body was found. The case of the disappearance of Jeanie Bennett remains unsolved.

What does this case demonstrate about the psychic abilities of Bill Ward? Not much, unfortunately. Ray Montee still has a positive view of Ward, and still thinks that the body of Jeanie Bennett may be buried in the backyard of Bob Bennett's brother-in-law. The Beaverton Police Department's search was less than exhaustive--two holes in the backyard, neither of which involved digging under the concrete patio or the barbecue (though one of them was next to the barbecue).

There are more ambiguities in the case. In a newspaper report, Montee was quoted as saying that "I had never even thought about the barbecue and never mentioned it to Ward" and that Ward said the body would be found on one side or another of the barbecue.[31] In a 1991 interview, however, Montee said that he had had a hunch that the barbecue was important even before he had spoken to Ward, and that he had mentioned it to him.[32] Montee also reported Ward saying that "either she or something of hers is under that fireplace," rather than on one side or the other. According to Montee, kids had dug up bones on the site before his abortive attempt to dig. When asked about this, Detective Kelly stated that no human bones were found.

Around 1989, according to Montee, Bob Bennett was captured in Las Vegas attempting to use the identification and credit cards of a co-worker who had been murdered in Utah. Bennett was convicted and imprisoned for this murder. (Detective Kelly confirmed that Bennett is in prison.) The Jeanie Bennett case remains open but inactive.

The evidence does not clearly show Ward to be either right or wrong. However, neither does it give any support to his claim to have psychic abilities. Even if Jeanie Bennett's body were discovered under (or in the vicinity of) the outdoor barbecue, this would show only that Montee's hunch, which he probably did reveal to Ward, was correct.

The Joliet Grain Elevator Explosion

On April 23, 1988, an explosion in a grain elevator at Archer Daniels Midland in Joliet, Illinois, left five men dead and buried under tons of corn and debris. A nearby bridge tender reported seeing a man blown off a barge into the Des Plaines river by the explosion. During the first day of the thirty-hour search for bodies, Bill Ward arrived at the scene to offer assistance. Ward apparently confirmed the bridge tender's report, stating that a body would be found in water. His impressions of the incident also included one person having trouble breathing and another's legs entwined in something.[33] He also offered suggestions on how the search should proceed. In the UPI account of the explosion and search, Ward was quoted as saying, "I just more or less gave them an idea of where to start digging ... I just sense it. I feel it."[34]

As it turned out, the bridge tender's report was in error: no one had been thrown into the river by the explosion. Gayle Crnkovic, Ward's publicist, wrote in correspondence to the author that this "is probably the only public error [Ward] has ever made."[35]. She continues, "It turned out that the man believed to have been thrown into the river was found submerged in water in the lower level" and investigators on the site were willing to give Ward the benefit of the doubt. But Ward himself, she writes, "simply stated he was wrong."

According to Lieutenant Joe Drick of the Joliet Fire Department, however, Ward was "totally incorrect in his predictions" and was "more trouble than he was worth," contributing to a circus-like atmosphere.[36] Drick, who was the battalion chief's driver the day of the explosion, said that no bodies were found in water. Ward's suggested search procedure, says Drick, was to begin at the perimeter of the explosion area and work to the center--but this was simply stating the obvious. It was the only possible way to search due to the way the 70,000 bushels of grain and other debris were situated. Drick also emphasized that Ward was not called in by the Joliet Fire Department.

But according to Detective Louie Silich of the Joliet Police Department, who worked closely with Bill Ward that day and who continues to use Ward as an investigative aid, a water main in the basement of the grain elevator had burst, and one of the bodies was found there. Another body was found with its legs entwined in twisted metal rebar, and the autopsy on another revealed corn grain in the throat.[37]

Here, as in the Jeanie Bennett case, the evidence is not very persuasive. The report of the bridge tender likely inspired Ward's statement that a body would be found "in water," but even though the bridge tender's report was false, another interpretation of the statement turned out to be correct. The statement that someone involved had difficulty in breathing is a fair guess in a case where people were known to be buried under tons of grain. Likewise, the prediction that a body's legs were entwined in something was vague and unsurprising.

The Candace and Gregory Augustus Murders

In October 1987, Candace Augustus, age 30, and her son Gregory, age 11, were found beaten to death in their trailer home in Dixmoor, Illinois.[38] Robert L. Fair, who lived in the same trailer park, disappeared, as did the murdered woman's car. Fair immediately became the prime suspect in the murders.

Dixmoor police contacted Bill Ward for assistance in the case. Of the probable suspects, Ward concurred with the police that Fair was the most likely.[39] Ward informed the police that Fair had taken the murdered woman's car and driven it part of the way to his mother's house, taking a bus or hitchhiking the remainder of the way. Fair ended up turning himself in to the Cohoma County Sheriff's Department in Clarksdale, Mississippi, near his mother's and brother's home in Friar's Point. Cohoma County Sheriff Andrew Thompson said he thought the car was found in Friar's Point, but Dixmoor Police Deputy Chief Michael Morgan said it was found in Champaign, Illinois, where Fair had stayed in a motel and then traveled on by bus. According to Morgan, "Bill didn't know where the car was."[40] Two independent newspaper reports said the car was found in Mississippi.[41]

According to Deputy Chief Morgan, who took Fair into custody, Fair confessed in Mississippi at about 6 p.m. About an hour earlier, Ward was in the trailer park in Dixmoor with Chief Anton Graff, describing the details of the murders as they examined the scene of the crime. Morgan reports that when he told Graff the details of the confession, they matched what Ward had described. The most impressive point of correspondence, according to Morgan, was Ward's explanation of a bloodstain found in a hallway as the spot where Fair had set down the murder weapon (a baseball bat) after killing Gregory Augustus and before killing the boy's mother. Ward "made a believer out of me," Morgan said.

Other information supplied by Ward included a psychological profile of Fair, apparently based on biorhythms, designed to help with the interrogation process. Ward told Morgan that he should not "be in a room alone with him. You are going to be the focal point of his anger," but Morgan says that Fair was "pretty passive."[42] Ward also advised Morgan not to "say things about the woman--focus on the child." According to Morgan, he didn't follow this advice, and when he mentioned Candace Augustus' name, Fair would "clam up." As a result of his assistance on the case, the Dixmoor Police Department presented Ward a certificate for supplying "invaluable information" which "gave the investigators a greater insight of the crime and of the offender" for his "psychic rendition of the crime and psychological profile of the offender."[43]

The evidence for Ward's abilities in this case is again rather weak. At least one piece of information about the murderer (that he would focus his anger on Morgan, his interrogator) proved false, and the rest may well have been just common sense (e.g., provoke a confession by talking about the murder of the child). The suspect had already been identified before Ward was contacted, and checking with relatives is certainly a good investigative strategy independent of psychic advice. Ward may have been correct about Fair's driving the murdered woman's car only part way to his mother's house, but given the conflicting information about where the car was found, one can't be sure.

The Anna Sanders Murder

On April 10, 1989, Anna L. Sanders was stabbed to death in her apartment on Lois Place in Joliet, Illinois. Bill Ward was called to the scene after it had been partially gone over by technicians, and pointed out a fingerprint on a dining room window that they had missed, though they did not prove useful.[44] There were three or four possible means of egress from the apartment complex, of which Ward indicated one as the route the murderer took when leaving. Investigators found people in the area who were in the process of moving at the approximate time of the murder, but none of them saw anything. The case remains unsolved.

According to Joliet Police Sergeant Robert Kelly, Ward is "quite accurate" and is used by his department "quite a bit."[45] The first case Sgt. Kelly used Ward in, over a decade ago, involved a missing eight-year-old boy from the northeast side of town. Ward reported that he saw the boy on the street talking to neighbor kids, and that he would be found in a two-story red building next to a one-story white building. The boy was found, dead, in just such a building (though the body's discovery was not made on the basis of Ward's description). Tracing the boy's steps backward, witnesses were found who had seen him standing in the street talking to people. The suspect in this case was arrested and convicted of murders in Texas, but has not been charged for this murder.

Sgt. Kelly says that occasionally Ward will be given six or seven fingerprint cards of possible suspects, and "he's picked the right one several times."[46] Without more detailed information, it is impossible to conclude anything about Ward's abilities on the basis of the fingerprint card test. Nor is the other evidence in these cases very strong. Finding a fingerprint at a crime scene is not particularly remarkable. The description of the building where the boy would be found is fairly vague and unsurprising, as is the description of him talking to "neighbor kids."

Miscellaneous Case Anecdotes

Some of Ward's most impressive cases have been with the Kendall County State Attorney's Office. One case which several investigators mentioned that they had heard about was a 1981 case involving a 24-year-old female found stabbed to death in a bathtub. According to former Kendall County Investigator Ricky M. Holman, when he called for Ward's assistance, Ward was able to describe the scene without any prompting, despite the fact that police processing of the scene had only just begun and the press knew nothing about it. When told that investigators had no clues, Ward asked "Did you get the fingerprint?" Ward said he saw bookshelves on the ground, things strewn about, and a picture tilted on the wall which had been touched by the killer. Investigators followed his description into the living room, where a tilted picture was found to have a smudged partial fingerprint on the bottom right side. On the telephone with investigator Randy Clawson, Ward instructed him to "send Rick outside over to the parking lot." There, Ward said, he would find two men drinking beer under a street light who might be able to answer some questions. According to Holman, there were men there just as Ward described who were talking about a salesman who had been in the apartment complex the night before. (The salesman and the fingerprint both turned out to be dead ends, and the crime remains unsolved.)[47]

Another case involved a nurse who disappeared the night before she was supposed to testify against her rapist in Naperville, Illinois in the mid-1980's. Ward was called in by the Naperville Police Department, for whom he drew a map of the area where her body would be found, which he believed to be northeast of Naperville. Despite the investigators best efforts, no body was located. About a year and a half later, a farmer in Aurora, Illinois (west of Naperville) noticed a depressed area of ground in one of his fields. The farmer guessed that one of the clay tiles buried under the surface of the ground to drain water properly had broken and began to dig. When he uncovered a white shoe--still being worn--he called the police. When Holman compared Ward's map to the field in which the body was found, he discovered that it matched very well. The map showed a highway running east and west at the north end, another road running north and south on the east side, a water tower in the northwest corner, railroad tracks and a creek running north and south on the west side, and trees in the northeast corner.[48]

Detective Michael Krause of the Naperville Police Department, one of two investigators working on this case, does not remember any involvement of Bill Ward. He reports that the suspect was found dead after he had stabbed himself in the femoral artery while killing a boy. Among evidence recovered was a wine bottle in the trunk of his car which matched a lid found with the nurse's body.[49]

Holman, the only source for this article who has indicated that Ward sees auras, related the phenomenon to another he says he has seen. While looking over photographs of death scenes, he and a fellow investigator noticed a bright blue pinpoint of light, sometimes with red and white wave lines radiating out from it, on them. These blue dots were found only on death scenes. When he sent film to Kodak asking for an explanation, he was informed that it was "photographer error." Holman, however, found this explanation unconvincing, and told this author that taking photographs of a fresh grave at a cemetery at different film speeds with no light source would produce the same effect.[50]

A query of photo labs and police departments found that no one else was familiar with blue points of light associated with death scenes, including Victor Franz, one of Holman's former fellow investigators.[51] According to an employee of the Photographic Works Lab in Tucson, Arizona, there are a number of factors which can produce all sorts of unusual images on film. Chemical splashes during processing, water spots causing pieces of the film to stick to each other, light flare in the camera lens, or a defect in the camera lens could all produce such an effect.[52]

Is Bill Ward Psychic?

There are serious problems involved in reliance upon testimonial evidence in answering a question such as this. The more independent confirming testimony there is, the better the case, but in the cases described above there is usually only the testimony of one or two investigators, which are not independent of each other.

The ideal way to answer the above question would be to subject Bill Ward to a controlled test of his abilities, something which he refuses to do. While such tests have been conducted with other psychic detectives[53] with the result that "the usefulness of psychics as an aid in criminal investigation has not been validated,"[54] they are open to the criticism that genuine psychics are rare (and weren't involved in the testing) or that psychics achieve success only under certain conditions which weren't properly duplicated by the experimenters. In order to evaluate a psychic who was not a participant in these experiments, it is necessary to look at his or her own track record, as has been done here.

Given the nature of the evidence, it is probably not possible to definitively answer the question "Is Bill Ward psychic?" Both apparent successes and apparent failures have been described, supported by the testimony of investigators. Those who have worked with him are generally enthusiastic about his abilities and usefulness as well as his sincerity. But this is not sufficient to establish the validity of his psychic abilities, given the social and psychological factors which are capable of convincing people of the accuracy of information provided even by phony psychics, palm readers, or astrologers--independently of any truly specific and accurate information provided by those sources.[55]

Still, some of the stories of Bill Ward's successes are fairly impressive. It cannot be said with certainty that belief and perceptual biases, "cold reading," and the like can constitute a complete explanation of what he does. In fact, if (and it's a big if) the accounts of his successes are correct in all their details, it seems unlikely that these factors alone could be such an explanation.

In order to justify a "yes" answer to the question "Is Bill Ward psychic?", some critics of the paranormal seem to require that he be able to solve cases all by himself--to take the police directly to the culprit, if not provide his name, address, and telephone number. Psychic detectives in general and Bill Ward in particular have not demonstrated such an ability. Instead, as former Kendall County investigator Ricky Holman puts it, "What Mr. Ward does is provide information that one could ordinarily not find without his insight. ... He provides additional pieces to the puzzle."[56] If psychic detectives, in order to prove useful, were required to do more than this, then other tools of the police trade such as fingerprint technology would also fail the test.

Perhaps a better question to ask is whether or not Bill Ward has proved useful as an investigative tool. If the testimonial accounts of those who have worked with him are correct, then the answer is clearly yes. By these accounts, Ward has demonstrated his usefulness by pointing out details overlooked by on-site investigators, sometimes without even being present at the scene of the crime.

Unfortunately, however, those who have made use of Bill Ward generally have no official guidelines for the use of psychics[57] and so it is difficult to gauge how much information Ward has provided independently and how much information he is given by the investigators to work with. It is possible that much of what he does is common sense reasoning combined with a dash of speculative intuition. As such, the case for Bill Ward's psychic abilities remains at best unproved, and certainly does not support his own claims of success and accuracy.


This article could not have been written without the helpful cooperation of a number of law enforcement and private investigators and others who have encountered Bill Ward. I am especially grateful to Marcello Truzzi, who got the ball rolling by providing numerous references and news clippings.

About the Author

Jim Lippard is a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy at the University of Arizona. He founded the Phoenix Skeptics and is the editor of The Arizona Skeptic.


  1. "Local GI Decorated As Hero," Joliet (Ill.) Herald-News, undated clipping, no byline (between January 26 and March 10, 1966).
  2. Gayle Crnkovic, "Will County Psychic Aids Investigations: Work in Murder Case Earns Honors," Joliet (Ill.) Herald-News, November 15, 1987; Crnkovic, "Mind Over Murder! Psychic Aid in Investigations," Police Times 27, no. 2 (March-April 1987), 6.
  3. Arthur Lyons and Marcello Truzzi, The Blue Sense: Psychic Detectives and Crime (New York: The Mysterious Press, 1991), 60; Crnkovic, "Mind Over Murder!", op. cit., 6.
  4. John Jeter, "Psychic Tie Aids Arrest of Suspect in 2 Killings," Chicago Sun-Times, October 25, 1987, reports an "80-plus percent accuracy rate" for "400 homicide cases," while Molly Woulfe, "Television Viewers Can See Lockport Psychic: Ward Stars as Himself in ABC's 'Crime Busters,'" Joliet (Ill.) Herald-News, May 25, 1989, reports Ward's estimate as 479 cases since 1971, with arrests due to information he provided in 75 percent of those cases.
  5. Crnkovic (personal communication, January 8, 1992), Ward's publicist, has confirmed that since his retirement from the printing business in June of 1991, he has required payment for most of his work. He is, however, willing to forgo payment in certain cases, e.g., finding a lost child. Ward and Crnkovic refused to answer written questions from this author or submit to any kind of extended interview on the basis of time constraints and the fact that they are collaborating on a book about Ward's life. Ward, however, suggested that something might possibly be arranged provided that he be paid for his time (personal communication, December 10, 1991).
  6. Personal communication with Gayle Crnkovic, January 8, 1992. She expressed similar doubts in correspondence dated March 26, 1991.
  7. Robert Sheaffer, in his book The UFO Verdict: Examining the Evidence (N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1980), 159, refers to phenomena which exhibit this kind of shyness as "jealous phenomena."
  8. Such an experiment could be set up within the context of the very work Ward does in his present investigations. For example, items known to be unrelated to a crime could be given to him along with items associated with the crime to see if he could tell the difference or if his impressions for unrelated items matched the results of mundane investigations as well as his impressions for the associated items. Ideally, such an experiment would be double-blind. That is, the person conducting the experiment with Ward would not know which items were related and which were not. For examples of similar experiments which found no confirmation of psychic crime-solving ability, see Martin Reiser, Louise Ludwig, Susan Saxe, and Clare Wagner, "An Evaluation of the Use of Psychics in the Investigation of Major Crimes," Journal of Police Science and Administration 7, no. 1 (1979), 19 and Nels Klyver and Martin Reiser, "A Comparison of Psychics, Detectives, and Students in the Investigation of Major Crimes," in Martin Reiser, Police Psychology: Collected Papers, (Los Angeles: Lehi Publishing Co., 1982), 260-267. For some criticisms of these experiments, see Truzzi and Lyons, op. cit., 52-53. [Note added 9 December 2009: Martin Reiser was an advocate of police use of hypnosis for enhancing witness recall, for which he trained many police officers in the faulty view that human memory was like a videotape recorder, when in fact memory is a reconstructive process. This included giving suggestions to "zoom in" on things that were seen, a suggestion virtually guaranteed to produce confabulation. Reiser's hypnosis work likely led to much false testimony in the courts. See Jean-Roch Laurence and Campbell Perry, Hypnosis, Will, and Memory: A Psycho-Legal History, N.Y.: The Guilford Press, 1988, pp. 348ff.]
  9. Crnkovic, "Mind Over Murder!", op. cit., 6.
  10. Some of these limitations are described in the Introduction.
  11. Crnkovic, "Mind Over Murder: Psychic Aids in Investigations," Law and Order, September 1986, 44. Ward makes similar remarks in Molly Woulfe, op. cit.: "He can visualize a crime as soon as an officer calls, Ward said. ... 'It's just like watching a movie, he explained.'"
  12. For biorhythms and astrology: Lyons and Truzzi, op. cit., 60 and John Jeter, "Psychic Tie Aids Arrest of Suspect in 2 Killings," Chicago Sun-Times, October 25, 1987. For psychometry: "Bill Ward: Psychic Investigator of Crimes," undated flyer. For seeing auras: personal communication with Ricky M. Holman, Deputy Public Defender, Juvenile Division, DuPage County, Illinois, November 30, 1991.
  13. This flyer is the same one mentioned in the previous note. Ward apparently uses hypnosis and chiromancy (palm reading) in his role as a psychic advisor but not in his sleuthing. Of other occult/paranormal activities, Ward has been involved in hunting for and photographing ghosts, allegedly with success (personal communication with Gayle Crnkovic, January 8, 1992).
  14. Woulfe, op. cit. None of the people interviewed for this investigation reported any such claims, and several expressed skepticism that Ward would ever claim to be able to do such things.
  15. For biorhythms, see William Sims Bainbridge, "Biorhythms: Evaluating a Pseudoscience," Skeptical Inquirer 2, no. 2 (Spring/Summer 1978), 40-56 and Terence Hines, "Biorhythm Theory: A Critical Review," Skeptical Inquirer 3, no. 4 (Summer 1979), 26-36. For astrology, see Geoffrey Dean, "Does Astrology Need to Be True? Part 1: A Look at the Real Thing," Skeptical Inquirer 11, no. 2 (Winter 1986-87), 166-184 and Dean, "Does Astrology Need to Be True? Part 2: The Answer Is No," Skeptical Inquirer 11, no. 3 (Spring 1987), 257-273; John H. McGrew and Richard M. McFall, "A Scientific Inquiry Into the Validity of Astrology," MJournal of Scientific Exploration 4, no. 1 (1990), 75-83; Ivan W. Kelly, Roger Culver, and Peter J. Loptson, "Astrology and Science: An Examination of the Evidence," in S.K. Biswas, D.C.V. Mallik, and C.V. Vishveshwara (editors), Cosmic Perspectives (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 207-231; and I.W. Kelly, G.A. Dean, and D.H. Saklofske, "Astrology: A Critical Review," in Patrick Grim (editor), Philosophy of Science and the Occult, (Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 1990, 2nd edition), 51-81. For chiromancy, see Michael Alan Park, "Palmistry: Science or Hand-Jive?" Skeptical Inquirer 7, no. 2 (Winter 1982-83), 21-32.

    It is important to note regarding astrology that the work of "cosmobiologist" Michel Gauquelin (discussed briefly by Kelly, Culver, and Loptson and more extensively by Kelly, Dean, and Saklofske and, more recently, by Suitbert Ertel in "Update on the 'Mars Effect,'" Skeptical Inquirer 16, no. 2 (Winter 1992), 150-160) has thus far managed to withstand criticism. Gauquelin apparently found correlations between positions of the planets and certain personality traits, but these do not correspond to traditional astrology, of which Gauquelin was himself quite critical.

  16. A first-hand (pardon the pun) account of the last of these may be found in Ray Hyman, "'Cold Reading': How to Convince Strangers that You Know All About Them," The Zetetic (now Skeptical Inquirer) 1, no. 2, 29 (reprinted in Ray Hyman, The Elusive Quarry: A Scientific Appraisal of Psychical Research, (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1989), 402-419). For the other two, see the references given in the previous note.
  17. Two tests of aura readers' abilities to identify persons standing behind screens are reported in Robert Steiner, "News and Comment: Live TV Special Explores, Tests Psychic Powers," Skeptical Inquirer 14, no. 1 (Fall 1989), 3, and James Randi: Psychic Investigator (London: Boxtree Limited, 1991), 26-27.
  18. Rosalyn Bruyere, "How to See the Human Aura," in Jerry Dunn (editor), Tricks of the Trade: Over 79 Experts Reveal the Secrets Behind What They Do Best (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991), 23-28.
  19. Ibid, 26.
  20. This is not the only way one can see "auras." Some "auras" are afterimages, some are produced by various kinds of contrast, and so on. See Geoffrey Dean, "Physiological Explanation of Human 'Auras'," Skeptical Inquirer 15(Summer 1991):402-403 and Andrew Neher, The Psychology of Transcendence (N.Y.: Dover, 1990), 186-192.
  21. This is, perhaps, another way of saying that there are anomalies, but they are explainable in terms of methodological problems, statistical artifacts, and so forth. For an overview of the parapsychological evidence and a wide variety of opinions on the matter, see the articles K. Ramakrishna Rao and John Palmer, "The Anomaly Called Psi: Recent Research and Criticism" and James E. Alcock, "Parapsychology: Science of the Anomalous or Search for the Soul" and their subsequent commentaries in Behavioral and Brain Sciences 10, no. 4 (December 1987), 539-643. Alcock's contribution is reprinted in his book, Science and Supernature: A Critical Appraisal of Parapsychology (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1990).
  22. For work skeptical of remote viewing, see David Marks and Richard Kammann, The Psychology of the Psychic (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1980), 12-41 and their article, "Information Transmission in Remote Viewing Experiments," Nature 274 (August 17, 1978), 680-681; David Marks and Christopher Scott, "Remote Viewing Exposed," Nature 319 (February 6, 1986), 444; Ray Hyman and James McClenon, "A Remote Viewing Experiment Conducted by a Skeptic and a Believer," Zetetic Scholar no. 12/13 (1987), 21-33 (reprinted in Hyman, The Elusive Quarry, op. cit., 347-361); and Alcock, Science and Supernature, op. cit., 111-125. Work supportive of remote viewing has been conducted by researchers at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory. For references, see Roger D. Nelson and Dean I. Radin, "When Immovable Objections Meet Irresistable Evidence: A Case of Selective Reporting," Behavioral and Brain Sciences 10, no. 4 (December 1987), 600-601 as well as Hyman and McClelon, op. cit., and Alcock, op. cit.
  23. Jeter, op. cit. See note 4.
  24. Lyons and Truzzi, op. cit., 186-187.
  25. Woulfe, op. cit. See note 4.
  26. The five cases apparently due to Ward are two cases with arrests by Jack Watters (formerly of the Will County (Ill.) Sheriff's Department), one by Andrew Barto of the Romeoville (Ill.) Police Department, one by Grundy County (Ill.) Sheriff James Olsen, and one by Orland Park (Ill.) Police Chief Melbourne Gorris. All are described in Crnkovic's "Mind Over Murder!" articles, op. cit. One of Watters' arrests, for the murder of "James Blue," is also described in the "Psychic Vietnam Veteran" segment of the ABC-TV show "Psychic Crime Busters" which aired December 21, 1989 (for which Crnkovic is credited as "researcher") and in Woulfe, op. cit., which is a report about the television program.
  27. Since writing this report, I came across another case involving Bill Ward. Laura Henderson was last seen on March 28, 1986 in Kodiak, Alaska. Police suspected Jack Ibach, her ex-husband, hired Donald McDonald and James Kerwin to murder her, as she was last seen in McDonald's van. Officer Michael Andre of the Kodiak Police Department called Bill Ward in October, who suggested that something of Laura's was still in the van--"something smaller than a comb"--even though it had already been searched on March 29. A new search warrant was issued on the basis of a "citizen's informant tip," and an earring was found in the van. The defense attorneys challenged this evidence and the use of a psychic, leading Judge Edmond Burke to state that "A psychic is not probable cause for a search warrant in my court. In my opinion it is nonsense, resorted to by desperate people." After two trials, Ibach and McDonald were convicted of first degree murder and kidnapping while Kerwin was acquitted. The key piece of evidence was a gun of Ibach's which demonstrated a link between Ibach and McDonald. (The story is told in Tony Durr, "Psychic tip leads to Laura's earring months after van held," The Kodiak Daily Mirror, November 14, 1986, and Karen Durr, "Ibach, McDonald found guilty: Jury reaches decision after barely 5 hours," The Kodiak Daily Mirror, April 28, 1987.)
  28. John Painter, Jr., "Backyard Dig Finds No Clues to Missing Woman," Portland Oregonian, March 3, 1988. Much of the following is based on this newspaper account and on information provided by Ray Montee (note 22, below).
  29. Ibid.
  30. Personal communication with Detective Dan Kelly, Beaverton (Oregon) Police Department, June 11 and November 7, 1991.
  31. Painter, op. cit.
  32. Personal communication with Ray Montee, Private Investigator, Portland, Oregon, June 13, 1991.
  33. Personal communication with Detective Louie Silich, Joliet (Ill.) Police Department, January 8, 1992.
  34. "Investigators Search for Clues at Joliet Blast," UPI story of April 24, 1988, via Lexis. (Also untitled UPI story of April 23.)
  35. Personal communication with Gayle Crnkovic, March 26, 1991.
  36. Personal communication with Lieutenant Joe Drick, Joliet (Ill.) Fire Department, July 22, 1991. Also contacted was Fire Chief (now retired) George Plese, Joliet Fire Department, on July 23, 1991. Plese chose not to comment, stating that whatever Drick said should be allowed to stand.
  37. Personal communication with Louie Silich, op. cit.
  38. Jeter, op. cit.; Crnkovic, "Will County Psychic Aids Investigations," op. cit.
  39. According to Crnkovic. Dixmoor Police Deputy Chief Michael Morgan, however, states that Ward did not assist in identifying the suspect.
  40. Personal communication with Andrew Thompson, Sheriff, Cohoma County, Clarksdale, Mississippi, October 17, 1991; personal communication with Deputy Chief Michael Morgan, Dixmoor Police Department, October 17, 1991.
  41. Jeter, op. cit.; Crnkovic, "Will County Psychic Aids Investigations," op. cit.
  42. Personal communication with Michael Morgan, op. cit.
  43. Crnkovic, "Will County Psychic Aids Investigations," op. cit.
  44. Personal communication with Sergeant Robert Kelly, Joliet Police Department, September 26, 1991 and January 8, 1992; Woulfe, op. cit.
  45. Personal communication with Robert Kelly, September 26, 1991.
  46. Ibid.
  47. Personal communication with Ricky M. Holman, op. cit. (formerly Investigator, Kendall County Sheriff's Office and Kendall County State Attorney's Office); Crnkovic, "Mind Over Murder!", op. cit.
  48. Personal communication with Ricky M. Holman, op. cit.; Crnkovic, "Mind Over Murder!", op. cit., 6.
  49. Personal communication with Detective Michael Krause, Naperville Police Department, January 10, 1992; Crnkovic, "Mind Over Murder!", op. cit., 6.
  50. Personal communication with Ricky M. Holman, op. cit.
  51. Personal communication with Victor Franz, Investigator, (Illinois) State's Attorney's Appelate Prosecutors, January 9, 1992 (formerly Sheriff, Kendall County, 1966-70 and 1978-82; also formerly Investigator, Kendall County Sheriff's Office and Kendall County State Attorney's Office).
  52. Personal communication, January 8, 1992.
  53. See note 8.
  54. Reiser, et al., op. cit., 24. See also Kendrick Frazier, "Psychics and Crime," Skeptical Inquirer 3, no. 4 (Summer 1979), 7.
  55. Hyman, "'Cold Reading,'" op. cit.; David Marks and Richard Kammann, The Psychology of the Psychic (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1980); Dean, "Does Astrology Need To Be True? Part 2: The Answer Is No," op. cit.. Also see the Introduction.
  56. Personal communication with Ricky M. Holman, op. cit.
  57. Lyons and Truzzi, op. cit., 230-231 give a set of guidelines adopted by the Pomona (California) Police Department in 1981 which, if followed, would greatly improve the quality of evidence for or against the abilities of psychic detectives.