NEW YORK – They don’t just read tea leaves and tarot cards. Psychics also help solve crimes.
Though just the word “psychic” can raise eyebrows and elicit skepticism, police and even the FBI enlist clairvoyants’ help more often than most people know. The trend has even inspired a show called "Psychic Detectives," (search) whose season premiere is Wednesday on Court TV.
The show has audience appeal because it combines the current thirst for crime dramas, the fascination with the paranormal and the obsession over reality TV.
"This is 'The X Files' meets 'Law and Order,'" said Robert Thompson, director of Syracuse University's Center for the Study of Popular Television. "This takes the natural interest in something science has not been able to explain and packages it in an entertainment kind of way. It's pretty seductive."
The program follows real-life cases that have been solved with the help of psychics, and features self-described psychic detective Noreen Renier (search) — who was hired by Scott Peterson’s (search) mother in the months before his pregnant wife Laci’s body was found in San Francisco Bay in April 2003.
“My first session led them to the body of Laci,” Renier said in an interview with FOXNews.com at the “Psych Out” event in New York City to promote the show. “I saw rocks, an inlet, a bridge, a burned-out restaurant. They knew where I was talking about.”
Once Jackie Peterson asked for Renier’s involvement and paid her a reduced fee of $450 (her normal price is $650 for one to two sessions), Renier immediately contacted Modesto police to let them know.
She also sent full transcripts of her psychic visions to them — visions she had before the bodies of Laci and her unborn baby Conner were found and police made their own theories of the murders public. She sent edited versions to Scott’s mother, which didn’t include her revelations that he’d killed his wife.
“I have no doubt Scott did it,” she said in the interview. “The first thing I see is him hitting her in the head.”
Renier did her work using a sweatshirt and shoe belonging to Laci and an envelope with Scott’s handwriting on it. When she does readings for homicides, she claims to alternately be in the mind of the victim and the killer. The Peterson case was no exception.
“I feel a bat or an object that could hit me in the head,” she said in her reading for Peterson, published in a transcript on Courttv.com. “The scenario I am getting is more like I’m mad, I’m going out the door, I get hit from behind.”
Later, still in Laci’s psyche, Renier said she sensed being driven a long distance while she was under some sort of “concealment.”
“I’m already dead,” she said.
She also got a vision of being underwater and not being able to move. And when Renier claimed to be in Scott’s mind, she said, “I’m putting her in the water with cement. … It’s around her; it’s for her to sink.”
In the season premiere of “Psychic Detectives,” Renier — who has worked on more than 450 cases in her 25 years as a police psychic — helps officers in small-town Williston, Fla., locate a missing elderly man named Norman Lewis.
The clues she gets in her visions — a bridge, railroad tracks, a pile of bricks — eventually lead authorities to search a quarry, where, as it turns out, they find Lewis’ submerged pickup truck with his remains still inside. They're able to close the months-long disappearance case by concluding he lost control of his vehicle and accidentally drove off a cliff.
"It's a procedural crime show but here instead of forensic evidence, it's this psychic stuff," Thompson said. "It's been given a sense of legitimacy, not the same kind as DNA is given but pretty much the same as a lie detector is."
Renier, who has a book coming out this spring called “A Mind for Murder,” does all her initial sessions over the phone. She asks only whether it’s a homicide or missing persons case and just gets the person’s first name.
And in the somber business of solving crime, a phone call is often better than some other fortune-telling tools that serious-minded cops might balk at.
"If I pulled out tarot cards, they'd faint," Renier said.
“Psychic Detectives” premiers Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. ET on Court TV.