Bad Science

Psychics Offer Tips in Search for Missing Woman Holly Bobo

psychic powers
Families of missing persons sometimes consult psychics when they feel the police aren't doing enough. (Image credit: © Benjamin Haas |

A young Tennessee woman named Holly Bobo was abducted Wednesday morning, last seen apparently being forced into the woods near her home by a man wearing camouflage. Despite extensive searches police have not found either Bobo or her abductor, and the case has garnered more publicity each day.

As with all high-profile missing persons' cases, tips and information about the crime come in from the public — including from alleged psychics. Because psychic powers have never been proven to exist (nor have they been useful in locating missing persons), police are cautious about using information from psychics, though they follow up on all credible information from any source. [Jaycee Dugard Abduction Highlights Failure of Psychics]

Here is a sampling of the psychic information that has been offered about Bobo, this one from various posts on an online psychic forum:

"The man who abducted Bobo is white with dark brown or salt and pepper hair, a full and shaggy moustache, and dark brown eyes. He is in his early 30's and around 5 ft 11 in weighing 210. He has nasty rash on his elbow. He is older than Bobo, a Scorpio, and the relative of Bobo's boyfriend, or the father of an ex-boyfriend. Bobo was abducted in a red truck with bales of hay in the back, and is being held and raped at his victimizer's home about 20 miles outside of Nashville, in a log cabin about 26-30 miles north of where she was abducted. Bobo's abductor makes lots of mistakes and will be captured within 5 days."

Another psychic offered this information:

"I first got a B name, like Bob. I feel West, and 7th, or just 7. A green truck. He may have had a weapon, a gun probably ... I also got the feeling that she may have casually met him somewhere but didn't really know him. Her abductor is scrawny, or medium build, blondish hair, little social skills, a country boy. He might have a bite mark on his hand. I feel that she may be alive and very scared, in a house. Something that sounds like Mango, then Mandarin. I have no idea what that means. ... Then I heard Robert/Bob but that still might be a name or sounding name. She may be held about 20 minutes away from where she was abducted, on the west side of Tennessee."

A Tarot-reading blogger who goes by the name of "Empathy" offered a lengthy (2,000-word)reading about Bobo on another website:"Places or people with name initials B or J might be useful. ... There may be a building over the other side of the water? It seems to me that there is a lack of faith or energy in finding Holly ... as though some people are actually not wanting to help find her, like there is no real effort here. The 10 of Wands [tarot card, suggests] that she could be found under 10 weeks ... 10 of wands is South but reversed it could be North. I see her inside or just outside the town near some buildings.The five of cups is upright so it shows a union with someone possibly either at a place with an M or W or name of person initials or something of that nature ..."

It's not clear what police (or anyone else) is supposed to do with this kind of information. According to Empathy's deck of tarot cards, Bobo's disappearance may or may not be connected with a person, place, or thing that has the initials B, J, M, or W, or any combination of those letters; there may or may not be some association with a building near a stream or lake or river; Bobo might be found either to the south, or north (of what?); she may be inside, or just outside of a town near some buildings; and so on. This information (unfortunately typical of psychics) is so vague and general as to be completely useless. Police and searchers need specific information that leads them to Bobo, not random associations.

Until and unless Bobo is recovered, there's no way to know if any of this information is correct, and some of it will likely be correct merely by chance. Her claim about the "lack of energy or effort" in searching for Bobo seems completely wrong, with hundreds of police and volunteer searchers looking for her, and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam recently increasing the reward for information about Bobo to $75,000. If anything, Bobo's case is getting far more effort and attention than many other missing persons' cases.

Empathy, like almost all psychics who have given information on Bobo's case, is surely sincerely trying to assist and truly believes she can help locate the missing woman. There are thousands of self-proclaimed psychics who claim to be able to find missing persons, including TV personalities like Sylvia Browne, Allison DuBois, and Carla Baron. If they truly have the powers they claim, why aren't those psychics leading police to rescue these innocent victims within hours or days of their abductions? 

It is possible that one or more of these psychics will turn out to be largely or completely correct about Bobo's abduction. The problem for police is that, even if some of this (often contradictory) information is correct (and some of it will be, by chance), it's impossible to know what's accurate and what's not. In abduction cases, every minute and hour may mean the difference between life and death, and police cannot afford the time and resources to pursue every wild, vague scrap of information from people whose psychic abilities have never been proven.

Benjamin Radford is deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine and author of Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries. His Web site is

Benjamin Radford
Live Science Contributor
Benjamin Radford is the Bad Science columnist for Live Science. He covers pseudoscience, psychology, urban legends and the science behind "unexplained" or mysterious phenomenon. Ben has a master's degree in education and a bachelor's degree in psychology. He is deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine and has written, edited or contributed to more than 20 books, including "Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries," "Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore" and “Investigating Ghosts: The Scientific Search for Spirits,” out in fall 2017. His website is