From Psychic Sleuths:
ESP and Sensational Cases

Edited by Joe Nickell
Prometheus Books (1994)
(Pages 60-85)

For a comprehensive list of my skeptical writings on Noreen Renier, see here.

The Media's Rising Star Psychic Sleuth:
Noreen Renier

By Gary P. Posner

Our next guest is helping to put a bite on crime in an unusual way. She has used her psychic skills in helping to solve 120 police cases. She is the only psychic to ever work with the FBI. She predicted the assassination attempt on President Reagan in vivid detail three months before it happened. Welcome psychic detective Noreen Renier.
       --Host Gary Collins introducing Noreen Renier
         on "Hour Magazine," November 7, 1988

Such plaudits from media celebrities have helped catapult Orlando, Florida's, Noreen Renier to star status among the nation's psychics. Now earning her living as a "homicide detective," Renier, age 57 [when this book chapter was published in 1994], has in the past few years also been featured on other national TV programs such as "Geraldo," the "Joan Rivers Show," ABC's "Incredible Sunday," and CBS's "48 Hours," as well as in the December 5, 1988, US News & World Report article [click image on right] entitled, "The Twilight Zone in Washington: There are some important people in government who have enlisted psychics' help."

Renier has also taught a non-credit course in "ESP and Awareness" at the Rollins College Center for Life-long Education, although she does not hold faculty status at Rollins College, which is located in Winter Park near Orlando.1 Further occupying a great deal of her time for a half-dozen years, until its unexpectedly sudden settlement in March 1992, was her longstanding and bitter legal battle with skeptic John Merrell, whom Renier successfully sued for libel in 1986 following his allegations of "fraudulent" activity. (The case will be discussed further throughout this chapter.)

Supporters of Renier's alleged psychic abilities can be found in the law enforcement and academic communities. Her promotional packet, entitled "Book a Spellbinder: Psychic Noreen Renier - Meetings/Conventions/ Workshops/Seminars," includes copies of letters, on impressive letterheads, containing passages such as the following:

"[Renier's] class was outstanding. She worked on two local cases and taught officers how to work with a psychic. All the students requested I find a way to bring her back."
       --In a memo to "All Florida Academy Directors" from
         David E. Walsh, Director
         Southwest Florida Criminal Justice Academy
         Lee County Area Vocational Tech. School, Fort Myers,Fl.

"It is a pleasure to extend to you an invitation to address . . . students attending the National Academy class entitled, 'Applied Criminology.' As you know, the National Academy students are police managers from throughout the United States and several foreign countries."
       --James W. Greenleaf, Assistant Director
         FBI Academy, Quantico, Va.

"You definitely opened my eyes to the potential investigative tool of the psychic. Obviously, many a doubting Thomas had to revise his ideas concerning this somewhat esoteric area."
       --Daniel Grinnan, Jr., Training Coordinator
         Commonwealth of Va. Bureau of Forensic Science

"I have observed Ms. Renier in several situations where she has demonstrated her psychic talents and I was very impressed with these demonstrations. She has been willing to have her abilities scientifically evaluated in a laboratory setting which is rare for most psychics."
       --Robert L. Van de Castle, Ph.D., Professor
         Dept. of Behaviorial Medicine & Psychiatry
         University of Va. School of Medicine, Charlottesville

"Your demonstrations and predictions were most accurate and although there still will be skeptics, you're able to have a lot of people leave with an open mind."
       --Peter Slusar, Director
         Peninsula/Tidewater Regional Academy of Criminal Justice
         Hampton, Va.

Though her career as a "psychic" was barely a year old, University of Central Florida anthrolopologist David E. Jones selected Renier as one of four test subjects for his 1979 book, Visions of Time: Experiments in Psychic Archeology. The ability of Renier (and the others) to "psychically describe the origins of various artifacts led Jones to declare, " . . . I feel a positive conclusion is unavoidable. There are individuals who have abilities which we now refer to as paranormal or psychic. They can help the archeologist, and all historical sciences and disciplines, to recapture in great detail human events heretofore lost and frozen in time."2

An April 1, 1981, article ("Psychic Predicts Shooting") in the Charlottesville, Virginia, Daily Progress (and perhaps carried elsewhere via AP, as indicated at the article's heading) begins, "It was there in the March 10 issue of the Canadian tabloid: A prediction from [then-] Virginia psychic Noreen Renier that President Ronald Reagan would be shot -- but not killed -- in the upper left chest. . . . [S]he included it in her list of predictions for the [then-]Montreal-based National Examiner."

The Daily Progress article further states that WXAM (where Renier hosted a weekly radio call-in show) news director Elliot Wiser played for the reporter a tape from Ms. Renier's show of Nov. 5, 1980, containing the following prediction: "Right now I feel very insecure about saying this, but I keep feeling problems in [Reagan's] chest. It's not a natural problem, perhaps it might come from outside. . . . I see an illness coming around him. Part of me is blocking it because I don't want to see the answer. . . . I feel like it would happen within a four-month period."

I spoke with Elliot Wiser, who is now the news director at WTVR-TV in Richmond:

I was the host of Noreen's radio show, in addition to being the station's news director. It was the most popular radio show in Charlottesville in the early '80s. I went into the show a skeptic of hers but I came away a believer. I think that she has ability. She did predict the thing with Reagan extremely accurately. She hit it right on the head -- I was there when she did it. She even predicted things about me that came true. I don't believe in that stuff at all, for the most part, but I think she does have a gift. I've been in this business a long time, and out of everyone I've ever met claiming to have similar abilities, I think Noreen comes the closest. I found her to be the most accurate of the people that I've seen in the business.3

Renier was one of three "psychic detectives" featured on the May 30, 1991, edition of "Geraldo." An Albany, New York couple had been shot to death in 1986 while the murdered mother was speaking on the telephone with her daughter, but the police had yet to make an arrest. After reading a National Enquirer article about Renier, the couple's son requested that Detective Ray Krolak call her in on the case. Explained Krolak from Geraldo's studio audience, "We'd just about run out of leads after two years of investigation. . . . I checked out her credibility through police agencies I knew, through articles I had read about her. I spoke to the officers involved with Noreen . . . Noreen described the crime scene like she was standing at the crime scene. She described the victims. . . . She described the killer. I presented her with ten photographs and she picked out the killer's picture. She also told us where the killer went after the crime, and that fit exactly into where the alibi was." Krolak acknowledged that "She more or less reaffirmed what we knew previously," but said that her leads led him to take a closer look at the alibis of the suspects, and charges have now been filed against them.

In Practical Homicide Investigation: Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques, written by New York City Police Squad Commander Vernon J. Geberth and used as a textbook by the FBI and other police academies, Renier's insights are prominently featured in the "Psychics" portion of the section on "Identification of Suspects." Geberth identifies Renier as "a psychic and recognized authority on the phenomena of extrasensory perception [who] has worked with various police agencies including the FBI on homicide cases and other criminal investigations."4

As stated in the 1988 US News & World Report article, "The Federal Bureau of Investigation has hosted lectures to police officers by psychic Noreen Renier at its Quantico, Va., training center. She impressed her listeners by predicting in January 1981 that there would be an assassination attempt on President Reagan in the spring, which indeed took place [on March 30]."

Robert K. Ressler, a Supervisory Special Agent assigned to the Behavioral Science Unit of the Quantico center, attended that performance, and was questioned about it during his 1986 deposition in the Renier v. Merrell case. Ressler testified that "she said she felt that [Reagan] was having a heart attack in the future . . . some sort of chest pains . . . and then she clarified it by saying no, it's a sharper pain and it is a gunshot. . . . I believe she said in the left chest because she was patting her left side, and that he would not die. . . ."5

But, says Ressler, Renier's vision went further, as "she went on to say that . . . later in the fall, October, November, he would be killed in a machine gun assault on a parade stand by many in foreign uniforms. . ." The following exchange then ensued:

Question: Do you recall if she specifically said the second shooting would be President Reagan?

Ressler: She thought it was President Reagan.

Question: She was wrong on which President it was, then?

Ressler: Yeah . . . circumstances were uncanny in their accuracy [but] it turned out that it was not Reagan, it was Sadat."6

Yes, Noreen Renier is also known for having successfully predicted the assassination of Egypt's President Anwar Sadat. However, in her version of the story, the U.S. Secret Service seems responsible for her apparent ambiguity. In a 1988 New York Post article included in her promotional packet, Renier says that following the Reagan shooting, and after hearing that she had predicted it, agents from the Secret Service paid her a visit. "They thought I might actually know John Hinckley. I didn't. Then they came back again and asked what I saw in the future for the President. I said I saw a parade, a reviewing stand, foreign uniforms, and gunfire. After Sadat was shot, I realized they never asked me which President" (emphasis in original).7

When I called the FBI Academy, I was informed that Robert Ressler has since retired from duty. In his stead, I spoke with Richard Ault, also a Supervisory Special Agent in the Behaviorial Science Unit and instructor at the FBI Academy, and long-time co-worker with Ressler. Ault, who holds a Ph.D. in counseling psychology, informed me that indeed "Bob [Ressler] did have Renier down here to the Academy to speak. It was against my recommendations [but] he did it anyway." Ault says that he attended a couple of Renier's lectures, and recalls that "At no time during any of her lectures, or any of the time that I was associated with her, did she make any 'uncanny' predictions, nor was I impressed with anything that she did say. . . . I've seen that same technique used by a lot of people."8

Ault added that although he did not attend Renier's January 1981 presentation, "I've questioned Bob about it on several occasions, and it sounded like the same stuff I've heard before. . . . The way he described her prediction sounded to me rather bland. It didn't really sound 'uncannily accurate.' . . . What he said to me was she made this prediction, and to him it sounded neat. When I asked him exactly what all did she say, he wasn't real clear to me on it. He came up with some things that sounded pretty general." Ault went further: "In fact, he [Ressler] has often expressed [to me] regrets at having brought Renier here to lecture. She's just caused him a lot of [paperwork] problems over the years [regarding] the kinds of claims that she's made."9

Yet Ressler continues to publicly endorse (and perhaps even embellish, if the following account is accurate) Renier's abilities. According to a recent newspaper story, "Ressler . . . said he wasn't a believer until [Renier] predicted the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan three months -- down to the date -- before it occurred during a lecture at the academy. He didn't report it to the Secret Service, who fumed when they later learned of the advance warning" (emphasis added).10

Readers may recall the audacious Reagan assassination prediction hoax by Tamara Rand, a Los Angeles psychic to the stars, who predicted in a TV interview allegedly taped on January 6, 1981, that the President would be shot in late March or early April by a sandy-haired man with the initials "J.H." Within days of the shooting, the tape was being shown on the network news, as evidence of Rand's startling abilities. However, skeptical AP reporter Paul Simon discovered that the tape had actually been produced the day after Reagan was shot, with the complicity of Rand's friend, Las Vegas columnist and TV personality Dick Maurice.11

With regard to Renier's predictions of the shooting, I know of no evidence of any such hoax. I asked Elliot Wiser if the 1980 radio tape was still available, but he informed me that he does not have it, and that the station has long since changed format and management. Judging by the Daily Progress' description of that prediction, it seems to have been somewhat more vague than Wiser recalls. In fact, if Robert Ressler's version of events at the FBI Academy in 1981 is correct, Renier's scenario had not yet involved a shooting, but rather a heart attack, until it underwent a mid-course correction during that lecture. And the precision of even that revised prediction has been questioned by Richard Ault. But Renier's National Examiner prediction sounds quite precise, assuming that it was hers. Renier was asked to address this point during the 1986 libel trial:

Q: Do you recall the predictions that you made in the same article that appeared in the National Examiner where you predicted President Reagan was going to be shot?

A: Some of those predictions were not mine. The newspaper put in three or four jazzy ones without my-- I didn't do two or three of those predictions.

Q: So the list of predictions that are under your name with your picture, they just threw in some without your knowledge; is that correct?

A: Yes, they did, yes.

Q: So the wrong ones weren't yours and the right ones were?

A: No, some of mine were wrong, but where they went wrong was they had put some sort of what I call jazzy predictions in.12

Renier had apparently also made some rather "jazzy" predictions in 1979 about President Reagan's predecessor. According to The Blue Sense, a book generally favorable to the notion of psychic detectives, Renier had forecast that President Jimmy Carter would be reelected in 1980, and subsequently assassinated on the White House lawn. She had added for good measure that Vice President Mondale would commit suicide.13

Richard Ault had remarked during my interview with him that, "If you throw out enough predictions, you know how it is. . . . All you have to do is pull any given tabloid off of the newsstand and read the latest predictions, and you'll find that finally something's going to have to happen -- the odds are in that favor -- especially if you say a prominent figure is going to be shot at or harmed. In this day and age it stands as a fairly safe prediction." Given that such predictions seem as popular as the one about UFOs finally landing on the White House lawn, wouldn't it be more remarkable if the President were to die, or suffer some other health-related crisis, and no psychic were to come forward to reap his or her just reward for having made such a prediction? Considering his age, I suspect that scores of the nation's "psychics" had predicted that President Reagan would not survive two terms in office (I had doubts myself).

Continues with Part 2 (of 4)


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