Gainesville Sun
Tuesday, June 8, 1999

Psychic claims power to solve mysteries

By KAREN VOYLES
Sun staff writer

WILLISTON -- Levy County's resident psychic, Noreen Renier, etched another notch in her crystal ball Sunday.

Well, maybe not exactly a notch and perhaps it wasn't really a crystal ball, but she did claim her psychic work helped to solve another mystery.

Renier worked with the family of a missing man, Phillip Lester, in the Houston, Texas, area through a series of phone calls. Lester disappeared in November during a church outing.

Sunday, authorities found human remains, tentatively identified as his, just a short distance from the place Renier had suggested the family search for him. Foul play is not suspected in Lester's death.

That situation was similar to Norman Lewis' disappearance from his Williston home in 1994. In that case, Renier worked with Williston police, who used Navy divers to recover Lewis' body from a water-filled pit.

Renier says she has provided psychic information that has helped to solve 300 mysteries in eight countries over 22 years. She said she can't solve all the cases brought to her. But she said some cases take longer than others, and may yet be solved in the future.

Despite the satisfaction of both families in those cases, the founder of a skeptics chapter in Florida said those cases prove nothing because no one can prove that psychic power is real.

In the most recent case, the Harris County Sheriff's Department in Texas said Lester, 74, was last seen Nov. 7 outside Houston with a church group. He had been touring a funeral museum with his wife. Lester's son-in-law, Richard Akin, said Lester suffered from Parkinson's disease and short-term memory loss and had a tendency to wander when something caught his attention.

"What we think happened is that he went to the restroom and then exited from the building through a fire door, which set off the alarm," Akin said. "In all the excitement of the alarm going off, he just walked away and no one noticed him."

Family members and friends immediately launched a search, and the sheriff's department set up a command post as the base for a formal, weeklong search that turned up nothing. After the investigation was suspended, family members kept looking.

In February, a police sketch artist who earlier had worked with Renier recommended the Williston-based psychic to the Akins.

"I had them send me a brush and a comb and a shirt of his," Renier said. "I need to have personal items like that to work with because the more scent an item has, the better it is. I want nothing clean."

Then, by telephone over five Sunday afternoons, Renier explained where she believed the family should look for Lester.

"But they didn't seem to be understanding very clearly so they sent me an aerial map," Renier said. While she looked at one copy from her rural Williston home and Theresa and Richard Akin looked at another in Texas, Renier tried to explain how what she sensed could be translated to a specific site on a map. Her last session with the Akins was May 30. His family found his remains within a few hundred yards of where Renier directed them to search.

"He (Lester) was found in a flood control ditch about three miles from the museum," said Jeanie Davis, of the Harris County Sheriff's Department. "That was an area that we had not searched."

Davis also said it was a policy of the sheriff's department not to involve psychics in cases.

"Careful scrutiny would probably reveal psychic powers did not solve this case," said Dr. Gary Posner, a skeptic. "I have never seen anything that couldn't be explained."

Posner, a former internal medicine specialist who now operates a medical software firm, is the founder of the Tampa Bay Chapter of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. He and Renier have clashed several times over her claims and his disbelief.

"There is no good scientific evidence that psychic power exists," Posner said. "Many psychics are very good at what they do -- they are charismatic, excellent entertainers and captivating performers, but there is no evidence that they have any special powers."

Renier said she knows there are skeptics who try to debunk anything they cannot see, but she believes that skeptics are "too frightened."

"Having to accept psychic power would force them to change their whole belief system," she said.

Posner said he has already changed his belief system.

"I grew up believing in flying saucers and the whole thing," Posner said. "Why should anyone believe in anything for which there is no evidence? If I believed in it, I would go to a psychic because I sure would like to know the lottery numbers for Saturday night."

Lester's family has heard the skepticism. But, Akin said, "We are so relieved to know what happened. It seems that he just wandered away."

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Gary Posner's 6/8 reply to the reporter:

To: voylesk@gvillesun.com

Karen:

I've read today's article, and hope that you have now read some of my writings about Renier.

Although I don't "operate" the software firm with which I hold an executive position, you came close enough with most of my quotes. But I wish you hadn't misidentified my group as the "Tampa Bay Chapter of CSICOP." As you know, the group's name is "Tampa Bay Skeptics." Although CSICOP encouraged me to found a local skeptics group, we are an autonomous organization rather than a chapter of CSICOP.

If you ever decide to do a lengthy feature article about your local celebrity psychic, please keep me in mind.

--Gary Posner



Houston Chronicle
Tuesday, June 8, 1999

Family cites aid of psychic in finding man's remains

Victim, 74, had been missing since Nov. 30

By STEPHEN JOHNSON
Copyright 1999 Houston Chronicle

A Florida psychic's directions assisted searchers in discovering an elderly Houston man's remains in north Harris County, family members and friends say.

After Philip Lester, 74, wandered away from a tour of the American Funeral Service Museum on Nov. 30, witnesses reported him everywhere but where his remains were eventually found.

Family members and volunteers searched near the museum in vain for Lester, who suffered memory problems and from Parkinson's disease. He had apparently wandered off through a back door of the museum at 415 Barren Springs in north Harris County.

By February, Lester's relatives were ready to try anything and contacted psychic Noreen Renier in Orlando, Fla.

Renier, who has a reputation for helping to locate criminals and missing people, knocked $150 off her $500 fee and asked for maps of the area.

"We sent her some maps at first but they were too large and she asked for smaller ones," said Theresa Akins, Lester's daughter.

Renier finally received a detailed map of the general area where Lester had disappeared and provided verbal instructions as to where searchers should look for Lester's remains, since it had become painfully clear that he had probably died.

Jinese Troup, who had become friends of Lester's family and spent much time searching for him, was told of Renier's directions by Akins, and on May 17 she went to a drainage ditch along a wooded section of T.C. Jester.

Troup's boyfriend located some business cards that were turned over to the Harris County Sheriff's Department.

"The Sheriff's Department sent deputies out that day and the day after to search for remains," Troup said, "but we weren't successful."

On Sunday at 7 a.m. an expedition under auspices of the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable's Office was launched.

Within two hours, Lester's scattered remains were found roughly 30 yards off the 1400 block of Spears Road in heavy brush, about 40 yards from where his business cards had been found and about two miles from the museum.

Precinct 4 Chief Deputy Ron Hickman said animals may have scattered Lester's identification and remains, since they will carry away objects bearing a human scent.

"I'm really sort of a psychic detective," said Renier. "I spend a lot of my time working with police departments on cases and I've only participated in cases involving missing people about a dozen times."

Renier, who once headed public relations and advertising operations for an Orlando hotel, became acquainted with psychic activities when she refused to allow a psychic symposium to use the hotel's facilities.

"I was a skeptic and we were a respectable hotel and I had to be convinced that they were legitimate," she said.

Subsequently, Renier the skeptic became a true believer when she had a series of psychic experiences. By 1980, she was an established psychic.

"All I can say is, I finally have my father back with me now," said Akins. "I can't really explain any of this."

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Gary Posner's 6/8 Letter to the Editor:

To: viewpoints@chron.com

Re: "Family cites aid of psychic in finding man's remains" (June 8)

As the "unauthorized," and highly skeptical, biographer of Noreen Renier, I read with great interest your story about her "psychic" assistance in locating a missing person. But missing from your account (at least the electronic version) was additional, potentially relevant information. One infers from your article that Renier offered a single set of remarkably accurate directions. The Gainesville (Florida) Sun reports, however, that for weeks prior to that point, "by telephone over five Sunday afternoons, Renier explained where she believed the family should look," with negative results. Further insights into this fascinating subject matter can be found in the "psychic detectives" entry of The Skeptic's Dictionary (www.skepdic.com).

--Gary P. Posner, M.D.


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