Nineteen-year-old Dalhousie student Kimberly McAndrew was last seen on August 12, 1989, when she left her part-time job at the Quinpool Road Canadian Tire. Her disappearance is still considered a missing person’s case. Over the next six years police chased empty leads and the file was going nowhere, so in 1995 Halifax police hired a psychic to help move the investigation along.

“I have three tapes, so we must have had three sessions,” said psychic Noreen Renier, as she was going through her files. Renier lives in Florida and agreed to a phone interview Tuesday morning. Renier has worked on over 600 homicide and missing person cases through the years, and had no memory of the McAndrew case, but she did have notes, which she referred to while discussing the case with me.

According to her notes, Renier was hired by Halifax police Constable David MacDonald, who was the lead investigator in the McAndrew case. “Usually I charge for two sessions, but I always give them extra if they need it,” she said, adding that she charged MacDonald US$225.

Yesterday, I asked the city how much money has been spent on psychics through the years, but I’ve yet to get an answer. Renier said the McAndrew case is the only time she’s worked for Halifax police.

“Do you have something?” asked Renier. “A purse? Why don’t we do it all over? Do you want to do a session?”

Alas, I have no property associated with McAndrew, so I turned down the opportunity.

Renier works by taking impressions from an object associated with the missing or deceased person. “Think of a dog,” she explained. “How would a dog know where to find you? I can’t just say, ‘go find Jan,’ or ‘go find Mike.’ I need to give him a sniff of Jan or Mike. And the same thing I need is a sniff. I ask for a toothbrush, hairbrush, something that no one else can wear. Shoes are pretty good; people usually don’t wear someone else’s shoes.”

The psychic read to me a note MacDonald had sent her: “‘I’m enclosing the following items’ — which I would have sent back — ‘a hand-written note, Kimberly’s black belt, lipstick, a Bryan Adams tape’ — I don’t know who Bryan Adams is — ‘and a photo of Kimberly.’ I didn’t need a photo.”

“We should have found her,” said Renier. She added that she’ll have the three cassette tapes transcribed and sent to me.

Noreen Renier demonstrates how she works. Photo:
Noreen Renier demonstrates how she works. Photo:

“Usually I’m in a semi-trance,” said Renier, explaining how she works. “And I tell them things I wouldn’t know by reading the press or anything. I never ask for last names; in fact I don’t even like names, just ‘missing’ or ‘homicide.’ Then once we start, they give me the names. Usually I just try to read them into where I find the body, and I have to have a starting point. You could put me at the library. It doesn’t matter. I can work with where she was last seen, but sometimes they don’t know where she was last seen.

“And from there, I have several techniques,” she continued. “I can go up in the air, and they’ll have to tell me, go up 500 feet, 600 feet above where she is now, and then we do a clock. OK, look at 12 o’clock, there’s the train station, at 6 you’ll see this — just to give them an outline, and then I get on the ground and they can ask me, if they think of it — sometimes they don’t think of it — ‘how many miles, what do you see here?’ and I’ll give them numbers and letters. A couple of times it turned out to be longitude and latitude….the last case I did, in Indiana, for a detective, she didn’t know how to ask me questions, just yes or no. You can’t ask me ‘Did they go south?’ That’s a leading question. You have to ask me, ‘Which direction did they go?’”

Renier recounts her techniques and her long history of working with police investigators on her website. She’s been working as a psychic for over 30 years, but at 78 years old says she has no plans to retire. “They need my help,” she said simply.

But skeptics will have none of it. In particular, John Merrell, the cofounder of Northwest Skeptics, has doggedly pursued Renier both on television and in the courts for decades.

“They say horrible stuff about me,” said Renier. “All lies. I think they’ve written to every police department in the world, and a lot of them have stopped calling.”

Updated, 5pm: 

Dorothy Allison
Dorothy Allison

Police spokesperson Pierre Bourdages tells me that the department does not have payment records before 1999, so he can’t give particular payment amounts for the hiring of psychics. He did say, however, that Constable MacDonald had also hired physic Dorothy Allison for another case, although Bourdages did not know what case that was.

Allison was a well-known American psychic who worked on cases involving the Patty Hearst kidnapping, the Son of Sam murders, and the Jonbenet Ramsey murder. “Dorothy Allison is a flimflam artist of the first water,” said magician James Randi of the psychic. “She’s one of the people I’m really out to get. I think that woman is an absolute disgrace.”

Allison died in 1999.

In the investigation into the death of Holly Bartlett, the blind woman found dying under the MacKay Bridge in 2010, police investigators suggested to Bartlett’s family that they should consult a psychic.

Bourdages says the police force does not now hire psychics, although the department will talk to anyone who offers up something to say about an open case, including psychics who approach the department.

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. You know what? Whatever it takes to keep police on a case, I’d say. 225 dollars for what is at the very least imaginative consulting might sometimes help the police consider things they hadn’t, previously.

    The placebo effect is a real thing. Something similar may be going on here.

    I don’t want to suggest that the ends always justify the means, but if I were missing/held captive, I’d welcome the police taking ANY (legal) steps to find me.

  2. I was fortunate enough to have known a psychic personally in England. She was a friend of my mothers. She never charged for her services as she felt it was a God given gift. She helped many people in her lifetime.
    However not everyone can give of themselves so freely. I think psychics can be a very important tool for the police and I’m pleased to know that they have had the courage to use them. I say courage as just from reading the comments here I realize there are many people who can’t accept this gift or talent call it what you may. They haven’t yet opened their minds to accept what they aren’t familiar with.

    1. If Tim’s report prevents future con artists from running a scam against our public institutions then this article provides a valuable service.

  3. “I asked the city how much money has been spent on psychics through the years, but I’ve yet to get an answer.”

    I’m dismayed they have to even check. 🙁

  4. “We should have found her”

    No. Psychics don’t do anything other than consume money and excrete bullshit. Any pyschic or support of these crooks is welcome to tell me what I have kept in my wallet since high school.
    In other words- bullshit.