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Psychic Detective Story, 1848

In 1848, a story appeared in the Boston papers for several weeks about a clairvoyant woman that helped discover the body of a missing young man. A man named Bruce had vanished in 1846, and his father was desperate to discover the whereabouts of his son. It was reported that the father had contacted a psychic to help solve the mystery.

Some newspapers had reported that property was also recovered at about the same time a body, believed to be Bruce's, was found in a city tomb reserved for those with unknown identities. The father looked at a skeleton and thought it was his son due to the clothes on the body. Skeptics felt the psychic woman was probably an extortionist, and in today's environment she would probably been been labeled a "person of interest" by police in an investigation ensued. The following was published in the Boston Post in May 1848 about the affair:

"The great mesmeric case, in relation to the death of young Bruce, is unquestionably a humbug from the beginning. The woman told the father a long story about his son, but little of which has been verified beyond what a small degree of sagacity might have foretold without a mystery. The report that the woman told the number of the tomb is not correct—she said the body was in a brick tomb. The reason that tomb No. 15 was opened was because the father went to the superintendent of burials and asked him to look at this record and see if any person found drowned was put into one of the city tombs in February, 1846. The superintendent, Mr. Lincoln, accordingly turned to his record, and found that the body of an unknown person, found drowned, was placed in No. 15 in that month.

In consequence of this, No. 15 was opened, the coffins examined, and a skeleton found in one of them which Mr. Bruce thought was that of his son from his dress, which bore some appearance of the kind of clothes he wore when lost; but it is extremely doubtful whether the bones found in the coffin were those were those of young Bruce or not—indeed the clothes in the coffin of a colored man, the body was found drowned, bore a much closer resemblance to those described as young Bruce's than garments in the coffin of the skeleton claimed by Mr. Bruce to be his son's. The excuse the mesmerizer gives for not disclosing the names of the abusers of young Bruce is, that the principal among them will take her life if she does. The whole mesmeric portion of this affair is clearly a gross imposition."

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