The Texas Mass-Grave Hype That Wasn’t: How a Tip from a Psychic Went Viral

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REUTERS / Richard Carson

At first, it may have turned out to be one of the biggest, most grisly crime scenes in recent Texas law enforcement memory. Both local police and the FBI were called in as neighbors nervously awaited news on what had already been reported as a discovery of as many as 30 decomposed bodies in a Hardin, Texas mass grave.

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Media were alerted and the story spread like wildfire around the Internet. Everyone from local television stations to the New York Times tweeted that a gruesome scene was taking shape in rural Texas. Reporters circled the scene waiting on a story of a mass murder. All this from the tip of a psychic who claimed there were dozens of the deceased, including children, at the site.

The result: false alarm! As authorities conducted an exhaustive search, they found blood on the house’s porch, but was the result of an earlier incident at the house, which belongs to trucker Joe Bankson, 44, whose daughter’s ex-boyfriend cut himself there. An odor that was described as “overwhelming” wasn’t rotting bodies, but in fact rotting meat left in an old freezer that was no longer working.

Bankson was able to give a partial explanation to the Houston Chronicle on Wednesday. “We’ve had the cops out at our house,” he said while on a haul with his wife to Georgia. “But never for nothing like that. [sic] Somebody called the police on my dogs one time.”

But that leaves the psychic who managed to convince police she was worth listening to. The yet-unidentified woman who lives in the Texas panhandle called police Monday and Tuesday with her faux information. Apparently, the woman had enough knowledge of the location to lead cops to believe she was credible. Liberty County Sheriff’s office Captain Rex Evans told the Chronicle the woman was able to describe details of the home like its layout and contents, leaving the possibility that she had been there sometime before Bankson moved in three years ago.

Still all her claims ended up having not even the most remote shard of truth to them. “This could very well have been a big deal. But it was ridiculous, as it turned out,” a law enforcement source said. Evans said authorities will consider filing charges against the phony psychic after a further investigation is conducted. He said he is trying to determine whether she knew the family or had some animus against them.

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