BY: CARI JOHNSON
PHOTOS: MYRAY REAMES
A Portland-based psychic detective taps into her intuition to settle unsolved cases
Laurie McQuary did not use a crystal ball while working on a recent murder investigation in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She does not wear purple robes or wave around a stick of intoxicating incense when interviewing victims’ family members. Instead, she wears a structured green jacket over a crisp collared shirt in her neatly arranged Lake Oswego office. She’s not a sorceress, but she’s also not an ordinary person. McQuary is a woman of intuition.
McQuary is among nearly eighty thousand psychics in the United States and part of the $2 billion psychic industry. Using her psychic gift to assist in solving crimes, however, makes her exceptionally unusual.
She began showing psychic abilities at age eighteen after a fall from a horse left her in a coma for three months. She worked as a nurse for the first part of her life before transitioning from giving private readings to coworkers to starting a psychic consultation business in 1984.
“I have a responsibility to listen to the universe,” she says.
McQuary has amassed more than two hundred cases in her twenty-nine years as a psychic detective. Murder and missing person cases dating as far back as the ‘80s and ‘90s are tightly packed into two large filing cabinets. McQuary’s blue eyes scan the thick manila folders as she thumbs over police detective names scribbled in illegible handwriting.
“You’d be surprised how many detectives really believe in this work,” she says.
Bob Lee, a retired police detective from the Lake Oswego Police Department, is among the believers. Lee met McQuary during a murder investigation in 1986. When the two got together for lunch to review the case, McQuary listed thirty details that she had intuitively gathered from the report, including information regarding the involvement of the murderer’s brother with the burial of the body.
“I probably spent a week [trying to disprove] everything that she told me,” recalls Lee.
Lee was surprised to learn that twenty-nine of the facts were proven correct. McQuary had also accurately pinpointed the burial location of the victim. Lee was so impressed with McQuary that he married her the following year.
Throughout his thirty-seven-year career in law enforcement, Lee has learned that detectives play on their hunches and logical reasoning. However, he believes his wife has a unique sense of intuition that becomes particularly valuable in a room full of left-brained police detectives.
“I’m really good at picking out the bad guy,” says Lee “[McQuary] is just going to look at the bad guy a little differently.
While the couple typically works separately and never openly discusses any active cases, McQuary may, at times, ask her husband about a bullet trajectory or an autopsy report. Lee has also occasionally used McQuary for her fresh viewpoint on cases.
“I don’t feel that I have solved cases; I believe I’ve contributed to them,” says McQuary. “When I’m out there in the field slogging around with the police or the family and we find the body, I feel like I’ve walked hand-in-hand with God.”
With each case, McQuary requires a name, the victim’s photo, and a map of the area where he or she was last seen. She often visits the site to better understand the physical energy of the case, and has traveled across the country for cases in almost all fifty states. Her involvement with these cases has led to appearances on Portland’s KATU News, Court TV’s Psychic Detective, and Larry King Live, among other television and news outlets.
Psychic Detective has featured a number of the industry’s members, including psychic detective Noreen Renier. Based in Orlando, Florida, she typically assists with cases that are ten to twenty years old.
“When police give me information on missing people, I tune into the energy and relive it,” says Renier. She often holds objects (say, the victim’s shirt) to gain extra sensory perception on the situation.
Like McQuary, Renier does not claim to solve investigations. Instead, she suggests that she can provide new clues or a different angle. She charges a flat fee of $650 for a phone consultation, offering her psychic abilities to assist with unsolved homicide or missing person cases, lost animals, and private readings.
McQuary didn’t charge for her investigative assistance for twenty-one years, until her TV appearance on Larry King Live triggered hundreds of case requests. While she has never charged law enforcement for her services, she requests a one-time $250 fee for private clients, who are often involved families seeking more information about their cases. If travel becomes necessary, the client is responsible for any additional expenses.
Though McQuary has built her career around convincing nonbelievers, there are many who are skeptical of her extraordinary occupation. The Independent Investigations Group (IIG), based in Hollywood, California, gathers weekly to examine and debunk paranormal claims through scientific processes.
“I’m not a complete skeptic,” says Mark Edward, an IIG committee member. “But in thirty-five years, I have yet to see anyone who has exhibited psychic abilities.”
Edward infiltrated the psychic market for research used in his recently published book, Psychic Blues: Confessions of a Conflicted Medium. He suggests that psychic detectives simply have a sharper sense of intuition than the police based on their highly developed understanding of human nature and emotion.
“They have a better perspective on what kind of clues to look for,” says Edward. “There’s nothing supernatural about it.”
Yet, there remains a certain public fascination with the work psychic detectives do. Popular culture has seen an influx of programs exploring the relationship between law enforcement and psychics, such as TV series like Psychic Detectives, Medium, The Mentalist, and Psych. In response to Hollywood’s curiosity toward the paranormal, the IIG called Psychic Detectives one of the year’s worst examples of scientific thinking in its annual awards ceremony in 2007. The Mentalist and Psych, however, were applauded for promoting science in their scripts.
McQuary doesn’t mind a skeptic. In addition to assisting with investigative cases in her spare time, she has spent the past thirty years building her business, Management by Intuition. The cozy Native American-inspired office offers psychic consultations ranging from past-life regressions to a technique that uses hypnosis to recover potential memories of past lives. The consultations last thirty minutes to one hour.
For client Laura D’Quatro, a session with McQuary is better than therapy. She began paying visits to the office a couple of times each year after she lost her mother and most recently, her father.
“She doesn’t tell me what to do,” says D’Quatro, who has been a client of McQuary’s since 2007. “She just tells me what she feels.”
While McQuary’s abilities don’t turn off at the end of the workweek, she prefers to maintain a low profile during her time off. “I’m not ‘Suzie Psychic’ 24/7,” she says. By avoiding crowds and prolonged eye contact with others, McQuary can usually limit overly personal connections with strangers. Eye contact can induce especially intense connections, she explains.
Despite the desire to occasionally turn off her abilities, McQuary regularly practices listening to her own energy. In fact, her intuitive guidance led to her discover she had breast cancer seven years ago. After waking up one morning, McQuary sensed something was wrong with her breast despite having no symptoms. She made a medical appointment that same day where they concluded there was no lump. When she demanded further investigation through an MRI, they were surprised to discover that her intuition was correct. McQuary was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I found out later that I’d had it for twenty-five years,” says McQuary, who quickly underwent treatment (including five surgeries). She now lives cancer-free.
Psychic abilities may be mentally exhausting at the end of each day, but McQuary has not yet exhausted her career. This year marks a big move to Central Oregon with her retired husband, and she will eventually close her Lake Oswego office. McQuary’s clients, however, will continue to communicate with her through phone sessions.
“As long as I am coherent and accurate I will be doing this work,” says McQuary. “Retirement is not an option.”