Annette Martin says she's had unique psychic powers for more than 20 years. One of her specialties is finding missing people, something she says she does by looking at a map of where they were last seen.
As 48 Hours Correspondent Bill Lagattuta reports, her paranormal perception has been a driving force behind a multitude of police operations.
Martin says that all she requires is a victim's photograph: "I'm able to see what happened. I become the victim. I become the assailant. And I also become the observer."
"It's like being in a movie," she says in an effort to describe the psychic experience. "My hand gets very hot. I can feel where they're going on the map."
In 1997, Martin was approached by Roberta Hauser. She was part of a search and rescue team in a state park near Pacifica, Calif., looking for a 71-year-old man who had disappeared from his home.
"I thought this was a needle in a haystack and I was just going to have to crawl through every section of this park to find him," Hauser says.
A 40-person search team had already spent several days combing the dense terrain and had given up, but Hauser pressed on by herself for nine more weeks.
"Pretty much every day after work I would come out here, my husband sometimes would come out here with me, and I would just slowly but surely cover sections of the map," Hauser continues. "The park is thickly shrubbed, and the probability of detection was very low."
As a last resort, a local police sergeant contacted Martin and gave her a photograph and a map.
"[I was] absolutely determined to find him," says Martin. "And I really felt like he was here. Well, my hand led me over to where the area was. And I just followed the roads along, and I circled. He's in this area. That's where he is."
At first Hauser was skeptical:
Hauser went out one final time with a search dog. It was then that the corpse was found in very deep shrubs.
"The mound is exactly in the center of the circle that she had drawn on the map," says Hauser. "She was absolutely right on the money."
Martin has personally worked with more than a dozen police agencies over the years, helping them investigate crimes, she says. In fact, one survey shows that 35 percent of urban police departments have used psychics at one time or another. But don't expect them to talk about it publicly.
Rich Keaton is a retired detective with the Marin County Sheriff's Department that has relied on Martin's psychic insights in dozens of cases. He believes she has a gift.
"It's a fear. It's the unknown, and then they can't explain it," he says. "Then you don't want to deal with it....I would strongly put my belief, my integrity and my background in what Annette does and how she does it."
But Keaton is such a believer that he and Martin are going into business together as a psychic-detective investigating team. Their informal partnership started in 1975, when Keaton was a young detective, and Martin was at the height of her opera career.
And suddenly she had a vision of murder. "She started telling us specifics that only police officers knew," Keaton recalls. "She told us that the man who was responsible for killing this young lady had a very serious medical condition in that he had ulcers."
A 19-year-old girl had been murdered in a trailer park, her body left in a shed outside the suspect's trailer.
"I told them they would find [the suspect] about a year later," says Martin. "And they would find him wearing white. And that it was not going to be in California."
A year later, to the very week, he was taken into custody, arrested in the state of Washington.
"His occupation was that of a male nurse, or orderly in a hospital," Keaton recalls. "And he was wearing all white the time that he was employed there."
That made believers out of Keaton and some of his fellow officers.
But not Joe Nickell, who says he's been "underwhelmed" by the whole experience. He's a columnist for the Skeptical Inquirer, a magazine that investigates claims of the paranormal. He doesn't know Martin, but 48 Hours showed him tapes of her.
"She told us in this one case the guy was wearing white and he wouldn't be found in California. Was that all she told for several hours? Or were there lots of other things and those are being forgiven?" Nickell asks. "We call it retro-fitting."
What about her finding that missing man in the park by drawina small circle on the map? Nickell listened to that particular tape.
"What she did was very shrewdly ask all kinds of questions of that police officer, who helped her even further and told her all kinds of things," says Nickell. "It's probably perfectly sincere, not an act. But it's just the facility of a highly imaginative and emotional person and doesn't mean anything scientifically."
Nickell says there have been several controlled studies of psychics claiming to help police solve crimes: "When we do actual scientific studies, comparing psychics, with say, college students, the difference is the psychics tend to make more guesses, but they're no more successful."
Still, Martin says that her psychic visions are real, and Rich Keaton and Roberta Hauser remain impressed with her skills. For maybe, in the end, the extent of any psychic's powers is largely in the eye of the beholder.
Martin says that as a result of the original 48 Hours broadcast in August 1999, another dozen police departments called for her help.