Patty Hearst was kidnapped in 1974 by the Symbionese Liberation Army. One of the founding members was Donald DeFreeze.

According to the Amazon Store description of Russell Targ's book "The Reality of ESP: A Physicist's Proof of Psychic Abilities":

On February 4, 1974, members of the Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapped nineteen-year-old newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst from her Berkeley, California apartment. Desperate to find her, the police called physicist Russell Targ and Pat Price, a psychic retired police commissioner. As Price turned the pages of the police mug book filled with hundreds of photos, suddenly he pointed to one of them and announced, “That’s the ringleader.” The man was Donald DeFreeze, who was indeed subsequently so identified. Price also described the type and location of the kidnap car, enabling the police to find it within minutes.

Sounds like nonsense to me.

Did this happen?

  • 1
    While searching for related versions of the claim, I've also found a different account of the events, which doesn't mention DeFreeze but says that Price identified three possible suspects, at least one of whom ("William Wolfe") was a member of the SLA. Just in case you want to add this information to the question.
    – HDE 226868
    Apr 6, 2020 at 14:04
  • It should be noted that Pat Price's name comes up in connection with the (since discredited) PROJECT STARGATE, which was a DIA operation in the 60s-70s to try and make use of remote viewing w.r.t. espionage against the Soviet Union. Program was declassified in 1995 by the CIA after determining that "no actionable intelligence was ever ascertained" and the project was considered a complete failure.
    – DenisS
    Apr 6, 2020 at 14:42
  • 2
    "Witnesses reported seeing a struggling Hearst being carried away blindfolded, and she was put in the trunk of a car. Neighbors who came out into the street were forced to take cover after the kidnappers fired their guns to cover their escape." So the type of the car was probably known to police before calling in psychics. The car was in police posession the next day so it's easy to assing it quick recovery to psychics powers and not police work. Apr 7, 2020 at 8:10
  • 3
    @dan-klasson Do you have any evidence for that? Lots of psychics like to claim to have helped police, and I can believe that a few detectives might have tried it, but a claim that it is "quite common" needs support. Jan 11, 2021 at 8:04
  • 3
    @dan-klasson: the burden of the proof is on the person that makes a claim. Again, claiming that someone is not open-minded is trying to blame the interlocutor instead of finding more convincing arguments. Maybe if the arguments of the tenants of NDE were better, they would open the minds of the skeptics. For example, scientists had no problem opening their minds to quantum physics, general relativity, evolution theory,...
    – Taladris
    Jan 18, 2021 at 10:20

1 Answer 1


The CIA have released some declassified documents. Here's a relevant document in the CIA reading room. Here is a relevant one, OPERATIONAL USE OF PARANORMALS IN POLICE ACTIVITIES. The original is attached as a PDF.

[Text slightly cleaned up for formatting/repetition.]

Approved For Release 2-A0 0W0$: clA-RDP96-00787R00020013061c34 EYES ONLY SUBJECT: Operational Use of Paranormals in Police Activities

  1. Two paranormal subjects being tested at Stanford Research Haves' Institute (SRI) 4.a-s produced impressive data on axp??Em police cases. The first involves the Patricia Hearst kidnapping and the second involves a Stanford University student homicide. The data for these cases was generated spontaneously in an uncontrolled field environment. The generation of the homicide data was witnessed by OTS/CRB. An evaluation of the data is independently given in the SG1I attached memoranda from a second party interview to the Alameda County District attorney's office and the police officer in charge of the homicide case.
  2. During the past year of investigations at SRI, several stories am of aid being given by people with paranormal ability to police in San Francisco area were related to myself by the SRI investigators, Dr. Puthoff and Mr. Targ. My personal knowledge of these activities has remained anecdotal for several reasons. One xampt compelling reason is that even the appearance of CIA involvement with domestic police operations is a political explosive association. This fact has kept me from attempting direct varification of the SRI claims.
  • 1
    This isn't very compelling evidence. It doesn't mention Price. It doesn't mention the evidence provided. The evidence isn't verified. It isn't dated. Basically, someone claimed to be a psychic to a CIA officer. End of story.
    – Oddthinking
    Nov 18, 2023 at 23:30
  • Also even this "cleaned up" version of the text has typos. See the original PDF which clears some stuff up.
    – Laurel
    Nov 18, 2023 at 23:34
  • @Oddthinking bullet point 3 mentions Price. The memo also claims there were recordings and witnesses of the event.
    – Uber mich
    Nov 18, 2023 at 23:52
  • Oh, I certainly didn't intend to skip that point. I found the formatting kind of confusing. Would you please edit that in with my apologies?
    – Oddthinking
    Nov 19, 2023 at 0:34
  • 6
    Please understand where my skepticism is. I accept there was a person, with witnesses, claiming to be a psychic. I am doubtful that the person provided information unknown to the investigation, but I would accept reasonable evidence of that. I would need extraordinary evidence to believe that supernatural powers were used.
    – Oddthinking
    Nov 19, 2023 at 0:36

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