OBITUARIES : Peter Hurkos; Detective Who Used Psychic Powers

Times Staff Writer

Psychic detective Peter Hurkos, who helped law officers search for clues in several famous cases--including the Manson family murders and Boston Strangler case--died of heart failure Wednesday in Los Angeles, his publicist said.

Hurkos, 77, had just left his doctor’s office at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center when he was stricken, Barbara Silver said. Part of a cancerous right lung had been removed in April.

Hurkos, known as the “telepathic detective,” worked on the Boston Strangler case and later appeared in the movie about the case starring Tony Curtis.


Hurkos maintained that the man he picked for the Boston Strangler was the killer and that self-confessed strangler Albert DeSalvo was not the murderer, according to a biography by Norma Lee Browning.

The psychic helped authorities here in the investigation of the 1969 Manson family mass murders, whose victims included actress Sharon Tate and supermarket owner Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary.

Once a House Painter

Hurkos, a one-time Dutch house painter, claimed that he became psychic in 1941 after tumbling four stories off a ladder and landing on his head. Upon regaining consciousness four days later, he said he possessed psychic powers--an ability to see into the future, to exercise artistic and musical talents he had never exhibited before, and to trace missing persons by “psychometrizing,” or tuning into their psychic vibrations by touching clothing and other personal possessions.

“I see pictures in my mind like a television screen. When I touch something, I can then tell what I see,” he said in his biography, “The Psychic World of Peter Hurkos.”

Hurkos appeared in several movies, including “The Amazing World of Psychic Phenomena,” “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” and “The Boston Strangler.” He entertained in nightclubs and made many television appearances, including “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” and “The Phil Donahue Show.”

He authored the books, “Psychic,” “The Psychic World of Peter Hurkos” and “Peter Hurkos: I Have Many Lives.”


Came in U.S. in 1956

Born in Dordrecht, Holland, in 1911, he came to the United States in 1956 for psychic experiments, and lived in the Los Angeles area for 25 years.

He is survived by his wife, Stephany Courtney; daughter, Gloria Hurkos of Studio City; and six children from a previous marriage, Carola Van Der Hurk of Ohio, and Banie Van Der Hurk, Robert Van Der Hurk, Conna Van Der Hurk, Dea Van Der Hurk and Peter Van Der Hurk, all of Holland.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at Mount Sinai Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills.