In comics, superpowers are certainly a boon to thwarting evil and bringing villains to justice. But the normals still crack their share of cases, as can be seen in Greg Rucka’s dearly departed DC police procedural, Gotham Central. Sometimes, even regular citizens beyond the blue line help win one for the good guys. Just like in real life.

On Sunday, August 4th, 16-year-old Hannah Anderson was abducted by family friend James Lee DiMaggio, who at the same time set his own California home on fire, leading to the deaths of Hannah’s brother and mother. The senseless tragedy sent ripples across an entire continent, as Amber Alerts were issued and investigations were undertaken as far away as Mexico and even Canada.

It was the astute awareness of two mountain-faring couples in Idaho, however, that gave authorities the tip they needed. Mark and Christa John, along with Mike and Mary Young, happened upon DiMaggio and Anderson while hiking on August 7th. All four were experienced outdoorspeople and could sense there was something off about the pair. “I just had a gut feeling,” Mark said. Latent psychic abilities, perhaps?

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Psychic, not from Idaho.

Not quite, but CNN’s Don Lemon breathlessly called it “intuition.” You’re probably expecting hard-nosed science guy to slam down on the very notion right now, but intuition is a very real thing with tangible results. Look no further than Hope College psychology professor David Myers and his 2002 book Intuition: Its Powers and Perils for evidence.

Myers cites studies such as a Harvard experiment that showed 30-second clips of professors teaching to would-be students who, even in that short amount of time, rated the faculty in an eerily similar manner as people who had taken the actual class. Perhaps unintuitively, it seems intuition can actually be learned, as trained Secret Service agents have been shown to be better “human lie detectors” than psychiatrists, judges or pretty much anyone else.

Intuition is a valuable skill. It’s sometimes called “offstage” thinking or “dual processing” in psychology

Intuition is a valuable skill. Without it we might have to deliberately think about how we construct a sentence or where a ball should land when thrown. It’s sometimes called “offstage” thinking or “dual processing” in psychology; the idea that the mind can be working away at something largely unbeknownst to the conscious person, while they go about their usual activities.

But that’s not what happened in this case! There was no need for the man behind the mental curtain to piece things together, as there were mounds of suspicious evidence right out in the open. DiMaggio clearly didn’t have much camping experience, as his tent was pitched nowhere near water and his gear was brand new. They were headed in the opposite direction of where they intended. Hannah was wearing PAJAMAS and DiMaggio was stroking a cat!


Check out the video itself to hear all the clues.

Even then, it wasn’t until the native Idahoans saw the Amber Alert on television the next day that they recognized Anderson and filed a report. Did I mention that Mark John is a former Army Ranger? Trained to be observant and alert; dude was not just some bump on a log. The hikers were good to notice something was amiss, but it didn’t take intuition, telepathy or superhuman investigation skills to put this one together.

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You don’t need to be the world’s greatest detective…

These revelations were recorded, so there’s no doubt that it was good ol’ fashioned curiosity and wisdom that brought this criminal down. Unfortunately, less honest, wannabe supersleuths claiming to be “psychic detectives” can sometimes twist things after the fact and retrofit data to resemble their vague predictions, making their guesses seem more prescient than they actually were. They don’t solve anything; they just want to take credit afterward and will hide things to do so. Without knowing about the Amber Alert or some of the more spectacularly strange behaviors of DiMaggio and Anderson, you might think the intuition of someone identifying them to be borderline supernatural.

As this instance exemplifies, there are plenty of highly skilled professionals and even laymen who deserve credit for what they accomplish with our meager mortal abilities. No intuition or superpowers required.