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The Booher Family Mass Murder and the Mind Reader Who Helped Crack the Case

Investigators uncovered a truly disturbing scene...

booher family mass murder
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  • Photo Credit: Crime Feed / Glenbow Museum Archives

On the evening of July 8, 1928, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police received a terrified phone call from a resident, claiming that a mass murder had been committed on the Boohers' farm outside Mannville, Alberta.

Police first found the body of Rose Booher slumped over the dining room table. She had been shot in the back of the head. In the kitchen, investigators found another grim scene: Rose's oldest son, Fred, had been shot three times in the face. Investigators searched the property and discovered the bodies of two hired hands, Gabriel Grombey and Wasyl Rozak. Both had been shot dead.

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Vernon Booher, 22, and his father Henry Booher were unharmed, despite being home during the attack. Two Booher daughters were also safe, having been away on a trip when the murders occurred. According to reports from investigators, Henry Booher appeared to be crushed by the tragedy, but Vernon oddly showed little emotion. 

At the inquest, investigators called in Austrian psychiatrist Dr. Adolph Maximilian Langsner. The doctor claimed to be able to read people’s brainwaves. Dr. Langsner had reportedly studied psychology with Sigmund Freud in Vienna and later spent time in India, where he researched the way yogis control the mind.

He claimed that when the mind is under stress, it produces signals that another trained mind can learn to pick up. His method was to sit facing the suspect for a period of time until he claimed to get a signal giving him information. He had previously had success assisting Berlin police in a jewel heist—his techniques apparently led authorities to the location of the hidden jewels.

Police asked him to sit outside Booher’s cell, posing as a reporter, and then report his observations. Dr. Langsner told police he believed Booher was the murderer, and—due to the fact that he claimed to have intercepted the young man’s thoughts—he said the murder weapon could be found hidden in a clump of long grass and brush just west of the farmhouse. Acting on the mind reader’s tip, police searched the area and actually found a stolen .303 rifle near the house among long grass and brush.

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Vernon confessed and admitted to police that he’d murdered his mother because she did not like his girlfriend. He claimed that he only intended to shoot his mother, but when Fred rushed in and saw what had happened, Vernon knew he had to eliminate living witnesses. Vernon was convicted of the quadruple murder and sentenced to death. He was hanged at Fort Saskatchewan Prison on April 24, 1929.

Dr. Langsner reportedly left Vancouver shortly thereafter to travel and conduct psychic research among the Inuits.

Read more: Murder: Twelve True Stories of Homicide in Canada; Trivia-Library.com