The Myth of the Fingerprints
An excerpt from the True Crime book Visions of Ted Bundy: The Psychic and the Chi Omega Murders
Editors Note: This is a gem of a spooky story continuing our Spooky October theme from another very talented author. You can find out more about the book and author at: www.whiterhinopress.com
This is an excerpted chapter called "The Myth of the Fingerprints." Lehmann, Susan Waller. Visions of Ted Bundy: The Psychic and the Chi Omega Murders. Pleasant View, UT: White Rhino Press, 2017. pp. 314-328. Published with the author’s permission.
The Myth of the Fingerprints
Helen was bored at work one day in July 1989. She closed the office door and opened a briefcase. She’d continue to transcribe recorded interviews she’d done with Captain George Brand.
A manila envelope poked out. She hadn’t returned to Tallahassee and didn’t foresee a day she’d be able to. Helen pulled out the photos of the handprints and studied the large hands.
What would the psychic Madam Anna would have said about these hands? Helen was disappointed she hadn’t seen her, as the lead investigator had suggested.
She opened the Gainesville telephone directory and looked for Psychics in the yellow pages.
There were a handful of listings. One read Bernice, Psychic Readings with a phone number. No address, but the number was a local exchange.
Helen dialed. Within two rings, a woman answered, a voice rough with cigarettes.
Helen asked if she could read palms.
“Well, I’m no expert, but I’m willing to try.”
“Would you be able to read a palm from a photograph?”
“I’ve never done that. What is this about?”
“Nothing bad, I promise. I have some photographs of someone’s handprints, and I’d like to know about them.”
“Is this a gag?
“No, this is not a gag. I’m very serious.”
They made an appointment for the following day. She charged $25 for a psychic reading and told Helen to bring cash.
Late the next afternoon, Helen pulled into a trailer park north of town. She drove by the pool and tennis courts, and reached the last street, to the penultimate trailer on the right. The home was an older model single wide, easily the oldest home in the neatly manicured park. Bernice had blooming plants on her front porch, with two outdoor chairs and a rocker. The place felt friendly, albeit worn.
Helen knocked on the glass window of the screened door. She smelled years of cigarette smoke adhered to the structure. I’m glad I brought cigarettes. Strangely, she found she could better tolerate smokers if she smoked.
The inner door opened and an older woman with dyed red hair greeted her.
“Are you Helen?” she asked. “Come in, don’t mind the mess.”
Just as Helen was about to step into the trailer, a sudden gust of wind blew the screen door out of her grasp. It banged the side of the trailer, then slammed into her.
“Storm’s coming,” Bernice said. “Come in before you get blown away.”
Bernice secured the door and led Helen to the right, into the kitchen. Helen looked to the left, at the living room, which was neatly furnished and filled with dolls. The drapes were drawn against the late-afternoon sun.
“Hi Bernice, I’m Helen Baxter,” she said.
Helen was perspiring heavily from nervousness and humidity. She wiped her hand on her skirt and held it out to shake the woman’s hand. Bernice grasped it and held it for several seconds.
“Uh huh,” she said, releasing Helen’s hand. “I guess I figured as much. I am psychic, you know.” She winked.
Both women laughed, a bit uneasily. “Please sit,” Bernice said, indicating a chair.
“I always sit here,” Bernice said. “It’s close to the phone and the coffee pot.” She had been working on a crossword puzzle. She elbowed it to the edge of the table.
Helen slid into the chair between the table and the wall. She laid the manila envelope on the table. She had brought four of the photographs, making sure not to bring ones that had a name on them.
“Coffee?” Bernice asked. “I just made a fresh pot.”
“Sure, that’d be great,” Helen said.
The kitchen table was covered with a green tablecloth. A deck of playing cards lay at Bernice’s spot, next to an ashtray, a pack of Pall Mall reds, and a plastic lighter.
A small electric fan sat on the table by the window. Counters and the bay windowsill were filled with ceramic angels, colored glass balls, stones, knickknacks, and a house plant. A dreamcatcher hung off the curtain rod. Lace curtains were stained yellow from years of tobacco.
Bernice set down two cups of coffee, both black, and took her seat.
“Cream? Sugar?” Bernice held up a cylinder of coffee whitener.
“Uh, just black, please.”
“Well, let me make sure I understand what you’re seeking today.” She eyed the envelope. “Is that what you want me to read?”
“Yes. There are several photos.” Helen began to open the envelope.
“No, don’t show me yet,” Bernice said. “Just let me hold them.”
Helen handed her the envelope. Bernice closed her eyes, then quickly opened them and dropped the envelope on the table, pushing it away from her.
“I’m going to do a reading on you first,” Bernice said.
“Why? I don’t want a reading done on me, I just want the photos read.”
Helen didn’t want to be charged for two readings. She could hardly afford the $25 fee for one.
“I’ll only charge for one, but I want to read you first.” Bernice sipped her coffee. “Please keep a closed mouth, but an open mind.”
“Okay. Which hand do you want to see?” Helen looked at her palms.
“Are you right-handed?”
Helen held her hand out, and Bernice touched it, then examined the palm. She ran her nail down the lifeline.
“Oh, good, that’s very good, you’ll have a long, healthy life,” she said, lighting a cigarette. “Do you mind?”
“Smoking? No, I smoke too, sometimes.”
Helen reached into her purse, pulled out her cigarettes, lit one. Bernice turned on the fan. She held Helen’s right hand and examined the lines, comparing them with the lines on her left hand.
“You are a professional; your job focuses on business and properties.”
You don’t need to be psychic to know that. Helen wore professional office attire: a dress, stockings, and high heels.
“But that’s not your calling, right?”
“No.” Helen said. She wasn’t going to provide details.
“Are you married?” Bernice asked. “On your palm you have two marriages. Is this your first one?”
Bernice traced her palm. “Okay. Separated, right?”
That was an easy guess. She no longer wore a wedding band but there was a faint mark on her ring finger.
“You have children, yes? In this world?”
“Yes, if you mean, are they alive?” Helen was puzzled.
“Yes. Sometimes children have passed on, miscarriages, stillbirth. There are three here, with you. And three have crossed over.” She quieted to judge Helen’s reaction. “You’ll be with them, too. They’re waiting for you.”
What? How could she know she’d had miscarriages? Helen was weirdly disoriented, unmoored.
“You won’t have any more, you know,” Bernice said. “Children.”
Bernice handed her the deck of cards.
“Shuffle these. Make a wish or ask the cards a question. But don’t tell me. When you’re done, divide them into three stacks.”
Helen shuffled the cards then laid them out as directed. Bernice picked up the card stacks and placed one on top of the next. She deftly began to place each card on the table until she made nine piles. Helen considered her ‘wish’. Bernice quickly turned over cards, to ‘read’ them.
“Your father has passed, right?”
“But your mother’s here?”
“Yes, but not right here,” Helen laughed. “Not in Gainesville, I mean.”
“Here are your children. Two boys, one girl, correct?” Bernice touched three cards.
Helen nodded. She was jittery, nervous, and not just from the caffeine.
“You have an older sister, correct?”
“And she was, in some ways, like a mother to you?”
“Yes, when I was a teenager. Now we barely speak.”
“There’s a great deal of jealousy surrounding you.” Bernice stood up, grabbed the coffee pot and filled their cups.
“Your husband loves you, and your children, but… how can I say this? It’s like he’s sitting on top of a mountain, meditating about the world and only occasionally glances at you and the kids. He’s not a bad person, but he’s not interested.”
Wow. “That’s a good way to describe him.”
“You met because he wanted you to do something for him, correct?”
“And have you done this?”
“I’m trying to.” Hot and sweaty, Helen pushed her hair away from her face and reached into her purse for a barrette. She wanted to pull off her stockings. The AC wasn’t cooling well.
“Good, you need to complete this, so you can move on. You’ll be happier.”
“Did you bring something of his?”
Helen handed her the set of handprints that Joseph had provided.
“Here. These are his.”
Bernice studied the prints. “You want me to read a different set, though. Other than these, right?”
“Yes.” She pulled a tape recorder out of her handbag. “May I?”
Bernice glanced up from the handprints. “Of course.”
“His prints are on police forms, but this man was never arrested. Did he make these for you, before you came here?”
“He is extremely psychic. Did you know that?”
“He’s not the right partner for you. You already know this.”
“He is a very gifted musician and he’d be happy by himself, just working on his music.”
“He’s sensitive, psychically, and has traveled to the stars. This man could raise billions for starving children but never notice that his own children need shoes.”
“Yes.” Shaking, she lit another cigarette, exposed by Bernice, her soul laid bare.
Bernice gathered the cards into a green velvet pouch. Helen wiped tears from her face.
“Let me see these,” Bernice said. She picked up the envelope and felt revulsion, blackness. She wanted to torch it, burn it to ash, but instead she cleared her throat.
She pulled out the four 8”x10” black-and-white photographs, two of a right hand and two of a left. She examined them, then picked up one of each, set them aside.
“These belong to a man diametrically opposite to your husband,” Bernice said. “Is this someone close to you?”
“Are you certain?” Irritated, Bernice picked up a pencil. “Are you sure these don’t belong to someone you know? A boyfriend?”
“No, I don’t know him.”
“This man is severely psychotic and needs to be removed from society; hospitalized. He shouldn’t be near people. Women especially.”
Bernice ran the eraser down one of the lines on the right palm. “This is his lifeline, and it’s strange. I’ve never seen anything like this…”
“It’s very broad and deep. There’s feathering at the top, at the beginning, and there’s feathering at the bottom. This feathering is on both of his hands, but it’s very prominent on his left hand. What does this mean. Is he left-handed?” 
Helen shrugged. “I don’t know.”
Rainclouds covered the sun. The room darkened. The wind increased. Tree branches scraped against the trailer’s aluminum siding.
“He’s a bad man,” Bernice said. “He hurts people. He’s cruel. He shouldn’t be among us.”
“Is he evil?”
“How you’ve come to have his handprints, worries me a great deal,” Bernice said. “He’d have no compunctions about beating a woman. Jesus, Helen, who is this?”
“Do you think he is capable of killing someone?”
“Has he killed?”
“Yes. He has killed. Many times, I think.”
Lightning slashed the sky. An immediate blast of thunder shook the trailer. Day turned to night. The electricity flickered.
A crazy situation. Some creepy organ music would complete the scene.
“Is he evil?” Rain and hail pelted the trailer.
“He’s worse than evil. He’s also very psychic and used this ability to find his victims.” Bernice turned the photos over. “I can’t look at these anymore.”
Helen put them into her purse.
“Tell me who this is and how you got these prints?” She glared at Helen.
“Well, these belong to Ted Bundy,” Helen said.
“Turn off that recorder. Now!”
Bernice slumped in her chair as Helen put away the recorder.
“I’ve never been so frightened,” Bernice said. “I don’t scare easily, but I am shocked.” The psychic closed her eyes. “My heart is pounding. Oh my God.”
“I’m sorry, Bernice, truly sorry. I should have warned you, but I wanted to see if you could read them.”
“Boy, I’ll say I could. When you said his name, ice ran through me, because I was so accurate. Maybe the feathering is there because he was executed. I don’t know why it was there at his birth…perhaps he was born evil.”
Bernice shook two aspirin out of a bottle, poured some water and swallowed the pills. “Jesus, you scared me half to death.”
“I know. I’m sorry. Your description of him was uncanny.”
“I couldn’t have done better if he was sitting here with us.”
The women talked as the storm died down. Helen explained how she had met Joseph and his work with the Chi Omega murder investigation.
As she prepared to leave, Bernice asked her to come back again. “I haven’t been so intrigued by a reading since… well, ever,” she said.
“I will. I promise,” Helen said as she hugged the psychic.
It would be over a year before they would speak again, when a serial killer crossed Helen's path for a second time.
 He was left-handed.