286: The Mind Reader and the Murderer: The Booher Farm Massacre

Episode 286: On July 9, 1928, the Alberta Provincial Police were alerted to a mass murder at the Booher farm in Mannville, Alberta. Upon arrival, they discovered the bodies of Rose Booher, her oldest son Fred, and two hired hands, Gabriel Grombey and Bill Rozak, all shot dead. 

The younger son, Vernon Booher, was unharmed. He’d been out in the fields working that evening and, after hearing shots, ran back to the house to his mother and brother dead. It was he who’d sounded the alarm.

Two Booher daughters were in town during the incident. The father of the family, Henry, also away during the killings, was devastated. 

Vernon displayed little emotion and soon became the number one suspect in the slayings. He denied involvement, and the murder weapon, a rifle, was missing. Dr. Adolph Maximilian Langsner, an Austrian criminologist and psychiatrist who claimed he could read brainwaves, was brought in to assist. He claimed he read Vernon’s mind, and confirmed he was the killer. Langsner also directed police to the missing firearm, claiming he’d drawn a map taken from Vernon’s thoughts. Presented with the formerly missing rifle, Vernon confessed, stating he killed his mother over her disapproval of his girlfriend and then eliminated witnesses. But his confession was disallowed. Why? His defence attorneys claimed Dr. Langsner had coerced him into it through hypnotism.


1928 CanLII 342 (AB KB) | Rex v. Booher | CanLII

2007 SCC 6 (CanLII) | R. v. Trochym | CanLII

2009 CanLII 40558 (ON SC) | R. v. Trochym | CanLII

Hypnotism and its Legal Import

Times Colonist 19 Jul 1928, page 10

Edmonton Journal 24 Jul 1928, page 1

Langsner on the Stand: The Vancouver Sun 26 Sep 1928, page 1

Edmonton Journal 29 Apr 1996, page 1

Edmonton Journal 29 Apr 1996, page 7

Hypnotically Enhanced Testimony in Criminal Proceedings

Book: Strange Days: Amazing Stories From Canada’s Wildest Decade by Ted Ferguson

Book: The Big Book of Canadian Hauntings by John Robert Colombo

Book: Murder: Twelve True Stories of Homicide in Canada by Edward Butts

Detective Maximilian Langsner and the Murderer’s Mind Part 1

Detective Maximilian Langsner and the Murderer’s Mind Part 2

After 17 years, Stephen Trochym admits slaying

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