From Tampa Bay Skeptics Report Vol. 4 No. 3 Winter 1991-92 Published by Tampa Bay Skeptics

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From Tampa Bay Skeptics Report Vol. 4 No. 3 Winter 1991-92 Published by Tampa Bay Skeptics 6219 Palma Blvd. #210 St. Petersburg, FL 33715 (1:377/33 Fidonet) $10/yr. (4 issues) Copyright 1991. May be quoted from if appropriate credit is given to Tampa Bay Skeptics Report. Psychic Detective John Monti Searches for Tiffany Sessions by Gary P. Posner, M.D. (TBS Founder, TBS Report Editor and Publisher) On the afternoon of November 1, WTSP-TV 10 news director Mel Martin called me about John Monti, a ``psychic detective'' from New York. Monti had scheduled a press conference for 6 P.M. in Clearwater to announce his intention to solve the case of Tiffany Sessions, the young woman who mysteriously disappeared several years ago while jogging in Gainesville, Florida. Martin, who has consistently demonstrated his dedication to the rational and balanced presentation of paranormal claims (and who hosted TBS appearance before the Society of Professional Journalists in June) told me that he did not wish to report about the press conference without input from the Tampa Bay Skeptics. I thus arrived at the studio at 8:30 P.M. to review videotape of the press conference and to tape my reactions. The fifteen seconds of air time that I received on that nights 11:00 news was better than nothing which, predictably, seems to have been the value of Montis "psychic" detective work. Three days later, Monti appeared on WTVT-TV 13s Eye on Tampa Bay, along with the mother of Tiffany Sessions (neither the police nor Tiffanys father would have anything to do with him). The mother explained that although she had been disappointed by the "psychics" that she had previously consulted, she felt confident that Monti, who seemed to have more specific information than did the others, would be successful. The two of them would travel to Gainesville, and spend November 6 and 7 searching for the missing woman. My only knowledge of Monti, other than from these TV appearances, was from a June 1 newspaper article in the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press (faxed to me from CSICOP in response to my inquiry), and from my subsequent conversations with New Jersey law enforcement officers. The article discussed Montis arrival in the town of Sayreville, where 5-year-old Timothy Wiltsey had disappeared at a carnival about one week earlier. Monti, who claims an envious track record of ``psychic'' sleuthing (and of private readings for members of the Kennedy and Cuomo families), purported in the article to have visions of the child running toward the kiddie rides, falling, and being "picked up and carried [by a woman] to a white car...across the street...The woman took the child, took a left turn on Washington Avenue, then the first right...and went in to one of the cellar level apartments in the complex." The night before the newspaper article was published, Fox TVs "Americas Most Wanted" program had spotlighted the case. During the Eye on Tampa Bay show, I remarked (by phone) that Monti had failed to solve the Wiltsey case just a few months earlier. But Monti would not accept responsibility for his failure: "The mother did not want to find the child....[A] New York Times article stat[ed] that the mother was suspicious (sic) of doing something with the child....I can do so much as a psychic, but Im not going to tell parents what to do with their kids - I cant take their kids away from their parents." I did not have an opportunity to follow-up on the air, but, after placing another call to New Jersey, I prepared a TBS "Press Release" which I faxed on November 6 to the Tampa Bay and Gainesville TV stations and newspapers. In it I noted that Montis "job" had not been to take the already missing boy away from the parent, but to solve the case via "psychic power" (not by reading the N.Y. Times). I also reported upon my conversation with Detective Sargent Ray Durski of the South Amboy, N.J. Police Department, who told me of Montis efforts: "He gave us about four different locations that we checked out. He had strong feelings that the boy had been in an abandoned building on our main thoroughfare. We went through the entire building and found no articles of clothing that he suggested we might find. The following day he suggested an area near a railroad track where he had strong feelings that there was someone who had committed suicide, and that he could be in that wooded area. We searched that area and there was nothing there also. He then contacted our South Amboy First Aid Department and gave them strong feelings that we could possibly find a body in a landfill area adjacent to the waterfront. They then conducted a search with over 100 people and they found nothing there. After that, he came back again, and he stated that he sees the boy running away from the mother's house in the direction of the railroad tracks. Of course we checked that area, too, and came up with nothing." Durski added, "We more or less believed in him to a certain extent, and we didn't discount any of his leads. He came on strong at first [but] I don't think he helped us whatsoever. After all the publicity and the news coverage subsided, so did he." When I asked about the mothers refusal to cooperate with Monti, Durski responded, "I think what happened was that after the first meeting at the grounds [where the boy disappeared], I think more or less that the mother became very skeptical of him. She watched [from her car] what he was doing and I think she probably didn't approve of what he was doing." About Montis allegation that the mother doesn't want the child found: "Thats a new twist." Does Durski agree that her behavior has been suspicious?: "No, I don't." Montis search for Tiffany Sessions also appears to have been unsuccessful. WFLA-TV 8 reported as much on November 7, although the reporter noted that Monti was still optimistic that he was on the right track. If he employed the same "shotgun" approach with Mrs. Sessions that he did in New Jersey - creating so many "leads" that one of them, in retrospect, will likely be considered close enough to be a "hit" if and when the body is found - John Monti may one day return to claim credit for having contributed toward solving the case. For her familys sake, I wish Monti had succeeded in locating Tiffany Sessions, and would have voted to award him TBSs "$1,000 Challenge" prize had he done so. [Note: We have a challenge similar to James Randis $10,000 one]. But I could have predicted (and did) that Montis famed "psychic power" would fail him once again. Uri Geller Kin Accuses TBSs Posner of "Defamation" In a letter to the editor of the St. Petersburg Times (published on September 9), TBS founder Gary Posner, responding to a favorable Sept. 1 article about alleged Israeli "psychic" Uri Geller, stated, "The fact that Geller is an acknowledged magician might have been worth mentioning in your column.'' This letter prompted one in return (on Uri Geller Associates Limited letterhead) to Posner from "S. Shtrang," claiming that the above comment "is false and a defamation. Do you have any advertisements, leaflets, posters, tickets or any other proof that Geller "is an acknowledged magician?" Posners use of the word "acknowledged" (defined by the Random House Dictionary of the English Language as "widely recognized; generally accepted: an acknowledged authority on Chinese art.") followed the lead of James Randi (see "Flim-Flam," Prometheus, 1982, page 39) and Kendrick Frazier, editor of the "Skeptical Inquirer" (see Winter 1986-87 issue, page 120). Shtrang, whose native language may not be English, may have misunderstood Posners comment to have meant "self-acknowledged." Randi has informed Posner that Shtrang is Geller's brother-in-law. In an article published in "New Scientist" ("Geller a fake, says ex-manager," April 6, 1978), Randi identified "Shipi Shtrang...Gellers main assistant in these matters...act[ing] as a confederate by sitting in the audience [during Gellers performances of alleged ESP] and signalling to the stage..." Though Shtrang's letter to Posner was not sent to the St. Petersburg Times (nor apparently did the paper receive any letter from him for publication), a "cc:" notation indicated that two law firms received copies. As noted in recent issues of "TBS Report," intimidation by alleged "psychics" toward those skeptical of their claims is a growing problem. "TBS Report" and its editor remain committed to excellence and accuracy in critical inquiry and reporting about claims of the paranormal, in spite of the hazards involved. "Crop Circle" Solution? Two bipedal humanoids have come forward to claim responsibility for the genesis of the "Crop Circle" craze. Initially appearing as simple circles confined to British wheat fields, the phenomenon has in recent years become world-wide, with increasingly intricate geometric patterns being found in increasingly remote areas. And as previously reported in "TBS Report," Richard Hoagland, author of "The Monuments of Mars" (and now the former "Science Advisor" to Chuck Harders "For the People" radio program), claims to have found mathematical proof that the Martian "monuments" and the crop circles are related, and are conveying a message about the existence of an easily tapped fourth-dimensional source of free energy, rendering fossil fuels (and even solar cells) obsolete. Once thought by some scientists to be explainable in terms of natural phenomena such as wind vortices, today's intricate crop "pictograms" appear explainable only as "man-made." The only remaining matter in dispute seems to be the planet of origin of the "men and women" involved. Enter Doug Bower and David Chorley, inhabitants of a planet in the outskirts of the Milky Way galaxy known as "Earth." Without benefit of a UFO with which to etch their "messages" into the ground, these two gentlemen, now in their 60s, informed the London tabloid "Today" in September that they are the originators of the phenomenon which industrious "copy-cat" artists have now refined. To illustrate their point, Bower and Chorley, using their trusty, if primitive, wooden boards (and accompanied by a reporter), created a crop circle which author and self-styled expert Patrick Delgado declared the genuine article. Later confessing the obvious (that he had been duped in this instance), Delgado protested, "Yesterday there were circles discovered on a prairie in Canada. Have these guys been out there with their board?" Delgados associate, Colin Andrews, has been a bit more outspoken than his colleague. Appearing with Bower and Chorley on "Good Morning America" on September 10, Andrews railed: "These gentlemen cannot begin to account for the change in the crystalline structure of the plants....They cannot explain what we have on film - the unusual objects seen actually in these crop circles....It is most disturbing irresponsible intrusion into this research in the form of what appears to be a [British] national newspaper coup...has seen fit to go along with these gentlemen who...showed how clever they were in constructing a circle which was a mess in every respect...nothing like the phenomenon we've been looking at for the last 12 years." Ch. 10 News Anchor Fails to Produce $1,000 Challenge Faith-healing Case During TBSs videotaped presentation to the local Society of Professional Journalists on June 3, WTSP-TV morning and afternoon news anchor Al Ruechel claimed to have witnessed, while in Africa, numerous examples of levitation, although apparently he has no videotaped evidence to substantiate the claim. As reported in our Summer issue, he later made another paranormal claim to TBSs Dr. Gary Posner, one that he felt able to prove - that there have been, to his knowledge, many local successful faith-healings, including such dramatic cures as a golfball-sized malignant tumor being present one day and gone the next. Although he had promised to get back to Posner with a case for TBSs "$1,000 Challange," Ruechel has failed to do so. On September 5, Posner wrote a letter to Ruechel, reminding him of their handshake agreement. Posner concluded, "We hope that you will follow-up on this matter. As I told you at the time, no such miraculous claims have yet been able to withstand the critical scrutiny of skeptical investigators, and history would literally be made if TBS were to be able to substantiate such a claim." We regret that Mr. Ruechel has not responded to the letter, and has given no indication of any intent to produce evidence to substantiate his remarkable claim. Letters-to-the-Editor Dr. Posner: With this letter I make the first move to claim TBSs "$1,000 Challenge" award that you offered in the August, October and November issues of the local Mensa newsletter [the "Tampa Bay Sounding"]. A much shorter version has been sent to James "Amazing" Randi to claim the $10,000 reward he brags about. As you will learn by reading it, I believe that you will not even want to acknowledge its receipt, after you discover that I have as little use for professional philosophers (scientists) as you have for the majority of people who understand that there is much the priests of the modern religion called "science" do not even suspect. It is difficult to believe that anyone, especially a Mensan, would make this offer, but perhaps you are a good Samaritan and know how badly I need that money to pursue my war with the high priests of modern science. It may also be that you have never actually looked up the definition of "paranormal" ("Not within the range of normal experience or scientifically explainable phenom-ena" - American Heritage Dictionary). It is on this precise definition that I lay claim to your prize. But before we proceed, I wish to tell you why I suspect that you will never pay up. I am the author of a book on science entitled "Mensa Lectures," and I have met with nothing but closed-mindedness from the men of science since the day I first invented the René Two Leaf Electroscope. In my laymans naiveté I had expected that my work would be examined by the scientific community, because the first mandate of science is to maintain an open mind. Right? WRONG! What my work did was to threaten what I have come to call their EBS (Emotional Belief System). Last February, Dr. Cyert, a President in Carnegie/Mellon University, promised to get the René Two Leaf Electroscope examined. In May he admitted that he failed. The real problem is that the professional scientists immediately realize that if my instrument tests as claimed, not only does Columbs Law of Electrostatic Attraction and Repulsion need revision, but also the surrealistic field of particle physics must be tossed in the garbage can. Accordingly, these "Quackbusters" find it much easier to brand me as a "crackpot" than to test my instrument. I had a similar experience with the National Science Foundation five years ago....Then last September the NSF financed the Scripps Institute to do one of the experiments I suggested. Coincidence? I have also been libeled by our ex-chairman and unilaterally deprived of my right to advertise my book. I have received pooh-poohs and tut-tuts from dozens of Mensa scientists, but no proof that I am wrong. I have been found guilty of heresy without a trial, and science has shown itself to be composed of extremely narrow-minded men who are limited as to what they will accept as evidence. Anything which goes against preconceived notions and the current politically correct party line is automatically rejected. Now we shall see if you are different. The paranormal phenomenon I wish to acquaint you with is called "Spontaneous Human Combustion." The surprising thing is that you, the founder of TBS, are not aware of it. I ran into it in 1949 when I was 15 years old by reading Charles Forts books. Since then I have heard of at least another half-dozen cases, including one right in your town...[the Mary Reeser case discussed in the item on "SHC" in our last issue, which Mr. René did not receive -G.P.] I have worked out the BTU required to reduce a human body, say 120 pounds (90% of which is water) to ashes, using a furnace. To give science every benefit of the doubt, let us assume that every particle of the victim that isnt water is a fuel with a heat equivalent of fuel oil (19,000 BTU per pound). In essence, we have 108 lbs. of water and 12 lbs. of fuel. Since wet fuel doesn't burn, we have to first steam out 108 lbs. of water. This means raising the body's temperature from 98.6° to 212°. This 113.4° rise would require that number times 108, or 12,247 BTU. To steam that water away requires another 970 BTU per pound, or 970 x 108 = 104,760 BTU. Adding the 12,247 + 104,760, we get a total of 117,007 BTU. To find the fuel required to do this job in a 100% efficient furnace, we must divide the total BTU needed by 19,000 BTU per pound. This tells us that we need 6.158 lbs. of fuel. However, the best furnaces, found in powerhouses, are only 25% efficient, so if the body were in that furnace it would require 4x this amount of fuel, or 24.6 lbs. Oops! We only have 12 lbs. at our disposal. SHC has just become a scientific impossibility. Remember our definition of paranormal? Write the check! Not good enough? In a barbeque situation 24 lbs. of fuel just might roast that carcass nicely for dinner, but it wouldn't reduce it to ashes. Write the check! The only possible way to reduce that body would be to use half a ton of pure oxygen and a gigantic bomb calorimeter. Write the check! Now you can cop out by ignoring me (the usual route), you can recite the nemesis of scientific evil which is accomplished by muttering the word "Impossible!" three times in a row while stamping your feet (I dont go away, but it will make you feel better), or you can investigate. But please dont take too long, because, as I originally stated, I need the money to continue my real war which is with the closed-minded priests of science. R. René, Port Richey, FL Editors reply: I am aware of no verifiable scientific proof that anyone has ever "spontaneously" burst into flames (the definition of "SHC"). The famous cases of alleged "SHC" all appear to involve an external ignition source, as well as an external source of additional fuel (e.g. in the Reeser case, the cigarette and the overstuffed chair). In later correspondence, René tried to claim an additional $1,000 for proof of the paranormal, since, as he pointed out, one of TBSs Consultants is a priest who believes in a paranormal God. René plans to continue to pursue our "$1,000 Challenge" by finding "experts" to confirm that cases like Reeser must be paranormal. Also, CSICOP has sent us a copy of an August 23 "Letter to the Editor" of the "Skeptical Inquirer" from Fred Meeker of Deland, Florida. According to Meeker, "a mere high school student has clearly demonstrated, once and for all, that the "Amazing Randi" and all others who think like him are wrong - dead wrong! Metal such as spoons can be bent using only the power of the mind!" Meeker claims to have been present when the student (unnamed) was invited to perform by "a group of Ph.D.s in scientific fields" who had heard of his powers. Says Meeker, "My face was only about 2 1/2 feet from the spoon...held by one of the Ph.D.s....After [about] 10 was bent over at the middle [like] a horseshoe. The spoons of the other Ph.D.s were also bent.... The Ph.D.s had brought other kinds of metal of other shapes and the boy bent them also." TBS responded with a letter to Meeker, inviting him to "arrange for the student in question to demonstrate his alleged "psychic" power in our presence....Members of TBS and the local media would serve in the same capacity as did the alleged group of unnamed Ph.D.s mentioned in your letter... with our $1,000 on the line." Our letter was mailed on Oct. 18, and we never received a response. [End "TBSR" V4-3 Winter 1991-92]


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