From the +quot;Tampa Bay Skeptics Report+quot; Vol. 4 No. 4 Spring 1992 Published by Tampa

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From the "Tampa Bay Skeptics Report" Vol. 4 No. 4 Spring 1992 Published by Tampa Bay Skeptics 6219 Palma Blvd. #210 St. Petersburg, FL 33715 $10/yr. (4 issues) Copyright 1992. May be quoted by press if appropriate credit is given to "Tampa Bay Skeptics Report." [Note: Data failures in the transmission of this ASCII version have been noticed. The Skeptic Tank SysOp has attempted to recover some missing text]. TBS "$1,000 Challenge": Tampa Bay Skeptics is offering $1,000 and a place in history to anyone able to provide TBS with verifiable scientific proof of any paranormal phenomenon. This notice represents an open invitation to any and all Florida UFOlogists, psychics, astrologers, dowsers, and the like. Please contact TBS for complete details. *** BULLETIN: Merrell vs. Renier settlement *** Contacted by "Tampa Bay Skeptics Report" for a late update, Tennessee skeptic John Merrell reports that he has completed negotiations with Orlando "psychic" Noreen Renier to settle once and for all their longstanding and bitter litigation. Beyond that, he is unable to comment further. His Orlando attorney, Eric W. Ludwig, has confirmed an "amicable settlement," beyond which he offered "...no further comment." As chronicled in numerous prior issues of "TBS Report" [as well as in the June 1991 issue of FATE magazine], Renier had successfully sued Merrell for libel, winning a $25,000 jury award in Oregon in 1986. Merrell's efforts to appeal the verdict, and then to have the debt discharged through bankruptcy, were unsuccessful. He then filed suit against Renier in Florida, and was countersued. The recently negotiated settlement has now brought all litigation to a conclusion. "The Incredible Gall of 'The Amazing Kreskin'" by Gary P. Posner, M.D. (TBS Founder, "TBS Report" Editor and Publisher) "It's not a magic act," Kreskin assured the viewers of WTVT-TV's "Eye on Tampa Bay" on January 7. "The Amazing Kreskin," billed for years as "The World's Foremost Mentalist," and in town for a January 8-12 engagement at Clearwater's Showboat Dinner Theatre, was responding to host Kathy Fountain's question as to what he means by "mentalist." But if Kreskin's isn't a magic act, it's the closest imitation of one this side of Uri Geller's. Kreskin, in his typically ingratiating and self-promoting manner, began the TV show by mentioning that Johnny Carson's "Carnac is a satire of me" (but not a word about his own routine being modeled after that of the 1940s and early '50s magician "The Great Dunninger"). He also wasted little time in complimenting Fountain's earrings and, noting that "very few cities" have live interview shows like "Eye," he implored the audience to "hold onto this show." Had a member of Tampa Bay Skeptics been available in the audience, as we had earlier planned, Kreskin might have regretted those words before the 30 minutes were over, and might not have been motivated to gush "I love you" to Fountain as the show's final few seconds ticked away. As always, Kreskin disowned the label "psychic" ("I cannot foretell the future") while claiming psychic-type powers ("I can read people's thoughts"). As an example of his non-psychic yet amazing "intuition," Kreskin told of how three years ago, "I studied for 30 hours" before correctly predicting "for one of the networks" the six main Academy Award winners, even noting that "in the foreign movie category I couldn't come to a decision [between] two movies....[and] it was the first time in years that a tie and both movies [won]." When he added that "They opened [the predictions] the next day on the air" (i.e. that his alleged predictions were only revealed ex post facto), the audience members' applause attested to their lack of appreciation of the point's real significance. "Eye" producer Joyce Pearson had notified TBS of Kreskin's appearance about a week in advance, allowing us time to provide much skeptical material, including three articles from the National Capital Area Skeptics (NCAS) newsletter "Skeptical Eye," and the two chapters from "The Psychology of the Psychic" (Kammann and Marks, Prometheus Books, 1980) which dissect/debunk Kreskin's entire stage routine. As a result, Kathy Fountain asked Kreskin to address "the charges by some skeptics who say this is reglorified magic act, that a magician could do the things that you do." (The eyebrows of one of the two audience members visible in the camera shot rose dramatically with that question.) In his response, Kreskin stated that "I still offer $50,000 to anybody in the world who can prove I employ paid assistants, confederates in any phase of my program. No one has ever collected it." (But no one makes that charge.) He added, "I don't have that much skepticism [about me] any more....People have seen me work for so many years with celebrities and the general public on television. If things were rigged, by now someone would have blown the whistle, because people who work for royalty even with exposés on what people eat and throw away in the garbage....In our culture today, trust has gone out the window...and I haven't had any problems through my career." Although Fountain possessed a few 18 ct. gold "whistles," including one recovered from "the garbage," she opted to break for a commercial ─ I sympathize with her dual, and sometimes conflicting, responsibilities as both gracious host/interviewer and anchor/newswoman. The incriminating "garbage" involved the one trick in Kreskin's stage show whose solution could only be deduced by Marks and Kammann, and which was finally solved 10 years later by members of NCAS during a 1990 D.C. area performance by Kreskin. After collecting written messages from the audience, Kreskin had someone select one, memorize it, tear the paper into pieces and throw the scraps on the floor. Kreskin, of course, correctly "divined" the message ─ but NCAS members later recovered the scraps which were thrown out while Kreskin was backstage, compared the handwriting on the message to Kreskin's own, and published their findings in their Winter 1990-91 "Skeptical Eye" [we reprinted the photograph on page 1 of this newsletter ─ copy of newsletter available from TBS for $2.00 and self-addressed stamped envelope]. When the program resumed, Kreskin informed Fountain that "I haven't said anything ─ the folks of the staff know this ─ but this test is going to be done with you. But I didn't want you to know." Fountain, in the 'spirit' of things (so to speak), responded, "Oh, really! Oh, gee! I hate when they surprise me!" And as the audience laughed, Kreskin added, "Ah, no, no. We've pre-arranged nothing. You don't know what I'm going to do, do you?," to which Fountain replied, "No, no, I don't." Kreskin then wrongfully selected a hidden word on a card and sat it against the table, facing it away from the audience and camera. He then asked Fountain to collect five items from the audience. After she did so, and handed them to Kreskin, he stated, to emphasize the spontaneity of the situation, "And I'll tell you, I did not intend to do this," but that he decided to only after a questioner made a point about Kreskin's ability to, in Kreskin's words, "preset the mind" of his audience. Kreskin lined up the five items across the desktop, and after having Fountain momentarily close her eyes as he passed his hand in front of her face (adding an element of 'mysticism' to the proceedings), he asked her to "touch one of the items" (she picked up the ring). Without missing a beat, Kreskin then requested that she "pick up another item" with her other hand (she picked the scarf). He then told Fountain that "you've eliminated two of them," and placed them in a forward position on the table. He then asked her to push forward one of the three remaining items, saying that "this is the only time I'm going to ask you to do this" (she pushed forward the watch). But instead of announcing that three items were now "eliminated," with two remaining (keys and Certs), Kreskin dramatically revealed the hidden word: "WATCH." And as the audience "oohed" and "aahed" and applauded enthusiastically, Fountain asked, "How did you do that?" I would not ordinarily have used two paragraphs to describe this parlor trick, just as I am not going to waste one describing the card trick with which Kreskin concluded the show (except to mention that although he said that his deck contained only the 13 hearts, it was clearly twice that thick). But a curious thing had happened as Fountain was in the process of collecting the five items from the audience. As she moved and looked about, she asked, "O.K. Who did he s...? [say?]....What was the fifth item audience members then responded 'Scarf']....The scarf, O.K." It appeared that Kreskin must also have known, before he wrote "WATCH," what five objects were going to be selected, without even needing to employ his celebrated powers of "mentalism." And given the fluidity of the rules of the game, he would have succeeded no matter which of the five items had been written on the card. Before he left Tampa Bay, Kreskin hopefully had an opportunity to read my "Letter to the Editor" in the St. Petersburg Times (published on Jan. 11 in response to the Times' favorable Jan. 3 article). And TBS had delivered for him, at the Showboat, our Jan. 8 "Press Release" in which we offered "to pay $10,000 (10 times our usual standing offer) to 'The Amazing Kreskin' for a successful demonstration of even one of his 'mentalism' feats, under conditions that eliminate the possibility of a non-'Amazing explanation..." We received no response from the media or from Kreskin. Kreskin had pointed out during his "Eye on Tampa Bay" appearance that his new book, "Secrets of The Amazing Kreskin," had already entered its third printing after only six weeks. That Prometheus Books is its publisher is of concern to many who admire Prometheus' reputation as a source of credible information on such subjects as psychology and the paranormal. Ironically, the real secrets of "The Amazing Kreskin" were published by Prometheus, back in 1980, in "The Psychology of the Psychic." "'Eye on Tampa Bay' follows-up on John Monti's search for Tiffany Sessions" by Gary P. Posner Noting that "We in the media have, I think, sometimes a bad habit of getting people worked up about a story such as this, and then not telling people whatever happened," host Kathy Fountain devoted her January 27 "Eye on Tampa Bay" program (WTVT-TV) to following-up on "psychic detective" John Monti's attempt to locate Tiffany Sessions (see our headline story last issue). Fountain added that "[some] people...thought, when they saw the [television] news coverage, that [Monti] had found Tiffany," the young man who disappeared three years ago off the University of Florida campus in Gainesville. Monti had claimed on the November 4 edition of "Eye" that later that week he and Tiffany's mother would "take her [Tiffany's] route...from where she left the college to where she is." But when asked by Fountain if Monti had indeed taken her to where her daughter is, Mrs. Sessions answered, "No, unfortunately....We walked around, and we took a route that he said that he thought that she went...but we came to nothing." Fountain later said that her producer, Joyce Pearson, had recently telephoned Monti, and was told that "he's not through working with [Sessions] on this case," but that "the 'media circus'...interfered with his ability to concentrate." Sessions then told Fountain that "I received two telephone calls from his assistant last night...and that's the first time that I've talked to her since they left [on November 8]....They claimed they had heard that I was going to be on a show today, and they wanted to make sure that it was going to be positive....I haven't worked with him since he left." When asked if she would "pick up where you left off" with Monti, Sessions answered "No," but would tell him to "do what you have to do, and if you find something, call me." A viewer/caller during the show, identifying himself as Jim Basil, the ex-police chief of Buckland, Massachusetts, stated that he had worked with Monti on a murder case, and that although Monti had indicated that the murderer was still alive, he was later found to have been long dead, "hanging from a tree.... [Monti offers] a lot of hopes, but his results leave a little bit to be desired." Sessions noted that "Mr. Monti was probably the 25th psychic" that she had worked with in her effort to locate her missing daughter, and that she continues to work with psychics who come forward to offer assistance. But although she told Fountain that she believes her daughter to still be alive, she also said that every psychic, including John Monti, has told her that her daughter is dead. Yet, in response to further questioning, Sessions declared her continued belief that "John does have some psychic abilities," and added that her use of psychics has been a positive experience in the sense that "it gives you a different perspective, and it puts your situation in the cosmic universe..." A particularly distressing portion of the discussion was joined by Ivana DiNova, Director of the Missing Children's Help Center in Brandon, Florida. As a teary-eyed Mrs. Sessions listened quietly, DiNova told of how Sessions had called her several weeks earlier to report that she had just accompanied two Baton Rouge psychics to a field in Gainesville where her daughter's body supposedly lay buried. Shovel in hand, Sessions had dug holes, searching for her daughter's decomposed body ─ just in case the psychics were right about Tiffany being dead. When 4:00 came and no body had been found, the psychics told Sessions that this was because, continued DiNova, "Whoever took her killed her, and probably has her in four different parts, and buried her in four different places in this field." Added Sessions, "They also told me that after they mutilated her, that they burned her body ─ what was left of it....The hardest thing is not knowing. And if I have to dig, and I have to try and find my daughter's body, that's what I need to do. But I'd rather be more positive and hope that I'm going to find her alive and she's just going to walk in the door one day." Fountain expressed her disappointment that a "well-meaning psychic" would "say something so cruel....I'm assuming this person is off the case." When asked by Fountain if families should consult psychics, DiNova said, "We don't recommend psychics....[But] a good psychic who may have an ability to find a body, whether it's buried or wherever it may be, [should] go to law enforcement and take them there." But just before the show ended, a caller from Sarasota named Kelly, claiming to be a psychic who believed that Tiffany is alive (the first) and in North Carolina, seemed to win Fountain's approval, and was encouraged to leave her phone number so that Mrs. Sessions could contact her. "Randi voices optimism over Geller lawsuit" James Randi has recently sent an upbeat note to friends and supporters: "Over 300 contributions [to The James Randi Fund], small and large, have come in so far. Three major payments...have been made to my legal advisors....The opposition has been frantically issuing inane accusations against me....Please bear with me until I'm able to properly discuss and refute the garbage....The judge in the case has ruled that Mr. Geller must now prove his psychic powers under deposition. That should be very intesting to see, don't you think? I can't wait....Our battle will soon be won, and with it some landmark decisions....Thanks for your needed support..." "Ch. 10 news director leaves Tampa Bay" Mel Martin, news director of WTSP-TV for the past three years, has left the area to become station manager of WINK-TV in Fort Myers. Martin, a subscriber to the "Skeptical Inquirer," loyal reader of "Tampa Bay Skeptics Report," and critic of the manner in which the news media generally cover claims of the paranormal, had developed a good working relationship with TBS. It was under Martin's stewardship that TBS was invited to accompany a Ch. 10 crew to Tarpon Springs, to assist his station's reporting on the 1989 "Weeping Icon" story. Last summer, it was Martin who contacted TBS requesting that we assemble a panel to address a meeting of the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, which Martin hosted at WTSP. And, as noted in our last issue, it was again Martin who alerted us to John Monti's arrival in town, and who did not wish to cover the story about input from TBS. The Bay area's loss will be WINK's gain, and we wish Martin well. "Hoagland axed from 'For The People'" Richard Hoagland, author of "The Monuments of Mars," has been relieved of his post as "Science Advisor" to Chuck Harder's "For The People" radio program. But according to Don Ecker's article in "UFO" magazine (Vol. 7 No. 1, 1992, p. 21), it was not outlandishness on Hoagland's part, but his scientific fastidiousness, that earned him the ax. Both Harder (who is based in White Springs, Florida) and Hoagland have been the subjects of articles in prior issues of "TBS Report" as a result of their pro-paranormal promotions. One of Harder's was (is?) an alleged October 6, 1977 New York Times article about a newly discovered asteroid which, according to scientists named in the article, was exhibiting evidence of intelligent control, and which was expected to "take up an orbit around Earth just inside that of the Moon on or about October 25." The piece turned out to be a clever forgery (no such article was ever published in the Times). According to the "UFO" magazine story, "On one of Hoagland's weekly spots [on FTP], he attacked Harder on the air, lambasting him for giving out the story without, according to Hoagland, checking the facts." Oh, well. What does "For The People" need with a "Science Advisor" anyway? "Ed Walters' motives questioned" Writing in the January issue of his privately published "Skeptics UFO Newsletter," CSICOP UFO Subcommittee Chairman Philip J. Klass examines one claim of Ed Walters, whose Gulf Breeze UFO photographs have been acknowledged by most UFOlogists to be a hoax. The following is excerpted with permission: -- Ed Walters claims [on p. 31 of his book] that it was his concern for the safety and well-being of "our friends and neighbors" that prompted him to release his first UFO photos for publication in The (Gulf Breeze) Sentinel....If Walters' claim were true, surely the first people he should have alerted that he had been zapped by a UFO in his front yard would be his neighbors. Ed's closest neighbors were Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Morris, who lived next door for 16 months during the time when Walters [reported] the first and numerous subsequent UFO visits. Their residence was only 20 feet away....Yet Walters never alerted the Morris family to the potential threat, according to Mrs. Morris. Nor did Walters sound out the Morris family to determine if they also had seen a UFO.... According to Mrs. Morris, "On no occasion during that 16 month period did we see or hear anything in the slightest unusual. Nor did we ever hear, at the time or since, of any of the other nearby neighbors reporting anything ─ with the exception of Mr. Walters." -- "CSICOP workshop on magic, trickery and the paranormal" A workshop entitled "Magic for Skeptics: Trickery and the Paranormal" will be held on April 17-19 at the Ramada Hotel in Lexington, Kentucky. Sponsored by CSICOP through its Center for Inquiry Institute, the seminar will be led by Drs. Joe Nickell and Robert Baker, both from the University of Kentucky. Full details are available from TBS (for a stamped return envelope) or from CSICOP, Box 703, Buffalo, NY 14226. "SNIPPETS" [derived and rewritten from the referenced sources] Should ET ever phone Earth, news of this event will not be released to the public until verified through an elaborate process ratified by the International Academy of Astronautics. The Declaration of Principles Concerning Activities Following the Detection of Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence specifies that first, the radioastronomer must record the signal and contact other scientists around the world so that they may confirm its existence. The International Astronomical Union is to then be informed, whereupon they will in turn issue a report via the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams. After that, the Secretary General of the United Nations, the Institute for Space Law, and the International Telecommunications Union are to be told, the latter's job being to clear the channel of earthly radio traffic to allow the signal to be better heard. Only then is the general public to be informed that an ET signal has apparently been received. Why do I get the feeling that we'll be reading all about it in The Star first? (Or perhaps in New York Newsday ─ see next item.) (Parade Magazine, Dec. 29) Shades of the counterfeit N.Y. Times article (see the Hoagland/Harder item in this newsletter)? Astronomer Brian Marsden, Director of the International Astronomical Union's Central Telegram Bureau in Cambridge, Mass., has suggested that the asteroid dubbed "1991 VG" which passed within 288,000 miles of Earth on Dec. 5 may actually be an alien craft. "I'm pretty convinced by this observation that it's an artificial object," said Marsden of the object's newly observed "winking" ─ it appears to become, at times, brighter, then darker again, every 7.5 minutes ─ which Marsden says is "reminiscent of a rapidly rotating satellite with highly reflective side panels." But even before this new observation, according to the article, "Marsden has always thought the object was probably artificial." Says Jet Propulsion Laboratory research astronomer Donald Yeomans, who still believes 1991 VG to be simply a 30-foot-wide asteroid, "But there's still a chance it's a spacecraft, and we're looking into it." (New York Newsday via Buffalo News, Dec. 10) Dallas televangelist Robert Tilton who, through his "Success-N-Life" national TV show, rakes in more money than any of his fellow "preyers," has been sued by the state of Texas. Attorney General Dan Morales informed Tilton in a January 10 letter that he has reason to believe that Tilton's ministry has "engaged in trade practices and charitable solicitations that may violate provisions of state law." Tilton has obtained a federal judge's order temporarily blocking the state's access to his financial records. (St. Petersburg Times, Jan. 23, Feb. 7 & Feb. 9) The recently late tycoon Robert Maxwell has granted an exclusive interview to the British tabloid The Sun. British "psychic" Nella Jones, who brokered the deal, jumped the gun by saying that Maxwell has told her that he did not jump, nor did he accidentally fall, from his yacht. "He's not the pleasantest guy to get in touch with, let me tell you," added Jones. Gee, sorry, Nella. (AP via St. Pete. Times, Jan. 4; Baltimore Eve. Sun, Jan. 7) Scotland Yard has concluded that psychics are of no value to law enforcement agencies in solving crimes. Following a year's investigation, Detective-Chief Superintendent Eddie Ellison, quoted in London's Daily Telegraph, announced that "There were no cases of psychics either offering effective help or being invited [by Scotland Yard] to assist investigations." Another Scotland Yard spokesperson had earlier assured that "Whatever information we receive, from whatever source, is evaluated and followed the normal way." Retorts our friend Nella Jones, "I know how much help I have given Scotland Yard over the last year....When they say they never call on psychics for help, that's a lie." (AP via St. Pete. Times, Jan. 26) Russian astrologers are apparently as astute as their American counterparts. Tamara Globa, writing in "Pravda," sees the coming two years as "especially dangerous for us. I can see state borders changing from the middle of 1992 up to the end of 1993." Her estranged husband Pavel, bylined in the Moscow Council daily "Kuranty," sees that "War, famine and unemployment are coming." One question: Did either of them predict any of this before the Soviet Union had already self-destructed? (London Observer via St. Pete. Times, Jan. 10) The Florida State Board of Acupuncture has endorsed for Board membership Linda W. Chin, a Miami acupuncturist who advocates sterilizing acupuncture needles with "saliva" and reusing them in "emergency" situations. Her nomination by Governor Chiles was ratified by a 5-2 vote of the Senate Executive Business, Ethics and Elections Committee, and is now pending final approval by the full state Senate. Sen. Fred Dudley of Fort Myers says, "Her reputation in her profession appears to be very, very poor... She has never passed the [state licensing] exam. What a sad state of affairs in Florida." (AP via St. Pete. Times, Jan. 17) "Letter-to-the-Editor" Editor: Modern science tells us that Gravity is the only force controlling the motions of celestial bodies. On a hunch I discovered that today's wisemen have predicted that on Feb. 3, 1992, at 0900 hours UT, the moon will reach new moon phase and pass at right angles between the earth and the sun. At that instant, if the gravitational force from the earth and the sun were equal, the moon would continue on that same path, at right angles to both. In other words, the moon would continue to increase its distance from both major bodies until one force or the other became greater. Then, obeying Newton's Laws of Motion, it would vector toward the greater force ─ if the sun's pull were greater, the moon would be torn from its earthly orbit forever. Unbelievable as it may seem, the shocking results of my calculations [on 3 included worksheets] indicate that the sun's force is over 2 1/2 times the earth's force. Our beautiful moon must begin to move closer to the sun and be lost to us forever unless the earth is also moving toward the sun. But from early January to the beginning of July, the earth is continually moving away from the sun (at about 17,000 km/day). Now comes the strange (paranormal) part. The wisemen themselves expect the moon to defy the Laws of Motion by actually rejecting the sun's force and moving over 4,000 km. closer to earth during the next day, despite the 2 1/2 x greater pull of the sun. If you concede that the moon will stay in orbit, negating either the Law of Gravity or the Laws of Motion, please send my $1,000 check [for winning your "$1,000 Challenge"]. R. René, Port Richey, FL TBS consultant Jack Robinson, who studied astronomy/physics at Yale and at Harvard (where he was awarded his doctorate), responds: The data that René lists are generally correct, as is his calculated result for the sun's gravitational force on the moon relative to the earth's. However, his inference from this calculated result is not in accord with Newton's laws. If the sun and the earth were stationary and fixed in place (93 million miles apart), and if the moon were placed between them (240,000 mi. from the earth) and released, then the moon would indeed fall toward the sun and away from the earth. However, the earth and moon are not stationary; rather, they are undergoing orbital motion, so the result is different. The relevant law of motion is Newton's 2nd, which indicates: If there are forces acting on a body, that body experiences "acceleration" in the direction of the net force (with an acceleration that is directly proportional to the net force). René's statements seem to confuse the concepts of "movement" and "acceleration," particularly in the case of orbital motion. If a small, light body is in orbit around a very massive body, influenced only by the latter's force of attraction, the revolving body is "accelerated" toward the massive one, in the sense that its velocity changes as it revolves; and the direction of the change in velocity is toward the massive body. The sun's gravitational force on the moon is greater than the earth's (not only at new moon, but at all times). Therefore, the moon "accelerates" toward the sun, and the way it does so is by going into orbit around the sun. But the earth also orbits the sun. And as both bodies orbit the sun, they interact with each other (due to their mutual gravitational attraction) in such a way that from the point of view of an earthly observer, the moon seems to revolve around the earth. René correctly notes that on Feb. 3 the earth's distance from the sun is increasing, but so is the moon's. At the same time, both are undergoing "acceleration" toward the sun in response to the sun's gravitational force. "Acceleration" is always in the same direction as the net force causing it, although the direction of "motion" can be different. For example, a rock thrown upward from the earth's surface "moves" first upward and then downward. Its "acceleration" is always downward, losing speed as well, and gaining speed as it falls. Similarly, even though the moon always "accelerates" toward the sun, it does not necessarily "move" toward the sun and away from the earth. The moon always does move in accord with Newton's laws of motion and gravity. I am confident that anyone well educated in physics and astronomy would concur. ─Jack Robinson, Ed.D. Professor Emeritus, USF [End "TBSR" V4N4 Spring 1992]

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