The results are in: alcohol and telepathy don’t mix. At least they didn’t this past Saturday, when after over two years of negotiations with alleged telepath Regan Traynor, his test ended in a complete wash-out for him and his “receiver” Fernando.CFI hosted this much awaited preliminary test for their $50,000 challenge. The protocol was nearly as tight as the set-up was previously for Anita Ikonen. In fact, to the surprise of all in attendance at the earlier morning meeting of the IIG, Anita herself showed up and paid dues to become a member of the IIG! This was an amazing moment made even more amazing because I had just posted my blog about Karla McLaren and the plight of skepticism and how to reach out to the woo generation. It seems that Anita is experiencing a change of heart and is seriously considering becoming more of a skeptic. This may be sign of greater things to come, but as Steven Muscarella of the IIG group steering committee mentioned to her, she may have a long way to go before everyone embraces her with open arms. But that’s another story for another blog.
Regan showed up direct from a 14 hour bus ride from Washington state after cancelling a previously set date because he had been in jail. Nonetheless, preparations had been were made for him to be in one room while his receiver would sit in another room somewhere in the same building. His claim was that he could send the values of playing cards telepathically to his receiver. His only provision was that he would need to be able to see his receiver. It was never explained why this made any difference, but was written into the protocol as per Regan’s demands.
CFI did their usual totally professional job of setting up closed circuit television cameras, providing streaming video on UStream and making everybody comfortable with seating for an audience and refreshments.
We first heard that something might be going awry when it was noted by several IIG members that Regan and his buddy Fernando had been observed staggering across Vermont Avenue near CFI West passing a bottle of vodka between the two of them. Hey, don’t get me wrong here: I certainly have had my martini days, but it struck all of us as odd to hear they were imbibing so early in the fray. My first impression was to think, well, …maybe alcohol might be somehow connected with their ability to send images from one mind to another – who was I to judge? As long as they showed up, we would follow through with our end of the deal.
As it transpired, Regan and Fernando weren’t just tipsy, they were stinking drunk. You really can’t tell from the photos or the video – you had to be there. BTW: Thanks to Brian Hart for the use of his photos which were needed to document this fiasco. It’s doubtful anyone would believe us without them. I was reminded of the film footage I have seen of one-time psychic superstar Ted Serios; his jocular antics with “thoughtography” and his boozing – classic stuff. I’ve heard Ted’s still around – and still boozing. Some people’s livers can take this kind of abuse. Ted’s routine was very dramatic and he got startling results. Check out “The World of Ted Serios: Thoughtographic Studies of an Extraordinary Mind” (1967)
My job was to write down the cards as they were turned up from a shuffled jumbo deck of cards and keep tabs until we matched up what the receiver said in the adjoining room at the end of the 52 card roster. After being thoroughly frisked and searched by ex-LAPD officer Spenser Marks, (we “wanded” them too) the two test subjects signed off on their respective paperwork and were taken to their positions. It was good to have Spenser there after I made mention of the fact that people could easily take a gun on a bus whereas smuggling a gun on a jet flight would be impossible (?) Spenser had already thought of that well in advance and was prepared for a smack-down should it have become necessary. These are things anybody considering a test with unknown personalities should think through for their own safety. There’s a lot of nut cases out there and as investigators of some of the weirdest crap around, we shouldn’t be surprised to find ourselves dealing with crazies of all brands.
Fortunately (or not depending on how you feel about vast amounts of booze) both Regan and Fernando offered no resistance and more than a few of the team took the viewpoint that the test may be over much sooner than we had anticipated. They were more than just relaxed – they were both reduced to jelly-like inebriation. We were watching for either of them to pass out or hurl. The humor of this situation was not lost on the crowd and when you get a chance to watch the video, you will see how ridiculous the whole scene quickly became. Imagine Laurel and Hardy in a hospital scenario and you will get a rough idea of what we were dealing with
I have to hand it to Jim Underdown, who had the unenviable job of trying to stay professional in the face of a situation that could have easily degenerated into slapstick. There were a few moments that were really funny, like when it was clear that Regan needed to take his shirt off to “get the vibes” before sitting down (ugh) and when several (six actually) instruction and advertising cards that were sandwiched into the thrice shuffled deck of cards were inadvertently held up by Jim to Regan for him to send. This stopped the show several times and provided a humorous “running gag” when after the fifth of these unknown game cards were held up toward Regan and myself and after Jim took note of same, questioned Regan with, “What’s the matter, …you can’t send instruction cards?” Now THAT was funny.
The whole thing can be viewed at www.iigwest.comand is worth watching for these and many other bizarre moments when it was clear neither Regan nor Fernando had a clue as to what was going on. They were twitching and fumbling like fish on a fryer. After the fourth card was turned, Regan blurted out, “Okay, …We lost!” Jim had to tell him that he was just begininng to get him to pay attention, focus and calm down. At one point after belching audibly, Regan asked for a cold beer and a cigarette. CFI’s lounge accomedations were admittedly somewhat lacking in that area.
Regan and Fernando needed to get 7 cards out of 52 to win the test and score above average enough to make the grade. Guess what? They didn’t get A SINGLE CARD correct! And this in spite of the fact that Fernando’s intense concentration, dramatic hand gestures and visualizations could be seen on the monitor screen to rival the best mentalist histrionics. He really gave it his best shot. Several people in the audience mamnged to get one card right out of the 52 . Before the test began, I took a few minutes to write down my choices – and even I got one right. So I guess I predicted one card correctly. Regan twitched and groaned and generally slumped lower and lower into his chair and several times poured water all over himself in an befuddled attempt to get some of the liquid in his mouth. Jim had to ask him to clean the slobber off his beard for the sake of the camera once.
Near the end of the session when met with their total failure, Fernando was heard to comment to the crowd, “Hey, …were’e just like Cheech and Chong, you know, …what the hell.” Yes, we all had a laugh or two, but I have to say I was left with a feeling that these sorts of challenges, where groups like the IIG go to so much time and trouble to do things correctly, such protocol, preparation and professionalism is totally wasted on people like Regan and Fernando. Cheech and Chong act like stoned idiots on purpose and are marginally funny. These guys were just pathetic. Both were having a big laugh at our expense.
While I generally agree with IIG’s Jim Neuman that we have to respond to each claimant in some way or we might be thought of a s cherry-picking or not fair, this particular challenge bordered on being worthless. It was a sad comment on both sides of the psychic issue. Putting this kind of farce out on the Internet makes us all look bad. Maybe that was Regan and Fernando’s plan all along. The IIG stayed professional and we held our ground throughout the ordeal, so they came out much the worse for wear.
I will stay involved because this had to have been an anomaly of the worst kind. It’s likely that we won’t see another pair like Regan and Fernando for a long, long time. Better screening is an obvious next step and doing the homework necessary to weed out felons and substance abusers needs to be addressed in an age when meth addiction and alcoholism is at all-time highs (if you will excuse the expression). Groups that do paranormal tests or investigations need to be on their guard against people who just think it’s all a lark and that they might “just get lucky” with some offered cash prize challenge. I’m betting that theses two guys never looked at any odds, statistics on ESP or have even the slightest inkling of what their chances really were. They didn’t care a rat’s ass. They were just faking it in the hopes they might hit the jackpot Vegas style. In the meantime, IIG went through hours and hours of serious deliberation over these jerks.
So is this the future of parapsychology: challenges that taunt the lowest of the low to take a stab at fame and fortune to the detriment of those of us who do actually take what we do seriously?
I’m in for the long run with the IIG, CFI , JREF and all the rest now. What I’m really saying here is that there are already so many flat-out frauds and scam artists out there who are truly hurting people and causing untold damage and distress, for my time and energy, I say we stop wasting so mush time on people who are merely claiming unproven silliness and get out there in the faces of the Big Fish. We should all be on the tails of people like John Edward, Sylvia Browne, James VanPraagh, Lisa Williams, Bonnie Vent, Chris Moon, Chip Coffey, Rebecca Rosen and Robbie Thomas… and the list goes on and on – growing larger with each passing day. Just watch network television prime time and visit Barnes & Noble and you will see who the real charlatans are. I have a fairly open mind to all sorts of magical things – I’ m a magician! But when push comes to shove, if you are saying you TALK TO DEAD PEOPLE, you aren’t doing that schtick to help anybody but yourself.
Even the term “Challenge” bugs me a bit. It’s like the “Unicorn Theory.” If you use the term challenge, you make it sound like there is a chance people like Regan and Fernando might actually win. They can’t can they? I mean, let’s back up and wait a minute: Don’t we as rational, critical thinkers know that winning anything whether it’s $5,000 or a million is most probably never going to happen? No one is ever going to seriously attempt to convince a group of magicians and committed skeptics that they can levitate, read minds or send the images of playing cards through solid walls are they? Don’t we all know that? That’s what David Copperfield does three shows a night, not two alcoholic guys off the street. Although to be fair some teeny-tiny part of my intellect still would be delighted if some no-account drifter showed up on the scene with these abilities, over forty years in search of that fragile possiblity with absolutely no tangible results to show for my time and trouble has left me, well, …skeptical.
Let’s get REAL.
I remember hearing Sylvia Browne saying on Larry King one night that, “…Nobody is ever going to win Randi’s Million Dollar Challenge.”
Of course at the time many of her minions believed that Randi didn’t actually have the money in the bank or would trick anybody out of their chance of winning by merely duplicating the contested effect or claim. Other objections were bandied about for years.
I think it goes even deeper than that. I think that in some way the statement made by Sylvia may possibly have been the only true statement she’s ever made even if it was a rather “left-handed” truism:
No one ever will win the money because they can’t. Period.
I suggest taking the “challenge” aspect out of the mix. We need to find a not-so-subtle way of simply saying:
YOU CAN’T DO IT!
It’s up to the Big Fish to rise to that comment or shut up. This might lessen the chances of people like Regan and Fernando wasting the time and energy of thousands of people in the future who want to seriously take on these claims.
Simply put: You can’t do it. If you can, there’s a ton of cash and notoriety waiting for you.
Come on, change history!