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The Results of Booze on Telepathic Ability

by Mark Edward, Feb 28 2010

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.

Jim Underdown Trying to Explain Reality to Regan Traynor

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)

A Skeptical Glance by Yours Truly During the Test

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

The Latest Psychic Super-Loser

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.

The Big Board: Zilch!

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:


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!


We’re waiting.

24 Responses to “The Results of Booze on Telepathic Ability”

  1. rustle says:

    If a blogger for a skeptic website can’t resist making specious claims within a post showing the travesty that is Woo, then casual passers-by may not take future skepticism seriously. “…Cheech and Chong are MARGINALLY funny”?!?

  2. miller says:

    Sometimes I hear people say that the purpose of these challenges is just in case one of these paranormal claims happens to be true. But that’s not really what the job is about. To make up some BS numbers, the existence of telepathy might be 10 times more revolutionary than your typical scientific discovery, but it’s also 10^10 times less likely to actually be true. The purpose of the challenge is really to make a statement: “You can’t do it!” The minute possibility of discovering something really cool is just an infinitesimal perk.

  3. Well…this explains everything. Finally, a logical explanation as to why I have no telepathic abilities whilst at the pub. Now all I need is a logical explanation as to why I have no telepathic abilities outside of the pub.

  4. Robo Sapien says:

    How to cold read in a pub:

    “You are thinking about booze, or sex, or puking..”

    You are statistically likely to be confirmed a psychic under these conditions.

  5. Sgerbic says:

    I thought I heard that Reagen was in jail for Home Invasion at the time he was supposed to be in LA for the challenge last month? I wonder if his probation officer knew he had skipped the state? The IIG could get a lot of publicity if Reagen was wanted and the media tracked him down through the challenge video. The video would be all over CNN and the like, it is priceless video for those who haven’t watched it yet.

    I wasn’t sure, but now that Mark mentioned it, I did hear a big beer burp at one point, and Jim Underdown asking Reagen to wipe the spit off his face. That’s good video! Can you just imagine Larry King interviewing this guy! Reality TV at it’s best.

    I was wondering what the sucker like marks under his left breast were. I think there were 4 red circles, maybe made by a hospital EEG machine? Don’t know where that picture is now, has anyone else seen it? It looks just like the marks that salt-sucker beast in “The Man-Trap” on the original Star Trek Series made.

  6. Max says:

    Sounds like you got punked. Reminds me of Borat, who makes an ass of himself while his victims try to remain polite and professional. Does Regan have any following? I never heard of him.

  7. Miko says:

    I think this post could have done without the “The Latest Psychic Super-Loser” caption and a few other questionable lines. While I think that this sort of skeptical activity is both valid and worthwhile, that sort of mockery falls pretty low on both the humor and entertainment scales and just makes us look bad.

  8. Skepacabra says:

    Sadly, they would have done better if the receiver just said the same card every time.

  9. gwen says:

    I would put in a stipulation that if the claimant appeared to be under the influence of mind altering substances, the test would be canceled. The claimant would have the option of providing a drug/breathalyzer test to prove they were sober before continuing the test.

  10. Tracy King says:

    He’s homeless with a drinking problem. He’s trying to get some money. I don’t see how any other commentary is necessary. He needs help and sympathy, not mockery and derision.

  11. Jumile says:

    I remember hearing Sylvia Browne saying on Larry King one night that, “…Nobody is ever going to win Randi’s Million Dollar Challenge.”

    I suspect the reason she said that is because the worldwide Kool Aid-drinking community firmly believes that the Challenge is rigged and is, therefore and by definition, unwinnable.

    Spend time on any pseudoscience-related website, mailing list or forum, and you’ll see lists of ways in which the Challenge is believed to be rigged. The most popular reason I’ve seen seems to be the belief that Randi himself has the final word on whether a test has passed, and that he’ll never allow that to happen. (Despite nobody having made it past a preliminary screening).

    Addressing this particular piece of misinformation is probably a good place to start in gaining genuine attempts at the Challenge.

  12. stargazer9915 says:

    “Up In Smoke” marginally funny? Skepticism, not comedy, is your strong point Mr. Edward. Don’t mix the two and we’ll be fine. Other than that, your post is as good as any other you have done. Don’t stop with your great work. (Don’t quit your day job for comedy critic either)

  13. oldebabe says:

    A good and, yes, worthwhile effort by I. I. G. Even if it was supposed to be a joke, it did show the serious effort and, essentially, the processes and success of investigations; and perhaps the skepticism of the participants (!) i.e. these `drunken bums’ (no skepticism needed here) got it right, and knew they couldn’t pass the test… in any condition.

    I hope the group doesn’t get too disgusted or all uptight about this particular investigative fiasco. In a round-about way, it may serve to direct attention to the program.

  14. “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”

    I don’t know what your terms and conditions are, but JREF requires some form of media reporting to be an eligible claimant.

    If you can’t at least get on your local TV news once or written up in your suburban journal with your abilities, you’re probably not worth testing.

  15. Wendy H. says:

    Many applicants/claimants over the years for the IIG Challenge have described really weird powers or have made elaborate demands during negotiations for testing conditions. One dowser had the IIG making detailed plans to set up lumber and plastic tubing in our parking lot that took time out of our lives, and I don’t think he ever showed up for the test. One claimant sent pictures that claimed to show that he had a camera that could magically change perspective; now is that mental illness? And is his mental illness worse than Regen Traynor’s schizophrenia that was being street-treated with alcohol? One stand-out claimant actually did travel all the way from another state to Hollywood, was in the neighborhood, but didn’t come to our office for her test. And should IIG attempt to winnow out of the application process those with mental illness from those with extraordinary claims in order to find people with normal mental health, but who think they can prove in a testing situation that they can demonstrate ESP? I think we cannot do that. And which claims do we stop testing for? Telepaths? Dowsers? UFO sightings? Do we narrow down our focus to product liability, as in protecting the public against nurse woo? We do that too, but I don’t think that’s all we want to do…
    I’m sorry that Regen Traynor’s homelessness and alcoholism shook everyone up so much — but as I’ve commented on another blog — I’m not sure I wouldn’t start drinking if there were more voices in my head than the ones that belong there. It’s important to demonstrate against the Sylvia Brownes and the John Edwards that have somehow become publicly acceptable — it’s a good thing to spend part of our time explaining cold reading. But to give up on planning exercises in the practical application of science, which is what we are doing every time we plan a test of a claimant, would be thoughtlessness. At least some of these claimants think they have some kind of power… some of them are misinterpreting noises in their houses, and think they are haunted. If we can explain that to them, we’ve won. If Jim Underdown can explain that Sparky the Dog was responding to unconscious hand signals, and not reading his owner’s mind, we’ve won. These small, but significant successes are the results of practice at learning how to plan and execute a test with scientific rigor. Maybe I’m not writing with the most skill, but what I’m trying to say is that it’s important to at least try to evaluate whether a claim can be tested; if it can be tested, then to try to negotiate with the claimant. That’s the scientific method. As long as we are careful to protect ourselves against cold readers and other cheaters, and as long as a claim can be refuted… why not?

  16. Brian Hart says:

    I am a long-time member of the IIG, and was involved in this test. (I was the online chat moderator, and took the pictures that Mark used in this article).
    The IIG is not related to JREF in any way, except for friendship and our utmost respect for this fine organization. We modeled our $50K prize on the JREF’s $1M in many ways. However, there are some differences.

    We do not require any media to recognize the individuals to be tested. Out of approximately 2 to 3 claims we receive per week, we get to test, on the average, about 1 person every 2 YEARS!

    Why is this so? First of all, MOST first time claimants never respond with a second e-mail after being contacted by our First Responder Team. When we ask for more specific information on the claim, this usually this stops about 85% of the claimants.

    If the claimants do respond, it usually takes 10-20 more e-mails back and forth to qualify what it is they claim and what we can actually test. This can take months, if not years!

    Finally, we get down to the protocol procedure. As many of you already know, this is a give-and-take process with BOTH parties agreeing on the testing procedure. This can also take many months of negotiation.

    Lastly, the day of the test. Many of these people do not show up or even call. Traynor was given an unprecedented second chance when he told us he was in jail for the original test date. This was a first-time excuse for the IIG, no one had ever used this particular one before, so we were curious and amused enough to try him again.

    So, when Traynor and Fernando showed up for the test, we were all delighted that all our work had not been in vain. We had no procedures in place at the time to weed out inebriated or “stoned” individuals, so we proceeded with the test exactly as planned.

    Every IIG member took this test very seriously, even when we realized that these guys were stinking drunk. Jim Underdown handled himself especially well, given the circumstances, and we were all respectful of the subjects and the test itself.

    In conclusion, it is difficult to find and weed out these special individuals, it takes a great deal of effort to set up and coordinate these tests, and we are not in any position to dismiss ANYONE for any reasons that are not in the protocols. That is why we proceeded and why we continue to test and reports the results.

    Their failure must become part of the culture of testing paranormal claims.

  17. dithergirl says:

    I believe that if skeptics are to be seen as fair we must investigate the claims of idiots. That said, I feel very sorry for everyone who put hard work into the challenge and felt slighted. On the other hand, this kind of work is so very important to the skeptical community and shouldn’t be viewed as a waste of time. A big thanks to all who participated!

  18. Jeshua says:

    The wisest comment so far was the one that advocated immediately canceling any challenge involving people who are obviously drunk or otherwise drug-impaired. At least it should be checked ahead of time to ensure that participants have some kind of record or following in the contested ability. Farces like this are not nearly as funny as Cheech and Chong and only serve to discredit the challenge. (By the way comedy is subjective. I used to laugh till my sides split listening to the their early albums.)

  19. Donna Gore says:

    I sent that to one of my now-sober alcoholic friends, who replied as follows:

    The ability to predict the future — is that considered telepathic ability? Because back in my drinking days, I definitely had the ability to predict the future. Whenever the bartender asked me if I’d be having another drink, I always predicted, “Yes, I will.” And I did!

  20. TonyC says:

    Anybody else notice that the guy went 12/20 on suit for the first 20 send-receive pairs (I’m excluding card 16)? By my calculations that’s about a 1070/1 shot – probably a little less if you adjust for the fact that the mix of suits would be changing after each card was revealed, though this is an adjustment I doubt Regen would have been capable of on the night.

    For clarity, no I don’t think Regen’s telepathic; I just think it’s amazing what you can find if you play “hunt the anomaly” often enough and for long enough (And yes, I’m a statistician if you’ve not guessed already).

  21. There are many legislations involved and your first port of call should be a lawyer/solicitor/attorney who specializes in the gambling arena. Just like the adult industry… do the wrong thing and sit behind bars!

  22. Adam Onymouse says:

    if somebody did by chance pass the test… wouln’t that be “proof by example”?