SkepticblogSkepticblog logo banner

top navigation:

Turning the Boat Around

by Mark Edward, Mar 20 2010

New Fledgeling Skeptic: Maria Myrback

On the heels of my last blog about how many practitioners of woo are beginning to see the light of skepticism, last week’s Amazing Cruise was not only a complete blast, the likes of which many of us on board had never seen, it also provided another powerful testimony. We are making big strides.

On board was a once steeped-in-woo New Age healer, channeler and psychic; Maria Myrback.  Maria’s story is one I hope to see and hear repeated over and over in the years to come. For my part in what happened in her case, it showed me that I’m making a difference. One person at a time can make a difference if we go out and DO SOMETHING.

Visit Maria’s website, where you can read the whole story in her own words. Maria was a woo goddess. Now she is one of us. Like Karla McLaren, (read my recent post: “Culture Clashing”) who saw my NBC special “Secrets of the Psychics Revealed” and realized she was doing cold reading which led her to becoming a skeptic, Maria saw my Penn & Teller “Bullshit” episode, “Talking to the Dead,”and realized that what she was doing was wrong. She’s now a skeptical convert.

Anita's a Skeptic Now Too

Word is out that one-time $50,000 IIG claimant Anita Ikonen is also in the throes of a skeptical transformation. Those of us who have gotten to know Anita a little will reserve our judgements until more information is available, but in a conversation I had with her over lunch on the day the IIG tested Regan Traynor, she confessed that she was in the process of considering a recantation of her popular book about breatharianism and spilling the beans about what a bunch of nonsense that whole part of her life was (when she was known as “Alenara.”) We are all waiting on that one. Some stripes are harder to change than others.

When woo gets skeptical, everybody wins.

Maria & Me

It may take a little time to see the results, but if you are willing to take a stand, skeptics, rational thinkers and even a few on the fence can be effective in changing the mess we are in. There is no doubt in my mind that Karla, Maria and Anita are only the tip of an iceberg that is slowly thawing. Knowing I have been a part of these transformations is uplifting. I’m now re-invigorated.

Randi & Maria Exchange Amazements

To hear Maria tell me that I inspired this change for the better in her life made the Amazing Cruise even more amazing. This was a week I will remember. The camaraderie and inspiration was tremendous and the promise of fantastic new things to come from JREF, CFI and the grassroots movement was as exhilarating as the bracing sea air and the bright blue waters of Grand Turk Island. Maria gracefully accepted the Silver Ship Award from Jeff Wagg for her detremination and committment to skepticism and all were delieghted by her soft spoken demeanor.

I will comment more on The Amazing Cruise later on down the line. FORCE ONE managed to gain a few more operatives and I found out there are some very interesting underground hush hush deals underway that are extremely provocative. If you are one of the lurkers from the Vent/Browne/Coffey crowd – watch your backs. We are planning on more proactive premptive actions against the bottom-feeders out there and we will be bringing it to their doors, not waiting for them to sign on for a challenge or an investigation. The gloves are coming off.

I’m sure Brian Dunning will be posting something about it here and there are literally THOUSANDS of photos blossoming all over Facebook and elsewhere online if you look. 

Jeff Wagg’s Rational Alchemy podcast we did on board was a high point for many of us and should be available at soon. Check it out. It was marvelous.

The Brain Pool

24 Responses to “Turning the Boat Around”

  1. Sgerbic says:

    Maria was such a treat. I am not shocked Mark that you have made a difference, when you get the word out there things happen. Often we don’t get the hear about it. Participating in skeptic events of this sort not only links you up with like minded individuals but it also sparks your batteries.

    I know I came home feeling ready to fight the good fight, and that feeling should last until the next Skeptic event Skeptical in April( then TAM8 in July. If you have been on the fence about meeting your fellow skeptics stop thinking about it and just do it.

    I do want to point out something obvious to me “Karla, Maria and Anita” are all women. Maybe it is just a coincidence? I think not….

  2. AUJT says:

    It’s very nice to see woo converts!

    Yes, sgerbic, it would be nice to see some wooish men come clean. Perhaps Chip Coffey will get to a point to where he just can’t live with the lies anymore and come out against the snake oil he so fervently supports.

    There have been defectors from Paranormal State’s camp of woo. One being Topher Michael Young. Looks like Topher’s not speaking about his time with the PRS anymore. Probably because he’s been tongue tied by television production ‘don’t tell the truth’ contracts.

    Something’s just not right with a system that can threaten people if they tell the truth or blow the whistle. Think I’d have to challenge that system if I was somehow involved. Perhaps someone will show the courage to do so.

    • MadScientist says:

      I’d be happy if some magicians gone bad like Derren Brown stick to their word and expose the tricks they use rather than simply leading people on and acting as if there really is such a thing as magic.

      • Sgerbic says:

        When the money dries up they will turn around. Then write a tell-all book. Lets help them dry up the money pot.

      • Anita Ikonen says:

        I have never made any money on my woo interests, rather I have spent in excess of $1,000 investigating it skeptically. Some people have involvement in woo not to make a profit, but to find an explanation to something unusual. So I oppose your assumption that involvement in the paranormal is all done with the intent of fraud or deception as that does not apply to me.

      • Robo Sapien says:

        Anita, is that why you entered (and failed) the IIG Paranormal Challenge?

        We are glad to see more skeptical “converts” — but please don’t insult us by acting like your woo was above materialism.

      • DesertGal says:

        Please show us where you examined your claims skeptically. I’ve seen you apply absolutely no critical thinking to any of your claims, Anita. Even after the IIG demonstration, you simply refused to admit that the claim was falsified, and are continuing to “investigate” a claim that has no basis in reality.

  3. MadScientist says:

    It’s always good to hear stories about good but mistaken people coming around and joining the fight. I hope Ikonen does write another book (who knows – it may even sell well) – let’s see if she talks to people and reads more books so she can explain why things don’t work and her own personal experience and how she believed it all, and perhaps a little about why people believe such things and how people can challenge these mistaken notions.

    • Sgerbic says:

      You have an excellent point here. These are “good but mistaken people” and we should remember that. I want to go after the frauds that know they are sucking money out of people, the shut-eyes will benefit (at least until they find another leader) But really I’m hopeful that some of the shut-eyes will open their eyes and start to come around to critical thinking.

    • DesertGal says:

      Anita Ikonen has simply transferred her claims as “Alenara” to a new persona, “VisionFromFeeling”. When she acknowledges that the “VFF” part of her life is a bunch of nonsense as well, THEN I’ll believe that she MIGHT be critically reviewing her own claims. Remember, she’s paid lip service to being a skeptic all along.

  4. Kitty says:

    She was so lovely. And OPEN MINDED! What a treat she was, and I only look forward to spending more time with her at skeptic events in the future!

  5. Robo Sapien says:

    That is wonderful that we’re all willing to make blog posts and give pats on the back when a crank turns skeptic. Don’t get me wrong, I love skepticism and this blog, but this makes me just a little bit sick. This woman spent years exploiting hope for profit (albeit with good intentions), now she simply renounces her shoddy ways and everyone gets wet in the shorts over how “open minded” she is.

    Sorry to piss on the party, but I am skeptical of this “victory” for skepticism. This is a case of a woman realizing she was a fool, and trading up all of her old foolish friends for shiny new smart friends with degrees and TV appearances. Save the champagne for AFTER she’s paid her due and made ammends for any damage she caused as a psychic.

    There are a lot of us who NEVER believed in any kind of woo, who found the skep movement in a search for like-minded people. I’d certainly love to be on a cruise ship mingling with the skeptic elite, but I know I have nothing to bring to the table, save for planting seeds of doubt for a few Jehovah’s Witnesses. Could it be that we simply have to become reformed bullshit artists before we receive such a warm open-armed welcome?

    • Sgerbic says:

      Robo ~ I read this post before work this morning and have been thinking about it, your comments are welcome. I guess I would be suspicious if I weren’t there. But I met her and liked her, she was more than genuine. Randi pulled her aside and had a chat with her.

      She feels bad about the harm she might/might not have caused during her woo years. As Mark said she does have a skeptic blog that she is using for the questioning and newly skeptic’s to read.

      Face it, blogs like this one are right in your face. We don’t pull punches and we use all kinds of loaded words that aren’t welcoming to those who are starting to question their beliefs. We need people like Maria who have “been there” who can ease them into critical thinking if that is what they need.

      To live the life she did with crystals, auras and the like it was very very difficult for her to begin anew with a clearer brain. Remember everyone she knows and associates with are in that world.

      I like her, support her and welcome her with open arms and hope that if she has questions she will be comfortable coming to me. She know has many resources that she didn’t have before.

      And about your comment “I have nothing to bring to the table…” that is the remark you made that bothers me the most. What do you mean you have NOTHING To Bring? How is that even possible?

      No one is turned away from a skeptic event (guess you need a ticket at some of them) If you are pleasant to be around in life, then I’m sure you would be welcomed at a skeptic event. You are not judged by worthiness or your past woo beliefs you are simply who you are. Lots of people on the cruise had never attended any kind of skeptic event before, one man from England was so excited to find like-minded people to talk to, very exciting to talk to him and he had never been a believer.

      I think most of the cruise attendees were from a believer (religious or paranormal or both LOL) background. Only about 20% were raised as critical thinkers.

      As far as “skeptic elite” that is great! I’m just a skeptic junkie, I attend as many events as I can afford, I’m a no-body in the skeptic world. But I’m friendly and fun and am interested in people. That’s how I hob-nob with the skeptic elite. And guess what You and others can do the same thing.

      Again, I have always enjoyed your comments in the past. I’m not sure where this post came from (kinda out of character for you) and look forward to you (and others) pushing the envelope as far as another side to the “pat on the back” kind of articles.

      I am optimistic that positive changes are afoot.

      • Robo Sapien says:

        I will concede that I flew off the handle just a bit, let my emotion get the better of me (which you are right, it is out of character for me). It is a deep-rooted sense of frustration at the human race that brought that forth. I wasn’t raised as a skeptic, it is my natural disposition. I actually come from a Mormon family (who also sell MLM products), so my nature has driven a wedge there.

        I shouldn’t have directed my frustration at Maria, so I apologize for that. I suppose you could liken it to a patriotic soldier looking distrustfully upon a new recruit who defected from the opposing faction.

        And when I said nothing to bring, I suppose that was my bad attempt at humility. The reality is that I am not an academic/scholar, or gifted with great intelligence. In fact, my vocabulary has probably doubled since I started reading this blog. I will probably never make a podcast or a blog, or even find anything original worth writing about.

        I’m just a blue collar guy who calls bullshit when he sees it.

      • AUJT says:

        I think we’re all in good company here. :-)

      • Sgerbic says:

        Very well said. As far as an “academic/scholar” everyone who knows me would say that without spell-check I wouldn’t even be able to spell those words. You are posting on a blog, therefore you are contributing to a blog. I think you should never say never.

        Something that I’ve noticed about participating on forums and blogs the last couple years. There are a LOT more people lurking than posting. These sites are records for those who are searching for information years from now.

        Anyone who puts the words “Robbie Thomas” is going to come up with the two blogs that have info on him, along with all the comments we are leaving. I think that is totally cool.

        Also we are a part of social history at this moment in time. Another cool thing, 50 years from now students will be able to look back on what we talked about. Hopefully they will be wondering what a psychic is and how they managed to stay in business.

        Everyone has a unique perspective on life. You have a reality I can’t even imagine. Mormons that are involved in MLM? Wow! That must have been some kind of upbringing. Guess that makes Thanksgiving a bit awkward. Maybe a blog would be in order?

    • Myk says:


      No. The warm open-armed welcome was there for me on the cruise, and I have done very little beyond posting on webfora and blogs. But I wouldn’t really call it a “skeptic elite”. If anything, meeting Randi and D.J. and Brian and all the others on the Amazing Adventure showed me quite clearly that there’s no elite in skepticism, there are just a bunch of people doing stuff; some more well-known than others.

      The Pirate King

      • Robo Sapien says:

        Right. Because producing podcasts and television shows is rivaled only by blog trolling? These are heroes of rational thinking, who put in a lot of time and effort helping improve the world in ways that count. As humble as they wish to be, their work puts them nowhere short of elite status in this community, and downplaying that just isn’t realistic.

      • Sgerbic says:

        Myk was just awesome on the cruise. He is brilliant and I have proof. When we went to San Juan Puerto Rico to Fort Cristobal he explained the reasons the fort looked the way it did, and how it was defended ect… He made it all very understandable and I got it on video. (if interested in more look for sgerbic on YouTube)

        I guess we are derailing a bit, and I don’t want to diminish the things that Mark Edward, Brian Dunning and friends are doing, because they do do (ha ha I said do-do) more than most of us. But they are all regular people who are just as interested in meeting us as we are in meeting them.

        Learn your talents and your passion. Then try to find ways to use them.

  6. Maria says:

    First I want to thank Mark for writing this article. You really did have a huge impact on my life. That Bullshit episode was what triggered my movement away from woo.

    Robo, I understand completely why you would be skeptical about my transformation. I accept that. What I would LOVE is suggestions about what MORE I can do. I already write a blog for people who are, like I am, relatively new to skepticism. I’m also giving a talk at DragonCon’s SkepticTrak this year about Skepticism In Daily Life. I would LOVE suggestions.

    Sgerbic, thank you for coming to my defense. I appreciate it, though I’m willing to take my lumps for what I’ve done. I understand that there are going to be people who will be hesitant to accept my conversion. Especially since I’m still paying the bills by selling essential oils. It’s okay :-)

    And thanks for the offer of help. I’ll be in touch on Facebook.

    Oh and that request for suggestions goes for anybody who has ideas for what more I can do.

    • Robo Sapien says:

      I was a bit harsh, my response was more emotional than rational, allow me to reiterate my apology. It is funny that Bullshit! led me here as well, you and I come from opposite ends of the spectrum. I was a very angry cynic prior to discovering the skeptic movement, you were the enemy and I had an attack first / question later policy. I was born a doubter, and have been swimming in bullshit all my life, tends to make a person hostile I suppose. Old habits die hard, however I have since sworn to stop burning down chiropractors’ offices.

      That was a joke (I still burn them down).

      • Maria says:

        LOL! I hear thermite makes a wonderful explosion. At least that’s what the 911 hoaxers think ;-)

        Like I said, it’s okay. I can understand why people might be a little leery. I do envy you though. I wish I had been brought up a skeptic. It would have made my life easier I think.

  7. marina fl says:

    Electrical work may not be as easy as cleaning your boat, and sometimes it’s better to ask an electrician to do the work for you. However, it is also important that you have basic knowledge on how your boat’s electrical system works and basic troubleshooting tips. Always use materials and equipment that are approved and recommended for electrical work in boats. Check shore power cords, outlets, and circuit breakers that may be worn out or susceptible to overheating. Extreme heat on wires and power cords usually suggest danger. Also, avoid using several appliances all at once and turn off the device before unplugging it.