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I Wasn’t There…But

by Mark Edward, Jul 20 2010

The Center of Attention

No, I’m not mentioning any names.  No way I’m stepping into that mess again. I want to be absolutely clear that this blog is not about any individual person, rather it is about a set of circumstances that have led to a controversy that is whirling around like an endlessly running toilet on the Internet and for which many skeptics are in such a tizzy. Lots of people are curious to know what happened and why at TAM8’s Sunday night “demonstration.”  There are many questions and few answers. That’s fine for the most part and please believe me when I state that I personally understand why “radio silence” has been invoked by so many. It’s a sticky issue that defies any easy explanation. Unfortunately the Big Picture can’t be swept under the carpet forever. Now that I’ve got your complete attention, here’s the main question that has remained cloudy and unanswered by JREF, CFI and the greater skeptical community: If you are going to present a session on how a professional challenge is handled and the protocol and procedures that go into it, why choose as the subject a medical medium who has been previously falsified by a reputable investigation group to use as the center of attention?

Beware the Moving Target

I have only heard a partial answer. To some, JREF’s ultimate point in inviting this particular psychic claimant was to showcase the difficulties of clarifying any claim, getting complete open and shut issues out in the open and providing the biggest skeptical event of the year with the kind of real world drama that can occur when dealing with psychics, healers or medical mediums in a challenge situation. From the get go that goal was known by many (including JREF) to be well-nigh impossible to accomplish. Moving targets often make for bad press and endless excuses. Either someone didn’t do their homework or for whatever reason some serious slack was given. This claimant’s well-known confused and contradictory nature was already noted, tested and falsified on more than one occasion by several qualified skeptics who have worked hard to keep just such a repeat event like Sunday night from happening. So why was this particular person chosen as a last minute “secret” addition to the schedule? Who made that call?

We can only guess.

I certainly understand showmanship and the concept of using suspense, a “celebrity” draw and indefinite information to generate buzz and excitement, but this was a little too much hype and too little respect  for those of us who saw this coming months ago. If you don’t think at least one skeptic put this prediction in writing, (without any psychic ability being used at all) please read about the promised “big reveal” in the comment section#13, paragraph two from “Sex in the Seance Room” post here back on 3 April 2010.

Other more trusted and balanced sample subjects could have easily stood in as a cardboard claimant and by using the released IIG documents detailing the previously falsified claim as a template and recounting the various problems experienced in that example, a lot of hurt feelings could have been avoided. It’s interesting to note that the paper on this previously falsified claimant offered to TAM8 by the IIG’s Steven Muscarella was not chosen by JREF to be read. Why not?

If that painstaking treatise had been given a proper airing and cooler heads had prevailed, the inevitable subterfuge, manipulations, twists and whack-brained excuses we are now hearing and will likely continue to see sprout up as they have a pattern of doing wouldn’t be surfacing all over the Internet. As it is, this so-called non-tested individual is now taking full advantage of every opportunity to sow the seeds of discontent, all the while skirting for their own notoriety the line between “test” and “demonstration.” In addition, as if to suggest some successful advocacy or partnership, this person’s woo website now sports both the IIG logo and the TAM8 logo as part of the total picture page they are pitching to the world. This makes all of us look shabby. Yes, we may have open minds and be willing to entertain our doubts to a certain extent, but I for one will not court disaster by second-guessing cold hard facts.

Don't Say I Didn't Warn You: Quoted as "Hogwarts for Executives"

Not wanting to sound too much like a conspiracy theorist: I have tried to warn the skeptic community we are facing a new breed of “executive psychics” that are just now beginning to confront us. This one (and apparently another individual who stood up in the middle of a TAM8 lecture session to talk about his healing ability) are only the spearhead of the phalanx heading our way. These frauds will be attractive, well dressed, appear outwardly intelligent, educated and do everything they can to entice, cajole and infiltrate skeptic gatherings with a pronounced interest in all things skeptical, while at the same time sticking it to us as soon as they are out of our sight. Read my blog post “ESP Boot Camp” from 23 February 2009 if you doubt me on these observations.  Allowing such individuals to garner our attentions outside of the lab and inveigle us with suggested “readings” and other attempts at displaying their wares as innocent conversation is a dangerous game. These new executive psychic types are a duplicitous lot who will work hard to ingratiate themselves with any skeptic who will listen to them. Their so-called skeptical websites and “paranormal investigation group” banners are all over the Internet. When it comes time to check their credentials and actual educational experience in science and fact-finding, they fall short of anything even approaching a scientific peer group review or credible rational thinking background. Adherents to this line of making a buck come from a sort of “DeVry Institute” mentality of delusional thinkers and con artists and their mentors eschew traditional spiritual gurus like Gurdjieff or Edgar Cayce, preferring instead to quote and co-opt vague concepts from people like Buckminster Fuller, Deepak Chopra and the latest “quantum mechanics” mumbo jumbo. Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They are in our midst.

Even though it was made clear  by JREF that this “demonstration” was most emphatically tagged as “not a test,” that’s easy to say if they had invited a sane and rational person on stage. But now the IIG and those of us who put tons of extra time and energy into exposing this fraud, falsify their ridiculous and totally unsupported woo and attempt to put the lid on their nonsense once and for all are now looking at being needlessly drawn back into the fray. Read my follow up to the first April blog, “Enough is Enough… Again,” 24 April 2010 where my own impromptu tests are thoroughly explained, debated and accompanied by video links to document the whole adventure.

Does the right hand know what the left hand is doing in the skeptical community? Or is there some form of competition arising between one coast’s organization and the other? Does anybody listen to me or am I shouting in a bucket? Just wondering.

Other inexplicable events transpired over that weekend that are far beyond my present at-a-distance level of comprehension to even comment upon. I dare not scratch the surface for fear of being censored or summarily dismissed from this blog for even going near them.

I chose not to attend TAM8 for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was a gut feeling, (call it a premonition) that things were just too dicey in these and other areas for me to be standing on the side lines like Nero fiddling around while Rome burned. I might not have been able to control my natural proclivity to be a loose cannon. There was just too much at stake. I’m trying really hard to stay focused on keeping active by doing things and getting things done that can really make a difference for our movement. Aside from these issues, (that are largely of my own making) I’m sure that anybody attending TAM8 who was there for the first time and not aware of what was going on underneath had a most empowering time. It’s one of the world’s greatest events.

Maybe next year?

82 Responses to “I Wasn’t There…But”

  1. Brian M says:

    This explains why it happened, but not what happened… Why have I not heard anything about this? Gah.

  2. Archie Pittman says:

    Rated 4 stars. Some more background would have been nice (I’m new to the issue, as I didn’t go to TAM and haven’t heard the rumours yet) and perhaps a spell check too.

  3. The thing I really don’t understand is this: if the demonstration was indeed just to show how difficult it is to set up a protocol, why use a “real” psychic at all? Are there not dozens of people who could have pretended to be claimants and explained their thought processes in lucid ways and pointed out how they would or could get around things in place?

    Where is the possible win in inviting a self-proclaimed psychic (?) who is only going to twist the event in whatever way possible to serve herself? And that’s not even a judgment on her, that’s what anyone with any sense would do.

    • Anita Ikonen says:

      Not to be nitpicking, but I am not a self-proclaimed psychic. I am a paranormal claimant. Big difference.

      • Beelzebud says:

        And what exactly is the difference? “Paranormal Claimant” sounds like a garbage man calling himself a “Sanitation Technician”.

  4. Malachi Constant says:

    I read this whole post and I still have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Do I need to go back and read all your past articles to know what this is about? Will that help me? What was this mysterious “demonstration” that happened? Who was this person that was involved? Should I scour the internet for information about this event?

    I wasn’t at TAM so I’m in the dark, here.

    I feel like I walked in on the end of a conversation.

  5. Jeff Wagg says:

    Just to be clear, that pedantic “Jeff” wasn’t me. And I wasn’t involved in the challenge demonstration at all.

  6. Mark Edward says:

    In a way, you have. I have treied to steer clear of the quicksand that has developed here. My suggestion would be to read some of the JREF forum coimments about TAM8’s Sunday show.

  7. miller says:

    I don’t really know why you don’t want to name any names. I can’t really see *unnamed* getting offended by this, and if she is offended, then so what? I say this as someone who has spoken with her several times, and gets along with her.

    I wasn’t there to see the test, but I heard that she failed a one-in-ten kidney-picking test. Honestly, I’ve got to agree with Mark Edwards that this test was not a good idea. A one in ten false positive rate is way too high. She already failed the real test, so she should understand that that’s it. She doesn’t do significantly better than chance.

  8. Tressa says:

    I was there. I missed last year’s actual challenge (as I found out about it too late to change my flight home). I found the demonstration fascinating (knew nothing of the claimant) as an, albeit, incomplete example of the protocols leading to an actual Challenge.

  9. Ticktock says:

    Am I the only one who thinks Mark sounds like a conspiracy theorist in this post? We’re being infiltrated by executive psychics? OH NO! It’s almost as if they learned some guerrilla style tactics from one of us! Maybe we should think twice about humiliating them, or at least think twice about fearing retaliation.

  10. Sgerbic says:

    I’m glad so many people don’t know what you are talking about. It does sound like you are coming in the end of the conversation and you are. Thank you Mark for finalizing this whole thing, I hope it is over.

    To anyone really interested in investing 10-20 hours reading all the data about this drama…run away. Its all out there on the JREF forums, my blog, Mark’s past blogs, several websites ect… Just ask around. Then there are the videos, I have at least 15 videos showing everything, plus there are podcasts ect…

    Seriously if you are aware of what happened, then this blog makes a ton of sense. If you don’t have a clue consider yourself lucky and move along to something that really needs work…everything else.

  11. Malachi Constant says:

    I actually did look into it and read the IIG report and some JREF posts about it and it makes much more sense now, but I’m with Ticktock. Mark, you’re sounding a little like a conspiracy theorist in this post. I can almost see you crouching in your darkened house peering out to see if the Woo Mafia have sent any agents to infiltrate your skeptical fortress.

    Seriously, take the paragraph starting “I have tried to warn the skeptic community…” The whole thing sounds like paranoid ravings of a mad prophet.

    I don’t know what skeptic groups you’ve been around, but the ones I’ve attended sometimes attract the odd crank who thinks they’re magic. We’ll do what we’ve always done; nod politely and proceed to ignore them, then not tell them what restaurant everyone’s going to after the event :)

    You said: “Other inexplicable events transpired over that weekend that are far beyond my present at-a-distance level of comprehension to even comment upon. I dare not scratch the surface for fear of being censored or summarily dismissed from this blog for even going near them.”

    Do you really mean this seriously? The whole post is almost written in code so I’m not sure what you actually mean. I would love to hear more about these “inexplicable events”.

    Did Novella finally reveal his true reptilian nature or what?

    • Sgerbic says:

      Novella’s reveal of his reptilian nature was months ago, try to keep up.

      And Yes, Mark is serious. And not a troother.

  12. Eric says:

    Wow. This is one of the worst things I have ever read.

    I thought it was going to be satire, until I finished, as confused as when I started. If you wish to write something cryptically for a very limited audience, you should distribute it to that audience and not publish some sort of post-modern, time-wasting literary exercise for the masses.

  13. Chris says:

    I spoke to someone who was at TAM about this post this evening. I believe it could be summed up as the JREF should be very careful about dealing with people who have certain issues with their perspectives of reality. Having some in our family, I know it is a sensitive and often painful subject.

    • Anita Ikonen says:

      Meanwhile someone at the JREF has told me I am the ONLY WOO who has contacted the JREF, who they can actually hold a normal conversation with and who has not made threats against them. Go figure. (I am the woo who was tested at TAM8 and which this blog is about.)

      • @Anita “I am the woo who was tested at TAM8 and which this blog is about.”

        @JREF – This is a demonstration not a test.

        Just a reminder that as far as I understood it, all parties agreed this was a simple demonstration and not a “test” and certainly not the Million Dollar Challenge.

  14. Skepacabra says:

    Yeah, as someone who wasn’t at TAM, this post makes as much sense as The Bible. I’m just going to assume it’s Connie Sonne again and if I’m wrong, maybe I’ll have started an urban myth. Or maybe it will trigger an internet meme where Connie Sonne starts showing up everywhere. hehe

  15. One minor correction. It was Steve Muscarella’s paper proposal on the topic that was rejected, not Brian Hart’s. Brian’s paper proposal (on a different topic) was accepted and he gave it Sunday morning at TAM8.

  16. Jim Carr says:

    I run a website exposing the person in question and wrote a blog about the event ( The short version is the claimant in question, VFF, began hanging out with a local skeptics group, who quickly saw through her claims and did enough informal testing to conclude, “Nothing to see here, folks.” This included Dr. Eric Carlson, who as I understand it has been called upon by the JREF to vet claimants in the past.

    That was January 2009. Through the spring VFF did a “study” where she did worse than three out of four controls. She did a “survey” where she clearly “saw” things that were simply not possible to see because they were medically false. She was challenged to do another informal test and failed that one. She did her own “tests” and did no better than chance. Her conclusion? They just helped her “refine” her abilities. Sigh.

    Before and during this time the IIG was in negotiations to test her. She originally said she couldn’t detect missing organs, but six months after a post-diction (three days after the fact) claiming she “really did” detect a missing kidney in Dr. Carlson, she told the IIG she would be tested on that. This was just days after the JREF publicly tested Connie Sonne at TAM – clearly VFF wanted the attention.

    After failing the IIG test, VFF went on a downward spiral threatening lawsuits and harassing the moderators at the JREF Forums, a faculty member at her school (tried to get her fired over public comments about the IIG test), and myself. I banned her from my forums because of the threats.

    While on her last suspension from the JREF Forums (before being banned), Jeff Wagg invited her on his Rational Alchemy show where she was given essentially an uncritical interview and spewed her nonsense. Jeff Wagg even said her IIG results were “interesting.”

    This “encouragement” prompted VFF to quote Jeff Wagg on her website and continue promoting her farce of an investigation despite being banned from the JREF Forums. Most of us simply ignored her at that point until we got wind of the “demonstration” at TAM.

    VFF was once Alenara the Breatharian, who toured Poland giving lectures and is quoted in books on breatharianism as being some sort of expert. Her “medical” claims were around back then, where she claimed to see all sorts of crazy things including prana. In other words, this is not her first time around.

    She’s really quite good at self-promotion. It’s as amazing as it is sad that she was given the stage at TAM. She’s the type of person who will spin this kind of attention to promote herself. It was wholly undeserved and counterproductive.

    The idea of these challenges is to get claimants to put up or shut up. She tried to put up and failed, so why give her anymore attention?

    I think Mark’s blog is spot-on except he missed one important point. Banachek, who is taking over the JREF’s Million Dollar Challenge, said that because of the lack of controls, a negative result was just as unimportant as a positive result. The demonstration was sufficient for VFF to demonstrate her abilities, so the failure is very important: it shows that somebody claiming to do the scientifically impossible cannot do what they claim. Again. Instead of nailing the coffin shut, he shrugged off the results.

    Controls are there to prevent false positives. The lack of controls has no bearing on a negative result. Is the JREF now saying that failing the MDC or the IIG’s $50K Challenge is unimportant? I hope not.

    Skeptical organizations need to be careful in what they say, how they say it, and with whom they deal. People like VFF will exploit the attention if we’re not diligent.

    • Malachi Constant says:

      Good lord, thank you.

      You’ve done what this post should have done; concisely and articulately explained this situation, given background, and offered rational commentary.

      Having read some of the JREF posters ideas of her, I guess you think she is a conscious fraud rather than a true believer?

      Do you think there are ways the Million Dollar Challenge could defend itself from folks who seek to exploit it for self promotion?

      In this case it seems like her comment that she was only 80% certain (and that only when she was 100% certain did it count) gave her any out she wanted.

      On one hand you could say they will always be able to make an “out” for themselves, but despite the rigid scientific controls what kind of agreement could you get from the testee that would change their mind?

      • Sgerbic says:

        “On one hand you could say they will always be able to make an “out” for themselves, but despite the rigid scientific controls what kind of agreement could you get from the testee that would change their mind?”

        An agreement to start taking their meds?

      • Jim Carr says:

        I have had a number of private chats with VFF, and I don’t believe she is a deliberate fraud, but I don’t think it’s all that relevant since it doesn’t really change how we deal with her. From what I can understand, those with delusions will lie to themselves and rationalize the facts to fit their delusions. They are “conscious” of it on some level, just like when we get dumped by our first love we convince ourselves for a while that it’s not over.

        She is highly manipulative and an opportunist. I don’t know what her ultimate goal is beyond attention. Some wonder why I created a Stop site about her. Well, if you’ve ever wondered how “scientists” with loony ideas get tenure, it’s because they kept quiet about their nonsense until it was too late.

        When VFF goes for a doctorate or a job and somebody does their due diligence and Googles “Anita Ikonen” they will find my website. There they will be treated to her own words and can decide for themselves if they want to associate themselves with a woman who claims to be a 350 year part alien, part human from Arcturus who can see inside the human body and even smell urine in the bladder.

      • Anita Ikonen says:

        It is not delusion, that out of ten possible kidney spaces, I saw seven of those very clearly and repeatedly, one of the ten I saw once and weakly but saw, and in the two remaining I never saw a kidney: one of those was my choice, the other was the target.

        The fact that I find that reason enough to consider another testing occasion, in my opinion is not indicative of mental illness or of lying to oneself, but is my continued curiosity in the experience that I have.

        While most of you are debunkers and want quick yes/no answers, I am also curious about the intermediate region that falls between psychic/no skill at all. Scientists often study even weak and evasive behavior, and it is in that spirit I continue a bit further. It harms no one that I proceed, and I fail to understand what the great opposition is all about.

        My goal is not attention. Before the IIG test I was very nervous and Mark Edward and James Underdown had to comfort me. And before the TAM demonstration, I was literally shaking and trembling. I find the attention I receive to be highly negative and uncomfortable, and it is not something I crave. Rather, I was hoping on productive and conductive discussion with the skeptical community, which rather is fairly impatient with claims of the paranormal, and wish to just discard it and put it aside, without any in-depth look into what is behind those claims and experiences.

        That I am not after attention, is further evidenced by my relief in that my third test will take place in the privacy between me and my skeptical organization.

      • Anita Ikonen says:

        “Do you think there are ways the Million Dollar Challenge could defend itself from folks who seek to exploit it for self promotion?”

        I am the claimant that was tested during this TAM demonstration. Please note that your assumptions are inaccurate, and that much of the confusion around what I am doing, which is then leading to a variety of conspiracy theories and false accusations, would be easily resolved if people such as yourself could just look at what it is that I am actually doing.

        Read my website to see what my thoughts and ideas actually are around this claim and the investigation I am doing, rather than speculate and form firm beliefs around your assumptions, which you base on the general expected behavior of claimants.

        I did not exploit TAM for self promotion. I am uncomfortable with the negative attention served from much of the amateur-level skeptical community, and am happy that my next, third, test will take place out of the public’s eye.

        “In this case it seems like her comment that she was only 80% certain (and that only when she was 100% certain did it count) gave her any out she wanted.”

        I said that my answer of person # 3 left side was an 80% confident one. When I make an answer I am confident in, it means that the perceptions that led to it were clear and consistent for me, and that is when I can hold the outcome of such an answer more strongly as evidence for or against my claim, and in this case, against.

        I do not need to be 100% certain in an answer in order to learn about the claim from the answer, and the 80% clear answer was compellingly clear enough to be highly representative of the validity of the claim, in my opinion. And before this statement of mine confuses some of you, please do consider the possibility that I am not after to try to verify myself as a psychic nor to gain attention, but that I truly do have a visual and felt sensory experience involved, and that I am studying that experience and looking forward to a credible result, regardless of whether it speaks for or against the claim.

        There is no out, I chose the wrong person in the TAM demonstration. I have never denied that fact, yet, somehow you seem to be hallucinating your own conviction that as a psychic claimant I should be denying a negative result, but this is purely based on your confirmation bias, and not on objective or reliable perception of the reality of the situation.

        “On one hand you could say they will always be able to make an “out” for themselves, but despite the rigid scientific controls what kind of agreement could you get from the testee that would change their mind?”

        I made no out. When I found out that my 80% confident answer was incorrect, I was talking about falsifying this claim and concluding on it as not a significantly interesting ability.

        Only when I found out that according to the notes I took during the demonstration – before the results and target were announced, out of ten possible kidney spaces, I saw seven kidneys very clearly and repeatedly as present. One kidney out of the ten I saw only once and weakly, but saw. And in the remaining two out of ten kidney spaces, I never saw a kidney…

        Yes, you may say that why did I choose TWO possible empty spaces during my readings, and wonder whether I did that deliberately in order to have a “back-up answer” and to up my chances somehow. It was not by choice, I simply did not sense a kidney in two of these ten kidney spaces.

        And the second one that I never did see, was in fact the target person and correct side. And that is why I will have another test. I do not call myself psychic, and evidence does not point toward me having an ability. The only consequence is my continued interest in investigating this claim, and that is a harmless undertaking, which I do hope will in the end help to illuminate the concept of paranormal claims, and their investigation.

    • Thanks for the summary of events, I’d started opening other windows to search for some details of what this post was talking about, but I certainly wasn’t going to spend too much time on this.

    • Anita Ikonen says:

      Jim Carr is not an objective observer.

      When I was working on the design of a test with the IIG for my claim, it quickly became clear that I did not know enough about how the claim works in order to design a test. How much time did I need to form a perception, could we use a screen between me and the persons, and so forth. So to answer these questions, I did simple at-home tests where I tried out one testing condition at a time. For instance I would try to perceive health information in the dark, or with a full-body screen, and screens made with different materials. I deliberately attempted difficult testing conditions under which my claim would fail, so to confirm that those block the claim from performing and to define the best possible testing protocol.

      Rather than just say “no, I do not want a screen”, I wanted to make sure that I understand what types of screen I could allow for a test, and in the process learned that I only need to see the small part of a person which I am attempting to see into and that the person can be clothed. Failing segments during this study process does nothing to discredit the claim, rather it helps to define the possible testing conditions. Trying out testing conditions is common practice in scientific research.

      I originally was not sure exactly what types of health information I could claim to detect or not, as I only had limited experience with the claim. The specific things I had detected in the past, were difficult for test considerations. Fortunately, during my investigation process I came across the experience of detecting that a kidney was missing, and was then able to add that to my claim, and later came to base the entirety of my claim and tests on that particular type of perception.

      I since have also added the detection of a uterus being missing to that, and am in current discussions with another skeptical organization about a test to find out if I can detect which of persons has or does not have a uterus. Geniously, the skeptical organization has suggested that we perform this as a gender-identification test. This way we could quickly and easily set up a large number of tests, and produce a larger amount of data sets, to illuminate the functionality of this claim of mine. I am not opposed to falsification of this claim, yet the results of both my IIG test and TAM demonstration have been interesting enough to give reasons for having yet another testing occasion, coming soon.

      And contrary to Jim Carr’s false assertions, I am not doing this investigation to get attention. The attention I am given by large parts of the amateur-level skeptical community, which Jim Carr belongs to, is largely negative and offensive, and not something I would crave or enjoy. My objectives not being attention, is further evidenced by how nervous I have been before both my IIG and TAM tests. I was literally shaking before the TAM one! But above all, the joy I have of actually having a next test take place outside of the public eye, is all the proof we need, that there is something else compelling me in this claim, than a craving for attention.

      As for “threats” against a staff – not faculty – member of my school, this concerns a staff member who joined Jim Carr’s chat during my IIG test. There, she openly posed as a member of the staff at my school, and in that role made insulting comments about my appearance; behavior which is forbidden by school rules. She also gossipped from faculty meetings. And when some in the chat were mocking me for my preference of older men, this staff member decided to add a little lie that I would have flirted with a faculty member. The “threat” then refers to me informing her, in Jim Carr’s forum, that her behavior is unprofessional and inappropriate, and that I would bring it up with the school’s administration, which I did. However my goal was never to have her fired, as Jim Carr says. But yes, Jim Carr did ban me from his forums for defending my rights and for demanding proper behavior from a staff member. This shows to the integrity behind his forums and website – or the lack thereof.

      Jim Carr loves to mention that I was suspended and later banned from the JREF Forums. Forum members loved to accuse me of mental illness in ways intended as offensive. My objections were ignored by the Forum management. And so I decided to do a little experiment to illustrate the inappropriateness of mental health accusations. I linked to a post where one of these forum members posts that she has schizotypal disorder, and for doing so I got in trouble. The JREF Forum, as has been pointed out by several, including by Jim Carr on several occasions, is a social club that is run based on its own rules and not on true moral or ethical values. False accusations against mental illness were ok, when posted by a popular member, but linking to a post with an admission to mental illness was not ok, since done by a woo.

      Even Jim Carr has several times been suspended from the JREF Forum, even for things like misusing the reporting function, and for silly bickering. Inclusion into the JREF Forum, or Jim Carr’s forum, hardly present a measure of a person’s character, as these are run by individual people, with personal, and one-sided, opinions and agendas. Anyone who wishes to form an opinion as to my character, is more than welcome to contact me in person or to talk to any of my friends. I am a sweetheart, if I say so myself. I just sometimes like to defend myself, courteously, but it is hard being a woo persisting on the continuation of my investigation, and skeptics will eventually kick me out not for true rule violations, but for mere frustration that I not go away.

      As for my past in the Breatharian woo, it is something which I have now denounced, and the occasional follower who still manages to find me, I discourage and deter by promoting to them the skeptical method. Rather than using this past against me, it should be appreciated, that as one of the past foremost proponents of this woo, I have now turned around and have the capability of enlightening its followers with science and skepticism. Therefore, it is only a good thing that I have these roots in the movement.

      I found my results in the IIG test interesting enough to warrant further testing. I am not after some pass/fail test, for psychic or not psychic, but rather I am learning more about what it is I experience, the details, and documenting the process of skeptical method of inquiry of a paranormal claim. If it disturbs you so much that I continue with my studies, you are more than welcome to step back and place your efforts and activism on a woo that is actually causing some harm.

      The extent and frequency of Jim Carr’s misunderstandings are starting to make them come across as deliberate lies. While the JREF considers my wrong answer in the TAM demonstration to hold no significance, I am the one who insists that it provides evidence against the claim. And I absolutely did not shrug off the results! When I found that my 80% confident answer was wrong I was talking about falsifying the claim! It was only when I reviewed the notes and saw that out of only two kidneys out of the ten possible spaces that I did not see, one was the one I picked person # 3 left side, and the other was person # 2 right side – the target. That was when I reluctantly realized that my claim was perhaps not over just yet.

      And again, none of what I do in my investigation is for attention. And that is why I am pleased that my third test will take place out of the public’s eye.

      Thank you,
      Anita Ikonen – VisionFromFeeling

      • Alleracsum says:

        @ Anita. You write, “As for my past in the Breatharian woo, it is something which I have now denounced, and the occasional follower who still manages to find me, I discourage and deter by promoting to them the skeptical method.”

        If you’ve “denounced” Breatharianism and want to discourage others from finding you, why is your website ( still active? Why not shut it down completely? If you’re so keen on the skeptical method, what possible value could that site have? Looks to me like you’re keeping your options open. Meanwhile, you rail against skeptics for mistreating you? Please….

      • Jim Carr says:

        Excellent point, Alleracsum, and one that has been brought to her attention many times. I regularly get visitors to my website looking for Alenara the Breatharian, and I’ve received e-mails supporting me for exposing her.

        It should be noted that her “medical perceptions” have their root in her former life as Alenara the Breatharian. Many of her breatharian claims are based on her Vision From Feeling, so the reality is she cannot denounce her breatharian past without denouncing her current claim.

        I encourage those interested to read the History of Anita Ikonen and the Missing Kidney Claim on my website. I’m willing to bet that the JREF didn’t provide any such background.

    • Dan Kennan says:

      Thank you thank you for the clear explanation Mark should have given us to begin with….this post pissed me off more than anything I’ve ever read on SB.

      To post an article that requires the VAST MAJORITY of readers to do hours of research just to figure out what it’s about, or to have attended an event that most could not attend is just plain rude.

      As skeptics, we need to be clear about our failures and problems, otherwise no one learns from them. The idea that a possible or perceived mistake should be hidden and covered by “radio silence” makes me wonder what other lessons we are not learning because someone is embarrassed. Being cryptic and deliberately keeping information from the skeptical community is the exact opposite of the behavior we should be encouraging.

  17. DocM says:

    Well, I was there, and I don’t really see what the noise is all about.

    As far as I know, the JREF tried to get somebody to accept being tested for the challenge publicly, in the same way it happened last year. None of the claimants was willing to do that, or able to attend – I don’t know what the individual reasons were, but I have it on good authority that a public challenge was the goal but could not be arranged.

    So instead we got a discussion about the Million Dollar Challenge, information about upcoming changes, and a “not a test” that was clearly said to have no bearing on the claimants real test, and no scientific value, but was supposed to illustrate the claim and make the audience think about how a real test could be conducted. I can understand that you may feel that the IIG was in some slighted by the JREFs choice, but as someone who was at the event, I at no point felt that your results were ignored or belittled. It was mentioned that the IIG had tested the claimant before with a negative result, and it was said that the protocol the IIG used was a very good one. To quote from memory: “These people really know what they are doing” followed by an explanation how you even asked the right experts to find out that most people miss the left kidney, and that the claimant so far always claimed that a left kidney was missing. Nevertheless, unless the IIG performs official pre-tests for the JREF, that does not prevent anybody from being tested for the MDC again.

    The whole thing was not ideal – most people probably would have preferred a real test – but it was informative and entertaining enough to keep us in our seats.

    The main point of this post seems to be that claimants can use the Challenge to promote themselves. Well, Duh. That was actually discussed during this event, and I agree with DJ’s “I’m willing to take that risk.” VFF – to keep with your avoidance of her name – failed publicly in a test that gave her a really good chance of getting it right. She seemed sincere and friendly, and it takes courage to agree to such a public test, so I think the audience left without any negative feelings towards her. But we also saw her fail spectacularly, and I doubt that “I was tested by the JREF” gives her more PR than “800 people saw that I’m not able to do what I claim to be able to do”.

    • Kitty says:

      As a fellow attendee, I heartily agree. The discussion of the MDC was far more interesting than the demonstration and I wonder why it hasn’t gotten the same interest.

    • Jim Carr says:

      What “risk” did DJ take? The JREF put asses in the seats, and TAM revenue goes a long way towards paying Mr. Randi’s $200K salary. They provided entertainment, not education. There was a full video of her actual demonstration that could have been edited down and used for the same effect.

      Furthermore, if a woo like VFF uses it to expand her outreach, how does it hurt the JREF? They haven’t devoted any resources whatsoever to exposing. I and the IIG have. So have a lot of JREF Forums members. The JREF has been silent except for Jeff Wagg’s uncritical interview with her on Rational Alchemy.

      And what about the next time VFF contacts a migraine sufferers support group claiming she can heal them? How is the JREF affected when they check out her website and see a prominent skeptical organization allowing her to give a “demonstration” at their annual convention? Will DJ get a horrible migraine when somebody goes off their meds?

      The “risk” DJ took was for everyone else except the JREF.

      You say she “sounds” sincere, which to me indicates a huge problem with the whole event. She is a known liar. She has repeatedly broken promises regarding testing her claims and accepting the results. She has repeatedly altered her claims while at the same time getting people to ignore the dozens of other ridiculous claims she has made (see The Claims on my website). She was suspended repeatedly then banned from the JREF Forums for personal attacks and harassing the moderators. She was banned from my forums for threatening lawsuits and trying to get a member fired from her job because of her comments about the IIG test. She has repeatedly harassed me by phone and e-mail for months.

      Yet the JREF gave her a stage and people such as yourself walk away thinking, “Nice girl. Sincere.” If they wanted to give her the stage, it should have been to dissect her claims, misleading statements and outright lies, not allow her to “demonstrate” her abilities with an easy chance of a false positive.

      • DocM says:

        [quote]Yet the JREF gave her a stage and people such as yourself walk away thinking, “Nice girl. Sincere.”[/quote]

        Actually, I had already talked to her before the event. And yes, that was my impression. But you may want to consider reading the rest of my comment, where I pointed out that she also completely failed to show ANY unusual abilities whatsoever.

        My assessment of her claims is not based on her personality, but on her performance in the demonstration. And I am very sure that the same goes for nearly everybody else in the audience. She handled herself well, but TAM attendees are smart enough to look past that and see that no matter how nice she seemed, she still couldn’t do what she claimed to be able to do.

        I’m sorry, but I still get the impression that this whole discussion is based on hurt pride. The people who organised the demonstration had reasons why they did it the way it was done, and in my opinion it wouldn’t have hurt to ask for their reasons before publicly criticising an event you did not even attend.

        Just because the claimant now does exactly what every other claimant in the history of all skeptical challenges has done (ignore or twist the negative results), doesn’t mean that the JREF should instead just have read your report.

      • Jim Carr says:

        Whether anyone’s pride was hurt or not does not change the validity of the arguments, so please don’t waste time with ad hominem arguments.

        You should do some research. The JREF had ample time before and after the demonstration to discuss this, but they have been silent. When Jeff Wagg put VFF on his radio show, it was discussed in great detail on the JREF Forums ( Read for yourself how poorly it was handled before, during, and after the interview. Allison, who allegedly set up the TAM demonstration, was part of the RA cast at the time, so she knew what was going on.

        And how about some evidence that VFF is like other claimants? I challenge you to show me any tested claimant that has been as actively involved in self-promotion before and especially after failing tests. Before the JREF brought her on, two skeptical organizations had debunked her. I believe what happened is unprecedented. Feel free to demonstrate otherwise.

        And for the record, the “report” doesn’t belong to myself or to Mark. It belongs to the IIG, so please take a moment to get your facts straight.

        And, once again, the fact that VFF was not presented as a known liar, manipulator, and harasser who has not only failed multiple tests but has dozens of claims beyond detecting missing kidneys speaks volumes about how the demonstration was handled. Giving people like that a “soft” environment to promote themselves is not what skeptics should be doing.

      • Anita Ikonen says:

        The investigation I do is not for self promotion. I am documenting the process involved with the skeptical investigation of a paranormal claim, something which is otherwise eluded by most paranormal claimants. If I do receive any attention to myself, it is entirely unintentional and unnecessary. Attention is not my objective, as evidenced by my joy in that my next test takes place in private.

      • Jim Carr says:

        Oh, stop with that already. You have written *literally* over a million words about yourself and your claim (I calculated it). You have a website devoted to yourself with your face all over the home page. It is YOU who decided to make all of this public when it all could have been handled privately. Truth is, we all go through various forms of self-discovery in our lives, but 99.9999% of us don’t make it into a public spectacle. You claims of this not being for attention are about as reliable as your claims about being a 350 year old alien from Arcturus.

      • DocM says:

        Actually, what you considered an ad hominem argument, was me trying to understand where the highly aggressive tone of several comments was coming from.

        This has been rather educational. Anita DID prove to be manipulative (in a very clumsy way), by trying to play the IIG against the JREF. That did change my opinion of her as a person for the worse.

        But that is due to her own comments, not those of other people. Seriously, asking me to prove something I did not say in the first place is not the way to do it. And if you manage to drive a fellow skeptic from the discussion, you may consider if you could have handled that better.

      • Jim Carr says:

        Honestly, DocM, if my comments were so harsh as to drive you from the discussion, then so be it. I was being straightforward and not pussy-footing around. In my mind it’s a sad day when skeptics consider that to be harsh. In fact I argue that there’s a trend these days that puts form ahead of substance, which allows people like VFF to get the stage at the most prominent skeptical event of the year while Mark Edward is called a drama queen for criticizing that decision.

        You said that your impression was that the “whole discussion” was based on “hurt pride” and did not address the validity of any of the arguments being made. That, by definition, is an ad hominem. Whether the discussion stemmed from hurt pride or a night of drunken debauchery is irrelevant to the validity of the arguments presented.

        Your judgment of Anita based on her comments is fine. If you visited my website, her website and/or the JREF Forums, you would find numerous comments by her. Seriously, she’s written around a million words about herself, yet the JREF did not present an accurate picture of her at all.

        By giving her the stage, the JREF tacitly said that this person is worthy of attention and somewhat reliable when the reality is that she’s been repeatedly debunked, has dozens of other claims, and has repeatedly and publicly demonstrated a vengeful nature.

        Does that tick me off? Yes. Being skeptical does not mean being free of emotion. There’s a difference between the analysis driving the emotion and emotion driving the analysis.

      • Anita Ikonen says:

        I do not claim that I can heal migraines. I was asking for volunteers to let me test whether I could. Because I attempted a treatment on somebody, and he claims dramatic improvement. People with migraines suffer tremendously, and are entitled to everybody doing what we can to try to help them, and so if someone – not me – is convinced that what I did was able to help alleviate their symptoms, I feel entitled to find out if I can.

        My interest in this was not for personal gain, but really because I care about them, and nothing unethical was involved. In fact I contacted the state massage board with my inquiry about such a study, and found out that the best venue is for me to obtain an accredited massage therapy license, at which I am free to evaluate my method on patients.

        No one would ever stop taking their migraine medication as a result of having had any involvement with me. I emphasize that I am not a licensed medical practitioner, and that they may only make changes to their medication after consulting with their medical provider.

        And I am by no means a liar. I have broken no promises. I thought I would falsify the claim after the IIG test were I to fail to meet the criteria of that test, meanwhile I had no ways of expecting to reach the interesting intermediary result at 3.8% odds, which warranted me to continue with my testing and to alter my initial commitment.

        If scientists would always blindly have to abide by their initial expectations and promises that were made in the planning stages before the test was conducted, and not be allowed to alter their initial premise after the testing has been performed, science would go nowhere and would be full of mistakes. Science is all about an iterative process.

        I was suspended from the JREF Forums for defending myself against personal attacks from Forum members, who seem to think that attacking the arguer is the same as attacking the argument. Meanwhile Jim Carr gets suspended for little things, like misusing the report function.

        As for the “threats” against one of your forum members. She was posting as a member of the staff at my school, making school rule violations by comments about my appearance, gossiping from faculty meetings, and lying that I would have flirted with a professor so that she would have something to add to the ridicule in your forums about my preference in older men. The only threat I made was to bring up her behavior with the school administration, which I did. And I had no intentions of having her fired.

        I have not harassed you by phone for months. I only called on one afternoon when I was very upset for your forum calling me a racist and I was asking you, as the owner of that forum, to address this form of harassment. As for e-mail harassment, I have occasionally written to you to kindly correct you in your mistakes, such as when you convinced yourself that I had recorded a conversation between me and Jeff Wagg without his awareness, and you were making a fool of yourself with your conviction that I had done something wrong. Read about it here.

        As much as I am aware, I make no misleading statements, meanwhile there is a plentitude of misunderstandings by Jim Carr, but I take no responsibility for that. I make no lies. And I fully acknowledged the risk of a false positive, and thoroughly emphasized that a positive result would not hold as evidence in favor of the claim.

      • Jim Carr says:

        I am not going to rehash all of your lies and misleading statements here. Those interested can visit my website exposing Anita Ikonen and see for themselves. They should read The Claims to see the multitude of outrageous claims you have made. They should read the dubious history of your missing kidney claim. In the General Discussion area they should read the treads entitled “Harassment,” “Harassment Part II,” “Looking Into Restraining Orders,” and “Lies, Half Truths and Misleading Statements.” And, of course they should read my blog, especially the one exposing your other identity as Alenara the Breatharian.

        It was a horrible mistake for the JREF to allow you on the stage at their event considering your repeated threatening behavior, which also includes passing around a petition to get a professor fired – the one who “wrecked” your 4.0 (which you still claim to have). There are just some people they shouldn’t associate themselves with, and you’re one of them.

    • Anita Ikonen says:

      “and it was said that the protocol the IIG used was a very good one. To quote from memory: “These people really know what they are doing” followed by an explanation how you even asked the right experts to find out that most people miss the left kidney, and that the claimant so far always claimed that a left kidney was missing.”

      I was tested by the IIG and now at TAM. Thanks, since I designed most parts of the testing protocol myself, and with the help of the assistance of several JREF Forum members. Meanwhile I would have wanted an even more rigorous testing procedure, involving more extensive screens that block out more, but that’s a whole other story.

      The results of the TAM demonstration prove that I do not always choose the left side for missing kidney. Out of the only two “empty” spaces I identified among the ten possible kidney spaces, one was left and the other was right. (And the right one was correctly the target missing kidney.)

      This shows the danger of making a conclusion based on only three data points. If all of my three answers in the IIG test were left side, three data points is not sufficient to assume that I would “always” choose left. And no I don’t always choose left side.

      • Max says:

        Or after being called out on always choosing the left side, you stopped always choosing the left side.

        By my calculation, given two random guesses in the TAM demo, there’s a 1/5 chance that one of them is correct.

        I’m curious about the idea that, in Mark’s words, “most of the people by far who donate kidneys donate a left kidney. So a clear majority of the one-kidneyed people out there are missing their left kidney.”
        What about the recipient? I assume the recipient had both kidneys fail. If they’re both removed, and the donor’s left kidney goes into the recipient’s left side, then the recipient ends up missing a right kidney.

      • Alleracsum says:

        Excellent point. This aspect is discussed in the IIG report but the more interesting “twist” to it is missed by some readers. It was impossible to get a reliable figure on kidney transplants, recipients, donors and the status (left, right) of the survivors in an average population. We proceeded on the presumption that Anita, thinking there MIGHT be a statistical advantage, would presume the IIG would have a harder time finding “righties” and would skew her choices accordingly. So, it didn’t matter if it was “true” or not, it only mattered if Anita THOUGHT it might matter. She picked left (missing) in every trial and did later admit that she’d found this research and that it “may” have been in the back of her mind.

  18. Kitty says:

    “If you are going to present a session on how a professional challenge is handled and the protocol and procedures that go into it, why choose as the subject a medical medium who has been previously falsified by a reputable investigation group to use as the center of attention?”

    Because she’s perfect for that sort of demonstration? All claimants have similar traits – the mock humility, the waffling, the intense expression, the special language for their magic, the post-test spin.

    But not all of them will fly across the world, pay for a conference, and then allow themselves to be put through their paces in a half-assed test worked into a last minute lecture during the final moments of TAM.

    Who else could they have gotten?

    • Jim Carr says:

      If you are going to present a session on how a professional challenge is handled, why present one that was not professionally handled? The IIG’s test is well documented and the entire thing was recorded. Last year’s test with Connie Sonne was recorded. Both would have made excellent examples.

      Besides that, why did they even need a “real” medium in the first place? None are real. Anybody could have stood in VFF’s place.

      Sounds to me like you are rationalizing their decision instead of looking at it skeptically.

      • Max says:

        People paying to attend a conference would rather see a live demo than a video they can watch online. A “real” medium can take questions from the audience.

      • Jim Carr says:

        As has been pointed out repeatedly, it wasn’t really a demo at all because it lacked even a semblance of real controls. It was just some people sitting in chairs. Please tell me what the audience learned by sitting around watching her pretend to look inside people.

        A video could have been edited down to a few minutes to demonstrate all of the work that actually went into a real test. The IIG could have actually discussed the controls and blinding that they did instead of having people stare at Anita. They could have field all sorts of intelligent questions.

        If the JREF wanted to interview a fraud, they could have invited her as well and asked her the pointed questions that skeptics ask. They had the opportunity, but they blew it.

        So, please share. What did you learn?

      • Kitty says:

        What did I learn? Some fun facts about the history of the MDC, details of Allison’s role as first contact, ideas that have been tossed around in the last year, future plans, Banachek’s promotion, etc.

        And then at the end, some girl who thinks she’s a psychic did her thing live while Banachek asked the same sort of questions that come up and got the same sort of answers that make testing a claimant so frustrating.

        The end of the presentation was not nearly as interesting as the beginning.

        Yet, it’s amazing how many people have ranted against that end presentation without putting it in context or even bothering to learn what the context was. Seems a bit intellectually dishonest.

      • Jim Carr says:

        You did not answer the question. What did you learn from the demonstration with Anita Ikonen, because that’s what this is about. It’s not “intellectually dishonest” to focus on that aspect of the presentation because that’s the aspect that some of us have issues with. If somebody crashes their car into a bus stop, it doesn’t really matter all the other successful turns they made during the rest of that trip.

  19. Dr. Dim says:

    It’s disappointing to see what looks like a possible rift opening in the skeptical movement. I wasn’t at TAM8, but I think I understand what had transpired and how it has upset a fair amount of skeptics.

    I had thought that skeptics were a more cohesive group than paranormalists. (In general, I still think we are.) Paranormal groups seem to splinter more easily because they have no firm grounding for their ideas. There can as many ideas about what the paranormal is as there are those who accept it. Hence the frequent falling outs. We skeptics have a far more solid grounding in reality than the true believers. Facts is facts. Still, I guess any group with a membership of more than one person is going to have disagreements.

    So, I’m disappointed by the tone of this piece and that of some of the comments and other items I’ve read on this controversy. I understand it, but I’m still disappointed.

    Let us all hope that cooler heads will prevail and that we skeptics don’t become victims of cognitive dissonance. Perhaps the JREF has made a huge error in judgment in their actions at TAM8. I hope that, instead of bypassing the controversy, Jeff Wagg, D J Groethe, Banachek, and Randi address this issue openly and thoughtfully. Let’s air it out and come to an understanding. If there is something to be learned by this, let’s learn it.

    I know skeptics only human, but we all want the same thing: a world of people who think more critically and rationally.

    I’ll be looking for future developments on this.

    • Susan Gerbic says:

      Here here!

      What mark appears to be asking for is just that.let’s hear some background on why they thought this was such a great idea. Crickets so far

      How would the JREF feel if the iig retested connie sonne or Rosemary hunter a few months after their failurewith JREF?

  20. Anita Ikonen says:

    Mark, you have a picture of the crowd that gathered around me after the TAM demonstration, and you title it “The Center of Attention”. I apologize, Mark, if I experience something interesting with medical perceptions, and that rather than take the normal route of psychic claimants and open shop and begin to exploit people for money with potentially harmful and unethical advice and stay away from skeptics altogether, I take the skeptical community up on its offer of testing paranormal claims, and I accepted the welcome by the JREF for me to attend TAM8 with a simple demonstration. I did not invite myself.

    I am also sorry that my investigation attracts attention, so in fact my next, third, test will be with an undisclosed skeptical organization this time, and one that conducts its tests less like a show. It will take place out of the public’s eye and sans all of this drama.

    From the #13 second paragraph in your previous blog Sex In The Seance Room which you wanted us to review, “Just to focus on her for the sake of argument However, her last comment about being “dragged back into the woo” by the mean ol’ skeptics show she is obviously setting the table for the big reveal – and the excuse that SHE was used and taken advantage of by older men who understood her weaknesses, allure, etc.” You are mistaken. I am not being dragged into woo no matter how creative some of the meanness of skeptics will be, and there is no hidden agenda with what I do. I am simply investigating a paranormal claim, not necessarily to produce a pass/fail answer, but to learn more about the experience, and that through the skeptical method of inquiry.

    Mark: “As it is, this so-called non-tested individual is now taking full advantage of every opportunity to sow the seeds of discontent, all the while skirting for their own notoriety the line between “test” and “demonstration.”” The JREF states that the results of this demonstration, regardless of what those would be, will hold no weight for or against the claim. Meanwhile I choose to hold my wrong answer as evidence against the claim.

    You are writing strictly from your own imaginations of me, and you haven’t got a clue as to what I am doing or how I reason around my investigation.

    “In addition, as if to suggest some successful advocacy or partnership, this person’s woo website now sports both the IIG logo and the TAM8 logo as part of the total picture page they are pitching to the world. This makes all of us look shabby.” I added the logos to promote the work done by the IIG and by JREF, and it is by no means intended to promote validity of my claim nor to increase my credibility. Please read the disclaimer beneath each of those logos. You are simply mistaken, Mark. In fact, I take many opportunities to promote these two investigating skeptical organizations. I was actively handing out IIG pamphlets at TAM to the many attendees who had never heard of the organization before, while emphasizing that I do not represent the organization and that I was merely tested by them, and that the test that was put together was of good quality and that I am happy with the way it was conducted and the outcome.

    Mark, you too are a former woo and now a valuable IIG member. In the beginning when what we had was more like friendship and less like bickering, you were encouraging and supporting me with my efforts toward skepticism, a path you once took. Seems that ever since I started dating your friend, another IIG member, things turned sour and that was also coincidentally when you wrote the very offensive blog Sex In The Seance Room portraying me as some form of woo whore, simply for having fallen for a skeptic.

    As for your conspiracy theories, as you called them, about some emerging group of woo that wishes to infiltrate the skeptical community from within to cause harm and confusion, “These frauds will be attractive, well dressed, appear outwardly intelligent, educated and do everything they can to entice, cajole and infiltrate skeptic gatherings with a pronounced interest in all things skeptical, while at the same time sticking it to us as soon as they are out of our sight.” I am not a fraud. I merely claim to have a paranormal claim. That when I look at people I experience visual and felt health perceptions, not claiming that they be true, I am testing them openly and honestly. If I actually claimed to be psychic, now that would be fraud, but phew I am not doing that.

    As for being attractive, please refrain from such sexist and irrelevant remarks that have got nothing to do with my claim, which must be dealt with impersonally for an emotionally unbiased perspective on it. My involvement in skepticism should be encouraged for any person coming with a paranormal claim, as I intend no harm to the skeptical movement, rather I value the things that I learn about skepticism and its investigation methods.

    “Allowing such individuals to garner our attentions outside of the lab and inveigle us with suggested “readings” and other attempts at displaying their wares as innocent conversation is a dangerous game.” I do psychic reading attempts exclusively on Skeptics, and I would think you should encourage that kind of an approach to my curiosity of my claim. This presents the claim an opportunity to be evaluated and on recipients who can be relied on for being honest as well as unharmed by potential inaccuracy. I do no readings on non-Skeptics. And one TAMmer who I read – by his request – offered to give me money, but I insisted that I can not take money for a reading and that he give it to either the JREF or the IIG instead to support skepticism.

    And I do none of my investigation for the purpose of getting attention or admiration, as evidenced by how I was shaking and trembling before my TAM demonstration, and had not D.J. Grothe and Banachek cuddled me and comforted me with words such as, “Don’t be nervous! You are among friends!”, I would have been a mess. And do you recall, Mark, how nervous I was before our IIG test and how both you and Underdown had to help me out?

    Unfortunately, when big skeptical organizations make their offer to test claimants, they do make it public and like a show. Only too bad that I am then the one attacked for being the recipient of attention, attention that has been exclusively negative and highly uncomfortable, and that is entirely not my purpose with what I do. And therefore I am so pleased to have my third test going to be entirely out of the limelight this time.

    You talk about woos who try to act as skeptics while they are not that. I am aware of several “skeptics” who do not qualify for the name. And those of you who missed TAM this year should keep an eye out for Dr. Massimo Pigliucci’s brilliant lecture about why skepticism and critical thinking does not automatically make someone a scientist nor grant the scientific credentials. You should not be worried about the occasional woo who dares to look into skepticism, rather what greatly reduces the overall quality of skepticism, are the many simply opinionated people, who lack any of the objectivity or intelligence to be worthy of the name.

    But as someone who is fairly familiar with the work by the IIG by now, I do agree with your premise that the JREF seems to not give enough well-deserved attention to the IIG or to the work they do. After both my test, and the Regen test of telepathy, I never saw any JREF SWIFT articles appearing to describe these rather large-scale well-conducted skeptical challenges, meanwhile there appeared a vast amount of SWIFT’s that seemed utterly meaningless and a waste of time in comparison. I would also have liked for the IIG to be given more time and recognition at TAM, after all they are our second largest (if not now the largest) testing skeptical organization, and their many investigations are just phenomenal and impressive. JREF, which publicizes and promotes many big and small skeptical happenings from around the world, fails to offer the Independent Investigations Group any of the attention that they deserve. I am shocked, and wonder what underlying conflict might be responsible?

    “Other inexplicable events transpired over that weekend that are far beyond my present at-a-distance level of comprehension to even comment upon. I dare not scratch the surface for fear of being censored or summarily dismissed from this blog for even going near them.” Is this when I had Dr. Michael Shermer in my hotel room at TAM for a psychic reading which he himself had volunteered himself for, and with two other people in the room, and you assumed that this meant that we had done something more than a reading and you then chose to publicly call me by a certain derogatory name? And when I wrote to you to explain your mistake and that your imagination of me had once again got carried away, you replied for me to simply “stop whining and moaning”? Read about it here.

    But aside from my own participation at the end as a claimant, I also attended TAM as a regular attendee. I wore the badge, the flying pig pin, and the TAM t-shirt. It was my first TAM, and I am surprised to hear so much criticism against the event by people who were not there. The lectures were truly inspiring, and some even as much as life-changing. You, along with Penn & Teller, were missed this year, so do come next year! And please refrain from further comments about my exterior appearance or sexuality, as it does nothing to further the investigation of my claim and is both irrelevant as well as offensive.

    Anita – VisionFromFeeling
    About my TAM demonstration

    • miller says:

      Hi Anita, we’ve met in person, but you may not know who I am. I’m the honorary IIG member. ;)

      I think at this point, Mark is done criticizing you, and is going after the JREF itself. I do not think you should have been tested, because your claim did not deserve it.

      Skeptics always have to keep a careful balance in choosing claims to test and criticize, because some are too obscure or unlikely. And it’s not just that criticizing an obscure claim may backfire and give it more attention than it deserves. Criticizing claims also requires effort, and testing claims requires tremendous effort. Getting tested just “to learn more about the experience” is frivolous and a waste of resources.

      You’ve already failed the IIG test, and that’s the end of it. I notice that on your website, you say that you achieved a result which could only happen %3.8 by chance. I’m not entirely sure how you calculated that number, but you probably included the fact that one of the guesses was the right person, wrong kidney. Do you know, there’s a reason that you have to say before the test what results constitute a success? It’s because you can bias your conclusions merely by choosing the right method for data analysis after seeing the results. Any good data analyst knows this.

      Did you also know that most claimants refuse to retract their claims even after failing the test? Do you remember Carol Tavris’ talk?

      Furthermore, a 3.8% false positive rate is much higher than you think. I think if you used Bayesian statistics, you would find that it does not, overall, support your claim. I can walk you through it if you want. In any case, I think the prior probability is too small to be overcome so easily. I also think it quite likely that you were doing cold reading, which is a completely ordinary process that requires no knowledge on your part. IIG does its best to control for it, but they can only do so much to stop people from fidgeting.

      I disagree with Mark in that I don’t think you’re intentionally manipulating anyone. Maybe Mark can spot manipulation better than I can, since he is a magician. But whether you are fooling us or fooling yourself, I think you’ve had enough testing.

  21. ford prefect says:

    Just a rude, out-of-context question: if the subject in question was an overweight male with poor hygiene instead of a pleasantly attractive blonde female, would this brouhaha have ever happened? Come on, guys (and I mean the males who are the overwhelming demographic in all the leading skeptic groups), would you seriously deny that this woman has completely worked you based on physiological principles?

    • Beelzebud says:

      Bingo! I remember making a comment similar to this the last time this crap was brought up.

      This seems pretty cut and dry to me.

  22. Max says:

    “This is the last word you will hear from me about the Ikonen Saga unless she manages to levitate over The Statue of Liberty.
    I won’t belabour any more about her intentions or suggest further inappropriate insinuations about with who or where she or her ilk might spend their time, I will instead point out other people to fill in the blanks about what happened.”
    -Mark Edward, 4/24/2010

  23. connie sonne says:

    Good for you Mark and others too….you are beginning to open up your eyes for what going on at JREF. And by the way: Anita corporate with JREF and “the top” of CFI. They all know (including herself)that she is NOT able to do ANYTHING else but guessing and do some promotion! How do I know?? She is NOT one of us !! You will see


  24. Jason Smith says:

    Can we have a pageant for “biggest drama queen in the skeptical world”? Definitely the last time I read a Mark Edward blog post. The crying, whining and over-dramatism is utterly ridiculous.

    I also find it weird that his complaints about Daniel Loxton copy-editing the posts disappeared. Maybe it was a ghost?

    • Jim Carr says:

      Personally, I find Mark’s blogs informative and provocative. It seems to me that he’s turning a skeptic eye towards skeptics themselves, something which is long overdue. From where I sit I see far too many so-called skeptical blogs which are little more than skeptics gnashing their teeth in front of other skeptics, all of whom seem to feel proud and somewhat smug. There’s quite a bit of preaching to the choir with skeptics all patting each other on the back.

      What does that accomplish? Where’s the outreach? Hell, where’s the critical thinking? There seems to be too much emphasis on what you believe and too little on how you arrive at your beliefs. In some ways it’s more like a club than a movement.

      And most importantly, there’s very little self-examination. Those that dare upset the applecart are called drama queens and accused of having hurt pride. That’s decidedly uncritical. Skeptics should come down on themselves far harder than they do the likes of Sylvia Browne or Jenny McCarthy.

    • No ghost: Mark and I decided to take down those comments.

  25. Lonnie says:

    For what its worth, Anita at least appears to be doing better than most people that get tested in so far as she has admited she doesnt deny that the tests came out negative, she doesnt claim we had some negative influence on her, and she isnt looking for reason they went wrong… She has even admitted that she may indeed not have any ability, which is almost a miracle compared to previous claimants.

    I think she is in error with her interpretation of the TAM demonstration, where many of us are giving her zero credit for guessing the wrong person, she is giving herself quite a bit of credit(it seems to me) for “narrowing it down” to two people. Sorry, all or nothing.

    We will see how things change after test number 3.

    Has she made mention of what kind of results she would consider negative? How many tests would she need to not pass before she started doubting herself? How many would she need to not pass before she starting accepting that maybe her “feelings” are little more than delusions? These are the types of questions I think many of us would like answers in print by her.

    • Jim Carr says:

      Lonnie, it’s not really correct to call it test #3. Check out my page on Anita Ikonen’s tests for more detail on the numerous “tests” she has already failed (well, in everyone’s opinion except hers). As Mark alluded to in his blog, Anita seems to a kind of “executive skeptic” in that she’s figured out that the best way to deal with failure is to simply claim it as some sort of victory and keep going full steam ahead.

      Thing is, it’s really not important what she thinks. The goal should not be to convince her that her claims are invalid because that’s what she’s been using to string people along. She had her chance to prove her claims, and she failed. She’s been given more chances and continued to fail. She should be put into the “fully debunked” pile and not given any more attention by any other skeptic groups because it only works to her advantage by lending her credibility.

      • kabol says:

        thank you for your insight and diligence on this particular woo-wielder.

        “the claims” page on your website was enlightening, to say the least.

        although, i must say — even if she can’t really see missing kidneys, she must find “getting high off of photos of drugs” to be rather…entertaining? useful?

        used too much??

  26. gmonster2 says:

    At Tam8 she had three guesses its on her website 1st 2nd and 3rd choice! A human mri that can’t see shit..

    She is lieing again in the above comments her second guess was 2nd targets right kidney she said she never saw it (liar)! She marked it down twice XX in her notes that she saw it.

    At IIg she had 1:4 chance not 3.8% (liar)

    She is 350 yrs old an Arcturan and a ghost pushed her off a chair and has a 4.0 (liar)…

  27. She failed. Time to move on.

  28. david says:

    This has to be the worst blog post I have read. It made no sense if you are not steeped in what ever went on. Edwards sounds like a complete conspiracy nut. Seriously it’s a crackpot post. Finally I could not give a crap about behind the scenes childish bickering. Nobody is talking about this… not because of a cover up, because nobody cares.

  29. Mark Edward says:

    Blah, blah, blah, blah. Amazing. Thousands of words. Still no answer to my simple question. How sad.

  30. kabol says:

    VFF/anita states: “I am simply investigating a paranormal claim, not necessarily to produce a pass/fail answer, but to learn more about the experience, and that through the skeptical method of inquiry.”

    are you doing this in a skeptical/scientific manner?

    more importantly (to me), do you now or have you ever profited from your (extremely odd kidney-viewing, alien-being) claims in any way?

    • Anita Ikonen says:

      I do not give psychic readings, I make no money off my claims, and I do not claim to be a psychic. I only do readings on willing and volunteering skeptics, as I can better trust their honesty with reporting the accuracy or inaccuracy as well as they are less likely to be harmed by potentially inaccurate or distressful health information.

      So far I have spent in excess of $2,500 of my personal funds for this hobby of mine of paranormal investigation, sacrificing both car and a great deal of shopping. Meanwhile I have earned none in return for any forms of expression of my claims.

      I once was a foremost proponent of the Breatharian woo. I did write a book which is highly coveted. It, along with a series of tours and lectures could have earned me some easy millions, but I gave it all away. The book did not get published, and I retreated from the movement. The reason being that I discovered the scientific study of light, optical physics, which to me had all the answers that I was trying to form on my own with the pseudoscience.

  31. Daylightstar says:

    VfF/Anita Ikonen:
    “I am simply investigating a paranormal claim, not necessarily to produce a pass/fail answer, but to learn more about the experience, and that through the skeptical method of inquiry.”

    Contrast the above statement with the statement below, which she made with respect to the IIG test, on her site:

    VfF/Anita Ikonen about the IIG test:
    “I feel really good about the test I am about to have, but most importantly of all, I know that it is the best type of test design for my claim of medical perceptions and I can never expect to be able to design a test that would be any easier for me to pass. Therefore the results of the paranormal test will conclude on the claim, and if I fail the test I will be proud to announce that the claim of medical perceptions through extrasensory perception is

    Misrepresentation and adaptation.

    Whatever she says about her claims at any time, has no value after that.

    • Anita Ikonen says:

      I never expected to pass the IIG test at 100%, but I couldn’t have expected to do as well as I did, landing somewhere in the upper grayzone between complete pass and complete fail, closer to the pass than to the fail.

      Also I ran into two unforeseen circumstances at the IIG test that impaired on my performance. One was that in the first trial I found that different people are differently difficult for me to feel into, and the particular set of people in this trial was difficult. That is why after the first trial I told all the IIG members there about how I knew my answer would be wrong. It did not represent my claim.

      Second trial went so well, I produced an answer I was so confident in that I declared that if it be wrong the whole claim is falsified. But it was the right answer. So it’s not like I’m not willing to falsify this thing, just that I want it to be falsified by being wrong in an answer that represented its most clear and confident perceptions.

      In the third trial I was exhausted and nearly cancelled that trial. I made sure to write this down in my papers during the trial so that no one would say that I made the excuse after the fact.

      In real scientific research, which skeptical challenges are not, best efforts are made to construct a viable testing procedure theoretically before conducting the first series of tests. Yes, I said series of tests, because science rarely concludes on a hypothesis after only one single test or with three simple trials. Thereafter the test is conducted, and after that the scientists, which skeptics are not, assess the test results and look back at the test and determine whether any new unforeseen factors may have been identified that may have affected the outcome of the test. Thereafter new test designs are made, each that address one of the new parameters.

      If my IIG test were a scientific test with the intent to determine the capabilities of my claim, my two excuses that different people vary in how easy it is for me to feel into them, and that three 27 minute trials in a row are too much, would have both been considered especially since they were made during the test and not after the fact. It is similar to if you run a test and only after running the test you realize that lights had an effect on the outcome. If you did not realize that in the protocol planning stage you do not say “too bad, you should have thought of that”. You go back, adjust the protocol, and determine whether lighting had any effect on the outcome.

      Real research is tedious, it is iterative, and it rather conducts too many tests than too few. A simple hypothesis may require hundreds of repeated trials before the answer begins to become clear, and a good scientist is proud to consider additional affecting parameters and to test each of those in its own additional sets of testing.

      Skeptics are not scientists. A skeptic wants a quick yes or no answer, all or nothing, 100% psychic or not at all. Meanwhile I am conducting this out of scientific curiosity, I want to determine what the claim can do and under what conditions. Not to prove that I’d be psychic, but to fully explore this experience which most who experience it would misinterpret as a paranormal ability.

      This adaptation you talk about is a natural and essential part of scientific research.

      • Daylightstar says:

        The adaptation I talk about is not the kind of adaptation you would like to suggest I am talking about.

        The punchline of your unnecessarily longwinded reply therefore boils down to more misrepresentation.

  32. titmouse says:

    A 1-in-10 chance of being right is very low for a “demonstration” or a test. The JREF needs to have a contract with the claimant outlining a more carefully controlled setting for testing at a later date if the screening demo is positive, lest a time-wasting sh*tstorm follow a lucky guess.

    Really bad form suggesting the JREF ought refuse to test anyone simply because they are less than honest or are self promoting.

    As I understand, the JREF says, “Here’s how someone might cheat and how you can control for that.” In other words, the JREF takes on cheaters.

    Cheaters by definition are bad people. Okay some may be forgiven for being less conscious of their deception. But condescension does not equal respect.

    If the JREF can’t handle bad people, shut it down. There’s no point.

    Refusal to deal with any claimant needs to be based on verifiable facts –e.g., the claimant misrepresented statements by JREF agents to falsely imply endorsement, or the claimant threatened to file suit against the JREF. Presenting such facts ought not require lengthy drama.