17 December 2004

Interview With The Independent Investigations Group - The IIG

Interview With The Independent Investigations Group

The following interview was originally conducted on the 17th December 2004

Independent Investigations Group

The IIG made a year long thorough investigation into the claims of self proclaimed Psychic Detective Carla Baron.

After the initial shockwaves of this devestaing investigation into Carla Baron had died down, some important questions needed to be answered.

The IIG were more than happy to answer all the questions aimed at them, and the whole IIG team spent a good amount of time answering in full.

So i would like to thank everyone at The IIG for the following interview.

[BadPsychics] For those who are unaware of your group, can you please give us a history lesson on how your group came together, how it was formed and how many members there are?

[Independent Investigations Group] The IIG began at the Center for Inquiry-West in January of 2000 in order to provide skeptically minded people the chance to be involved in hands-on investigations of paranormal and other claims. 

This all-volunteer group of about 30 members is chaired by CFI-West Executive Director James Underdown and guided by a Steering Committee of 6 members. The membership includes film and television professionals, an archeologist, a proofreader, medical doctors, psychologists, and a judge, among others.

Carla Baron is a well-known respected American Psychic, recently you did a full expose of all her claims regarding her involvement of police enquiries, and she likes to call herself the Psychic Detective. What was the catalyst that made you decide to begin this very long investigation into her claims?

We'd hardly call her "respected." The only people who give her publicity are television producers who know they can make a buck off of the fantastic story of a woman who solves crimes with superpowers. Now that's actually a really cool story, but not when you try and present it as the truth. 

We don't think these people respect anyone.
As for why Carla was selected for an investigation, well, when you do investigations, you need to find some person or organization that makes specific claims. Carla was one of three psychics we encountered during a routine attendance of a seminar. 

The other two psychics offered generic motivational speaking type stuff, weasel words, and uninspired affirmations. In other words, vague, vague, vague. Baron on the other hand claimed to have solved specific police cases. So that made her a good candidate for further investigation.

At first, we just looked these cases up on the Internet, and found that Baron herself had planted about 90% of the material that was out there. Eventually, we contacted the police investigators in these cases, and that was a real eye-opener. 

The cops responses ranged from, "We are required to listen to anyone who calls with information," to an anonymous officer who responded to our request for confirmation of Carla's assistance with a simple "bullsh*t!" Only two, out of the many, officers had anything somewhat positive to say about Baron, but could not offer details when pressed.

So the catalyst was really the fact that Baron had given us so much to investigate. When psychics makes specific claims, they give themselves the rope to hang themselves.

The report of the investigation has now been online for over 5 weeks, have you received any notification of legal proceedings from Ms. Baron's Lawyers, and if not do you expect any to be forthcoming?

She has not contacted the IIG directly. On an Internet message board she wrote that we were

"lucky there isn't a lawsuit for the libelous statements made, and harassment charges with the victims' families and law enforcement involved in my cases..."

and later wrote that we had been

"delt [sic] with."

She also criticized us, because many of the people we contacted were people she never worked with. That was the whole point of our investigation. She did not work with the official investigators on most of these cases, and therefore just how "involved" could she really have been?

That's the closest thing to an official response, and we aren't even 100% sure that Baron is responsible for this message.

However one member of the IIG actually received a reply from Baron on another message board. In her reply she basically refused to comment on the facts reported in the IIG investigative report of her claims.

When you confront these people with the truth, they really do just crumble.

Ms. Baron has claimed to be found innocent of all your claims by an independent investigation, I cannot find any evidence of this do you have any idea what this independent investigation is about, and if it even exists?

We have no idea what she's talking about. She can send us a copy of this "investigation," and if it's legit, we'll remove our report, and issue a full apology.

Or Baron can contact us for a test of her powers, and if she can demonstrate them to us under controlled conditions, we'll give her $10,000. That will settle the issue once and for all.

As well as this investigation, members of the IIG have also attended seminars by Ms. Baron and had "psychic" readings from her, in your opinion and the opinion of the IIG members read, does Ms. Baron have any Psychic ability whatsoever?

Well, if by December 6th, Jim Underdown's bosses steal the company profits (they're a non-profit, by the way), and Jim, who is the Executive Director of CFI-West, is working in sports broadcasting, we'll be convinced. These were just two of her "predictions" when she gave Jim a "reading" at one of her seminars.

She did nothing spectacular in any of her readings. As noted in our report, the lead investigator was told that he would get a new job at which he would produce a service or a product, and a Steering Committee member was told his (non-existent) screenplay was going to be huge. Not once did she say, "wait a minute, you guys are skeptics here to expose me! Well your plan has failed."

How long did it take to put together your report of Ms. Baron and how many people were involved?

Collecting data took five months, writing the report took another three months. Remember, we all have real jobs, and we're doing this in our spare time. There are about thirty members in the IIG, and everyone did something. The CFI-West staff was also extremely helpful.

Has Ms. Baron actually answered or replied to any of the claims of the cases reported in your investigation?

She has our e-mail address, phone number, and street address. She has yet to contact the IIG directly about our investigation.

You did an investigation into James Van Praagh, the results of which appeared on the Penn & Teller: Bullsh*t! programme, how did this come about?

When Beyond with James Van Praagh began taping in Hollywood, California (down the street from CFI-West and the IIG) we decided to go check it out. Several members went to different tapings. None of us were called on for a reading, but we were able to smuggle in audio recorders and smuggle out a copy of the extensive clearance/non-disclosure form required of audience members to sign. 

We then videotaped the broadcasts of the show and compared the broadcast version with the audio recordings of the actual taping. We went in looking for signs of deception and were surprised to discover that his readings were just not very good. There were huge sections of poor guesses edited out, and we found that it took 5 hours of taping to come up with two 30-minute episodes. We saw the same story when we looked into the taping of John Edward's Crossing Over in New York.

Van Praagh has been caught out a few times cheating. What is it about him do you think that makes his followers ignore blatant proof of deception, and believe he really is psychic?

We don't know about these specific instances that you mention, but the power of self-deception is always amazing.

Losing a loved one makes many people vulnerable to those who claim to be able to communicate with the dead. The intense desire to believe something often overwhelms one's ability to distinguish fact from fiction. It's sad, really, how exploitative the mediums are.

Your group offers $10,000 for any proof of paranormal ability. You have had a few people try to win the money, has anyone ever gotten close to winning? And do you personally think that any psychic ability will ever be proven?

You either have the power, or you do not. There really isn't such a thing as "coming close." If anyone walks out with our check for $10,000, you can be assured that we just saw something amazing. Will psychic ability ever be proven? Doubtful, but believe it or not, we're open-minded, otherwise we wouldn't even bother testing.

We're all of the perspective that the world operates on natural laws. Most supernatural claims seem to be misinterpretation of natural events, bad memory or perception, or deliberate deception. So far, these explanations have sufficed for everything we've seen. It'll be one hell of a surprise the day that changes.

Your group have shown Psychics to be frauds, dowsers to be nonsense, and psychokinesis claims to be rubbish, yet we still hear of all these claims that the CIA and KGB used remote viewers and psychics all the time, we still hear claims that even though officially closed down, these projects still go on secretly. Surely you must believe there is something in all of this, after all can so many believers really be so wrong or deluded?

The government programs looking into remote viewing and psychic ability have been a bust. They found no one who could provide any useful information after years of trying and millions of dollars spent. When put to rigorous scientific testing, psychics and remote viewers fail 100% of the time. Anyone who says otherwise should step forward and claim well over a million dollars in reward money. Don't hold your breath.

Claims are extremely unimpressive to us, and everyone should be skeptical. We demand proof. "Wrong" and "deluded" are unnecessarily antagonistic. They have no proof, so they do not deserve credibility.

I would like to finish with basic Word Association; in a few words can you say what comes to mind.

1. Carla Baron

All talk, no walk.

2. James Van Praagh
Exploits the bereaved for a buck.

3. John Edward
Exploits more of the bereaved for more bucks.

4. Uri Geller
Hack magician makes more moolah as a "psychic."

5. Derek Acorah
Until we googled him, we did not know that Mr. Acorah was "Britain's finest professional Spirit Medium..." We are sorry to say this but his "extensive international... coverage..." hadn't reached us yet. He is welcome to fly out to sunny California and try out for our $10,000 Paranormal Challenge.

6. Colin Fry
We discovered on Mr. Fry's web site that "Colin Fry is an international Spiritualist, Medium and Healer." Although we had not heard of Mr. Fry, we were delighted to learn that "Colin donates to charity." He is also welcome to fly out to sunny California and try out for our $10,000 Paranormal Challenge.

7. Orbs
We assume you are asking about photographic orbs. If so, they are not supernatural in nature, only photographic. These are well-documented photographic artifacts, not goblins.

8. Ghosts
Dream on. They usually show up at night.

9. Psychic Detectives
There has been no legitimate evidence of any psychic abilities to date and therefore there are no legitimate psychic detectives. There is not one solid case of a psychic detective using their powers to solve a crime for the police.

10. Cold Reading
The process by which someone gathers information while appearing to get the info from a supernatural source. It's as old as the desire to see into the future.

28 August 2004

Derek Acorah - A Personal Experience Sent In By John Towers - 28/7/04


Basically myself and my wife were Most Haunted Fans....although we were sceptical of Derek we nevertheless were open minded.

My wife's father died of cancer about 18 months ago and things have been happening in the house ... doors opening , lights being turned on at night but the most startling thing was while my wife was painting some radiators, with aerosol spray in the bedroom she ran out of spray. So I dashed out and told her to wear a mask which unfortunately was up in the loft from where I'd done some loft boarding. She decided not too out of laziness ... about an hour later I returned and she was in a state.

Apparently there was a crash in the hallway and when she checked the loft hatch it had opened itself and the ladder had been pulled down ... but no one else was in the house and you have to twist the lock with a pole and then actually pull the ladder down with the pole...
We saw that as a sign from her deceased father...

Anyway we found out Derek was coming to Oxford and bought tickets ......and then I made the mistake of e-mailing Derek's website telling him exactly what had gone on in our house ....so he had my name , my wife name and some specific incidents to call upon.

However I did not tell him the name of wifes father or my wife's maiden name. We thought he might want to come round as he was in Oxford and check out if we were imagining things or indeed if there was genuinley any activity, but he never contacted us... Instead we got an automated response from his website saying he can't reply to individual requests due to workload, etc, etc.

The night of the show came and the second person he called out was me....so initially I was quite suprised.

Then he said he had a Mr Towers with him....( my father is still alive and I didn't know my gradfather so I was curious as to who it could be ) ..so I asked him and he couldn't get it ...but then he said is my wife with me.....told me her name was dee and then said he had her father with him.

Then he used word for word the exact same information I had sent his website weeks before ......by now we had rumbled him so we asked the name of this chap and his surname ...what he looked like etc and he couldn't ...then he went off on a tangent...

The next day I e-mailed him again and told him what we thought ..we were furious at being used to fill his pockets...instead we got an email from his wife Gwen denying that he uses e-mails and that he never actually gets to see them anyway because she deletes them.

She said I should send the e-mail in to her again and she would compare it to the tape of the show ( apparently they record every nights show ) .....also that if I thought Derek was a fake that she would arrange a private reading to convince us, so we did that but we never heard anything after that.

Im afraid Derek is a fraud in our eyes from personal experience and he should be exposed ...he's earning a lot of money from telling lies and ripping people off.

Derek Acorah - A Personal Experience Sent In By John Towers - 28/7/04

16 July 2004

Tony Stockwell Exposed - Location: I'm Famous and Frightened 2 - LivingTV

Location: I'm Famous and Frightened 2 - LivingTV
Date: 16th July 2004

On the first day of this Live celebrity investigation of Aberdeen's Fyvie Castle, Celebrity Mockney Medium Tony Stockwell conducted a Table Tipping demonstration.

The usual rountine took place, all the celebs had their fingertips on the table, at first nothing happened so celebrity medium Tony Stockwell put his hands on the table.

As soon as he did the table started rocking, at this point celeb believer Daniella Westbrook left the table and stood back to watch. Everytime the table started rocking Tony Stockwell moved back, as soon as he did the rocking of the table diminished.

Later on, after the main show had gone off air, there was an extra live show, celeb believer Jeff Brazier stated that he believed that Tony Stockwell was pushing the table, Daniella Westbrook also admitted that something dodgy was happening although she did not accuse Tony Stockwell.
A bit later on in the night Jeff Brazier made this comment.

"He was definately blaggin' it, and if he blags that, who's to say he doesnt blag it all"
To sum up, two people who took part believed something dodgy was going on, one even stated he was sure that Tony Stockwell was rocking the table.
Again keep in mind Jeff Brazier is a self confessed believer of the paranormal and a fan of Tony Stockwell.

So was this an instance of psychic fraud?
I will as always let you make your own mind up.

12 April 2004

Most Haunted Live Easter 2004

At the 3-night live Most Haunted in Essex earlier this year, the crew were on the trail of Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder General, across the 'witch county' of Essex. First stop was Canewdon, a tiny ancient, rural village near the River Crouch. This village has a long history connected with witchcraft; thirteen witches were said to live in the village at one time.

Although pleased that Most Haunted were visiting Canewdon, as numerous hauntings are alleged to take place in the village, causing the police to put up road blocks every Hallowe'en to stop would-be ghosthunters and other such people from entering the village and disturbing the peace, Matthew Hopkins never actually visited Canewdon or had any connections with the village.
Regardless of this, miraculously, Derek picked up on Hopkins energy while in St Nicholas' churchyard.

Only 2 witches were executed from Canewdon; Rose Pye in 1580 who is buried at the nearby crossroads and Cicely Makyn in 1585 and re-arrested and executed in 1590.

Not only this, but on the third night of the programme, Derek became 'possessed' by a man claiming to be on of Hopkins evil gang named Francis Mills. He swaggered around and letched at Yvette Fielding, saying at one point 'I see your breasts, woman' before lunging at her and being dragged off by security.
Frances Mills was indeed one of Hopkins vile posse of witch hunters, but not a man - a woman! She was very feminine and had she not been so, she would have been accused of witchcraft herself, probably. Now unless Frances Mills was a seventeenth century cross dresser, we can assume this was a mistake, but as always I will let YOU make your own mind up on this one.

So there you have it. Hopkins was never at Canewdon, so why pick up on his energy and Frances Mills was a woman. How wrong could he have been.

Help for this article provided by forum member Irishbanshee