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.