11 September 2007

Extraordinary People - Chris Robinson, Dream Detective

On September 10th 2007, Channel 5 in the UK we had a another episode in the "Extraordinary People" series, this time featuring Chris Robinson, a man who claims he dreams the future.

Forum member Pharmcat who has met Chris decided to write up her opinions of the show, and the man.

This man actually sees events before they happen. “I actually see very very clearly what will happen”. Apparently for the “7/7 bombings” he was in the tunnel, saw the flash, smelled the smell of the underground. Smells more like b*llsh*t to me, Chris, but carry on. He has apparently “amazed an American academic”. That would be Gary Schwarz then. Oh dear. One person in the military is convinced. Well excuse me for not being overwhelmed, but that leaves the other 1112683 people in the military unconvinced, not really convincing me yet, Chris. Oh, and he’s famous in Japan. So is Astroboy, and I don’t believe in him, either. Obligatory appearance by Chris French I see, unfortunately now on too many programmes to appear totally convincing any more, but this time I suspect I may agree with most of what he says.

God, they could have warned us there would be a shot of Mr R. cheerfully exclaiming “let’s go to bed”. I may be mentally scarred for some time.

And onto the big question – is it coincidence, or can he really dream the future. I know which side my pillow is on, but let’s watch and see.

“Everybody I know that’s dead has come to talk to me” intones Mr R. “I’ve got 2 children from a previous relationship, and their grandfather hanged himself”. I can sympathise. “In a dream 4 nights before he did it, I saw him do it”. And……… oh, that’s it. Silly me, I expected some sort of corroborative evidence.
“I can see something that happens next Wednesday” states Mr R with utmost confidence. Tell us the lottery results then.

Apparently this extraordinary talent has been manifesting for the last 20 years, usually dreams of death and disaster. Must be a happy chap to know. If you meet him down the shops and he says “I had a dream about you last night” I’d suggest locking yourself in a bombproof bunker for a week or two. Actually, come to think of it, I’d do that anyway if I saw him lurking on the horizon, never mind if he’d been dreaming or not.

His first precognitive dream was of a radioactive mushroom cloud that was heading towards England from the east. 5 days later we heard about Chernobyl. Now, colour me sceptical, but I was in secondary school in the early 80’s, and most of our lessons scared the cr*p out of us – in biology we learnt about the effects of radiation if the Russians dropped a nuclear bomb on us, in history we talked about how we’d all die if the Russians dropped a nuclear bomb on us, half the pop songs in the charts were about nuclear war. For those of you as old as me, remember Wah! Heat and 7 Minutes to Midnight? It was an unusual night if I DIDN’T dream about a mushroom cloud coming over to kill us all. But while the rest of us put the event of Chernobyl down to a mild realisation of our worst fears, Mr R ascribed it a special precognitive significance.

The announcer then tells us how Mr R is a lucid dreamer, a skill only possessed by 1 in 2000 people. Ah, so he can remember a lot more of his dreams than us mere mortals. Which means he can fit a lot more of them to events that subsequently happen. But apparently lucid dreamers can plan their dreams before they go to sleep. So does he plan for disasters to happen? Is he not the Dream Detective, but in fact the Antichrist, planning disasters that his dreams bring to life?

No, it apparently involves writing down a question, then going to sleep, then upon waking comparing the dreams with the question he has asked. Which begs the question, what on earth do the questions say? Now me, my question would be along the lines of “what are the numbers for the midweek draw”, but I’m shallow like that. Mr R’s must be along the lines of “show me horribly maimed and dying people screaming in agony”. Nice.

Now we are given insight into the inner workings of Mr R’s mind. Apparently everything is symbolic in dreams. OK, let’s listen to this, it could be a Freudian’s wet dream. Dogs = terrorists. Snow and ice = imminent danger. Anything made of dead animals (including meat) = carnage, dead people. If he sees all 3 in a dream, he knows to expect something dreadful. Presumably if he walks out of his house and sees a dog run over by a car that has skidded on a patch of ice, he must have dreamt about Osama bin Laden blowing up Parliament (or maybe Battersea dog’s home).

Mr R’s dreams apparently began after a near death experience, caused by open heart surgery for a congenital heart defect. After the surgery, he started having his dreams about being in another world and seeing things that haven’t happened yet. Personally it sounds more like they left him without oxygen for a bit too long on the operating table, but that’s a personal view…….

5 years ago a MORI poll showed that 50% of the population believe in precognitive dreams. Well that makes it true then. Despite this, no academics were interested. Wonder why. But then (trumpet fanfare) …….. ad break!!! Time for a bar of chocolate to keep me going.

Return to Mr R gently snoozing in the soft glow of nightvision. “I’m often asked what it’s like in my nighttime world”. Er, actually we’re not that interested (I’m actually a little scared at the thought). “The only way I can describe it, is when I go to sleep I’m like Dr Who”. Nooooooooo, ruined my fantasies forever. Every time I get to that just dozing off stage, and David Tennant is reaching out his hand to take me into the Tardis, aaarrggh – there’s Chris Robinson. Thanks a lot. “I can travel backwards and forwards, in time and space, and see things that other people can’t”. Isn’t this just dreaming, that everyone on the planet experiences? Difference is, the rest of us wake up and think bugger, time to get up for work and forget about our dreams (unless it involves David Tennant and a Tardis of course). Only a small minority of people obsess over their dreams and attempt to fit them into future events (after the events have happened of course).

Now a small aside here, but have you ever tried to write down your dreams when you wake up? I have, and I’ve given up because the sheer volume of information that goes through your head in even a short dream has left me feeling I could write a 10,000 word essay just to write up all the significant facts in one single dream. So if I write down everything I dream, I’d class it as more paranormal if I COULDN’T fit something in a dream to an event (after the event has happened). Anyway, back to the story……

Mr R’s whole life is now apparently taken up with ways of understanding his dreams to try and prevent further terrorist attacks. Here’s a thought – leave the police to concentrate their efforts on finding terrorists instead of having to waste time documenting the ramblings of a middle aged man who dreams.
And so, in the absence of any interest from the UK, onto the renowned Professor Gary Schwartz. For those of you who have not heard of Professor Schwartz before, a Google search will provide you with hours of entertaining reading.

“I shall go to university if I live long enough, and become clever” says Mr R. I wouldn’t bet on that last part. Mr R was asked to dream about an unknown location that he would be taken to the next day. He was asked to identify the main features of each location before he visited them. “The further along we went, the more powerful the evidence was” states Prof S, “and also the more unbelievable the evidence was”. Well you said it. Prof S was convinced that Mr R had identified the identifying features of all 10 locations. Hang on, where is the detail about the scientific protocols used in the experiment? Oh, I forgot, there weren’t any. Mr R took his notes along to all the sites and pulled out anything that looked correct. Anything that didn’t look correct was ignored. Way to do scientific research!

Prof S then goes on to describe how the dreamstate is actually something that allows us to open up to the little pink fairies or some such, and allow us access to information we can’t normally access. (Sounds of pharmcat ripping up all her scientific journal articles on sleep research, should have known sleep was nothing to do with evolving, adaptation, restoration, brain plasticity, it’s all actually to do with psychic emanations from the ether. Glad my exam paper was marked before I found that one out!!).

Saturday, 8th September 2001. A nightmare of planes crashing into tall buildings. 1000s of people dying. Prof S forgot about it, as it wasn’t part of the Arizona experiment. We all know which event happened next. A shocked and traumatised Prof S describes how if they’d realised the event may have been prevented. Now, forgive me if I put my skeptic hat on again, but if they were ignoring the dreams as not relevant, then after 9/11 taking notice of them, I suggest that they were retrofitting facts, and “remembering” parts of the dreams that were not actually there. A bit like how people can remember film of a traumatic event, when actually the film never existed (think it was carried out a few years ago using film of the Bali bombing – quite a few people “remembered” seeing video of the bombing, although actually there was no video (please look this one up on the internet, I know there was footage of the second Bali bombing, this experiment was done before that one took place, don’t believe without references etc).

But it’s OK, as apparently millions of people who watch a Japanese crime show believe in Mr R. Hoorah! The voice over lady vocalises what I’m thinking – a game show is not going to convince people. Ooh, look, Goldsmith’s. Must mean Chris French is coming back on. I suddenly have a strange sense of deja-vu. Either I’ve dreamt of this programme, or Chris French sits at the desk with the alien in a jar for every TV appearance he does (well, he doesn’t in Haunted Homes but I suppose Mia Dolan is a close second to an alien in a jar).

And, true to form, we get the announcement of “Psychic vs Scientist”. Battle lines drawn. Sigh. With that attitude, neither side will ever believe the other. So much for open mindedness. Speaking of which, I think any notions I had of it have long since gone with this sad display of lack of evidence. Ha, ha, like the “but what if it’s all bullshit” card on the wall. Oh apparently Chris F makes mistakes by being sceptical and scientific. So there you are in a nutshell, use science and it doesn’t work. This obviously means something completely different to Mr R than to the rest of us. To us it means IT DOESN’T WORK. To him, it does work, you’re all wrong. I feel like gently patting him on the head and saying “there, there” in a calm and unthreatening manner. Or maybe just hitting him with a baseball bat, quicker, more effective and damn it more fun.

The protocol for this experiment involves 6 different locations, only one of which will be visited each day. An independent observer will examine Chris R’s dream notes and decide which of the locations they best describe. The actual location to be visited will be decided randomly by the roll of a die (not DICE!!! God, when will people learn English!). If the dream location and actual location are deemed to match, this will count as a hit. The experiment will be repeated 3 times to ensure any hit is not mere coincidence. Chris F talks about how amazing it would be if Chris R’s talent proves to be real, all the time with the air of a wolf in grandma’s bed, beckoning the little girl with the red hood to come over and give her grandma a kiss.

Dream 1 – paint, white, sheets, painted all white. It was an artists school acquaintance’s house. He could paint and draw anything. The independent judge rated this closest to the house of a painter, called the house of dreams. The roll of the die produced location number 2, somewhere totally different. As he is being led into the location, Mr R starts backpedalling frantically, telling how his dreams show disasters not what he is doing now. On being shown the location, a cocktail bar made of ice, Mr R deems this a hit, as he is surrounded by white (the ice of the bar). Actually it’s transparent, but don’t let the facts get in your way Mr R. Or the fact that the independent judge deemed it a miss. Because it only works when you score it, doesn’t it (apart from that experiment with Susan Blackmore, when you got it wrong on the majority of occasions, even with 48 pages of notes and scoring yourself. It took some doing to get that so badly wrong). Chris F states the obvious – Mr R would have fitted his dream to any of the locations. But apparently it should be a hit, as white sheets relates to sheets of ice. Or 10 sheets to the wind, as they’re in a bar.

Day 2. Wish I was asleep at this point. Dream 2 is an observer dream, with Mr R watching other people. I’m sure there’s a name for people who do that. “I’m rolling or unrolling something. That could be rolls of paper in a printing works. Somebody’s now made a pie, so it could have been pastry. And we then put this pie in the oven. And there was a joke about not putting the oven on for too long so you don’t burn it. And I see these faces of people go past me”. The independent observer decided this was location number 1, in Fleet Street with historic links to the printing industry. The die lead them to a city farm. This should be good, let me try and psychically predict this one……… pie, rabbit, rabbits in the farm. Rolling something, rolling a cow? Even Chris R gives up on this one and admits a miss.

Night 3. “In a sort of a room. There are people that are sort of people. In big letters I’ve put DEAD. There were glass cups and glasses. Now cups is always the same – cups mean dead people. The observer selected location 1 again, St Bride’s crypt. The die indeed selected location 1. One hit then. Not terribly spectacular.
But, Mr R has an explanation. Apparently the information is bandwidth limited, you’re only seeing a silhouette of the information, you can’t tell what pattern is on the shirt, how many buttons it’s got. But you can see the outline of the event. Presumably that’s why it’s so easy to fit a dream to multiple happenings.

So, bored with a small chubby dreamer, we move onto the Arlington Institute and Stargate. The problem with everything that John Peterson says is that you’re rooting for him to start with, he’s willing to experiment and see if there is really is something unusual going on (http://www.arlingtoninstitute.org/node/333 - WHETHEReport). But then you realise he’s basing his hopes on people like Mr R, and your heart drops.

Back to reality, and Mr R’s semi in Dunstable. Where he is practising as, you guessed it, a Psychic Detective. He is being asked to look for a plane, which apparently went missing with the pilot and a passenger in Arizona. Mr R apparently thinks he can help. Now I may be being a bit dense here, but if he dreams things, surely he can do this from the comfort of his own bed? But apparently not, a trip to Arizona is needed. Apparently Mr R needs a random object to match with his dream. This will apparently give a clue as to the location of the missing plane. The object turns out to be a teething ring with a silver bear attached. This matches with part of a drawing that Mr R did the previous night (but the drawing could also match a multitude of objects, I think he was going for a key myself……). The dreaming required solitude apparently, so off to the static caravan (oh the glamorous life of the dream detective). Mr R shows us the notes that predict the 7/7 bombing – all 300 pages of them. Sigh. “Someone shouting, lost power, it’s as if it had lost power” – back to the plane again. “Not really a great leap to deduce that when a plane is missing. Camera, with roll film, 120 roll film. Instruments going funny just before crash. Something sheared off or fell off in the engine. To do with 3 and 120, I think it’s some sort of heading”.

Ah, time for a bit of dream practice. The film crew select a place and Mr R will dream of it. Is anyone else bored yet, I’m near suicide here. “360 degrees, a chart, circular”. After a long journey Mr R seems to suggest he thinks they are going round in circles, but actually it’s some sort of park with mushroomy circular sculptures, where Mr R is astonished that even the bins are circular. Most are, I think you’ll find.

Oh get on with it, I’m really, really, really getting bored now. Ooh, look they’re flying over a crater – that could have been your circular thing earlier as well. Look – the steering wheel’s circular as well! And the wheels on the car are circular! Oh my God!!! Sorry, got carried away there. So, the family of the missing girl in the plane do not allow the camera crew to film the first few meetings. Which means we have no idea what they’ve told him. So the whole thing is pointless from a proof point of view. A bit of justification for the trip to Arizona from Mr R - Ooh, Mr R is correct, there’s a place called Bear Circle! OMG, he’s so accurate!!! He’s now asking to be shown how to get to where the girl is from Bear Circle. So she’s not actually in Bear Circle. Just how convoluted can this get? Next dream, a lady saying you have to take me home. He’s doing cold reading now, what a nasty manipulative man!

The first 3 hours of flying (half Mr R’s flight plan, so obviously a fairly large search area) showed nothing. He’s now sleeping with some of the missing girl’s possessions. I’m sure there’s a name for that as well. I feel I’m missing something here, there’s something gone on that’s not being shown. I know this always happens on TV, but I really feel that we’re not being told the whole story here. Anyway, back to the search. Mr R spots something glinting in the sunlight. Unfortunately too late, 3 helicopter pilots found the site the day before and reported it to the authorities. So if I believed in psychic powers, I’d say that Mr R actually picked up on the pilot’s thoughts. But breathe easy, he hadn’t as the debris the helicopter pilots found was nothing to do with the crash, so another miss by Mr R. But hey, he got a free holiday in Arizona out of it. But nothing puts off the pig-headed Mr R who still insists the ability exists, even if he can’t prove it.

And one day, if you’re really good, I’ll tell you what the fabulous Mr R is like off camera………

By Forum Member "Pharmcat"

Further Reading
When Tony Youens Tested Chris Robinson

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