Connie Sonne’s Preliminary Challenge Test at TAM 7

As you may or may not know, Connie Sonne is claiming that her preliminary challenge test at TAM7 was rigged against her. Alison Smith has responded.

I have some thoughts.

1) I watched the live feed of this, and the challenge was BORING. That’s my first tip-off that this was legit. The whole thing felt just like the honest investigation it claimed to be. That is to say, it was painstakingly boring. Tedious, perhaps.

2) A lot has been made of the fact that Banachek is a Mentalist. Some people seem to think that he was there to rig the contest. I think it’s in fact the other way around. What we would have seen if Connie Sonne was employing some sort of trickery was Banachek saying something like, “Okay, I’m going to have to stop the test, because you just attempted to substitute your own card,” or what have you. I think the fact that Banachek didn’t say anything of this sort is a sure sign to me that she didn’t try to employ any trickery. I think she is simply someone who believes in her own abilities, rather than an accomplished magician trying to portray herself as something she’s not. However, there was no guarantee for Randi’s people this is the kind of person who will try to claim the prize, thus Banachek’s involvement is prudent. Banachek’s work on Project Alpha shows that he is well-versed in trickery that could potentially fool an investigator. Quite simply, he was front-and-center on the test because he could ensure it remained legit.

3) The fact that Banachek is a Mentalist *does* open the test up to suspicion by observers. When I observed him, he almost seemed to be setting up a trick. However, there’s an easy explanation for this. He was in front of an audience, so his instincts took over a little bit. He’s used to giving people instructions in front of an audience, and some of those skills he developed would have carried over, given the elaborate precautions of the test.

As an example:

Verses:

Quite simply, that’s how them man talks when he’s on stage.

4) The actual mechanics of the test also feel like a trick. Not that there’s anything *wrong* with them, but the fact that they seem overly complicated with dice, envelopes, etc. There’s so much going on that it makes my head hurt. However, you have to remember that this test was thought up by stage performers who are trying to set up an impartial test on one hand and trying to stop a potential conjuring expert from cheating on the other. So the system they create is complicated. Overly so? Perhaps for laymen like myself. However, they’re the ones putting a million dollars on the line, and they’re operating with applicants who have the potential of being just as skilled at trickery as they are. These folks would think differently, so this extra level of complication may be necessary.

5) I’d like to address one other thing that I’ve been hearing a lot. “Well, psychic powers are spiritual and don’t perform well in scientific settings. That’s not how they work, and it cheapens them, etc.” James Randi and the rest of the people supporting the Million Dollar Challenge do not begrudge you your ability to know when your mother’s about to call, dowse the sex of an unborn child, or find a missing cat by getting psychic impressions of where it’s hiding if you state that these are ethereal powers that come and go with the winds. They are concerned with people who claim that their paranormal abilities can withstand rigorous testing. If you admit that your powers aren’t meant to be tested scientifically, only happen in special circumstances, etc., they won’t care one jot about what you claim you can or can’t do. Don’t ask them to *believe* you, but don’t get your panties in a bunch either. What you are doing is setting up an alternate reality that excludes their opinion. If you *insist* on entering their world by invoking science yourself, accepting their challenge, or setting up a thunderdome situation where you claim that science is bunk and you are more powerful, you can no longer use the argument that science kills magic as your defense. Rather, you *can* use it, but don’t expect any sympathy from the scientific community.

I should point out that what I described in #5 doesn’t fit Connie Sonne’s argument. She doesn’t claim that the test itself rendered her powers useless, but rather that the test was rigged. At first I was going to try to figure out “okay if she really DID guess correctly, and Banachek DID switch the cards, how would it have happened?”

I started thinking about how the switching would have had to have happened sometime between when she guessed and the reveal. Here’s the thing, though. This isn’t a case where she definitely picked a correct card and the card was switched out for the wrong one later. Neither of them knew which card was picked. In order for any switching to take place, Banachek would have first had to have believed that Connie picked correctly.

Then I thought about the idea that maybe they were gimmicked envelopes. Each envelope contained two cards. The “actual” card, and a “fake” card. The “fake” card is in every single envelope of each suit, preset by a confederate on the staff. Banachek draws the “fake” card instead of the actual card…and…then…er, somehow replaces…okay, you know what? When you’re at the circus and you see 100 clowns coming out of a clown car, you can guess how they did it. However, if someone then says, “But what if there actually WERE 100 clowns in that car? How would they do it then?” You don’t *have* to come up with a scenario with 100 clowns in the same car. An imaginary factor is not one that has to be proven.

I can’t help it, though. I have to keep going. IF the gimicked envelopes exist, then wouldn’t Connie Sonne pick up on BOTH cards in the envelope? Maybe if they’re all the same card, they get ignored as background noise. Of course, since we’re dealing with paranormal abilities, maybe somehow Banachek rigged the contest himself. Maybe all this talk of being a skeptic is a lie. Maybe he is psychic and was able to make the cards “believe” they were different cards, and thus give off the wrong impression to Connie.

Why would they try to rig it any way?

1) They actually KNOW psychic powers exist, and are trying to keep the public ignorant by discrediting actual psychics, thus dissuading people from believing in their powers and protecting the mentalist & magician’s domination of the “people who can do freaky things” market. That’s right, it’s a Scientology vs. Psychologists scenario where two groups who kind of want to do the same thing fight each other for the right to do it. I don’t begrudge stage magicians and mentalists their living, but doesn’t the fact that they’re willing to perform in night clubs, business conventions, and parties rather than walk the earth as Gods among men show that they have a *bit* of integrity in this department?

2) They don’t believe psychic powers exist, and are rigging the contest “just in case.” I saw a program where James Randi had coached some people ahead of time when a cold reader was trying to work them. They said, “No” to just about everything. It seemed rather harsh and artificial, but the fact is that cold reading works on your ability to want to believe something’s happening in order to work. By them saying “No” to vague questions, it shut down this facet of cold reading. However, it also may have given off the impression that the situation was “rigged” even though the people *were* being honest. Is this a possible situation where precautions were taken to eliminate chance in order to assure it wasn’t a factor as well? Is it possible that they set up the rules in such a way that *only* a true psychic could be correct? I bring this up because someone might think that getting all three wrong would be statistically improbable. If anyone better than me at explaining math would like to do this, I’d welcome it. Regardless, I hope this long rambling collection of thoughts and the coherent article above explains why this is not likely the case. You may doubt it, though. I can’t change your belief any more than I can know all of reality. Maybe you’re right. Maybe a vast conspiracy and tremendous display of talent conspired to rig a genuine psychic’s ability to dowse for three cards with a pendulum.

Or, maybe the test was set up impartially and they simply let her try and fail.

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About paulgude

Paul Gude writes small books, makes stupid music, draws silly pictures, and does weird things on stage.
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18 Responses to Connie Sonne’s Preliminary Challenge Test at TAM 7

  1. connie sonne says:

    I think you should post this on JREF`s website

    kind regards Connie

  2. paulgude says:

    Hi, Connie.

    Thanks for writing!

    I’ve sworn off debating folks on message boards a long time ago, as I tend to get obsessed with it and ignore other parts of life when I get into a lengthy discussion.

    What I posted above was speculation, a thought experiment. I have no reason to believe that Randi’s people behaved in any way contrary to how they presented themselves. Introducing the questions I raised above into their own forums could give off the impression that I was positing this a theory of what I thought actually happened, and thus invite debate based on that faulty interpretation. I would spend more time clarifying my own position rather than discussing the hypothetical scenarios I’ve outlined, which isn’t my idea of a good time.

    Alison Smith gave a comprehensive outline of how the test was prepared, and in order for me to state that any of my speculations were fact, would call her description of events into question. I’m not personally prepared to do that.

    However, I am interested in hearing your own thoughts about what happened, if you have time.

    1) Alison said you designed your own test. How much of this was your idea and how much of it was decided with your participation? For example, were the double envelopes your idea? If so, what was your motivation behind them?

    2) Am I right in that you always cut the envelopes, but Banachek actually removed the cards on *every* envelope? Did you ever remove a card from an envelope yourself?

    3) I need to point out while slight-of-hand interests me, I’ve never actually been good at it myself. Do you have any knowledge in this area?

    4) Why playing cards specifically? Could you, for example, have dowsed for porcelain figurines placed under flowerpots? Are playing cards a favorite of yours?

    5) For my own edification, if there were two cards of different values in the same envelope, what would happen to your ability to dowse for them?

    As a note I had a discussion with a co-worker who knows more about these things than me about the probability of outcomes. He said the probability of you getting all of them wrong was pretty high, around 72.9% . This is because all of the cards came from different decks.

    So, if the test was set up between someone without psychic abilities and someone who was following the rules laid out in the test, failing by getting all three wrong is the most likely outcome.

    So, for anyone who cares about such things, I have no legitimate reason to doubt the outcomes of this test. I have no suspicions about James Randi, Banachek, or Alison Smith, and hereby publicly state that I have nothing but respect for them as individuals.

    Furthermore, I make no claims to be a psychic, scientist, mentalist, magician, or any other authority who could display any sort of professional knowledge about this test.

    I’m simply a guy with a blog who has fun speculating about things. In this case, if someone WERE to seek to keep a legitimate psychic from dowsing cards using the exact setup used at TAM7, how would it be done?

    I cannot stress this enough. Just because I’m wondering how it COULD be done, does *not* mean that I think it WAS done.

    Thanks for reading!

    Paul

  3. Connie Sonne says:

    Hi Paul,
    Normally I don`t have the time for reading (and writing) about what people think of me and the test. And I really don`t care and bother about it, but sometimes I take a quick look when I googled my name. When I came to your blog, I just saw, it was different of a kind, therefore I wrote. I could`nt help that :-).

    There is a LOT to write, and I will do that, in the next couple of weeks I will have my own website, and I will write it all there. Also about the missing girl Madeleine Mccann. People around will then see, that I`m NO liar, I have NO delusions and so on. I`m just….me…I`m a very honest person, and I have never lied and do NOT hide anything.

    I also know, that people around don`t know what`s going on…only what they “saw” about the test, what I had written(and it`s not so much) and what they read about the protocol. So, I do understand there`s a lot of skeptic people until they have evidences. But I think, that people should think in the way you do, I mean, think at it with other possibilities than only the “small closed box” they have in their head. Many people have this “small closed box”, and they can`t even see it.

    I also understand, what you wrote about posting in forums, and respect for that :-). First I will try to answer your questions, but afterwards I have something more to tell.

    1) When I first sent my apllication for JREF, I wrote several things I could do for showing them. Amongst it I told them I could dowse for letters and numbers without seing them of cause. I also told them, if they were for example 10 persons I didn`t know, they could write their names on pieces of cardbords, and I would find the names for the persons.

    I also sent a cd-rom with the british missing girl, Madeleine Mccann`s voice(whom I found twice). When you play that slowly, some other voices says some other words! That`s my evidence on that is right what I`m telling and the evidences on my connection. I sent it because I would not have them to think, that I`m just another person they can debunk.(And I still have the recording on my voicerecorder, so all can see, that I did`nt manipulate with it)

    It`s another huge story, but I tell you this, because it all sticked together!

    Alison wrote the protocol. I did agree all of it, because I know what I can do, and it dosn`t matter if the cards are in double-envelopes or not. So yes, it was their decision.

    2) I didn`t touch the envelopes at all. I cutted all the envelopes, but Banachek held it, I wasn`t allowed to have the envelopes in my hand. He removed all the cards, not me. And it hit me afterwards, he didn`t show me that the envelopes were empty at all!! Only the big envelopes, where there smaller envelopes was in. ( and it first hit me afterwards, because I trusted JREF before the test and also at the stage and also still at the pressconference, but after that I found out several things, and I could put 2 and 2 together, I will write about that later).

    3) No, I have no idea.

    4) no, it`s not my favorite with cards. I could do what you suggested or something much much more interesting, but JREF told me, that dowsing like I did, was the most straight way to do what I could do, and I thought it was ok…I trusted them.

    5) I could find them anyway, but you see. If I did find them, even though they tried to cheat me…then I would NOT have found out they cheated me…if you understand that :-). (I will write much more on my website, when it comes)

    Now I will tell you something.

    When I agreed the protocol, I wrote to Alison, that I could do much much more to convince people out there. I would like, after the test, to get some few people at the stage, (amongst them James Randi himself) and I would do some funny things, because I think that the test was a little kind of a boring thing :-).

    She told me(and of cause I have ALL our conversation on mails still!) That James Randi was sitting amongst the audience(and it really surpriced me!) but I could do whatever I would like to show afterwards the test.

    So I thought, also when I was been testing, all the time, that I could do what I wanted to do afterwards. But something happend.

    I got that from Alison, before I left for Vegas, that the testing should begin at 1 o`clock pm. And I should meet Bart Farkas 12. I did.

    We sat and talked, but 1 o`clock people was only STARTED to do their entrence. AND amazing…Bart told me, that they ALL had to sign a sort of contract about their behavior though the test!!! 800 people had to do THAT!. I didn`t know, and it took at least 20 minutes!

    Could it be because, I should`nt have the time for showing people other things??????

    JUST before the testing, Bart told me, that they could`nt find the stickers, where Banachek should write the numbers I was going to find. Instead he asked me, if it was allright, that Banachek wrote it on pieces of papers and placed them on the table like he did. I agreed, because I trusted them…maybe it`s nothing, but anyway, another thing AGAINST the protocol..

    2 days before the testing, Bart called me and told me that the camera would be another kind because of the quality of filming—-I agreed, because I trusted them…

    In a mail for month ago, Alison wrote to me, that there would be a cameraman around me at the stage…that there would be a labtop on the table where I was sitting, and several cameraes on the stage…. Now there was nothing like they told me!!

    I just agreed that Banachek would be the tester, because I trusted them…..I didn`t read about him…I only knew that he was a mentalist. Afterwards I found a lot…Alison wrote afterwards at SWIFT, that Banachek is only a mentalist, not a magicker…that`s a lie…

    Before I left for Vegas, I actually knew, that it could happen, I mean about the failure. But there`s is a reason why I did go: I knew for several month ago, that there was a lot of rotton things about JREF, but….even though I had to do it, because it could be my possibility to show people out there, that I`m right about Madeleine Mccann and other things. So eventhough the money isn`t there(only at the paper), I had to show. Another thing…(which I said at the pressconference) Maybe I wasn`t allowed( from my connections) to show people right now, that I can..And if that`s the reason, then it`s because some other things are going to happen before. It has always been so, just from the beginning of “my work” for two years ago. ItΒ΄s all sticked together, both here, and where it`s comes from. And again, it could be right that there was money. And if so, my troubles about economic stuff(I have spent more than 30000 usdollars on what IΒ΄m doing…all borrowed) would be gone. So that was my thoughts BEFORE I left. But I had NO reason to think that they were going to cheat me, therefore I did trust them until……..

    There are many things more, also about the cheating…and I think I know how they did it. But I will first wait and see the video, they have promised to send me, I also signed the protocol again at the stage.I have told them to send it for me…I know I didn`t sign it the same place, where I did at the first protocol(which I agreed from home). Alison told me that it was the same protocol, but we`ll see. I didn`t have the time to read it at the stage, and they knew. And there it was again…I trusted them to do the right thing. But I have asked Alison a couple of times now, she can just scan it and send it in a mail, but she still have excuses. Maybe there`s nothing here, but there are many other places, I can and will get it out, because JREF has been cheating many many people, also all of you who watched it.

    I dont have more time right now, but as I told you, I will get my website, which will take some time, because I must first( of cause) write it in danish(and it`s a lot) and then get it translated in english. And right now, I don`t know how to make video and soundfiles smaller, so I can get it there too, (the files is too big), but I will find out. Another thing….you have my emailadress, if you want, I will send something for you, but you have to send me you adress for me.

    Kind regards Connie

  4. connie sonne says:

    oh..by the way…I will of cause make a test my self with a group of people, and record it

    Connie

  5. paulgude says:

    Hi, Connie.

    Thanks for writing back, and in so much detail.

    You’ve gone a long way in answering my questions, and I truly appreciate it. As I’ve mentioned on the outset, I am an individual with few followers and no specific knowledge in the area, but I love asking questions.

    It strikes me, as I’m sure it may have struck you as well, that the entire set-up for your particular challenge seemed much more of a performance or a stunt than a scientific experiment. The writing on the seals of the envelope, the secrecy and the security all have the hallmarks of a trick.

    I did notice that Alison Smith made a point of emphasizing that Banachek was a mentalist and not a magician. In the context in which she states this, one might get the impression taht she’s saying he doesn’t have any slight-of-hand experience. Interestingly enough, here’s something I found online:

    http://www.stevensmagic.com/gemini/Banachek/ElectronicRoomService.htm

    An excerpt:

    “Now I palmed the small envelope and performed the empty hand card to pocket. This is a fairly new sleight, and very clean. It enables you to hold your jacket open and reach in with an empty hand and remove the card (in this case an envelope) from your pocket.”

    He talks in a manner a reasonable layperson my attribute to a magician, and there is some crossover between the two disciplines.

    He also produced something called Psi Series Volume 1 that the following trick described:

    “6) Loco Logo
    Effect: Performer shows an envelope on the table with a prediction inside. He then shows many diffent logos on cards, about 15 logos in all. Performer goes through each one individually and has spec stop at any logo, completely free choice. The performer then shows the prediction inside of the envelope and it matches.

    An extremely clever idea. you don’t have to perform it with logos, you can perform it with cards. I haven’t done this yet because there is some preparation involved. Nonetheless, it is a great effect.”

    If you’re interested in seeing how it’s done, the series is apparently available at Amazon.com

    I’m a little surprised at the fact that Alison made the mentalist vs. magician comment as even a little bit of checking would show that he has used slight of hand in the past. As I’ve mentioned previously, this wouldn’t have made any difference to me as I believed he was there because they were afraid that *you* might try some slight-of-hand, rather than having him try and trick you.

    This is the thing that’s got me so intrigued with this. There is absolutely no reason why they should have to do anything to *make* you fail, so why make themselves seem so suspicious? Why try to imply that Banachek doesn’t have slight of hand skills when he does? Why say that you were in charge of writing the rules of the test when it is incredibly obvious that this was a test set up by someone used to the trappings of stage magic? They’re overcompensating and they have absolutely no reason to.

    I think that it may seem that way because you’re different than what they expected. In the video and in your email, you don’t strike me as being someone who is trying to pull something over on us. I believe you are someone who trusts their abilities, who operates on faith rather than tricks.

    Randi has, however, in his long career, dealt with actual frauds who were out to prey on and manipulate people. I believe these tests are set up not so much to test for actual abilities, but to expose charlatans. Unfortunately for people like yourself, I think there’s a vibe in this setup that the two are one and the same.

    That is not to say that I believe in psychic abilities and feel that Randi is blind to them. What I mean is that they don’t know how to deal with any of their applicants other than to assume they are frauds. Thus, plans are changed at the last minute, testing controls are designed to fit a certain protocol, and the announcement of failure is loud and public. Even if you enter into this challenge with the simple belief that your abilities will get you through, you’ll be painted a fool at best and a schemer at worst. Plus, it will all happen in the public eye.

    The public part is the big deal here. How did I find out that you opposed the test? I read Alison Smith’s rebuttal of it. I think everyone (the people watching, Randi’s people, etc.) were secretly hoping you would complain about the test. If you went away quietly, there would be no story.

    For everyone else reading, I have to reiterate that I do not work for Connie or for Randi or his foundation, my opinions are my own and are not based in any professional knowledge or expertise. I also must state that I do not think that Connie Sonne set out to win the challenge through trickery, nor do I claim that any of those involved in the challenge “rigged” the outcome. I have stated that I feel Alison Smith may have chosen her words more carefully, as one might have gotten the impression she was stating that Banachek doesn’t have slight-of-hand experience. I also must say that I am not claiming that Banachek used this slight-of-hand experience to alter the outcome of this test.

    I do believe that circumstances have occurred that could make Connie believe that trickery was involved, and feel that the Million Dollar Challenge may benefit from her protests. This, again, is not to say that these circumstances were intentional. I hope if you’ve read all of my meandering words over this subject that there is a real possibility that well-intentioned people got together to test something where the most probable outcome was achieved, and all else is fanciful speculation on my part.

    Connie, I think that there will be a real effort to paint you as unreasonable, and therefore want to state publicly that I appreciate how open you’ve been with your answers to me. I sincerely hope that your efforts after the challenge meet with success.

    As you may imagine, I welcome any other thoughts you may have.

    I’ll send you my address off-post.

    -Paul

  6. paulgude says:

    I didn’t see your last comment until now.

    If I could offer you some advice, have the test monitored by some neutral party, such as an independent law firm or academic department.

    I feel stupid suggesting it now, as I’m sure you’ve already thought of that, but if you do decide to do something of that nature it would be good to have a third party involved.

    It’s 2:34AM here on the west coast, so I’m off to bed. Thanks again for being so open with me!

  7. Patrick Covert says:

    Hi Paul and Connie:

    Very interesting discussion here! Asking questions is an important part of learning things about the world – and I certainly ask a lot myself. In the interest of full disclosure, I was at TAM7 and witnessed the Million Dollar Challenge test in person. Please understand that does not mean I can fully answer all of the questions raised here. But, I do think I can note briefly what I found so interesting about the Million Dollar Challenge – and maybe it will add something to this discussion, I don’t know.

    Like Paul, I also loath to participate in any Internet Forum debate – so please understand jumping in to this discussion isn’t the sort of thing I do very often.

    Paul says: “Randi has, however, in his long career, dealt with actual frauds who were out to prey on and manipulate people. I believe these tests are set up not so much to test for actual abilities, but to expose charlatans. Unfortunately for people like yourself, I think there’s a vibe in this setup that the two are one and the same.”

    I disagree with this. Testing for actual abilities is exactly why these tests are done.

    I know this is viewpoint is difficult to understand. In room full of Skeptics, many of the them actually want to find these abilities. However, it’s true! We all really do want to know, if these powers exist – what can we learn more about them? And this is where things get tricky.

    We Skeptic Types have spent a lot of time researching and learning about all aspects of the world – as best we can. We love to figure out how things work. It’s our hobby and our passion – indistinguishable in meaning from many of the hobbies and passions anyone else has in their own lives.

    Experience studying the ways in which humans can be deceived, tends to lead to certain conclusions, over time. These conclusions are not unchangeable – but represent where a particular individuals belief on an idea is, given all the evidence up to that point.

    Trust in this system of knowing things about the world can fall apart in many ways – if we are not very careful. One of these ways is when evidence or knowledge that disagrees with our beliefs is ignored, without first being well understood.

    Enter the ideomotor effect.

    Does the ideomotor effect explain the powers Connie has demonstrated better than invoking a paranormal dowsing power? Yeah, I think so. Does this mean Connie doesn’t have paranormal dowsing powers? No – it does not. And this is easily confusing.

    But I am hopeful. Hopeful, that Connie is not unlike many of us humans. I hope she truly is an honest person, and is sincerely open to learning more about the abilities she claims to have. I also hope she is as open to the idea that she might be fooling herself a bit.

    But when the claimed ability doesn’t show up in the test – there are only a few ways for Connie to proceed with her belief that she has ‘true’ psychic abilities in tact.

    It saddens me that the path which is chosen is to cry foul about the test. There are more reasonable answers available to choose which can help resolve these claims.

    But in a bitter irony, understanding of these cannot be forced up Connie. She needs to decide to pursue them on her own. Connie needs to find the will to make the hard choice and learn more about what is already well understood about the type of abilities she claims to have. This requires her to ask questions, and to find good answers – and this is hard.

    We Humans are stubborn. All of us, we have ideas – and we like to be right. Reassessment of our most strongly held beliefs is sometimes close to impossible – but also vital if we are to progress. Progress in our knowledge – and progress in our understanding of our existence.

    So it is disappointing to me when a well-controlled test, setup with the strictest of protocols, falls into a well understood pattern after the testing has been completed. What pattern is this that I speak? That would be the post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

    It is with a shocking precision that the those who are tested in the Million Dollar Challenge have a change of heart about the testing process – but only after the test is concluded.

    It is easier to believe the testers conspired against her in unfair ways – than to reassess the underlying claimed ability. Much pride and ego must be overcome by anyone who wants to understand the world. Connie is not the exception to this rule.

  8. paulgude says:

    Hi, Patrick.

    Thanks for writing! I think you present the skeptic’s point of view in a concise and thoughtful manner.

    There’s something I started thinking about in conjunction with the Million Dollar Challenge: G4’s Ninja Warrior.

    For a long time, you saw people in great physical condition competed on a show that no one had won.

    It didn’t mean that they weren’t in great shape, just that they weren’t able to complete that particular challenging course. No one complains about getting cheated, they just shake their heads and curse themselves.

    So, while I realize it may fly in the face of what the challenge is supposed to illuminate, one *could* fail and still gracefully concede defeat and try again after the waiting period with their belief in their psychic powers fully intact.

    So, why don’t they?

    My point about Randi and his history of dealing with fakers is that I truly believe that there are some precautions put in to ensure the contestants don’t cheat. He would be a fool not to do this, and Randi is no fool. Those very precautions could very easily be interpreted by Connie as attempts to cheat her.

    Again, I am *not* saying that this was a trick, but it shares many hallmarks of a trick.

    The preparation of the envelopes, the security around them, the isolation of participants, these mirror things done by magicians to prove they there is absolutely no way they could know the contents of a sealed envelope, then they miraculously reveal that the contents of the envelope have some bearing on the proceedings.

    Basically, the whole test could be seen as a magic trick with Connie as a performer, only the trick didn’t work. It would be incredibly easy for Connie to feel like the only one left out of an incredible setup.

    Again, I must stress *could be seen* because these exact same controls would *also* safeguard a test against someone you suspect may cheat. While I concede that those in attendance may have given her the benefit of the doubt, I trust the possibility that she might cheat was anticipated.

    While a Million Dollar Challenge can be approached in a scientific manner, it will *not* have the same dynamic as a common cognitive psychology experiment. I’ve been both a lab participant and assistant for those types of experiments and the stakes at TAM7 were incredibly raised.

    I’m not saying that you *can’t* set up laboratory conditions in an auditorium with a 1 Million Dollar prize, but there are aspects of a production like this that creep in and can go a long way to change a participant’s view of the proceedings after the fact.

    If you read Connie’s statements about things that “went wrong” or were different during the test and have any experience with producing a live event, you won’t have any trouble believing that they actually happened. Items can’t be found so others are substituted, there isn’t time for her to do her demonstration afterwards, etc.

    However, these changes, along with the whole “Banachek is a Mentalist not a Magician” thing, makes it easy for me to understand why Connie might have suspicions about the proceedings.

    I wouldn’t say the precision with which participants have a change of heart is that shocking. To me, it’s perfectly expected, a normal human response.

    When we’re caught up in the moment of something, often we let small concerns fall by the wayside. As an example, when I was buying my house there were small concerns that arose which didn’t seem like anything at the time. After the deal was done, however, I started thinking about them more and wondering how I could be so blind.

    “They first said that I would get $60,000 back, but then told me I had misheard them and it would be $16,000? How did I let that go?”

    “They needed an extra $2000 cash to close the deal. What was that for again?”

    Some people reading this must be going:

    “Uh, Paul? You really have to CHECK those things, and if you don’t feel comfortable, walk away from the deal. Plus, the fact that you make poor investment choices doesn’t mean that Connie Sonne was cheated.”

    Again, I’ll point out that I’m not saying she was cheated. I’m saying that it’s not surprising that she feels that way, and my real estate woes are an example of the same psychological process.

    Not everyone is like this. In fact, I would say that a skeptic may have the mental fortitude to completely shut this kind of thing down. For me, however, and a lot of others, we’ll enter into a situation with blinders on. Even high-stakes negotiations where attention to detail is of the utmost importance can yield this sort of issue. We’re so wrapped up in getting the thing done that we don’t step back when we have a question.

    After we’re out of the situation, when we’re back among our friends and discussing the proceedings, those little things that were bothering us come back and take on greater importance.

    Revisiting my Ninja Warrior question is that there’s also the fundamental fact that everyone agrees that arms and legs of the contestants exist, so the failure for someone to use these appendages to complete the challenge doesn’t negate their possession of the same. I concede that people holding up the fact that someone failed the challenge as proof that the participant’s psychic powers don’t exist may make them more touchy.

    So, I’m saying that this reaction isn’t that shocking. I think it should be expected. I need to point out that I realize you in no way implied that Connie’s reaction was anything less than human.

    I think all of us, myself included, could do with separating our pride and ego when things don’t go our way.

    Again, my closing pre-amble is that I am in no way claiming that what happened at TAM7 is in anyway different than what those who set up the Million Dollar Challenge have stated. This is an thought experiment, nothing more. I do not claim to be an expert on either psychic phenomenon or stage magic.

  9. paulgude says:

    Ground rules:

    I’ve never had to do this before, but I’m moderating comments to this post because it’s become a bit popular. I’m rejecting comments at my own discretion, as it’s my party. Here are some tips to help yours get through.

    1) At least acknowledge me. I’m egocentric, and narcissistic. Pretend like you actually care about me. Connie says she’s going to have her own web site soon. If you want to write directly to her then, that’s cool. Until then, please go through the motions of pretending to visit my blog to read and comment about something I’ve written.

    2) Add details to the conversation. Patrick and Connie, the only two people whose comments I’ve let through so far, both shared their personal experiences with this process. I’m not here to provide you with a forum for saying what you think happened, I’m trying to get a clear picture of what all the participants and observers saw.

    3) Don’t start bashing the Amazing Randi. Accusing Randi or his foundation of cheating without providing any anecdotes will not endear me to your post. Connie detailed things that didn’t seem kosher to her, and whether or not they’re believed is up to the reader. In his career, Randi has made many enemies by exposing some outright con artists. I’m not having my blog become a clearing house for people with a beef against him and his work.

    4) In the same way, don’t come here just to rip on Connie. Yes she took the test. Yes she failed. I know many people get the impression that her questioning of the process is simply the mark of a sore loser. She happened to write to me and answer some concerns I had, and I’m incredibly grateful for that. I’m not going to repay her time by filling my personal space with people calling her names or accusing her of crimes. If anyone REALLY feels they need to take legal action against her, they should hire an attorney and go from there. Simply using the Internet to say she should be sued may be appropriate in some other venue, but not here.

    5) Don’t assume I’m anything other than what I am. I’m not an attorney. I’m not a paranormal researcher. I’m not the police. I’m not a stage magician. I welcome input from any of these groups, but posting questions that would best be answered by one them is a waste of both our times. I’m not here to debate you or prove anything to you.

    Bottom line: I’m simply interested in what I find interesting. I’m not a journalist. I’m not here to be fair, or impartial, or academic. I have no reason to believe that things happened any differently than the participants of this event claim. I’m simply asking questions as they come to me because I enjoy doing this kind of thing.

    That’s something to remember. I’m doing this for fun. As soon as it becomes not that, I’m done.

    Keep the comments coming. I’m confident more people will get it soon.

  10. connie sonne says:

    Hi Paul, I tried to send this to the mail adress you gave me, but I couldn`t, so here it is in public :-).

    I will just tell you, that I expected to send the promised cd-rom for two days ago, but some things came up.( I still try to live a normal life with a big house, family and animals πŸ™‚ ) So, I will send it latest sunday, and you will have it next week.

    You suggested to be a third part of the testing. I would like to hear what you have to say about it ?

    Kind regards Connie

  11. paulgude says:

    Hi, Connie.

    I have two ideas:

    First, get someone who does not care if are or are not psychic to do the testing. Get someone who is not your friend. Get someone who is not involved in paranormal research. Get someone who is very literal and direct. Get someone who a skeptic would respect. This way, if you succeed, some skeptics may trust the results.

    There is no way to make everyone believe. Even if many believe, someone will always suspect a trick. So, do your best to help them trust your tests.

    Second idea, set up a test that anyone can do with you. I don’t know how this would work. It could be a test that people could do by mail, or email.

    Basically, a way for people who are interested to test you themselves.

    Of course, that may not be fun. It could be abused by mean-spirited people. Still, it would give you the opportunity to directly demonstrate your abilities to someone who is skeptical.

    Another question, if you will answer. This is something I’ve always wondered.

    When you know something through the use of your abilities, how sure are you of the answer?

    Is it like:

    1) A fact you learned in school?
    2) An answer you discover through arithmetic?
    3) A flash of memory, like when you suddenly remember a name you had forgotten?
    4) Something else?

    How would you describe it?

  12. connie sonne says:

    Hi Paul and thank you. I will consider what I will do. Right now, I`m doing my website. It will take a while, because there`s so much. And I will also write about things concerning your questions too. But I will here try to explain some of it shortly.(it is difficult to make it short πŸ™‚ )

    Nearly yes to all of it πŸ™‚ ! But NOT number 2.

    I am communicating with them directly. Many people out there described what they thought I was doing with my pendulum. NONE of it is right. I was talking directly with them, and I do not have to speak loudly. I`ll just have to think. They hear me anyway.

    They are allways in my thoughts. They speak to me in my head, give me pictures and give me ideas to go on(to make a new step for what I`m doing), but they also speak to me sometimes, which some other people also can hear. They communicate with my pets, write on my computer, do things(like get things moving or something like that). They have spoken though my parents phone, a friend`s phone( and there they said their names, which I allready knew πŸ™‚ )

    But in my case, I mean what I`m doing, ALL of it is always ending out with evidences ALL people can see, more about that.
    In the beginning, I wrote the letters on my floor with a chalk. I took my pendulum, and they moved it towards the letters. I wrote the letters down, and they gave me sentences,CPR-numbers and a name on a woman working in PET, the danish CIA !! That`s a story I also will write on my website, because you can NEVER get such informations from other places !!

    We are here, on earth, two kind of human being. 1/3 of the population are one kind, and the rest 2/3 are comming like scientists said. They are here from earth. The same for the animals, 1/3 are from another place. 1/3 of us can actually do “some things”, but many still doesn`t know that…yet ! All of us, the 1/3… and you are one of us πŸ™‚ have someone who “takes care” of us. You can call it…that we are a sort of a marionnetes. All we says, all we do….is planned. They take care of things are going to happend, because the future have always been known. They take care of “the story”, so things ARE going to happend in the way it is “written”.

    We are here on earth because of one thing….we have to help the human being from earth. We have “them…they have only us. We can help with small things or huge things.

    All of “us” can dowse, and no….the word ideomotor effect DOSN`T excist !!! The powers come from outside, not THROUGH yourself. You can just say…well…if you call dowsing Ideomotoreffect, if you are moving you pendulum yourself, it`s allright….but I call that for CHEATING πŸ™‚ !!

    Try yourself. Write letters in a horseshoeshape, so you can sit with your albove in the midle of them. Give it time to point out the letters. You don`t have to use a crystalball…take a coin with a hole in the midle or so, and a single string.

    One question at time….YES is when it turn to the right, and NO when it turns to the left. There`s is many things about this still, I dont have the time now, but about communication with “them”. There is RULES, so if you dont know them they will make fun or lie. But I write it for you when I send the cd-rom.

    About the testing….”they” have ALL the powers…and still, even JREF was cheating, they could still have pointed out the right envelopes, but it didn`t happen, and there is only one answer to that….because otherwise I wouldn`t have figured out that JREF cheated me, which they did! And I have found out what they did. It will come on my website and also at the JREF forum.

    JREF and nearly all of the stuff(some of them dont even know about it !!) has cheated ALL of you who was watching the testing !!! And there`s more….they have cheated you all ALL the time they have excisted !! They DO know about the powers from “behind”, but they do NOT know what it is. They are lying about all this because they HAVE to debunk it, they are afraid of loosing their powers, money and controlling. Much more about this at my website, when it comes.

    Kind regards Connie

  13. paulgude says:

    Hi, Connie.

    The morning for you is the late evening for me, so a short note this time. πŸ™‚

    The thing about the ideomotor effect is that it isn’t consciously controlled. The idea is that you don’t know that you’re doing it. You aren’t forcing the movement yourself. So if it *is* cheating, it isn’t malicious in nature, because the person doesn’t know that they’re doing it.

    However, just because the ideomotor effect exists doesn’t mean that other possibilities don’t exist. It’s just that if it’s more likely that it’s the cause, that’s the one that will be accepted.

    This leads me to something I’m sure you know. Many people will reject your statements purely because of the amount of belief it would take to trust them. It’s much easier for some to believe in unconscious muscle movements than beings that control outcomes in this manner.

    I get the impression that convincing skeptics is not as important to you as connecting with people who are interested in what you have to say, and that the challenge, while somewhat disappointing, actually had some benefit.

    Your brief description of communication with “them” is intriguing, and am looking forward to the CD-ROM.

    On last note is that while I understand your skepticism about the test, and do not have answers about the questions your raised regarding the testing process, I would ask you to consider the possibility that not everyone the JREF folks have tested has been a victim. Leaving open the possibility that they have been in the right on occasion sounds a bit more like the complicated world to which I’m used.

    Likewise, I’d like to caution the folks what are reading this that it appears we may have left the cold comforting embrace of science by the wayside a bit. Therefore, I’ll be accepting certain points in order to smooth conversation. As a fanciful sort, I’m comfortable with this, but if this sort of thing bugs you at all, it’s liable to drive you batty.

    As always, my statements are pure speculation and thought experiment, and I stress again that I have no reason to suspect the JREF of any wrongdoing.

    I simply like thinking about things.

  14. connie sonne says:

    Hi Paul, a very short note. I sent the cd-rom yesterday.

    Kind regards Connie

  15. paulgude says:

    Thanks, Connie!

    I’m looking forward to it. I’ll let you know as soon as it arrives.

    Have a good day! I’m off to sleep.

    -Paul

  16. connie sonne says:

    Hi Paul, I was just wondering….have you got the packet yet? Because its now 14 days ago I sent it, and normally it only takes 5 days to arrive…..

    Connie

  17. paulgude says:

    Hi, Connie!

    Sorry for being tardy with my response.

    Indeed I received it! Earlier this week, in fact.

    I was planning for a new post for this, but due to an increased day-job workload haven’t had time to fully review the material with the attention it deserves.

    I will, though!

    Thank you again for sending it!

  18. connie sonne says:

    Hi Paul, it`s ok ofcause :-). I would just know if you received it. I`m started on my website : http://www.conniesonne.dk but in danish now. I takes a while to write the hole story and get it translated afterwards. But I do think, it`s ready in english medio september. At least I will try πŸ˜‰

    Connie

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