On July 16th, 2007, a Swedish national who, as of 2010, is a science undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, contacted the Independent Investigations Group (IIG) to inquire about our $50,000 Challenge.
Anita claimed that she could look into the human body and diagnose many different types of physical or medical anomalies. She claimed many other paranormal powers including:
- The ability to identify chemical elements based on a vibration she could see.
- The ability to see ghosts – the ghosts of America's founding fathers, the ghosts of animals, the ghosts of dinosaurs and many others – as well as the ability to communicate with these ghosts.
- The ability to enter into an altered state similar to a chemical "high" simply by looking at an image of marijuana.
She made dozens of other similar claims. Since Ikonen insisted that her most reliable ability was medical diagnosis, the IIG worked with Anita on a protocol to test this ability. After a year of negotiations we could not come to an agreement on what medical conditions would be acceptable for a demonstration. The negotiations stalled without establishing a clear protocol.
In December of 2008, Anita made contact with the Forsythe Area Critical Thinkers (FACT), a group of skeptics that meets monthly in Winston Salem, North Carolina and is led by Jim Moury and Dr. Eric Carlson. Carlson is a physics professor at Wake Forest University and has worked with the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) to test people for the foundation's Million Dollar Challenge – a longstanding test similar to, and the inspiration for, the IIG's $50K Challenge.
At Anita's first meeting with FACT, the skeptics convinced her that if she wanted to be tested by the IIG she needed to narrow her claim to something simple and straightforward that she was confident about demonstrating. At a subsequent FACT meeting in March 2009, Dr. Carlson agreed to let Anita "read him," telling her in advance that there was "something interesting" to be found. A form was provided to Anita on which she was to write down any medical or physical anomalies she saw. Though Dr. Carlson is a kidney donor and is missing his left kidney, Anita did not note this on her form. However, after Dr. Carlson revealed this fact to her following her reading, she insisted that she had very clearly detected the kidney was missing, but she did not write it down because she second-guessed her own sensations; Dr. Carlson seemed "too healthy" to be missing a kidney, and she was unaware that healthy people could donate kidneys.
Anita decided that her vision of Dr. Carlson's missing kidney was among her strongest medical sensations to date, despite her failure to write down this feeling during the actual test. By August 2009, based on this experience, she proposed a new protocol idea to IIG.
One person who has had a kidney removed is sitting among nine other persons who have both kidneys. Their order of sequence is determined randomly. The back rest of their chairs is facing to the left so that their backs can be seen. A fabric curtain is attached from the ceiling and comes down to cover head and necks of the persons. A number is placed on the floor by each of the chairs with numbers from 1 to 10 from left to right. The persons are wearing their everyday clothes and their backs do not need to be bare. Once the ten persons are settled I will take a seat behind their row a few feet behind them. I have four hours to look at them.
Such a test would require multiple human subjects, a difficult enough task without the complication that some of them would need to be missing a kidney. We had to design a protocol that would be accurate and practical, not so daunting in terms of time commitment and physical discomfort that it would dissuade people from volunteering to be subjects. Setting up this Challenge was going to be a challenge.