Anita Ikonen

Preliminary Demonstration - November 21st, 2009

Anita flew to Los Angeles on Friday, November 20th. She stayed at a hotel just a few miles from the site of the demonstration taking place the next morning – the Steve Allen Theater at the Center for Inquiry (CFI) building in Hollywood. Anita was invited to visit the CFI building on Friday, but she declined.

On November 21st, IIG members started preparations for the controlled demonstration at 9:30 a.m. The Philips iU22 ultrasound machine, provided by Media Medical Consultants, had been delivered the day before and was wheeled into position on the stage. The technician, Michele Ray, was scheduled to arrive at noon. In addition to various video cameras to document the process, arrangements had been made to stream the demonstration live to the Internet. A Canon XH A1 video camera, manned by IIG member Dave Richards, was set up near the rear of the audience section of the Steve Allen Theater, from which the feed was set up and monitored by IIG members Derek Bartholomaus and Brian Hart.

  • Philips iU22 Ultrasound System
    Philips iU22 Ultrasound System
  • Recording the demonstration
    Recording the demonstration

Additional IIG members and other invited guests began arriving about 10:30 a.m. Since the IIG members running the demonstration were still working in the theater, the attendees waited in the lobby.

A Little Deception

At 10:45 a.m., subjects began to arrive. They were immediately conducted to a holding area on the second floor of the CFI building. Once they were checked in, Spencer divided the subjects into three groups of six. Each of the subjects then drew a number from a hat to determine their order, 1 thru 6, left to right, within each trial group.

Spencer and Jim Newman had gone to some lengths to make sure the subjects were in the dark about the details of the demonstration and the role they were going to play. The volunteers knew the time and place and knew that it was a test of paranormal powers to diagnose medical conditions – but little more. People missing a kidney (i.e., targets) were told they were going to be part of a larger group of subjects also who were all missing an organ.

The subjects would be mingling on the second floor for some time, so it was vital that they understood the rules. They were not allowed to talk about anything medical or the demonstration itself, whether before or after they'd been viewed. Proctors Joe Pingree and Don Chesebro would be escorting the groups to and from the viewing area but were unaware of the decoy/target status of any of the Subjects.

The volunteers understood the need for secrecy but there was still some concern about unconscious cueing of information to Anita. A target who suspected he/she was the target might convey nervousness or exhibit some other relevant tell. To mitigate against this, Jim Newman and Spencer Marks injected some misinformation into the scenario. The subjects were told en masse that some of them were missing organs (not only kidneys) and that others were not. It was explained to them that before each trial someone downstairs would roll a standard six-sided die. The number that came up on that die would determine which organ Anita would be looking for or if she should be looking for someone with all their organs. The purpose of this subterfuge was to instill in every subject the belief that they were just as likely to be the target as any other subject in any given trial.

Anita In Skepticland

The plan was to monitor Anita's movements from the moment she entered the CFI building until, at very least, the final trial was complete. With the subjects safely sequestered, Anita was alerted by phone and a car was sent to pick her up at the hotel.

Jim Underdown was behind the wheel. Steve Muscarella (wielding a video camera) rode in the passenger seat and Karen Kensek was in the backseat with Anita. Early in the planning we had decided that Anita should have a female escort at all times – someone to look out for Anita's comfort, accompany her to the washroom as needed, and to generally keep a set of eyes on her at all times.

En route, introductions and pleasantries were exchanged. Anita admitted to being a little nervous and added that she had been practicing. Using a walkie-talkie, Underdown radioed ahead when the car was returning to the Center for Inquiry so Spencer could double check that all subjects were safely sequestered. The all clear was given and the car pulled up to the rear entrance of the CFI building. Anita was escorted directly from the car to the backstage area of the Steve Allen Theater via a rear entrance.

Backstage, Anita signed various pieces of paperwork including a printed version of the protocol and various personal releases. Jim Underdown also used a metal detection wand to make sure Anita was not wearing any electronic devices, which she was not. Anita's cell phone and purse were set aside until the end of the demonstration. Jim and Karen showed Anita around the stage and explained how the demonstration would be conducted, where subjects would sit, the line she would stand behind and the areas she would be limited to.

During the tour, Anita asked to go on record with something. She wanted us to know that she would not guess; if she didn't get a clear impression of the missing kidney's location she would pass. Jim Underdown reminded her that a single pass would constitute a total fail, but it was her decision. Anita confirmed that she understood the ramifications of passing but reiterated her stance.

Anita prepares for the test
Anita prepares for the test

Anita was shown the projection screen which would be lowered into place between each trial to hide the subjects from view until they were set in their chairs with hats and veils in place. Since the subjects were instructed not to speak or make any noise at ANY time in the process, it was decided that the best place to keep Anita during these transitions was on the stage, her back to the screen. When the subjects were in place, the screen would be raised and Anita could turn and immediately begin her process.

Anita was introduced to IIG member Jerry Buchanan, who would be acting as the timekeeper. During the trials, Jerry would supply a verbal running countdown of time remaining at various intervals – 10 minutes, 5 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute, etc. He would also time the breaks, note the time of day at each juncture, and keep track of the selections in each trial. Should there be any question or dispute about any of the results, we could refer to either the video recording of the trial or Jerry's contemporaneous notes.

To insure things ran smoothly later, Jim Underdown walked Anita through the specific steps for completing a trial.

  1. Anita would be given a generic scratch sheet on which she could jot notes and impressions during the viewing period. This form was blank except for six human forms with kidneys. Any time within the allotted 27 minutes she would indicate to Jim that she was ready to make her selection by walking to the podium where the official selection form was waiting.
  2. Jim Underdown would watch as she filled out the selection form in ink. Once he had verified the form was complete he would ask the subject that Anita chose as the target to stand, remove his/her hat and veil and face downstage.
  3. Mark Johnson would be in charge of photographic documentation. Once a photo of Anita's selected target had been taken, the entire group would be asked to turn around and remove hats and veils. A second photo of the entire trial group would be taken.
  4. Prints of both photographs would be brought back to the podium, initialed with a Sharpie pen by Anita (to indicate that they accurately represented the status of subjects as they now appeared in front of her) and then stapled to the selection form.
  5. The subjects would be released, the screen would come down and
    the completed selection forms would be placed on a music stand
    near the apron of the stage where they would remain in full view until the ultrasound verification phase.