Anita Ikonen

Post Mortem

In the course of conducting a demonstration of this scope and complexity, mistakes were made and some valuable lessons were learned. For every refinement or shortcut in one area there is a price to pay in another. Practical trumped elegant almost every time. Nothing occurred that would invalidate the results of the demonstration but there were some things we failed to anticipate, some procedural missteps, and some dicey judgment calls worth noting.

1) Since the demonstration some criticism has been aimed at the wording of the protocol:

"The Applicant claims to be able to detect which subject in a group of six Subjects is missing a kidney, to further identify which kidney (left or right) is missing in her selected Subject, and to be able to do this with 100% accuracy in three consecutive trials."

To some the language is imprecise and, thus, vulnerable to challenge or mischievous misinterpretation. Was Anita being asked to identify who was missing a kidney, and then being asked to identify which kidney? This question is only of interest to someone trying to parse things so as to turn Anita's selection in Trial #3 into a partial hit. Nevertheless, we might have done more to prevent this ambiguity, since the deliberate injection of post-test confusion comes with the territory when testing psychics.

In our defense, getting the grammar correct was a linguistic challenge. It would have been easier if we could have lined up 12 individual kidneys, like some weird scene from a sci-fi movie, but the reality is kidneys come in living humans. It was impossible not to include a reference to the host (subject) carrying the potential kidneys. Imagine, if you will, that we'd numbered the kidneys, 1 through 12, left to right, and ignored the human carrying the kidney. Would that, in the long run, have clarified things or confused them?

In the end we trusted that a full reading of the protocol would make it clear that there was no point system in place. Anita was not circling or Xing human figures on the sheet. She was circling and Xing kidneys. And there was only one correct permutation per trial.

2) Should we have set the demonstration up differently in terms of randomization and distribution of targets? For example, offer the same amount of targets and decoys but randomly distribute them so Anita could not know how many were present in any given trial, only that she would see three in the course of three trials. This would have greatly complicated the backstage organization and require a foolproof system for tracking targets as they moved through the three trials. Considering Anita's performance, there's little reason to think a more randomized testing process would have made any difference, but it is certainly open to debate.

3) Care was taken to keep the subjects as ignorant as possible about the true nature of the demonstration, particularly the fact that kidneys were the specific organ being sought in all three trials. To guard against the subjects getting a glimpse of Anita's selection form (with the six figures and 12 kidneys) during the photography phase at the end of each trial, the completed sheet was supposed to remain on the podium until the subjects were removed from the viewing area. That is how we rehearsed it. But during trial #1 Jim Underdown walked across the stage with the stapler and attached the photographs to the completed selection form. We know that at least one subject glimpsed the form because when she got back upstairs she told Jim Newman. The subject was reminded of the pledge of silence and the information flow stopped there.

4) As we were setting up for the ultrasound, Anita noticed that she had NOT initialed the photographs stapled to the selection form for one of the trials. She went ahead and did so but this was clearly an error in the procedure. Initialing the photos was supposed to be done AS she was still looking at the subjects so there could be no question that the photo was a true representation of her answer.

5) Anita's sole hit was in trial #2, so naturally and properly this trial came under some scrutiny. The target, subject 24, was a man named Anthony who was a trusted friend of IIG member Kitty Scott. Kitty was a fairly regular contributor to various threads about Anita on the JREF forums. In September 2009, responding to comments Anita had made about her encounter with Dr. Carlson at FACT, Kitty mentioned she had a friend who was missing a kidney. She also described how the man had recently been in a terrible motorcycle accident and now had various titanium implants in his body. In a later posting Kitty mentioned that this man had nasty scars on his arms and walked with a limp due to a brace he wore on his right leg. We know Anita was aware of the friend and his physical characteristics because she wrote a personal message to Kitty about it. Kitty's JREF avatar listed no city, but on another thread (about the psychic John Edward) Kitty had mentioned that she lives in Los Angeles. We know that Anita monitored and posted on numerous JREF threads, so Kitty's hometown and, thus, the possible location of her kidney-less friend was out there to be cobbled together. There were several exchanges on JREF about it and by September Anita expected she would be coming to Los Angeles soon, so it's possible she consciously or unconsciously knew these facts.

A week or so before the demonstration, Kitty volunteered herself as a subject and her friend Anthony as a possible target. Kitty warned Spencer Marks and Jim Newman about the JREF threads and the possibility of leakage. Spencer felt there was little chance Anita would recognize Anthony as being the man Kitty described on JREF. He also thought that since Anthony was missing a left kidney, he would use him for the open test, which rendered the issue moot. However, on the morning of the demonstration we were presented with a conundrum.

Our volunteers did not know the specifics of the test, but they did know Anita was a psychic who claimed to be able to diagnose medical conditions. During a casual chat the man who Spencer had planned to use as the target in trial #2 asked Spencer if – when the demonstration was over – Anita might be willing to give him a free reading! Spencer was concerned that a target with belief in psychic powers might, consciously or otherwise, cue Anita in some way. There were only four targets on hand and it was vital that the two people missing right kidneys be part of the demonstration. Forced to make a judgment call, Spencer swapped the two men and Anthony became the target in Trial #2.

We have no reason to think that Anita connected the person written about on the JREF forum with Subject 24. Anita says she did not sense anything about subject 24 but, of course, she may have known something unconsciously. In our opinion, Anita's single hit was simply a lucky guess. She had a one out of six chance of guessing the correct subject and, as we have seen, chose left in every trial. But we can't rule out that something about the guy reminded Anita of the JREF postings. Tattoos on a motorcyclist are a cliché, but not an unreasonable association. The scars on his arms or the brace on his leg may have been visible to Anita, and it's possible these things may have implied an accident, and damage to vital organs, and that the JREF postings never figured into it.

Regardless, Anthony should not have been used as a subject/target. There was inherent leakage potential that should have disqualified him on general principle. That said, on the day of the demonstration we only had four uni-kidney volunteers to work with. Using a subject missing a right kidney for the open test was not acceptable and, in retrospect, that strategy turned out to be a good one.

Hindsight is 20/20. But research scientists – and lowly skeptical investigators – must be vigilant when it comes to anticipating problems. It goes without saying that having extra targets would have eliminated the problem. The trial 2 snafu also highlights the importance of carefully screening subjects and targets. Anthony's shortcomings have been acknowledged, and if the man who wanted a reading from Anita had been identified sooner, the search for suitable targets would not have stopped short and the dilemma on the morning of the demonstration might have been avoided altogether.

Summary

The testing of Anita Ikonen was the most elaborate demonstration the IIG has undertaken to date and, as is hopefully abundantly clear now, conducting a demonstration with multiple human subjects is fraught with pitfalls. We are proud of our effort and hope that any applicant who is considering the 50K Challenge will have seen that the IIG is not only scrupulously fair, but friendly and respectful of the claimant and their investment of time and effort.

Additional Links

Preliminary Demonstration Protocol

Initial Report Page

Press Release

Unedited Recording of Preliminary Demonstration