The REALL News


The official newsletter of the Rational Examination Association
                      of Lincoln Land

Volume 1, Number 4                                     May 1993
Electronic Version

If you like what you see, please help us continue by sending
in a subscription.  See the end of newsletter for details.

In This Issue:

From the Editor -- Wally Hartshorn
From the Chairman -- David Bloomberg
The Saucer Error -- Martin Kottmeyer
A Brief Meeting with Jacki Mari, Psychic -- Det. Bruce Walstad
Lights, Camera, Action - A Tale of Two TV Shows -- Det. Bruce Walstad
REALLity Check -- David Bloomberg
Book Capsule: _The Faith Healers_ -- Bob Ladendorf


The Rational Examination Association of Lincoln Land (REALL)
is a non-profit educational and scientific organization.  It is
dedicated to the development of rational thinking and the application
of the scientific method toward claims of the paranormal and fringe-
science phenomena.

REALL shall conduct research, convene meetings, publish a newsletter,
and disseminate information to its members and the general public.
Its primary geographic region of coverage is central Illinois.

REALL subscribes to the premise that the scientific method is the
most reliable and self-correcting system for obtaining knowledge
about the world and universe.  REALL not not reject paranormal claims
on a priori grounds, but rather is committed to objective, though
critical, inquiry.

_The REALL News_ is its official newsletter.

Membership information is provided elsewhere in this newsletter.

Editor:  Wally Hartshorn
Editorial Board and Organizing Committee:  David Bloomberg (Chairman),
Wally Hartshorn, Bob Ladendorf.

P.O. Box 20302
Springfield, IL 62708

Unless stated otherwise, permission is granted to other skeptic
organizations to reprint articles from _The REALL News_ as long
as proper credit is given.

The views expressed in these articles are the views of the individual
authors and do not necessarily represent the views of REALL.


			  From The Editor
			-- Wally Hartshorn

	Spring seems to have finally arrived, although the rain is
getting a bit monotonous.  In any case, better weather raises the
spirits (no, I'm not talking about channelling) and I suspect it
brings an increase in some types of the "paranormal".  Crop circles,
for example, seem to do better in nice weather.  The number of UFO
sightings probably also increases, due to more people being outside
in the evening.  It ought to be an interesting summer, and _The REALL
News_ will cover it all.

	This month's issue brings another article from Martin
Kottmeyer about UFOs.  I realize we've given UFOs quite a bit of
coverage, and I considered holding the article for a month and running
a non-UFO article instead.  However, the interest survey that was
handed out at the first meeting showed that interest in UFOs was
very high among the members of REALL.  Martin Kottmeyer's articles
are always informative and enjoyable, so as long as he keeps writing
them, we'll keep printing them.
	Our speaker at last month's meeting was Detective Bruce
Walstad, as David discusses in the chairman's column.  If you missed
his presentation, you missed a lot!  However, we have the next best thing
-- two brief articles written by Det. Walstad.
	Last but not least, REALLity Check returns after a one-issue
absence, with plenty of items to get your dander up.

-Goodbye (sort of)-
	As I mentioned in last month's column, I've decided not to seek
the position of editor, so this will be my last issue.  I just have too
many other responsibilities right now.  (I'm in four clubs and edit
four newsletters.)  However, it won't be the last you'll see of me
in _The REALL News_, as I plan on writing articles for the newsletter
in the future.  Until then, I'll see you at the meetings!


		         From the Chairman
			-- David Bloomberg

     Well, I'd call our last meeting a great success!
Everybody I talked to, ranging from the magicians, to our
guests from St. Louis, to REALL members, to "independents"
thought Detective Walstad was great, and I agree!  I'd like
to thank him for coming and talking to us.  I'd also like to
thank Professor Hayler and Professor Egger for allowing us
to speak to Professor Hayler's class and use her classroom.
It was a great opportunity for several reasons.
     Of course, it was an opportunity for us to hear about
psychics and other cons from the point of view of the law.
It also helped answer one of the questions we are frequently
asked, "Why bother with this stuff?"
     From another point of view, it was an opportunity to
reach out to a group of people -- the students -- who might
not normally know about us.  Even if they don't join REALL,
they will hopefully remember what they saw and heard, and
apply it later in their lives and careers.
     For those of you who didn't make it (shame on you), it
is not easy to sum up Detective Walstad's presentation.  It
was not a simple lecture, but a mixture of stories, humor,
explanations, magic, and a lot of information.
     The non-paranormal cons Walstad went over ranged from
opportunistic scams like the radon gas neutralizer (an empty
plastic tube) to the ever popular pigeon drop, which has
been worked for years.  He pointed out that, while the greed
of the mark is often used in a con, in many other cases, the
cons play on fear or duty.
     From the paranormal aspect, Detective Walstad discussed
storefront psychics, some of whom routinely break the law by
informing clients that they are "cursed" and must pay big
bucks to have their aura repaired.  Along these lines,
Walstad performed a cold reading on an audience member.
When she complained he was being "too general", he came back
and hit close enough to the mark that she appeared
momentarily stunned, even knowing he wasn't really "reading
her mind".  He also did several card tricks which could be
used by psychics to show their "powers".  While I figured
out how he did one of them, I must admit that I am still
absolutely in the dark about the other.  Once again, even
knowing they are "tricks", they are quite astounding, and
somebody already predisposed to belief in a psychic would
likely find such belief cemented.
     Other discussion of the paranormal centered around
"psychic detectives".  He discussed their methods, their
claims, and the truth about them.  The whole thing can be
summed up simply as, "they don't work."  In addition, he
pointed out how they can, if taken seriously, often cause
police to waste time that they should be spending on correct
     Of course, Detective Walstad talked about a variety of
other things, and was much more entertaining than this
column is, but I've found it extremely difficult to do
mentalism tricks through a newsletter.

	Elections!  If you want to be a Board member (and who
doesn't?), come run.  If you can't make it, but still want to
run, call me and let me know (or send a psychic message).


		         The Saucer Error

                        By Martin Kottmeyer

     Ufologists from time to time express the sentiment that
UFOs just can't be a myth.  Look at them.  That shape.  How
do you explain where it came from.  Space travel was
supposed to involve rockets, not these disc-shaped marvels.
The whole phenomenon is just so, well, alien from what you'd
     J. Allen Hynek, one of the leading ufologists of his
time, put it this way:

       "Why flying saucers?  Why not flying cubes or flying
       pyramids, or for that matter, why not flying pink
       elephants or even flying buildings, reported from a
       hundred different countries?  Indeed if UFO reports
       were entirely the result of excited imaginations,
       why not hundreds, possibly thousands, of totally and
       radically different types of reports as people of
       different cultures let their locally conditioned
       imaginations loose?"
                 (Hynek UFO Report, Dell, 1977, p. 28)

     John Prytz, who has defended the extraterrestrial
hypothesis against psychosocial interpretations of the UFO
phenomenon in a fascinating series of articles, devoted a
whole article ("UFO Genesis" MUFON UFO Journal, September
1982, pp. 10-14) to exploring this conundrum.  There weren't
any "sci-fi films" playing in 1947 and the serials before
that date, The Purple Monster Strikes and Flash Gordon, only
involved rockets.  He checked the newspapers of the period
and couldn't find anything in the cultural environment which
could have stimulated the saucer phenomenon.  The period was
boring.  He concluded, "The timing of the genesis of the
modern UFO phenomenon, which cannot be logically accounted
for, is yet another forceful argument for the external
nature of, and external intelligence behind, the UFO, and
yet another nail in the coffin of the pro-internal-
intelligence advocates."
     UFO historian David Jacobs has echoed Prytz in his
paper, "The New Era of UFO Research" (Pursuit, #78, 1987)
and more recently in Secret Life and asserted there was no
precedent for the saucer configuration in popular science
fiction films, popular science fiction, or popular culture
in general.  The objects seemed "well beyond that produced
by the technology of 1947 and it became immediately apparent
that the witnesses were seeing something that could be
entirely unique."
     There is a trivial sense in which Prytz and Jacobs are
simply wrong.  Disc-shaped spacecraft have a number of
precedents in popular culture.  They appear in the well-
known and widely distributed Buck Rogers comic strip as
early as 1930.  Flash Gordon was battling a squadron of
deadly "space-gyros" in 1934 in his strip.  Even better,
they can be seen dangling around, thanks to the gloriously
crude special effects of 1938 Hollywood, in the Flash Gordon
movie serial, "Rocketship" based on that strip.  Science
fiction illustrator Frank R. Paul repeatedly used disc-
shaped space vehicles in his art for the early pulps.
Others followed his example.  I regard these as trivial
however because I accept them as coincidences inevitable in
a large body of artistic creativity.  Artists utilized every
geometric form they could think of and when imagination
failed them they preferred to fall back on the convention of
the rocket.  If the images of science fiction were the
determinant of what people should have been imagining in
1947 we should have had a wave of ghost rockets, not flying
saucers.  So what was the determinant?
     Oddly enough, we got flying saucers because of a
journalist's error.  1947 was an exciting time in aviation
history.  New advances and innovations were turning up
regularly and speed records were being broken as pilots
aimed to break the sound barrier.  Chuck Yeager would win
that prize on October 14, 1947.  Four months earlier, on
June 24, 1947, Kenneth Arnold surprised the world by
reporting nine objects flying by Mount Ranier at the
incredible speed of 1,200 miles per hour.  It was an
incredible mystery and was such a sensation that it made
front page news across the nation.  Soon everyone was
looking for these new aircraft which according to the papers
were saucer-like in shape.  Within weeks hundreds of reports
of these flying saucers were made across the nation.  While
people presumably thought they were seeing the same things
that Kenneth Arnold saw, there was a major irony that nobody
at the time realized.
     Kenneth Arnold hadn't reported seeing flying saucers.
     In a memoir of the incident for the First International
UFO Congress in 1977 Arnold revealed the flying saucer label
arose because of a "great deal of misunderstanding" on the
part of the reporter who wrote the story up for the United
Press.  Bill Bequette asked him how the objects flew and
Arnold answered that, "Well, they flew erratic, like a
saucer if you skip it across the water."  The intent of the
metaphor was to describe the motion of the objects not their
shape.  Arnold stated the objects "were not circular."  A
look at the drawing he did for his report to the Air Force
shortly after the incident confirms the truth of that
statement.  It is hard to describe in a word or two; beetle-
shaped is the best I can come up with.  However you describe
it, one thing is clear.  It is not the elegant alien
geometric perfection we have come to know and mystify
ourselves over.
     We can from these facts derive the answers to Hynek's
questions.  The reason excited imaginations didn't come up
with hundreds of radically different variations is that they
were constrained by Bequette's description of the objects.
The phrase "flying saucers" provided the mold which shaped
the UFO myth at its beginning.  As time progressed people
would draw them, looking as they sound like they look.  They
in turn shaped hoax photos and the imagery of films like The
Flying Saucer and The Day the Earth Stood Still and dozens
of alien invasion films and TV shows in the decades that
followed.  It remains the stereotype to the present day.  By
one tally 82% of the craft descriptions in alien abduction
reports fall into the flying saucer category.  It can be
found in nearly all the well-known cases:  Betty & Barney
Hill's interrupted journey, Herb Schirmer, Travis Walton,
the Andreasson affair, Whitley Strieber.
     Prytz's and Jacobs' arguments miss the mark because one
doesn't need to look beyond Bequette's error to understand
the unambiguously cultural genesis of the saucer mystery.
Arnold's report was itself the source of excitement in the
otherwise almost boring period of 1947.  The speed of the
objects caught everyone's attention and guaranteed that the
whole world would add the phrase "flying saucers" to their
vocabulary within a matter of days.  Science fiction had
nothing to do with this; the interest in fast planes was the
     Bequette's error may not prove to be the ultimate
refutation of the extraterrestrial theory for everyone.  But
it does leave their advocates in one helluva paradox:  Why
would extraterrestrials redesign their craft to conform to
Bequette's mistake?


	     A Brief Meeting With Jackie Mari, Psychic
		       by Det. Bruce Walstad

     The meeting place, the _Talking with Aaron Freeman Show_,
Channel 50, WPWR-TV (Gary, Indiana), Sunday, November 22, 1992, 
12:30 AM.  This was my first meeting with Mari, and I suspect it 
was my last.  Mari was not fond of me, nor did she take kindly to
my observations and remarks regarding her paranormal abilities.
     Mari is a Chicago area psychic who claims to have helped 
the police in hundreds of cases.  This meeting was a result of the
media coverage she was getting on a case she claims to have recently
solved, involving a missing person.
     Mari's ability as a psychic was proven before the show ever 
started as upon her arrival she pointed out the show's other guest
as "the cop."
     Prior to the show, I had done some research on Mari, and her
claims of paranormal abilities.  During the taping I was able to get
out a few differences in her claims, which did not sit well with her.
Mari was very difficult to pin down on anything.  I did manage to
get her to admit that a _Chicago Tribune_ quote of her's regarding
the hundreds of police investigations she has solved, were not 
exactly police investigations, nor had the hundreds of cases actually
been solved.  Throughout the show, while I was speaking, Mari
employed a number of defensive tactics, including ignoring my remarks,
talking over me and bending the truth a bit with her responses.
     At one point Mari offered to send me some video tape of her 
making some prediction prior to an incident.  Needless to say, to
date I have received no video tape from Mari.
     All in all I felt I held my own during the show.  As mentioned 
earlier, Mari did not exactly take to me, as she told the host, 
referring to me, "He is not a nice person, and I don't like him."


                       Lights, Camera, Action
                       A Tale of Two TV Shows

                        By Det. Bruce Walstad

Psychics Wished Me Well

	In mid-February I received a call from a producer of 
the Maury Povich Show.  They asked if I would come on an
upcoming show regarding psychics.  The producer wanted me to
give the skeptical point of view.  I was told I would be up
against three psychics.  I agreed, and was off to New York
for the taping.  I was briefed by the producers and met with
Maury.  The plan was for me to sit in the audience and get a
reading from the psychics.  After that I was to move up to
the stage and be the skeptic.  The show started and was
quite interesting as one of the guests had racked up a
$17,000 phone bill on one of these psychic hotlines, and the
other two guests were on the verge of breaking up, as a
psychic had told the female that her boyfriend was cheating
on her.  The three psychics then started fielding questions
from the audience.  After a few questions, it was my turn
and I asked about a promotion at work.  The psychics told me
I was ill and needed to see a doctor, and that I needed
glasses.  With that Maury introduced me as a police
detective and skeptic.  I then took my spot on the stage and
was able to get out a few remarks.  As the show progressed,
I listened as the psychics gave "answers" to the various
questions asked.  As it progressed, I was squirming in my
seat, and not being able to stand much more, I joined in and
gave a reading to a woman.  It cracked up the audience big
time.  One of the psychics even agreed with my reading.  The
psychics were up to par, by giving opposing answers to
[each] question asked, and even arguing with each other.
The audience seemed pretty skeptical for the most part, but
there was no shortage of questions.  They did boo the
psychics a couple times (much to my delight) when they came
out with some stupid bits of advice.  The show wrapped up
and afterwards I chatted briefly with the psychics.  They
all told me that they admired me for my work, and wished me
well, although my "psychic" abilities told me they were not
exactly sincere with their words.

Gypsy Predicts Future

     In November, PACC Board of Directors [member] Dave
Bieniasz and myself assisted the producers and staff of 48
Hours in gathering information on a segment on Gypsy Fortune
Telling scams.  The show aired on February 3, and netted a
couple interesting stories worth passing on.  On the
afternoon of February 3, prior to the show airing, CBS ran a
promo here in Chicago about the show.  It showed a local
fortune teller and myself.  Within 10 minutes of that promo,
I received a phone call from a male Gypsy involved in the
Chicago area fortune telling establishment.  I had met this
particular Gypsy about a month before in an unrelated
matter.  He went on to explain to me that this show was
going to be very bad for business, and that he expected many
people to come forward and complain that they have been
scammed by the local fortune tellers.  I replied, "So."  He
then related that if I should hear of any such beefs that I
should have the investigating officers contact him
personally so he could take care of them and get their money
back.  It appears this Gypsy must have been using one of the
fortune teller's crystal balls, as Dave Bieniasz called me
within 20 minutes of hte show airing, explaining that his
department had already received several calls from people
who got scammed by the fortune teller exposed on the show.
The fortune teller featured (via undercover camera) resides
and operated within Dave's jurisdiction, Lombard.  I predict
Dave will be busy with numberous complaints in the near
future regarding fortune telling scams.

(This article originally appeared in the 4th PACC Bulletin of 1993.)


                          REALLity Check
		         by David Bloomberg

Well, for a change, it looks like the good news outweighs
the bad for the past couple months, assuming that we
overlook the weekly dose of pro-paranormal bias we get from
such shows as Unsolved Mysteries and Sightings, of course.

                      UFOs, Pro and Con

     The biggest news was likely the March 7th Parade
article written by Carl Sagan on alien abductions and
possible psychological and social causes for the alleged
experiences.  He correctly points out, among other facts,
that there is little or no physical evidence of these
experiences, as there should be if they were true
abductions, if only due simply to the large number of them.
The article is quite long, and any interested reader should
probably check out your local library, since there simply
isn't room here to go into great detail.

     It is likely that this article was timed to try to
offset the hype of the Fire in the Sky movie supposedly
based on Travis Walton's alien abduction years ago.  The
fact that Klass cast quite a lot of doubt on the story in
several of his books doesn't seem to have made it to the
movie version, for some reason.  Apparently, it didn't
matter much, as the movie lasted only a few weeks in major
theaters, and was nowhere to be found in Springfield after
only a couple months.  Even many UFO proponents on several
computer networks panned the movie.


     Other paranormal events in the national media include a
cover story about bleeding crosses and crying statues in the
DATE GOES HERE issue of U.S. News & World Report.  It seems
there was a priest in a relatively small parish who was
having doubts about his faith, when, suddenly, statues all
around him started crying and he started bleeding in the
locations where Christ was wounded.
     The story seemed to lean both ways at once.  They gave
most of the article to discuss the priest and the statues,
but also talked about several skeptics/magicians who were
easily able to duplicate the crying statues and bleeding
through a variety of methods.  As usual in these cases, it
is unlikely that there will be any true scientific
investigation of whether or not statues near the priest
start crying without his doing anything.  So the story
leaves it up to the reader to decide to take it on faith, or
ask for more evidence.
     As a sidebar, they did discuss James Randi's exposure
of "faith healers" who were using less than godly means of
doing business.

                    Cynical Tele-Psychics

     Also on the national scene, ABC's "Primetime Live"
recently did a good expose of the psychic hotline industry.
By going undercover, they were able to show that people who
didn't even claim to have psychic powers were able to obtain
jobs giving out readings over the phones.  The bosses were
shown to be cynical about not only the callers ("The
[welfare] checks are in the mail, we're gonna get a bunch of
calls tonight") but also their own employees ("Most of these
people's personal lives, people who work for us, are just a
total shambles.  How they could even give this stuff out is
incredible").  It is estimated that these operations do
approximately a $100 million-a-year business.

                  Creationism on Prime Time

     The NBC cop/lawyer show Reasonable Doubts had its
season finale on the 27th, and they dealt in large part with
one of the main character's case involving Creationism in
the schools.  The writers apparently did their homework,
because they showed the opposing lawyer (the one
representing the family who didn't want science taught, but
rather their religion) using the same arguments often
actually made by Creationists, which also happen to be the
same arguments deftly rebutted by Ranse Traxler in his
article last issue.  I wonder how many letters of protest
NBC will receive for daring to allow a serious subject such
as this be portrayed the way it should be.

                     Alternatives Again

     It seems that it is becoming a REALLity Check tradition
to have some story dealing with "alternative medicine".
This time, the story appeared in the March issue of the AARP
Bulletin.  The story was neither an investigation, like NBC
did several months ago, nor was it a feel-good endorsement
such as the one done by the Chicago Tribune Magazine.
Instead, it is more a general discussion about why people
seek these treatments, leaning towards the skeptical and
towards scientific investigation to separate those
treatments which might actually have something to them from
those which are just useless nonsense.  They give a very
good piece of advice to health-care consumers:  "Read as
much as you can and inquire what evidence or research has
been conducted."

                      Skeptics Locally

     Locally, people associated with REALL made the news
twice.  Doug Pokorski, of the State Journal-Register,
interviewed Detective Walstad previous to his appearance at
the REALL meeting and wrote it up for a good April 26th
story.  The article discussed a variety of cons and the use
of psychics by detectives, highlighting the fact that
psychics have never been able to actually demonstrate any
paranormal ability.

     REALL's David Bloomberg (yeah, I know that's me, but
I'm trying to act more professional and not refer to myself
in the first person when writing) was interviewed about
REALL and paranormal beliefs by Liz Willis of WYMG radio for
the weekly half-hour show, Talkline.  The interview,
interspersed with a couple songs (such as "Space Cowboy"
when UFOs were being discussed), aired at 6:30 a.m. on a
Sunday morning last month, so I'm sure EVERYBODY heard it,

I'd like to thank Jake Rendelman Jr., Bob Ladendorf,
Skeptical Briefs, and the Tampa Bay Skeptics Report for
various articles and pieces of information used herein.


	         Book Capsule -- _The Faith Healers_
		          by Bob Ladendorf

[_The Faith Healers, by James "The Amazing" Randi, Prometheus Books,
New York, 318 pages.]

Uncovers the tricks and methods used by certain "faith healers" to
con unwitting victims into parting with their money.  Under the
leadership of magician and skeptic Randi, a group of researchers goes
undercover to reveal some of the tricks of the trade, including Peter
Popov's alleged use of employees as audience plants to glean
information from victims, which is then transmitted to him via radio
by his wife during his "faith healing" meetings.  An eye-opening
expose' that again and again illustrates H. L. Mencken's dictum
that nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the
American people.


                 Predictions for Future Issues

Paranormal Beliefs in Medieval Times
The End of the World
Psychic Detectives
Survey Results


		        Skeptics Online

If you have a computer and a modem, you owe it to yourself to
participate in the skeptic message areas on the computer BBS
networks.  Here in Springfield, call The Temples of Syrinx at
(217) 787-9101.  David Bloomberg operates this BBS, which carries
the FidoNet SKEPTIC and UFO conferences, internationally distributed
message areas for discussing topics of interest to skeptics.  He
is also carrying ParaNet conferences, all dedicated to UFO and
paranormal topics.  You can also find a wide variety of skeptic
text files.
	     The Temples of Syrinx -- (217) 787-9101

			     May 17

The next REALL meeting will include the elections of the group's
Board members.  All members are encouraged to attend.  The meeting
will be held at 7:00 PM at Sangamon State University in room E of
the Public Affairs Center (PAC).



Regular membership includes _The REALL News_ and all of the benefits
of membership.  A subscription to _The REALL News_, without membership,
is available.  Full-time students can join at the discounted rate.
A patron membership includes all of the benefits of a regular membership,
plus a listing in _The REALL News_ and our eternal gratitude (where
"eternal" is defined as "one year").

Name: _________________________________________________________

Address: ______________________________________________________

City, State, ZIP: _____________________________________________

Phone: ________________________________________________________

Interests: ____________________________________________________

                ___      Regular Membership ($20/Year)
                ___      Student Membership ($15/Year)
                ___      Patron Membership ($50 or more/Year)
                ___      Subscription Only ($12/Year)
                ___      Trial or Gift Subscription ($3 for 3 issues)

Bring to a meeting or mail to:  REALL, P.O.
			        Box 20302
				Springfield, IL 62708


Last modified Sun Jul 07 02:05:23 1996. Email comments to whartsho@mail.fgi.net