March 8, 2002

Baba's Back, A Previous Blindfold Act, and The Smart Coffee Maker: Part Two....

Dr. Abraham T. Kovoor was a free thinker, rationalist and psychiatrist, from Kerala, South India, who later spent his life in Sri Lanka. He was the president of the Rationalist Association of Sri Lanka and a very prominent skeptic with whom I corresponded frequently back in pre-fax and pre-e-mail times. I never got to meet the gentleman, unfortunately for me.

I reproduce here, from the Indian Skeptic — journal of the Indian Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal — with the kind permission of the Committee — an exchange of correspondence that examines a claimed miracle of Sathya Sai Baba. This "miracle" is one that was brought up to me by an American follower of Sai Baba a few months ago at one of my lectures. Now, thirty years after this rather conclusive exposure of the miracle as a trumped-up story, one might think that believers in this unlikely godman would have had serious doubts about his divinity, but apparently not. The devotee who flouted this wonder before me as an example of proof, relished his imagined victory....

Dr. Kovoor writes:

I was invited to give a lecture at the Indian Institute of technology at Guindy. During a conversation before the lecture, one of the professors at the institute told me that the majority of youths who take to the study of science and technology do so not because they have any scientific attitude, nor aptitude, but just because such a course helps them to get lucrative jobs. And the reason why some of the eminent scientists of India have given up their science, and have become devotees of godmen of that country, is because they have found that they can make more money by being in collusive devotion to such hoaxers, than by continuing scientific pursuits.

A few months ago the editor of a mass circulation weekly of India wrote me a letter saying that the Editorial Board of his weekly had decided a publish a symposium on "Sathya Sai Baba — Is He an Incarnation of God, or a Charlatan?" and wanted me to be the first contributor to the series. My article was serialized in three issues, then followed by two articles countering my thesis by Dr. S. Bhagavantham, M.Sc., D.Sc., Ph.D., a former scientific advisor to the Government of India.

[Dr. Suri Bhagavantham, described by an admirer as "an eminent nuclear scientist," though he never earned any degree at a university, said to an audience about Sai Baba that "He is a phenomenon, He is transcendental, He is divine, He is an incarnation, He is our nearest kith and kin; turn to Him for the eternal message. That alone can save us." Gee, then I wonder why, in the 1980's, this admirer suddenly left the movement, without any explanation? Maybe he just got smart?]

Dr. Bhagavantham started his article by saying that in his youth he was a rationalist like me, but after witnessing some of the miracles of Sai Baba, he had to give up his rationalism. He then began to describe numerous "miracles" said to have been performed by Sai Baba in various places. There was no mention in either of the two articles of anyone having conducted investigations to establish that they were all genuine miracles and not conjurer's tricks.

The two articles appeared to be clear examples of how unscientific even a good scientist can become if he is a victim of religio-manic neurosis or avarice. In all the miracle stories mentioned, there was only one that was amenable to investigation. I quote that story below.

Dr. Bhagavantham:

The wonderful experience, some years ago, of a world-famous watch manufacturer of Japan, while he was on tour in India, was awe-inspiring. After completing the Seiko series of watches he made a model of a more superior type, and kept it in his safe for further tests. While touring India he paid a visit to Sai Baba's abode just out of curiosity. On seeing the Japanese gentleman among the devotees Sai Baba materialized a small parcel from the air and gave it to him. On opening the parcel he was astonished to see the same watch that was kept in his safe.

When he saw along with the watch, the silk ribbon and label with the new name of the watch and the price marked on it, all his doubts about the divine powers of Sai Baba simply melted away. He fell prostrate at Sai Baba's feet and worshiped him, and since then has been an ardent devotee.

On his return to Japan, he was shocked to see that the watch he had kept in his safe was not there. What his personal secretary told him was even more startling. The secretary said that a divine-looking person with bushy hair walked into the office one day, opened the safe and walked away with the watch.

[Plucking watches out of the air — rather clumsily, viewed from the magician's point of view, but well enough to please the devotees — is a favorite trick of Sai Baba. It's only prosperous members of his audience that receive these; the others settle for cheap gold-colored rings with badly-printed portraits of the godman. People from Seiko apparently got into the habit of visiting Sai Baba's public performances. Sam Dalal was a magician/writer living in Calcutta, India, back in the '70s. I lost contact with him long ago. He told me that Sai Baba "materialized" a Seiko watch for a Seiko watch company executive visiting India. Curious, Sam asked for the serial number from the executive, and traced it to a distributor's warehouse not far from the site where the "materialization" took place. And think about it: why would a magically-conjured-up wristwatch have a serial number?]

Dr. Kovoor continues....

Does Dr. Bhagavantham, who is the holder of coveted qualifications in science, think that a thesis of this nature — to prove the miraculous powers of a man — by any scientist, will be accepted by an academic body of scientists if it is not backed by scientific investigations and fool-proof evidence? As Dr. Bhagavantham was reluctant to test the veracity of his godman's miraculous powers, I decided to do it myself. With this aim in view I wrote the following letter to him:

Colombo-6 11/9/73
Dear Dr. Bhagavantham,

I read your story about a Japanese watch manufacturer getting his own watch that was kept in a safe in Japan, materialized in India from air by Sathya Sai Baba. My scientific attitude does not permit me to accept this fantastic story as true without verification. My doubt is enhanced by the reported statement by his personal secretary. The first reaction of a responsible secretary when a stranger walks into the office and opens the safe, would be to raise the alarm and to summon the police. As I feel it is unscientific even for a scientist to believe this type of story without verification, I request you to kindly let me know the name and address of this Japanese so that I may verify the truth about it. Your failure to help me to conduct this investigation by withholding this information, will lead me to suspect your sincerity and honesty, and to discard all that you have said about Sathya Sai Baba as utter falsehood deliberately propagated with an ulterior motive and vested interest.

Yours in search of Truth, Abraham T. Kovoor

When there was no response from Dr. Bhagavantham after two months, I decided to pursue the matter myself. The Japanese Embassy in Sri Lanka provided me with the name and address of the proprietor of Seiko, the watch manufacturing firm. In my letter dated 30/10/73 to Mr. Shoji Hattori, president of K. Hattori & Co. Ltd., the manufacturers of Seiko watches, I reproduced Dr. Bhagavantham's story about the miracle and requested him to provide me with the answers to the following questions:

1. Did you or any partners of yours visit Sathya Sai Baba of India at any time?

2. Did Sai Baba materialize a watch from air and present it to you or your partners?

3. Did your personal secretary tell you or any of your partners that a stranger opened the safe and walked away with a watch?

4. Are you or any of your partners devotees of Sai Baba?

For the benefit of numerous innocent devotees of godmen of India, I reproduce below Mr. Hattori's reply. This I do with the sincere hope that they will be sensible enough to realize the truth that these charlatans who go about in the garb of holy men have numerous agents like Dr. Bhagavantham, everywhere, working in collusion to propagate the huge hoax and to profit materially.

Seiko-Japan (address given) 8/11/73
Dear Dr. Kovoor,

Thank you for your letter of October 30th. I can appreciate your interest in conducting scientific research of paranormal claims, but I am in no way able to further your knowledge as regards the man mentioned in your letter, Mr. Sai Baba. Neither I nor any members of my staff have ever made the acquaintance of this individual. I am sure that these reports are completely unfounded. I must therefore reply in the negative to all four of your questions concerning this incident.

Sincerely yours,
Signed, Shoji Hattori,

President K. Hattori & Co. Ltd.

On receipt of this letter I wrote to Dr. Bhagavantham, enclosing a photostat copy of Mr. Shoji Hattori's letter, and said:

If Mr. Shoji Hattori is not the person concerned in your story, please let me know about it, and provide me with the correct name and address. Absence of any reply from you for this letter also, will confirm my firm belief that you are, an agent for Sathya Sai Baba, doing propaganda for him with ulterior motives and a vested interest.

Yours in search of truth, Abraham T. Kovoor.

Since there has been no reply, it confirms my belief that Dr. Bhagavantham is in collusion with Sai Baba.

We miss you, Dr. Kovoor. Your confrontational manner seems to remind me of another skeptic, who is probably just as unloved as you were by the godmen he regularly calls to account. I can't quite think of his name....

There was considerable interest in the description of the tests of Natalia Lulova that appeared here recently. One reader reminded me of a chapter in my second book, Flim-Flam!, in which I'd described a test of another blindfold-act, one that sounded very similar in many respects to the Lulova event. I refreshed my memory of this late-1964 event, and found that these similarities called for repeating the story here in SWIFT, so that my readers may have the opportunity to see that this is a very old, very common, stunt. Remember, what appears below was written twenty years ago, about an event that took place 38 years ago....! Stepping into the arena with Natalia, I was entering a very familiar place....

With a few comments added in square brackets, here is that section from Flim-Flam!, a book of which I believe all you readers should have a well-thumbed copy. (Hint!)

My two-year stint on all-night radio at station WOR in New York brought me in contact with many interesting people. As our tired but happy group broke up early one Saturday morning, a panel guest took me aside and told me of a matter in which I might be of use. The man, a psychiatrist, [Dr. Joseph Zubin, 1900-1990] informed me of a series of experiments being performed quietly at a laboratory of the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene. A young girl from a small town in Massachusetts who seemed to be able to see while blindfolded, was being tested there, and two of the young graduate students at work on the project had requested my guest to ask me to visit the lab. Like my guest, both were convinced that the girl was cheating, but they could not figure out the trick.

[I should say here a few words about Dr. Zubin, a charming and dedicated man. He became famous for his research work in psychopathology, particularly schizophrenia, and eventually was Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Columbia University; Distinguished Research Professor of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Research Career Scientist, Department of Veterans Affairs, Pittsburgh; and Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh. Several prestigious scientific research awards in his field were named after him.]

The psychiatrist had already suggested to the project director that I be consulted but had been told that there was no need for my services. Hearing this, I decided that I would at all costs attend the tests to be held a few hours from then, and my informant and I worked out a method whereby I would be able to do just that.

We had breakfast nearby, then went to the laboratory. An open locker in the basement offered a white jacket that looked quite official, and thus garbed and carrying my own large clipboard and a formidable array of pens, I slipped into the lab unnoticed. A few persons there eyed me warily but decided not to question my presence. A bearded man looks proper in such a place, especially with his glasses on his forehead, an affectation I adopted to look as if I was at ease in the surroundings. One of the graduate students recognized me and almost blew the whole episode right away, but I spoke with him and his fellow sufferers to prevent this. I learned from them that they were anxious to be relieved of the job so that they could move on to more important work. I agreed with their sentiments, and together we pursued the quarry.

Linda Anderson was her name, and she was fifteen. According to her parents, she had discovered her "powers" while in church. She said that while reading a prayer book she realized that she was seeing right through it to the floor. Since it had happened in church, it couldn't be all bad, and her father, Arthur, had brought her to the attention of these men of science, who had devised experiments — all but the right ones — to test her ability to see through blindfolds.

The blindfold she used was one she had brought with her. This was allowed by the experimenters in the lab, for they had thoroughly examined it. [???!!!] And besides, Linda preferred her own blindfold, and worked much better while using it than when wearing others. By such means do mice make fools of men. Her favorite blindfold consisted of a pair of aviator goggles painted black on the inside, with rubber sponge all around the edges. It was held on with heavy elastic. All present had tried on the mask, and they could not see while wearing it. But, I was convinced, Linda could.

Seated in a chair under good room light, Linda was able to read that morning's New York Times while blindfolded. She held the newspaper well to the left side of her body. Occasionally an experimenter would cover the left or right eye area with a slip of paper. When the left eye area was covered in this way, it did not inhibit her reading at all. When the right eye area was covered, she read on for a few words, then stopped or began making errors. I noted that on one attempt she was not reading the text at all a few seconds after the paper was slipped into place over the right eye area, but was inventing the copy. No one but me seemed to have been checking to see! When I called attention to this, Linda threw back her bead, said she was tired, and asked for a break.

At about this time my identity became known. Although there was some objection, most of those present agreed to let me stay. Linda had been successful up to that point and did not seem to mind, though she fixed me with an unblindfolded eye.

During the break, I pointed out something of interest to those present. Linda's face had been photographed from several different angles against a squared background. The photos looked for all the world like large mug shots and had been made for the purpose of studying and mapping various areas of her face. You see, it was believed that she was "seeing" with a portion of her facial skin near her nose. They were almost right.

The profile photo emphasized something unusual about Linda's features. She had a short, concave nose that gave her an ability few possess. If my reader will perform a small experiment, it will be seen what I mean. Close your left eye and look to the left with your right eye. You will probably be looking right into your nose. But Linda Anderson was looking over her nose when she did the same thing! After a little investigation, her method became obvious. On the left side of the right half of the goggles, between the right lens and its sponge trimming, was a small crack. Linda, holding the newspaper on her left side, was able to read the newsprint through this hole with her right eye! Thus, covering the left eye did nothing at all to inhibit her vision.

Time for another reader experiment, please. Begin reading a newspaper aloud. Have someone suddenly place a piece of blank paper over the part being read, and continue "reading" as long as you can. You'll be surprised to find that you will know as many as four or five words that follow the last word you read. The reason is that most persons "scan" ahead a bit when reading out loud, and it is this advance information that you are recalling. Linda must have discovered this fact with great delight. It accounted for her ability to briefly continue reading when the critical area around her right eye was covered.

After the break, another test was started, but this time I asked if I might apply the blindfold, and I was permitted to do so. I affixed the same blindfold to Linda, and added a few bits of black tape to the obvious separations near her nose. She required a short settling-in period before she started each test, and we sat there waiting. Linda asked for some chewing gum, which was always kept on hand "to make her comfortable," I was told. I knew the real reason for it, but wanted my colleagues (dare I say that?) to notice it. She began chewing the gum rather savagely, contorting her face grotesquely until the tape loosened at the edges. Then she announced she was ready — but I wasn't.

I suggested to her that she should not chew gum, because her movements had dislodged the tape. She apologized, but not, I thought, without a slight gritting of teeth. We attempted to reapply the tape, but Linda wanted to be excused for a moment. When she returned and sat down to suffer my attentions again, I noted that she had layered on some makeup. I pointed out that the tape would not stick to the makeup and held up a moistened tissue. "Let's wash it off," I offered. Linda objected, saying that soapy water gave her acne. "Then we needn't worry," I countered, attacking her cheeks with the tissue, "because this is witch hazel." I could not resist using the word. The devil made me do it.

At last properly blindfolded, Linda sat there in silence. She yawned a great deal and brought her fingers up to her face, but each time there seemed to be a break in the seal, I replaced it. It was a little like continually picking the scab off a wound, and Linda got very angry with me. She asked to speak with her father alone. We left her and the father together for a few minutes, and while we waited outside I offered a confident prediction that the tape would again be loose when we returned. Sure enough, it was, and the father told us that Linda felt uncomfortable when blindfolded this way.

We began the final chapter in the drama. I offered to remove the blindfold altogether, but she objected, saying she needed total darkness for her powers to work. I assured her that I would supply that for her, and I meant it. I cut from a piece of black cloth tape two ellipses just big enough to cover her eye orbits and put them in place. If tears could have seeped through the tape, Linda would have drowned us. She was unable to see with this most minimal of all blindfolds. The area of her face that the scientists thought she was using to "see" with, was well exposed, so she had no excuse.

In a very disturbed state, and obviously wishing to get something out of the session, she demanded to return to the previous blindfold. I agreed, and even said that I would not put the annoying tape on the edges! She was ecstatic, and the white-coated figures around me thought I was mad. But I had an ace to play from my sleeve. After the blindfold was in place, I simply stuck to the bridge of her nose a small "wing" of tape that she apparently was unaware of, and no matter how hard she screwed up her face, she could not see. She was now looking at the tape as most of us look at the side of our noses, and the game was up.

But I insisted on a coup de gr�ce. We had already asked Linda several times if her eyes were shut under the blindfold when she was reading. She had insisted that she shut her eyes tightly. I wanted to prove that this was not so; we needed a way to see her open eye as she read the newspaper. To this end, I carefully told one of the men exactly what to do. He lay on the floor and looked upward, the newspaper blocking his view of Linda's face. I held the newspaper, and removed the tape "wing" I had applied. Linda was now able to read. I told her to do so, and as she began I snatched the newspaper away. The man on the floor rose to his feet. "I saw her eye," he said, "and it was open."

One more thing remained to be done. The staff and I returned to an anteroom where the tape recorder was set up. Into the mike were read the final results of the day's testing. As we were at this, the door opened and an elderly man who I later learned was the project director burst into the room and denounced one and all for bringing a magician into the lab. He disassociated himself from the tests and left. In a report published later in Science Magazine, researcher Joseph Zubin told of the termination of the tests. The report ended with a brief and ungrateful remark. "It was found useful," it said, "to have a professional magician present." "Useful"? Yes; "necessary" would have been a better word.

[Dr. Zubin's letter to Science is reproduced below.]

If she expected to find another naive researcher in Professor James A. Coleman of American International College, Linda Anderson was in for another surprise. At a press meeting arranged in Auburn, Massachusetts, Coleman offered Linda one hundred dollars if she could convince a panel that she could see supernormally. One member of the panel was Sidney Radner, a man who had long experience with magic and who I was sure would not be fooled. I was also present but had been brought in unseen because it was thought that Linda would bolt if she knew I was there.

A reporter for the Boston Record American was able to see in much the same way Linda had been able to, using the same blindfold. The mask having provoked controversy, Professor Coleman suggested that Linda merely close her eyes and not peek. Linda demurred, but finally agreed that Coleman could put tape over her eyes. As I had previously discovered, her makeup was heavy and the tape would not hold. It was finally secured in place after some of the makeup was cleared away, and as chinks began to develop Coleman blocked them with zinc oxide ointment, a clever method, since the material was quite opaque and stayed in place well. Although Linda was able to read a few words whenever a chink developed, she was struck blind, as planned, when repairs were made.

There were complaints about the "pressure" of the tape. There were long periods of nothing happening, then Linda reading a few words of the text, Coleman applying a dab of ointment, and more long waits. It was a fiasco, and Coleman held on to his money. Mr. Radner was not easy on Miss Anderson. He said her performance should be considered a variety act-nothing more. There were grumblings all around.

Finally, Coleman asked Linda's father if he would like to comment on the tests that had been done in New York. The father said that he could not, since the results had not yet been decided. Although he was unaware of it, the verdict on the New York tests had long been in. I was called upon to comment on the tests, which I did, to the consternation of the performers.

Linda Anderson, after one more failure, faded from public view. She had provided police with a description of the whereabouts of one Kenneth Mason, a five-year-old boy from Lowell, Massachusetts, who had been missing for four months. Linda had said that the boy would be found in a house, not in the local river, as expected. Shortly after her Auburn failure, she was proved wrong when Mason turned up on the banks of the Merrimack River. He was drowned.

I must tell you of a strange comment concerning the Anderson case that continued to ring in my ears for some time. As I left the press meeting in Auburn, I encountered a subdued Linda, her parents, and a young man who said he was a close friend of hers. The boyfriend came up to me and seized me by the lapels. Tears streaming down his face, he looked me in the eye and asked, "Why did you do this, Mr. Randi? Don't you believe in God?"

I have seldom been stuck for an answer. This time, I was.

Here is the Zubin report, as published in Science Magazine, February 26, 1965:

Dermo-optical Perception: A Cautionary Report

Because of the recent interest in this country and in the U.S.S.R. in studies dealing with visual perception by extra-ocular means, it is important to call the attention of scientists to the following event which occurred in our laboratory.

Our attention was brought to a subject, an adolescent, who appeared to possess dermo-optical perception localized in some unspecified facial area. Prior testing had indicated that the subject read unfamiliar texts despite exclusion of light from the eyes. Since the reading material was held at a normal distance, the phenomenon posed not only the problem of nonretinal photo-sensitivity but also the problem of image formation in the absence of a lens or pinhole mechanism. This seemed to violate the laws of physics, but we were confronted with the subject's obvious ability to perform. We decided to begin with a complete mapping of the face to determine whether specific sensitive areas other than the eyes could actually be found.

The subject's performance was indeed impressive. Blindfolds were secured with adhesive tape along all edges. The subject read fluently material selected at random. Usually a "warm-up" period of a few minutes was required. The subject usually began by indicating that extreme concentration was required for the task and reported the following introspections: first an orange-red light appeared and finally white light, which was the signal to the subject that the special condition for extraocular reading had been reached.

Although a number of highly skeptical investigators studied the subject's performance, at first no flaws could be found. The bandage seemed foolproof. We could find no other opportunity for cheating and began to believe that we might be dealing with an unusual phenomenon. It finally became apparent, however, that the subject's "concentration of attention" consisted of tensing of muscles in the vicinity of the blindfold until a very tiny, inconspicuous chink appeared at the edge. Placing an opaque disk in front of the chink prevented reading, but not immediately. The subject had excellent memory and usually continued for a sentence or two after blocking of the reading material.

Closing the chink similarly prevented reading until a new opening at the edge of the adhesive occurred. However, closing the opening by applying pressure at the edge of the adhesive was made difficult by the subject's claim that pressure to the face interfered with sensitivity. The most effective blindfold we were able to develop consisted exclusively of two small pieces of adhesive tape which were used to fasten the eyelids shut. This also elicited the complaint of "too much pressure"; the subject seemed not to realize that the complaint of too much pressure at the eyelids was inconsistent with the claims of extraocular, or at least extra-orbital, facial sensitivity. The subject was permitted to "adjust" the new occluders and was then able to read. An application of zinc ointment at the edges of these occluders, without exerting pressure, prevented reading — until a new chink was created. The white ointment made it much easier for the experimenters to detect the occurrence of a chink.

While the subject certainly demonstrated a high level of talent in reading at unusual angles through an aperture which often could not have exceeded a millimeter in diameter, it was quite clear that there was no need to invoke any new sensory receptors for vision. During this inquiry it came to our attention that magicians had long been performing similar feats, and it proved helpful to have a professional magician participate in our investigations. Our observation of the subject did not yield any evidence that there was awareness of "peeking." Indeed, use of similar blindfolds on ourselves showed that the vision obtained under these conditions was subjectively quite unusual and easily disassociated from the experience of normal vision.

In conclusion, it is worth emphasizing that, prior to our final thorough investigation, unsystematic testing by several scientists had failed to contradict the subject's extraordinary claims of extraocular reading. While the investigation reported in this letter cannot be considered a direct refutation of other reports of extraocular visual perception which have appeared in the literature, our experience does highlight the exhaustive precautions which must be taken when dealing with such claims.


Biometrics Research
New York State Department of Mental Hygiene
New York.

I'm sure you've noted that this report fails to give appropriate specific credit to myself, though I had discovered and outlined the methods Linda was using, I had informed the scientists how to properly observe these tricks, I had originated the specific means of preventing Linda from peeking, and my ruse had succeeded in actually seeing that her eye was open, contrary to what she'd told us. That latter event was, I'm sure, too definitive and damning for Dr. Zubin to include in his report. But it sure was in my report!

Dr. Zubin presented his report as if it were the scientists who discovered the chinks in the blindfold, as well as the working of the face to develop those chinks. No, it was the magician, the non-scientist, who noted that. The memory experiment, in which a subject can remember ahead a line or two after an occlusion is introduced, was also my contribution, but it appears in the Science Magazine report as if the scientists there had worked that out. Not so. The idea of blocking the eye orbits with two ovals of tape, was my invention, too. Enough.

Zubin's report even hints that Linda Anderson was perhaps not even aware that she was peeking! This attitude, to always make nice with a report where children are concerned, is not congruent with proper scientific procedure, I think you'll agree.

Consider the various points in which the Lulova event and the Anderson event are similar — if not identical. Here are a few: There was the "period of adjustment" for Lulova, and a "settling-in" and "warmup" period for Anderson. Both of them read from The New York Times. They both complained about "pressure" in the blindfolds, and both read material held away over to one side. They both saw very well when their own blindfolds were used, but were unable to perform with other blindfolds. They both had the same nose configuration which simplified their trick, and they were both in tears after being exposed.....

And others of these artists will come along, count on it. There are always willingly-blind Henriettes out there who fall for a cute child's performance, and will be fooled.

Reader Jaime Arbona comments, re the outstanding "historic moment in time" that so titillated Geller and other naifs out there, the palindromic date 2002 2002:

Of course, that "cosmic event" happened only on those places on Earth where people count the years beginning at year A.D. (or C.E.) There is absolutely nothing remarkable, I'm sure, about those sixty seconds for users of the Hebrew, Islamic, and Chinese calendars. And there are others!

Bob Park, of the American Physical Society, sent out this item on "World News" which I just could not resist:

EMF: NEW ITALIAN SPORTSWEAR SHIELDS WEARER FROM EMF. Allegri debuts its carbon fiber jackets as protection from EMF emitted by wireless devices. World News can assure readers that if they use these jackets they will not get cancer from cell phones.

Get on Bob's list at

Remember Ms. C from last week, the lady with the sentient coffee maker? Well, she answered promptly to the inquiries I had in my first response to her. Concerning my question about how long it took for the voices from the coffee maker to respond to questions, she surprised me by this:

They are answered immediately and often in great detail. I wrote asking what happened to Chandra Levy on Oct. 5, 2001. The 3 minute recording is filled with responses that address her by name throughout. The information is subject to my ability to interpret this recording well and rather than insist that such and such information is exact, I would far rather submit the recording for scrutiny by a third party. (It sounds like they are saying that she is buried in a grave in Menorah Gardens Cemetery, which is an annex of Park Lawn Cemetery adjacent to Rock Creek Park in Rockville, Md.) But, again, I would prefer to have others interpret this recording in order to reach a consensus on what they are saying, as well as, perhaps, which radio station made such a lengthy broadcast about Levy on that day.

I'm impressed. No beating about the bush with this claimant. I admire that, since we so seldom see such a straightforward approach, at the JREF. As for my suggestion that a written question that I would prepare, would be in the view only of the spirits, again we received an excellent, co-operative, answer:

It would be a fine experiment to place your written query at your location in Florida while I ask them to answer it. After all, they should be able to see it there as easily as here, right?

Agreed! I'll work out a system whereby we can have a witness to the actual placing of a written message, un-read, face-up, inside a carton, placed in my closet here at the JREF. The witness would first sign the back of it, without reading it, and it would be one of 30 different messages prepared in advance, a target pool from which one would have been randomly selected. We would destroy — by burning — the unused messages.

Answering my statement that I thought she needed the phenomena to be true, Ms. C wrote:

No sir, I have no more need for such things to be true than you have need for them to be false. I was bushwacked while I was minding my own business.

I believe the "bushwacked" comment refers to the sudden emergence of this phenomenon before the lady. Okay. I stand corrected. She concludes:

Answering of questions was what I suggested, yes. When you hear your name spoken enough times and those of your relatives, and hear all kinds of information about your life and your family and your neighbors you get a fairly good idea that you are not listening to a radio station or a cell phone.

Okay. Let's see. I'm always willing to be shown....!

PLEASE PARTICIPATE: Ms. C also sent me this site: and suggested that I visit — to hear the actual voices upon which she builds her claim. I'll leave it to you to decide whether there is any value in these observations....

I'm in New York City at the moment.