UFOs – the camera doesn’t lie…

…It Just Tells Dirty Great Big Fat Whoppers!

by Anthony Wharton – St-Helens, UK

MEIER UNDER THE MICROSCOPE /EXTRAORDINARY CLAIMS OF EXTRATERRESTRIAL CONTACT.

I continue to be fascinated with the Swiss farmer who has, in my opinion, been engaged in the longest running UFO hoax on record. My fascination comes from the obviously terrible quality of his hoax and the lameness of his excuses for failure, combined with the fact that there are so many people who still believe him.

Not having looked at the Meier case in over 10 years, seeing as it is Meier’s 85th birthday in February, I decided to mark this milestone by taking a fresh look at the case to see if anything has changed.

You can watch a short video clip showing Billy Meier’s 8mm movie clips on YouTube

Throughout my life I have had several genuine UFO sightings which remain unexplained to this day and this is the reason I became interested in the UFO subject. After researching the phenomenon for many years, I came to the conclusion that most UFO cases, especially photographic cases, are nothing more than made up stories and hoaxes. One of the most controversial UFO cases on record is the Billy Meier case.

WHO IS BILLY MEIER?

Eduard Albert “Billy” Meier is an 84 year old, one and a half armed, Swiss farmer. He was born in 1937 and he claims to have been in contact with extraterrestrials named the “Plejaren” or, formerly known as, the “Pleiadians”.

His claims of extraterrestrial contact were first published in the late 1970s/early 1980s. What made Meier different from previous UFO contactees is that his photographs were of, what appeared to be, structured craft. However, many people soon grew very suspicious of Meier’s claims due to the vast number (100s) of crystal clear, daylight photographs of the UFOs.

After reading so much nonsense written by Michael Horn (Billy Meier’s authorised American media representative and official spokesman) about how it is impossible to replicate the effect of Meier’s photographs without millions of dollars or access to Hollywood special effects equipment, I decided to see just how difficult it would be to create some fake UFO photographs using nothing more than miniature models and fishing wire. (Back in 2004) I made some tiny UFO shaped models and suspended them on fishing line on the end of a long rod and then photographed them using a 35mm camera. The results are conclusive proof that Billy Meier’s UFO photographic evidence can be very easily replicated and shows that anybody can set themselves up as a UFO contactee.

But to Meier and Horn it all makes perfect sense when expressed in dollars and cents, pounds, shillings and pence. (The full annual membership fee to the FIGU cult used to be $631 Dollars, plus take into account all the revenues from years of book, DVD/video sales, interviews, presentations, documentaries etc). You can see my examples of fake UFO photographs I created on Flickr.

THE WEDDING CAKE UFO CONTROVERSY… 

Watch the Wedding Cake UFO video clip on YouTube. 

The wedding cake UFO photograph is an image showing what Meier and Horn claim is a very large extraterrestrial spacecraft hovering over Meier’s small van. I commented on this photograph (back in 2004) and suggested that what it really shows is a small model close to the camera. After many heated debates with Meier and Horn they once again challenged me to back up my claims and I gladly decided to accept this second challenge. So once again using nothing more than a flying saucer shaped model and a 35mm film camera, I managed to very easily replicate the effect of the wedding cake UFO photograph. My photographs show what appears to be a very large flying saucer hovering over some very large vehicles and are almost identical to Meier’s photograph. 

What we are seeing in Meier’s photographs is not extraterrestrial but nothing more than an optical illusion, which is created by photographing a small model very close to the camera, a technique called false or forced perspective. Meier was unable to produce photographs of real UFOs, so he faked his photographic evidence using miniature UFO models to back up his fictitious story. So there we have it, proof that replicating the effect of even Meier’s hardest piece of photographic evidence, really is a piece of cake! 

Note the use of carpet tacks on the wedding cake UFO model.

In fact, the carpet tacks offer another devastating indication of fakery by Meier, if one will only notice it. When looking at how they are placed between the spheres at the middle, one can see one of them is missing. It can actually be found laying on the surface of the model, apparently after it simply fell off, unnoticed by Meier, as well as by many of the believers in this case!

This is clearly highlighted in the photograph of the wedding cake UFO, pictured outside Meier’s property.

ENTER MR VICTOR GIBBS (NOW DECEASED). 

Back in 2009 I was contacted by an elderly man named Victor Gibbs via E-Mail. Victor had done some optical research and believed that he had discovered evidence that the Billy Meier UFO film clips and photographs are hoaxed. Victor had been retired for some years, but earlier in his life he worked in the gardening industry for 30 years. This included working in all aspects of the profession including  maintenance, forestry, plantation, landscaping, farming and tree surgery. Victor looked at the Billy Meier photographs and film clips on the internet and after his research and experience as a gardener, was in no doubt that Billy Meier used miniature trees in some of his film clips and photographs.

See the photograph of Victor standing next to a miniature tree which he believed was roughly the same size as the tree that Meier used several times in the video footage and a number of other photographs. He was actually confident that Meier’s tree was much smaller than this tree and certainly no bigger than it.

Meier claimed that the wedding cake beam ship video and other photographic stills contained fully sized trees. Victor believed this to be completely untrue and was sure that Meier zoomed in on the tree in the wedding cake beam ship video from a distance to make it look like it was fully sized, but in actual fact in doing so he has revealed that the tree is quite small. Note how the miniature tree which Victor is standing next to looks to be the same size as Meier’s alleged tree. As Victor pointed out to me, if you look at the size of the drum lid that the gentleman is holding then the actual size of the tree could even be much, much smaller in reality, possibly even as small as 30 inches in height, Victor said that this is what is commonly known as a tabletop Christmas tree. Also, when the photograph of the drum lid is compared to the photograph of the wedding cake UFO, it is strikingly obvious that this is the object that Billy Meier used to stage the whole event (the photograph of the gentleman holding the drum lid was taken at Billy Meier’s organization/cult, known as FIGU, the photo clearly shows several of the Harcostar Universal Containers in a storage room. The person holding the lid of the container has been identified as Phil McCainey).

With regards to the extraterrestrial craft shown in Billy Meier’s videos and photographs, Victor believed that they are fundamentally flawed. Victor spent many years in the Royal Air Force, both flying and observing aircraft. He was also an avid and keen photographer. He felt that Meier’s craft are too crisp, clear and in focus to be distant aerial objects and that they are actually miniatures suspended close to the camera lens. Victor also pointed out that there is no visible atmospheric haze or pressure around the objects or ground reflected light. Victor also stated that the alleged UFOs are very dark on their underside which Victor believed to be a tell tale sign that they are very small and close to the camera lens. In the close up photographs, there are no shadows of the objects visible on the ground. As Victor pointed out to me, in the photograph of the wedding cake UFO hovering over Meier’s small van, notice how Meier’s tiny van clearly casts a shadow to the left yet the alleged huge UFO leaves not even one inch of shadow on the ground! They are, in Victor’s opinion, easily replicated hoaxes. 

To sum up, after examining Billy Meier’s video and photographic evidence and his own research, Victor believed that either the UFOs being  captured on film by Billy Meier were tiny in size and piloted by beings only a few inches high, or Billy Meier’s photographic evidence was simply created using tiny models and miniature trees. Looking at both of these explanations it is clearly obvious which is the more probable.

THE WANDERING TREE…

Another question I put to Billy Meier and Michael Horn was…. 

Why does what clearly looks like the same miniature tree seem to appear in many of Meier’s photographs and film clips, yet the photography was taken years apart and at different locations? Their reply was that the reason the tree looks similar in certain photographs and film clips is just simply a coincidence, they also maintained that all the trees in Meier’s photographic evidence were real huge trees, some as tall as 40 to 50 feet in height or even bigger. My reply to them both was that what they are saying is complete nonsense and just simply impossible within the realms of nature. See the image showing a photograph and 2 stills from Meier’s film clips, notice how we see the same almost identical miniature tree in all 3 images, yet these images were taken years apart and at different locations. I pointed out to both Meier and Horn that the odds of nature producing the same identical tree at different locations spanning several years would probably be 1 in several trillion or more, or actually just simply impossible!

The same tree appears to have been used in these different photographs and films because the trees all share the same physical characteristics and the tree is the same size and shape even after 6 years. Also, the photographs and the films were each taken in different cities, there is no evidence that a real live tree ever existed in any of these locations, and the official explanation from Meier and his followers is that the extraterrestrials erased people’s memories about the tree, but they left the photographs and films alone!

Another controversial piece of tree evidence is the Hasenbol UFO photograph. This UFO was photographed by Meier in 1976. Michael Horn, Billy Meier and his associates claim that the UFO is behind the tree branches. I recently took a fresh look at the Hasenbol UFO evidence and simply turned the photograph into a negative image. The photo enlargements and the computer analysis images all clearly reveal that  the small model UFO is clearly infront of the tree. This new analysis finally puts this argument to bed once and for all! 

Meier and Horn also claim that the UFO hovering over Meier’s van is a huge extraterrestrial spacecraft and is partially obscured by the tree foliage. Again, I decided to take a fresh look at this photograph. Using computer analysis, I simply enhanced the brightness and also turned the photograph into a negative image. The results conclusively prove that this is completely untrue and completely false. As we can can clearly see from the digitally enhanced analysis images, the UFO is clearly in front of the tree and no tree foliage or branches are visible or obscuring any part of the UFO whatsoever, proving that what we are seeing is a small model UFO very close to the camera, another myth finally dispelled!

What Meier and Horn are referring to is simply distorted pixelation, due to the extremely low quality of the image. Many years ago I asked Meier if he would send me some high resolution images along with a fragment of extraterrestrial material for independent scientific analysis, needless to say my request was refused! (It is now 18 years since I requested a sample of extraterrestrial material).

Meier also put forward a lot more very controversial and highly suspicious evidence, including photographs of what he claimed were 2 female extraterrestrials, named Asket and Nera. The photographs are crude fakes showing dancing girls from the Dean Martin show, Meier created these images by simply photographing his television screen!

Meier also put forward a photograph of a flying dinosaur, he claimed he took this image when he travelled back in time 65 million years with his extraterrestrial associates in a pleiadian time machine, Meier simply photographed the image from a book!

One of the most ridiculous pieces of evidence that Meier ever put forward is a photograph of what he claimed showed an extraterrestrial named Alena holding a laser gun. And again, looking at this photograph more recently with fresh eyes and examining it much closer, I am in no doubt whatsoever that the alleged extraterrestrial in the photograph is either Meier himself, wearing a woman’s wig, or Meier’s EX wife, Popi Meier, simply dressed in a 1970s golden disco glitter suit. It is obvious that Meier made the infamous laser gun from junk, including items such as a garden hose pipe attachment, tin foil and bits of plastic and other tat (somebody give that man a Blue Peter Badge). And looking at the photograph of the 1960s vintage toy space gun which I recently found on an internet website, it is pretty obvious where Meier got the red plastic barrel from, either Meier was getting sloppy or he has a wicked sense of humour. Looking at the photograph of the alien Alena and Popi Meier, notice how they both have very similar dark frizzy hair. Also, something else that I noticed is, in all the available photographs of Alena the left arm is always obscured from view, is that because it is Meier that we see in the photographs or is it just simply another coincidence that Meier’s left arm has been amputated?

Meier also put forward a photograph of what he claimed showed the landing marks from one of the flying saucers. Meier claimed that these crop circles were over 2 metres across in size (over 6 feet). Back in 2005 I contacted a crop circle researcher and I Sent him the photograph and asked him for his professional opinion. He said that after studying and comparing Meier’s photograph to images of real crop circles, he was in no doubt whatsoever that Meier’s photograph shows tiny man made circles, roughly the size of a dinner plate and certainly no bigger than 15 inches across. I also decided to take a fresh and closer look at this image, if you simply compare the size of the circles to the size of the visible blades of grass and leaves, one can clearly see that there is no possible way that the circles can be over 6 feet across in size!

The vanishing UFO film clips are just simply edits known as jump cuts and if you watch them very closely you can very easily spot the cuts, as pointed out by several special effects experts who have also viewed all of Meier’s film clips.

Back in the 1970s, Meier claimed to be in possession of a number of metal alloy and crystal samples. Meier claimed that these samples of material were extraterrestrial in origin and came from several different planets situated in outer space. Meier put forward the metal alloy sample for analysis. It turns out that an actual metallurgist did analyze the metal sample and this is what was revealed:

Page 214 of the 2001 book And Yet…They Fly! states the following:

A metallurgist from the University of Arizona examined one of the metal fragments and analyzed it as a simple ‘cooking pot metal’ or cheap cast metal alloy used to produce such things as tin soldiers.

It seems that the main focus of the Billy Meier case for the last 2 years has been the corona virus pandemic. Meier claims that he was the 1st person on the planet to predict this whole event with information provided to him from his extraterrestrial associates.

You can read Meier’s corona virus prophecies here.

Meier has been accused many times by many people of taking the information attached to his prophecies from credible sources after certain actual events have already happened and after the information has already been documented and published. Credible sources such as scientific/medical/astronomy journals and nature publications, Meier has been accused of then republishing the information with an earlier and false date, designed to make it look like he predicted certain important and historic events.

If anybody is clutching at straws and wondering if there might just be a chance if Meier’s photographic evidence is genuine and whether his story might be true, the following paragraph and accompanying photographs will help you answer that question.

The 2 computer analysis images show a Type-4 spacecraft over Mount Auruti, Switzerland, photographed by Billy Meier on 29 March 1976. The two computer-enhanced images made from this photograph reveal a great deal about this picture. The images show, in the words of Ground Saucer Watch who did the computer analysis (back in the 1970s), “evidence of a linear structure above the craft”- in plain english, a string or rod supporting the object. The structure is equally clear in the computerised enlargement in the second image. In addition, study of the focus in this picture indicates that the object is close to the camera and is therefore small – about 8 inches (20 centimetres) across, not 23 feet (7 metres) as Meier claimed.

And the final nail in the coffin…

Watch Popi Meier, Meier’s EX wife, admitting on camera that the whole thing is a HOAX!

The fact that most 5 year old kids tell more convincing “fibs” than Meier does not seem to bother the faithful, his believers and his disciples. And that is my real fascination – the human capacity for gullibility, or motivated belief. If it has any limits, they have yet to be documented.

The Meier case is, if nothing else, a natural experiment in human gullibility with the conclusion that there appears to be no limit to this phenomenon.

Just as I expected, it would appear that very little has changed with regards to the Billy Meier UFO case. In Ufology, Billy Meier is considered by most researchers as nothing more than a laughing stock, but it appears that Meier might just have had the last laugh. According to several websites, Meier’s net worth is currently around $1.5 Million Dollars, plus if you take into consideration all the money he must have spent over the last 50 years, that’s not bad for a few wobbly models if the information on those websites is correct?

UPDATE
I received an email from Michael Horn on Sunday 30th January 2022. Michael said “I must credibly rebut all of the information published over the last 10 years”, he also made reference to USAF personnel and astronauts who had allegedly authenticated Meier’s case and photographic evidence. 

This is simply Meier and Horn buying more time and deflecting attention away from themselves for failing to confront and answer my truths. It is now time for both Meier and Horn to explain and answer all the above questions, instead of just simply hoping that people will forget about Meier’s abysmal and sloppy photographic mistakes!

Authentication of the Meier case can only be evaluated and based on the photographic evidence that Meier put forward in the 1970s. As this has all been thoroughly debunked and proved to be fake, and has been easily replicated by myself and others, NO other information attached to the case can be considered as evidence, or is worth scrutinizing. To quote Ground Saucer Watch who analysed Meier’s photographic evidence in the 1970s…

“It is our opinion that all of the analyzed photographs are hoaxes, both crude and grandiose, and that they should not be considered evidence of an extraordinary flying craft. All of the evaluated frames can be duplicated with a basic camera and darkroom equipment…the incidents are an updated, 1980 version of the George Adamski claims of detailed photographs and contacteeism with space people.”

In my opinion, all of Meier’s 60,000 contact notes including all of his prophecies, past, present and future, have nothing to do with UFOs and extraterrestrials whatsoever and should be considered as nothing more than toilet paper, or at the very best fish and chip wrappings. In my opinion, Meier falls under the same category as fake psychics and fake mediums, $1 dollar fortune tellers, victorian seances, scam faith healers and all other practicing charlatans!

As for anybody claiming to have authenticated Meier’s case and photographic evidence as genuine, including USAF personnel, astronauts etc, this is a complete fabrication and simply untrue and amounts to nothing more than conjecture and fantasy!

It is now 18 years since I requested a fragment of extraterrestrial material from Meier and Horn for independent scientific analysis. To mark this milestone I have decided to release a new photograph of a fake UFO, this black and white photograph was created by myself using nothing more than a small model suspended on strings. This photograph alone proves that the Meier case is a hoax!

I am also ordering Meier and Horn to pay me the grand sum of $1,000,000 Million dollars in damages for failing to meet my challenge and due to the FACT that I have successfully proved beyond any reasonable doubt, that the Meier case is simply nothing more than a work of science fiction, created by Meier’s overactive imagination. This money MUST be paid, this is what integrity demands, there can be absolutely NO argument, dispute or doubt now, especially considering their abysmal failings.

After reading this article, anybody who might be considering looking into the Billy Meier UFO case, BE WARNED! You will have more success finding some live forever tablets, knitting fog or finding some rocking horse poo then you will in finding a single grain of truth in the Meier case!

Keep your eyes open for the long-awaited new colour photo book/DVD, co-produced by Billy Meier and Michael Horn-I Was Abducted By Pixies, released in July 2022 and yours for only $100 dollars including shipping, available in all good book shops soon (probably)!

As with many UFO cases there is evidence both for and against, it is up to you to look at both sides of the coin and make your own mind up as to what you really believe. One should always keep an open mind, but not to the point where your brain falls out!

IN MEMORY OF MR VICTOR GIBBS (1925-2017) R.I.P

By Anthony Wharton, St-Helens, UK 

Cult Dining: The Lotus Heart and the legacy of Sri Chinmoy

Bronwyn Rideout investigates the connection between the Lotus Heart restaurant in Christchurch and Sri Chinmoy.

The Lotus Heart Restaurant has been on my radar for almost as long as I have been living in New Zealand. I was introduced to it by a vegan friend in 2007, when it was still located in Cathedral Square. The restaurant was clean, airy, bright and well-appointed, but the prominent place given to the hard-to-miss wall-sized portrait of a beatific Indian gentleman made it obvious that place was a bit… different.

While waiting to pay the bill on my first visit, I rounded the shelves to see books and music that had been written and published solely by Sri Chinmoy. There was also an album that contained photos of the aforementioned gentleman either sitting alongside famous politicians and celebrities, or lifting them using an overly complicated and excessively modified lifting device.

Sri Chinmoy lifts a twin engine Baron airplane with Hugo Girard, 2002’s “World’s Strongest Man” titleholder, 5-time Mr. Universe Bill Pearl and their wives sitting inside. Chinmoy uses a modified  standing calf raise machine.

While I haven’t found an online copy of the picture of Sri Chinmoy lifting the diminutive Hayley Westenra that I saw in person, maybe readers will appreciate the time he made a nuisance of himself in the central North Island attempting to lift 1,000 lambs.

My interest piqued, I decided to turn to the internet – not for the free meditation classes on offer, but to find out more. Despite being 2007, there was much more information out about Sri Chinmoy than there is available now. Many ex disciples had turned to blogging platforms such as Livejournal and Yahoo! Groups to share their experiences, and these have long since become defunct. Skeptical websites that had investigated Chinmoy and his operations are now dead links, taking with them any evidence that supported the scattered counterclaims that remain.

In the years following Sri Chinmoy’s death in October 2007, it appears his disciples have become internet savvy and have effectively google-bombed any negative – press unless one deliberately includes cult, scam, or fraud in their search parameters. The best repository of Sri Chinmoy information that is not curated by his organisation is the Cult Education Institute, run by Rick A. Ross. Your mileage may vary with regards to the ethics of Ross’ deprogramming work, and the absence of digital versions of the reports he includes.

————————————-

My most recent visit, during my Christmas holidays in December last year, has made me decide that the amazing food is not worth its less than dismal stance on masks, vaccines, and public health. The restaurant was crowded, and diners were nearly cheek to jowl. My husband and I didn’t have a booking, but they were able to seat us near the front entrance, ironically the only place with ventilation and where social distancing was possible. While we waited for our meals, my husband took great delight in noting the poor placement of the single, minuscule QR code, and I questioned the validity of the vaccine exemption cards that were pinned to the colourful saris and white tunics of the employees.

We weren’t the only ones that noticed.

RNZ reported on December 29th that the Lotus-Heart was fined $20,000 for multiple COVID-19 rule breaches. This was followed with a further $24,000 fine on January 27th. Owner Bhuvah Thurston is reported to have not engaged with Worksafe in any capacity. After shutting down from December 31st to January 19th, the restaurant has continued its defiance by advertising itself as a “Private Contract Association”, which enables the diners to forgo wearing a mask, scanning, or being vaccinated to enter the premises.

Employing similar tactics to the Love Boat Club (formerly MAD café) in Golden Bay, Thurston hopes that by presenting Lotus-Heart as a private club under “common law” they can bypass government regulations. There is some irony in the about-turn to sovereign citizenship, a sham form of secession, given that the Lotus-Heart has claimed $154,000 from the government’s COVID-19 wage subsidy programme.

However, an unexpected development came from the Sri Chinmoy Centre of New Zealand. Director Jogyata Dallas announced on January 28th that the restaurant had its membership revoked due to its “disregard for current mandates”. Both national and international Sri Chinmoy Centre directors claim that their late guru was a champion of peace, and would have advised his students to follow government and health regulations. As of February 4th, the Lotus-Heart Restaurant continues to respond reactively. It has gone relatively silent on social media (their Instagram account is now private, and their Facebook page has disappeared), and the membership enrolment page from the main website has disappeared into the ether.

The name Sri Chinmoy may not mean much to most New Zealanders. Despite having centres located in Auckland, Hamilton, Taupo, and Wellington that host a myriad of free meditation sessions, concerts, and foot races, there are only an estimated 100 students in New Zealand.

But who was Sri Chinmoy? A guru whose followers are comfortable with attributing a decidedly un-counterculture, pro-government/pro-modern medicine philosophy to him?

It is difficult to parse fact from fiction, due to the aforementioned google-bombing; his Wikipedia entry is hardly unbiased, as it heavily relies on the writings of Sri Chinmoy and his followers. His obituaries were no more enlightening, focusing on his quirkiness and public preoccupation with running and weight-lifting – which earned him the moniker of “The Gonzo Guru” by the Chicago Tribune in the early 90s.

Chinmoy Kumar Ghose was born in what is now Bangladesh in 1931, the youngest of 7 children born to Shahsi (a railway inspector and banker) and Yogamaya. After the death of both parents in a short span of time in 1943, Chinmoy decamped to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry to join two of his elder brothers. Life within the ashram included a disavowal of alcohol, drugs, sex and politics, but where Chinmoy gained a love of athletics, especially running.

Most narratives of Chinmoy’s early life skip to his job with the Indian Consulate in New York. Ex-disciple Anne Carlton reports, as part of her testimony, that there were tensions at the ashram that hastened his departure. Carlton reports that despite encouragement to pursue his Olympic dream, life at the ashram was difficult, with insufficient food and little educational opportunities. When he was chastised for secretly visiting another ashram, Chinmoy found sponsors connected to the ashram to bring him to the US and secure him a position as a visa clerk at the Indian consulate in 1964, at age 32.

The pay was poor and he was frequently pestered by the “Mother” of the ashram to send back exotic goods to India. With interest in eastern religions rising, Chinmoy saw an opportunity to tap into the same pool of wealthy, Western devotees who supported the Sri Aurobindo ashram. He gave talks on Hinduism, earned his green card, and in 1966, left the consulate to pursue his spiritual vision.

In part 2, we’ll look deeper into the lengths Chinmoy went to transform himself into a myth, the scandals that lay underneath, and how the groups has fared in the nearly 15 years since their guru’s death.

New study shows psychic predictions are useless

Skeptics study proves psychics fail … again and again and again.

The results of the Great Australian Psychic Prediction Project, a 12-year study by Australian Skeptics, have revealed that so-called psychics’ predictions are correct only 11% of the time.

And when something momentous or calamitous happens, they are unlikely to have foreseen it.

In fact, most of what happened was not predicted, and most of what was predicted did not occur. (The Queen did not abdicate in 2003, 2004, 2012 and again in 2020; anti-gravity did not become a reality, Prince Harry did not become King, and COVID-19 did not just ‘go away’ by December 2020.)

Under the supervision of Australian Skeptics’ chief investigator Richard Saunders, the survey covered over 3800 predictions made between 2000 to 2020 by more than 200 Australian psychics. It took 12 years of diligent work by skeptics, trawling through magazines, newspapers, TV and radio, websites, YouTube, and social media, to compile as comprehensive a list of predictions as possible.

It is easily the most detailed project of its kind ever attempted in Australia, and most likely the world.

And the results:
– 11% of predictions are “correct”.
– 15% expected (as in, stating “the bleeding obvious”)
– 19% too vague
– 2% unknown
– 53% wrong

Tim Mendham, executive officer of Australian Skeptics, said “If my car mechanic was right only 11% of the time, I’d get a different car mechanic. But if, overall, all mechanics were right only 11% of the time, I’d think there was something seriously wrong with the entire industry.

“The results indicate nothing better than educated guessing – or even uneducated guessing – and certainly no better than any non-psychic could do, and probably a lot worse.”

Further results:
– The profession’s journal, the International Psychics Directory, had only 8.5% correct.
– Psychics missed such ‘minor’ events as Malaysian Airlines’ losing two planes (2014, one shot down, one disappeared), a spectacular meteor over Russia (2013), the Pope resigns (2013 – first time in 600 years), Space Shuttle Columbia disaster (2003), Summer Olympics cancelled (2020), Concorde crashes (2000), Hurricane Katrina (2005), and the deaths of Steve Irwin, Shirley Strachan, Peter Brock, Kerry Packer, Whitney Houston, Robin Williams, Prince, David Bowie, Osama bin Laden, and Michael Jackson.

And, except for a few vague or shoehorned claims, they all missed something called COVID-19.
Daniel Ryan of the NZ Skeptics said “These results don’t come as a surprise to us. We confidently predict that New Zealand psychics will have a similar rate of failure to those elsewhere in the world. We’ve seen our local psychics fail time and time again. Six seasons of Sensing Murder have shown us that psychics are useless in solving crime – there’s not a single murder they have helped to solve. It’s nice to have some detailed statistics showing how psychics operate – badly.”

A full report on the survey is published in the latest issue of Australian Skeptics’ magazine, The Skeptic, and can be found online on the Australian Skeptics website.

2021 Conference Speaker Links

Here is a list of all the speakers from our 2021 conference, with some handy links if you want to know more about them.

NZ Skeptics Announce their 2021 awards, and Dr Simon Thornley wins the Bent Spoon

Every year the New Zealand Skeptics presents its awards to people and organisations who have impressed us or dismayed us, and this year it’s been hard to pick our winners because there have been so many choices!

The Bent Spoon Award is given to the organisation or individual which has shown the most egregious gullibility or lack of critical thinking in public coverage of, or commentary on, a science-related issue. In the age of the COVID pandemic, there have been many candidates, but one individual stands out:

Dr Simon Thornley, this year’s winner, is a Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Auckland. Dr Thornley stands out as an academic who has opposed NZ’s approach to dealing with COVID. He was one of the founders of the COVID PlanB group which opposed lockdowns, and signed onto the Great Barrington Declaration.

Dr Thornley has associated himself with fringe elements in NZ’s anti-government and anti-vaccine movements (such as Voices for Freedom) and has appeared as an expert witness for lawyer Sue Grey’s cases challenging the government’s rollout of the COVID vaccine. His comments have included personal attacks and threats of legal action against other NZ scientists, and has claimed they’re corrupt and will be convicted of crimes against humanity.

Most recently, Dr Thornley promoted the use of Ivermectin as a treatment for COVID, and co-authored a paper which tried to link mRNA vaccines with miscarriages and other pregnancy complications, strongly recommending against vaccination for pregnant persons. Happily, this paper has now been retracted.

As an academic, we would expect he would know better. May he suffer the shame of being awarded the Bent Spoon! 

The New Zealand Skeptics recognises excellence in the media or in other high-profile people with our Bravo Awards. The pandemic has provided a fertile breeding ground for misinformation and disinformation. But many journalists and academics have stepped up and written pieces which explain the science behind COVID, the response to it, and also calling out those promoting misinformation and pseudoscience. The NZ Skeptics have chosen to award a record number of Bravos this year.

Siouxsie Wiles from University of Auckland, for making national and international appearances on the science behind COVID.

Toby Morris, cartoonist at The Spinoff, for creating animated explainers with Siouxie Wiles – with some great examples of effective science communication. These tools have been shared extensively, including being used by the World Health Organisation.

Charlie Mitchell, from Stuff, for a variety of investigative articles on pseudoscience promoters.

David Farrier, who runs the popular Webworm blog, for his commentary on people and groups promoting conspiracy theories; Billy TK, Sue Grey, Peter Mortlock of City Impact Church, the Tamakis from Destiny Church, and more.

Michael Baker, from the University of Otago Department of Public Health, for his science communication around COVID.

Hilary Barry, of TVNZ’s Seven Sharp, for her promotion of vaccines and for being a thorn in the side of anti-vaxxers. 

Keith Lynch, of Stuff, for some great articles around COVID, explaining complex science in an easy to digest manner.

Helen Petousis-Harris, of the University of Auckland, for her great written responses to COVID vaccine myths.

Alison Campbell, blogger and retired lecturer from the University of Waikato, for her efforts helping journalists respond to COVID misinformation, her blogging and her constant presence on social media, calling out and correcting pseudoscience in the comment threads.

Finally, the Skeptic of the Year award is given to the skeptic who has had the most impact in skepticism within New Zealand. The award comes with a year’s free membership to the NZ Skeptics, and $500 of prize money.

This year the award is being given to a group rather than an individual – FACT Aotearoa.

The FACT group describes themselves as a grass-roots information organisation, working as a resource base for media, health professionals, activists and educators. They’ve been quick to jump on misinformation being promoted online and in public.  A few of their prominent wins include contacting venues to shut down in-person anti-vaxxer events, and initiating a complaint to NZ’s Law Society about anti-vax lawyer Sue Grey.

Submission on the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill

The NZ Skeptics’ Submission

on the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill

About us

The NZ Skeptics are a New Zealand/Aotearoa charity dedicated to education and the promotion of evidence-based practices, both in government policy and elsewhere in New Zealand public life. Healthcare decisions are an important part of this ideal, and we strongly support any measures that seek to follow best evidence and help protect consumers from harm. 

Our View

In line with our sister organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom, it is the position of the NZ Skeptics that we support the banning of conversion therapies as outlined in Section 5 of the proposed Act.

‘Conversion’ or ‘reparative’ practices incorporate a wide range of activities that seek to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. In both the past and present, such therapies have included so-called clinical treatments such aslike ice-pick lobotomies, electro-convulsive therapies, and aversion programmes that include pharmaceutical regimens that induce vomiting while church-based organisations utilise exorcisms, and intensive praying sessions (either in groups or one-on-one).

To date, no evidence has been produced in New Zealand or internationally to support the effectiveness of conversion therapies. Instead, the only consistent outcome of the practices listed above is harm and life-long trauma to those who have endured them. Reputable organisations worldwide such as the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association,  Royal Australian College of Physicians, the NHS, and the United Nations have acknowledged and published similar findings.

The absence of support from these and major regulatory and professional bodies and employers has consequently driven such practices underground. The treatments and their providers are unregulated; neither undergo rigorous and ongoing continuing education programmes or annual auditing, as required of any other professional charged with the care of the minds and bodies of New Zealand citizens.

Religious freedom is not violated when banning conversion therapy. Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief stated to British Members of Parliament that the banning of conversion therapy in no way violates freedom of religion under international law because of the state’s obligation to protect the life and dignity of LGBT+ persons.

Our Recommendations

As part of our mission to promote evidence-based policy-making and healthcare, the NZ Skeptics continually seek the advice of experts and findings of contemporary research with which to inform our positions on a variety of topics. The evidence is clear that conversion therapy is worse than ineffective, indeed it appears to be outright dangerous; provision of such therapies should be seen by New Zealanders as akin to fraud.

However, the banning of conversion therapy is not simply a health issue, but one that encompasses personal, religious, political, and societal beliefs and practices about gender diversity and identity; Elements which cannot be appreciated with statistics alone. Ongoing persecution of LGBTQIATakatāpui+ communities internationally is an ongoing concern for our organisation, and we see the presence of conversion therapy in New Zealand as a terrible proof of the insidiousness and persistence of bigotry both within our country and outside our borders. To this end, NZ Skeptics finds it vital to consider the voices and recommendations of persons who are either experienced in matters of conversion therapy, or who have been the targets of such unethical treatments, and place our support behind them.

In general we support the wording of this Bill. Here are our thoughts on the parts of the Bill that we feel need changing to ensure it adequately protects people from harmful conversion practices:

Clause 5

We do not think that health practitioners should be exempt from this Bill. We consider that the caveats in 5 (2) are sufficient to protect health practitioners who are “offering legitimate support or therapy”, and we are concerned that health practitioners could conceivably claim to be offering conversion therapy within their “scope of practice”. As such, this appears to be a loophole that we would like to see closed. We recommend the removal of 5 (2) (a) from the Bill.

We do not believe there should be an exemption for religious people or groups in the Bill, and we hope that MPs will resist any pressure from religious groups for any kind of religious exemption to be added. Similarly, we do not think that it would be appropriate for an exemption for parents to be added to the Bill. We recommend that no further exemptions are added to the Bill.

Clauses 8 and 9

We believe that organisations (companies, charities, societies, churches) are often involved in offering, organising and promoting harmful conversion therapy, and would like to see the inclusion of the ability for charges to be brought against organisations as well as individuals. We recommend the inclusion of organisations as well as people as parties to an offence.

We believe that the inclusion of only imprisonment is inadequate to allow for effective sentencing. We would also like to see a fine added, to give judges more options for choosing an appropriate sentence for the offending, and for organisations we would like to see the inclusion of appropriate sentencing options, such as the removal of charitable status. We recommend the addition of more sentencing options, such as fines.

Clause 10

We think that clause 10 is important, and that consent should not be considered a defence in this piece of legislation. We recommend that clause 10 is kept in its current state.

Clause 12

We believe that the requirement of clause 12 for consent from the Attorney-General before prosecution can occur is an unnecessarily high bar. Our understanding is that Attorney-General consent is usually required for laws where there is a significant risk of misuse of the legislation. This does not appear to be likely to be the case for a conversion therapy law, which is designed to protect minority groups who are at risk. We recommend the removal of clause 12 from the Bill.

Other

We believe that monitoring and feedback are important, and that for new legislation to be effective, it should include a review process. For example, it would be good to see this law, when enacted, go through a review of the process and its effectiveness within its first five years, and to allow for amendments as necessary as a result of the review’s recommendations.

Thanks

Finally, we would like to gratefully acknowledge the efforts of Shaneel Lal and InsideOut in their campaign, and support the important work they have done in this area.

Thank you for the opportunity to make a submission on this important piece of new legislation.

The case of the haunted house in Pukekohe

With the season of Hallowe’en approaching, what better time for a tale of haunting? The NZ Skeptics recently commented on the story of a purportedly haunted house in Pukekohe, currently occupied by Filipino workers. The story appeared in the NZ Herald this week.

Let’s have a look at what we know about the claimed evidence for the haunting, from the NZ Herald story:

  • Sounds, such as footsteps and crying, and somebody calling out one of the workers’ names.
  • Lights being switched on or off.
  • Descriptions of sleep paralysis
  • Awaking to a slap in the face but nobody in the room
  • Strange smells
  • Sudden drops in air temperature

A group of paranormal enthusiasts, Haunted NZ, has engaged with the workers, offering to investigate and cleanse the house of spirits.

The Haunted NZ people give a definition of what they consider to be a ghost:

“A ghost is a person who is no longer a corporeal being, they don’t have a body anymore, but they’re still the same person that they were before.”

It’s difficult to imagine how this would work. What we know, through experiments, is that the mind and consciousness result from brain function. Without an alive brain, there is no personality or consciousness that can continue to exist. To think otherwise is to support the well discredited idea of mind-body dualism.

The listed claims are all physical phenomena. How is it that non-physical entities could produce physical phenomena?

There are likely better explanations of the evidence that do not require the existence of spirits. Many of the experiences of the workers seem to have occurred around the time they fall sleep. Hypnogogic or hypnopompic hallucinations provide a good explanation for these phenomena. The brain, in a half-awake state, essentially paralyses your body. Hallucinations are also common during these times.

It is intriguing that some of the claimed phenomena align with conceptions of paranormal activity depicted in Hollywood movies. For example, the idea of somebody’s legs being grabbed and involuntarily raised and lowered is a trope. So, it appears that the workers’ experiences might well have been influenced by conceptions from popular culture.

What should we make of Haunted NZ’s claims to be able to rid the house of spirits?

Apparently, Haunted NZ will use a Wiccan approach, the “lesser banishing ritual of the pentagram” – basically magic incantations.

Haunted NZ will apparently also make use of a GeoPort spirit box. This device works by quickly scanning AM or FM radio frequencies to produce sounds that a primed mind might interpret as voices of spirits. We have a name for this – audio pareidolia – the ability of the human mind to find patterns in random noise and attach meaning to it. But, again, back to physical mechanisms – how are spirits able to influence these devices to produce the sounds?

It is plausible, however, that invocation of magic spells might well have a psychological effect on the current (physical) occupants of the house. Perhaps after the “cleansing”, the workers minds might be less inclined to put unexplained occurrences down to spirits.

The prior owners of the house also claimed to have experienced strange goings-on, and had the house blessed. Amusingly, they suggested that a previously-closed wardrobe door had been opened which let out whatever evil spirits lurked trapped within the house. What seems more likely is that rumours of the purported haunting were somehow passed on to the new occupants, thereby setting up an expectation in their minds.

From what we know about the house it is an old villa. As such, the idea of creaky floorboards and inadequate weather sealing producing creepy effects isn’t out of the realm of plausibility.

Haunted NZ have challenged NZ Skeptics to experience the reality of a haunted setting. We’ve been invited to spend a night at the Howick Historical Village in Auckland, and we endeavour to have a representative take them up on their offer. The hidden assumption here is that skeptics will be converted into believers by experiencing something out of the ordinary. This seems unlikely to me – as skeptics we look for rational explanations for strange events, and recognise the fallibility of human perception and biased thinking. It might be an interesting experience though, and a chance to have a conversation with believers and better understanding how they think, as well as being an opportunity for us to give our perspective on their approach.

We can only hope that we won’t be “pranked” with the aim of providing a mysterious, “unexplainable” happening that will turn us into believers!

We would encourage Haunted NZ and other believers to have a more open mind. Rather than jumping to conclusions that any strange and currently unexplained phenomena must be evidence of paranormal activity, they would do well to consider more rational explanations in the first instance.

When is an anti-vaxxer not an anti-vaxxer?

Answer – when they’re an ex-vaxxer!

It seems that being an anti-vaxxer is a bad thing now, in the minds of the public. Nobody wants to be labeled as such. So, people who, for all intents and purposes, are anti-vax, have started calling themselves ex-vaxxers.

To a certain extent this is literally true – people who’ve previously vaccinated but now no longer do could certainly claim such a label.

But this misses the point.

Some people have claimed that they’re not anti-vax. They just want vaccines to be tested properly (they have), and shown to work effectively (they have), or to be made “safer” by removing harmful toxins (hint: the poison is in the dose).

You don’t have to utter the words “don’t use vaccines” to be anti-vax. Spreading misinformation about the safety and efficacy of vaccines is enough to deserve the title of anti-vaxxer.

To be clear, vaccines are one of the most important and effective improvements in public health we’ve ever had. In this age of a global pandemic, you’d think people might be more aware of this.

The Healy “energy medicine” device is the next big thing in CAM

Note: this article was written over the last few weeks, but today Radio New Zealand featured a story by Susan Strongman that gave a great deal of publicity to this. https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/in-depth/422241/vitamin-dosing-via-bluetooth-physicist-warns-don-t-waste-your-money-on-healy

At the risk of it appearing as if there’s only one person who concerns NZ Skeptics, we’ve yet another item of concern from that erstwhile bank manager, turned psychic medium and now health guru. Yes, Jeanette Wilson is at it again.

Wilson seems to be really turning up the heat on her online workshops. Back in May of this year some of our skeptical operatives attended an online session run in a Zoom meeting where Wilson made some astounding health claims, including ones about COVID-19. The story was picked up by Toby Manhire of The Spinoff and showcased a bunch of the outlandish claims being made.

On the heels of that online workshop we became aware of another one. This time, promoting an electronic device by the name of Healy. This does now seem to be her new focus.

I attended the video conference – this time a Facebook Live video session to take a look at what was being promoted.

The session was attended by around 30 people, though there were people coming and going all the time. Wilson’s new approach seems to be to set up a new private Facebook group which you must then apply to join. I applied in my own name and was allowed in. (This surprised me as Wilson definitely has mentioned me by name before so would have been aware of me, although, she does seem to have some assistants so perhaps it wasn’t Wilson personally that allowed me to join.)

Unlike a Zoom conference call, there is only limited opportunity for interaction with the hosts – just by comments in the feed. Most of the participants’ comments were supportive of the device, with some having already purchased it.

I inserted some skeptical comments which lasted for some time, but alas (and perhaps predictably) I was blocked, and no longer able to comment. I’ve since been denied access to the group.

The session was run in Wilson’s video studio that we saw in the previous Zoom session. It’s a conference table with TV monitors behind it. This session was hosted by Wilson and 3 other people. The setup is relatively sophisticated – each person has their own inconspicuous mic attached to their head, and there are multiple cameras and sound mixing, so somebody technical is operating things behind the cameras. (It turns out, through some further reveals from Wilson, that it’s her partner and business partner Andrew Carter.)

The hosts of the video were Wilson plus a guy from South Africa, who claims to be a healer and Reiki Master. There was also a husband and wife team who were, it seemed, intent on pushing the business side of things.

The Healy device

The device, according to Wilson, is a wearable bio-resonance device that measures your body’s frequency and then sends you the frequencies you need for cell health, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being.

The Healy device is developed and marked by a company based in Germany. The basis of the product is a small electronic device that is worn on the person, and some electrodes which connect to it, allowing it to put electric current through the body. The electrodes are typically connected to each ear. It is claimed to be an “energy device”, with 144,000 frequencies programmed into it. The device connects to a smart phone app using Bluetooth. The app then gives the user the ability to monitor various aspects of their wellbeing, and then select the appropriate “frequency programme” that will cure what ails them.

There are various versions of the device with different features and prices. I’m skeptical, though, that the device actually has different versions – it’s likely that it’s the same device with various options enabled in the app depending on how much you pay.

This is an expensive device – the presentation showed the entry-level device and accompanying app – at 416 Euros, which converts to about 720 NZD. I’ve found that the device can be ordered online, and the prices are quoted in Singapore dollars (which are currently about $1.10 NZD).  The various versions are:

VersionCost – SGDNZD
Healy Gold$715$779
Healy Holistic Health$1,435$1,564
Healy Holistic Health Plus$2,150$2,343
Healy Resonance$3,585$3,907

Those prices are for the device alone. It is recommended that you also subscribe to the app, at a cost of $50 NZD/month. There is also a nutrition option (called the DNA – digital nutrition analysis) at $160 NZD a month. I’d say these are staggering prices, but can you put a price on your health and wellbeing?

Many claims were made for the device, but any talk of curing brought out the standard “nudge-nudge, wink-wink” line of “we can’t legally say it cures anything”, but the impression that one would take away from their presentation was that it was great for a whole bunch of ailments.

They also made the claim that it was FDA approved (as in the Food and Drug Administration in the USA), also claiming that you don’t get FDA approval without a device working. This is patently false (no pun intended). In reality, the device has FDA clearance, which is completely different from approval. All that is required for FDA clearance is to show that the device is similar to another device that has been previously approved or cleared by the FDA. This does not mean that the device actually works. They can piggy-back off a more legitimate product.

There’s also a watch form of the device, which they claim is much better than an Apple Watch. It’s claimed that it can give you an ECG graph that you could take along to your doctor for diagnosis that “contains only 4% less data than a doctor’s ECG would have”. Quite astounding really!

The nutrition aspect of the device was sold as giving advice on what you should be eating for optimum health. Claims of weight loss were part of the features that the device offered.

Rounding out the benefits, there’s also a Traditional Chinese Medicine Zodiac body organ calendar. This was quite fascinating. Apparently there are only twelve organs in the body and, depending on the time of day, you’re meant to concentrate on that particular organ. So, maybe between 11pm and 1pm you should be concentrating on helping out your kidneys. Another time during the day was for the lungs, etc.

Typical scientific-sounding claims were made about how the device interacted with the body. It’s claimed that the electrodes normalise the voltages in the your body’s cells. They claim that young, healthy cells have a potential of negative 70mV across them, and as they age that decreases down to zero. By using the device these voltages can be restored to health levels.

Device development

Device inventor – Marcus Schmieke

The device is the invention of a Marcus Schmieke. To quote from his website (https://timewaver.com/en/marcus-schmieke):

“In the course of his studies of physics and philosophy in Heidelberg and Hanover, he developed the vision of exploring the interaction between matter and consciousness…

Among other things, he has also studied Vedic philosophy and architecture during his stays in various Indian monasteries.”

There are typical claims of quantum “woo”:

“…the basis of matter is not only energy but information.”

“Every body, every person has an “Information field” and each quantum system has a specific resonance frequency and if you find the right frequencies, you can change the energetic and material state.”

Also involved in the development is an alternative medicine practitioner from Portugal by the name of Nuno Nina. He has a clinic that provides alternative therapies in the form of electrical current, and it is his “research” that has developed the 144,000 “gold” frequency programmes that are built into the Healy device.

The Healy device is a commoditisation of a former product – the TimeWaver. The TimeWaver operated on similar principles but was designed as a system for use by specialised alternative medical practitioners.

The business aspects of Healy

From what I could assess in the video conference there are several business aspects to this.

Firstly, the device being targeted at scientifically and medically illiterate people that have the money to plonk down on a product that makes grand claims for improved health and well-being. Claims for being able to provide relief for chronic pain are being made and it seems likely that there are people desperate enough to purchase the device on the basis of hyped up claims. Placebo effects and expectation will likely play a part in the success of the device.

Healy is also set up as a Multi-level Marketing company. The idea is that you purchase the device and then sell the concept and business to your friends and associates, who then sell the device and concept to their friends and associates. Along the way, you earn commission from your downline sales.

Thirdly, Wilson is promoting the device to alternative medical practitioners would buy the device then use it to diagnose and heal clients remotely – basically a gimmick to sell their time to gullible rubes.

From the perspective of an MLM there are review websites. Even these sites have negative recommendations of the Healy MLM business, citing the price of the device being a barrier to sales. But some entrepreneurs are thinking that this business will be the next big thing. I even found a printing company that has dedicated themselves (or at least a website) to providing merchandise for Healy dealers. Healyprints.com has a range of Healy-related products including business cards, t-shirts, padded sports bras, and flip-flops!

The Healy company predictably has disclaimers on their website:

“While scientific research underlies Healy technology, its connection to health and wellness has not been extensively explored or demonstrated. The Healy is not intended to cure, treat, mitigate, diagnose or prevent disease, but rather to support energetic balance and enhance recovery, vitality and wellbeing.”

Of concern with any MLM company are the representatives that go out and often make claims about the products that go well beyond the features of the product. Unfortunately, with so many distributors, it’s all but impossible to counter these claims. Of course, the Healy company has a disclaimer to cover this too:

“Healy World, with the advice of its advisory board, allows its affiliates to only make claims that are contained in company materials meant for public distribution. Please contact the company concerning any claims about which you have questions.”

Demonstration video

Wilson released a video that demonstrates how to use the device, and the app that accompanies it. It is particularly laughable.

Wilson tries to present an explanation of how the device works. She shows a diagram she clearly has no understanding of. Confusing microvolts with millivolts, then amperes with milliamperes. She clearly has no understanding of this, but then her likely audience doesn’t either and will be impressed by the science-y sounding words and explanations.

In the app you can enter the details of the client you are working with – such as their name, photo and date of birth. This is uploaded into the Healy Cloud. Incidentally, in the online workshop a big deal was made of the fact that Healy had their own “cloud” and that it wasn’t Google or Microsoft or Amazon. So, client details are likely held on a less secure server than big commercial offerings would provide for!

In the video she demonstrates the app on her partner – waving her right index finger over the screen so that the app can then somehow sense his needs and deficiencies. It is unclear how the Healy device is involved in this. Is the device somehow remotely sensing the client? Her partner was in the same room, operating the cameras and other technical equipment, but the implication is that this can be done remotely over the internet – the client themselves not having to possess a Healy device.

Once the diagnosis is complete, the app can then remotely send the frequencies to the client – it’s not clear how this actually happens, but the app shows some pretty, moving graphs which supposedly show the transmission taking place. Each “diagnosis” in the app also comes with some text that the user is meant to read out which somehow makes the therapy effective:

“With the power of my divine consciousness I now transfer all selected qualities and information into the field of the client. May they work for the highest well-being of the whole until an optimal balance for the client has been achieved (thank you!)”

So, with some special incantations this all works, magically!

As a software developer myself I’m astounded at what must have been going through the minds of the developer or developers who wrote the app. They really must have been aware of the scammy, pseudo-scientific nature of this. There really is no plausible mechanism that this can possibly work. From what I can see in the app, it will be making use of random number generators rather than actually communicating with the Healy device and reading the “quantum sensor”.

From a business perspective the device seems to be being used as a “dongle” – a device that must be present to allow the app to work. At least in the mode of remote treatment, it has no possible mechanism by which it could work.

There’s little money to be made these days in sales of apps unless you have millions of downloads, but charging for a physical device that makes an app work is probably a good way to make money.

Conclusions

In this new world we live in in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic it appears that alternative medical practitioners are moving to remote working from home that the Healy device will give them new opportunities to exploit this.

What is being promoted though is an expensive product, both in its initial outlay, and ongoing costs, that has little plausibility. Its marketing appears to be a cynical attempt to prey on the ignorance and fears of consumers. My assessment of Wilson is that she’s a bit of a dimbulb and gullible participant in this, but quite happy to take her followers along for the ride.

Jeanette Wilson strikes again!

Local “psychic medium” Jeanette Wilson seems to be finding surviving the COVID-19 pandemic a little challenging. No longer can she tour the country running her Psychic Surgery sessions, and with the NZ border closed, she can’t travel to the UK. And they say pandemics don’t have a silver lining!

But, in this age of internet technology, she’s now running online “training” sessions for wannabe psychic mediums. In reality, these sessions seem to be little more than opportunities for Jeanette to waffle on about the latest conspiracy theory that has percolated into her brain.

How do we know this? Well well-known psychic debunker Susan Gerbic, and a team of our local NZ Skeptics members recently paid to attend one of Wilson’s sessions. Painful as it was, they sat through two hours of the “training”.

They passed the video of the event onto Toby Manhire, journalist at The Spinoff, who wrote a fantastic article about the event, going into detail about the fantastic claims that Wilson was making, including some extremely dubious health claims about a product that supposedly protected against COVID-19.

Wilson is claiming she didn’t say what she clearly said, and Toby has seen the full video. Wilson claims the product “lines the lungs” preventing the SARS-CoV-2 virus from attaching to the lungs.

Amusingly, Wilson hasn’t even realised that some of the people attending her session were skeptics. She mistakenly assumed, via a message out to her group, that one of the attendees shared the video with us. You’d think that if she truly was a psychic medium, in touch with the spirit world, that one of her spirit friends would have clued her in that there were skeptics in on the call.

Jeanette Wilson, “psychic surgery” follow up

Last week we ran a campaign to get self-proclaimed “spiritual medium” and “healer” Jeanette Wilson shut down. This woman is touring NZ, doing a show called Psychic Surgery, which purports to be able to heal people (not cure, mind!) of whatever ails them. The “mechanism” is that she communicates with a team of “spirit surgeons” who when work the magic (being the operative word!) on her rubes patients. But it’s all God doing the work – she’s just the medium.

We got some good publicity in the media (https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/400150/sceptics-aim-to-shut-down-nz-tour-by-spiritual-healer), after emailing all of the venues in a bid to get the hires rescinded, and the tour effectively shut down. Alas, it seems that the profit motive is stronger than the ethics motive. Of the venues that did bother to reply, the common response was that they could not be responsible for what goes on at their venues.

Of note is that Radio New Zealand actually interviewed Ms. Wilson. This is really worth a listen. Seldom do we get to hear woo merchants “put it all out there” and make the claims in public as to what they think they can do. https://www.rnz.co.nz/audio/player?audio_id=2018715951

Our activity does seem to have riled Wilson up. She’s made the claim that skeptics don’t attend her shows – if they did they’d see first-hand what an amazing healer she is, and, ridiculously, why aren’t the medical community studying her? Well, we have attended her shows. What we have seen is that the “healing” as such is likely to be placebo effects, and long-term relief is unlikely. What is surprising is that her spirit surgeons didn’t let her know that there were skeptics in the audience. So much for being able to communicate with “the other side”.

It’s also caused her to come visit our website – she probably has a Google Alert set up on her name (Hi, Jeanette!). This led to a tirade on her Facebook page where she ridiculously claimed that NZ Skeptics were driven (maybe even funded?) by “Big Pharma”. She was shocked that a NZ Charity would be promoting vaccines (which, you won’t need to be reminded, are safe and effective). Apparently, she will be complaining to NZ Charities – bring it on, we say!

We make light of her ridiculous shows, but there is a serious side, which is why we took action. People that attend these shows tend to be vulnerable. Our skeptics who attended the shows witnessed some people who appeared to be quite unstable, being subject to the attention of this woman.

As we’ve seen with other woo merchants, their woo doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Once you go down one anti-science rabbit hole, there are plenty of other warrens to keep you there. Wilson’s Facebook page is a scary (but amusing) place. She’s anti-vax (despite claiming she’s not), she’s a climate-change denier, and she’s also anti-5G. She also claims that you can cure your eyesight by throwing away your glasses and using pinhole glasses. She also sells a dietary supplement, Purple Rice Powder, which, we’re told, is earning her $20,000 a month. It just goes to show that there’s big money to be made in pseudoscience.

To conclude, we never really expected to be able to shut down her shows, though it would have been great to be able to do so. The hope for the future is education – a population that is science-literate is unlikely to fall for the ploys of charlatans pushing false hope.

Psychic Surgery coming to a town near you!

NZ-based, self-described “spiritual medium” Jeanette Wilson has started touring the country with her Psychic Surgery show. We’re running a campaign to try to disrupt this by contacting the venues and making them aware of the sort of thing they’re hosting.

“Traditional” psychic surgery has involved literal blood and guts from animals being passed off as tumours and other tissues being removed from patients’ bodies. Jeanette Wilson bypasses all this messy stuff and simply walks around the patient flailing her arms and making weird “Eeeeeeeee!” sounds. All this under the guidance of her supposed team of “spiritual surgeons” on the other side.

This really is unbelievable. If you want to witness her performance, she has videos on her website.

Earlier this year we sent one of our committee members along to her show in Christchurch to observe the event and report back. What he saw was quite shocking. These shows seem to attract vulnerable people and one person there looked to be on the verge of a breakdown. So, this really is serious stuff.

Forty dollars is what it costs you to attend, but that’s just the start. She’s also running a sideline business promoting Purple Rice Powder as a dietary supplement, costing upwards of $100 for a month’s supply.

So, this person is a danger to the community. Any healing is likely just taking advantage of placebo effects, but the concern is that people with more serious conditions might well delay or avoid proper medical treatment by attending one of her shows.

Her shows aren’t limited to NZ either. She travels to the UK doing the same stuff over there. So, earlier this year, we contacted the Good Thinking Society in the UK to make them aware. They ran a campaign of contacting her venues and had good success in getting them to cancel the bookings after being made aware of what she was doing. We are hopeful that we can achieve the same here.

Locally, if you’re close to one of her venues, perhaps a well-placed word to them might sway them towards reconsidering their hiring decisions.