Result: Robert Mooreland was unable to successfully identify objects hidden in envelopes with accuracy that exceeded pure chance.
Date of demonstration: June 10, 2012
Lead Investigator: Wendy Hughes
Co-lead investigator: Paula Lauterbach
Article by Wendy Hughes and Paula Lauterbach
Photography courtesy Paula Lauterbach, Brian Hart, Mark Johnson, Wendy Hughes, and John Rael.
Statistical analysis courtesy of Jeffrey Scott Nuttall
This is the preliminary report for the demonstration by Mr. Robert Mooreland in his attempt to qualify to be tested for the $50,000 IIG prize. A more complete report will come later as video is edited.
Robert Mooreland first contacted the IIG about testing his claimed abilities in September 2011. Wendy Hughes responded to Mr. Mooreland and started the complicated back and forth communication about his claimed abilities and the best way to test them.
Claim and Negotiations:
The earliest communications from Robert Mooreland, Bobby, included videos and photos, as well as some text. The IIG’s First Responders committee fields correspondence sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and also includes members of the Steering Committee of IIG West.
Sometimes the correspondence involves questions about old investigations, and sometimes, as in the case of Robert Mooreland, a claim they wish to test like the following:
“Hi my name is Robert Mooreland. This email contains a sample of the paranormal. It is unedited and contains all objects, targets and controls. The rest of my clips are mind-boggling to say the least. Im [sic] guessing a scanning electron microscope would reveal many more serious details, instruction and encouragement in a scientific setting.
thank you, hope to hear from you soon.
Mr. Mooreland sent a series of videos, and the participants on the email thread of First Responders and Steering Committee members simply did not see what Bobby said were the subjects in his photos and videos. But he maintained the correspondence – sending photos of stacked rocks in the desert, a photo that he said was of an alien in his car, and other media that could have been interpreted as paranormal claims, but nothing testable.
IIG is a collaborative group. Our membership brings varied skills to the investigations, including knowledge concerning physics, engineering, architecture, and all facets of the entertainment industry (we are in Hollywood, after all). Our members are skeptics with such varied backgrounds that it’s possible to research the testability of claims not merely by relying on independent research, but by taking advantage of the specialized skills and experience of our members.
On October 26 2011, the IIG agreed to email Mr. Mooreland that we could not see the images that he claimed were in his pictures and videos, and that he would have to submit a claim that could be reproduced in our presence, and also complete the IIG $50,000 Paranormal Challenge application.
The Test (Demonstration):
There were many iterations of test protocols – in one version, Robert Mooreland used little translucent plastic soap boxes of different colors with charms, (video below) and claimed that he could shuffle around the boxes and tell which charm was in which box. As the boxes were of different colors and Mr. Mooreland placed the items in the boxes himself, this test was not proof of his ability. The next significant one concerned pictures of celebrities concealed inside cardboard boxes that he could correctly guess. Again, Robert was involved in the set up of the test to the extent that it could not prove paranormal abilities.
This however did appear to be a testable claim if proper controls were in place. We asked him to send us links to about 100 pictures of assorted celebrities that he would be willing to use in a demonstration, but the links were unusable, or were simply Google image searches of celebrities. We wanted images Robert himself felt comfortable with, as some images he stated would not work for him in a test, such as Amy Winehouse. But that pause gave IIG members a chance to think about a proper test based on his current claimed ability, what the format would need to be fair, would have acceptable odds that would far exceed chance, and to which the claimant would agree.
Finally, in March 2012, Bobby sent us a video of himself picking pictures of U.S. Presidents in boxes. Bobby’s boxes, as an experiment, had legs. We emailed him a counter offer - instead of boxes, we agreed on envelopes. Instead of celebrities, we asked Bobby if he would provide us with four pictures; the odds of guessing all four Presidents in a row, if they are randomized was even higher than the 5,000:1 we want for the preliminary demonstration. While we knew his chances of getting several "hits" (because there were only 4 images and Mr. Mooreland would know that these same 4 images would be used in each trial), we knew that he would not be able to correctly select all images in all trials without beating 13,824:1 odds. That would be within the limits of required odds we need for demonstrations. This simplified version was selected, while some members did push for a larger image pool so it would be more unlikely for the applicant to claim a partial ability based on mere chance.
The eventual protocol involved not pictures of presidents, but a MMA Champ, a Star Wars character, Air Force jets and an image of the Lincoln Memorial, all provided by the claimant. It also involved an agreement about how the preliminary test would be conducted, as well as the rate of success necessary to move on to the $50,000 challenge. After the test, Mr. Mooreland was asked about why he selected these images, and he stated he associated them with power.
- A. Matt Hughes (An American mixed martial artist in front of an American flag background)
- B. Aayla Secura (A fictional character from the Star Wars universe. The image sent appears to be an altered version of the character from Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones, as portrayed by the actress Amy Allen)
- C. A-10 Warthog (A twin engine military jet. The image has two of them)
- D. Lincoln Memorial (Image is a close-up concentrating on the upper half of the memorial statue with the background removed)
We created a backup plan in case the claimant was a no show (always a possibility especially when the applicant has a long way to travel), demonstrating with an IIG volunteer how the test would have been conducted. This allows IIG West volunteers another opportunity to practice conducting a test and would allow other IIG affiliates to learn from and evaluate our demonstration. Each new demonstration is a unique learning experience. Mr. Mooreland arrived in Los Angeles a day early, however, and arrived to the demonstration right on time.
The last minute details such as the live streaming of the test were set in place, as well as a run through rehearsal a few days before, and agreements with IIG members to be volunteers participating in the Preliminary Demonstration.
The test was preceded by an interview conducted by Dr. John Suarez and IIG Steering Committee member Mark Edward. This was filmed, but the audio was not live on the web cam feed to protect the privacy of the claimant should any questions become too personal. This detail was agreed to by the IIG and the claimant prior to the demonstration. The test monitor was IIG Chairman Jim Underdown. The protocol was designed by Co Lead Investigators Wendy Hughes and Paula Lauterbach with input from members of the IIG Steering committee as well as the claimant.
There is a link to the full protocol at the end of this report, but here is a brief outline:
The IIG printed two identical copies of each image (the 4 differnet images just mentioned) for each round, a total of six printed copies of each image for the entire demonstration, and the applicant was able to see them before the demonstration began to confirm they are the images he sent and he still feels that they will work for him.
The images were placed into one set of envelopes by a volunteer at the beginning of each round in a separate room from Mr. Mooreland and all other observers. This volunteer remained in the room for the entirety of the round. This was to maintain a double-blind test to prevent even accidental cues being given to the claimant. This volunteer (the stuffer) placed the 4 pictures (one of each) in envelopes, sealed and shuffled them, then placed them outside the door with a bell ring to signal that they were ready to be picked-up. The volunteer known as the placer then laid out the 4 envelopes on the table in front of the claimant where the claimant attempted to place the matching photos he has with him to his 4 choices on the envelopes.
Mr. Mooreland was otherwise not allowed to touch or lift the envelopes while they are on the table. Robert was permitted to be seated within 24 inches of the table with envelopes placed face up near the edge of the table. Mr. Mooreland was allowed to have a clipboard, paper and a pen on his lap to take notes.
The envelopes after being selected were marked by a volunteer with Mr. Mooreland’s choices, and Robert then signed the envelopes affirming his choices. The photos Mr. Mooreland placed on the envelopes were then stapled to the envelopes. They were then placed into a clear arcylic box viewable to all observers and Mr. Mooreland for the entire demonstration. Mr. Mooreland was given 15 minutes per round to complete his selection.
All three rounds were recorded by fixed cameras as well as the live webcam. At the end of the third round, the envelopes were opened in the presence of the applicant, witnesses, and cameras. The photos revealed several hits expected by chance, but not the 100% correct required to advance to the test for the $50,000 prize.
After the demonstration and post-interview were complete, the IIG conducted a debriefing session to discuss the demonstration, what was learned, what we could do better in a similar test in the future, etc.
A little over 20 IIG members were present for the demonstration, and almost 100 people watched the real time live stream over UStream, moderated by IIG Steering Committee member Brian Hart. Video of the room where the envelopes were stuffed was recorded by IIG member John Rael; video of the room where the test was conducted was by IIG Media Committee member John Champion.
The current accepted laws of physics and probability remain intact .
Mr. Mooreland was not able to "see" the images in the envelopes and correctly identify them with 100% accuracy. He fell 7 guesses short of being able to move on to the payoff part of the $50,000 Challenge, which would have been much more difficult to pass. If he could not pass a demonstration at 13,824 to 1 odds, it is unlikely he’d be able to overcome 1,000,000 to 1 odds (which the IIG seeks for the actual $50,000 Challenge itself) to win the money. After one year, Mr. Mooreland can apply again.
In the three trials, Mr. Mooreland scored as follows:
Trial one, two images were correctly identified out of the four possible.
Trial two, one image was correctly identified of four possible.
Trial three, two images were correctly identified from four possible.
The results of the statistics analyzed by Jeffrey Scott Nuttall are here in PDF format.
A shortened version is:
" I found the probability of his getting two on the first two and one on the fourth, and then multiplied by three (since there are three possible distinct orders: "2, 2, 1; 2, 1, 2, and 1, 2, 2.) Similarly, for instance, to find the probability of his getting seven correct matches total, I found the probability of his getting 1 on the first trial, 2 on the second, and 4 on the third, and multiplied that by 6 (since they could be ordered 1, 2, 4; 1, 4, 2; 2, 1, 4; 2, 4, 1; 4, 1, 2; or 4, 2, 1). So it was a fairly complicated calculation (or set of calculations)."
Images and video: More coming soon