The WHY-Files

The Journal of the Inquiring Skeptics of Upper New York


Volume 3, Issue 5 May, 1997

 
 
 

May Meeting.

Contemporary Hysteria.

Join us May 7th, 7:00 pm at the Guilderland Public Library when our speaker will Gladden Schrock of Bennington College. Professor Schrock's talk, entitled ``Conteporary Hysteria,'' is a philosophical and sociological survey of society. He will examine some of the tens of thousands of cases of false allegation and imprisonment, and seek out historical perspective of what has been dubbed ``the memory wars.''

Meetings are held at the Guilderland Public Library, 2228 Western Avenue, Guilderland, NY. Meetings are free and open to the public. For information about future meetings, see the last page of this newsletter. In the event of bad weather, we will hold the meeting if the Guilderland Public Library is open.

Local Meetings.

The Albany Area Amateur Astronomers meet the third Tuesday of each month at the Schenectady Museum. The speaker at the May 20th meeting is Dr. Jay Pasachoff of Williams College. Meetings begin at 7:30 pm. For more information contact Alan French at (518) 374-8460.

The Capital District Humanist Society meets the second Sunday of each month at the Sage Colleges Albany Campus on New Scotland Avenue. The meetings begin at 1:15 pm. For more information contact Paul DeFrancisco at (518) 272-4772.

Membership Renewals.

The expiration date for your ISUNY membership is printed on the upper right-hand corner of your mailing label. Dues can be mailed to the treasurer at the address on the back page of this newsletter, or paid at our monthly meeting (make checks out to ISUNY). Your dues cover newsletter and speaker expenses. If the date on the mailing label is circled, it means our records show your membership has expired, and may be dropped from the mailing list. If your renewal date is incorrect, please bring the error to our attention. Despite our efforts to keep the mailing list up-to-date, we do make mistakes.

Newsletter Articles

If you attend local meetings, view programs of interest to ISUNY members, or have a skeptical topic you wish to discuss, consider writing an article for The Why-Files. Membership articles contribute greatly to the quality of The Why-Files. Articles and letters can be emailed to the editor at sofkam@rpi.edu, or by U.S. mail to Michael Sofka, 8 Providence Street, Albany, NY 12203. Disks and hardcopy will be returned at the next ISUNY meeting. The deadline for articles in the June, 1997 issue is May 24th, 1997.

Membership and Publicity.

Peter Huston has agreed to chair a membership and publicity committee. The committee will consist of Peter, and member volunteers, and is charged with publicizing meetings and proposals for finding new members. If you would like to help with this and related tasks, see Peter at any ISUNY meeting.

Membership Dues Raised.

At the March 13th meeting the board voted to raise membership dues from $10.00 to $15.00. The Sustaining membership (previously $15.00) has been dropped, while Patron membership remains $25.00.

The increase brings the basic membership in line with newsletter and other expenses. It costs ISUNY $6.00/year to copy and mail The Why-Files to each member. In addition, a number of Why-Files are sent to past speakers and the press, given away at meetings, and sent to CSICOP (Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims Of the Paranormal) for the newsletter exchange program. This cost each member approximately $2.50, leaving little for meeting room fees, travel costs for out of town speakers, and other expenses.

ISUNY Lending Library.

The Inquiring Skeptics of Upper New York maintains a library of books, newsletters, magazines, video and audio tapes addressing various paranormal topics. ISUNY members may borrow material from this library on a month-by-month basis. Our collection has grown over the years from the kind donations by our members, and includes many back issues of the Skeptical Inquirer (including volume 1, issue 1) donated by Richard Lange M.D, audio tapes made and donated by Dorothy and Ralph Hoyt, UFO magazines by ``Lewis's friend'', and many newsletters from skeptic groups around the world sent by Barry Karr of CSICOP.

In addition, ISUNY thanks the many members who have dug deep into the dusty shelves of used bookstores and contributed to our growing collection. If you would like to borrow a book, newsletter or tape, see our librarian Lewis Treadway before or after any ISUNY meeting. All material is lent free to members except for tapes for which we ask a $1.00 donation that will be used to purchase further library material.

Psychic Heals Boy, Skeptics Stunned.

While Eeyore frets, and Piglet hesitates,
and Rabbit calculates, and Owl Pontificates,
Pooh just is.

-Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh.

So opened David Quinne's talk at the April meeting of the Inquiring Skeptics of Upper New York---a talk which took us for an emotional ride as we observed demonstrations of David's unique abilities to entertain, to inform and to persuade.

David is, of course, ISUNY's Psychic in Residence and the author of ``Ask The Psychic,'' which appears monthly in The Why-Files. He is a graduate of Maharishi International University where he studied quantum metaphysics with a minor in political science, and has been a consultant for the CIA's operation ``Deep Pockets,'' which explored the application of Transcendental Meditation and remote viewing in international affairs.1

Wednesday's talk was about Karma, the New Age and how to encourage your inner psychic. David Quinne began with a review of physics and the interconnectedness of the universe. ``If you could put on special glasses and look at the night sky, you would see energy pouring out of everything. You would see X-rays, and light and infrared pouring out of the sky, the ground and yourself. You would see we are all connected by energy.'' David made no special claims to unusual powers. ``Being psychic is just being sensitive to subtle changes; noticing things other people miss.'' The analogy he gave was that of an experienced Native American tracker and a ``greenhorn'' who ``doesn't know why the eagle circles the hill.''

After his introduction, David treated the audience to several demonstrations of his abilities. The first used material prepared by an ISUNY representative. David had asked for a set of randomized cards which are white on one side, and either red or black on the other. Thinking that white would likely show the color on the other side, we instead opted for a standard set of playing cards. These were randomized and placed in a sealed and signed envelope. David objected to this change in protocol at first, but we persuaded, dare I say challenged, him to continue.

Two volunteers from the audience (selected by ISUNY) were the only people to handle the cards. The first volunteer slid the cards one at a time from the pile, while the second volunteer moved them to the ``red'' or ``black'' piles according to what he felt was the color. Incredibly all but two cards were placed correctly. The second demonstration was remote viewing. A group of volunteers went into the hall and drew three pictures: Comet Hale-Bopp as seen through the window, the number 153497, and a monster with a big eye. David sat in the meeting room under observation and drew, successively: a dot in a rectangle, the number 153497 and an eye. Each, a remarkably close representation of the target drawing.

These demonstrations, however impressive they might have been, were treated with caution by the crowd. We are, after all, skeptics. The final demonstration, however, was more than some of us could take. Unbeknownst to us, David Quinne had advertised the meeting at a local New Age bookstore, asking for volunteers who were suffering from some illness which he would attempt to heal. There was a woman and her son who came to our meeting in response to this flyer.

David asked the boy, Chris (about age 10) to come to the front of the room. Chris had a limp due to a degenerative bone disease. ``The doctor thinks he will need a hip replacement by the time he reached 20,'' said his mother. David had Chris lie down on a table. He talked to him gently, and asked him to think about the disease. He asked if he was in pain, and if he was afraid. I glanced around and saw Chris' mother wiping a tear from her eye. There was a heightened tension in the room as David and Chris spoke.

Then David asked Chris to stand up. He felt better, and was noticeably in less pain. He still had the limp, but it was not as severe. As he walked, the pain seemed to go away. At David's suggestion, he hurried back to his mother and gave her a hug. I saw several blank stares, and a few tears, in the audience. Chris was getting better!


The role of Chris and his mother were played by Teo and Judy Liddo. The card trick is called ``Out of This World,'' and I personally guarded the carefully prepared deck. Peter Huston, our ``Ask the Skeptic'' columnist, skillfully directed the target drawings (against great opposition) used for the remote viewing demonstration. The role of David Quinne was played by private investigator, bounty hunter and cult specialist Daniel Forrest.2

If you look at the calendar, you will notice this was our April 2nd meeting---close enough to the 1st to raise at least some eyebrows. After ``healing'' Chris,3 Daniel confessed that everything we saw was a hoax. There was an audible sigh of relief in the room as the lights were raised, and tissue and handkerchiefs hastily put away.

There is a certain abstract quality to being a skeptic, a feeling of detachment from the subject of our studies. Cults are something other people join. Weeping icons and the face of Jesus in tortilla chips are the foibles of ``believers.'' We may read about 39 people committing suicide in order to hitch a ride on comet Hale-Bopp, and we may pontificate on why and how they are led to their fate, but we stop short of believing it can happen to us. We're skeptics, after all, and don't believe in such nonsense.

Knowledge, however, is no substitute for experience. Wisdom does not come from books. Daniel asked for a show of hands ``how many of you wanted to believe in something?'' and a few hands went up. ``How many felt emotional when they saw Chris being healed?'' And, a couple more hands raised. ``And, you are all skeptics. If this was any other audience, I could have my own cult by this time tomorrow night.'' I've seen Daniel at work, and I tend towards believing this claim.4

I also felt a little of what it must be like to witness a family member or friend falling for a charlatan. You see, Daniel didn't let me, or anybody else, in on the faith healing stunt. I wasn't sure if he really had placed an ad in a New Age bookstore. This left just enough doubt in my mind for worry.5 I saw the faces of some of the audience members. I looked at Chris' mother hoping for some hint that ``it's ok, we're skeptics too.'' She wiped a tear from her eye, and a mild state of panic started to set in. Suddenly, skepticism seemed more real. Suddenly, the face had a name---Chris.6

The typical cult recruitment begins with a lecture such as we saw. A little fact is slipped in with a little fiction. You are asked to believe a couple of small things. Bits and pieces of conversation overheard, or collected from earlier visits are used to add credibility to the presentation. ``If you felt a little bit, imagine the effect of days or weeks of lectures, all while you are cut off from contact with family and the outside world.'' According to Daniel, the police report the average psychic makes $80,000 their first year ``And, they don't even have to be good!''

Daniel's message was that we need to be skeptical. We need to be eternally skeptical in our everyday life. Not just in that room, but when buying a car, or watching TV, or listening to politicians. We have to watch out for ourselves, because the Applewhites of the world are not looking out for us. The Heaven's Gate Cult, says Daniel, is more typical than different. The followers of Applewhite were taken to their death because, within their isolated world---away from contact with society, it made more sense then staying alive.

Daniel ended, however, where David began. ``While Eeyore frets, and Piglet hesitates, and Rabbit calculates, and Owl Pontificates, Pooh just is.'' No matter how skeptical we are, the world just is the way it is. Be skeptical. But even skeptics can't be skeptical all the time, so be careful of what you believe.

-Mike Sofka

Ask The Skeptic.

This is part 2 of a three part series on satanic ritual abuse, false memory and sex abuse claims. Part 1 was published in the April Why-Files and Part 3 will appear in the June Why-Files.

-The Editor

In the April Why-Files I spoke about pseudoscience in the field of sex abuse. As the list of examples of pseudoscience in this field is virtually endless, I can see no reason to stop writing about them.

I mentioned Breaking the Circle of Satanic Ritual Abuse,7 an awful book recommended to me by the Capital District's Samaritan Counseling Center following their Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) in service training session. This book, like several other publications in the field, includes a lengthy list of signs and symptoms of SRA. To many who work in the field of sex abuse such lists of signs and symptoms are quite important as they often share the belief that ``abuse victims'' can ``forget'' being abused. If the victim has ``forgotten'' (or ``repressed'') their abuse, then the only way a therapist can detect it is by comparing their behaviors to a list of behaviors believed to indicate abuse or more specifically ``Satanic Ritual Abuse.'' Unfortunately for them, and more tragically for their clients, there is little to no evidence that long term abuse can be forgotten. (For further details on this somewhat controversial but factually correct statement, see Pendergrast's Victims of Memory.8 We were fortunate to have Mark Pendergrast as a speaker a year or two ago, and he's always welcome back.) In any event, this leaves us with a situation where people are using signs and symptoms to find a condition, ``forgotten abuse,'' which is not scientificly proven to exist. Clearly, such signs and symptoms are of questionable value at best, dangerous to all concerned at worst.

Some therapists believe that it is possible to determine abuse, and more specifically, Satanic Ritual Abuse through the sorts of drawings which survivors make. (Ryder, pp. 55--57) SRA survivors are alleged to draw pictures using red and black frequently. They are also said to make themselves look small in the picture. I began to wonder, how did the experts come to learn this? It struck me as patently pseudo-scientific so I did some asking. First, I asked a social work professor. Her response was, ``Those blasted interpretations! You should never tell a client what their pictures mean! Instead, you should ask them! (what they believe it means.)'' Quite common-sense-ical. If only everybody who needed help could find such a sensible social worker.

Next, I asked Lydia Treadway, a psychologist with a shoe box full of degrees and her head screwed on surprisingly straight. ``That's an example of what's known as the HTP test. HTP stands for House, Tree, Person.'' (The client, after all, draws houses, trees, and persons, with the shape and form indicating the client's underlying psychological make up.) It was, she said, developed by a man named Sattler who created a baseline by using a large number of drawings done by a large number of people. Apparently, he gave them psychological tests designed to show personality traits and then correlated these with trends in their drawings. Dr. Treadway stated that as the test was ``normed'' using primarily white, middle-class Americans as test subjects, she had reservations about whether it was valid when used across ethnic and class lines.

It is my understanding that it is quite difficult to measure personality traits or types in a scientifically meaningful way and most attempts to do so fail. Therefore, I question whether it was possible to accurately measure the personality traits of the test-takers in the first place. If this were not done properly, then correlations between the drawings and the tests would not be valid. Furthermore, correlating the drawings with personality traits sounds like a rather subjective process, likely to be prone to biases of various sorts.

In any event, whether or not the HTP test is valid as a personality test or not, it must be asked how it was determined that SRA survivors are particularly likely to draw pictures using red and black? How could this possibly have been determined in a scientifically valid manner if the reality of SRA is not accepted? Furthermore, is this a standard part of the HTP test as commonly used? I doubt it very much. It should be noted that the book, Breaking the Circle..., does not use footnotes so it is impossible to follow up on the source for this and other statements. (Nevertheless, it was recommended to me by a respected local therapy center!)

But who cares, you might ask? Recently, an acquaintance and I attended a local conference on ``Legally Sound Child Sex Abuse Investigations'' put on by the Schenectady Planned Parenthood Rape Crisis Center, but open to the public. We both felt that the bulk of the speaker's advice was appropriate to use, but her examples were strange and quite unlikely. Included among these examples was a report of ritual abuse which she investigated and aided in the prosecution. The bizarre claim began with a young child who ``acted like an abuse survivor'' and drew a lot of pictures using red and black. The speaker became convinced that abuse had occurred based on this evidence. The child refused to divulge abuse however. The speaker decided that ``audio stimuli'' might help and placed the child in a room overnight with a tape recorder playing statements about having ``Red, red dreams.'' In the morning the child told the speaker about her dreams and the speaker decided that these were reports of actually abuse. A decision was made to prosecute the parent.

The moral of the story? If you spend time around children, and they play with crayons, steal the red and the black from the package and hide it from them. If you don't you might go to jail or spend time in prison, following accusations of being a Satanic cult member.

Peter Huston's work appears regularly in the Skeptical Inquirer and Skeptic. He is the author of two books, most recently Scams from the Great Beyond: How to Make Easy Money Off of ESP, Astrology, UFOs, Crop Circles, Cattle Mutilations, Alien Abductions, Atlantis, Channeling, and Other New Age Nonsense by Paladin Press, Boulder, CO.

The Heaven's Gate Cult.

Most of us first became aware of this group when we heard news reports on March 27th of 39 bodies being found in a mansion in a wealthy San Diego suburb. As we learned more about the group that was involved, we were shocked, fascinated, and unsettled. All inhabitants of the house, 18 men and 21 women ranging in age from 26 to 72---the majority in their 40s---had committed suicide by taking a lethal mixture of drugs and suffocation with plastic bags. The group's life style fit well within the parameters of cult living. They lived quite isolated from the world; they were quite intelligent people who had chosen to separate themselves from any contact with family and former friends---in some cases, for decades. They followed a charismatic leader: Marshall Applewhite. The cult earned living expenses by designing Internet Web pages for businesses; the house was filled with computer equipment. Customers who had used their services, which included the San Diego Polo Club, had noted their unique appearance: always traveling in groups, both men and women dressed alike with similar short haircuts.

Picture this---a luxurious home in an elite suburb, 39 dead bodies each lying on a bed in peaceful repose, dressed in dark pants and shirts and wearing new Nike sneakers, with a $5 bill and quarters in their pants pockets and a packed suitcase at the end of each bed. Triangular purple shrouds covered their upper bodies. They left video messages saying good-bye to family, friends, and things of ``this world.'' Apparently they took this fatal action in order to leave their earthly bodies behind and go to ``a higher level'' believing that they would be joining a mothership (UFO) which was following in the tail of the Hale-Bopp comet.

The group was founded over 20 years ago by a former music teacher, Marshall Applewhite, and a nurse he met when he was briefly sent to a mental ward. As the two traveled around the country during the 1970s, gathering believers as they spread their message, which had evolved to a mixture of New Age spirituality, distorted Christianity, Internet computer technology, and space-age science fiction. They called themselves variously ``Bo'' and ``Peep'' or ``Do'' and ``Ti.''

They were somehow led to believe that the appearance of the Hale-Bopp Comet was a signal to shed their ``containers'' by killing themselves and then they would be free to reach a ``higher level'' by joining a UFO mothership which was shielded from Earth by the comet's tail. Rumors of the UFO following the comet were reported to have circulated on the Internet. Whether this group was responsible for starting the rumors or was a ``victim'' of the rumors has not been clarified in news reports.

-Dot Sager

Dorothy Sager is ISUNY's secretary and co-editor of The Why-Files. This report was based on news stories from the Albany Times-Union, March 27, 28, and 29, 1997.

Rampant Irrationality.

The mass suicide of members of Heaven's Gate in California has lessons for us which are being totally ignored by the media circus going on now. It's all too easy to label something a ``cult'' then go on a crusade to combat cult activity, without getting to the heart of the problem.

It's easy to say that these people only were a danger to themselves, and that no innocent people were harmed. I disagree. Others were harmed. Families, including children, were abandoned by some who joined this group. That's some harm, I think. Others are continually suckered into such groups, and the group dynamics magnifies any wacko propensities the initiate may have had previously. We may say that person `deserved' the outcome, but I think those propensities are far more widespread than we like to admit.

When we hear of this Heaven's Gate organization's mass suicide, or that of Jim Jones and his People's Temple a few years back, or the Solar Temple suicides of last year, many of us assume that these people must have been especially simple-minded, stupid or gullible to have been willing to give themselves totally to someone peddling a foolish idea---even to the point of giving up their lives and thought to that person. We assume that there must have been something flawed in these people to have compelled them to behave so irrationally and so foolishly. Someone on one Internet discussion group remarked that this mass suicide wasn't such a bad thing, for it removed flawed material from the human gene pool.

But look more carefully and we find there's little to distinguish those people from the general population. We may utter such platitudes as ``They had an emptiness in their lives. They were seeking meaning. They felt downtrodden and oppressed and needed to feel a sense of community and an assurance that someone cared about them. They needed something to give them direction and purpose.'' Or we may attach the label ``cult'' to their community, a label which sets them apart from the rest of society, allowing us to disassociate ourselves from them. Do these labels and platitudes explain anything? Perhaps these are only ways to label these people as ``different from the rest of us.'' These people had cut themselves off from former family and friends, but were not totally reclusive. They interacted frequently and freely with their neighbors and others in the community. Those who interacted with them described them as personable, bright, friendly, and, in general, quite ordinary folk. They were talented, creative, artistic, good at carrying out their business enterprises, and computer-savvy at a high level. Yet they had a soft spot in their heads, which allowed them to suspend their reason and to believe, with great conviction, in a particular bit of nonsense. They believed in something which had no supporting evidence. No rational arguments favored it. All it had going for it was emotional appeal. They could overlook its irrationality by inventing rationalizations. In this respect, these folks aren't much different from other people. Compare the business person, teacher, doctor, lawyer, tradesman, who may be well-educated and who seems quite sober and rational most of the time. Yet this person may sincerely and devoutly believe in a god, go to church once a week to worship that god, and may even pray to that god, giving thanks for good fortune, never blaming the supposedly all-powerful god for bad fortune and natural disasters (not god's fault, they rationalize). They may even expect to ascend to a heavenly reward after death. How is this different in any substantial way from the convictions of those 39 people who decided to punch their own tickets to ascend to their celestial reward which they thought beckoned from behind a passing comet?

How ironic to watch the evening news and hear Peter Jennings, with a straight face, move directly from reporting this suicide case to a segment about people worshiping at this Easter season, then showing statistics of a recent study which shows 95% of people believe in God, 90% in the Bible,... the virgin birth, the resurrection of Christ, etc. If the Heaven's Gate people were foolish to believe their leader was an alien implanted in an earth-woman's womb, and that he and they could leave their bodies to live on a higher level, then the religious beliefs of 9 out of 10 Americans are equally foolish. What ought to frighten people when they consider this mass suicide is to realize that those folks weren't different from the rest of us, and that we all may have the same defects of mind which led them to an action we think bizarre and incomprehensible. When we see things in them which we think irrational, we ought to look within ourselves, lest we harbor similar irrational and unsupported notions. Another thing frightens me. Events such as this encourage some self-righteous people to step up their efforts to fan hysteria about cults, encourage ``deprogramers'' (who only replace one irrationality with a different one) and fuel their paranoid belief that Satan is behind it all. No, the evil is more insidious. It is, in my view, our susceptibility to passionate belief in irrational fantasies.

-Donald E. Simanek

Dr. Simanek is a professor of physics at Lock Haven University, Lock Haven, PA. This article was written for the online skeptic list and is reprinted with his enthusiastic permission. It appears, along with many other items of skeptical interest, on Dr. Simanek's web page at http:www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek

Ask the Psychic.

Following reports of a strange glowing meteor landing near Lowville, NY, our psychic in residence, David Quinne, was dispatched to investigate. Unfortunately, because of this assignment, David was not able to file his April Why-Files column in time for publication. This was a small price to pay, however, for the chance to report on one of the greatest discoveries of this century. Here now, is the April 1st report David filed with a major wire-service.

-The Editor

A piece of Comet Hale-Bopp has struck the earth near the town of Lowville, NY. The meteor, described as a jelly-like substance by Professor Tamerlane A. Edvardssonn of Miskatonic University, is of great interest since there are signs it may contain life. ``This is the single most important finding in the history of science.'' Says Dr. Edvardssonn. ``More important than the Martian meteorite, bigger than velcro, more exciting than the discovery of carbonated water on Ganymede.'' We know for the first time that ``we are not alone.''

Reports of ``jelly'' meteors or ``star jellies'' as they are frequently called, date back to the 17th century, according to astronomer and historian of science Danil Wankuczski. They have been recorded in local records and poems, but ``until this day none has been subject to modern scientific analysis.''

``It jest fell from the sky and struck poor Chester on the head'' said John Brown, referring to his dog who was killed by the meteor. ``Chester was out taking a walk, looking for a good spot to do his duty, when this thing just came out of nowhere.'' Chester, a golden retriever, will be buried on the Brown farm next to Charlotte, Brown's blue ribbon goat killed by a unknown wild animal last fall.

NASA plans to transport the meteorite to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention's Stowe Vermont facility. ``We need to isolate the meteorite as soon as possible'' said Dr. Edvardssonn. ``There is little risk to the local population, but we need to avoid contamination of the meteorite.''

When approached for comment, President Clinton said he will be asking congress for money to send a delegation to Hale-Bopp. ``This is exactly the kind of discovery made possible by this administration's commitment to research, welfare reform and the balanced budget,'' said the President before returning to his game of golf with Tiger Woods.

-David Quinne

David Quinne is ISUNY's official psychic. He is a graduate of Maharishi International University where he studied quantum metaphysics with a minor in political science. Questions to the Psychic can be sent to this newsletter care of the editor.

ISUNY Meetings.

Contemporary Hysteria.

On May 7th, Gladden Schrock of Bennington College will present a program about what may be this country's greatest period of ``witch-hunting.'' He will examine some of the tens of thousands of cases of false allegation and imprisonment, and seek out historical perspective of what has been dubbed ``the memory wars.''

Cold Fusion.

On June 4th, Bill Walker of General Electric laboratories will review the current state of cold fusion research.

Cults.

On September 3rd, ISUNY will host a panel on cults in our culture.

All meetings are held at the Guilderland Public Library, 2228 Western Avenue, Guilderland, NY, at 7:00 pm. Meetings are free and open to the public. For more information call Mike Sofka at 437-1750 or email sofkam@rpi.edu.

Minutes Of April 2 Meeting.

President Mike Sofka convened the meeting, welcoming members and visitors, and describing the goals of ISUNY. He announced the topics and speakers for the next two months' meetings: May---Modern Hysteria by Gladden Schrock; June---Cold Fusion by Bill Walker. Election of officers was held: Nominations: President Mike Sofka; Vice President Peter Huston; Treasurer Bob Mumford; Secretary Dorothy Sager. There were no nominations from the floor. Bruce Frey make a motion that the nominations be closed; Carl Sager seconded. The proposed slate was elected by an overwhelming vote of members present; only one negative vote [Peter Huston] was cast. Publicity and membership chairman is now Peter Huston who asked for ideas and support from any group members who wish to volunteer. The Hoyts will coordinate publicity for the May meeting.

A report was made of the appearance of ISUNY members on WRPI (91.5 on your dial). Peter Huston, Lewis Treadway, and Dorothy Sager talked and fielded a few phone calls (thank you fellow club members) on Thursday March 27. The topics covered were the Sagers' visit to the First World Skeptic's Congress in Amherst, New York in June 1996, Peter Huston's new book Scams from the Great Beyond: How to Make Easy Money Off of ESP, Astrology, UFOs, Crop Circles, Cattle Mutilations, Alien Abductions, Atlantis, Channeling, and Other New Age Nonsense, and Lewis's interest in vampire role-playing games. The calls from non-members were especially enthusiastic about finding the program. ISUNY members will have another opportunity to wow the WRPI listening audience on Thursday, April 24, 1997.

The evening's program was a fascinating display of psychic powers. For an in-depth review, see Mike Sofka's article elsewhere in this issue.

-Dot Sager, Secretary

Thank You.

Thank you to Peter Huston, Dorothy Sager, Donald E. Simanek, and David ``The Mighty'' Quinne for their contributions to this newsletter. Thank you also to Peter Huston, Robert Mulford, and Dorothy and Ralph Hoyt for their help planning and publicizing ISUNY meetings, and to Herb Jones for making room arrangements with the Guilderland Library. A special thank you to Dorothy Sager for copy-editing. Dot does an excellent job removing spelling and grammar errors, and offering clarifications. Remaining errors are entirely due to unfavorable astral alignment.

ISUNY thanks all of its members for their support. We would especially like to thank our Patron members: Jordan Coleman, Charles Davies, Larry Jones & Barbara Eisenstadt, Alan & Susan French, Dr. Richard H. Lange, Christopher Masto, Hugh A. McGlinchey, Bob & Dee Mulford, Dorothy and Carl Sager, Mike & Carla Sofka, Douglas Wells, Guier Scott Wright.

About the Newsletter.

The WHY-Files is the newsletter of the Inquiring Skeptics of Upper New York. Articles, reviews and letters can be sent to the editor at sofkam@rpi.edu, or to 8 Providence Street, Albany, NY 12203. Hard copy and disks will be returned only if accompanied by a self addressed and stamped envelope, or at regular club meetings.

The newsletter was typeset using the document preparation system written and placed in the public domain by Donald Knuth of Stanford University. Macros for this newsletter are available at http://www.rpi.edu/~sofkam/tex.html. The Why-Files are available at: http://www.rpi.edu/~sofkam/isuny/.

Unless otherwise stated, permission is granted to other skeptical organizations to reprint articles from The Why-Files as long as proper credit is given. The Why-Files also requests that you send copies of your newsletters that reprint our articles. All articles printed in The Why-Files remain the copyrighted property of their author.

Articles, reports, reviews, and letters published in The WHY-Files represent the views and work of individual authors. Their publication does not necessarily constitute an endorsement by Inquiring Skeptics of Upper New York or its members unless so stated.


1 The results of operation ``Deep Pockets'' have recently been de-classified. This unique set of data has skeptics, psychics and parapsychologist agreeing that more research is needed to come to an agreement.

2 David Quinne was himself unable to attend Wednesday's meeting. He is on assignment for The Why-Files in Lowville, NY.

3 In case anybody was looking, Teo/Chris was specifically instructed to ``limp'' from the car to the library.

4 Daniel was convincing enough that one regular attendee left part way though the meeting. I'll have to give him a call.

5 When asked afterwards, Daniel referred to faith healers as the ``worst of scum'' and emphasized he would never stoop that low.

6 I asked several other members for their impression of the general audience's response. They were too busy watching Daniel, however, to notice how others were reacting.

7 Daniel Ryder, Breaking the Circle of Satanic Ritual Abuse: Recognizing and Recovering from the Hidden Trauma, CompCare Publishers, Minneapolis, 1992

8 Mark Pendergrast, Victims of Memory: Sex Abuse Accusations and Shattered Lives, 2nd ed., Upper Access, 1996, $24.95.