Phillip Lee

Date of demonstration:
August 21, 2011
Lead Investigator:
Wendy Hughes
Article:
Wendy Hughes and Jim Underdown
Photography:
Courtesy Susan Gerbic

Phillip Lee initially emailed the First Responders committee of the Independent Investigations Group (IIG), which deals with all potential new claimaints, on July 16, 2011. He followed up on July 18. Finally, he phoned the offices of Center for Inquiry-Los Angeles (CFI-LA), home of the IIG, on July 20th.

An excerpt from his claim, in brief:

“… I literally have the ability to hear through walls and long distances physically impossible to hear with the normal human ear. I have tried this with my friends and I can hear conversations pertaining to my appearance, clothes I'm wearing, the t.v. shows I like to watch, the sports I like to play, and etc. I can even hear my friend when he was at my neighbors [sic] house and I was residing at my house. In conclusion I honestly believe I am the most powerful clairaudient in the world.”

We determined that his claim was testable, and worked with him to design a protocol for his demonstration once he submitted his paranormal challenge application. The demonstration occurred on August 21, 2011.

The Protocol

We would place Lee in the Steve Allen Theater at CFI-LA in Hollywood, California and assign IIG volunteers to an upstairs room; they would be approximately seventy-five feet and one floor apart. The volunteers were to read aloud, in their normal speaking voices, a series of words and phrases that had been provided by the claimant, in random order. Lee would be told right after each word or phrase had been read to let us know what he'd heard.

Hearing and Sound

Lead Investigator Wendy Hughes
Lead Investigator Wendy Hughes

Prior to the claimant's arrival, IIG volunteers attempted to determine if there was any potential sound leakage between the room where the phrases would be read and the one in which Lee would be listening. An IIG volunteer sounded an air horn in the reading area which measured 110 deciBels (dB) right next to the horn. That sound was undetectable to the sound pressure level meter in the room downstairs.

The ambient sound level in the theater was measured at ~65 dB with the air conditioning turned on, and ~50dB with it off. When the air conditioning was off, the sound of the air horn didn't measurably increase the dB level in the theater above 50dB. The demonstration was conducted with the air conditioning on, which we believe effectively masked any potential sound leakage through the floor and walls of the building. We felt confident that spoken words could not be heard through normal means from the designated reader room.

Nonetheless, as an extra precaution, IIG volunteers built a fort upstairs out of upended furniture, tables, foam rubber, beach blankets, duvateen, and carpeting to further dampen any sound coming from the readers. There were also two sets of doors separating the rooms.

The Test Began

The claimant arrived, was greeted and shown both the upstairs fort and the stage where he would be seated, and was then searched for electronic devices. Lee inspected the 50 cards provided, all words and phrases he'd previously approved for the test, and selected 25 for use that day. They were to be shuffled and placed in a punch bowl in the readers' area upstairs. A brief pre-test interview was conducted with Lee in the Steve Allen theater.

Once the test was underway, IIG volunteers in both speaker and listener locations were appointed with walkie-talkies to cue readers and Lee. When a reader was cued to proceed by the downstairs team, a "card flipper" selected a card from the punch bowl, drew a number on the back to indicate its place in the sequence, and showed it to the camera, number side and word side, and then to the readers. The first reader would read the word or phrase. Then, after a signal from downstairs, a second reader would read the same word or phrase.

Lee was unable to make a guess of the first, second or third words. He requested that the readers come down to the theater so he could talk with them face to face.

Downstairs, Lee asked if the readers could read the words out in the lobby, just outside of the room where he was seated, to see if he could hear them, though this would obviously not meet the criteria required for the official test. they complied, but he was still unable to hear them. At the claimant's request, the test was ended before the fourth round. Over 20 IIG members participated in the preliminary test.

Pre and Post Interview

On the stage of the Steve Allen Theater, pre- and post- test interviews were conducted by IIG steering member Mark Edward and IIG member Dr. John Suarez. During the pre-test interview, Lee stated he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and drugs to treat that condition had been prescribed, but he was no longer using the prescriptions. This had not come up during our earlier correspondence.

It is not within IIG's purview to diagnose, or even ask if a diagnosis of mental illness was ever made of our claimants. It is neither within our area of expertise or clearly relevant to anyone's likelihood of having paranormal abilities. Similarly, the year before this test, we conducted a demonstation on someone who was clearly under the influence of alcohol, for the same reason.

The claimant left after his post-test interview; During the Q&A that followed, John Suarez and Mark Edward were asked if all people who claim to have supernatural power were suffering from mental illness. John answered that there are two types of people who make such claims; one type is the sociopath who feeds off others by fooling them into thinking they have supernatural powers of communication or prediction. Another type is merely mistaking cause and effect relationships, such as the owner of Sparky the Wonder Dog, who thought his dog could count by barking the same number of times as the man said to bark. What the owner didn't realize was that the dog was reacting to his unconscious hand signals. When IIG members put a barrier between the dog and the owner, obscuring the dog's view of the owner's hands, the dog didn't bark.

Test Papers
Test Papers

John Suarez commented a few days after the demonstration, “… someone suggested… we should be more thorough in screening to exclude the more obviously psychotic. That may not always be easy. But in addition, the more we screen, the fewer candidates (much fewer than now) we would have. I favor the current level of selection, with the acceptance that we shall continue to encounter just below the surface mostly disturbed individuals. We need to test people regularly, both to hone our skills and to show the world that despite any and all claims paranormal activities are just that. We should do our best to do no harm, and to make sure that we remain as narrowly defined investigators, and not mental health professionals.”

So far, nobody has ever been found by the IIG to have supernatural ability; no claimant has passed the preliminary test.