Robert Mooreland first contacted the IIG about testing his claimed abilities in September 2011. IIG member Wendy Hughes responded to Mr. Mooreland and started the back and forth communication regarding his claimed abilities and the best way to test them.
Claim and Negotiations
The earliest communications from Mr. Mooreland included videos and photos along with some text.
“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.
Members of both the First Responders Committee, which responds to initial correspondence from applicants, and the Steering Committee could not see what Mr. Mooreland identified as the subjects in his photos and videos. His correspondence and supporting media -- of piles of rock stacked in the desert, what he claimed was an alien in his car, etc. -- were all either (a) not clearly paranormal or (b) not completely visible. In either case, neither suggested a testable claim eligible for the $50,000 award.
On October 26 2011, the IIG agreed to email Mr. Mooreland to inform him that he would have to submit a claim that could be reproduced in our presence. We also requested he complete the official IIG $50,000 paranormal challenge application.
He did so, and mailed it to us. His claim was broad: "identify hidden objects within a sealed container or behind a partition."
The Test (Demonstration)
Mr. Mooreland provided information about various test protocols he had tried on his own in which he had had some success. In one, he used small 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 different colors and Mr. Mooreland placed the items in the boxes himself, the IIG did not consider this meaningful. In another self test, Mr. Mooreland concealed pictures of celebrities inside cardboard boxes and then guessed which photo was where. The IIG decided that we could set up a similar, more rigorous, protocol based on this test that would meet our requirements for testable claims.
The IIG requested that Mooreland send us links to approximately 100 pictures of assorted celebrities that he would be willing to use in a demonstration. Unfortunately, the links were either unusable or were simply Google image searches of celebrities where it was unclear which picture was indicated. In March 2012, Mr. Mooreland sent us a video of himself picking pictures of U.S. presidents in boxes. After some back and forth, we agreed that we would use envelopes instead of boxes and, instead of presidents, the following four photos: a MMA champ, a Star Wars character, Air Force jets, and the Lincoln Memorial. All four were provided by the claimant. After the test, Mr. Mooreland was asked about why he selected these images, and he stated he associated them with power.
Mr. Mooreland would be required to guess all four pictures on three consecutive trials. Each photo would be used one time in each of the three rounds. The odds of guessing all twelve pictures correctly, if they are randomized, clocked in at 13,824:1, exceeding the the 5,000:1 odds we require as a minimum for a preliminary demonstration. We expected some correct "hits" by random chance given the small amount of photos involved (especially since he knew what the four photos were going into the test), so some members did push for a larger image pool to avoid any suggestion that some correct random guesses were statistically meaningful.
A. Matt Hughes
B. Aayla Secura
C. A-10 Warthog
D. Lincoln Memorial
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): We would proceed with the demonstration using an IIG volunteer in place of Mr. Mooreland so that members would have a chance to practice testing protocols. We also conducted a run through a few days before the official test. Mr. Mooreland arrived in Los Angeles a day early, however, and arrived to the demonstration promptly.
The last minute details such as the live streaming of the test were set in place, along with 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 recorded, 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.
Before the demonstration could begin Mr. Mooreland had to signed a release allowing us to document this event.
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 four different images just mentioned) for each round, a total of six printed copies of each image for the entire demonstration. The applicant was able to see these images before the demonstration began to confirm they were the ones he sent and he still felt that they would work for him.
To prevent information leakage, the demonstration was double-blinded (preventing even accidental cues from being given to Mr. Mooreland or any observers). At the beginning of each round a volunteer, the stuffer, isolated him/herself in a separate room with the door closed and remained there for the entirety of that round. The stuffer placed one set of the images into one set of envelopes, sealed and shuffled the envelopes, and placed them outside the door, signalling, using a bell, that they were ready to be picked up by the next volunteer, the placer. No visual contact was made between the stuffer and the placer, thus maintaining the double-blind testing condition. The placer then picked up the set of four envelopes and laid them out on the table in front of the claimant. Using the sets of four duplicate photos provided to him, the claimant then placed the photo that he felt was a match (to the content of each sealed envelope) on top of the appropriate envelope.
Mr. Mooreland was not allowed to touch or lift the envelopes while they were on the table and was requied to maintain a distance of 24 inches from the envelopes. He was permitted to have a clipboard, paper and a pen on his lap to take notes.
After Mr. Mooreland made his choices during each round, a volunteer marked the envelopes accordingly and Mr. Mooreland then signed the envelopes to confirm his selections. The duplicate photos Mr. Mooreland placed on the envelopes were then stapled to the envelopes, 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 seven guesses short of being able to move on to the payoff part of the $50,000 Challenge, which would require overcoming 1,000,000 to 1 odds. Mr. Mooreland can reapply for the Challenge one year after the first attempt.
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.
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)."