Exposing the Sceptics

I recently listened to a podcast featuring an interview with James Randi (2010) and commentary with Ben Radford.  The subject matter was the Tina Resch poltergeist case in Columbus, Ohio, in 1984.  I was stunned at the inaccuracies, especially from a group that claims to do their homework.

In the interest of full disclosure (which automatically disqualifies me according to sceptics), I know Tina Resch.  I know her quite well.  I also have met Ben Radford, and for the most part have a great deal of respect for him.  I consider myself a “true sceptic”, meaning I don’t form conclusions without evidence.  Most of my time is spent debunking orb photographs and testing dog hair for Chupacabra DNA.  In other words, debunking.

I listened to this interview with a sinking heart.  They dismissed Tina because she had been “caught”; in one set of photographs she was seen throwing something.  In their opinion, therefore, she faked them all.  My goal here is not to prove or disprove what happened to Tina.  I’m more interested in applying Randi’s standards to his own opinion.

James Randi was a magician.  As such, he approached his “research” from that in that he believes that like traditional magic, paranormal events can be explained by slight of hand, natural causes, or downright trickery.  He set up a fund promised to anyone who could “prove” the paranormal, but made the rules so strict that it would be impossible to meet his standards.  It saves him lots of money, but it doesn’t prove anything.

A little background is necessary.  Tina was a teenager, in a home that was full of foster children.  For quite some time, things would move around—big things like couches and little things like glassware.  The adults of the family, very hard working, religious people, were quite distraught.  After working with their clergy, they finally contacted the local newspaper and a photographer put them in touch with Dr. William Roll, a noted Parapsychologist.  Bill was flown to Columbus, Ohio from North Carolina to research onsite.  He and an assistant lived in the house with the family to document all that was happening.

James Randi suggests that Dr Roll was in it for the money.  He wrote a book, that is certain, but anyone who writes knows you don’t make any money unless and until you become quite famous.  In addition, the Resch’s lost almost all of their income, having to give up the foster children during the chaos.  Tina became socially withdrawn.  In truth, nobody benefited in any way from this who fiasco.

Randi and company claim Tina did all of this n the hope of finding her birth parents.  They claim she was a foster child.  They claim she was married at 16 and twice divorced before moving to Georgia just a few years later.  They claim her three year old daughter Amber was killed by Tina’s boyfriend while Tina was away for six hours working on an autobiography.  None of that is true, and can easily be researched.  Randi et al dropped the ball; their own methodology debunks their research.

During the time that Tina’s poltergeist experiences were happening, James Randi came to Columbus to investigate.  The Resch’s would not let him in the house.  They had been told of his debunker stance, and wanted no part of anyone whose mind was already made up.  Ironically, this is what he claims about “paranormalists”—that their research is so skewed by belief systems that it renders the data forensically inadmissible.

Randi, Radford, Nickel and others  seem to dismiss events out of hand simply because they don’t “believe” the witnesses.  Let that sink in.

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.  If you don’t experience something, that doesn’t mean others can’t.

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