Lightning Man

In what might be a first, skeptics tested a prize-seeking paranormal claimant during a pandemic. 

On Saturday June 20th, 2020 the Center for Inquiry Investigations Group tested an applicant for our $250,000 Paranormal Challenge. Representing the CFIIG in the CFI West parking lot were Jim U., Jim N., Spencer M., Paula L., Mike S., Michael B., and Armen K.. Several other members of the group observed via a Zoom meeting on a laptop that was placed on a chair in the lot.

The applicant, TR, agreed to meet the CFIIG for an informal demonstration of some of his abilities. An informal demonstration can precede the official two-part quarter million dollar challenge when the claim or claims need clarification, and/or when additional explanation to an applicant’s online application and correspondence is needed. TR has been in contact with the group for many months and had mentioned several different paranormal abilities. This demonstration was an effort to narrow his claims and to see in person what he was talking about.

The applicant’s three-part claim included emitting static electricity from his hands, creating lightning in the sky, and teleporting 3 or more feet.

Jim Underdown spoke to TR on the phone earlier in the week and agreed to a noon gathering on Saturday at CFI. Underdown had checked the weather report beforehand to make sure a (rare) Los Angeles thunderstorm was not in the forecast.

While doing our best to practice social distancing and mask-wearing during the COVID 19 pandemic, we set up a couple of chairs in the parking lot and draped a blue tarp across them to form a barrier. Our thinking was that this barrier would create a more obvious division between where TR began and ended in a demonstration of teleportation.

TR arrived a bit after 12:00 pm and was greeted and wanded with a metal detector. This is standard operating procedure for all applicants, especially for claims (like emitting electricity from one’s hands) that could involve the use of technology in cheating. Jim reiterated that this was not an actual test, but to give us a better understanding of what he could do. TR was also informed that the whole procedure would be photographed, videoed, and audio recorded.

Upon being introduced to the tarp barrier, TR said that he “can’t go through things”, and reminded us that he must be moving to teleport. He soon after showed us what he meant and walked around the barrier in a sort of herky-jerky motion. He asked us if we saw the teleportation, and we replied that we did not. We only saw someone walking. We offered to show him the just-shot video of him, and he declined to view it.

We then moved on to TR’s claim of being able to emit electricity from his hands and put lightning in the sky. TR let us know that he had to be listening to music to generate a charge. We monitored both his hands and the sky above us while TR closed his eyes and listened to his earbuds. We observed no lightning in the sky or sparks coming from his hands. He said he sees it, but we did not, nor did the video cameras.

TR discussed the origin of his abilities, black magic, God, and other thoughts about his abilities. Jim asked about the rehab facilities TR was in, and if he was given any medication for what he was experiencing. TR said he was there to get off cocaine, and did not mention being on medications for schizophrenia or any other illness.

The CFIIG and TR parted amicably, after it was agreed that no paranormal powers had occurred.

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