Tampa Bay Skeptics "$1,000 Challenge"
with James D. Moore, Jr.

Moore A TBS "$1,000 Challenge" of Gainesville dowser James D. Moore, Jr., was conducted in the "Green Room" of WTVT-TV 13 in Tampa on Sept. 10, 1999. Originally scheduled to be carried "live" on that day's "Your Turn  with Kathy Fountain" portion of the noon newshour (from 12:30 to 1:00), the show was "bumped" due to late-breaking news regarding the 1997 Sabrina Aisenberg missing-child case (the parents had just been arrested).

But due to apparent high public interest (confirmed by several calls to the station inquiring as to why the "Challenge" was not being shown that day as previously advertised), Fountain decided to devote a future program to the proceedings (which were recorded on digital video) during the November ratings "sweeps" period. The show, which also included a general discussion about belief in the paranormal, as well as phone calls from viewers, aired on November 1.

The results of the "Challenge" turned out just as TBS had predicted. Out of 23 boxes, Mr. Moore correctly determined the contents of 12, and missed 11, exactly as would be expected from random guesswork (see details below).

[Moore was also retested by TBS on Dec. 18, 1999 -- details here.]

Gainesville dowser James D. Moore, Jr., who claims the ability to detect the presence of buried gold, silver and precious gems by use of a plastic divining rod, was the subject of the third TBS "$1,000 Challenge" in our 11-year history. Moore was referred to TBS by the James Randi Educational Foundation for screening/pre-testing. Had Moore successfully performed for TBS and won our $1,000 prize, Randi would have then tested him for his foundation's $1,000,000 jackpot.

The test protocol resembled that used by TBS for our previous tests of "psychics" Joan Morin and Virginia Levy, except that 1 oz. gold coins were placed in some boxes, and wafers of unfinished/uncoated aluminum (approx. 2 x 2") in the other boxes (all objects were supplied by TBS). Mr. Moore supplied 23 handmade, open-topped boxes (made of lead) and the specially processed/cleaned sand that was used to cover their contents, as well as the divining rod ("Crazy Rod") made of plastic (with no sensors or electronics of any kind). He was permitted to place the end of the rod within inches of the sand.

Mr. Moore needed to correctly determine which of the 23 boxes contained a gold coin, and which did not. To "win" the Challenge, he needed to get each and every box correct. The probability of doing so, in the absence of genuine "divining" power, was 1 in 8,388,608 (1:2 to the 23rd power), since each box, like a coin flip, had only two possible outcomes (gold or aluminum) and, like a coin flip, the probability of simply guessing any one box correctly was 1 in 2.

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The Challenge Protocol
[ The results ]

James D. "Junior" Moore of Gainesville, Florida ("Claimant"), was referred to the Tampa Bay Skeptics ("TBS") by the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) for screening/pre-testing. Claimant had previously contacted JREF in quest of its $1,000,000 prize for scientific proof of paranormal ability.

Mr. Moore claims to possess the ability, by use of a "Y" rod (made of plastic and containing no electronic, magnetic/metallic or other components), to determine the presence of hidden gold and/or precious gems. He is agreeable to having his ability tested in the manner as described below, since such a test can be conducted scientifically, with the probability of success being known, in advance, with mathematical certainty. At the conclusion of the test, the results, whether constituting success or failure, will be self-evident, without the need for a panel of judges or any subjective interpretation.

The TBS "$1,000 Challenge" shall take place at the studios of WTVT-TV 13, Tampa, Florida, on the morning and early afternoon of Friday, September 10, 1999.

1) The formal testing shall not begin until and unless two copies of this document have first been signed by both the Claimant and two official representatives of TBS, signifying their agreement to all conditions specified herein and that the actual test conditions on site appear to be mutually satisfactory such that the Challenge may proceed.

2) Prior to the commencement of the formal testing, TBS shall surrender its $1,000 check to Kathy Fountain. The check will be made out to James D. Moore, Jr.

3) Claimant shall supply the lead-lined boxes and sand to be used. TBS shall supply the 1 oz. gold coins and the approx. 2 x 2" unfinished, uncoated aluminum wafers (obtained from a Tampa metalworks company). Claimant reserves the right to have all persons in the vicinity remove their jewelry, etc., so as not to interfere with the test conditions.

4) TBS reserves the right to reject any item that appears to possibly have been contrived for deception in this test, such as magnetized metal or an electronic device. Claimant agrees to be "strip searched," if deemed necessary by TBS, so as to satisfy TBS that no trickery is being employed.

5) Claimant agrees that he has no need to physically touch a box in order to detect the presence of gold therein. He may place the end of his "Y" rod within about 4-6 inches of the boxes, but shall not touch, move, shake, or in any way physically disturb any of the boxes.

6) Each of the 23 boxes used in this test shall contain a layer of sand at the bottom (approx 1/4 inch or so), an object (either a gold coin or aluminum wafer, as described above) centered on top of the sand, and another comparable layer of sand covering the object. The boxes shall all be prepared thusly several days beforehand by a member of TBS (at Claimant's request -- to more closely simulate the real-life field conditions under which he usually works). To "double blind" the test, not even the TBS member will know, at the time of testing, which boxes contain a gold coin and which contain aluminum. To begin the formal testing, a member of TBS shall place the first of the 23 boxes before the Claimant. Claimant shall declare whether the box contains a gold coin or not. That box shall then be clearly marked so as to indicate gold or not, and placed securely to one side by a TBS member, to be kept in plain view by all observers until the completion of the Challenge. The next box shall then be placed before the Claimant, and so on, until all 23 boxes have been declared to contain gold or not (those declared to contain gold shall be place to one side, and the other boxes to the other side). At his request, the Claimant shall then have a chance to "review" his selections, and make any desired changes, before the test is then declared by TBS to be completed. The probability of a "successful" declaration for any given box is 1 in 2, in the absence of genuine divining power (i.e., by chance guesswork). The probability of 23 consecutive "successful" declarations is 1 in 8,388,608 (1:2 to the 23rd power) in the absence of genuine divining power. The contents of the boxes shall be divulged only after the completion of the test, and Claimant must be correct for each and every box in order to win the Challenge.

7) At any time prior to the completion of the final box or run, should the Claimant or a designated TBS representative find that the test conditions have been violated or have otherwise become unsatisfactory, the Challenge shall immediately be temporarily suspended or voided. Upon completion of the final box or run, TBS shall declare the Challenge to have been concluded, and the contents of the boxes shall then be divulged.

8) Claimant must achieve "success" in all the boxes/runs (as described above) in order to "win" the TBS "$1,000 Challenge." However, one must bear in mind that, even should he succeed in winning the Challenge, the possibility of a fluke 1-in-8-million "lucky day" cannot be excluded as a possible explanation. Further testing, with similarly "successful" results, would be necessary in order to conclusively "prove" to TBS, and to the scientific community at large, that the Claimant truly possesses genuine divining power.

9) Should Claimant "win" the Challenge, TBS shall be obliged to:

   a) immediately have the $1,000 check presented to Claimant (payment personally guaranteed by this document's signatories representing TBS). Should Claimant not win, the check shall be returned to TBS.

   b) promptly issue a Press Release and write an article for publication describing Claimant's successful performance

   c) promptly engage the James Randi Educational Foundation to test Claimant for its $1,000,000 prize

10) Should Claimant fail to win the Challenge, TBS shall have the right to:

   a) issue a Press Release announcing Claimant's unsuccessful performance and inability during this experiment to demonstrate for TBS sufficient evidence of his divining power

   b) write articles about the test for publication

   c) use the videotape(s) in any appropriate and lawful manner

All signatories to this agreement declare that the above conditions have been mutually agreed upon, are fair, and appear to constitute a valid means of scientifically testing for the Claimant's alleged "divining" ability.

By entering into this agreement, Claimant surrenders any and all rights to legal action (as far as this may be done by existing statutes) against Tampa Bay Skeptics, Inc., and its representatives. This clause applies to injury, accident, or any other damage of any kind, including physical, emotional, financial and/or professional.

Signed freely and without reservation on this 10th day of September, 1999.



James D. "Junior" Moore ("Claimant")


Gary P. Posner (for TBS)






Terry A. Smiljanich (for TBS)




The "Challenge" Results

Read about TBS's retest of Moore on Dec. 18, 1999

Return to $$$ Challenges page