Tampa Bay Skeptics
"$1,000 Challenge" of
"Psychic" Virginia Levy
September 19, 1998
TBS's two-hour video documenting the true circumstances of self-proclaimed "psychic" and "prophet"
Virginia Levy's unsuccessful
"$1,000 Challenge" effort in 1998,
and the extent to which she maliciously lied to the reporter for
this 2008 article in the Tampa Bay Times (formerly St. Petersburg Times), has been divided
into 12 segments (see below) and made available on YouTube. The segments overlap by 10 seconds to assure that nothing has been
edited out. We also had this
corrective Letter to the Editor published one week
after the article ran. (During a telephone conversation with the reporter, she told
TBS founder Gary Posner that Levy had said even worse things about him that were too offensive
to be included in the article.)
Levy's contemporaneous rationalizations for having failed the Challenge, as expressed in an e-mail sent the very next day (9/20/98) to her friends/supporters (with cc to Posner), included no complaints whatsoever about having been treated inappropriately by Posner or anyone else. From that e-mail:
"No, I didn't win. I didn't want to. You guys were right. I thought I had to try anyways. Despite the odds. Looks like the stress of the past three months, along with major oral surgery and medication four days before the challenge (along with five days of non-intentional fasting) proved to be more than I was capable of. Gee, I'm not Superwoman after all. No excuses, just observations. Just the facts. Well, there goes my membership with the 'Men in Black'!"
00:58 - 03:11: Introductory remarks by TBS chairman Terry Smiljanich (at 2:53 mentions that Levy has agreed to this test protocol, and she nods in agreement).
03:33: Tampa Tribune reporter Sean Ledig is handed the $1,000 check, made out to Levy, to be given to her if she wins the Challenge.
04:45: Brief introductory remarks by TBS founder Gary Posner, and final signings of the Challenge protocol agreements.
06:25: Levy introduces herself.
08:05: Levy places a crystal into one of the 10 boxes for Run #1 (of 7).
09:05: Having been thoroughly mixed such that no one knows which contains the crystal, the 10 boxes for Run #1 are placed back on the table.
00:04 - 00:13: Posner announces that if, at any time, anyone sees anything of concern, to bring it to our attention immediately.
00:24 - 00:36: Levy announces that she is waiting a few moments for the spirits to begin sending her the information she needs to find the correct boxes containing the crystals.
1:10: Levy's cousin Wendy observing the events.
2:03: Levy's daughter.
3:00: Levy again explains the initial delay in making her selection, as she needs to "get in tune" with the spirits.
7:00 - 7:10: Levy mentions that her cousin may be better at this than she is, and Posner says the cousin is welcome to come forward and assist (Levy declines the offer).
8:15 - 8:35: Levy narrows her selection in Run #1 to two boxes, #3 and #7 (but, as you will later see, she ultimately selects neither of those).
9:54: Levy decides to "quit fooling around."
00:12: Levy says, "I'm going to shut up and do this."
00:50: Levy deep in thought, obviously trying very hard to pick the correct box, contrary to her later claim that she had purposely lost the Challenge.
1:44: Levy makes her selection (off camera); selects Box #6 (not #3 or #7 as she had earlier indicated).
1:50 - 1:55: The pink slip is seen on the lid of the selected box (#6).
2:55: Levy places a crystal into the box for Run #2.
3:40 - 5:50: Posner and Levy discuss "psychometry" vs. other psychic ability, and what she is doing during this test.
6:00 - 6:10: Levy reiterates that this test protocol is fine with her ("This works for me").
7:12: Though barely audible, Levy says "Thank you, Gary, I appreciate that," after Posner once again offers to let Levy's cousin Wendy come forward to assist her (but Levy again declines).
7:50: Levy selects Box #2.
8:20 - 8:40: Levy jokingly comments about Posner's "beady little eyes" and then says, "Actually he's kind of cute in person." No complaints about the test or how she is being treated.
9:30 - 10:00: Levy places a crystal into the box for Run #3. Still laughing and joking, she says, "You need to lighten up and have sex." She then jokes about the previous comment being on the videotape and says, "I'm going to have more fun with this than you guys are!"
1:47 - 2:05: Levy proclaims that she is "psychic" regardless of the result of this test, then quickly selects Box #8.
2:47 - 3:22: Levy asks for a last-chance opportunity to change her selections at the end of the test, before the boxes are opened. Though it was not part of the signed test protocol, Posner agrees to her request.
3:35: Still joking and having fun, Levy places a crystal into the box for Run #4.
4:18 - 4:25: Levy jokes about how long Posner had to work to earn the $1,000 that TBS is at risk of losing if she wins the Challenge (obviously she is not trying to lose, as she would later claim). Then there is discussion of James Randi's $1-million challenge, which Levy says she has made an application for as well.
6:07 - 6:17: Levy comments about Posner, "This man is almost honest to a fault."
7:35: Levy selects Box #7.
8:40 - 8:55: Levy places a crystal into the box for Run #5. She jokes and mentions, "You've got the $1,000 to lose. I've just got it to gain." She would later falsely claim that she didn't want to win the Challenge or the money.
9:33 to 10:00: Discussion about the previous TBS "$1,000 Challenge" contestant (from 1989) and some of her condition demands. Levy jokes, "She's not as cute as I am, either," and then receives a compliment about her personality. She is still having fun, with no complaints about the test or her treatment.
1:30: Levy jokes that Posner's professionalism, in keeping the Challenge moving along, relates to his bottle-feeding schedule as a baby.
3:24 - 3:35: Levy mentions how she has seen Jesus "face to face."
3:57 - 4:33: Levy selects Box #9. She then says that she's "not here for the money," but admits that she wouldn't mind winning it.
4:55: Levy places a crystal into the box for Run #6.
5:37 - 5:45: Speaking to her concerned daughter, Levy says, "Whatever the results are going to be will be." Certainly no indication that she didn't want to win, as she would later falsely claim.
6:07 - 6:40: Posner and Levy banter, with her ultimately inviting him to go with her to her "cave in the Georgia mountains." She then quickly selects Box #5.
7:37 - 7:52: Levy places a crystal into the box for Run #7, still joking and having fun.
8:45 - 10:00: Daughter laughing. Levy jokes with the spectators, then comments about how Posner is behaving "so calm and cool," and Posner jokes back. All contrary to Levy's later malicious claim of having been treated appallingly by Posner.
00:25: Levy points to a TBS member in the audience and comments, "He wants me to win so bad. I love this guy. He's great." Hardly indicative of the "negative" atmosphere she would later falsely allege.
2:42 - 3:30: Levy selects Box #2 for the 7th and final run. She then again mentions that she reserves the right to make last-minute selection changes when she gets back from her break, during which she will receive psychic information ("I want to have a talk with the 'Big Cheese' upstairs").
3:50 - 4:20: Levy and Posner still joking, and Levy agrees that the Challenge needed to be done in a professional, controlled manner like this.
4:28: Levy asks how many in the audience think she got them all correct. No indication that she purposely lost, as she would later falsely claim.
5:02: Levy talks about the nature of "reality."
6:02: Posner notes, and the audience agrees, that despite our skepticism, we are still open-minded to the possibility that Levy might have demonstrated psychic ability and won the Challenge. Levy nods approvingly. No evidence of the "negative" atmosphere she would later falsely complain of.
6:30: Levy discusses her belief in angels, etc.
6:52: Levy explains why she hopes she succeeded, contrary to her later false claim that she intended to fail.
7:45: Levy takes her break. Discussion among the audience.
00:47: Posner says he believes Levy is sincere.
2:30: Levy returns from her break.
3:50: Tampa Tribune reporter Sean Ledig begins opening the boxes from Run #1.
4:50: Crystal found in Box #10. Box #6 (Levy's selection, after initially having thought that it was in either #3 or #7) was empty. At this point, Levy has officially lost the Challenge.
5:27: Despite having lost, Levy is still laughing and joking. She would later maliciously claim that she left in a huff by this point due to her appalling mistreatment, and that the Challenge was a "scam."
7:15 - 7:45: In Run #2, she chose Box #2 but the crystal was in #5.
9:23: In Run #3, she chose Box #8 but the crystal was in #6.
9:46: Levy says, "It's all right, Angel" to her disappointed daughter. Levy certainly would not have intentionally subjected her daughter to this disappointment, though she would later falsely claim that she purposely lost.
00:10: Levy jokingly says, "I think he [the reporter] changed it." Posner then lets Levy open the boxes from the rest of the runs.
1:00: In Run #4, Levy finds her crystal in Box #5, but she had selected #7.
2:05 - 2:20: Posner jokes that he wants Levy back every time for these Challenges because she is putting the lids back on the boxes after opening them. Levy jokes that at least she psychically had made it rain that day. Still no indication of the appalling mistreatment that she would later maliciously accuse Posner of.
2:25 - 2:42: In Run #5, Levy finds her crystal in Box #8, but she had selected #9. She is still joking.
2:53: In Run #6, Levy finds her crystal in Box #7, but she had selected #5.
3:46: Levy jokingly asks, "Does being close count?" This is hardly someone who purposely lost the Challenge, as she would later falsely claim.
4:05 - 5:00: Levy checks the boxes from the 7th and final run, still joking. She finds her crystal in Box #8, but she had selected #2.
5:00 - 5:15: Posner explains that by chance alone, 1 correct would have been the most likely outcome, then 0 (which was Levy's result), then 2, 3, 4, etc.
5:35 - 6:05: A TBS member in the audience says, "Thank you for trying," and Levy receives a warm round of applause. She and Posner then joke about Posner having to void the $1,000 check that had been made out to her.
6:07 - 7:25: Levy makes excuses for having failed the Challenge that she had agreed to. Says she agrees that it was an appropriate test to try. No complaints about "negative energy," mistreatment, or anything else that she would later maliciously allege.
7:25: Levy claims the ability to find missing people, which leads to a discussion of the ongoing Tampa-area search for a missing little girl named Amanda Brown.
00:00 - 1:05: Levy boasts of her alleged 100% past success in predicting the events surrounding a missing-person case in Titusville. Posner asks Tampa Tribune reporter Sean Ledig if he wants to drive with Levy to the area where police are actively searching for Amanda Brown.
2:45 - 3:30: Levy and Posner still interacting very appropriately, more than 15 minutes after Levy would later claim she stormed out in a huff due to her appalling mistreatment by him.
3:58: Levy asks if someone has a picture of Amanda so that she can do a psychic reading and locate her without having to travel to the search area.
4:33: Levy is given a photo of Amanda from a recent newspaper.
5:30 - 6:25: Posner offers some concluding thoughts about the Challenge results.
6:30 - 6:50: Levy is still joking with Posner and having fun.
6:50: Levy now says that the Amanda Brown situation is perhaps why the spirits wanted her to come to the Challenge ("This might be why all this is taking place").
8:00 - 9:35: Discussion again about Levy doing a reading now to find Amanda. Posner leaves to get her a roadmap from his car. Levy talks with the reporter.
9:35 - 10:00 (and continued in Part 10): While Levy sequesters herself (accompanied only by the Tampa Tribune reporter) to obtain information from the spirits regarding the missing girl's whereabouts, students from the University of South Florida who attended the Challenge offer their opinions.
00:00 - 00:55: Students from the University of South Florida who attended the Challenge offer their opinions (continued from Part 9).
1:00: Having used the photo and map to psychically learn of Amanda's whereabouts (accomplished while sequestered except for the presence of Tampa Tribune reporter Sean Ledig, as she explains at 5:38 - 5:55), Levy now begins to reveal what the spirits told her during that contemplative hiatus.
6:30 - 9:25: Despite Posner's skeptical questioning, he and Levy are still interacting professionally. And despite having lost the Challenge a half-hour earlier, Levy still has not stormed out in a huff over her allegedly appalling mistreatment by Posner, as she would later maliciously claim.
9:35 (and continued in Part 11): Levy is encouraged to provide even more detail about Amanda's whereabouts and the perpetrator.
00:00: Levy is encouraged to provide more detail about Amanda's whereabouts and the perpetrator (continued from Part 10).
2:03 - 2:25: Posner asks Levy if the perpetrator is a member of Tampa Bay Skeptics; they are still friendly and joking.
5:00: Levy and her daughter. Still no evidence of the appalling mistreatment that she would later maliciously allege.
2:45: Levy thanks us for taking the time to let her do the reading.
3:28: Recorder battery dies after nearly two hours.
Note: Levy's "psychic" reading about Amanda Brown proved to be as off-base as her "$1,000 Challenge" performance (see here).
Return to Virginia Levy "$1,000 Challenge"