TBS Executive Council Position Statement
on Noreen Renier and "Psychic" Power

Nearly 10 years ago, the Summer 1990 "Tampa Bay Skeptics Report" contained a TBS Executive Council Position Statement explaining TBS's reasons for our extensive coverage of the activities of Noreen Renier. Since, in recent years, TBS (and particularly Gary Posner) has been accused of having an "obsession" with Renier, and even of being intent upon her destruction, the Executive Council has decided to reiterate its position. Much of the wording of this Position Statement is taken from our original Statement.

Despite the claims of those who purport to possess such abilities, TBS is unaware of any successful demonstration of paranormal power by anyone, anywhere, at any time, under properly controlled observing conditions that eliminate non-paranormal explanations. The fact that people portray themselves as psychics, or astrologers, and develop a loyal following, does not constitute credible evidence that such abilities are genuine (other than the ability to please).

Noreen Renier is of particular interest to TBS for several reasons. First, she is the most famous Florida "psychic," having been featured on national television programs and in national magazines (including U.S. News & World Report). Second, by virtue of her successful 1986 libel trial against skeptic John Merrell (who had accused her of being a "fraud"), some may have incorrectly inferred that her "psychic power" has been vindicated in the courtroom. (The legal entaglements between John Merrell and Noreen Renier are detailed in Gary Posner's chapter on Renier in Psychic Sleuths: ESP and Sensational Cases.)

The third reason for our special interest in Renier relates to her response to TBS chairman Terry Smiljanich's 1990 invitation that she allow TBS to scientifically test her. She called TBS founder Gary Posner on March 15 of that year, in part to thank TBS for printing excerpts from her recent Press Release, and to deny Terry's statement in our Spring '90 issue that, during her telephone conversation with him, she had falsely represented herself as an "adjunct professor" at Rollins College (maintaining that she had said "adjunct instructor"). But with regard to our invitation, she informed Posner that she had no interest in being tested "by a doctor and an attorney" (referring to Posner and Smiljanich), as she is "working on too many police cases and with too many scientists to have the time. . . . I'll let the scientists do it." The following is from Smijanich's Feb. 27, 1990, letter to her:

This letter is in response to your request (during our telecon of Feb. 5) that TBS submit to you a proposal for a test of your ability to perform "psychometry." Later that evening at our TBS meeting, we watched your appearance on "Incredible Sunday" [an ABC-TV program] in which you performed "psychometry" on police officers' keys and rings, which were sealed in envelopes [see right]. It is therefore obvious that, in preparing our test, it is not necessary that we allow you to either see or touch the actual objects -- only the containers that the objects are in.

It is also obvious that if you are indeed able to read the vibrations from the objects, you ought to be able to determine if a hidden ring or key is one of your own,  or that of a stranger. I propose that we employ keys and/or rings in our test, and that we use opaque envelopes (or preferably small cardboard jewelry boxes, which we purchased for a previous test and already have a supply of). We would place a key or ring in each of 10 boxes; one of the 10 objects would be your own,  and the other 9 not. After touching or holding the 10 boxes, you would choose which contained your own object. We would conduct 10 runs of this test, using 10 boxes each time.

If you are able to successfully find your own object 8 times out of 10 (i.e., we would allow a 20% margin of error), you will have accomplished a feat so unlikely by chance alone (approx. 1:10,000,000 odds) that we would enthusiastically endorse the accomplishment as an apparently true psychic feat, award you our $1,000 prize at a press conference, and submit an article for publication in whatever scientific journal would accept it. As our next newsletter is due out in March, we would like to arrange such a test ASAP, and make it the focus of our next meeting in April, with the local press present. Please contact me promptly with your response. [Note: Our standard is now approx. 1:1,000,000.]

The TBS Executive Council is of the opinion that someone specializing in "psychometry" (as does Renier), performing readings on objects for individuals as well as for police departments, ought to be able to succeed at a simple test such as that proposed by our chairman, and we were dismayed by her out-of-hand refusal to accept the challenge. Subsequently, as a result of our continued tough reporting, her attorney told Terry that he had advised his client not to have further contact with us. But TBS remains available and willing to carry out a controlled test, either the one described above or one designed jointly with Renier, should she reconsider.

Return to TBS Report  Online Index

Return to list of our skeptical articles on Renier