VOL. 10 NO. 3 WINTER 1997-98
Woman found murdered following visit by TBS membersby Glenn Thompson
No, we swear we didn't do it! But here's the little we do know about the "spirited" life and untimely death, at age 47, of Ms. Janice Nugent.
At a TBS quarterly meeting a couple years ago, Miles Hardy related the seemingly bizarre request of a woman who had originally called the USF Dept. of Psychology seeking help to explain the "faces" that were appearing in her fireplace (there were also "spirits" and other strange events happening in her home). Accepting the invitation, TBS members Michael Kleineschay and I volunteered to ferret out the source of these "faces." We've both always wanted to see something that we can't explain, and I was happy to serve as videographer. We didn't know, until she later told us, that about 60 other people had already been through her home to view the "faces."
On March 4, 1995, Michael, his two children (Alex and Evette, ages 10 and 12 at the time) and I arrived at the modest, bungalow-style home in the 300 block of West Chelsea, in the Seminole Heights section of Tampa. Ms. Nugent graciously greeted our little entourage and quickly ushered us into her tastefully decorated home. With permission to tape, Michael conducted the interview. Within the short space of fifteen minutes its was learned that the spirit of an eccentric old lady (who possibly died there) still roamed the house, the back bedroom was always strangely cold (even in summer), the floors creaked from someone (or something) walking around at night, the kitchen cabinets would swing open and shut by themselves, strange voices could be heard, and on and on.
When we finally got to the fireplace, we were told that it had been rebuilt the previous year, and had first been used about six days before Christmas. By the time Christmas rolled around, the soot-stained brick had developed various Rorschach-like patterns which, to the mind of Ms. Nugent, resembled angels and demons. To most people with a modicum of skepticism, these patterns would seem no more "real" than patterns divined in clouds. It thus became readily apparent that, to Ms. Nugent, cause and effect were not paramount principles. And, like many who feel plagued by such apparitions, no rational, scientific explanation would likely satisfy her regarding the ambiguous soot patterns found on the brick.
Even Michael's children, in spite of their tender years, independently reached the same conclusion -- there was nothing remarkable at all about the patterns. Yet both behaved in a manner that would make all skeptics proud. As Nugent swirled into ever-more-convoluted explanations/descriptions of the bizarre events that would reveal themselves to her, the children sat politely and listened respectfully, without a trace of a snicker, smile, or even a "rolled" eye. They both waited until the interview was over, when they were out of her earshot, to express anything negative. And never once did they say anything judgmental -- they just asked basic questions and made common-sense observations.
Because of the obvious non-event of the "faces," plus the fact that plainly this was a person with a deep psychological need for spiritual coping mechanisms, it was thought best not to write about the episode, lest she conclude that we had just been looking to make her the object of ridicule. But events have since transpired that have caused us to publish this report.
In early February of this year, Nugent was found beaten and strangled in her home, and the case remains unsolved to this day. I was out of town that week at Mardi Gras (I swear I have an air-tight alibi!), and didn't even become aware of her death until August 23, when I happened to recognize her name in a St. Petersburg Times article about the more recent murder of another woman, Leanne Coryell. Nugent's superficial resemblance to Coryell (both were attractive, with blond hair) had investigators wondering if Ray Johnston, arrested for Coryell's murder, might be a serial killer. Another possible link was the fact that Johnston was known to frequent Malio's bar/restaurant, where Nugent was last seen alive.
My recent attempts to get more details from the Tampa Police Department about Nugent's murder merely resulted in my being told that the case is still under investigation, and that they can't release any information.
It seems to me that as a single woman, living alone, who had invited some 60-odd people into her home to view her "apparitions," Nugent could have been more careful as to whom she let in. The real "demon" turned out to be something in human form. The tragic irony of her demise is that her concern over demons was legitimate enough, but would have been better placed in concern for the real variety as opposed to the paranormal.
Can anyone recommend a good psychic sleuth?
"Malcolm the Magnificent" TV show hosts TBSby Jack Robinson
On the evening of November 13th, Gary Posner and I were invited guests on the Tampa public access TV show hosted by "Malcolm the Magnificent" Hathorne (on Time Warner Channel 20). The subject was supposed to be UFOs, but other paranormal topics were brought up also.
During the broadcast, I felt somewhat frustrated because the discussion seemed to be dominated by the host. But after viewing my tape recording at home later, I perceived that Gary and I had made a number of good points.
A recurring theme during the discussion was the credibility -- or lack of credibility -- of anecdotal evidence. One of the cases I brought up was a famous one from 1966 involving a couple of deputy sheriffs who chased a "UFO" halfway across the state of Ohio and into Pennsylvania.
Malcolm immediately (and correctly) recalled that they had actually been pursuing the planet Venus; he is skeptical to the extent of agreeing -- and even asserting -- that many supposed UFOs are really hoaxes or misidentifications of natural phenomena. He also stated, however, that he believes some UFOs are spaceships from other worlds, their occupants are interacting with humans, and these ideas are conclusively supported by evidence that skeptics reject as anecdotal. I had difficulty getting in my main point (though it may have been adequately implied): The deputies' descriptions and sketches, if accepted at face value, would clearly rule out Venus and indicate a spaceship; hence their anecdotal evidence was unreliable. The problem then becomes: How can one know which anecdotes are believable and which are not?
Before the broadcast, Malcolm had sent Gary and me an article of his that began: "Former Army Master Sergeant Robert Dean is one of the most important spokespersons in the UFO community. During the 1960s he maintained a COSMIC Top Secret Clearance within SHAPE, the military arm of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and in 1991 he broke his security oath to tell the truth about UFOs and the United States Military coverup." I brought up this article, and suggested that before one accepts such anecdotal evidence as fact, one should at least do a background check on the witness. Then Gary quoted from a report by Philip Klass about Sergeant Dean's service record, which indicated that Dean had not served in the position he claimed, and had not received intelligence training. Malcolm responded that Dean's position and clearance were not in his service record because they were military secrets. How then does one choose between the two possibilities? Gary indicated how, by quoting from Carl Sagan: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof." And that made a nice conclusion for the program.
6/99 Addendum: Read about our next appearance with Malcolm
Local cable news channel has remote "Renier" link
Elliot Wiser, general manager of Time Warner's new Tampa Bay-area cable TV news channel, is mentioned in Gary Posner's chapter on Florida "psychic detective" Noreen Renier in the book Psychic Sleuths (Prometheus Books, 1994). Wiser (spelled "Wizer" in the chapter as a result of having been misspelled in the referenced newspaper article), had been news director of a Virginia radio station in the early 1980s, and host of Renier's weekly call-in program. In a 1991 telephone interview, Wiser told Posner, "I went into the show a skeptic of hers but I came away a believer. . . . She hit [the Reagan assassination attempt] right on the head -- I was there when she did it. She even predicted things about me that came true. . . . I found her to be the most accurate [psychic] that I've seen in the business." An additional footnoted reference to Wiser discusses his failure to honor his agreement to send Posner a copy of the National Examiner article containing the "Reagan" prediction.
St. Petersburg Times reporter Jeanne Malmgren, accompanied by staff photographer Kathleen Cabble, set out recently (no dates given) to find Florida's notorious "Skunk Ape," undoubtedly a first cousin to Bigfoot and second cousin (twice removed) to the Abominable Snowman. There had been several reported sightings (and smellings) of the malodorous mirage this summer in remote areas of the Big Cypress National Preserve in southwest Florida. The two-page article covered the search as well as some background material about the noxious beast, whose blurry image on a photograph taken in Ochopee (just east of Everglades City) resembles the more well-known photos of Bigfoot. If the stinker does exist (the Times crew never found it), one reason for its aroma may be the "bait" that locals are using to lure it into the open -- piles of beans left in the swamp.
(St. Petersburg Times, Nov. 2)
As is so typical of our gifted "psychics," apparently none was able to foresee that Princess Diana, perhaps the world's most well-known woman, would be killed this summer. But God had telegraphed his punch in the book of Exodus, according to Michael Drosnin, author of one of this year's best sellers, The Bible Code. The day after the tragedy, Drosnin claims to have decoded a biblical passage saying, "Diana/car accident/death," followed by "5757" (this year on the Hebrew calendar). But if God was "hip" enough, even back then, to refer to the automobile as a "car," what's with all that "thou spaketh unto ye" stuff?
(St. Petersburg Times, Sept. 19)
Now on to our gifted "trance channelers." According to a letter published in Ann Landers' column, J.Z. Knight, the American woman who since 1978 has channeled Ramtha (a 30,000-year-old warrior from Atlantis), has successfully sued a German woman for tuning into the same frequency. The legal battle over custody rights to the warrior began in 1992, when Knight apparently filed suit in Austria, claiming that the German, by contacting Ramtha herself, had created interference on Knight's psychic channel. The letter-writer reports that the Austrian Supreme Court has now awarded Knight a copyright, ruling that she shall possess the sole right to a relationship with Ramtha. The "other" woman was also fined $800 to compensate Knight for her period of "spiritual limbo." Replied Landers, "I am at a loss to comment. . . . Shirley MacLaine, I need your help."
(Ann Landers' column, Aug. 12)
Last spring, 14-year-old Nathan Zohner of Idaho Falls devoted his science fair project to a theme that had been sweeping the internet -- the environmental threat caused by "dihydrogen monoxide." His accurate, yet tongue-in-cheek, report on DHMO described the compound as being caustic enough to "accelerate the corrosion and rusting of many metals" and, in its gaseous form, to cause severe burns. The compound, reported Zohner quite correctly, is a "major component of acid rain, [and] has been found in excised tumors of terminal cancer patients." Even more ominously, "for those who have developed a dependency on DHMO, complete withdrawal means certain death." When Zohner distributed his report to 50 classmates, 43 of them voted to ban DHMO because of its lethal nature. And David Murray, research director of the nonprofit Statistical Assessment Service in Washington, DC, says, "The likelihood is high that I could replicate these results with a survey of members of Congress."
But why are Zohner and Murray not happy with such survey results? The reason: in addition to "DHMO," dihydrogen monoxide can be abbreviated in a more familiar way -- "H2O." James K. Glassman, the author of the syndicated column from which this "Snippet" is derived, has now coined the term "Zohnerism" to mean "the use of a fact to lead a scientifically and mathematically ignorant public to a false conclusion."
(St. Petersburg Times, Oct. 22)
Letters to the Editor / Readers' Forum
Thank you for your prompt response to my e-mail inquiry, and for sending the complimentary copy of TBS Report. The web site and newsletter are very interesting and extremely well done. I didn't catch even a single punctuation or spelling error -- not that I was looking. But the contrast to a religious newsletter I recently received from someone in California -- chock-full of the most outrageous grammar errors, not to mention faulty reasoning -- was nothing short of astounding.
Enclosed is a check for membership. I hope to be able to attend the upcoming meeting. It will be refreshing just to be in the same room with people who are not worshipers of Deepak Chopra!
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