Letters to the Chairman and Editor

[The following letter incorporates two e-mail messages sent to Chairman Bloomberg regarding his letter to the publisher of the State Journal-Register on the article that appeared after Greta Alexander died. (See "REALLity Checklist.") That letter is available on www.reall.org.]

Mr. Bloomberg:

I don't know who you are, but I happened to come across a copy of your letter to the State Journal-Register about Greta Alexander. In it you totally downed on the poor dead woman. All you did was skepticize her abilities and accuse her of using all means necessary to advertise herself. I don't know if this letter was supposed to be seen or not, but I hope you don't go around ripping on all dead people who had a power that you can't explain. Just because you don't know how something works doesn't mean you should attack it, you should treasure it while it is still around, because once it is gone you can never use it again!!! If you are a skeptic, don't wait until they die to show it, that is wrong and unhuman. Only those who are truly weak wait until that time to show their feelings. I don't know what the hell this "Rational Examination" title is and don't really care to know either, but did you ever think what Greta's family would feel when they see that people are still attacking her even when she is dead?!

Is it not illegal to print articles or ads on the internet criticizing people, publicly? Even if it is not illegal that makes you skeptics look desperate going after some dead lady. I did not have any knowledge of you skeptics eating at her reputation before her death, I believed FULLY in her abilities. [In your e-mail response to my first message,] you said that thing about when she was behind the candidate and was wrong, well have you weighed the difference between when she was wrong and when she was right. I believe that she helped out hundreds of police agencies (that she admits to) I am sure that there was more that she didn't say. She was wrong every once and a while . . . . but are you perfect? Do people publish stuff about you criticizing you of your nature? What would you think if that happened to someone you respected and believed in? I am sorry but I strongly oppose this display of publicity. I do wish for my letter or letters of the kind to be printed in a fair manner in your newsletter.

— Joe Hitchcock

David Bloomberg responds: REALL is a skeptics group — we operate using the scientific method and the idea that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Greta made extraordinary claims, so it is only natural that we were (and remain) skeptical.

The letter was meant to be seen by the publisher of the paper, the original author of the article, and anybody who was interested and found it on the Web (such as you). I don't make it a habit to "rip on dead people," but the fact remains that Greta made a number of extraordinary claims that were simply not backed up by evidence. To the contrary of what you said here — she did not have a "power that [I] can't explain." She made claims to have such a power, but that doesn't mean the power actually existed. An objective look at her claims, such as the one I wrote about for the September 1998 issue, shows that those claims of having this power don’t stand up to scrutiny.

You may consider this article to be ripping on a dead woman, but I did it to objectively analyze many of the claims she made while alive. Just because somebody has died does not make their earlier claims immune from scrutiny — especially since others continue to propagate those claims and still others claim to have similar powers. As long as people continue to make claims about her, we, as skeptics, will point out the flaws.

I didn't wait until she died to be a skeptic. There are several earlier mentions of Greta in our newsletter — you should be able to find them by doing a search on the Web site. As I mentioned in my first e-mail response, and as referenced in your second paragraph here, I discussed her lack of predictive abilities when she backed a candidate for state senate who ended up getting slaughtered in the election. You say this only shows she was wrong "once in a while." Alas, that is not so, as the objective look at some of her "best" cases showed.

We look at things objectively. Sometimes, people would prefer not to know the things we find out. Unfortunately, this will occasionally happen. What I've written is not an attack on Greta but an objective review of her claims (in the article mentioned earlier) and a request to the publisher to be more objective in the articles he publishes (in the letter you saw). My point in that letter was to criticize that author for failing to exercise the proper journalistic skepticism; it is difficult to do that without pointing out the problems with Greta's claims as well.

As far as "accusing" her of advertising herself — I'm sorry you disagree, but even the author of the pro-Greta piece I was writing about acknowledged this.

It is, of course, your prerogative to believe in her abilities. I hope you will take the time to review the article I pointed you towards and that you will look objectively at the information contained therein.

— David Bloomberg,
REALL Chairman

Dear Editor:

I really enjoyed Randy Alley's article on phrenology [The REALL News, Vol. 6, #9]. It reminded me of the comment I read in Skeptical Inquirer: "Anyone who believes in phrenology should have his head examined."

— Ken Oldfield

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