Researcher & Investigator for Normal Paranormal
This past April, UK businessman, Jim McCormick was found guilty of selling fake bomb detectors to security forces in Iraq, and many other war torn countries around the world. For nearly a decade McCormick made over £50 million selling the ADE-651, a bomb detector that was believed to be able to detect tiny traces of explosives, drugs, ivory and even human beings up to 3 miles away.
The demonstration depicted an Iraqi militant holding an ADE-651 – a swiveling antenna mounted to a black plastic handgrip. In front of him was a table with an arrangement of everyday household items. As the militant walked by the table the first time, the antenna remained still, pointing straight ahead. After two hand grenades were placed on the table, the militant made a second pass. This time the antenna moved and pointed directly at the explosives.
McCormick was able to successfully convince military chiefs and government officials that his device was legitimate, and made millions selling them for up to £33,000 (approx. $53,174) each. However, after further investigation by the FBI, it was determined that the ADE-651 was nothing more than a car antenna attached to a plastic handle, and valued at a whopping £13 (approx. $21). McCormick was sentenced to ten years in prison. To this day he continues to maintain that his device does work – although he does not know how.
So, what was the real power behind the ADE-651? The ideomotor effect.
The ideomotor effect is a phenomenon in which suggestions, beliefs or expectations can result in unconscious muscular movements. In its purest form, the ideomotor effect explains those bodily actions that occur without a conscious decision made by the subject, like the release of tears during a moment of intense emotion. Unbeknown to the users, or victims, of the ADE-651, it was actually their own subconscious impulses that manipulated their muscle movements and made the phony detector work.
The effect was coined in 1852, and has since been used to explain away a variety of paranormal phenomena.
For example, dowsing rods – L-shaped rods typically made from copper. Many researchers believe that these rods, when used by the proper individual, can detect spiritual energies and can be used as a means of communication. While there has been some convincing evidence for dowsing (even members of our team have experienced some pretty remarkable results when using the rods), controlled testing has been sparse. Even dowsers who hold the rods at what would appear to be completely still to the human eye are subject to micro-muscular movements that cause the rods to respond.
Ouija boards are another paranormal phenomena that can be explained away by the ideomotor effect.
The board typically depicts on it the letters of the alphabet, along with the words "yes" or "no." Participants gather around the board and place two fingers on a three-legged planchette. The participants then ask a question, and evoke the spirit to spell out the answer. Many believe that an unseen force moves the planchette, when in actuality it is the subconscious muscular movement of the participants.
The ideomotor effect is a powerful phenomenon that can often elude the most well-intended and highly educated individuals. While it cannot explain away all things paranormal, it should be used to challenge claims of evidence or activity that have never been tested or carried out in a controlled environment.