From +quot;Tampa Bay Skeptics Report+quot; Vol. 4 No. 2 Fall 1991: Breast Boom, or Just Bu
From "Tampa Bay Skeptics Report" Vol. 4 No. 2 Fall 1991:
Breast Boom, or Just Bust ???
As reported in the St. Petersburg Times and picked up by AP, and as he has
explained on "Eye on Tampa Bay" (Ch. 13), "Murphy in the Morning" (Ch. 10),
and "A Current Affair," local hypnotist Michael Stivers has recently been
making a name for himself, and a financial killing, by performing "non-
surgical breast enlargement" at his clinics in St. Petersburg and Largo.
Stivers is charging $1,000+ for his 8- to 12-week hypnotic course, guaranteed
to please or your money back (before the 3rd session).
Stivers is described in Times medical reporter Carol Gentry’s July 21 article
as “a 34-year-old former police officer and professional wrestler whose
stage name was "Pretty Boy Behning." He acknowledges that he has no medical
training, but apparently is in violation of no laws. And, as is the case
with psychics and astrologers, most of his clients (if those interviewed in
the paper and on TV can be believed) swear that the effect is real (Stivers
estimates a 75% success rate).
Gentry quotes Dr. Charles B. Mutter of Miami, former president of the
American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, as saying that "This is the
unauthorized practice of medicine." Michael R. Nash, president of the
American Psychological Associations hypnosis division, told Gentry, "I know
of no reputable person who claims that hypnosis can change the contour of the
Ch. 10 reporter Dave Wagner interviewed TBS founder Gary Posner by phone, who
pointed out that using a tape measure is subject to variables such as degree
of inflation of the lungs and tightness of pull, and that a woman with an
emotional and a $1,000 investment, with an expectation of success, might
honestly report that she measured an increase in her breast size.
Carol Bryant, identifying herself to the press as a client of Stivers, claims
a three inch gain after eight sessions. Yet, despite his allegedly remarkable
abilities, Stivers modestly offered on "A Current Affair" that, "I am not a
God by any means...[but] don't ever forget that Thomas Edison didn't have a
formal education either."
"Spontaneous Human Combustion"
A front-page story in the June 30 St. Petersburg Times, "Burning death
remains mystery," dealt with the gruesome demise of Mary Reeser, who
literally melted away to nearly nothing one summer night in 1951. To read
reporter Jacquin Sanders version of this case of alleged SHC (defined by
him as when "for no known reason, the human body suddenly catches fire"),
"Nothing could explain the fury of flames that consumed a human body, shrank
its skull and then, as if obeying some unearthly power, simply stopped,
pulled back, disappeared." But no neighbors reported seeing any such so-
called "fire from hell," and heat, no matter how intense, cannot shrink a
For those familiar with the investigation by researchers Joe Nickell and
John Fischer, as published in the Summer 1987 "Skeptical Inquirer," no
paranormal phenomenon need be invoked. Reeser, an obese woman, had
apparently taken a sleeping pill and then fallen asleep with a lighted
cigarette. "What probably happened," concluded Nickell and Fischer, "was
that the chairs stuffing burned slowly, fueled by the melted body fat and
aided by partially opened windows." And as for the legend of the "shrunken
skull," as a forensic anthropologist (David Wolf) theorized at our request,
Mrs. Reesers skull probably burst in the fire and was destroyed, and the
roundish object could have been merely "a globular lump that can result from
the musculature of the neck where it attaches to the base of the skull."
Sanders (and, more importantly, his readers) would have learned all of this
had he contacted TBS. His failure to do so was all the more disappointing
given his familiarity with us - he had interviewed Gary Posner for a
column, "Club hits you in the head with reality," shortly after TBS was
founded. And the article was picked up by at least one other newspaper that
we are aware of (the Scottsdale, Arizona Progress). But at least some S. P.
Times readers had an opportunity to read Posners "Letter to the Editor" on
July 9. And no doubt even more read Neil Cote’s column in the Pinellas
County editions of the July 5 Tampa Tribune ("Skepticisms flames fanned by
fire death") about Posners reaction to the Times article.
Editor: Just a few lines in an attempt to unmuddy some of the waters
surrounding "creation science," since I keep reading inaccurate comments
from those who do not believe in it and do not want it taught in schools
(most recently, Dr. Scotts "Letter to the Editor" in the last issue).
There are actually two stories of creation in Genesis. They had their origin
in the two tribes of Israel before they joined together, and both continued
to be transmitted as part of their collective traditions after that union.
Consequently, they were both included in their written history when it was
These two stories can be readily identified by the use of the words "God" and
"Lord God" in the English language text of Genesis. The first (Ch. 1:1-2:4a)
and the second (Ch. 2:4b-25) are mutually exclusive as far as the mechanics
of creation is concerned. However, most people traditionally have seen them
as one continuous account.
I doubt if the people who created these stories and held them in their
tribal treasuries for centuries believed they were literally true, any more
than a mother really believes that a stork brings babies when she tells that
story to a young child. However, all of these stories provide a satisfactory
answer to the question "Where did I come from?" for children of various ages.
I know of no true theologian who believes in the literal interpretation of
any part of the Bible. Unfortunately, not all religious denominations hold
Truth in very high esteem, and so we have millions of "creation science"
A substantial part of the blame for this situation must lie with the way
most people interpret the First Amendment. It was not intended to prevent
"religion" from being taught in public schools. Just the opposite: It
allowed it to be taught. What has happened over the years is that in our
attempts to keep denominationalism out of the schools, we also kept out
the truth about western religious history. It is similar to what would have
happened had we, as a result of the Scopes trial, decided to not teach
biology. It is, therefore, not too surprising that a substantial number of
otherwise rational people have rather unique religious beliefs.
Keep up the good work (but watch out for the windmills!).
The Rev. W. Thomas Leckrone
[End "TBSR" V4-2 Fall 1991]
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank