Does this seem to you like evidence for the existence of psychic abilities in humans?

by gothgirl420666 8 min read30th May 201422 comments


I was recently reminded of something I have encountered that seems to me to be good evidence for paranormal phenomena. Can anyone help me figure out what might be going on? 

When I was a little younger, I used to play the online riddle game Notpron. In this game, the player (essentially) has to analyze a webpage for clues towards the URL to the next webpage, and then repeat for 140 stages. The creator of this game, DavidM, at some point became a huge new age conspiracy theory loony type. Three years after the original ending of the riddle went online, he revised it to include an additional final level: Level Nu. This level is very different than the ones preceding it. I can't link to the page for obvious reasons, but I will transcribe it here:

835 492 147 264

Remote view the photography this number represents!

Email me all your results to I'll get you some feedback. Get me all elements or impressions that seem really strong for you. Or send me your sketches if you like.

Don't bruteforce, or you'll be banned from this one. You have as many attempts as you like, take your time.

Yes, I mean it. No tricks here, just pure remote viewing. The number represents a picture, I want to know what's on there.

So learn some remote viewing technique you like best and go ahead. The internet has lots of information. Have fun!

Please do this ALL by yourself, not even with your very very close friends. Because its boring and stupid, and because you can put bullshit into each others head, which is hard to get rid of again, because the mind needs to be shut down for this to work properly. So do it alone, just talk to me about it, please.

(Yes, this really works, one friend got the content of the picture on first try...and yes, he only got the number from me.)

I personally tried to solve it myself. I was less of a rationalist back then, and so I was fairly open-minded about the existence of most paranormal phenomena. The picture I was looking for was the shark

Here is a shortened, paraphrased transcript of our email conversation:

Me: I'm imagining palm trees by a lake at sunset.
David: It's not bad, but I don't want to give you any more information because it will interfere with your efforts.
Me: I'm picturing an elephant walking into a barn.
David: Nope. 
Me: How many people have attempted this? And how many people have solved it with the current picture?
David: About half of the people who attempted solved it. Most solved it on their first try. I don't know exactly how many people solved this picture, but it has been a few. 
Me: Is it a space shuttle?
David: No. 
Me: (Expressions of frustration, with a few guesses thrown in.)
David: (Encouragement and advice, no comment on the guesses. Says "I can very well see that you receive the right input, but your mind is screwing it up into something else.")
Me: It's a bee?
David: No. Are you getting more subtle input, instead of a specific idea?
Me: Yeah, for that one, I saw something sharp, bright yellow colors, symmetry, a noisy drone, and two colors in pattern.
David: So THIS is interesting. Everything else you said wasn't!
Me: Are you saying that I was close? 
David: These elements sound like they are on target. They are too vague yet to tell if they are for real. 
Me: Thanks. The only other thing I could think about that relates to those elements is a pencil. I'll try again tonight. 
David: Stop fiddling around with your mind about this. It's bound to fail. There's no way to guess the target just from what you said. 
Me: I just tried it again. Is it a helicopter?
David: Are you sure you aren't viewing the old solution? There was a helicopter involved. 
Me: The boat? I'm not trying too. I guess I'll just keep trying... I even have the numbers memorized at this point.
David. The boat was shot from a helicopter. You shouldn't memorize the numbers. They don't matter. Memorizing them might just create unwanted associations.
Me: Okay. I say helicopter because I had an experience where I saw a bunch of spinning fan blades. I was going to guess a fan, but I could sense that there was more. Then I went "through" the fan blades and for a second I saw the whole helicopter. 
David: It sounds like it could be on target. But ignore it, it's not the object of interest.

At that point, I lost interest and gave up. Looking back, I can honestly say that I saw nothing remotely (haha) similar to the picture of the shark. I was not even a tiny bit close. I'm not sure why David said that I was on track, I can't see any association between the shark and what I was guessing. 

So that's everything I know. 

Points in favor of it being real:
  • "Most people" apparently guessed it on their first try.
  • According to David, about half the people who tried it have solved it. 
  • The dream thing - absolutely insane, hard to imagine that it's a coincidence. 
  • David did not consider the guy who guessed the shark as "something approaching me, it is a situation that I need to react to" to have solved the level. This shows that he requires fairly high standards of accuracy.
  • David implies that in order to have guessed the boat, you need to say the word "boat", also implying high standards. 
  • David did not really give me very much help or "lead" me anywhere when I tried to solve it. 
Points in favor of it being fake:
  • One person who solved it says that he did not solve it using remote viewing. 
  • It didn't work for me at all. 
  • David might very well be exaggerating both the percentage of people who successfully solved it and the percentage of people who guessed it on their first try. 
  • David might be (and in fact probably is) only reporting the "best" answers in his forum posts. For the fruit and the shark, he seems to be posting about half of the people who solved it in that time period. For the boat, he doesn't really give specifics, and instead says "Most people just said it was a boat on their first guess."
Here are my two theories regarding this.
  • Maybe DavidM is in fact "leading" people to the answer through a series of multiple guesses. For this to be true, however, a few things would have to be the case. First of all, his assertion that most people guessed it on their first try would have to be greatly exaggerated. Let's imagine that David is outright lying about most people guessing it on their first try and that half the people who attempted the riddle solved it. However, at least six people (I don't feel like going back through all 29 pages and counting) posted on the forum that they solved it on their first try. Let's imagine that all 300 people who reached the level attempted it. This is still a 1/50 "first guess" rate, and that's out of all the photographs in the world. However, maybe by some conjunction of 1) exaggerating those two numbers, 2) his dialogue with me being atypical, 3) the answers he posted on the forum being atypical, 4) his refusal to accept "something approaching me" being atypical and 5) the dream being a total coincidence, it may be true that he actually is doing a form of "leading" and is covering it up well. This feels like a really unsatisfactory answer. It relies on a lot of conjunctions and it seems clear that the only way to arrive at it is by a thorough search for some sort of answer that fits nicely in with our pre-existing worldview. That being said, I suspect it might be the most likely answer. 
  • Perhaps the level is an elaborate joke. In reality there is some other more conventional means of arriving at a solution, and people who solve it are told to play along. I can sort of see this being the case, given that 1) there are some other levels of Notpron that have "prankster-ish" elements and 2) I have actually myself been a part of a very similar joke on an even bigger scale, so I know that it can happen. However, on the other hand, DavidM really strongly believes in the conspiracy theory new age stuff and vigorously promotes it, so it seems unlikely that he would sabotage his own ideology like that. Also, while there are other prankster-ish levels of Notpron, nothing comes close to being as clever or elaborate as this scenario would be. 
So, given the above and this recent article from Slate Star Codex, I feel like I am forced to raise my credence level for remote viewing being real to somewhere between 50 and 60 percent. 

Does this seem in error to you?