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October 19th, 2009
12:42 PM ET

I helped Richard Heene plan a balloon hoax

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/10/18/colorado.balloon.investigation/art.heene.sheriff.kdvr.jpg caption="Richard Heene has told reporters that a runaway balloon incident involving his son was "absolutely no hoax."]

Robert Thomas
For Gawker

I came to Fort Collins for school — Colorado State University. I was a Web entrepreneur, starting a few small companies that evolved into a larger scale project called Extropedia.org, an open source online encyclopedia for advancing humanity through technology and science.

Doing research for the project on Google and YouTube, I stumbled upon Richard Heene and his video series Psyience Detectives. I was surprised to find this potential collaborator in the small city of Fort Collins. Since a very young age, I've been fascinated with electromagnetics, applied physics and how technologies developed out of those concepts could that change the world. Richard was studying basically the same thing. He asserted, for example, that tornadoes and hurricanes are not a result of changes in pressure but of magnetic polarity changes within the Earth.

I sent him an email in March, talking about Extropedia, a web site I founded and hope to re-launch soon. (Click here to read some of Thomas' email exchanges with the Heene family). Things progressed. Soon I was dropping in unannounced, having dinner. I'd bring various patents from the 50s and 60s that showcased technologies far more advanced than what we use today, and we discussed why they weren't being used. That was when Richard first started telling me about his conspiracy theories — which would eventually reveal themselves to be both extreme and paranoid.

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