The CFI $250k challenge

The CFI $250k supernatural challenge

The CFI $250k supernatural challenge

Would you like to win $250,000? To claim the prize, all you need to do is to demonstrate significant evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power.

This is not a prank, nor is it a stunt. The prize money is real, and so it the offer. A document certifying that the $250,000 exists can be verified with Barry Karr ([email protected]), executive director of CSI in Amherst, New York. It is available upon request.

The Center for Inquiry Investigations Group (CFIIG)

The offer come from CFI. Here is the link to their website where they explain …

Can you demonstrate paranormal ability?
Are you interested in earning $250,000 dollars?

The Center for Inquiry Investigations Group (CFIIG) at the Center for Inquiry-Los Angeles offers a $250,000 prize to anyone who can show, under scientific testing conditions, significant evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power. The CFIIG works with the applicant in designing the test protocol and defining the conditions under which a test will take place. CFIIG representatives will then administer the actual test. In most cases, the applicant will be asked to perform an informal demonstration of the claimed ability or phenomenon, which if successful will be followed by the formal test. The CFIIG conducts demonstrations and tests at CFI West in Los Angeles, California, in the San Francisco Bay area, or in special circumstances at one of our affiliates around the world.

Below the above you will find details of how to apply along with the terms and conditions.

They also have a Frequently Asked Question page.

A challenge like this is not new

For quite a few years now the prize has been $100,000, but nobody won it. They have now increased the prize value to $250k.

What is perhaps the biggest and most well-known challenge like this was the offer made by the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) to pay out one million U.S. dollars to anyone who could demonstrate a supernatural or paranormal ability under agreed-upon scientific testing criteria. That started in 1964 and ran until about 2015.

My Notes from an actual test (the JREF one)

Here are my notes and pictures from a JREF Challenge applicant being tested in 2014. The claimant was a Mr Fay Wong, age 34, who asserted that he could use his hands to heal.

After the test that fails, the claimant is asked if he will accept questions from the audience. He agrees, and here is an extract from my notes of this Q&A …

  • Q1 – Did you feel your power working?
  • A1 – yes
  • Q2 – Why do you think this failed
  • A2 – He explains that he is not sure.
  • Q3 – Does this in any way lead you to question if you have this ability
  • A3 – He confirms that this failure does not cause him to doubt
  • Q4 – Does this power only work with an aliment
  • A4 – This is the first time I have does a test like this
  • Q5 – will you come back again to be re-tested in 1 year
  • A5 – Suggests that he will and proposes adjustments … for example monitoring the temperature of the subjects hands.
  • Q6 – Is there anything that might convince you that you don’t have these powers.
  • A6 – No

There are in fact many other tests

The CFI and also the JREF tests are not unique, many others also offer similar prizes.

Via the Wikipedia list here …

List of standing prizes

DateLocationChallengersOffered prizeEquivalent in dollarsDetailsStatus
2014–Czech RepublicCzech Skeptics’ Club Sisyfos3,425,000 Czech koruna$160,671To anyone who can prove to possess paranormal abilities in areas such as clairvoyance, telepathytelekinesisrhabdomancy, etc.[3]Unclaimed
1999–ChinaSima Nan1,000,000 Chinese yuan$157,913“[T]o anyone who can perform one act of “special ability” without cheating.”[13]Unclaimed
1984–IndiaTarksheel Society10,000,000 Indian rupees$150,110To anyone who can perform any of 22 specified “miracles”. The entry fee is 10,000 INR.[14]Unclaimed
2000–United StatesIndependent Investigations Group250,000 dollars$250,000[15]:43:15“[T]o anyone who can show, ‘under proper observing conditions’, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event.” The person who refers a successful applicant to the IIG earns US$5,000.[16]Unclaimed
1980–AustraliaAustralian Skeptics100,000 Australian dollars$75,820For proof of the existence of extrasensory perceptiontelepathy, or telekinesis.[17]Unclaimed
1985–IndiaScience and Rationalists’ Association of IndiaPrabir Ghosh5,000,000 Indian rupees$75,055Prabir Ghosh will award the prize “to any person of this world who can demonstrate his/her supernormal power by performing any one of the following activities without taking help of any hoax/trick at my designated place and circumstances.”[18]Unclaimed. However, the challenger has admitted that they don’t possess that amount of money.[19]
1994–New ZealandStuart Landsborough, New Zealand Skeptics100,000 New Zealand dollars$70,791“[T]o anyone who could prove by psychic ability that they can indicate the exact location” of two halves of a promissory note hidden within an area of 100 metres inside Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World. Over the years, the search area has been reduced from 5 kilometres to 100 metres and the prize doubled, but the note split in two to reduce the chance of winning by sheer luck.[20] Contestants have to donate NZ$1,000 to charity if they fail.[21]Unclaimed
2000–ItalyAlfredo Barrago’s Bet, CICAP50,000 Euro$60,737“[…] shown at least a ‘phenomenon’ produced by ‘medium, seers, sensitive etc.’ of paranormal nature.”[22]Unclaimed
2002–BelgiumSKEPPSisyphus Prize25,000 Euro$30,368The original Sisyphus Prize was €10,000. Between 2012 and 2013, for the duration of one year, an anonymous Antwerp businessman raised the prize €1,000,000, while several European skeptical organisations attached their pre-tests to it.[8][23] Afterwards, the regular Sisyphus Prize was continued and raised from €10,000 to €25,000.[4]Unclaimed
2013–Great BritainAssociation for Skeptical Enquiry12,000 British pounds$16,535For proof of psychic powers.[2]Unclaimed
2015–RussiaHarry Houdini Prize1,000,000 Russian rubles$16,096The prize is awarded for demonstrating paranormal or supernatural abilities under conditions scientifically valid experiment.[24][25]Unclaimed
2001–United StatesNorth Texas Skeptics12,000 dollars$12,000“[T]o any person … who can demonstrate any psychic or paranormal power or ability under scientifically valid observing conditions.”[2][26]Unclaimed
1997–Great BritainLavkesh Prasha, Asian Rationalist Society of Britain10,000 British pounds$13,779“[T]o any person who could prove to possess magical powers before the media and scientists.” The initial amount of £2,000 was increased fivefold in 2006 to attract more applicants.[27][28]Unclaimed
2008–EstoniaEesti Skeptik10,000 Euro$12,147To anyone who can prove paranormal abilities.[29]Unclaimed
2004–GermanyGWUP10,000 Euro$12,147To anyone who can prove paranormal abilities.[30][31]Unclaimed
1989–FinlandSkepsis ry (Finnish Association of Skeptics)10,000 Euro$12,147For anybody in Finland who can produce paranormal phenomena under satisfactory observing conditions or prove that she/he/it is an extraterrestrial by providing a DNA (or equivalent) sample for investigation. Money partially from astronomer Hannu Karttunen and magician Iiro Seppänen.[32]Unclaimed
1988–NetherlandsStichting Skepsis10,000 Euro$12,147To anyone who wants their “alternative diagnoses” (including kinesiologyelectroacupuncturebioresonance therapyTherapeutic Touch, observing auras, clairvoyance, iridology, pendulum dowsing, astrology) to be tested; winning the pre-test earns €500.[33] Skepsis’ first challenge in March 1988 was ƒ10,000 to any “psychic surgeon” who could remove chairman Cornelis de Jager‘s appendix.[34]Unclaimed
Unknown–SwedenSwedish Humanist Association100,000 Swedish krona$11,550To anyone who can demonstrate a paranormal or supernatural ability for which no scientific explanation can be found.[35]Unclaimed
1996–CanadaLes Sceptiques du Quebec10,000 Canadian dollars$7785“Just a small fact, observable or verifiable through experiment” of a paranormal phenomenon.[5]Unclaimed
2012–Sri LankaSri Lankan Rationalist Association1,000,000 Sri Lankan rupees$6341Professor Carlo Fonseka renewed Abraham Kovoor’s challenge.[36]Unclaimed
Unknown–United StatesFayetteville Freethinkers5000 dollars$5000“[F]or a demonstration of supernatural claims”.[37]Unclaimed
1976–IndiaIndian SkepticIndian CSICOP100,000 Indian rupees$1501Formerly moderated by Basava Premanand, deceased in 2009. Offered after Abraham Kovoor fell ill with cancer in 1976.[38] Premanand’s magazine and organization have continued the challenge after his death in 2009.[39]Unclaimed
1995–IndiaIndian Rationalist AssociationSanal Edamaruku100,000 Indian rupees$1501To anyone who could prove the 1995 “Hindu milk miracle” was, in fact, a miracle.[40] Since 2002, it includes “anyone who can provide scientific evidence for iridology“.[41]Unclaimed
2011–MexicoDaniel Zepeda20,000 Mexican pesos$1074“To anyone who can show, under proper observational and replicable conditions, evidence of a paranormal, supernatural or occult power for which science has no answer.”[42]Unclaimed
1989–United StatesTampa Bay Skeptics1000 dollars$1,000“[T]o anyone able to demonstrate any paranormal phenomenon under mutually agreed-upon observing conditions.”[2][43]Unclaimed
2012–United StatesFayetteville FreethinkersA houseUnknownA house is offered to anyone who can catch a Bigfoot.[44]Unclaimed

Nobody ever passes

Historically such offers have been around since the 1920s when Scientific American offered a $2,500 prize. Harry Houdini was famously a member of that investigating committee.

In all this time nobody has ever successfully demonstrated anything paranormal or supernatural under scientifically controlled conditions.

A successful demonstration would be truly fascinating. Over the year many sincere individuals have tried and failed.

We live in a world filled with supposed psychics and religious people who claim they can perform miracles, yet none have ever demonstrated such an ability.

Those claiming such abilities can be divided up into two camps. Those they know they are just running a con and using trickery, and those that sincerely believe they have a gift. Many of those that sincerely believe, often try to pass such tests, and when they fail what is common is a retreat to a position where they still believe and proceed to think along these lines …

  • It does not always work and in this instance this was an example of this
  • Conditions where not quite right
  • Too many skeptics around dampens my ability
  • etc…

Meanwhile the big-name folks who know it is all just a sham, duck any offer turn up and demonstrate that they really can do what they claim they can do.

CFI continues to test for the supernatural

CFI advise that they have reached out to Tyler Henry, who has the Hollywood Medium shows. So far he is a no-show.

Of those they do apply, one of the latest was the lightning man who was informally tested on June 20, 2020 ….

…The applicant’s three-part claim included emitting static electricity from his hands, creating lightning in the sky, and teleporting 3 or more feet….

… Upon being introduced to the tarp barrier, TR said that he “can’t go through things”, and reminded us that he must be moving to teleport. He soon after showed us what he meant and walked around the barrier in a sort of herky-jerky motion. He asked us if we saw the teleportation, and we replied that we did not. We only saw someone walking. We offered to show him the just-shot video of him, and he declined to view it….

… We then moved on to TR’s claim of being able to emit electricity from his hands and put lightning in the sky. TR let us know that he had to be listening to music to generate a charge. We monitored both his hands and the sky above us while TR closed his eyes and listened to his earbuds. We observed no lightning in the sky or sparks coming from his hands. He said he sees it, but we did not, nor did the video cameras….

… TR discussed the origin of his abilities, black magic, God, and other thoughts about his abilities. Jim asked about the rehab facilities TR was in, and if he was given any medication for what he was experiencing. TR said he was there to get off cocaine…

…The CFIIG and TR parted amicably, after it was agreed that no paranormal powers had occurred.

It is important to note that claimers are treated with dignity and curtesy, there is no room for mockery, There can also be no avoiding respectfully asking the obvious questions.

One last thought

Some of the very best paranormal testers and investigators are not scientists, but instead are illusionists and magicians, for example Harry Houdini and James Randi. This is perhaps because their entire career has been focused on fooling people with illusions and tricks and so they are not only familiar with all the tricks, but they also do understand how easy it is for all of us to be fooled and tricked.

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