July 30, 2002 -- -- Offer $1 million to anyone who can prove their psychic powers, and a man might knock on your door swearing that he can glow in the dark.
August ushers in National Psychic Week and if you can levitate, communicate with the dead — or even bend spoons with your mind — a cool million is waiting for you.
The James Randi Educational Foundation is reminding the psychic community of the large cash prize awaiting the person who can prove his or her paranormal prowess under controlled conditions.
"This is easy money for the thousands of people out there who claim to have special powers," says paranormal investigator James Randi. "Prove it. Take our money. Please. Operators are standing by."
Mediums Rarely Face Scientific Scrutiny
You'd think today's top psychics — who make bold claims about their abilities on TV — would quickly step forward for the million-dollar payday. But John Edward, who relays messages from the deceased on the SciFi channel's hit series Crossing Over, has yet to accept.
Other famous psychics like Miss Cleo and Sylvia Browne are also missing in action. Randi confronted Browne last September on CNN's Larry King Live, and she agreed on the air to be tested.
But Randi says Browne has subsequently been uncooperative.
As for Miss Cleo, Florida's attorney general sued her earlier this year, alleging that the Jamaican shaman, among other things, wasn't even Jamaican.
Sparky the Psychic Dog
Who does go after the million-dollar prize? About three dozen people each month write, e-mail or bang on Randi's door, claiming they have supernatural powers. Randi and his associate, Andrew Harter, have seen it all:
One California man insisted that his dog, Sparky, could read his mind.
A Chinese couple insisted their little girl could read what was written on a piece of paper inserted into the child's ear.
A dentist stepped forward to claim he could tell whether a battery was charged by holding it to his throat.
Another guy wanted to prove his telekinetic powers by jumping out of an airplane without a parachute and surviving.
About 30 people apply to be tested each month, Harter says. About a third of them claim to be dowsers — people who think they can find water, gold coins or drugs using a tool such as a forked stick.
Many folks are stepping forward these days to say they can manipulate TV personalities to say whatever they want. "This one guy kept saying, 'I can make Oprah say Randi's name.' And you couldn't convince him otherwise," Harter says.
"Self-delusion can be very powerful."
When a man from Mexico knocked on the foundation's doors one day, he was so certain he could glow in the dark that he even brought a suitcase to take home the million-dollar award.
"He tried a few times, but just couldn't glow. He said he was tired and that he'd come back later," Randi said. "He never returned."
Spoon-Bending Psychic Still in Business
With National Psychic Week approaching, The Wolf Files called Michael Jackson's favorite medium, Uri Geller, who became world-famous for his self-proclaimed telekinetic abilities — which he demonstrated by ruining silverware (spoons especially) on virtually every TV show in the early 1970s.
"I know you, Buck Wolf, you are going to write something sarcastic about me," Geller said.
Was he reading my mind? Yowsa! Maybe he really is psychic.
Then Geller said that he had no idea that National Psychic Week was coming. So much for intuition.
Geller was once the most famous psychic in America. In the late 1960s, he impressed Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir at a party, she mentioned him on a radio show, and a legend was born.
In one instance he claimed he caused London's Big Ben to stop ticking. Another time, he claimed to stop a German cable car in mid-flight. At his high point, Geller suggested that he was working with the CIA and Israeli intelligence on psychic espionage programs to keep the Soviet Union in line.
But his career nose-dived after a 1972 Tonight Show appearance. Johnny Carson's staff consulted with Randi, who says he set up safeguards to prevent Geller from cheating.
After fumbling and squirming for 20 minutes, Geller claimed he was simply too tired to use his powers. He retreated to England, and struggled for a period with depression and bulimia.
Randi later wrote The Truth About Uri Geller, claiming that Geller exploited sleight-of-hand tricks and stage magic for personal gain.
But Geller survived. He's written several books and claims he's earned a fortune dowsing for gold and diamonds, and applying his psychic energies to help oil companies locate petroleum. Several years ago, he promoted a 900-number psychic hotline in an infomercial. He also went on a media blitz promoting Uri Geller's Mindpower Kit, which included a book, cassette tape and a special crystal to nourish the purchaser's own psychic power.
Geller Refuses Challenge, Turns to Moonwalking
On behalf of psychics everywhere, I asked Geller, Would you claim Randi's million-dollar prize? Would you prove on National Psychic Week there really is such a thing as telekinetic power?
"I have considered it," Geller said. But he says he's got nothing to prove. He said many scientists have validated his talents, and doesn't trust Randi's foundation.
"He's all about negativity," Geller said. "I want to concentrate on the positive."
Geller's big project now is helping the King of Pop travel in outer space.
"You will see," he says. "Michael Jackson will one day moonwalk on the moon.
"Imagine what an inspiration that will be for children."
Geller says he's been speaking to NASA officials to get the singer booked on a future space flight. He also says he's been mentally preparing his pop-star pal for blastoff.
"We train our minds to empower each other," Geller says.
Liar for Hire
To Geller and all other psychics unaware that there's a holiday in their honor, here's a little lesson in psychic history.
National Psychic Week has been listed on calendars since 1965. It was created by show business press agent Richard R. Falk, who had a flair for dramatic PR stunts.
One of Falk's specialties was dreaming up spicy names for aspiring starlets — such as Suzie Sunshine, Sugar Cane and Hope Diamond. One of his clients modeled an edible bikini made of frankfurters.
Falk also managed several celebrity psychics and perhaps he could have explained more about National Psychic Week in the book he was working on at the time of his death in 1994. It was to be called Liar for Hire.
"You need a press agent when you have something that's 50 percent real," he told The New York Times in 1991.
"You make it a little fantastic or humorous, bring in enough pseudo-facts and the papers will buy it. I always say that everything I write is guaranteed to be 50 percent true."
To all the psychics out there who are "50 percent real," have a great week.
Buck Wolf is entertainment producerat ABCNEWS.com. The Wolf Files ispublished Tuesdays. If you want to receive weekly notice whena new column is published, join the e-maillist.