Psychics Challenged, Offered $1 Million to Prove Powers

$1 million offer if they can pass muster in scientific test.

ByABC News
August 25, 2011, 5:08 PM

Aug. 27, 2011 — -- A non-profit organization called The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) has announced that it is publicly offering $1 million to celebrity "psychic mediums" including James Van Praagh, Allison DuBois, Sylvia Browne, Carla Baron, John Edward, and others if they can prove their abilities in controlled experiments.

"James Van Praagh and Allison DuBois have turned the huckster art of 'cold reading' into a multi-million-dollar industry, preying on families' deepest fears and regrets," said James Randi, founder of the JREF and a renowned magician and skeptic.

The JREF's Million Dollar Challenge Director, a mentalist performer named Banachek, said, "We're issuing a challenge: If one of you can demonstrate your 'psychic' abilities on randomly chosen strangers -- not celebrities -- under mutually-agreed conditions, without relying on known cold-reading techniques such as fishing around with vague questions, and without just using Google -- we will donate our million dollars to you or to the charity of your choice."

The skeptics explained how psychics can give the appearance of getting accurate information about a person they've never met.

"Cold reading" is a set of techniques in which personal information is elicited from a person, often through vague or leading questions, and then repeated back to the person in order to persuade them that the performer has supernatural access to that information.

Another mentalism technique, called "hot reading," involves obtaining information on a person in advance, for example by researching the Internet (or, in some cases, even hiring an investigator).

James Randi has exposed such "psychic" techniques for years, including his 1986 investigation into TV faith healer Peter Popoff, who knew details of his audience members' lives, including their illnesses and home addresses.