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$50,000 Paranormal Challenge

IIG Investigations

The IIG offers $50,000 to anyone who can prove paranormal abilities under scientific testing conditions.

Most people who inquire about our challenge do not end up being tested, usually because they will not agree to the protocols designed for the test. Of those who have completed a test, not a single one has yet demonstrated any paranormal powers.

Read on for a description of some of these tests, as well as a few of our other favorite investigations:


James Van Praagh. January, 2003

In our most clandestine operation to date, we attended a taping of James Van Praagh’s syndicated series “Beyond,” in order to document the difference between what actually occurred at the taping and how it appeared on TV after editing. As we suspected, there were many significant differences. Our favorite Van Praagh moment:

"You almost died, honey, because I’m being told by your husband that you were spared, you were saved, OK? You were saved. All right? And I know . . . something about Jesus here, OK? Saved with Jesus . . . or something about Jesus, and if you believe in Jesus, or a religious element, and I don’t know, maybe a church with the name 'Jesus' in it? Or there is something about Jesus. Or there’s . . ."

To Van Praagh’s embarrassment, the lady then revealed that she was Jewish. We watched the edited episode, and sure enough, this entire exchange was omitted. We concluded that Van Praagh’s power emanates from editing room.

CFI-West Executive Director Jim Underdown published an article about our investigation in the September/October issue of Skeptical Inquirer, AND this article was referenced in a recent column of Cecil Adams' The Straight Dope -- the true hallmark of cultural legitimacy!

Our investigation was also featured in Jim Underdown's appearance in the first episode of "Penn & Teller: Bullshit," "Talking to the Dead," on Showtime.

Sparky the Wonder Dog. July, 2000

SparkyGordie Rosenberg’s dog Sparky was our first non-human applicant. Rosenberg claimed that Sparky could bark a number between one and six by reading the chosen number from Gordie's mind. We suspected that Rosenberg was sending unconscious non-verbal cues (body language) to Sparky, and when we conducted our test with Rosenberg out of Sparky’s sight, Sparky’s apparent psychic powers vanished. In fact, his accuracy fell to 3%. Sparky’s accuracy with a Frisbee, however, was terrific!

Our investigation of Sparky made the cover of the now-defunct L.A. New Times newspaper.

Here is a reprint of the article (With permission from Author Tony Ortega)

Aura Reading. August, 2001

Pamala Oslie claims that she can read the invisible "color-energy field" surrounding humans, and tell us about their personalities, their health, relationships, career aspirations, etc. We presented Ms. Oslie with 19 individuals who had filled out questionnaires addressing these topics for us in advance. Then, Ms. Oslie attempted to discover those details via reading the subjects' auras. Oslie performed poorly overall. One young girl listed ten separate career choices on her pre-test questionnaire; Oslie in turn guessed eight career interests for her, none of which were on the girl’s list! Aura reading sounds impressive, but we found our questionnaires to be much more informative!

Telekinetic Box. September, 2000

Mark Joramo had constructed an ingenious device – a cardboard box containing a suspended foil-wrapped index card under a small fan. Mark claimed he could flip the card using telekinesis – the ability to move physical objects with the power of the mind. In our controlled tests, we determined the foil card flipped about 50% of the time – what was expected to occur through chance. It seems that Mark may have been unconsciously causing the motion of the card with his breath or the movement of his hand near the box. Mark was disappointed and set off to try to determine what had gone wrong. We have not yet heard back from him.

Mark was also featured in the New Times article.

Spoonbending. April, 2003

Marla Brucker, Ph.D., RHA, makes good money teaching spoonbending at Los Angeles’s notorious Learning Annex. She claims she can teach you to use psychokinesis (telekinesis’s kid sister) to bend a spoon using the power of your mind. We attended one of her classes, where she did indeed teach people to bend spoons . . . by holding the spoon in one hand and bending it with the other! (Seemed like a perfectly normal ability to us.) When we raised objections, we were promptly asked to leave. The only mystery is why anyone would pay good money for this in the first place.

Dowsing for Truth. May, 2000

Frank Mashenko came to us claiming to be able to dowse for hidden metal using two thin wires, not unlike coat hangers. As agreed in advance, we placed copper wire in one of several rolled-up newspapers (the others had nothing in them), and asked Frank to find the newspaper with the wire in it.

DowsingFrank complained that the building had too much interference from the electric outlets and plumbing, so we moved the test into the parking lot. Frank was still “getting interference,” so we hid the wire under rugs on a nearby lawn and Frank agreed to conducting the test there. He made six attempts to locate the wire – all unsuccessful.

Although Frank was unable to demonstrate any paranormal ability, we applaud Frank's willingness to be tested -- something few others have had the courage to do.

Our investigation of Frank was also featured in the New Times article.

The Hollywood Haunted House. January 2002

"David" and "Eileen" believed that their house in the Hollywood Hills was home to ghosts. They both provided vivid descriptions of their sightings, including an animal hovering by their bed, and other ghastly presences. We visited their home where the experiences took place, and interviewed them separately. We discovered their descriptions of their shared "sightings" were actually very different. We also learned that they were both using prescription medications known to cause hallucinations in the combination they took. They were quite relieved to hear our conclusions. We’re confident that Tinseltown’s monsters are all in the movies.

Astrological Movie Dates. April – December, 2002

Julia Swanson practices a novel form of relationship-oriented astrology. She claimed to one of our investigators that given the birthdates of the director, screenwriter, and stars of a successful movie, she can determine the subject of the movie. We collected the data for 37 movies and told her that we were ready to test her claimed abilities. We are still waiting to hear back from her.

The Oklahoma Ghost. 2003

The night watchman at an auto graveyard in Oklahoma saw something strange on the security camera. He rewound the tape, and saw what looked like a glowing humanoid figure hovering over the cars! The IIG has obtained the tape, and we suspect it is either a bug flying very close to the lens (thus appearing large and luminous), or a deliberate hoax.

We had been trying to borrow the exact camera that filmed the "ghost" but it turns out that Penn and Teller beat us to it for a segment of their excellent de-bunking series, "Bullshit!" In fact, P&T went to the original location and had the "ghost" re-created.

Well, no shame in being scooped by the best. It's on the season one DVD under "Bonus Features" (why it didn't make the cut is beyond us).

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