For many years, as a master debunker of the paranormal, Randi had offered $1,000 and then $10,000 to anyone who could, in a test agreed upon by both Randi and the challenger, prove supernatural powers. But five years ago, a wealthy Internet entrepreneur and admirer of Randi called and said, in effect, "Ten thousand simply doesn't cut it these days." He promptly dispatched a million dollars to Randi's foundation, which purchased negotiable bonds and placed them in a special account where they await the first successful challenger. It promises to be a long wait.
Most of the challengers to date have been minor players in the world of the paranormal: a nurse who practices therapeutic touch, assorted dowsers, medical quacks and psychic readers. All have failed. But despite Randi's specific challenge to several of the big guns, none has risked being exposed. Among those who have refused are Israeli psychic Uri Geller, French chemist and mystical homeopathy buff Jacques Benveniste, "Crossing Over" host John Edward and University of Arizona scientist Gary Schwartz, who claims to have validated Edward's claims that he hears from the dead. Noted psychic Sylvia Browne, who months ago brashly promised on the Larry King show that she would indeed take the Million Dollar Challenge, has since avoided Randi's calls and has yet to be heard from.
What are they afraid of? Charlatans, fakirs, mystics, and dreamers alike, they are all too aware that James Randi's meticulously-devised tests can destroy their reputations, such as they are, and make fools of them all.