Paranormal challenges, often posed by groups or individuals who self-identify as skeptics or rationalists, publicly challenge those who claim to possess paranormal abilities to demonstrate that they in fact possess them, and are not fraudulent or self-deceptive.
After establishing procedures and measures of success agreed upon beforehand between the challengers and the claimants, a challenge is usually divided into two steps, the first being a "preliminary test" or "pre-test", where claimants can show their purported abilities under controlled conditions before a small audience, before being admitted to the final test. Sometimes these pre-tests have a smaller prize attached to them. Several local organisations have set up challenges that serve as pre-tests to larger prizes such as the JREF's One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge or the 2012–2013 SKEPP Sisyphus Prize (for one million euros).
In 1922, Scientific American made two US$2,500 offers: (1) for the first authentic spirit photograph made under test conditions, and (2) for the first psychic to produce a "visible psychic manifestation." Harry Houdini was a member of the investigating committee. The first medium to be tested was George Valiantine, who claimed that in his presence spirits would speak through a trumpet that floated around a darkened room. For the test, Valiantine was placed in a room, the lights were extinguished, but unbeknownst to him his chair had been rigged to light a signal in an adjoining room if he left his seat. Because the light signals were tripped during his performance - indicating that he did leave his seat multiple times, sometimes for up to eighteen seconds - Valiantine was confirmed to be a fraud, and did not collect the award money.
Since then, many individuals and groups have offered similar monetary awards for proof of the paranormal in an observed setting. Indian rationalist Abraham Kovoor's challenge in 1963 inspired American skeptic James Randi's prize in 1964, which became the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge. In 2003, these prizes were calculated to have a combined value of US$2,326,500. As of January 2015[update], none of the prizes have been awarded. The James Randi paranormal challenge was officially terminated in 2015. As of 2018, these prizes combine to approximately US$1,024,215. However, they take place in multiple countries and the conditions to be met may vary considerably.
List of standing prizesEdit
|Date||Location||Challengers||Offered prize||Equivalent in U.S. dollars||Details||Status|
|2014–||Czech Republic||Czech Skeptics' Club Sisyfos||3,415,000 Czech koruna||$160,671||To anyone who can prove to possess paranormal abilities in areas such as clairvoyance, telepathy, telekinesis, rhabdomancy, etc.||Unclaimed|
|1999–||China||Sima Nan||1,000,000 Chinese yuan||$157,913||"[T]o anyone who can perform one act of "special ability” without cheating."||Unclaimed|
|1984–||India||Tarksheel Society||10,000,000 Indian rupees||$150,110||To anyone who can perform any of 22 specified "miracles". The entry fee is 10,000 INR.||Unclaimed|
|2000–||United States||Center for Inquiry Investigations Group||500,000 US dollars||$500,000||"...to anyone who can demonstrate any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power under scientific test conditions." The person who refers a successful applicant to the CFIIG earns $5,000 as well.||Unclaimed|
|1980–||Australia||Australian Skeptics||100,000 Australian dollars||$75,820||For proof of the existence of extrasensory perception, telepathy, or telekinesis.||Unclaimed|
|1985–||India||Science and Rationalists' Association of India, Prabir Ghosh||5,000,000 Indian rupees||$75,055||Prabir 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."||Unclaimed|
|1994–||New Zealand||Stuart Landsborough, New Zealand Skeptics||100,000 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. Contestants have to donate NZ$1,000 to charity if they fail.||Unclaimed|
|2000–||Italy||Alfredo Barrago's Bet, CICAP||50,000 Euro||$60,737||"[...] shown at least a 'phenomenon' produced by 'medium, seers, sensitive etc.' of paranormal nature."||Unclaimed|
|2002–||Belgium||SKEPP Sisyphus Prize||25,000 Euro||$30,368||The 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. Afterwards, the regular Sisyphus Prize was continued and raised from €10,000 to €25,000.||Unclaimed|
|2013–||Great Britain||Association for Skeptical Enquiry||12,000 British pounds||$16,535||For proof of psychic powers.||Unclaimed|
|2015–||Russia||Harry Houdini Prize||1,000,000 Russian rubles||$16,096||The prize is awarded for demonstrating paranormal or supernatural abilities under conditions scientifically valid experiment.||Unclaimed|
|2001–||United States||North Texas Skeptics||12,000 US dollars||$12,000||"[T]o any person ... who can demonstrate any psychic or paranormal power or ability under scientifically valid observing conditions."||Unclaimed|
|1997–||Great Britain||Lavkesh Prasha, Asian Rationalist Society of Britain||10,000 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.||Unclaimed|
|2008–||Estonia||Eesti Skeptik||10,000 Euro||$12,147||To anyone who can prove paranormal abilities.||Unclaimed|
|2004–||Germany||GWUP||10,000 Euro||$12,147||To anyone who can prove paranormal abilities.||Unclaimed|
|1989–||Finland||Skepsis ry (Finnish Association of Skeptics)||10,000 Euro||$12,147||For 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.||Unclaimed|
|1988–||Netherlands||Stichting Skepsis||10,000 Euro||$12,147||To anyone who wants their "alternative diagnoses" (including kinesiology, electroacupuncture, bioresonance therapy, Therapeutic Touch, observing auras, clairvoyance, iridology, pendulum dowsing, astrology) to be tested; winning the pre-test earns €500. Skepsis' first challenge in March 1988 was ƒ10,000 to any "psychic surgeon" who could remove chairman Cornelis de Jager's appendix.||Unclaimed|
|Unknown–||Sweden||Swedish Humanist Association||100,000 Swedish krona||$11,550||To anyone who can demonstrate a paranormal or supernatural ability for which no scientific explanation can be found.||Unclaimed|
|1996–||Canada||Les Sceptiques du Quebec||10,000 Canadian dollars||$7785||"Just a small fact, observable or verifiable through experiment" of a paranormal phenomenon.||Unclaimed|
|2012–||Sri Lanka||Sri Lankan Rationalist Association||1,000,000 Sri Lankan rupees||$6341||Professor Carlo Fonseka renewed Abraham Kovoor's challenge.||Unclaimed|
|Unknown–||United States||Fayetteville Freethinkers||One goat||undetermined||"Offering a reward for a fulfilled Biblical prophecy!"||Unclaimed|
|1976–||India||Indian Skeptic, Indian CSICOP||100,000 Indian rupees||$1501||Formerly moderated by Basava Premanand, deceased in 2009. Offered after Abraham Kovoor fell ill with cancer in 1976. Premanand's magazine and organization have continued the challenge after his death in 2009.||Unclaimed|
|1995–||India||Indian Rationalist Association, Sanal Edamaruku||100,000 Indian rupees||$1501||To anyone who could prove the 1995 "Hindu milk miracle" was, in fact, a miracle. Since 2002, it includes "anyone who can provide scientific evidence for iridology".||Unclaimed|
|2011–||Mexico||Daniel Zepeda||20,000 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."||Unclaimed|
|1989–||United States||Tampa Bay Skeptics||1000 US dollars
||$1,000||"[T]o anyone able to demonstrate any paranormal phenomenon under mutually agreed-upon observing conditions."||Unclaimed|
List of defunct prizesEdit
|Date||Location||Challengers||Offered prize||Equivalent in dollars||Details||Status|
|1964–2015||United States||JREF, One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge||1,000,000 US dollars||$1,000,000||Launched by James Randi as $1,000 in 1964, raised to $10,000 by 1980, to $100,000 by 1989, and finally to a million in 1996. Since the launch of the James Randi Educational Foundation, applications were processed and tests prepared and conducted by a committee. In 2015 the challenge was officially terminated.||Unclaimed.[a]|
|1987–2002||France||Gérard Majax, Henri Broch, Jacques Theodor, International Zetetic Challenge||200,000 Euro||$242,949||Mediums and clairvoyants were challenged to show their powers, but all 275 candidates allegedly failed.||Unclaimed|
|1928–1995||United States||Joseph Dunninger, Houdini Magical Hall of Fame||31,000 US dollars||$31,000||To anyone who can cause a suspended pencil in a sealed box to write a message on a pad of paper, also in the box.||Unclaimed|
|2012||India||Tarksheel Society||1,000,000 Indian rupees||$15,011||To anyone who could correctly predict the election results in five Indian state assemblies.||Unclaimed|
|2014||India||Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations||1,000,000 Indian rupees||$15,011||Correctly answer 21 out of 25 questions relating to future election results. Intended for astrologers, but open to anyone.||Unclaimed|
|1985–1988||United States||Paranormal Investigating Committee of Pittsburgh||10,000 US dollars||$10,000||"[T]o anyone who can demonstrate successfully a psychic claim in a controlled examination."||Unclaimed|
|2007–2009||United States||Sanad Rashed, Ahmed Khaled Tawfik||5000 US dollars||$5000||For proof ouija boards function as claimed.||Unclaimed|
|2008||India||Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations||200,000 Indian rupees||$3002||Correctly answer 21 out of 25 questions relating to future election results. Intended for astrologers, but open to anyone.||Unclaimed|
|1922||United States||Scientific American||2500 US dollars||$2500||Two $2,500 offers: (1) for the first authentic spirit photograph made under test conditions, or (2) for the first psychic to produce a "visible psychic manifestation."||Unclaimed|
|Unknown–2005||United States||New York Area Skeptics||2000 US dollars||$2000||Awarded to the successful completion of the JREF One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge.||Unclaimed|
|1963–1978||India & Sri Lanka||Abraham Kovoor||100,000 Sri Lankan rupees||$634||Kovoor initiated the Abraham Kovoor's challenge starting in 1963. He inspired others like Randi and Premanand. He died in 1978.||Unclaimed|
|2012–2013||Estonia||Eesti Skeptik||500 Euro||$607||Awarded to anyone who passed the Estonian preliminary test to the Belgian Sisyphus Prize.||Unclaimed|
|2012–2013||Great Britain||Association for Skeptical Enquiry||400 British pounds||$551||Awarded to anyone who passed the British preliminary test to the Belgian Sisyphus Prize.||Unclaimed|
- ^ In 2003, the "Yellow Bamboo group" from Bali claimed they passed an (unofficial) JREF preliminary test. However, the JREF determined they had not passed this test, saying that regarding the video submitted to prove their claim, "...a Sony camera that takes a floppy disk, was used; it makes 12-second "snaps" of action, at very low resolution... that video "clip" is very obscure and dark, so it doesn't tell us much... we've now viewed the clip frame-by-frame, and... there is no evidence of anything supernatural available here." 
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CFIIG will work with applicants to design the test protocol and define the conditions under which the test will take place. In most cases, the applicant will be asked to perform an informal demonstration of the claimed ability or phenomenon; if the demonstration is successful, it will be followed by a formal test, which will be administered by CFIIG representatives.
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