People have questioned the existence of ghosts since the beginning of civilization, or at least since civilization's second generation. Today, journalists, individuals and organizations who investigate the paranormal are found almost everywhere there are -- or were -- people.
Recently, members of the Alabama Paranormal Society reported hearing ghostly whispers and seeing strange, unexplained shapes at a defunct Birmingham blast furnace (pictured below). They strongly suspect the site is haunted.
Now, if they can prove it, they will not only put the age-old question to rest, they'll win $1 million.
The not-for-profit James Randi Educational Foundation offers a million-dollar prize to anyone who can provide evidence of ghosts. Or even a single ghost.
Moreover, any applicant who can do so little as bend a fork or move a piece of bread with his mind or otherwise prove that anything psychic, supernatural or paranormal of any kind exists or ever has: gets a million bucks.
The foundation was started by James Randi, long famous as a stage magician but perhaps best known as a skeptic with regard to paranormal claims. During a 1964 radio show, Randi was challenged by a parapsychologist: "Put your money where your mouth is."
Randi responded with an offer to pay $1,000 to anyone who could demonstrate paranormal powers in a controlled test. When word of the challenge spread, several donors pooled their money with Randi's, increasing the prize to $1 million.
To date, he's had more than 1,000 applicants, many claiming to have evidence of ghosts. Applicants have also included purported clairvoyants, exorcists, astrologers, psychics, telepathists, practitioners of telekinesis, energy healers, mind readers, ouija board communicators, and a woman with the ability to converse with animals. (See their actual applications by clicking on each link.)
All failed to prove their claims.
With a Vaudevillian's mock surprise, Randi told me, "You'd think someone would have taken the prize long ago."
Applications continue to pour in -- none, however, from noted paranormalists John Edward, Sylvia Browne or Uri Geller, each having declined the challenge. According to Randi, "They've been too busy to make a million dollars for twenty minutes work."
I asked Randi about the likelihood that an applicant would win the prize. "I don't see any possibility, now or ever," he said.
He would be satisfied, however, to cut a check to the Alabama Paranormal Society.
The age-old question, finally, will have an answer.
"I've always just wanted to know if anything [paranormal] is happening," he says. "Also I'd win a Nobel Prize because we'd have proof of something that only has been rumored to exist for centuries -- I'd make the million back."
Click here for an application in the event you see a genuine apparition on Halloween or have another paranormal experience at any time, including a past life.
The Sloss Blast Furnace site in Birmingham, AL: Haunted?