WA Attempts on the $A100,000 Prize
The following account draws on reports in POST Newspapers, 5-6 September 1990, page 9, and the Skeptic 27(2), 15, 2007.
Contenders for the Australian Skeptics $100,000 prize for proof of paranormal ability rarely raise their heads in Western Australia. The first serious challenger was a young psychic called Gwen (not her real name). Gwen contacted the WA Skeptics to say she was willing to have her psychic skills tested. We made it clear that our test would be only a pre-test, which if successful would lead to a test by the national body for the $100,000 prize. She was then asked to provide two testimonials from people who had witnessed her powers and to put in writing what she claimed to be able to do. Once she had done this, we worked together to draw up test conditions that both Gwen and WA Skeptics were happy with.
Gwen is a well-known psychic with very satisfied clients. She said in her letter that she regularly read auras (supposedly some sort of light energy emitted by people). She said she was like a radio or TV receiver sensitive to the energy coming from people. She said she was able to tell people facts about themselves with great accuracy. Accordingly our pre-test would measure her accuracy. If it was significantly higher than could be explained by chance, she would proceed to a full test by Australian Skeptics for the $100,000 prize.
The WA pre-test
July 1998. Gwen (back to camera) making a reading. The background is plain to help her see auras. Only Gwen and the subject occupy the room. There are no observers. The subject is sitting on her hands to minimise cues from body language.
Both subjects said Gwen showed warmth, empathy, friendliness and a willingness to talk. And both said that, with training, she would make an excellent psychologist or counsellor. But Gwen was not happy with the lack of response from the subjects. She accepted that it was a necessary part of the test, but in her everyday work her clients were much more responsive. She was not used to working in silence.
Results agree with Dutch test
Other WA challengers for the $100,000 prize
All remained quiet until August 2006 when we were approached by Matt McGillon and Sharee Briggs who live 45 km south of Perth. They claimed to be in continuous telepathic contact, so a series of words given to one would be reproduced by the other. A test procedure was agreed to, as was a date (9 March 2007) and place (our usual meeting room). We then went to much trouble to book the room, devise test material, prepare forms for signing, arrange video recording equipment, and enlist helpers. It had been agreed that if the telepaths got 15 or more words correct out of 20 (a quite staggering feat, but they insisted it was merely routine), we would recommend a test by the national body for the $100,000 prize.
Another added that the statement he was hoping McGillon would make was something like: "I have tested my ability by having my friend make a list of 20 words and telepathically send them to me. I wrote the words down and after the transmission, we compared the lists and counted the number of correct words".To which McGillon replied, not with an appropriate statement, but with a description of what it was like to be telepathic: "Yes, with the [i.e. our] setup the result is 100% everytime. We're able to talk to each other exactly like normal spoken word but by mental telepathy. As I write this, my friend [Sharee] is about 50 km away and we're talking continuously". Amazing if true.
By 12 March 2007 the bloggers had heard how the telepaths had chickened out. One commented: "Give them some slack. When is the last time you tried to negotiate city traffic while telepathically linked to another driver on a different road? They are probably both laid up in hospital". To which another responded: "Not in Perth, Western Australia. It's a VERY quiet town. They hardly have enough cars to cause a traffic jam."
But all that mental traffic! It seems that this time the WA Skeptics were taken for a ride. But we live in hope. Maybe the next contender will show us something amazing.