Americans are trying to communicate with spirits in record numbers; half of all Americans believe in extrasensory perception. A new 2000 Gallup poll reports that fully 28 percent of Americans believe people can hear from or communicate mentally with the dead.
Regardless of whether spirits are attempting to communicate with us, people are trying to communicate with them—spouses with deceased spouses; parents with deceased children; children with deceased parents—says Greg Barrett of the Gannett News Service. Skeptics and believers alike say it is this love—and love lost—that drives our undying desire to talk to the dead.
Longtime skeptic and magician James Randi, a.k.a. "Amazing Randi," says, "People not only want it to be true, they need it to be true. It's the feel-good syndrome," says the 72-year-old, who has standing offer of $1 million to psychics who can independently verify their "magic."
Between 1972 and 1995 U.S. taxpayer,s unbeknownst to them, supported the paranormal profession. Before the ties were severed to psychics in 1996, the CIA and various U.S. Defense Department intelligence agencies spent $20 million in an effort to turn psychics into spy satellites. Some of the details of the government program may soon be released, as they are in the process of being reviewed for declassification, according to CIA spokeswoman Anya Guilsher. Guilsher adds that the government's conclusion of the use of psychics was "unpromising."
Psychic Noreen Renier doesn't agree. She was lecturing on extrasensory perception at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, when she warned that President Reagan would soon receive an injury to the upper chest. Two months later, John Hinckley shot Reagan.
Skeptic Paul Kurtz says all of this medium stuff is "nincompoopery." "But for whatever reason, it's all the rage." Kurtz is chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal and he tackles claims of psychics and the like in his Skeptic Inquirer magazine.
Gary Schwartz thinks he has evidence that the living can talk to the dead. Schwartz, Harvard-educated and head of the University of Arizona Human Energy Systems Laboratory, claims the lab, which is a psychic testing ground, is revealing some interesting data. Several years ago, five mediums that Schwartz refers to as the "Dream Team" were flown to Tucson and put through a battery of tests. Most psychics scored 83 percent in revealing personal details about others, when asking yes or no questions.
When asked if any of his "Dream Team" will take Amazing Randi's challenge for the $1 million prize, he answers that Randi is an eternal skeptic who will never convert, no matter what evidence confronts him, so it is unlikely.
Barrett, Greg. USA Today, 20 June 2001.