30 June, 2009

New Zealand Psychic Challenge

I spent a month in New Zealand in July 2006 driving around in a campervan. It's a beautiful country and their passion for outdoor/extreme sports meant every day was an adventure. Some friends of mine were living in Wanaka, on the South Island, at the time so I stayed there for a few days. It was here I visited a place called Puzzling World, which is 'a world unique attraction specialising in puzzling eccentricity'. It's a fun place and would be great to visit with kids, but the exhibit that caught my attention was located close to the entrance and was garnering little attention from the visitors. It was the Stuart Landsborough's Psychic Challenge...

In 1994 Stuart, a member of the New Zealand Skeptics Society, created a challenge to test those who claim to deal in the paranormal.

Psychics – we challenge you to use psychic means to find two halves of a promissory note hidden within 100 metres of the Challenge display at Puzzling World, New Zealand.

Find the notes and NZ$100,000 is yours!

Each official challenger will have to pay a fee of NZ$1,000. If the challenger fails, this money will be given to charity. Since 1994, four people who claim to have psychic ability have accepted the challenge. All have failed.

It's a bit like James Randi's challenge, except that this already has a specific goal, while Randi's will allow you to propose an experiment (and the prize is a million US bucks). Landsborough has hidden two halves of a promissory note on the grounds of the establishment. The psychic has to use their powers to deduce the hiding places, i.e. they are not allowed to rummage around. The reason for splitting it in two is that if enough psychics attempt to find one item, eventually one would hit upon it by chance alone. The odds of finding two distinct hiding places are so remote that if someone was successful, it would have to be considered a valid claim of psychic ability.

The rules are:

• All challengers must make an appointment with Stuart Landsborough.

• Each challenger is required to deposit One Thousand dollars (NZ$1,000) with Stuart Landsborough before the challenge commences.

• If successful, this amount along with the NZ$100,000 will be awarded to the challenger. If unsuccessful, the NZ$1,000 will go to a charity of Stuart Landsborough's choice.

• The challenger will sit opposite Stuart Landsborough facing AWAY from him. This is to avoid any chance of visual/non-verbal indications from Stuart.

• They may ask questions for 30 minutes, however Stuart can only "think" the answers.

• The challenger will have up to 60 minutes to search within the 100 metre radius and offer TWO exact search sites (ONE for each part of the promissory note).

• To win the $NZ100,000 prize the challenger must find BOTH parts of the promissory note.

• Witnesses to the challenge are permitted and media coverage may include relevant information about the challenger. Should the challenge fail or succeed both the challenger and Stuart Landsborough have the rights to publicise the results.

• No major earthworks or damage to buildings needs to be undertaken however any damage caused will be covered by the challenger.

• Regardless of success or failure, after the result is known Stuart will show the true locations of the hidden promissory notes. Naturally, after the challenge they will be again hidden, but in different locations.

It's a great idea and it really exposes the nonsense that is alleged psychic ability. Don't forget, most of these 'psychics' relieve vulnerable (and somewhat stupid) people of their hard-earned cash, much like a con artist. But it's funny that when they are given an opportunity to actually prove their powers and win cash money to boot, they shy away. In fact, there have only been a handful of attempts in about 15 years, all of which have failed miserably. As Landsborough says:

"Where are all these competent psychics when you want them?"

Perhaps they got a vision ahead of time that they would fail, so decided to stay at home...


BeamStalk said...

I love the idea. Of course none of the big name psychics will take him up, because even if they aren't intentionally frauds, I believe they know they have no abilities sub consciously.

I want to go to OZ and NZ some day. When I do I will make the puzzle place a definite stop.

rhiggs said...

Agreed but the implications of that are this:

Imagine you are a big shot psychic. You believe 100% that you actually have psychic ability. If you heard of this challenge, you would definitely do it as you would 100% believe in your ability to find the notes and win the money. You would have no fear.

But the big shot psychics don't take up the challenge. The only possible conclusion is that they know they are frauds. That's why challenges like this and James Randi's are so important. They expose these people for what they really are, con artists...

Haven't been to Oz, but New Zealand is one of the best places I've ever been. I would recommend it to anyone :)

BeamStalk said...

I was being nice Rhiggs. :P

rhiggs said...


You big softy!

I could never be nice to those who make money by playing with people's emotions and lying about their deceased loved ones, etc...

BeamStalk said...

That and some of these psychics are sue happy.

rhiggs said...

Good point...

I don't want a Simon Singh-esque libel case on my ass!!

It is now my position that all psychics do not knowingly con people out of their hard earned cash, they rip them off entirely unknowingly. Also, they are not afraid of attempting the Psychic Challenge, they are just washing their hair...a lot...

BeamStalk said...



Ryk said...

Actually my psychic spirit guide has informed me that they are all frauds and crooks. Since my psychic powers can not be disproven scientifically then anyone who wishes to sue will have to sue my psychic companion. Her name is Freida, she is invisible, and purple, she lives in my nose.

She also accounts for the absolute laws of logic.