Think you can move small objects using only the power of your brain? Can you find water using a simple divining rod, or maybe just transmit thoughts telepathically? If you can prove your superpowers, a group of scientists in Germany would love to reward you with €10,000 ($11,700).
The Society for the Scientific Investigation of Para-Sciences (GWUP) is a group of German physicists, biologists and psychologists who believe that people who claim to have super-powers like telekinesis, telepathy or divining abilities should not be dismissed as mere charlatans, but actually studied and allowed to prove their abilities in controlled laboratory conditions. Every year, they invite candidates to the University of Würzburg, in Würzburg, Germany, to show off their super-powers and potentially win a cool €10,000 prize. Over 60 people have been tested in recent years, but none of them have been able to claim the coveted prize.
“We’re not here to make people look ridiculous,” says Rainer Wolf, a perceptual researcher and the man who oversees the yearly tests at the University of Würzburg. “We just want to show that many such claims are nonsense.”
But just because the claims are nonsense doesn’t meant that the people making them are trying to be deceitful. Wolf and his psychologist colleagues in GWUP are convinced that most of the candidates actually believe they have these special abilities that science can’t yet explain. They are trapped in a belief system that they themselves have built over a long period of time and that means a lot to them. They subconsciously forget all the failures and only seem to remember the times that their talents produced amazing results. But when it comes to actual testing, they always fail.
Rainer Wolf puts a lot of time and work into these super-power tests, trying to make them as fair as possible and minimize luck as much as possible. For example, last year, one of the candidates that showed up for testing claimed he had mastered telekinesis and could move small objects with the power of his mind. So Wolf had him move a small piece of paper that had previously been covered with a glass lid, so that wind or other air currents couldn’t interfere. The man tried to move the piece of paper for several hours before finally giving up.
There was also a so-called “geo-pathologist” who claimed to be able to be able to use a small pickax to detect water sources, pipes and even electrified wires. So Wolf had him identify which of the power cables in a university classroom were actually electrified. After preparing for several hours, he got 26 cables right out of a total of 50, which is pretty much the average any normal person would guess, according to the rules of probability.
A third candidate claimed to be able to levitate, but she too failed miserably multiple times before finally accepting defeat.
But one thing that all these candidates, and the dozens who came before them had in common was that they didn’t let this failure crush their conviction. In fact, Prof. Rainer Wolf says that this is their true super-power, this ability to find excuses, and retain their confidence in their abilities. Fortune tellers will say that the stars weren’t properly aligned, spiritualists will say that secret forces prevented them from reaching their goal, while others will simply blame their failure on fatigue or working or stress. There’ll always be something, that’s for sure.
Even when the results of the tests are catastrophic, candidates will find the strength to continue believing in their abilities. Take, Heinz Krieger, a diviner who swore he could find water using his two divining rods. In a test where out of 10 covered buckets only one actually contained water, Krieger was challenged to find the right bucket in at least 7 out of 13 attempts, in order to prove his gift and earn the 10,000 euro prize. He didn’t find the water bucket even once. Still, asked by reporters if he still believes in his super-power, he said “of course”. He doesn’t know why it didn’t work during the test, but his super-power is definitely not just his imagination.
So if you think you have a true super-power and are willing to prove it for a chance to win 10,000 euros, go over to the GWUP website and apply. Who knows, you may be the first person to finally convince these scientists and claim their financial reward.