(This is a continuation of the post begun below. As before, all emphases in bold are added by me.)
How easy is it for a claimant to apply for James Randi's vaunted million dollar prize? According to The JREF Million Dollar Challenge FAQ, not easy at all. Section 4.4 of the FAQ reads:
An application made by an earnest applicant may take 1-6 months to handle, considering the refining of the application wording and the mutual negotiation of a mutually acceptable preliminary test. It should not take longer than a few weeks, ideally, so long as an acceptable test is quickly agreed upon. However, securing a team of qualified observers is not always an easy thing to do, so the time that lapses between your claim submission and the actual test can be several months, or even longer.
Such long delays must discourage a lot of people. In his Personal FAQ at the end of the above-linked document, Randi seems to concede as much:
Many hundreds have applied, and most have had to be instructed to reapply — sometimes several times — because they did it incorrectly or incompletely. There are, at any given time, about 40 to 60 applicants being considered, but from experience we know that the vast majority will drop out even before any proper preliminary test can be designed. Of those who get to the preliminary stage, perhaps a third will actually be tested, and some of those will quit before completion.
Hundreds have applied ... often several times because of problems with the paperwork. But "the vast majority" drop out even "before any proper preliminary test can be designed." And even most of those who make it to the preliminary test don't actually get tested - only "perhaps a third."
So what kind of numbers are we talking about? Section 1.3 reports:
Between 1964 and 1982, Randi declared that over 650 people had applied . Between 1997 and February 15, 2005, there had been a total of 360 official, notarized applications.
It's not clear what happened between 1982 and 1997, but in the 26 years covered, 1,010 people applied. Whether all these applications were accepted is a different issue, one that's not taken up in the FAQ.
Who are these applicants and what became of them? Section 4.7 addresses this question. In response to the question, "Where can I find a list of all the people who have ever applied?" the FAQ states:
Since the Challenge has been going on since before the World Wide Web gained in popularity, no such list exists online. The JREF has limited resources, so most of the applications are maintained in a file cabinet at the JREF headquarters. In other words, if you want a lot of details about the former applicants, you are going to have to visit the JREF and do your own research.
However, the JREF forum also contains a CHALLENGE APPLICATIONS section that describes in detail the claims received, the correspondences exchanged between the JREF and the applicant, and subsequent protocol negotiations and test results.
I'm not sure why the fact that the challenge predates the popularity of the Web is relevant. A great deal of the data on the Web predates the Web itself. Those data have simply been uploaded to Web servers. JREF prefers to keep its data in file cabinets, presumably where few people can see them. If I were a skeptic, I might be skeptical about this.
It appears, then, that the application process can extend for many months, with the applicant told to resubmit his paperwork (often including notarized documents) again and again. No lists of applicants and outcomes are readily available. Randi himself is vague about the number of people who have been tested (as contrasted with the number who have applied). It's also unclear whether all 1,010 applicants between 1964-1982 and 1997-early 2005 were actually accepted, or whether some, or even most, of the applications were rejected.
For a look at the slow-as-molasses "progress" (if that's the word) of one candidate's application, readers can go to Peter Morris's Web site. Here we see that correspondence between the applicant and James Randi began on March 6, 2004. Correspondence relating to the application itself began on August 31, 2006, and the application was mailed on September 11, 2006. On October 16, 2006, Randi acknowledged receipt of the application. As of November 3, 2006, the applicant and Randi were still arguing about whether or not the claim would be tested.
Remember also that some applicants are rejected out of hand. An example is provided on Richard Milton's Web site. Someone named Rico Kolodzey tried to apply for the challenge, claiming he could survive without food for an indefinite period. In his reply, Randi simply dismissed the claim as preposterous:
Please don't treat us like children. We only respond to responsible claims....
If this is actually your claim, you're a liar and a fraud. We are not interested in pursuing this further, nor will we exchange correspondence with you on the matter.
The one thing that stands out here, beyond the obvious difficulty of getting an application approved in the first place, is the disparity between the number of people who successfully apply and the number who are actually tested. Do all these claimants drop out voluntarily even after going to the trouble of applying, or are there other factors involved?
We'll look at that question and wrap things up in part three.