For about a decade former stage magician-cum-sceptic, James Randi, has offered a $1-million prize to anyone who can successfully prove they’re psychic. Or can speak to the dead. Or move objects by shooting energy from their eyes. To date many have taken up the challenge. But none has claimed the prize. Does a “mystic” maiden from Peddie stand any chance of taking the purse? By MANDY DE WAAL.
In the small Eastern Cape village of Peddie, lives a woman who believes she has a remarkable gift. Her name’s Thembisa Bavuma and it appears the Daily Sun thinks she’s gifted too – complete with capital letters and at least one exclamation mark. It’s ugly, but that’s how the Sun does it.
Bavuma caught the paper’s eye not solely because she believes her dreams foretell the fortunes of others, but because news of her prescience has become hotly traded social currency in George and surrounding areas. Everyone’s telling the story of Bavuma’s psychic powers and how she forecast the accidental death of three ANC ward councillors.
The 36-year-old self-proclaimed psychic related how in her dream she had seen the three men lying on the ground, one of whom had blood pouring from his neck. The next day she chanced across the men at a filling station in Port Alfred and asked them for a lift to Port Elizabeth, despite her gory dream. The councillors refused and Bavuma was given passage by a truck driver.
“Then, near the Nanaga area, I saw a big accident and asked the driver to stop. My instincts told me this was what I had dreamed about the night before. I rushed to the scene and found the three men dead on the road. Others were lying at the side of the road. The councillor had blood on his neck like the man I saw in my dream,” she told the Sun.
The paper says Bavuma’s relatives now live in fear of her gift. Not only because of the dread she might have a foreboding dream about them, but because they fear the spirits that bring Bavuma’s dreams may overwhelm her.
Other prophecies the Eastern Cape psychic seemingly has predicted include a big rock falling on Lady Frere’s St John’s Spiritual Church, the dissolution of a kwaito band after members had been stabbed. It appears that many locals have ignored Bavuma’s visions at their own peril.
Bavuma and family shouldn’t weep though, because if the Peddie mystic’s powers are genuine, she stands an excellent chance of winning about R7.68-million in the James Randi Educational Foundation One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge.
This challenge was set up by Randi, and the bucks wait in a prize account at Evercore Wealth Management, ready to be paid to anyone who can demonstrate supernatural powers or a paranormal abilities. There is a minor caveat – the challengers’ prowess must undergo scientific testing before the media to get the dosh.
In 2001 renowned psychic medium, Sylvia Brown was challenged by Larry King to submit herself to the test and she agreed. Brown claims to be able to see angels and predict the future. However, the mystical one got cold feet soon after agreeing and reneged. A couple of months later the great Randi himself defied Rosemary Altea to talk to the dead, but the self-proclaimed medium wouldn’t rise to temptation.
Those who have taken up Randi’s challenge include psychic Patricia Putt, astrologer Thomas Bowe, Julian Goldberg who claimed to have magnetic hands, Igor Afrikyan, the compass manipulator, and all manner of other eccentric types including energy healers, homeopaths together with psychics by the dozen. None of hundreds of applicants has succeeded, and the funds continue to collect interest in its Evercore Wealth Management.
In recent years the octogenarian Randi revised the rules for the paranormal challenge to target celebrities such as John Edwards, media darlings who attract ‘victims’ in their droves. Edwards preys on the bereaved and the grieving, claiming to talk to deceased loved ones – for a fee. Private readings cost $750 (around R5,700) a pop, private group readings $600 (around R4,600) and tickets for live group events go for $150 (around R1,130).
Speaking to Wired Magazine about the change, Randi said: “We can’t waste the hundreds of hours we spend every year on the nutcases out there – people who say they can fly by flapping their arms. We have three file drawers jam-packed with those collections… There are over 300 claims that we have handled in detail.”
One of the more bizarre applicants for the prize came from ‘The Prophet Yahweh’, a Nevada man, who said he was going to command two UFOs to land in a Las Vegas park. However, negotiations between the Randi non-profit organisation and the good prophet broke down when the space ship whisperer demanded bringing a contingent of heavily armed guards to the demonstration site because he feared “negative personalities” would show up.
Thembisa Bavuma is courting media favour and become a cause célèbre in the picturesque municipality of Ngqushwa, so perhaps she’ll get in with a fighting chance. Even if, by some stroke of luck, Bavuma gets a shot at Randi’s $1-million, we predict the Eastern Cape psychic will walk away empty handed. DM
Photo: James Randi is taking on the “nutcases” who claim to have psychic abilities.
"Man is by nature a political animal" ~ Aristotle