there.The witnesses matter in any kind of
jury, in any kind of convincing the court of
public opinion. Is this a good case that you’re
presenting? Witnesses really matter and proof
beyond a reasonable doubt doesn’t say you
have to be 100 per cent sure, but you have to
have ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’.”
It was a good point. If this were a court
case, I think we would have already established that there was life after death.
“Absolutely, yes.This is not circumstantial
Bigelow has said on record before that he
personally believes that there is life after
death. What had convinced him of that?
“I’ve had personal experiences of different
kinds, which always helps, and I have no other
answers for the personal experiences that
occurred, the way that they happened.There
are no other causes that are imaginable – that
are legitimately imaginable – and so it comes
down to one cause and it comes down to the
survival of consciousness and that these
events were caused by some spirit or spirits
on the other side.That’s pretty profound to
me. And then lots of folks I know have had
very dramatic experiences as well.These are
people who are related to me, people who
work for me, people who don’t work for me,
people who are friends, and over many years,
and their experiences are amazing and very in
your face kinds of things for which there are
no other prosaic kinds of explanations.”
In the course of my career as a researcher
in this field, I have been to allegedly haunted
houses with ghost hunters, attended séances
with mediums and talked to countless people
about the ghosts they claim to have seen, and
I have found that these are very subjective
experiences that are only ever subjectively
convincing. Was there more than personal
conviction behind his belief?
“I’ve done a lot of study and research, of
course: the literature is huge and I have a
substantial library.The research was very well
done and the conditions of trying to replicate
or trying to produce events and… you know,
so much effort has been put into this over so
many years by some really good people and
that just can’t be ignored. It’s not as though
those people didn’t exist and that they didn’t
know what they were doing. Just because
we’re in the 21st century, it doesn’t make
people in the 1800s stupid.”
So much research had already been conducted, yet its power to convince appeared to
have eroded over time, I suggested.
“I am an engineer by trade and so used to
analysing and looking at things and trying
to understand things, and for me it’s not that
difficult to connect all the dots. If you have a
lot of really good sources from many, many authors, and you just take the time and trouble
to read them, you get to a point where other
kinds of explanations are just goofy. If I look
at the amount of evidence, should I sweep
that under the rug and pretend it doesn’t
One might ask, why go to all this trouble
to investigate this question when we are all

LEFT: Raymond Moody, author of the 1975 book
Life After Life, was the second holder of the
Bigelow-endowed Chair of Consciousness Studies
at the at Uiniversity of Nevada.

going to find out what happens eventually?
But something Bigelow had touched on in
previous interviews was the importance of the
afterlife for what we do now.
“I think there’s a karmic effect. I think
what you do here matters. It may matter very
much and if that’s true, then that can shape
and shift people’s behaviours, for the better
hopefully, so there’s that kind of dynamic to it.
If people are blithely going along in their lives
and they’re not very kind people – but should
they understand the other side exists and that
it may matter as to whether you’re nice or
not as a human being, then maybe you should
think about it – just ‘who are you?’ – and if it
has a karmic effect, some kind of an effect, on
your existence on the other side, then it sure
as heck matters.”


The deadline for the competition is August
this year, with the winners to be announced in
November. What happens after that?
“We’ll be thinking about 2022, as to what
we can do for that year. Is it going to be another contest? Is it going to be something that is
going to involve some of the applicants, some
of the people generating these essays? I don’t
know what to expect in 2022 yet because it’s
still too early. Maybe a broader contest where
we have more prizewinners. We would want to
come up with something that certainly wasn’t
just a repeat. We’re interested in ideas as to
what could constitute a new kind of contest
for 2022.”
Bigelow was open-minded about any future
direction, speculating about putting up more

money, possibly a round million this time, but
his eyes were fixed on the present.
“At this moment, our main concern is birthing this programme properly and this contest
and paying attention to details and following
up, so that this is off to a good start; and then
we have to manage it throughout this year to
its conclusion.That’s our first job: to make
sure that we take responsibility for this particular first programme to succeed.”
But he volunteered more.
“Proving whether the other side exists or
not is actually just the first step.The research
community going back to the 1800s has been
dominated by the effort to prove its existence, in one way or another, or another, or
another… so it has been dominated by the necessity of trying to prove the other side exists
and that has gone on for almost two centuries.
At some point, I want to move on and go to the
next level up, which is probably much more
profound than simply whether or not some aspect of your consciousness is going to survive
your bodily death.”
The next level sounded intriguing. What
did he mean by it?
“That level is essentially ‘what is the other
side all about? If you’re going to survive, then
you are going to spend 99.999 per cent of your
existence, of your spiritual existence, on the
other side. It ought to be very important that,
at least from the point of view of curiosity,
that people would say ‘Gee, shouldn’t I know
a little something, if not a whole lot, if it were
possible, about what constitutes the other
It is the next logical question: if we survive
death, then what will it be like? But first the
“We’re excited to just see how many contestants there are going to be and who are the
winners and all that is going to be really exciting. We’d like to be able to put the winning
essays and even some runner-up essays on our
website, so that people can see for themselves
the quality of each of these arguments that
exist. I’m going to be intrigued as to what
these essays say.”
Those interested in taking a shot at the
prize have to apply first. Only applicants
who have spent at least five years involved
in research into the survival question will be
eligible; and then they will have five months
to produce not more than 25,000 words presenting the best evidence for a case that many
people believe is unprovable.
✒ DR LEO RUICKBIE is a Visiting Fellow in
Psychology at the University of Northampton,
Editor of the Magazine of the Society for
Psychical Research, and the author of six
books, most recently Angels in the Trenches:
Spiritualism, Superstition and the Supernatural During the First World War.