A Las Vegas businessman has offered almost $1 million for evidence that there is life after death.
Real estate investor and space entrepreneur Robert Bigelow, who is known for funding UFO research, will dish out cash prizes as part of a new essay competition.
His Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies is looking for entries from top scientists, religious scholars, consciousness researchers or anyone who can find evidence of the existence of the afterlife.
“I am personally totally convinced of it,” he told The New York Times.
The BICS will give a $500,000 prize for the top essay that gives evidence of “the survival of consciousness after permanent bodily death,” $300,000 for second place and $150,000 for third place.
“The Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies, was formed to try to conduct research and facilitate research into the possibility of the survival of human consciousness beyond bodily death, and, if that is true, then to explore what is the other side all about?” said Mr Bigelow.
The 75-year-old businessman is the founder and owner of Bigelow Aerospace and the Budget Suites of America hotel chain. The extended-stay chain houses more than 15,000 people in three states and has allowed him to sink more than $350 million into Bigelow Aerospace, which he has called “my own black hole."
In the 1990s Mr Bigelow set up the National Institute of Discovery Science, a think tank that investigated UFO issues.
Then in 2008 the Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies group signed a deal with the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency to study UFO issues.
The Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program was revealed by the New York Times in 2017.
To take part in the competition people must apply through the BICS website and a panel of judges will evaluate the “expertise, qualifications and experience of applicants”.
Entrants, who should have at least five years of study in the field, must qualify by 28 February, with 25,000 word essays due by 1 August.
The winners will be announced on 1 November.
Mr Bigelow’s interest in human consciousness developed after the 1992 suicide of his 24-year-old son, Rod Lee.
Following the death Mr Bigelow and his late wife, Diane, met with medium George Anderson to try and make contact.
Asked by the New York Times if they had any success, Mr Bigelow replied, “not really but what I got out of the readings, I think, was that his spirit existed and was OK”.
In 1997 the couple donated $3.7 million to endow the Bigelow Chair of Consciousness Studies at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
But it was shut down several years later.
“Sadly, we just couldn’t make enough progress in research aspects,” he said.