PHOENIX — The Great Soul Trial of 1967 had nothing to do with tryouts for a gospel singing group. Instead, it was a legal attempt to prove the existence of a human soul. And, not surprisingly, there was a lot of money involved.
In 1949, 70-year-old James Kidd, a prospector, disappeared into the wilderness of the Superstition Mountains. After he was declared dead, someone discovered that Kidd has left more than $200,000 in cash and investments, along with a will that left all the money to “a research or some scientific proof of a soul in the human body which leaves at death.”
The will was filed for probate and assigned to the Maricopa County Superior Court for hearing in 1967. About 140 soul-searchers laid claim to the money but it was awarded to the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. However, others appealed and in 1973, Kidd’s fortune was given to the American Society of Psychical Research in New York, founded in 1885 to investigate spiritual phenomena and others things of that nature. The society accepted the money and spent it studying out-of-body experiences and deathbed revelations, but all their findings were judged inconclusive.
About the only certainties that came out of it all were that the money was gone, and that Kidd never came back to complain about the way it was spent.