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James Randi

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James Randi


He broke Houdini’s Guinness record by being in a sealed underwater casket for an hour and 44 minutes. He set another Guinness record for spending 55 minutes encased in a block of ice. He has bent spoons through ‘mind power’, escaped from a straightjacket while suspended upside-down over the Niagara Falls, and escaped from locked jail cells.

And yet, the true irony of James Randi’s career as one of the world’s top magicians and escape artists is that he denies having any ‘paranormal or psychic’ ability – while his detractors claim he does!

Perhaps Randi should be grateful to his detractors, for without them he may not have been inspired to add another dimension to his professional repertoire: that of the world’s most tireless investigator and demystifier of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims. Over the last few decades he has pursued ‘psychic’ spoonbenders, exposed the dirty tricks of faith healers, investigated homeopathic water ‘with a memory’, debunked auras, explained ESP and UFOs, and, as he puts it, “generally been a thorn in the sides of those who try to pull the wool over the public’s eyes in the name of the supernatural.” He made 22 appearances on the Johnny Carson show exposing fraudulent claims and psychobabble, and has written widely-respected books including The Faith Healers, an expose of the methods used by evangelists who claim to heal by using their ‘divine touch’; and The Truth About Uri Geller, an in-depth examination of the methods used by celebrated conjurer Uri Geller who claimed to have genuine psychic abilities.

In an introduction to Flim-Flam! – The Truth About Unicorns, Parapsychology and Other Delusions, Isaac Asimov wrote “Randi strikes back, and when the pseudoscientists howl, he knows he’s hit the mark.”

He’s hit the mark consistently; today, he is author, lecturer, amateur astronomer and archaeologist, and his lectures and TV appearances delight – and vex – audiences around the world. He runs courses for police officers on frauds and swindlers, lectures to scientists’ organisations and medical societies, and has received a stellar lineup of awards and recognitions, including a MacArthur Foundation fellowship. Shows based on his work have appeared on television, and earlier this year, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Humanist Association and a Lifetime Fellowship from his peers in the Academy of Magical Arts.

In 1996, Randi (through the James Randi Education Foundation) issued a long-standing challenge to psychics to demonstrate paranormal or psychic claims under controlled conditions – with a prize of $1,000,000 administered by his Foundation. It remains unclaimed.

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