James Randi — once known as the “Amazing Randi” for his stage dexterity — is a magician-turned-fraud-debunker.
Randi has traveled the world to expose the shady tricks that self-described psychics, faith healers, mediums and other hustlers use to prey upon the vulnerable and gullible.
He has written several books, appeared on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson, with Penn & Teller and on many other TV shows, and in 1986 was awarded a MacArthur “genius” fellowship.
His foundation has a long-standing offer of a $1 million prize to anyone who can prove paranormal ability under laboratory conditions. So far, no takers.
– Source: That’s Nice — Prove It! Washington Post, Mar. 16, 2007
Uri Geller and Peter Popoff
As a fraud debunker, James Randi became widely known after exposing ‘spoon bender’ Uri Geller and ‘faith healer’ Peter Popoff as frauds.
“The Amazing Randi,” as he billed himself, won notoriety for Houdini-like escapes from handcuffs and jails. His continuing passion for debunking also drew attention. So when Uri Geller burst on the scene in 1972, Randi was called. Geller claimed his telekinetic powers were so strong that he could bend metal. He typically demonstrated by seeming to melt a spoon just by rubbing it. Johnny Carson asked Randi to prepare a test for Geller’s 1973 appearance on the Tonight Show. Randi told the prop manager how to mark and secure the spoons so Geller couldn’t weaken them or prepare melted copies in advance. As Carson’s cameras rolled, Geller squirmed and concentrated but bent not a single spoon. Geller later said Carson’s skepticism blocked his powers. In a telephone interview this summer, Geller said that his powers have been proven scientifically and that Randi cynically used him to further his own career. “If I wasn’t around, Randi would be some little tiny magician based out of New Jersey. Today he is like an old man frothing from his mouth.”
Despite Randi’s high profile, hoax-busting was unprofitable until 1986. That’s when he took on TV faith healer Peter Popoff. Suspecting that Popoff’s hearing aid was really a radio receiver, Randi got a private investigator to bring a scanner and tape recorder to the faith-healing sessions. The scanner picked up Popoff’s wife, Elizabeth, calling, “Petey, can you hear me?” and reading information audience members had written on “prayer cards” or mentioned to ushers. On the Tonight Show, Randi showed a clip of Popoff appearing to get an inspiration about a “Harold” in the audience. “Cataracts,” Elizabeth relayed. “God is going to burn those cataracts right off your eyes!” Popoff thundered. “Popoff says God tells him these things,” Randi quipped. “Maybe he does. But I didn’t realize God used a frequency of 39.17 megahertz and had a voice exactly like Elizabeth Popoff’s.”
Within months, Popoff was bankrupt. And Randi had won his MacArthur award. Donors began contributing to his new foundation, allowing Randi to devote himself full time to hoax-busting. He set up a “million-dollar challenge” — to be paid from foundation reserves to anyone who could offer scientific proof of his or her paranormal powers.
Since then, Randi has traveled the world investigating, and often debunking, hundreds of people angling for the million, as well as anyone who makes a suspicious claim.
– Source: Portrait: James Randi: Schooled not to be fooled, U.S. News & World Report, Aug. 26, 2002
Watch this video report in which James Randi takes on Uri Geller and Peter Popoff:
James Randi Educational Foundation
The James Randi Educational Foundation is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1996. Its aim is to promote critical thinking by reaching out to the public and media with reliable information about paranormal and supernatural ideas so widespread in our society today.
The Foundation’s goals include:
- Creating a new generation of critical thinkers through lively classroom demonstrations and by reaching out to the next generation in the form of scholarships and awards.
- Demonstrating to the public and the media, through educational seminars, the consequences of accepting paranormal and supernatural claims without questioning.
- Supporting and conducting research into paranormal claims through well-designed experiments utilizing “the scientific method” and by publishing the findings in the JREF official newsletter, Swift, and other periodicals. Also providing reliable information on paranormal and pseudoscientific claims by maintaining a comprehensive library of books, videos, journals, and archival resources open to the public.
- Assisting those who are being attacked as a result of their investigations and criticism of people who make paranormal claims, by maintaining a legal defense fund available to assist these individuals.
To raise public awareness of these issues, the Foundation offers a $1,000,000 prize to any person or persons who can demonstrate any psychic, supernatural or paranormal ability of any kind under mutually agreed upon scientific conditions. This prize money is held in a special account which cannot be accessed for any purpose other than the awarding of the prize.
Located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the Foundation is funded through member contributions, grants, sales of books and videos, seminars, and conferences.
– Source: About The Foundation
One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge
The Foundation is committed to providing reliable information about paranormal claims. It both supports and conducts original research into such claims.
At JREF, we offer a one-million-dollar prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event. The JREF does not involve itself in the testing procedure, other than helping to design the protocol and approving the conditions under which a test will take place. All tests are designed with the participation and approval of the applicant. In most cases, the applicant will be asked to perform a relatively simple preliminary test of the claim, which if successful, will be followed by the formal test. Preliminary tests are usually conducted by associates of the JREF at the site where the applicant lives. Upon success in the preliminary testing process, the “applicant” becomes a “claimant.”
To date, no one has ever passed the preliminary tests.
– Source: James Randi Educational Foundation
As of April 1, 2007, the Foundation “will no longer be accepting unsolicited challenges, but will instead be issuing challenges directly to individuals who have a sufficient media profile and some sort of academic recommendation.”
Addess & Contact Information
James Randi Educational Foundation
201 S.E. 12th St. (E. Davie Blvd.)
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316-1815
phone: 954 467 1112
fax: 954 467 1660
- James Randi: Schooled not to be fooled A portrait of James Randi, by Kim Clark, U.S. News & World Report, Aug. 26, 2002.
- The Ultimate Psychic Challenge – A Challenge to James Randi [Contra] by Montague Keen.
- An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural by James Randi and Arthur C. Clarke. Also available online at the James Randi Educational Foundation.
- The Faith Healers by James Randi.
Are there people chosen by God to heal bodily ailments through the power of prayer alone? Randi’s answer is “maybe,” but on the basis of his three-year investigation into faith heal ers, he hasn’t found any evidence of it and suggests it may be nothing more than a religious con game. The author, a professional magician, has made it a sideline to expose fraud and miscon ceptions in the realm of the paranormal. Leading evangelists such as Oral Roberts, Peter Popoff, W. V. Grant, Pat Robertson, and others are all shown to use tactics that are at best misleading, to guide the faithful into believing that they have been supernaturally cured by prayer alone. At worst, some of these men are shown to be cynical frauds preying on the desperation of the seri ously ill. The book is not tightly writ ten, but it can be read for enlighten ment.
– Source: Karl Penny, Houston Public Library, School Library Journal, quoted at Amazon.com
- Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions by James Randi. A general examination of everything in the “paranormal” spectrum from ESP to UFOs.
- The Mask of Nostradamus: The Prophecies of the World’s Most Famous Seer by James Randi. “Biographical study of the legendary 16th-century seer who turns out to be a Renaissance con-man with secrets of his own that are revealed here.”
- The Truth About Uri Geller by James Randi. The first in-depth critical examination of the claims made by and for a conjuror who professed genuine psychic abilities and even convinced a few scientists that such powers existed.
Books – Online
- An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural by James Randi and Arthur C. Clarke
When I decided to place the entire text of “An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural” on the Internet, it was suggested to me that this could cut into the sales of the printed version. However, experience has shown that, in the publishing business, making a book available on the Internet only stimulates sales of the actual book! Another mystery.
This Internet version will contain many more illustrations than the printed one, and as time goes on we intend to add more categories and definitions, as well.
- SWIFT The weekly newsletter of the James Randi Educational Foundation is available online.
News Tracker & News Archive
- An Honest Liar Official website
AN HONEST LIAR is a feature documentary about the world-famous magician, escape artist, and world-renowned enemy of deception, James “The Amazing’ Randi. The film brings to life Randi’s intricate investigations that publicly exposed psychics, faith healers, and con-artists with quasi-religious fervor. A master deceiver who came out of the closet at the age of 81, Randi created fictional characters, fake psychics, and even turned his partner of 25 years, the artist Jose Alvarez, into a sham guru named Carlos. But when a shocking revelation in Randi’s personal life is discovered, it isn’t clear whether Randi is still the deceiver — or the deceived.
- James Randi Educational Foundation Official website