James Randi Outed Some Truly Heinous Frauds, And For That We Should All Be Grateful
Magician and professional skeptic James "The Amazing Randi" Randi died this week at the age of 92 — without ever having given away a million
Although the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge ended in 2015, Randi had promised for years to give a million dollars to anyone who could offer any actual proof at all of the kind of supernatural phenomena he was known for debunking — psychic powers, telekineses, spoon bending, faith healing, ghosts, dowsing, remote viewing etc. — under rigorous scientific conditions. Despite thousands of applicants, no one ever passed. And many, like "psychic" Sylvia Browne, a cold ass bitch known for telling the families of missing children that their kids were dead when they would later turn out not to be, refused to be tested.
Browne was emblematic of the people Randi set out to debunk. Unlike some other professional atheists and skeptics we could name, his thing wasn't making people feel or look stupid so much as it was taking down those who took advantage of others and tried to swindle them in one way or another.
"People who are stealing money from the public, cheating them and misinforming them — that's the kind of thing that I've been fighting all my life," he said in "An Honest Liar" — a 2014 film documenting Randi's experience in coming out publicly as gay so late in life.
So let's take a look at some of the best times he took down these jerks.
Here he is debunking Peter Popoff's faith healing nonsense.
James Randi Debunking Peter Popoff's Faith Healing Scam www.youtube.com
In the video, Popoff is seen attempting to "faith heal" several people in the audience, appearing to glean their conditions from the heavens or his special connection to God. But it is soon revealed that it's actually his special connection to his wife, who is feeding him information through an ear piece.
Popoff is still around, by the way, hawking something he calls "Miracle Spring Water."
Here he is proving that professed psychic and telekinetic/convicted sex offender James Hydrick was a fraud.
James Randi exposes James Hydrick www.youtube.com
Yeah. Hydrick would later confess to being a fraud ... and would later serve time for kidnapping and molesting several young boys. He was actually apprehended by police who had a warrant on him after they saw his appearance on the Sally Jessy Raphael show, doing his psychic schtick.
On several occasions, Randi debunked professed spoonbender Uri Geller, and frequently demonstrated how it was that Geller pulled off his various stunts.
James Randi Demonstrates How 'psychic' Uri Geller Bends Spoons And Other Magic Tricks On The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson Really Funny Seeing Uri Squirm www.youtube.com
Here, he easily survives what ought to be a fatal dose of homeopathic sleeping pills.
Homeopathy, quackery and fraud | James Randi youtu.be
In this instance, homeopathic refers not to "general alternative medicine and herbs and what have you," but to it's actual meaning. True homeopathy is the idea that water has a memory, "like cures like," and the more you dilute a substance — usually a poison like belladonna — that causes an illness in water, the more powerful it becomes as a cure for what ails ya. And people charge a fuckton of money for such "remedies."
Here is a whole show where he debunks psychics. It is very satisfying.
James Randi busts psychics in TV show. "Exploring Psychic Powers Live" youtu.be
James Randi gave me what I feel was a good direction to go in as a non-believer, and for that I will always be grateful. I try to focus less on "Oh my god can you believe the stupid thing these people believe?" and more on those who cause actual harm in some way or another — either by taking advantage of people or by being cruel. We could do with more like him.
Anyway! This is now your open thread! Enjoy!
Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. In addition to her work at Wonkette, she also has a biweekly column at Dame. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse