He confounded doctors who expected he would never walk again. One of his earliest reported experiences is that of seeing an evangelist using a version of the " one-ahead "  technique to convince churchgoers of his divine powers. Initially, he presented himself under his real name, Randall Zwinge, which he later dropped in favor of "The Amazing Randi". Early in his career, he performed numerous escape acts from jail cells and safes around the world.
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Start your review of Flim-Flam! Yes, my spirit guide is telling me something, that you are experiencing some kind of pain or discomfort in your back, or perhaps your shoulders. And this is typical of someone born under your star sign, you know? Of course you do - your type is very insightful, even if you do sometimes let little things escape your notice from time to time.
Here - I have a medicine that will help you, a special homeopathic formula that I mixed myself. I could tell you that I got the recipe from visiting aliens, but you would never believe me. Perhaps it was Atlanteans Ah, there is one other thing My spirit guide tells me that there is another spirit who would talk to you - someone you miss very much. Does that mean something to you? Ah, good, good. My abilities have increased a hundredfold since I started transcendental meditation, and I credit the Master with my improved skills.
Well, our time is almost up. I have to go charge my dowsing rod with the crystals that were given to me by my young daughters.
They say that the fairies gave them to them, and who am I to say otherwise? But I will say this before we part - the numbers of your name, crossed against your biorhythms, tell me that you must not enter into any dealings of a financial nature this week.
You can leave your check on the table by the door. A few blurry photographs and some enthusiasm, and you can have aliens on our shores. Thankfully, James Randi is not like me.
A longtime magician and skeptic, James Randi has been one of the driving forces of modern skepticism. Since his debunking of spoon-bender Uri Geller, he has been an authority on people who claim to have supernatural abilities. He has traveled the world in search of these people, revealing the methods by which they knowingly or unknowingly deceive people who want so desperately to believe. He tells us first of the hoax perpetrated by two young English girls, one which was good enough to capture not just a credulous nation of newspaper readers, but a man regarded as one of the greatest minds of his time - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
In , Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths released several photographs which showed them surrounded by gossamer-winged fairies. The public went wild for their story. Experts were called in to examine the photographs, and they all pronounced them genuine.
The girls were interviewed, their cameras and equipment checked out, and no evidence of trickery could be found. In any case, believers said, two young girls would have no incentive to lie to the entire nation like this, would they? Well, they did. What started as simple fun with a camera and some paper cut-outs escalated into something uncontrollable by two young girls, and a legend was born.
Elsie and Frances may have been innocents overtaken by events, but there are far more people who are fully conscious of their deceptions. A Holy Man who promises everything up to and including the ability to fly if you just follow his word and his special meditation technique.
Researchers so intent on discovering psychic powers that they disregard even the most basic of experimental controls. People who manufacture fake artifacts to support their belief in ancient alien astronauts. And every time another one pops up, he knows what to look for. Belief is a weird thing. Under careful examination, every claim that Randi has seen has fallen apart.
He has listened to them carefully and asked a very simple question that seems to elude so many others: How else could this effect be achieved? But - and this is important - Randi is fair. The test is to be double-blind, so when the target people come in and check the "gay" or "straight" box, that information is kept from both the aura-reader and the person administering the test.
Tests are usually done multiple times, just to give the subject a chance. I suspect that Randi really wants supernatural powers to exist. I think he wants to meet someone who can move objects with her mind, talk to the dead or find water just by concentrating hard. Why else, then, would he have his Million-Dollar Challenge?
Not because Randi is richer, but because he feels that his money is absolutely safe. Yet I think he would be happy to be able to give it away one day. This book should be required reading for everyone who has encountered what they believe to be the paranormal. Unfortunately, the True Believers will invariably be unaffected, and that is something else that Randi takes great pains to show.
No matter how often someone was shown to be a liar, a fake or a fraud, there were always supporters ready to make excuses. The psychics themselves are also very good at inventing reasons why their powers cannot be tested - the wrong kind of weather, interference from the cameras that are recording the tests, or just bad energy from the skeptics in the room. Newspapers still run horoscopes every day, you can get a biorhythm app for your iPhone, psychics and mediums still rake in tons of cash, and there still innumerable people who put their faith, money and lives in the hands of psychic healers - only to lose all three.
But Randi is undaunted. One by one, case by case, the Amazing Randi has stared down the wild-eyed stare of unreason, and he has never blinked. For that, I will always be grateful.
Flim-Flam!: Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions
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