The Amazing James Randi

On this date in 1928, Randall James Hamilton Zwinge, known as the Amazing James Randi, was born in Toronto, Canada. Randi used his international reputation as a magician and escape artist to investigate and expose claims of the paranormal. He exposed both psychic “spoonbender” Uri Geller and “faith-healer” Peter Popoff on “The Tonight Show” hosted by Johnny Carson. His numerous awards and recognitions include a “Genius” Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 1986. In 1993, PBS-TV’s “NOVA” dedicated a one-hour special to coverage of Randi’s work, particularly his investigations of Geller and various occult and healing claims being made by scientists in Russia.

His books included: The Truth About Uri Geller, The Faith Healers, Flim-Flam! and An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural. Randi was a founding fellow of CSICOP, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. He established the James Randi Educational Foundation in 1996. The foundation offered a $1 million standing prize to any eligible applicant who could demonstrate evidence of any paranormal, supernatural or occult power or event under test conditions agreed to by both parties. A version of the challenge, similar to one that freethinker Harry Houdini was part of in the early 20th century, was first issued in 1964. More than a thousand persons took up the challenge and all failed. The foundation ended the challenge in 2015.

Randi retired at age 87. He had come out as gay at age 81 in 2010, announcing: “This declaration of mine was prompted just last week by seeing an excellent film — starring Sean Penn — that told the story of politician Harvey Milk. … I’m in excellent company: Barney Frank, Oscar WildeStephen Fry, Ellen DeGeneres, Rachel Maddow, are just a few of those who were in my thoughts as I pressed the key that placed this on Swift and before the whole world.” He died at age 92. (D. 2020)

PHOTO: James Randi Educational Foundation under CC 2.0.

Freedom From Religion Foundation