James Randi & JREF

8/9/19

If anyone can be called the patron saint of the modern skeptical movement it is Canadian born magician and skeptical campaigner James 'The Amazing' Randi (b. Randall James Zwinge, 1928). He has for many years challenged paranormal and pseudoscientific claims, and was a co-founder of the Campaign for Skeptical Inquiry. In 1996, he founded of the JREF or James Randi Educational Foundation "to help people defend themselves from paranormal and pseudoscientific claims". He has appeared on TV - even having his own series: "James Randi: Psychic Investigator" on ITV in the 1990's - challenging what he refers to as 'Woo-Woo'. He famously showed-up Uri Geller on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show by bringing his own (unprepared) spoons and asking Geller to bend them, which of course he refused to do (or was unable to do). In his Project Alpha hoax, Randi successfully planted two fake psychics in a privately funded psychic research experiment and showed up the failures and poor research protocols in paranormal research.

Randi had a long and successful career as a magician and escapologist. He built props for Alice Cooper's Billion Dollar Babies stage show which featured a mock beheading and he appeared live on NBC's Today show, where he remained in a sealed metal coffin that had been submerged in a hotel swimming pool for 104 minutes breaking his hero Harry Houdini's record of 93 minutes. He has also written several seminal books on skepticism - Flim-Flam! (1982); An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural (1995), and The Faith Healers (1987)

The JREF sponsored the $1m Paranormal Challenge which offered to pay out the money in the event of a demonstration under scientific agreed-upon testing. Over 1000 people have applied, many agreeing to and completing a preliminary test but all have failed. Many public personal challenges were made to celebrity psychics and TV celebrity Sylvia Browne agreed on TV in 2001 to take the test. She never followed up on the offer. The test was withdrawn in 2015.

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