22 October 2020 04:35
James Randi, a magician who later challenged spoon benders, mind readers and faith healers with such voracity that he became regarded as the country's foremost skeptic, has died, his foundation announced. The James Randi Educational Foundation confirmed the death, saying simply that its founder succumbed to "age-related causes" on Tuesday. Entertainer, genius, debunker, atheist ̶ Randi was them all. He began gaining attention not long after dropping out of high school to join the carnival. As the Amazing Randi, he escaped from a locked coffin submerged in water and from a straitjacket as he dangled over Niagara Falls.
Magical as his feats seemed, Randi concluded his shows around the globe with a simple statement, insisting no otherworldly powers were at play. "Everything you have seen here is tricks," he would say. The magician's transparency gave a glimpse of what would become his longest-running act, as the country's skeptic-in-chief. On a 1972 episode of "The Tonight Show," he helped Johnny Carson set up Uri Geller, the Israeli performer who claimed to bend spoons with his mind. Randi ensured the spoons and other props were kept from Geller's hands until showtime to prevent any tampering.
"I see people being swindled every day by medical quackery, frauds of every sort, psychics and their hot lines, people who claim to be able to find lost children or to help them invest their money," Randi told The Associated Press in 1998. Once, awaiting the chance to sift through the trash of a faith healer, Randi spent days in his car, eating Twinkies and drinking Pepsi. There were other coups for Randi: He once showed the messages television faith healer Peter Popoff claimed to be getting from God about his audience were actually coming from his wife through an earpiece. But the vast majority of those he aimed to show were frauds were lesser known, lured to prove their abilities by the James Randi Educational Foundation. Through that organization, Randi was guardian of a $1 million prize he promised to give anyone who could prove either their own supernatural powers or the presence of a supernatural being.