Wizard and skeptic James Randi passed away at 92 years old: NPR

Wizard and skeptic James Randi passed away at 92 years old: NPR

Magician James Randi used his skill as a deceiver to expose impostors and fakes.

Kevin Winter / Getty Images


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Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Magician James Randi used his skill as a deceiver to expose impostors and fakes.

Kevin Winter / Getty Images

James Randi hated fooling people. Sure, as The Amazing Randi, he made amazing escapes and light hand maneuvers faster than you could see – but all of it was in service of proving that he wasn’t magical in any sense of the word. He hated deceiving people so much that he made his career by debunking so-called psychics, faith healers, and fortune tellers of all kinds.

Randy died Tuesday, at the age of 92, of “age-related causes,” according to the James Randi Education Foundation.

A prototype of such contemporary dubious witches as Penn & Teller, Randy was inspired to do his job by walking around church one day as a teenager. The preacher in front was performing a trick in which he pretended to read people’s minds. Randy witnessed the scam, but told WHYY’s Fresh Air in 1987 that seeing people think she pissed off.

He said, “I saw people there crying real tears and getting very emotional and thinking that this man has supernatural powers.”

So he got onstage, interrupted the show, and showed the audience how to do the trick. The preacher’s wife called the police, and Randy spent the next four hours in a cell cooking.

Randy said, “I made my decision within four hours that there will come a day when I will have the prestige, knowledge and platform on which I stand to denounce these people, if they are fake.”

This “Lu” was an important aspect of his career. Randi never lived, and he never said that magic, healing by faith, or fortune telling were not real. Instead, the street vendors weren’t actually doing any of these things.

He is best known for his stalking of so-called spiritualist Uri Geller, who made a name for himself in the 1970s while performing “psychomotor” tricks on television such as bending metal prongs and the like. There is an episode of The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson (Where Randy was a frequent guest), where Geller comes to show his “powers.” What Geller didn’t know was that Randy hopped on the phone with the props person on the show, telling him how to prepare the props to notice Geller’s tricks. Randy told the story in a 2014 documentary about his life titled, Honest liar. What followed was a painfully embarrassing clip (apparently a little kindled by Carson), which ended with Geller’s surrender, saying he simply didn’t “feel the strength” that night.

Recalling Randy on Twitter, magician Ben Gillette described him as a hero, mentor, and friend.

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Randy said in 1987: “I can’t do real magic.” Fresh air Interview. “I think there is more magic in the opening of morning glory than anything I have done or any charlatan in history have done or will ever do.”

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