James Randi (b. 1928)
James Randi's Real Name
Randall James Hamilton Zwinge
The Amazing Randi
Investigator, Scientific Skeptic, Magician, Escapologist,
Place of Birth
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
James Randi possesses the ability of superior knowledge and skill in the arts of conjuring, escapology, paranormal and pseudoscience.
During Alice Cooper's 1973–1974 tour, Randi performed as the dentist and executioner on stage, and designed and built several of the stage props, including the guillotine.
James Randi was born Randall James Hamilton Zwinge on August 7, 1928 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Randi turned to magic books while spending 1 year in a body cast following a bicycle accident. He amazed doctors who expected he would never walk again.
Although a brilliant student, Randi often skipped school, and he dropped out of high school at 17 to perform as a conjurer in a carnival roadshow.
In his twenties, Randi posed as a psychic to establish that they were actually doing simple tricks and briefly wrote an astrological column in the Canadian tabloid Midnight under the name "Zo-ran," by simply shuffling up items from newspaper astrology columns and pasting them randomly into a column.
In his thirties, Randi worked in Philippine night clubs and all across Japan. He witnessed many tricks that were presented as being supernatural. One of his earliest reported experiences is that of seeing an evangelist using the "one-ahead" routine to convince churchgoers of his divine powers.
Randi began working as a professional stage magician and escapologist in 1946, under his name Randall Zwinge.
He first appeared as "The Amazing Randi" on a TV show entitled Wonderama in 1967.
On February 7, 1956, he performed live on The Today Show, remaining in a sealed metal coffin submerged in a hotel swimming pool for 104 minutes, breaking what was said to be Houdini's record of 93 minutes.
James Randi went on to host "The Amazing Randi Show" on New York radio station WOR in the mid 1960s.
This radio show, which filled Long John Nebel's old slot with similar content after Nebel went to WNBC in 1962, had frequent pro-paranormal guests, including Randi's then-friend James Moseley.
He went on several world tours and also hosted numerous television specials, including Wonderama from 1967 to 1972, and as host of a failed revival of the 1950s children's show The Magic Clown in 1970
That same year, Randi gained international attention in 1972 as he challenged the claims of Uri Geller.
Randi accused Geller of being nothing more than a charlatan who uses standard magic tricks to accomplish his allegedly paranormal feats, and he backed up his claims in the book, "The Truth About Uri Geller."
Geller unsuccessfully sued Randi for $15 million in 1991. Geller's suit against the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) was thrown out in 1995, and he was ordered to pay $120,000 for filing a frivolous lawsuit.
Randi was a founding member and prominent figure of CSICOP. During the period when Geller was filing numerous civil suits against him, CSICOP's leadership, wanting to avoid becoming a target of Geller's litigation, requested that Randi refrain from commenting on Geller.
Randi refused and resigned. However, he still maintains a respectful relationship with the group and frequently writes articles for its magazine.
Randi has gone on to pen several books attacking beliefs and claims regarding the paranormal. He also created "Project Alpha" which demonstrated the shortcomings of many paranormal research projects at the university level.
Randi has appeared on numerous TV shows, sometimes to directly debunk and challenge the claimed abilities of alleged guest psychic's and mediums and faith healers, including Peter Popoff, James Hydrick, Sylvia Browne, James Van Praagh and John Edward.
In 1996, Randi established the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF).
This organization supports research into paranormal claims and attempts to test them in controlled experimental conditions, offering the $1,000,000 prize to anyone who can demonstrate a supernatural ability under agreed-upon scientific testing criteria.
No one has passed a preliminary test, which is set up and agreed upon between both Randi and the applicant. Randi updates the JREF's website with written commentary on Fridays.
He was quoted in the October 1981 issue of Fate Magazine as allegedly saying "I always have an out;" however, this magazine article was written as a result of political infighting among the members of CSICOP.
Observers of the ongoing debate between skeptics and their detractors believe this quote is being misapplied, and that it refers to the fact that Randi employs safeguards against cheating.
Such claims of Randi finding ways to avoid payment are unfounded, as the money is held in a Goldman, Sachs & Company account and withholding payment would constitute fraud on Randi's behalf.
Parapsychologists generally try to downplay the Randi challenge because of these attacks on Randi's character, and also because of his harsh, uncompromising style of writing and presentation, which has won him enemies among those who claim to be paranormal experts.
Randi's supporters note that there are other skeptical organizations that have their own similar standing offers to prove the existence of paranormal abilities, and anyone claiming to be an expert in their field of the paranormal can easily apply for any of these other prizes, avoiding Randi altogether.
James Randi contributes a regular column, titled "'Twas Brillig," to The Skeptics Society's Skeptic Magazine.
Information excerpts: Wikipedia
For more information, visit
James Randi's official website
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