TAM 8 – Friday pt 3

It was a little disheartening to realize how far we as women still have to go to really achieve parity in skepticism. What came next, however, helped me see just how far the skeptical movement has come and what we, as skeptics, can achieve.

Jamy Ian Swiss, master magician, author and entertainer, interviewed a man we all know and love: James “The Amazing” Randi. Mr. Randi, for those who may not be aware, is the author of six books, the founder of The James Randi Educational Foundation and a master magician.  The two men spoke about Mr. Randi’s history as a skeptic and magician. They talked at length about some of Mr. Randi’s most famous cases, the first of which was Uri Gellar and his abysmal failure of an appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson . Gellar’s “abilities” had scientists so fooled that they coined the phrase “The Gellar Effect”.

Gellar was to demonstrate his psychic abilities by indicating which container had something in it. Interestingly, Gellar required metal film containers. If you spin them on a metal turntable, the ones with nothing in them will skid. Gellar also claimed to be able to bend spoons with his power.

Before Gellar’s appearance on the Tonight Show, Johnny Carson, who was a magician and skeptic in his own right, called Randi and asked him if there was anything special they needed to do. Randi told Mr. Carson that he needed to speak with his prop man and here’s what he told him: Put rubber cement on the bottoms of the film canisters so they won’t skid and tape the spoons to a metal tray with scotch tape. Randi cautioned the man not to let Gellar touch anything beforehand.

Gellar was an abysmal failure that night as you saw above. What was really funny is that kept kept “accidentally” bumping into the table trying to get the canisters to move. Sadly that night’s failure didn’t diminish Gellar’s popularity.

They also spoke about Peter Popoff, a supposed faith healer. Randi suspected that Popov was getting his messages from somewhere a little closer to Earth. So he took a listening device to one of Popoff’s events and sure enough, they recorded Popoff’s wife feeding him information from the prayer cards that people had filled out prior to the show. You can see that video here . Within 24 hours of that story breaking, Popov has shut down his church. Unfortunately about a month later this charlatan resurfaced, having changed the name of his ministry. The good news is that within 5 years he went broke. Unfortunately this man who is bilking thousands out of their money has never been convicted or even charged with fraud.

Mr. Randi also spoke about his friend and famed skeptic Martin Gardner. Unfortunately Mr. Gardner died earlier this year. Randi talked about all the things he learned from Gardner and shared wonderful stories about his life and career. It was a fitting tribute to a man who will be sorely missed.

Come back tomorrow for more adventures at TAM 8!



  1. ptah said,

    July 29, 2010 at 2:39 pm


  2. Josh said,

    August 2, 2010 at 6:49 am

    Since a child I’ve had an innate distrust and dislike of faith healers. Even when I believed what they did was possible, they seemed sleazy to me. Growing up in various churches we had many faith healers come visit us, slaying folks in the spirit, and making prophesies, and healing people of their ills. Not long ago I got in an argument with my dad about the issue. He’s an elder (vice-pastor) and a man in his church was dying of cancer. I thought it was not just fantasy to tell him and his wife that with enough faith, and nominal 10% of their income, God would take his cancer away. I told him it was evil to take advantage of people when they are suffering and scared as hell.

    Now he’s dead and his young wife is left to mourn her husband and raise their newborn child on her own.

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