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I Love Watching Psychics Humiliate Themselves

Cracked has a list of the six most humiliating psychic failures and I could watch the videos all day. The most famous was when Uri Gellar went on the Tonight Show and failed to show any of his “powers” because James Randi had helped Johnny Carson, himself a former magician, understand how to block his tricks. Here’s that video:

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And then there’s this one from James Van Praagh, doing a standard cold reading and failing miserably. If they really are in contact with dead people, why do they have to keep guessing? Why can’t their “spirit guides” just tell them the name instead of just giving them a letter or a big list of names? And why can’t they just say what was wrong with them instead of throwing out vague things like “something with their back or their legs” or “they were on some kind of medication”?

Comments

  1. trucreep says

    Can’t watch the video, but I’m sure its on there – another instance of Randi laying waste to this fool, had something to do with the guy saying he could turn pages in books without touching them. Turns out he was just blowing the page, and Randi foiled it by sprinkling little bits of paper around the book, so if the guy tried to blow, he’d end up blowing away the papers.

  2. blf says

    trucreep, Yes! I remember that one as well. (Sorry, not able to search for the video right now.)

    Another one I like was when Indian “guru” Surender Sharma tried to kill Sanal Edamaruku (president of the Indian Rationalist Association) on live TV. He then wrote a first-person account, The night a guru tried to kill me on TV (there is also a video at the link), published by The Grauniad. Priceless!

  3. Trebuchet says

    Randi has been repeatedly accused by those who fail his million dollar challenge of using his psychic powers to block them. And they’re serious about it.

    James Randi has done a great deal of good for the world. D.J. Grothe, of course, is an exception.

  4. Sastra says

    If they really are in contact with dead people, why do they have to keep guessing? Why can’t their “spirit guides” just tell them the name instead of just giving them a letter or a big list of names? And why can’t they just say what was wrong with them instead of throwing out vague things like “something with their back or their legs” or “they were on some kind of medication”?

    And why don’t their clients wonder the same thing? You’d think it would be an obvious flaw. But it’s apparently not. It almost seems expected.

    In addition to being blinded by their desires, of course, I wonder if the people psychics read aren’t assuming there’s an analogy between the way spirits communicate with mediums and the way God communicates with them.

    After all, many religious people claim they get “messages from God” about all sorts of things — but few of them can be specific or clear on how this works. It’s hard to describe to a non-believer (perhaps because it’s murky at best to the believers themselves, who are far more interested on the outcome than curious about the method.) No, silly … they don’t hear an actual voice. It’s not coming from their own mind either: there’s an Other who communicates to them It’s more like a …feeling …or a kind of inner voice maybe .. vague and general at the time but clear and obvious after the fact.

    The psychics then are pulling on a familiar phenomenon which has an enormous amount of emotional appeal. It also comes with its own built-in immune system, eager and capable of fighting off a too-intense scrutiny or too-pointed skepticism.

  5. savagemutt says

    Randi and his partners also used Carson’s Tonight Show to do their expose of Peter Popoff.

    That appearance was my first encounter with Randi. I bought Flim Flam shortly afterward and he’s been a hero ever since.

  6. eric says

    @8 – yep, he scooped me AND with a better link. No problem, I’ll just take credit by claiming blf was precognitively reading my mind and stealing the best answer. :)

  7. says

    I’m fairly glad he exposed Uri Geller, I remember hearing about this in the past at some point. I read one of Inigo Swan’s books, and it was filled with Lunacy like “The Moon is really a death star alien station” “moon landing was a hoax” etc. In it, he praised Uri Geller as well in one part.

    It was hilarious to read that book of Inigo Swan’s: it was such a good laugh.

    Here’s the book by swan: http://www.amazon.com/Penetration-Question-Extraterrestrial-Human-Telepathy/dp/0966767403

    The whole Inigo Swan CIA Remote Viewing stuff and Uri Geller stuff are basically all the same shebang as far as I can tell. That book is really, really, good, comedy gold though: if any of you can get your hands on it and read it, you will die from the laughter :D

  8. patrickna says

    Would love to see that cold reader do an asian audience or russian and see how well he would guess their dead relatives names :)

  9. says

    The lame thing is that Geller’s career seemed to continue regardless. He was on British TV just a few months ago, a BBC2 documentary:

    The two revelations of the documentary were a) that Uri Geller is not a shyster, and b) that he worked for the Mossad and the CIA. The programme was based on freshly declassified information, featured interviews with former intelligence personnel, and contained actual footage from CIA tests.
    “The camouflage for me is, hey, I’m an entertainer,” said Geller in a beguiling interview. “But there is another side of Uri Geller and I love that James Bondish side as much as the totally open showman. That is the dark side.”

  10. unbound says

    The cracked article is reasonably entertaining. Although I thought their number 1 was a bit cruel. The MMA fighter really shouldn’t have beaten up the old geezer so hard once he realized the old man (and apparently his students) was just delusional.

    I do agree with James Randi in the first video that it is a bit disheartening that even when these con artists are exposed, few people seem to pay attention.

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