Magician distrusts psychics

March 14, 1998|By Chris Kaltenbach

James "The Amazing" Randi has spent most of his 69 years insisting that the only thing psychics are expert at is fooling the gullible and taking advantage of the bereaved.

James Van Praagh, Randi insists, has shown him nothing he hasn't seen before.

"These are all people who have lost someone dear to them, and they're hoping to hear something from him that will comfort them," says Randi, a frequent guest on TV talk shows and news programs. "People need that kind of thing."

The Fort Lauderdale-based debunker says the spiritualists' best trick is to ask a lot of questions, preferably broad ones, then turn whatever the answer is to their advantage. There's little risk in asking someone if they know a person named, say, John; almost everyone does.

"You can't miss with this approach; you're going to come up with something," Randi says. And every little tidbit of information can lead to another question, until the spiritualist's "knowledge" of the deceased seems extraordinarily detailed.

"All the information comes from the sitter, not from the guy doing the reading," he says.

The media, he notes, is often an unwitting accomplice. "People want to believe this, and they see it on TV or read it in the newspaper, and they think it wouldn't be there if it weren't true," he says. "The more this is covered in the newspapers, the more people are convinced it's the real thing."

Pub Date: 3/14/98

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