In memoriam: Skeptic, magician James ‘The Amazing Randi’ dies

Magician, skeptic and escape artist James Randi, who went by the professional nickname “The Amazing Randi,” died at age 92 at his home in Florida.

The New York Times wrote, in its obituary of him, that Randi “turned his formidable savvy to investigating claims of spoon bending, mind reading, fortunetelling, ghost whispering, water dowsing, faith healing, UFO spotting and sundry varieties of bamboozlement, bunco, chicanery, flimflam, flummery, humbuggery, mountebankery, pettifoggery and out-and-out quacksalvery, as he quite often saw fit to call them.”

He spoke at FFRF’s national convention in St. Louis in 1987, shortly after winning the MacArthur “Genius” Award.

He later spoke at Lake Hypatia Freethought Hall’s Independence Day gathering in Munford, Ala., an event put on at that time annually by FFRF’s chapter, the Alabama Freethought Association.

FFRF interviewed Randi on Freethought Radio in 2008. (To listen, visit ffrf.libsyn.com and find the May 17, 2008, episode.)

On the day of Randi’s death, FFRF Co-President Dan Barker tweeted: “We will miss the Amazing James Randi. In 2010 he and I were having breakfast in Copenhagen. ‘You are a magician,’ I said. ‘Can you make religion disappear?’ Without missing a beat, he replied: ‘Yes, I can — but you can’t afford it.’”

Randi famously offered a $1 million reward to anyone who could prove they had paranormal powers. No one ever did.

“Magicians are the most honest people in the world; they tell you they’re gonna fool you, and then they do it,” Randi had said.

Hemant Mehta, who writes “The Friendly Atheist” blog, interviewed Randi in 2010,

“What made Randi such a legend was that, when confronted with an extraordinary claim, he would suggest an ordinary explanation for it, and then work to confirm it. He took the other side seriously enough to investigate their claims. In a way, he showed the other side a kind of respect they didn’t normally get from non-believers,” Mehta writes.

An outpouring of love, support and memories flooded social media in honor of Randi.

On Twitter, Penn Jillette, the talkative half of the illusionist team “Penn & Teller,” wrote of Randi: “You invented us. . . .We will never forget that without Randi, there would not be Penn & Teller. It’s really that simple.”

Bill Nye (“The Science Guy”) wrote: “We’ve lost one of the greats. James Randi was an amazing man, a wonderful magician, and a thoughtful intellectual who brought the joy of scientific inquiry to millions. He left the world better than he found it.”