12 Things You Didn’t Know About the Amazing James Randi


Randi visits Harry Houdini’s grave. Image: Friendly Atheist
The New York Times Magazine profiled 86-year-old super-skeptic James Randi yesterday. It’s a good read. Here are a dozen things I learned.

By Terry FirmaFriendly Atheist

1. Randi started his career working Toronto nightclubs as Randall Zwinge (his real name), an entertainer who could predict the future. Soon, he began planning a very neat if somewhat morbid trick.

Each night before he went to bed, he wrote the date on the back of a business card along with the words “I, Randall Zwinge, will die today.” Then he signed it and placed it in his wallet. That way, if he were knocked down in the street or killed by a freak accident, whoever went through his effects would discover the most shocking prophecy he ever made. Zwinge kept at it for years. Each night, he tore up one card and wrote out a new one for the next day. But nothing fatal befell him; in the end, having wasted hundreds of business cards, he gave up in frustration. “I never got lucky,” he told me.

2. Randi has a collection of some 4,000 books about magic, hoaxes, mysticism, and the like,

… arranged alphabetically by subject, from alchemy, astrology, Atlantis and the Bermuda Triangle to tarot, UFO’s and witchcraft.

3. He doesn’t take kindly to being called a debunker; “scientific investigator” will do just fine, thanks very much. The difference means a lot to him:

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