James Randi, a magician and illusionist who also debunked paranormal and occult phenomena, died Tuesday, according to his foundation. He was 92.
Randi was a scientific investigator who debunked paranormal activity through his organization, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.
Randi was remembered in a pair of tweets on Wednesday by fellow magician Penn Jillette, who called Randi an “inspiration, mentor and dear friend.”
Born Randall James Zwinge in 1928, Randi began performing as a teenager in the 1940s, touring with a carnival and working at nightclubs in his native Toronto, The New York Times reported. He billed himself as “The Great Randall: Telepath,” and mesmerized audiences with a mind-reading act and specialized in predicting the future, the newspaper reported.
Randi was a pop-culture favorite, appearing regularly on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” and having a cameo as himself in a 1978 episode on “Happy Days,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. Randi also rigged Alice Cooper’s stage decapitation apparatus on the singer’s Billion Dollar Babies tour, the website reported.
He also participated in escapology and feats of endurance as The Amazing Randi: The Man No Jail Could Hold. He broke a record with a 55-minute stint encased in ice, the Times reported.
In 1956, Randi appeared live on the “Today” show, surviving for 104 minutes in a sealed metal coffin submerged in a swimming pool at the Hotel Shelton in New York City to better a record held by his hero, Harry Houdini. Two decades later, he escaped from a straitjacket while suspended upside-down over Niagara Falls, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Randi gave up magic and for several decades dedicated his life to exposing frauds. He was the subject of the 2016 documentary, “An Honest Liar,” an installment of the PBS documentary series “Independent Lens,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Randi feuded with Uri Geller, famously crashing the psychic’s 1972 appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”
“I’m a liar, a cheat and a charlatan,” Randi told the Times in 2001, “but at least I know it.”
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