In the introduction chapter of Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns and other Delusions by James Randi (“The Amazing Randi”) we are left with a statement before going into the first chapter. “ Humanity has the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lot under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition.” I believe this ideal sets the stage for what’s to come in this book.
Through out this book James Randi, a former magician, makes it his goal to “debunk” many of the trickeries of his time. Although he does not claim to ever prove 100% that paranormal powers do not exist he states, “I can only show that the evidence for them does not hold up under examination.” It was interesting to hear about old stories of people that claimed to have extraordinary powers; some are even still myths today. Some examples of myths that Randi attempted to debunk were: two girls that claimed to play with “real” fairies and gnomes, the dangerous Bermuda triangle! Beliefs in astronomical abilities, UFO’s, the aliens having a hand in making the pyramids, ESP, Psychic Surgery and so on. Each chapter was a new topic for him to investigate and he did so thoroughly. In his writings about the two girls who claimed to talk and see living fairies and gnomes he gave us 20 guide lines that were used to disprove many of the claims of paranormal powers throughout the book. Randi was so confident in his ability to disprove any claims of paranormal abilities that he offered any 10,000 dollars if they could prove, in a controlled setting of his choice, the existence of their “powers”. 650 people tried out and only 54 past the preliminary round but none ever saw a cent.
My favorite part of the book was chapter 3 titled “All at Sea…”. This chapter dealt with the myth of the Bermuda Triangle, which is located in the middle of Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and Miami. The myth all started in “…1945 when five Navy Avenger aircraft flew into the are and reportedly vanished mysteriously…” A sixth rescue plane then flew into that area and vanished abruptly as well. This tale and every claim to come within the next few years were all embellished by an author named Charles Berlitz in his books titled The Bermuda Triangle, Mysteries from Forgotten Worlds, and Without a Trace. Berlitz sold over 5 million copies, published in 20 languages and made more than 1 million in royalties. Randi then goes on to give scientific based explanations as to what happened to the 5 navy avenger and the rescue aircrafts that disappeared. “The pilots were understandably lost, flew around in confusion until out of fuel, ditched, and sank in rough seas. The search plane, known to be dangerous because of the frequent presence of gas fumes in the crew are, could easily have exploded and gone down in a perfectly explainable accident…in fact it was seen to explode by personnel on a ship in the area…”
This chapter also discussed another myth once again brought to popularity by Berlitz in his Pyramid Theory about the existence of Atlantis. He claimed a giant 470-foot-high pyramid and a 1,000 foot-long man-made Mosaic resembling road was enough to prove the existence of Atlantis. He disproves the walk way by showing it is merely beach rock which is naturally formed and can be found in many other places around the ocean. The pyramid like structure is too naturally formed over time.
Over all it was interesting to see Randi disprove these myths that many people globally took to be truths. I found it to be very hilarious how he pretty much ends up politely calling the people he disproves an idiot. I remember watching the video of Randi simply exposes Hydrick’s “paranormal psychic powers” The look of being found out on Hydrick’s face was priceless. Here is the video again along with another one that has to do with the astronomy chapter to give you an idea of how Randi went about disproving.