Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Book Report: Flim-Flam!

      Flim-Flam! was written by James Randi, a famous magician who has spent more than 35 years debunking any evidence of the supernatural. Randi had an idea to award $10,000 (now $1,000,000) to anyone that can prove the existence of the supernatural. Although over a thousand people have tried, not one has succeeded. This book is filled with just a few of those many stories. Ranging from psychics to  UFOs and even mythical creatures.

Arthur Conan Doyle, Spiritualism, and Fairies
Elsie with a "fairy." This photograph is the one debunked
 for showing a thread holding the fairy up.
      Personally, Chapter 2, Fairies at the Foot of the Garden, was the most interesting and exciting. This chapters delves into the existence of fairies, claimed by two young girls, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright. The two girls took photographs with fairies in Conttingley Glen and explained they were real. When the photographs were examined by experts, they stated that the photographs were not tampered with and it was assumed that these young girls could not possibly know how to fake a photograph (even though Elsie took part in a photographers shop). The girls were asked to take more photos, which they did. They even went with a man who claimed he also saw the fairies. Then, Randi inserts pictures of evidence, including a possible thread holding up a fairy, signs that the fairies were not in motion, and proof that one fairy appears two-dimensional. In the end, Elsie comes out with the truth but even without her confession, Randi debunks any evidence of fairies in the garden.

Blue Blurry Lines: Photo Fakery: Washington, DC Flying Saucers 1952
The left shows the original photo. The right explains
how the "UFOs" are actually reflections.
      I also found Chapter 4, Into the Air, Junior Birdmen!, very fascinating. This chapter gives numerous examples of "UFO sightings." Predictably, Randi debunks every single one. He tells one story of a weather balloon that was thought to be some sort of "spaceship." He tells another of magazines photo-shopping NASA's images to fake UFO sightings. He even debunks one photo where the "UFO's" are actually just reflections of the street lights below.The part that really stunned me was Randi's explanation that any "UFO sighting" believed to be from the United States Air Force can be looked up and researched. This is so astonishing because people were telling fake stories about the USAF seeing UFO's, when in reality, the truth can simply be found in their archives. 

Psychic surgery - Wikipedia
James Randi performing
psychic surgery.
      The final chapter I found most interesting was Chapter 9, The Medical Humbugs. This chapter describes psychic surgeries, which are surgeries performed by "psychics" without any tools or any scarring. They simply use their hands to reach into the patients body and remove the tumor. However, Randi explains that it is actually an illusion, where the "surgeon" is already holding a piece of an animal (the tumor) and fake blood. They also just bend their fingers to make it look as though the incision is real and their fingers are under the skin. Randi even includes photos of himself performing these "psychic surgeries."

    Overall, Randi thoroughly explains every aspect of each claim and how he debunks it. Personally, I thought the book was very fascinating and originally, I did not think I would enjoy it. There were a few chapters where I could not even put the book down. However, there are also some other chapters that feel over-explained and repetitive. Altogether, the book was worth the read and makes me question everything I see or hear.

No comments:

Post a Comment