Posts Tagged ‘paranormal’
Posted by mattusmaximus on February 14, 2016
One of my biggest skeptical heroes is James Randi. I’ve read many of his books (I highly recommend them – here’s a good list), I have had the good fortune to meet him a few times, and for a time I even worked with his organization, the James Randi Educational Foundation. He is a small man with a big laugh, an even bigger heart, and an even bigger love for the pursuit of skeptical analysis into all manner of paranormal, mystical, or odd-ball claims. For Randi, no questions are off limits and skepticism knows no bounds; he and his legacy are one of the primary reasons why I am here, doing what I do on this blog and in my daily life as a skeptic and teacher, and I know his work has reached and inspired countless others. Now a movie, called “An Honest Liar”, which documents his life and his legacy will be coming to the Public Broadcasting Service on March 28, 2016…
About the Film
For the last half-century, James “The Amazing” Randi has entertained millions with his dazzling feats of magic, escape, and trickery. Along the way he discovered that faith healers, fortune-tellers, and psychics were using his beloved magician’s tricks to swindle money from the credulous. Fed up with the fraud, he dedicated his life to exposing con artists with a wit and over-the-top showmanship all his own. An Honest Liar is part detective story, part biography, and a bit of a magic act itself.
An acolyte of Harry Houdini, Randi became a famed magician-turned-debunker of psychics and mediums in his own right with a series of unparalleled investigations and elaborate hoaxes. These grand schemes fooled scientists, the media, and a gullible public, but always in service of demonstrating the importance of skepticism and the dangers of magical thinking. Randi was a frequent guest on TV variety and talk shows, most notably The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, uncloaking high profile scams, like the “spoonbending” of illusionist Uri Geller. Eventually Randi’s efforts won him the prestigious MacArthur “Genius” Award.
When dealing with a master deceiver, however, the truth can be elusive. A sudden and shocking revelation threatens to bring down Randi’s own house of cards, and the magician who spent his life exposing phonies may be the victim of a devastating deceit himself.
An Honest Liar is told through interviews with Randi, vintage footage of his TV appearances, and interviews with illusionists, performers, and skeptics alike, including Adam Savage, Penn & Teller, Bill Nye, Geller, Alice Cooper, and more.
Watch the trailer, pass it on to your friends (even if they aren’t card-carrying skeptics), and spread the word. This is a film which everyone should see, because as Randi himself states, “No matter how smart or well-educated you are, you can be deceived.”
Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: An Honest Liar, biography, debunking, deception, documentary, film, fraud, independent, indie, investigation, James Randi, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, lies, life, magic, magicians, movie, paranormal, PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, public television, Randi, science, skepticism, story, The Amazing One, The Amazing Randi Story, trickery | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 17, 2014
As many of you know, there has been an effort to make a movie documentary of the life of one of the greatest skeptical icons, James “The Amazing One” Randi, in recent years. The film is now made, and it will soon be making the rounds on the indie film network. Despite that fact, those who made and now promote the film still need your help; read on to see how…
We are thrilled and proud to announce that AHL was accepted to premiere at the prestigious 2014 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City!
It is thanks to YOU our great supporters that we were able to make this film and we are so thankful for everything you’ve done for us!
The schedule has not yet been announced, but when it is we will pass it along. The Festival runs from April 16 – 27, and AHL will screen several times in that period. AHL is showing in theViewpoints section of the fest.
It will be possible for the general public to buy tickets, but it’s likely the numbers will be limited. Have no fear! We will have additional festival and screening announcements coming soon, and there’s a good chance we’ll be showing the film near you. Keep an eye on our website and sign up for updates if you haven’t for the latest news. …
… We are slaving away – working day and night – to finish the film! We barely eat or drink. We are doing our best to make ourKickstarter backers proud by making the best film you’ve ever seen! We have little to look forward to in these agonizing days of constant headaches, technical issues, archival footage houses sending us the wrong clips. We know it’ll be worth it, but we need a boost. Something to pick us up, to help drive us over the finish line.
Well, YOU can help us – help make all our hard work pay off, help us sleep better at night, and have sweet happy dreams. And it won’t cost you a penny.
MAKE US INDIEWIRE PROJECT OF THE YEAR!!!
Tell all your friends, pass the word around – VOTE FOR AN HONEST LIAR!
For Randi – for the film – for us poor filmmakers – WE CAN DO IT!!!
Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: An Honest Liar, biography, campaign, contribute, debunking, documentary, donation, festival, film, fraud, fundraising, independent, indie, Indiewire, investigation, James Randi, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, Kickstarter, lies, life, magic, magicians, money, movie, New York City, NYC, paranormal, Randi, science, skepticism, story, The Amazing One, The Amazing Randi Story, Tribeca Film Festival, trickery | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 17, 2014
One year ago, I wrote a post about a kickstarter project to help fund a film on the life of that skeptical giant, James Randi. The film is titled “An Honest Liar: The Amazing Randi”, and I’m happy to report that it is nearing completion! But in order to bring it across the finish line, the film’s producers need a little more financial help. Read on for details, and please consider donating if you are able…
The finish line is approaching and we wanted to let you, our supporters, know about our progress. We’ve now completed a fine-cut of the documentary and will be locking it in shortly.
We have now scheduled our post-production (conform, color correct, audio mix, final output etc.) for mid-March and are officially going to complete the film by the end of March, with the aim to premiere An Honest Liar at film festivals beginning in April.
Between now and then, we’ll be refining the edit, working with our composer on the score, sourcing the archival footage we use (there’s a TON…) transferring it and re-inserting it into the cut, completing graphics, animations, and titles, and when it’s all done, popping open a bottle of champagne.
(BTW – if you have any videotapes of old Randi shows, let us know!)
EXCEPT for people getting the digital download/DVD/Blu-ray and movie posters, everyone should have gotten their Kickstarter rewards. We have gotten a number of returned packages for people who may have moved, so if you haven’t gotten your reward please message us.
We still need additional support. The licensing of some of the archival footage is incredibly expensive, but it’s rare and great material that we can’t pass up. If you missed out on donating or know someone who wanted to, we can still use help. Plus, you can still get many of the Kickstarter rewards we offered – while they still last. Just go to our website to donate and choose rewards.
Finally, below is a bonus clip that isn’t going to be in the final film, but we just couldn’t leave on the edit room floor.
Thanks again to all our supporters!
– The Honest Liar team
Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: An Honest Liar, biography, campaign, contribute, debunking, documentary, donation, film, fraud, fundraising, investigation, James Randi, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, Kickstarter, lies, life, magic, magicians, money, movie, paranormal, Randi, science, skepticism, story, The Amazing One, The Amazing Randi Story, trickery | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on November 30, 2013
I’ve posted many times before about so-called ghost hunters and ghost hunting, and much of the time it has been in either good fun (by spoofing them) or a bit more serious in challenging them to be more rigorous in their methodology. However, in this post I want to point out the danger(s) involved in ghost hunting; as is so often illustrated on the What’s The Harm? website, when people buy into pseudoscientific and non-critical thinking, it can have profoundly negative effects.
Case in point: recently some moronic ghost hunters in New Orleans decided that in order to get the spirits supposedly inhabiting an old mansion from the 1850s to “come out and play” that they needed to set fire to the place. The result: it completely burned to the ground…
… The mansion, built in the 1850s, had survived through many incarnations, operating as a boarding house, a hotel and even an illegal gambling house. Though the mansion had been shuttered in recent years, its owner, the Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation, had plans to renovate the building. …
… The fire at LeBeau broke out at about 2 a.m. local time Friday, Nov. 21, and the building was almost completely destroyed by the time firefighters arrived. The ghost hunters had been trying to produce a reaction from the spirits they assumed resided there, by doing what TV ghost hunters call “provocation,” essentially making loud noises, yelling taunts at the ghosts and banging on walls. Frustrated that their efforts failed to yield any spirits, the group decided to light a fire. Whether this was intended to smoke the spirits out or simply burn the place down, the resulting flames soon reduced the mansion to ashes and four brick chimneys.
While many ghost hunters engage in harmless (and fruitless) fun, as this case shows, there can be a dark, dangerous side to the pursuit. In the wake of popular ghost-hunting TV shows, police across the country have seen a surge in people being arrested, injured and even killed while looking for ghosts.
In 2006, a woman was critically wounded looking for ghosts in a private house near a cemetery; she and a friend were trespassing, and the house owner mistook them for vandals and shot them. In 2010, a North Carolina man died while ghost hunting with a group of friends, hoping to see the ghost of a train that crashed years earlier. The ghost train did not appear — but a real train came around a bend and killed one man who couldn’t get out of the way in time. … [emphasis added]
Note the backwards thinking here: the ghost hunters in question were so hell-bent on “proving” the existence of the ghosts supposedly haunting this mansion that, when all else failed, they actually burnt the damn place down! It is revealing that the thought that perhaps there were no ghosts/spirits in the place at all seems to have never occurred to them, so strong was their confirmation bias in favor of all evidence pointing towards the existence of the ghosts/spirits…
Posted in ghosts & paranormal | Tagged: argument from ignorance, arson, burn, burned down, burnt, electromagnetic fields, EMF, equipment, extrasensory perception, fire, flame, ghost busters, ghost hunters, ghost hunting, ghost meter, ghostbusters, ghosts, harm, haunted house, historic, house, infrared, LeBeau Plantation house, library, mansion, New Orleans, old, orb, paranormal, physics, pseudoscience, science, skepticism, spirits, Whats the Harm, woo | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on November 21, 2013
The title of this blog post may seem harsh, but when it comes to douchebag charlatans who bilk the desperate and grieving out of their money, self-declared psychic Sylvia Browne was the bottom of the proverbial dung-heap. And now she’s dead. Ironically, in 2003 she predicted that she would die at the age of 88, yet she died 11 years earlier than that…
Good riddance to bad rubbish (image source)
Over the course of writing this blog, I have dedicated some posts specifically to the late Ms. Browne in order to point out just how much of a self-aggrandizing and deceitful person she was, claiming to have psychic powers and often failing spectacularly in her “predictions” (none of which she ever apologized for, even given the pain she caused). In honor of her death, I shall reproduce those posts below in the hopes that people do not celebrate her as a “lost light to the world” or similar rubbish. Rather, it is my hope that people take the time to reflect upon Ms. Browne’s life and death and think carefully about just how much damage she did by hoodwinking the most gullible and vulnerable among us. Hopefully, perhaps people will be a bit more skeptical of the next psychic scumbag who comes along.
Posted in psychics | Tagged: abduction, accuracy, Amanda Berry, charlatan, cherry pick, Cleveland, cold reading, dead, death, died, dies, esp, fail, failed, fake, hits, hot reading, kidnapping, medium, mentalism, mind reading, misses, Montel Williams, New Year's Eve, New Years, paranormal, post diction, prediction, predictions, pseudoscience, psychic, psychics, Shawn Hornbeck, skeptical activism, skepticism, Sylvia Browne, talking to the dead | 6 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on October 31, 2013
One of the things I like to do on Halloween, besides handing out candy to trick-or-treaters, is watch scary and spooky themed movies. I recently re-watched one of the great ones from the 1980s: Ghostbusters. Did you ever notice that the character of Peter Venkman is actually kind of a skeptic? This fact is outlined in the following hilarious scene from the opening of the movie, where Venkman essentially calls out his colleagues for engaging in an argument from ignorance in his typical deadpan way as they search for a ghost…
**Dialogue from 0:19 – 0:38**
Ray Stantz: “Look!”
Egon Spengler: “This is hot, Ray.”
Ray: “Symmetrical book stacking, just like the Philadelphia mass turbulence of 1947.”
Peter Venkman: “You’re right, no human being would stack books like this.”
Posted in ghosts & paranormal, humor | Tagged: argument from ignorance, electromagnetic fields, EMF, equipment, extrasensory perception, ghost busters, ghost hunters, ghost hunting, ghost meter, ghostbusters, ghosts, Halloween, haunted house, humor, infrared, library, orb, paranormal, physics, pseudoscience, science, skepticism, spirits, woo | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on May 7, 2013
I make no bones about how I feel about various psychic charlatans who take advantage of the desperate, grieving, and bereaved: they’re pretty close to scraping the bottom of the barrel, in my view. At the top of this list is none other than the queen of psychic charlatans: Sylvia Browne.
Ms. Browne has made a career, literally, out of taking advantage of any opportunity, no matter how sleazy, to get in front of cameras in order to promote herself and her supposed “psychic powers”. In many cases, this takes the form of her going on a popular daytime television show, such as the Montel Williams Show, and giving readings to various audience members. And sometimes, she has stooped so low as to give authoritative-sounding psychicly-guided advice to people who have lost loved ones.
Of course, such psychic predictions can backfire when people actually take the time to examine them critically (such as keeping track of the New Year predictions made by prominent psychics which are complete and total duds). But sometimes, especially when dealing with those who are really going for the gusto (like Ms. Browne), these predictions can fail in a truly spectacular and despicable manner, as it did with what is turning out to be a huge fiasco regarding the discovery and rescue of kidnapping victim Amanda Berry in Cleveland, Ohio. It just so happens that not long after their daughter went missing over 10 years ago, Amanda’s parents went onto the Montel Williams Show to consult with Ms. Browne, who told them – rather unequivocally – that their daughter was dead…
… yup, dead. Which is kind of exactly the opposite of what Amanda really was… you know, alive and hoping someone would find her? Whoops…
Sylvia Browne is coming under fire after the television psychic told the family of Cleveland kidnapping victim Amanda Berry that their daughter was dead.
The case made national headlines this week when Brown and two other kidnapped girls were found safe in Cleveland. But for the family of Amanda Berry, that does not undo the heartache caused by Sylvia Browne.
Browne was a weekly guest on The Montel Williams Show, and in 2004 Berry’s mother Louwana Miller appeared to talk about the case.
As Miller pleaded for her for information on her daughter’s whereabouts, Sylvia Browne, got it completely wrong:
Miller: Can you tell me if they’ll ever find her? Is she out there?
Browne: She’s — see, I hate this when they’re in water. I just hate this. She’s not alive, honey. And I’ll tell you why, here we go again. Your daughter was not the type that would not have called you.
Miller: So you don’t think I’ll ever get to see her again?
Browne: Yeah, in heaven, on the other side.
Brown was correct on the last prediction, though it does not appear to be intentional. Berry’s mother would die of heart failure two years later — her family said she died of a “broken heart” after her hopes of a rescue were dashed by Browne’s vision.
Now Sylvia Brown has come under assault, with commentators calling her a “grief vampire” and her Twitter page coming under assault. [emphasis added]
And to me that is one of the real tragedies of this whole sordid affair. Not only have Ms. Browne and similar psychic charlatans used the grief of people to take advantage of them in their most vulnerable moments to promote themselves and their cheesy, pseudoscientific agenda, but they have also propped themselves up as some kind of authority with no evidence to support their claims. And then they go making terribly irresponsible statements such as what Ms. Browne did regarding Amanda Berry; sadly, because Louwana Miller gave some kind of credence to Ms. Browne and her psychic claims, because she trusted Browne, she was horribly and terribly deceived… eventually dying thinking that her daughter was dead.
[ **Side note: Lest you think I’m being a bit too hard on Ms. Browne, it should be noted that this isn’t her first high-profile grade-A screwup. For more history, check out her involvement in the Shawn Hornbeck fiasco. ]
I’m not one to say there should be a law against being a douchebag, especially such a self-aggrandizing and deceitful one such as Ms. Browne and her psychic ilk, but I do think it is incumbent upon those of us who call ourselves skeptics and critical thinkers to call these charlatans out on their lies and douchebaggery. We need to call them out long and loud on their lies and deceit, and we need to use these sad episodes as a lesson in teaching others the use of thinking a bit more critically about such extraordinary claims.
Posted in psychics | Tagged: abduction, accuracy, Amanda Berry, charlatan, cherry pick, Cleveland, cold reading, dead, death, died, esp, fail, failed, fake, hits, hot reading, kidnapping, medium, mentalism, mind reading, misses, Montel Williams, New Year's Eve, New Years, paranormal, post diction, prediction, predictions, pseudoscience, psychic, psychics, Shawn Hornbeck, skeptical activism, skepticism, Sylvia Browne, talking to the dead | 19 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 27, 2013
One of my biggest skeptical heroes is James Randi. He is a small man with a big laugh, an even bigger heart, and an even bigger love for the pursuit of skeptical analysis into all manner of paranormal, mystical, or odd-ball claims. For Randi, no questions are off limits and skepticism knows no bounds; he and his legacy are one of the primary reasons why I am here, doing what I do on this blog and in my daily life as a skeptic and teacher, and I know his work (through the James Randi Educational Foundation) has reached and inspired countless others. Now there is a movie being made about him, called “An Honest Liar: The Amazing Randi Story”.
However, such an undertaking requires money, so please consider donating at the Kickstarter page to help get this movie made. Click the picture below for more information, and please spread the word…
Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: An Honest Liar, biography, campaign, contribute, debunking, documentary, donation, film, fraud, fundraising, investigation, James Randi, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, Kickstarter, lies, life, magic, magicians, money, movie, paranormal, Randi, science, skepticism, story, The Amazing One, The Amazing Randi Story, trickery | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 2, 2013
Well, here we are once again, and it’s time for that time-honored tradition of checking the accuracy of famous psychic predictions of the past year. As you’ll see, when subjected to scrutiny, the vast majority of these predictions fail pretty badly. However, there are all too many faithful followers of psychic woo who want to believe that it works. One of the primary ways in which believers fool themselves is to cherry-pick the predictions and results; in skeptic-speak, we call this “counting the hits and ignoring the misses”.
Ummm… yeah. It’s kind of like that. Image source
And there are a LOT more misses than hits, folks. In addition, many of these psychics tend to make very vague and ambiguous predictions which can be twisted and interpreted in a number of ways. This creative interpretation of misses or vague predictions after-the-fact as hits is well documented in the history of psychic woo. Let’s see how well those predictions for 2012 worked out by referencing this About.com article from one year ago…
A LOT OF people are looking at 2012 with a mixture of dread and hope. The last few years have been tough financially for many people, and there’s been all of that apocalyptic talk about Mayan calendars and doom and gloom. What will really happen in 2012 I’m sure will surprise all of us. Recently, readers like you made your predictions for 2012, but we always seem to be curious about what the professional psychics foresee. Here are selected predictions for 2012 from some of the most well-known and sought-after psychics, seers, and mentalists from around the world.
Let’s just begin this exercise by examining the first psychic on the list:
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in psychics | Tagged: 2012, 2013, accuracy, astrology, cherry pick, esp, fail, failed, future, Hamilton, hits, James Randi, LaMont Hamilton, mentalism, Million Dollar Challenge, Million Dollar Prize, mind reading, misses, Monte, New Year's Eve, New Years, paranormal, post diction, prediction, predictions, pseudoscience, psychic, psychics, skepticism | 2 Comments »