The Amazing Randi shows up, disappearsThere are things that people believe only because they want to. For my part, it’s the existence of the supernatural powers. I have to admit that I used to admire Uri Geller for his seemingly amazing spoon bending. His tricks were truly bewitching ― at least to the eyes of a 12-year-old.
But they failed to fool the Amazing Randi, the Canada-born and Florida-based former magician. The Amazing Randi quit doing his conjuring tricks after hurting his back in the 1960s and since then has concentrated on establishing the falsehood of those who claim paranormal powers.
Mr. Randi has been around the world, laying bare people’s trickery. He has even established a $1 million prize to anyone who succeeds in proving his supernatural or psychic power. No one has ever been successful, Uri Gellar included.
Most recently, Mr. Randi turned his scientific gaze toward Korea’s supernatural claimants. Starting last February, his white beard and keen eyes have appeared on 7 p.m. Sundays on SBS-TV, in the program “$1 Million Paranormal Challenge.”
Mr. Randi, after recording his role in advance, returned to Florida and could not be reached for comment.
In each episode, claimants who passed preliminary tests run by the producers last year, came out and displayed their tricks. There were local seers, as well as clairvoyant claimants from countries around the world, such as Russia, Bulgaria and Japan.
“One of the most frequently used tricks is misdirection,” says Kim Ki-seulk, the producer in charge of the local show, “so we made sure to prevent such tricks by having more than two cameras filming the scene, while going over every possible trick in advance.”
Only those who passed the tests had the chance to appear on stage, but passing Mr. Randi was an entirely different matter.
In previous programs, local metaphysicians claimed that they were clairvoyant, able to float, or move things only with the power of their minds ― you name it.
But those who insisted they held the power to move things with their minds often turned out to be attaching a thin thread to the object they wanted to move. Spoon benders often just distracted their viewers, and bent the spoon under the table or behind their back.
“The thing is, the claimants take advantage of their tricks to earn money, cheating innocent people,” Mr. Kim says. “The program tried to arouse people’s attention so they would not be tricked by such things.”
It’s a bit sad for those claiming supernatural powers to be proven fake, and Mr. Kim spreads the guilt around. “It’s not only the claimants who are to blame,” he says. “The press that manipulate and take advantage of innocent viewers also share a great deal of responsibility.”
The $1 million was fairly tempting, though, and more than 200 people applied for the challenge.
The program started airing in mid-February and was supposed to go on until the end of this month. But Mr. Randi, it seems, was a bit too hard on local claimants, and everyone has already been turned away. There are no more challengers, which means the end of the program.
The last episode, a collection of highlights of the previous programs, airs Sunday. Meanwhile, the $1 million remains untouched in a New York City bank.
by Chun Su-jin