Michael Shermer

Fellow skeptics:

The real life adventures of James Van Fraud (his new name dubbed by Roy Rivenburg in the Los Angeles Times) continue, with our erstwhile speaker-to- the-dead making the rounds in Seattle, Denver, Houston, etc. I'm flying to Seattle tomorrow for a taping. Not WITH him, but to comment on the taping of his reading there--he refuses to be in studio with me at the same time, and continues to tell people I've never had a reading from him when I did, in 1994 for Unsolved Mysteries. (He told me my brother died--wrong, it was my father--and that my brother is no longer in pain, still loves me, yada, yada, yada.)

In Denver he gave a lecture at the Tattered Cover book store, one of the biggest in the city, and people were lining up three hours in advance to hear him speak. A couple of skeptics challenged him in the Q & A and they were booed into submission. The DENVER POST, unbelievably, covered the story ON THE FRONT PAGE OF THE FIRST SECTION! The NBC affiliate in Denver sent me a copy of their taped reading he did of a volunteer for me to evaluate.

It was the usual hit rate: he got 10 hits, 24 misses, and most of the hits were of the warm reading variety of keepsakes, photos, "she loved shoes, right?," and so on. But he was busted again on camera. After being interviewed by the NBC reporter, they brought in the subject to be interviewed (hint: she had a wad of kleenex in her hand ready to ball her eyes out even before he started -- within minutes the floodgates opened up).

Before starting the reading, Van Praagh announced that he had to take a bathroom break. He got up, fumbled around with his mike trying to turn it off, explaining "I don't want you guys to hear me pee," then giggled and gave his effeminate smile, but as he walked past the subject he quietly asked "what is your sister's name?" (they had told him in advance she lost her sister). She said "Jan." Then, about 10 minutes into the reading, Van Praagh says "Is your sister's name Jan or Janet, please?" BUSTED AGAIN!

But I'll tell you, this guy is slick. I missed it the first time myself until my wife Kim pointed it out during the reading. We rewound the tape and sure enough, there it was, very quick, very quiet. Slick James we'll call him.

I also want to let you know that my friend and colleague Richard Abanes, the evangelical skeptic on the Skeptics Society board has a new book out on End- Time extremists entitled "End-Time Visions: The Road to Armageddon?" It has just been released in bookstores. It's a debunker's dream come true. The many persons, groups, and topics covered include: Nostradamus, psychics, Cayce, Jehovah's Witnesses, Millerites, pyramidologists, doomsday cults (Aum Shinrikyo, Heaven's Gate, etc.), a historical survey of end-time speculations (dating back to the 1st century), and alleged signs of the times (e.g., increased earthquakes, increased storms, greater plagues, etc.).

The book also deals in-depth with numerous Christian prophecy teachers (Chuck Missler, Grant Jeffrey, Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, Jack Van Impe, etc.) including their twisted biblical interpretations, false predictions, unreliable/sloppy scholarship, false/misleading statements, eschatological flip-floppy based on world events that continuously change, and often outright lies.

Several pre-publication reviews of the book are very favorable, including from Doug Groothuis (Denver Seminary), Michael Shermer (Director of Weird Things), and The "Amazing Randi" (Director of Flim Flam).

Michael Shermer



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