From: James Randi --- Wizard <randi-hotline@ssr.com>
Subject: A small update

Busy, busy, busy!

I've been rather inattentive to the folks on the mailing list. My apologies. The 12-to-15-hour days I've been putting in at the Foundation have taken my time and attention. Getting the whole shebang off and running is quite a task.

But I love it. Things are falling into place nicely.

To share with you a few things that have been happening.... First, I got a message from a would-be "psychic" that read -- and I quote exactly --

What no response to my offer to except your Psychic Challenge. Scared you will lose or what?

I got no "offer to except" or even to "accept" the offer, but that won't stop him/her from crowing that I'm scared of this dire threat to the Pigasus Prize. I recall that this "psychic" claims to be fabulously wealthy, and says he/she doesn't need or want the prize, so why all this carrying-on? Make up your mind!

In fact, on November 8th, I'm due to test the weird claim of "Therapeutic Touch" (TT) which -- we won't be surprised to learn -- involves no touching whatsoever.

In co-operation with Bob Glickman of PHact (the Philadelphia-area skeptics group) I've devised a simple, cheap, easy, direct, definitive test of TT, and though the Pigasus Prize is rapidly approaching US$1,000,000 (and will certainly be there by his year's end), we as yet have no acceptions from the vast number of nurses who say they can do this wonder of healing, as they do every day of their lives. If there are no claimants by November 1st, which is one week before the scheduled test, no test will take place.

A splendid exchange took place between a couple of unhappy "psychics" and myself, in which the psychics complained that the at-that-time US$742,000 Pigasus Prize was only in the form of pledges, and would be difficult or impossible to collect.

They had a point there, since there are just under 300 pledgers in 15 countries who have agreed to pay the successful claimants who just might materialize. I responded by agreeing to an additional clause in the official offer: my personal $10,000 would be paid immediately to any winner, and the additional prize money would be paid within 7 days (since the Foundation would need that period to convert stock into cash).

Well, that didn't make them any happier. They next bleated that they didn't believe that the Foundation had that amount of money available.

In my inventive fashion, I came up with this: If you don't believe we have the money, put your money where your mouth is, just as I've done all my life. Bet me US$1,000 that we don't have the money. Send your check for US$1,000, payable to the Foundation, to any reputable lawyer you choose to name. I'll do the same, sending a US$1,000 check payable to YOU, to that same lawyer.

As soon as I'm informed by the lawyer that both checks have been received, I'll send the lawyer a financial statement, notarized by our bank, which establishes that the prize can be covered. At that point, both checks will be sent to the Foundation. Of course, if I can't, don't, or won't, supply that statement, the lawyer will send both checks to you. Any takers? No, not a one. Just silence, as we might expect.

A UFO nut in Florida sent me (via Dr. Gary Posner of the Tampa Bay Skeptics) a bunch of forks and letter-openers bent into various curliqueues, and claimed that a woman he knows did the job using her bare hands, right in front of him. Wow! As we know, this is impossible without magical powers, right? In response, I went out and bought identical letter-openers, and asked Jenny Blair -- one of my employees -- to bend them on videotape in very similar, and even better, shapes. Easily done, within seconds. The UFO coo-coo now has that tape and the bent metal. It will be interesting to learn what alibis will next be offered.

We're taking bids on the contract to build our auditorium at the Foundation. A full stage with state-of-the-art audio and video equipment will be installed.

The membership drive for the James Randi Educational Foundation has had some encouraging success, but we're looking for many more members to come forward.

We're toying with the idea of offering a free US$100,000 insurance policy against alien abduction, to all members. This was suggested by an actual, similar offer made by a regular insurance company, and the news that another company based in Liechenstein has offering a "reincarnation account" which is designed to provide "seed capital" for the next life of the insured.

The $130,000 accounts would be invested in "conservative growth portfolios" and would have to be redeemed within 23 years after the insured persons death. The "reincarnated" claimant would be required to answer questions that only they, in their previous lives, would have known the answers for.

But what if one of those powerful psychics were to come along, divine the right answers, and "pass" as the real re-incarnated policy holder? Seems risky, doesn't it?

Take a look in at the Web page, won't you? It gets better all the time, thanks to the dedicated work of Maggie Ragaisis and Jutta Degener. We'd like your comments.

(I'm in Vancouver, Canada, filming the final shots for the A&E "Scams, Scoundrels, and Swindles" TV Special, which will air in January.)

James Randi.


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