Jillette, who recently hosted a quarantine-style version of his magic show with partner Teller called Penn & Teller: Try This at Home tweeted, “Goodbye to the truly Amazing James Randi, our inspiration, mentor and dear friend. We will love you forever. @jref.” Jillette also tweeted, “The last picture of me and Randi. I can’t type through the tears. This will be a hard day of making tv. I love you Randi. You invented us.”
Randi, who was born in Ontario, Canada, on August 7, 1928, was the star subject of the documentary, An Honest Liar, which took a deep dive into his career exposing fake psychics and those who claimed to have paranormal powers. Jillette, Teller, Mythbusters‘ Adam Savage, and Bill Nye also appear in the film.
The famous debunker was long-suffering with illnesses prior to this death. He was diagnosed with intestinal cancer in 2009, according to The New York Times. While chemotherapy treatments left the magician in a wheelchair, he continued to do public speaking events. Prior to that, in 2006, he had suffered a heart attack.
In July 2013, Randi nearly died after suffering aneurisms in his legs which required immediate surgery. During the procedure, the surgeon showed the magician’s husband, Deyvi Orangel Peña Arteaga, Randi’s circulatory system scans, and described the issue as “very challenging” and a “very difficult situation.”
The surgery was supposed to take two hours, but Randi wasn’t out of the operating room until six and a half hours later. According to a post on his official website, Randi’s cause of death stemmed from “age-related causes.”
James Created the $1 Million Paranormal Challenge & Promised the Grand Payout to Whoever Could Demonstrate Supernatural Activity
Through the James Randi Educational Foundation, which the magician formed in 1996, he created the Million Dollar Challenge, a prize he would grant to the first person to demonstrate supernatural or paranormal activity existed under his scientific testing criteria. While thousands of applicants attempted the challenge, nobody even won. In 2015, Randi put an end to the contest.
James is the founder of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, according to WXPR. While he started his career as a magician in the ’40s before becoming famous as an escape artist and was referred to as “the Modern Houdini,” he spent much of his career exposing supernatural and fraudulent paranormal claims.
James Took a ‘Lethal’ Dose of Sleeping Pills On Stage During His TED Talk in 2010
James didn’t drink, take drugs, or smoke, as reported by The New York Times “because that can easily just fuzz the edges of my rationality, fuzz the edges of my reasoning powers,” he once said. “And I want to be as aware as I possibly can. That may mean giving up a lot of fantasies that might be comforting in some ways, but I’m willing to give that up in order to live in an actually real world.”
During his TED talk in 2010, James also sought to debunk homeopathic drugs. While on stage, he downed a “lethal” dose of homeopathic sleeping pills on stage to prove it had zero effect.
James described himself as an atheist. “I think that religion is a very damaging philosophy — because it’s such a retreat from reality,” he told the New York Times. James said that people need religion “because they’re weak. And they fall for authority. They choose to believe it because it’s easy.”
“Science gives you a standard to work against,” James said. “Science, after all, is simply a logical, rational and careful examination of the facts that nature presents to us.”