Randi up to 1970
Randall James Zwinge was born in Toronto, Canada on August 7, 1928. He dropped out of Canadian high school at the age of 17, and started doing magic for a travelling carnival - he was into magic since childhood when he had seen Henry Blackstone, Sr. perform, and doing card tricks passed the time when he was in a cast after a childhood bicycle accident. For a lot of his early career (1946 onward) he seemed to orbit around Toronto doing both the aforementioned stage mentalist act ("Randall the Telepath"), doing escapism magic (he liked escaping from straightjackets while hanging upside-down in the air - he later mocked that bit in a cameo on Happy Days in 1978) and being involved with the Toronto Globe and Mail's predecessor Midnight, which was a nightlife publication in the 1950s. Cridland mentions this publication in his 2013 interview with Radio Misterioso (Greg Bishop) on the predecessor article to the movie review, a 2012 The Anomalist magazine article titled "The Real James Randi." What Cridland discovered is that Randi is rather loose with recounting his own past - before he was a high school dropout he allegedly destroyed a Spiritualist church through his understanding of "cold reading" as a teenager. But had he? Was there such a church or group? Cridland in his interview says he could not find any scrap of proof that the incident occurred.
The "Randall the Telepath" act had that same problem - according to Cridland he advertised himself as an actual telepath, not a stage act. He also made predictions or psychic "detective work" for money as late as the age of 26:
.....In the early days Randi represented himself to the public and to the media as a genuine mind reader. In later interviews and accounts he would always claim he did this only briefly, but the historical record shows that this went on from his teens until at least the age of 26. The film shows a very public prediction that Randi, then known as Randall Zwinge, made for a Toronto newspaper. In the film Randi says the prediction, which seemingly foretells the outcome of the World Series, happened when he was 21.
In a self-recorded interview, Randi would say that he was always able to talk his way out if a reporter or interviewer would bring past claims of being psychic. Over the years Randi has a tale of a man from Florida who came to visit him believing he had genuine psychic powers and offered him money to give him information. In one version, told in Randi's book Conjuring , he wants to know the outcome of horses races. Randi then elaborates on the moral dilemma this caused him and states that that was one of the reasons he dropped the whole phony psychic routine. In AHL, Randi's friend, magician Penn Jillette, talks of this time in Randi's life and says that is commendable that “...he backed away from it."
The problem is that Randi has said he backed away, but the record shows he went back to it again and again. Randi's account in Conjuring refers to the World Series prediction and states that he was "eighteen years old" when this occurred. There are other accounts of similar predictions from different years. Both my article and AHL show that Randi's claims of being psychic went on for at least eight years beyond his supposed encounter with the unnamed man from Florida. Randi's reasons for dropping the psychic routine are much more likely related to his success as a stage magician and escape artist than a moral dilemma.
Although Randi and his associates demand a high criteria for accuracy in the people and claims they scrutinize, Randi gets away with slippery story telling.....
And this isn't even mentioning his time doing horoscopes as "Zo-ran" in Midnight - today he would say "it was an experiment in gullibility", back then he was doing it for a paycheck.
By the early 1960s Randi was in New York City, doing regular stage magic
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