JREF Issues a Direct Challenge to James Van Praagh

I know “psychic” James Van Praagh will never respond to the Million Dollar Challenge because he’s a con artist and he’s making too much money defrauding gullible people desperate for contact with their dead loved ones to “prove his powers.”

But it’s good to see the James Randi Educational Foundation going after him directly in an open letter:

It seems odd that you won’t return our messages. After all, if you can really do what you claim, we’re offering you one million dollars and a chance to prove wrong everyone who doubts you, including those of us at the James Randi Educational Foundation. If your ‘psychic powers’ are real, hiding from our offer makes as much sense as throwing away a winning lottery ticket.

So, we can only guess at why you haven’t answered.

Perhaps it’s because what you do is not “psychic” at all, but a stale and repetitive performance of cold-reading techniques, in which you throw out vague guesses and then repeat back to your audience things they’ve already told you or things that are simply obvious, all while claiming their dead relatives are speaking to you.

This isn’t about getting Van Praagh to answer them, because he won’t.

This is about getting the media to take notice and do the work of delegitimizing him for the public good.

JREF needs to keep up with these kinds of letters — calling out specific people and challenging their self-proclaimed powers. Let’s see some good journalists take the bait and expose him for what he is.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Anonymous

    James randi is  so gangsta! I want to be like him when i grow up. He be pulling cards man! 

  • Anonymous

    But these people want to be defrauded. They want to be comforted. It’s hard to fight against that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=690756125 Rob Durdle

    I wonder if his psychic powers tell him to shave his moustache like that.. maybe the spirts told him Magnum was being rebooted and ‘staches were making a comeback?

    • Ducky

      I was just about to say that this guy is trying way too hard to channel Tom Selleck, and he’s not even dead yet.

  • Anonymous

    How does Van Praagh differ from clergymen who claim that they can communicate with an invisible, long-absent Jesus?

    • http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/ Cat’s Staff

      The clergy ask for the money afterwards, when they pass around the plate. Van Praagh asks for the money up front.  That’s the main difference.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

      I’d guess that the proportion of priests who *know* they are running a scam is lower than the proportion of psychics who know.

      But my disgust at how psychics prey on the grieving did transfer over to priests pretty easily.

  • Otto

    I guess I’m a little bit curious about your definition of “con artist.”  For me, a con artist would have to be someone who is selling a con they KNOW is false.  Has Van Praagh (and his ridiculously Dutch name) made it apparent that he knows he’s selling false things, or does he appear to believe in what he’s doing?

    For me, at least, the difference between “con artist” and “faith healer” is important, in that it matters what you can show people about the snake oil salesman in question.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t think he’s made it apparent to those who want to believe… but those of us who think know that he knows he’s a fake.  That’s why he won’t respond.

    • Paul Little

      It would seem to me that an accomplished con artist would “appear to believe in what he’s doing” moreso than anyone else. If it were “apparent that he knows he’s selling false things” he’d be a failure.

  • Anonymous

    It’s a shame that the guillible people who are desperate to believe will just see this as JREF “attacking” Van Praagh.   They will steadfastly refuse to see him for the huckster that he is.


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