Tag: Harry Houdini

Houdini escapes skeptics on Halloween

By Phil Plait | November 1, 2009 12:00 pm

On Halloween, Justin Robert Young and my friend Andrew Mayne tried to raise the spirit of Harry Houdini in a seance at the James Randi Educational Foundation HQ in Florida. The event was live on the intertubez and and the recorded stream is on UStream. The whole thing is over an hour long, but well worth your time! A bunch of people (including Penn & Teller, David Copperfield, Michael Shermer, and me) were asked to send in secret words for Houdini to divine at the seance. This wasn’t a foolproof scientific experiment, but it’s fun.

Here’s the show below. Note: some NSFW language.

They picked my word starting at about 39 minutes into the video. And what was my word? Well, at the risk of generating the ire of Houdini’s shade, it was floccinaucinihilipilification, a word I remembered from when I was a kid and read the Guinness Book of World Records (it was in the list for, duh, longest words). It means "the act of estimating something as being worthless". I didn’t realize they were using a Ouija board at the seance, though, so perhaps choosing a word that’s about 30 letters long may have been a little irritating. However, I really wanted to make sure they wouldn’t pick it by chance. Infinite monkeys, and all that.

The Denver Skeptics divined my word as "shor". I have to count that as a definite hit.

I should have picked pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Debunking, Humor, JREF, Skepticism

Boo Houdini!

By Phil Plait | October 27, 2009 2:00 pm

quest_for_houdiniLooking for a little skeptical spookiness to add to your Halloween this year? The James Randi Educational Foundation will be holding a seance to contact the spirit of Harry Houdini live on the internet!

Houdini was a hero to James Randi, and he famously said that if there were an afterlife, he would do whatever he could after he died to contact his wife. She held a seance, and… nothing happened. However, when you have people like Randi and magician Andrew Mayne involved, why, anything can happen!

OK, maybe not anything. Like, say, actually contacting a dead spirit. But I bet this will be a very fun event, and I encourage all skeptics and believers — especially believers — young and old to drop in. For more info, stay tuned to Randi.org and WeirdThings.com.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Debunking, JREF, Skepticism
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