Banachek - Mentalism and Skepticism

November 13, 2009

Banachek is an American mentalist and skeptic. He has written numerous books and invented various magic and mentalism effects, and is often sought out by top entertainers such as David Blaine, Lance Burton, James Randi and Criss Angel. He has been the recipient of a number of awards and recognitions, including the Dave Lederman Memorial Award (Awarded for Creativity in Mentalism) and the Dunninger Memorial Award (Awarded for Distinguished Professionalism in the Performance of Mentalism), both awarded by the Psychic Entertainers Association, as well as the College Campus Novelty Act of the Year,  and the Entertainer of the Year on two occasions, all awarded by the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities. He is renowned for fooling scientists at Washington University into believing that his supposed psychic abilities were genuine during the Project Alpha hoax in the early 1980s. In 2009, he conducted a preliminary test of psychic claimant Connie Sonne's dowsing ability for the James Randi Educational Foundation's Million Dollar Challenge that was witnessed by hundreds in person at The Amazing Meeting 7 in Las Vegas, NV.

In this conversation with D.J. Grothe, Banachek recounts his origins as a mentalist in South Africa, including how James Randi's books influenced the development of his worldview. He talks about his involvement helping develop Penn and Teller's bullet catch, the current finale to their Las Vegas show. He describes his role in Project Alpha, and explores to what extent he thinks the researchers involved were aware of his and his colleague's deceptions. He details the role that magicians and mentalists may play in informing the public about psychic and other paranormal claims, and describes the virtues of being an open-minded skeptic as opposed to a "debunker." He talks about his role n the James Randi Educational Foundation's Million Dollar Challenge, and recounts his preliminary testing of Connie Sonne's dowsing ability in front of a live audience at The Amazing Meeting 7, in Las Vegas in 2009.

Links Mentioned in This Episode:

One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge

Related Episodes

James Randi - Science, Magic, and Future of Skepticism
June 30, 2006

Comments from the CFI Forums

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Is it fair to say that this is the last POI with DJ as host?

Posted on Jan 25, 2010 at 8:50pm by Lucretius Comment #1

I really enjoyed this episode…Banachek is awesome. I got to see him perform the test for the million dollar challenge at TAM 7, and that conference was the first I’d heard of him. After hearing this interview I want to know more! I also want to know how the bullet trick is done…I saw P&T perform it and it’s the coolest thing ever.

I must learn some magic tricks.

Posted on Jan 26, 2010 at 8:10pm by EnlightningLinZ Comment #2

I really enjoyed this episode…Banachek is awesome. I got to see him perform the test for the million dollar challenge at TAM 7, and that conference was the first I’d heard of him. After hearing this interview I want to know more! I also want to know how the bullet trick is done…I saw P&T perform it and it’s the coolest thing ever…..

I thought it was a good episode.
I enjoyed Banachek reviewing the episode of [ PROJECT ALPHA ] where he and another student, under the guidance of James Randi, pretended to have psychic powers to fool a $500,000 paranormal project.  I may have misunderstoo interview to suggest it was funded by McDonnell-Douglas aircraft company but this WWW site indicates it was a personal donation by James McDonnell board chairman..

Banachek said there were many (5? 7?) ways to bend a spoon/fork a la Uri Geller—that is ‘amazing’...

http://www.skepdic.com/graphics/projectalpha.jpg

Posted on Feb 10, 2010 at 3:43am by Jackson Comment #3