James Randi, known to the world of both magic and professional skepticism as The Amazing Randi, has died. As a frequent talk show guest, performer, and sponsor of the famed (and never claimed) One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, Randi spent his life exposing false claims of paranormal abilities, often by those hoping to secure financial advantage from others for their “gifts.” Per The Wrap, Randi died of “age-related causes” on Tuesday; he was 92.
Having reportedly dropped out of high school to get his start performing magic tricks with a traveling carnival in the 1940s, Randi (birth name: Randall Zwinge) spent the early years of his life immersed in stage magic and daring escapes, including a famous stunt in which he escaped from a straitjacket while suspended over Niagara Falls. It was a career that saw him appear on TV and radio, tour with Alice Cooper in the 1970s, and—on a few notable occasions—get himself accused of having actual psychic abilities himself.
Which brings us to the second, and potentially more high-profile, aspect of Randi’s career: His work as one of the most notable and thorough professional skeptics or investigators in the world of paranormal research. Randi spent much of his life in the ’70s and beyond applying scientific principles to outrageous claims, including a high-profile exposure of spoon-bender Uri Gellar, and a number of very profitable faith healers. Randi reportedly didn’t like to describe his work as debunking—he was an investigator, designing experiments that made it easy to see whether people really had the powers they claimed to possess. That includes directly on TV; Randi hosted a live TV special in 1989 that featured a number of potential psychics who probably found themselves regretting going on live TV with The Amazing Randi.
Randi was remembered on Twitter today by his long-time friend Penn Jillette, who credited Randi—as he has many times in the past—for inspiring Penn & Teller’s own combination of skepticism and stage flair. Randi is survived by his husband, Deyvi Peña.