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James Randi, magician and debunker, dies at 92

Oct. 21 (UPI) -- James Randi, the magician, escape artist and debunker of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims, has died. He was 92.

The James Randi Educational Foundation announced in a statement Wednesday that Randi had died the day prior due to "age-related causes."

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"He had an Amazing life. We will miss him," the statement read.

The Canadian-born magician who went by the stage name the Amazing Randi was a celebrated magician and escape artist, known for such elaborate acts as extracting himself from a straight jacket while dangling over the Niagara Falls in the 1970s. In 1975, he also performed at the White House at the request of first lady Betty Ford during the presidency of Gerald Ford, according to his foundation.

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However, Randi is possibly better known for his work debunking psychics, spoon-benders, faith healers, homeopathic medicine and the like.

Famously on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" in 1973, Randi and the late-night host worked together to prove that Israeli mentalist Uri Geller's psychic and supernatural powers were nothing more than magic tricks.

For the show, Randi had the producers supply the props for Geller to use and he was unable to perform a single trick during the entire segment.

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Decades later, Geller admitted he never had any powers but Randi lambasted him, saying "it was too late" as his claims had negatively affected too many people, organizations and governments that believed him.

In the 2014 documentary "An Honest Liar," Randi said he has spent his life fighting "people who are stealing money from the public, cheating them and misinforming them."

He also famously started The Million Dollar Challenge offering up that large sum of money to anyone who could prove they have paranormal powers. No one ever earned the award.

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"Over the years, we have spent a great deal of time dealing with claims ranging from yet another dowsing claim to some VERY eccentric and untestable claims," the foundation said in 2015 when it announced the fund would be transformed into grants for non-profit groups that promote critical thinking.

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"The overwhelming majority refused to fill out the applications or even state a claim that can be tested. Some of them show up in person and demand to be tested while they wait," the foundation said. "We can no longer justify the resources to interact with these people"

For his work, Randi has won numerous awards, including the $272,000 "genius grant" from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 1986 for his investigations into claims of the supernatural, occult and paranormal, his foundation said.

He is remembered by Deyvi Pena, whom Randi married in 2013.

Fellow magician Penn Jillette of the duo Penn & Teller mourned Randi's death online, saying "you invented us."

"We will never forget that without Randi, there would not be Penn & Teller. It's really that simple," Jillette said via Twitter, posting a series of photos of himself with Randi.

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"My inspiration, my hero, my mentor, my friend," he said.

Notable deaths of 2020

Richard "Dick" Thornburgh, former attorney general of the United States and former governor of Pennsylvania, takes a seat at the witness hearing after U.S. Chief Justice nominee Judge John Roberts testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on September 15, 2005. Thornburgh died on December 31 at age 88. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

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