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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

psychokinete A term for a gifted person who can produce psychokinetic effects, invented by parapsychologist Michael Thalbourne to describe two young subjects, Michael Edwards and Steve Shaw, who in 1982 convinced parapsychologists at the McDonnell Laboratory for Psychical Research (MacLab) in St. Louis, Missouri, that they could bend metal, impress images on photographic film, move objects, and use ESP.
      The psychokinetes proved to be ringers, sent in to show that simple conjuring techniques were sufficient to deceive the scientists. The parapsychologists easily accepted the boys as genuine psychics and until the hoax was voluntarily exposed in 1983 by the boys themselves, the scientists were sure they had proven the existence of supernatural forces and prepared a scientific paper on their investigation.
      Project Alpha, as the matter became known, was designed to show that scientists are easily deceived and that they usually have no adequate knowledge of conjuring techniques. Alpha cast no aspersions on the honesty of the researchers, but did question their competence. It was a great success and has resulted in some parapsychologists being more careful about their conclusions. Following the revelation of the hoax, the MacLab closed permanently.
      Though Mike Edwards got a real, traditional job and only performs occasionally in magic, Steve Shaw (1960- ) has gone on to become a ranking professional mentalist. He has been “buried alive” on network television and escaped from six feet down in the ground. In 1984 he performed another such stunt, being dug up after three days. He has developed many new angles to standard methods of the mentalists, and as a result has traveled internationally with his very clever and entertaining act.
      See also Dr. John Beloff.



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