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An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural Paperback – March 15, 1997
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James Randi, professional magician and skeptic, has put together an encyclopedia with something for everyone. Yes, no matter who you are, unless you're a thoroughgoing atheist, Randi is bound to offend your beliefs at one point or another. As Arthur C. Clarke says in his introduction, the book "should be issued with a mental health warning, as many readers--if they are brave enough to face unwelcome facts--will find some of their cherished beliefs totally demolished." Randi is dryly sarcastic about hundreds of topics, including Catholic relics, speaking in tongues, Jehovah's Witnesses, yoga, the origins of Mormonism, dowsing, magnetic hills, UFOs, and every spiritualist of the past several centuries. A typical entry defines a nymph as: "in the real world, the immature form of the dragonfly and certain other insects, or a young woman with robust sexual interests. Take your choice." Comprehensive, exasperating and exasperated, witty, and unsparing, Randi's encyclopedia provides more debunking per page than any other resource. --Mary Ellen Curtin
Truth is separated from fiction in this guide to skeptical definitions of alternative realities. The encyclopedia form charts both individuals and false systems of analysis and representation, and lends to both leisure browsing and light research. -- Midwest Book Review
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Top Customer Reviews
Rest assured that James Randi's curmudgeon persona is purely an act. A couple years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting this charming and gracious man in person, and I'm happy to say that a good amount of that charm finds its way into the entries. Very highly recommended!
Randi's research is sometimes flawed and his accounts sketchy, which leads me to reduce the rating I give for this book. For example, he does not realize that the Necronomicon was a Twentieth Century invention of horror author H.P. Lovecraft and he falsely implicates Increase Mather as a proponent of the Salem Witchcraft trials. (Increase was off in England when the whole thing started and was shocked to find it underway upon his return.) He is also coy about revealing details of certain trade secrets used by stage magicians and bunko spiritualists. These flaws detract from an otherwise marvellous and valuable reference.
Yet, as I read this book, I was seriously annoyed about the over-sarcastic tone he uses so often. Many times it's like he's trying to go for overkill with a "witty remark", but doing so he really adds nothing to the book. Worse than that, he comes off as a rabid, sometime overemotional basher of irrationalists everywhere. This really backfires when one wants to show this book to some delusional folk to help him/her get a grip on reality - haters aren't really good teachers.
Also, the book is poorly edited. Typos abound, and Randi couldn't get right an Italian name/word if his life depended on it. Being Italian myself, I might be partial about this, but traits like those don't belong to serious research as he is actually doing.
I recommend it to anyone who needs a reference book of quackeries, both religious and secular. It has been a great help to my work as well as a great reading.
I have seen that some paranormalists have given bad grades for this book : however this book is a REFERENCE first of all and not for argumentation. If you really need help in understanding why your favorite brand of idiocy is in there, please take a Logic 101 class.
"Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes" is a book you'll not only enjoy but keep going refering to!
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1)You want entertaining tidbits about weird stuff
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