The Sciences

Houdini escapes skeptics on Halloween

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitNov 1, 2009 11:00 PM


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On Halloween, Justin Robert Young and my friend Andrew Mayne tried to raise the spirit of Harry Houdini in a seance at the James Randi Educational Foundation HQ in Florida. The event was live on the intertubez and and the recorded stream is on UStream. The whole thing is over an hour long, but well worth your time! A bunch of people (including Penn & Teller, David Copperfield, Michael Shermer, and me) were asked to send in secret words for Houdini to divine at the seance. This wasn't a foolproof scientific experiment, but it's fun. Here's the show below. Note: some NSFW language. They picked my word starting at about 39 minutes into the video. And what was my word? Well, at the risk of generating the ire of Houdini's shade, it was floccinaucinihilipilification, a word I remembered from when I was a kid and read the Guinness Book of World Records (it was in the list for, duh, longest words). It means "the act of estimating something as being worthless". I didn't realize they were using a Ouija board at the seance, though, so perhaps choosing a word that's about 30 letters long may have been a little irritating. However, I really wanted to make sure they wouldn't pick it by chance. Infinite monkeys, and all that. The Denver Skeptics divined my word as "shor". I have to count that as a definite hit. I should have picked pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.

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