"Project Alpha" was a hoax devised by Randi to test parapsychologists.
He had two teenaged magicians, Steve Shaw and Mike Edwards, pose as
psychics and arrange to be tested by the McDonnell Lab, which had just
opened as a parapsychology lab in St. Louis. Shaw and Edwards were
believed to be genuine psychics, and a presentation about them was
given at the Parapsychological Association--at which most parapsychologists
present were *not* taken in. I believe Randi himself suggested controls
to the McDonnell Lab, which were imposed and Shaw and Edwards ceased
to produce results. The McDonnell Lab published nothing about them,
but two other psi researchers, Berthold Schwarz and Walter Uphoff, did.
(The latter was quoted in a _National Enquirer_ story touting one of
the "psychics.") Randi then revealed the hoax publicly, and awarded
a "straight spoon" to McDonnell Lab director Peter Phillips for taking
his advice. (This award was listed in Randi's 1982 "Uri" award press
release, but not mentioned in the list of awards published by either
_Omni_ or the _Skeptical Inquirer_, which led to the letter from
Thalbourne in _SI_ cited below.)
A number of parapsychologists were annoyed by Alpha, and made the
kinds of criticisms which may be found in the articles by Truzzi
Anonymous (1983a) Skeptical eye: Psychic Abscam. @I(Discover)
Anonymous (1983b) Response to letter from Peter Phillips.
Chalmers, J.H. (1983-84) Unnoticed irony of Alpha. @I(Skeptical
Cherfas, J. (1983) The Amazing Randi hoodwinks the spoonbenders. @I(New
Scientist) 97(3 February):287.
Collins, H. (1983) Magicians in the laboratory: A new role to
play. @I(New Scientist) 98(30 June):929-931.
Frazier, K., editor (1981) @I(Paranormal borderlands of science).
Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus.
--- (1982) From Rand to the Pentagon: This year's Uri awards.
@I(Skeptical Inquirer) 7(1, Fall):11-12.
--- (1983a) Uri awards: A straight spoon joins three bent ones in
'83. @I(Skeptical Inquirer) 8(Fall):9-10.
--- (1983b) Correction. @I(Skeptical Inquirer) 8(Fall):96.
--- (1983-84) The editor responds. @I(Skeptical Inquirer)
---, editor (1986) @I(Science confronts the paranormal).
Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus.
Gardner, M. (1983) Lessons of a landmark PK hoax. @I(Skeptical
Inquirer) 7(4, Summer):16-19. In Frazier (1986), pp. 166-169.
--- (1983-84a) Magicians in the psi lab: Many misconceptions.
@I(Skeptical Inquirer) 8(Winter):111-116. In Frazier (1986),
--- (1983-84b) Martin Gardner replies. @I(Skeptical Inquirer)
Joyce, C. (1983) Now you see it, now you don't. @I(New
Scientist) 100(17 November):523-524.
McBurney, D.H. and Greenberg, J.K. (1980) Downfall of a would-be
psychic. @I(Skeptical Inquirer) 5(1, Fall):61-62. In Frazier
(1981), pp. 148-149.
Phillips, P.R. (1983) Randi's hoax. @I(Discover) 4(May):100.
Pinch, T.J. (1983-84) Project Alpha: Preliminary only?
@I(Skeptical Inquirer) 8(Winter):186.
Pinch, T.J. and Collins, H.M. (1984) Private science and public
knowledge: The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of
the Claims of the Paranormal and its use of the literature.
@I(Social Studies of Science) 14:521-546.
Randi, J. (1981) Innocent "psychics". @I(Skeptical Inquirer)
--- (1982a) Last word. @I(Omni) 4(May):154.
--- (1982b) Extrasensory deception: The strange story of the
professor and the psychic. @I(Games) 6(September):58-59.
--- (1983a) The Project Alpha experiment: Part 1. The first two
years. @I(Skeptical Inquirer) 7(Summer):24-33. In Frazier
(1986), pp. 158-165.
--- (1983b) The Project Alpha experiment Part 2. Beyond the
laboratory. @I(Skeptical Inquirer) 8(Fall):36-45.
--- (1983c) Psience research. @I(New Scientist) 99(28 July):300.
--- (1983-84) James Randi replies. @I(Skeptical Inquirer)
--- (1984-85) James Randi responds. @I(Skeptical Inquirer)
Thalbourne, M.A. (1984-85) Phillips's "Straight Spoon".
@I(Skeptical Inquirer) 9(Winter):187-188.
Truzzi, M. (1983) Trickery in the name of science. @I(Omni) 5(May):117.
--- (1983-84) Project Alpha: Sabotage? @I(Skeptical Inquirer)
--- (1987b) Reflections on "Project Alpha": Scientific experiment
or conjurer's illusion? @I(Zetetic Scholar)
Jim Lippard Lippard@CCIT.ARIZONA.EDU
Dept. of Philosophy Lippard@ARIZVMS.BITNET
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721