Banachek is the current president and spokesperson for the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF). The JREF was founded in 1996 to help people defend themselves from paranormal and pseudoscientific claims. The JREF offers a still-unclaimed million-dollar reward for anyone who can produce evidence of paranormal abilities under controlled conditions.
At the age of 17 Banachek was studied by scientists to determine if he had psychic abilities. The study was funded by a $500,000 grant from McDonnell Douglas at took over 4 years to perform at Washington University. Banachek used this opportunity to prove that anyone can be fooled. He became confeterates with fellow magicans Mike Edwards and James Randi. They concluded the hoax by holding a press conference for Discovery Magazine where they explained that it was all a large deception.
An Honest Liar
Much of the advocacy work that Banachek has done in conjunction with James Randi is captured in the award winning documentary AN HONEST LIAR. The film is about the world-famous magician, escape artist, and world-renowned enemy of deception, James ‘The Amazing’ Randi. The film brings to life Randi’s intricate investigations that publicly exposed psychics, faith healers, and con-artists with quasi-religious fervor.
Debunking a Charlatan
Televangelist Peter Popoff’s methods were definitively exposed by Banachek and his associates Alexander Jason and James Randi. Together they were able to demonstrate that Popoff’s wife, Elizabeth, was using a wireless radio transmitter to broadcast information that she and her aides had culled from prayer request cards filled out by audience members. Popoff received the transmissions via an earpiece he was wearing and repeated the information to astonished audience members. Randi presented the video evidence of Popoff’s deception on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Popoff initially denied the accusations, but eventually he admitted to using these underhanded methods and his ministry’s viewer ratings and donations declined significantly. He declared bankruptcy shortly after.