S406: The Psychic Kids (James Randi and Project Alpha)
Play • 43 min

In 1979, two high school kids claiming to be psychic managed to fool parapsychology researchers at Washington University using simple magic tricks and sleight of hand. Little did the scientists know, these kids were just amateur magicians pulling a fast one on them.

Today, these kids are grown. Their names are Steve Shaw, who now goes by the stage name Banachek, and Mike Edwards. But back in 1979, they were seen as boys with exceptional abilities. They were planted in the parapsychology research study by the magician and skeptic James Randi. They coined this stunt Project Alpha.

The parapsychology lab at Washington State University was called the McDonnell Laboratory for Psychical Research. The lab ran a long series of experiments ranging from moving objects in sealed glass domes to controlling clocks and creating images appear on unexposed film. Banacheck and Edwards say they received no training from James Randi. They had to rely on their instincts and come up with illusions on the fly.

During their time at the McDonnell research institute, they followed one rule—always tell the truth if you’re ever asked whether they were faking the results. They kept this ruse going for almost three years.

This is part of my series on Psychics. Part 1 features my conversation with Uri Geller.




Transcribed from Research in Parapsychology (1981), pp. 144-146

Peter R. Phillips and Mark Shafer† (Washington University)


McDonnell Laboratory press release after the revelation


Parapsychological Weapon - NSA Memo




Written and Produced by Javier Leiva

Theme music by Joe Basile with thechicken.net

Additional music by Podington Bear and Glad Rags

Additional audio provided by Banachek's Brain podcast


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