The Takahashi confrontation (#2)

James Randi --- Wizard (
Thu, 28 Mar 1996 04:25:02 -0500


The videotaping in Japan on March 25th of the encounter
between me and the Takahashi camp was a great success.
Takahashi was clearly shown on camera to be cheating.

She showed up with her mother, father, grandmother and
assorted others in tow. Her lawyer was also in
attendance, glowering at all within sight.

There was a VERY complicated contract drawn up between
us, with intricate details of protocol specified. Even
the brand and exact size of the tape that was to be
used to seal the "targets" was delineated. But almost
every detail of those carefully stated rules were to be
changed -- by the Takahashi team.

There were to be two groups of tests. In the first
set, the audience of 200 persons would be involved.
They would be asked to each prepare a simple drawing or
character on a 9 cm. X 9 cm. bit of paper. That would
be folded (doubled) four times, resulting in a 2.25 cm.
square (less than 1 inch). That would be placed onto a
wide piece of transparent adhesive tape, which would
then be folded over so that there was a 2 cm. border
of lamination all around it. I stated in advance that
if this were to be done (and it was the producer's
suggestion, not mine!) Takahashi would fail that part
of the test, without question. Further, it was stated
that Takahashi would merely hold this target in her
hand, without covering, and would be able to tell us
what the target was. She would try this test once,
and perhaps twice.

The second part of the test was to be of MY design. It
consisted of (a) a target prepared as above, but bound
in one direction only with the "frosty" tape she had
preferred in other, previous, tests. The object, of
course, was to trap her. The (b) target would be the
same, but would be bound in two directions. That's
what she'd asked for, and that's what I was prepared
to agree to.

Takahashi decided, as one of the protocol violatons
at the last minute, that she would do my tests using
the dark cloth bag puled over her target hand, as in
the tests she'd previously done -- and failed. I let
her have this, since it did not interfere with my
plans at all.

But both my targets would also have an added delight
for her. Each would have a hole punched through the
finished target. That would mean that if she
unpeeled the tape, it would be impossible for her to
re-align the holes. And, I planned to apply several
layers of tape, to make this even more impossible.

First, Takahashi said she would not do the audience
test(s) as originally agreed, with the targets
laminated under a layer of wide plastic tape. This
was the SIXTH time she had changed the rules, but we
went along with it.

Takahashi had chosen to do these tests without the
cloth bag. The targets were sealed with Scotch
"frosty" tape, using only one winding of tape. One of
the three TV hosts, a naive and rather over-solicitous
man named Mine, was very antagonistic in all ways.
Whenever Takahashi failed, he told the audience that
she had never had so many cameras, never so many
lights, never so many people. He asked her, "Do you
think you can succeed?" and "Will you try a little
longer?" and other similar questions. Every time, to
every question, she answered as she did during the
tests in November, "I don't know."

After several failures in the first set of tests (and
there were several more than the original one or two
done, to give her more opportunity to succeed) she
asked for music to be played while she tried her
trick. The whole studio relaxed while they played
music, the audience began talking among themselves,
and Takahashi began the process of wearing out the
observers. The audience and the hosts were just not
watching her. But I was.

At that point, she had some successes. But the camera
clearly showed her cheating. Seen from behind, she
was simply opening the targets, peeking at them, and
then re-sealing them. (Later, when I examined those
targets and questioned the owners, it was clearly seen
that the tape had not re-adhered properly to the
paper, though Mr. Mine had insisted that it be cut
open, rather than just allowed to fall off.)

So, she was actually peeling the tape off, using both
hands! When her mother became aware of the camera
poking over the girl's shoulder from behind, she
warned her and also objected to the director. It
seemed no effort was to be made to observe the girl,
and that any attempt to do so was "unfair"!

The producer tried five times, to finally give her a
success. But remember, according to the rules that
had been dicated by Takahashi, I was not allowed to
make comments or to object, or ask any questions,
during the audience tests. The camera behind her
showed CLEARLY that she was opening the targets!


With my tests:

Takahashi chose to do these tests with the bag over her
arm. I made two targets. The first one was on blue
paper, with the sealing tape going in one direction
only around the folded target. The second was on pink
paper, going in two directions. I used five windings
of tape, then I made one hole through the blue folded
target paper with a pointed instrument, and two holes
through the pink target. This was to be sure that if
she also opened these targets, it would be impossible
for her to replace the tape exactly in the same
position, and the holes in the tape would not line up.

I also cut the tape at the ends with scissors,
squarely, so that she would have a difficult time
finding the end to start peeling it. I pressed the
tape down firmly with my thumb-nail, so that it would
not be easy to remove without tearing the paper.

When Mr. Mine saw the targets being prepared, he told
her everything as it was being done. We simply could
not silence him, and he ran on and on. We also had a
difficult time keeping him from looking at the target
that I was drawing. He told Takahashi I had used 20
cm. of tape to bind the targets. He should have not
told her anything.

When she saw my targets, she complained that there
should be only ONE winding of tape. Her mother said
that it had been agreed in the contract that only one
winding would be used. We looked at the contract, and
that was not true. I said that I would not accept this
condition. Everything stopped. Finally, when we were
two and one-half hours past our 4-hour taping schedule,
I agreed that I would allow her to use targets that had
just two windings of tape.

(An aside: what seems not to have occurred to anyone is
the obvious question: if Takahashi has psychic powers
than enable her to know what's written on a sealed bit
of paper, how is it that the amount of tape used to
seal the paper, should interfere with the process --
unless she needs to unpeel that tape....?)

She took the first (blue) one and began her attempt.
She handled it for 15 minutes, and then gave up. When
we then examined the blue target, we could see clearly
that she had been trying to peel the tape off, but had
not succeeded. This piece of evidence is available for

She refused to try the second target.

I made my speech to the audience, and she replied by
Mr. Mine reading a prepared document on behalf of the
Takahashis. This document talked about nature, God,
and the wonderful universe that I was ignoring by
being skeptical. At this point, in accordance with
the previously-agreed procedure, the audience was
asked to vote. It was 59 for Takahashi, 141 for me.

Mr. Aikawa, the major host of this show, is very much
on the skeptic side. At one point, I directed his
attention to the TV monitor. He saw easily saw that
Takahashi was peeking into the target, and he looked
at me and nodded. He is convinced that she was doing
a trick.

Miss Yamaguchi, another of the hosts, also saw
Takahashi cheating when I alerted her, and we talked
about it. But the irrepressible Mr. Mine was busy
flirting with the young girls in the audience and was
not watching Takahashi at all.

I will send you all a copy of the statement I made
after Takahashi tried to turn God and nature against
me. But I'll let you in on a bit of additional
information we managed to get: when Takahashi was in
the process of failing my test, her mother held up a
sign to her, written in Chinese. We managed to get it
afterwards, and it said, "Try your hardest. Just
relax and use the power." Shades of Star Wars!

James Randi.


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