More weeping plaster, Premand update

James Randi --- Wizard (
26 Aug 1997 11:37:06 -0000

Back in September of 1996, I had a call from radio station CFRB in
Toronto. They tried to put me on the spot with a "weeping madonna"
that was attracting rapt attention from the less-than-bright
worshippers who were falling over themselves to adore the molded
plaster idol. One ecstatic caller to the station cooed over the
"heavenly" aroma that the idol gave out, describing it as "not of
Earthly origin." I refused to spin my wheels with the matter, and
simply said that no evidence had been produced.

Last week, pastor Ieronimos Katseas, 46, who once worked at an Athens
brothel and was thereupon excommunicated for moonlighting, got the
boot from the now-enlightened congregation of the Mother Portaitissa,
St. Raphael, St. Nicolaos, and St. Irene (they hardly missed anyone!)
Church. Rev. Katseas owed C$95,000 in back taxes and mortgage
payments. But, I suggest that you look for the Man of God somewhere
new in the near future, running the same scam. He'd done it before
the Toronto episode, but he has the whole rest of the gullible world
to pick from.

And, as if relatively-recent Mother-Theresa-on-a-cinnamon-bun and
Christ-on-a-pancake events weren't enough to fill the need for the
general Jesus-in-plywood-type of miracle, a lady named Momina Ahmed,
in Gauhati, India, has sliced what appeared to be just an ordinary
potato, and revealed the words "Allah" and "Mohammed" to her
astonished gaze. More than 10,000 panting pilgrims, to date, have
made their way to her door as a result. And, a local cleric at her
mosque has verified the miracle, so there!

The bun-baker and tortilla-flipper have both done well with their
sacred icons, and Ms. Ahmed might turn a few rupees with her wonder,

Hmmmm. Maybe the good citizens of Gauhati should look around to see
if a guy from Athens recently moved into the neighborhood and has been
seen with Ms. Ahmed....?

On another subject, which some of you may have been concerned about:

My good friend Premanand, a rationalist and the best-known member of
the Indian skeptics movement, a man who has been very effective in
disseminating the truth about the "god-men" of that continent, was
falsely reported last year to have been arrested. As soon as I
inquired about this disturbing rumor, I found out that it was not
true. Now, I've been informed how the confusion arose. A Sri Lankan
using the name Premananda (close!) started up a cult in a small town
in southern India and was arrested for beating, starving, and raping
members. He got two life sentences.

Doing a data search, I discovered there are 5 other "James Randi's" in
the USA. Boy, I hope they behave themselves!


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