So why write this book? Mr. [Mark ] Edward is staking his claim to belong to a very special subcategory of magicians and mediums: those who both perform their crafts and debunk them. From Harry Houdini to James (the Amazing) Randi and the duo of Penn and Teller, there is a long tradition of magicians who believe that it is their duty to inculcate skepticism in the audience. Because they know the tricks of deception, their thinking goes, they have a unique ability, and a special duty, to teach people how not to get duped.
These ethical magicians are often atheists, with a philosophical bent, and they especially enjoy debunking claims of supernatural or paranormal powers. Penn and Teller sometimes conclude a magic trick by showing how it was done. On their Showtime show, which ran from 2003 to 2010, they attacked such flimflammery as communication with the dead. In 1973, Mr. Randi famously helped “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” embarrass the “mentalist” Uri Geller, who when faced with props that were not his own could not move them with his mind, as he said he could.
In an interview this week, Mr. Edward said that after years of sympathizing with the skeptics but making money from people’s gullibility, he felt he had to choose sides.