Panati was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and raised in Atlantic City, New Jersey. After graduating from Villanova University (1961–65) with a B.S. in physics, Panati obtained a master's degree in Radiation Health Physics (1966) from Columbia University and worked in cancer research at the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. Panati is openly gay.
After joining Newsweek in 1971, Panati became interested in parapsychology and published his first book, Supersenses: Our Potential For Parasensory Experience (1974), which described parapsychological research into extrasensory perception. The book was described in a review as a respectable survey of psi phenomena but "the skeptic will remain unconvinced... because the subject is not amenable to rational, empirical scrutiny." Panati later met the Israeli psychic Uri Geller, who suggested Panati collect and publish 22 research papers by scientists around the world who had investigated the spoon-bender's alleged abilities. The Geller Papers (1976), edited by Panati, caused controversy when it was published. Several prominent magicians came forward to demonstrate that Geller’s so-called psychic talents could be easily duplicated by magic. Science writer Martin Gardner wrote that Panati had been fooled by Geller's trickery and The Geller Papers were an "embarrassing anthology". In Death Encounters (1979), Panati investigated the phenomenon of clinical death, in which subjects report being drawn toward a white light while wrestling with the will to live. Pittsburg Post Gazette writer Wendy Thompson Warner wrote that, "His views on parapsychology have, rightly or wrongly, been the target of widespread skepticism in the scientific community."
Origins book series
Panati has written a series of books about the origins of ordinary, everyday things, beginning in 1984 with The Browser’s Book of Beginnings. He wrote a second book, Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things in 1987 that was praised as "excellent bathroom reading". Subsequent books in the series were Panati’s Parade of Fads, Follies and Manias: The Origins of Our Most Cherished Obsessions in 1991, Sacred Origins of Profound Things: The Stories Behind the Rites and Rituals of the World’s Religions in 1996, Sexy Origins of Intimate Things in 1998, and Words To Live By: Origins of Common Wisdom Expressions in 1999.
His book Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things has been described as a "handy reference". Panati's Sacred Origins of Profound Things received a positive review and was described as "an informative and entertaining book on the origins of religious ideas, sacred items, worship practices, holy symbols, and holidays."
The Silent Intruder: Surviving the Radiation Age
In 1981, Panati and his brother, Michael Hudson, wrote The Silent Intruder: Surviving the Radiation Age, a book that seeks to examine the interaction of radiation and human tissue.
- Words To Live By, Viking Penguin, 1999
- Sexy Origins and Intimate Things, Viking Penguin, 1998
- Sacred Origins of Profound Things, Viking Penguin, 1996
- Panati’s Parade of Fads, Follies and Manias, HarperCollins, 1991
- Extraordinary Endings of Practically Everything and Everybody, HarperCollins, 1989
- Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things, HarperCollins, 1987
- The Browser’s Book of Beginnings, Houghton Mifflin, 1984
- The Pleasuring of Rory Malone, St. Martin’s Press, 1982
- The Silent Intruder: Surviving the Radiation Age, Houghton Mifflin, 1981
- Breakthroughs, Houghton Mifflin, 1980
- Death Encounters, Bantam, 1979
- Links, Houghton Mifflin, 1978
- The Geller Papers, Houghton Mifflin, 1976
- Supersenses, Quadrangle/The New York Times, 1974
- Kinkopf, Eric (28 August 1987). "The extraordinary electric iron, and other tidbits". Chicago Tribune. p. 3 – via PQ Archiver. (subscription required (. ))
- Panati, Charles (23 June 1998). "Faithful in our fashion: In nature, as mirrored in gay male life, monogamy does not necessarily imply fidelity". The Advocate 762. p. 11. Retrieved 2014-04-16 – via ProQuest. (subscription required (. ))
- "Supersenses: Our Potential for Parasensory Experience". Kirkus Reviews (book review). Retrieved 16 April 2014.
- Gardner, Martin (2003). Are Universes Thicker Than Blackberries?. W.W. Norton & Co. pp. 244–5. ISBN 9780393057423.
- Warner, Wendy Thomson (21 May 1981). "Provocative look at hazards of radiation". Pittsburg Post-Gazette. Retrieved 16 April 2014 – via Google News.
- Shearer, Cody (24 August 1987). "Bored with the baby boomers". Schenectady Gazette. p. 22. Retrieved 16 April 2014 – via Google News.
- Martin, Susan (23 December 1992). "Why all these traditions? Exploring the origins of some holiday customs". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 2014-04-16 – via HighBeam Research. (subscription required (. ))
- Masuchika, Glenn (December 1996). "Sacred Origins of Profound Things: The Stories Behind the Rites and Rituals of the World's Religions". Library Journal 121 (20): 100. Retrieved 2014-04-16 – via ProQuest. (subscription required (. ))
- Ray Hyman. (1976). Review of The Geller Papers, edited by Charles Panati. Zetetic 1: 73-80.