February 28, 1959 |
New Ellenton, South Carolina, USA
|Residence||Coalinga State Hospital, California, USA|
|Occupation||Martial arts performer, self-proclaimed psychic|
James Allen Hydrick (born February 28, 1959) is a former American performer and self-described psychic. Hydrick claimed to be able to perform acts of telekinesis, such as his trademark trick involving the movement of a pencil resting at the edge of a table. Following a nationally televised demonstration of his abilities on the American reality show That's Incredible!, he was unable to prove his supernatural abilities on a subsequent television show That's My Line, hosted by Bob Barker, and Hydrick subsequently confessed the fraud to an investigative reporter.
Hydrick was born in South Carolina to a 30-year-old father and 15-year-old mother. His father was abusive. He told an interviewer in 1989 that he started learning karate at age 6 to protect himself from his father after seeing a brother beaten to death. He and his other siblings lived in a series of foster homes and public orphanages.
Rise to fame
By the early 1980s in Salt Lake City, Utah, Hydrick developed a cult-like following. He claimed he was able to use psychokinesis to turn the pages of books and make pencils spin around while placed on the edge of a desk, among other feats. Hydrick had also set up martial arts classes and claimed he could pass on the gift of psychokinesis to youngsters through special training techniques.
Hydrick rose to international attention through his demonstration of these skills on That's Incredible! The episode originally aired in December 1980 and was later repeated in 1981. He performed the pencil-spinning trick with the host John Davidson's hand on his mouth to block possible air blowing (after he suggested that he could hear Hydrick blowing). However, Hydrick deliberately readjusted the pencil beforehand so that it was as precarious as possible and so would move with the slight disturbance caused by his hands. He also caused a page from a telephone book to turn over, again, allegedly by telekinesis. Magician and paranormal skeptic James Randi awarded the program a 1980 Uri Award, later renamed the Pigasus Award, "for declaring a simple magic trick to be genuine."
James Randi demonstrated the pencil trick on That's My Line. In a follow-up episode, Randi and Hydrick both appeared. When Randi performed the simple control of placing small pieces of expanded polystyrene on the table around the phone book (to show if Hydrick was actually turning the pages by blowing on them), Hydrick's "powers" suddenly failed him. Hydrick attempted to explain that when the foam was heated by the stage lights they developed a static electric charge which, when added to the weight of the page, required more force than he was able to generate to turn the page. Randi and the judges, though, declared that this hypothesis had no scientific basis.
After an hour and a half of Hydrick staring at the pages (the show was edited for time) without any results, and claiming that his powers were real, he finally admitted being unable to complete the challenge. The judging panel, which included a parapsychologist, stated that, in their opinion, no supernatural phenomenon had taken place. The failed stunt resulted in That's Incredible receiving a Uri Award, and effectively ended Hydrick's television career. Following Hydrick's concession, Randi himself performed the same trick using the techniques that Hydrick perfected.
In 1981, Hydrick's psychic powers were definitively exposed as being fraudulent by investigative journalist Dan Korem who was also a magician. Hydrick confessed his fraud to Korem and admitted that he had developed his trick while he was in prison and that he did not learn it from a Chinese master as he had originally claimed. Korem's investigation also explored Hydrick's childhood.
Hydrick confessed to Korem "My whole idea behind this in the first place was to see how dumb America was. How dumb the world is."
In 1989, James Hydrick received a 17-year sentence for molesting five boys. After serving his sentence, he was detained at the Atascadero State Hospital and now resides at the Coalinga State Hospital.
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