Based on "Magician shows how to operate" by John Dilley in Weekend News 15-16 January 1983, page 5, and "Skeptics show psychic trickery" by Jim Pollard in Sunday Times 16 January 1983. It was also reported in the Skeptic, 5(1), 4, March 1985.
The girl seemed calm and relaxed as the psychic surgeon pushed his finger into her stomach and the blood oozed out. She did not blink an eyelid when he pulled out malignant tissue with a loud popping sound and then mopped up the mess. She was braver than I. It was the first time I had ever witnessed an operation, let alone one carried out by a psychic surgeon who claimed to remove malignant tissue without anaesthetic or medical instruments.
The Australian Skeptics, an organisation which examines claims of paranormal phenomena, had introduced psychic surgeon Dr Barney Daniels to a large crowd. Clips were shown from a recent television documentary on psychic surgeons in the Philippines entitled "I Am No God". Then Dr Daniels did his stuff. It was very convincing. Afterwards Dr Daniels showed there was no scar. People from the audience were invited to inspect the blood and tissue.
Trickery not surgery
The president of Australian Skeptics, Mark Plummer, here on a visit from Melbourne, then told the audience they had been tricked and that Dr Daniels was actually a magician. He read out passages from the official transcript of the US Commission into psychic surgery held several years ago. Sick Americans who went to the Philippines to seek the help of these psychic surgeons, in some cases as a last resort, had often died because of the long journey. Many lost thousands of dollars and said later they had no diagnosed benefit from their supposed treatment. Mr Plummer then screened slow motion replays of the television documentary that showed the Filipino healers using trickery. Once you knew where to look the evidence for trickery was plain to see.
As well as a false thumb, Mr Varney had used the art of palming and sleight-of-hand to fool his audience. He was given special permission from the WA Society of Magicians to perform, and said later he didn't like people being misled by magic. "If I see magic arts being used to rob people then I think I should speak out".
Mr Plummer said: "Some people believe in psychic surgery, and we are not out to ridicule their beliefs. I just ask them to apply strict tests before handing over any money. All the evidence we have gathered indicates that trickery is the only power that psychic surgeons have. We know that many people have been conned out of their money in exchange for false hopes".
Follow-up court case