Mediums, Mystics & the Occult
Crowell, 1975 - ISBN 0690004761
Geller - Mind Over Metal
An epidemic of metal bending broke out in Britain in November
1973. Uri Geller, a twenty-six-year-old guest on “Talk In”, a popular television
show, stared fixedly at a fork, rubbed it, - and it bent! Excited viewers jammed the BBC switchboard
with fantastic tales: when the handsome young Israeli with black shoulder-length hair and piercing
brown eyes looked out from the video screen, he even caused the cutlery in their homes to warp.
The epidemic spread with extensive coverage in the national newspapers. Reporters interviewed women, girls and small boys who professed to have the same metal-disturbing power. Geller himself demonstrated to the press that he could flatten wedding rings, bend keys, and break bracelets – while the objects were held by their owners.
The virus travelled with Uri when he appeared on television in Europe. The epidemic reached a crescendo in Sweden. A distraught woman claimed that Geller’s strange power was so irresistible that, as she watched him, the metal birth-control device in her uterus suddenly straightened, and she became pregnant.
Uri, however, is his own most appreciative audience. His eyes light up, his eyebrows rise in amazement, as he displays a spoon and shouts: “Look, it’s bending!” or takes up a broken watch and exclaims: “Listen, now you can hear it ticking!” Some scientists think that once Geller’s mysterious power is understood, it will alter accepted contents of matter, time and space. Investigators at the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, California (not a part of the university, but a respected organization which runs scientific tests for the government, industries and other groups) did not see Geller bend metal under controlled laboratory conditions, but they were baffled by his ESP feats, and said these warranted “further testing.”
Geller is not the conventional psychic. He dresses casually in tight trousers, colorful sports shirts, and odd jackets. More interested in sports than theology, he tells audiences and reporters that his power comes from outer space. Andrija Puharich, the neurologist-parapsychologist who brought Geller to America and arranged for the tests at the Stanford Research Institute, is more specific. In his book Uri, published in 1974, Puharich reveals that Geller and himself have been chosen by the computerized denizens of Hoova, a mysterious planet millions of light-years away, to act as their intermediaries on earth. Voices from Spectra, a Hoova spaceship, speak to Puharich in rooms where Geller is entranced; they also communicate through tape recorders. From Hoova, Puharich says, emanates the invisible force that enables Geller to bend metal, change lead into gold, read minds and drive an automobile while blindfold. From Hoova come radiations that dematerialise dogs, move the hands of watches when Geller holds them, and lift heavy objects (such as movie cameras) when he stares at them. Geller then is Hoova’s human outlet; Puharich is his prophet.
The young man through whom this mighty extraterrestrial power pours was born in Tel Aviv on December 20, 1940. Itzhaak (Isaac) Geller, his father, had fled from Hungary when Hitler’s armies swarmed across Europe. Settling with his wife in Palestine, he volunteered for the British tank corps and fought in North Africa against Rommel. Later, as a sergeant major in the Israeli army, Itzaak and his armoured unit staved off Arab raids and participated in the ensuing wars.
Uri was three years old when his father fell in love with another woman. His mother moved out and struggled to support Uri and herself. Six years later she, too, began a new romance, and Geller was sent to live in a kibbutz. He was eleven when she took him to the island of Cyprus, where her second husband, Ladislav Gera, ran a small hotel. Uri studied at a Catholic school in Nicosia. Talented at languages, he became fluent in English; he also learned Greek and a little Turkish to go with the Hebrew he had acquired in Israel and the Hungarian used for conversation at home.
Among the residents at Gera’s hotel was an agent of the Shin Beth, the Israeli army intelligence corps. Uri told Puharich that at sixteen he, too, became a spy, picking up mail for the agent and learning how to do such things as opening envelopes and reading their contents without tearing the glued flaps. (Puharich mentions this only in passing in his book; it is, of course, one of many ruses used by professed psychics to get information secretly.)
After Uri’s stepfather died, his mother sold the hotel, and they returned to Tel Aviv, where he began the required three years of service in the armed forces. As a paratrooper officer candidate, he completed the course but did not receive a commission. Sergeant Geller was on leave in Tel Aviv when the Six-Day-War erupted in June 1967. he joined his company and travelled by truck to Jerusalem. During his first night in action, bullets from an Arab machine gun pierced his arms. Recuperating, as a member of the staff of boy’s summer camp, Geller strengthened his muscles by weight lifting and practicing squeezing techniques to limber his fingers. He still works out every day, and has developed a vise like grip. It was at camp that he met two of his future collaborators – Shipi (Shimson) Strang, a tall, quiet, twelve-year-old camper, and his sixteen-year-old sister, Hannah, who came to visit him.
Completing his term of military service late the following year, Geller worked for a Tel Aviv textile company and picked up money on the side by posing for a photographer. Neither of these occupations satisfied him; he yearned for wealth and fame.
As a boy Uri had learned an effective watch trick. Calling attention to the time, he would place a watch face down on someone’s palm; then, seemingly by thought alone, he would alter the positions of the hour and the minute hands. After years of practice, he could pull out the stem and twist it so deftly that only a magician who knew the technique could detect the movement.
Geller had seen a number of conjurers perform; he realized that their most effective feats were those where the mind, not the hand, apparently created the mystery. Late in 1969, with Shipi, his young friend from the summer camp, he worked out a mental routine and, after trying it at parties and other social gatherings, became a full-time professional psychic. As Geller frankly admitted to Puharich, his primary assets were his “naïve appearance” and his showmanship.
The account published in Haolam Haze, an Israeli periodical, on February 20, 1974, of Uri’s initial successes in his native land is far more intriguing than the story Geller tells today. Baruch Katoni, proprietor of the Zarkor theatre, had been bewildered by Uri’s telepathic feats. It seemed impossible for the performer to see the words written by volunteers behind his back on a blackboard, yet he seldom made a mistake. Katoni new that Shipi, who had been introduced to him as Geller’s younger brother, was in the audience, but he never gave the boy a second thought, until the night he noticed him signalling the performer. Katoni voiced his objections to this, and Shipi did not attend the next show. His place was taken by Shipi’s sister, Hannah. When a Haolam Haze reporter questioned her, Hannah admitted she had cued Uri, but added that despite this he possessed powers she was unable to understand. The paper also noted that Isaac Savan, another confederate, confessed that he, too, had secretly conveyed information from his seat to the stage. Enthusiastic reviews and word-of-mouth praise for Geller’s psychic marvels led him, Katoni said, to demand so much money for his appearances that the Zarkor theatre could no longer afford him. He went to play instead at the Solan theatre for impresario Micky Feld. Eager to provide an attraction as competition for his former star, Katoni hired a conjurer named Ayalon, who until then had performed only for small groups, but who professed to have the same phenomenal powers.
After convincing audiences he was indeed as gifted as Geller, Ayalon called in the press and announced he had posed as a psychic to prove that Geller was a charlatan. He then exposed the tricks that had made Geller’s reputation and his own. Whether Ayalon intended to do this originally, or whether circumstances provoked this disclosure is still a matter of conjecture in Israel.
Geller’s performances raised doubts in the minds of others. Four computer technicians from Jerusalem formed the vanguard of the skeptics. They attended Uri’s shows, took seats in various parts of the theatre, and followed his moves with binoculars night after night. Discovering his ruses, they would shout aloud the secrets. They were in the studio audience when Geller taped a show for television. They insisted he perform his blackboard feature with the words written by spectators on the far side of the board, so that no one could see them from the front. Uri, understandably furious, ignored this demand; the program was scrapped.
After a trip to Italy, Geller made the mistake of exhibiting a photograph of himself with Sophia Loren. Members of the press, examining it closely, pronounced it a paste-up hoax, and Uri’s credibility suffered another blow.
More damaging was criticism from Isaac Kelzon, professor of physics at the University of Tel Aviv and an amateur conjurer. Had Geller not claimed to possess supernormal powers, Kelzon would have joined audiences in applauding him. Alarmed because of Uri’s appeal to the superstitious and his influence on the credulous, Kelzon denounced him. He himself could – and did – perform many of the same incredible feats without the aid of the “power” Geller insisted he possessed.
When Andrija Puharich came to Israel in 1971 to test Uri, he was already preconditioned to regard Geller’s work favourably. A Chicagoan of Yugoslavian ancestry, Puharich had received his medical degree from Northwestern University in 1947. a year later, at the age of thirty, he set up the Round Table Foundation to sponsor research in extrasensory perception and opened a laboratory in Glen Cove, Maine.
In “Can Telepathy Penetrate the Iron Curtain?” an article Puharich contributed to the 1957 winter issue of Tomorrow, he expressed his conviction that it could. Five years earlier he and other experimenters in parapsychology had been called to the Pentagon in Washington to discuss the possibility of ESP’s being used by army intelligence. Puharich had said even then that it could be employed effectively, along with more traditional systems for gathering information and gauging its worth.
Puharich experimented in Maine with Eileen Garrett, Peter Hurkos, and other psychics, and proved to his own satisfaction the existence of clairvoyance and telepathy. However, those who possessed these gifts were not always in control of them, and they were not as specific as he had thought they would be.
In The Sacred Mushroom, published in 1959, and Beyond Telepathy, published three years later, Puharich explored the effects of Amanita Muscaria, and ways to increase the ESP potential. John G. Fuller’s book Arigo: Surgeon of the Rusty Knife, published in 1974, tells of Puharich’s belief in the late Brazilian psychic surgeon and his attempt to bring Arigo to the United States for study under laboratory conditions.
Shocked to learn of Arigo’s death in January 1971, Puharich fasted for two weeks as he pondered the relative importance of developing electronic hearing devices for his Intelecron Corporation versus a full-time, dedicated exploration of ESP and the power of the psyche. The latter, he decided, far outweighed the former. On the first of April, he was ready to undertake an in-depth, comprehensive investigation. All he needed was a great subject.
When he heard about Geller, Puharich packed his still and movie cameras, his notebooks and scientific equipment, and flew to Tel Aviv. Geller was headlining at the Zorba, a nightclub in the adjacent city of Jaffa, when the parapsychologist arrived in August 1971. An hour before midnight Uri donned a blindfold and, without a miss, identified the words written on the blackboard behind his back by volunteers from the audience. Puharich was not too impressed by this or by the climax to Uri’s act – breaking a ring held by the owner in her hand as he concentrated. Possibly stooges could account for these crowd-pleasing stunts. After the show, Uri performed in Puharich’s room for an hour, and the American and two Israeli friends came to the unanimous conclusion that Geller definitely sent and received thoughts without trickery. Later Uri convinced Puharich that the ring-breaking feat was also genuine. At long last the investigator had found the super-psychic of his dreams!
On this trip abroad Puharich witnessed another strange psychic occurrence. At Bad Krozingen, in Germany, he sat in a room with Dr. Konstantin Raudive, a Latvian who used an unusual technique to communicate with the dead. Puharich turned on his tape recorder; Raudive asked for messages. When the tape was played back, Raudive’s words were followed by faint noises. The American strained to make sense of them. Soon he recognized the voice of his dead mother speaking two words in Croatian. Anxious to get on with his scientific investigation of Geller, Puharich spent only a few days with Raudive, but the spirit voices he heard in Raudive’s presence were to echo in his mind long afterward.
The daily testing sessions with Uri, which began in Tel Aviv in November 1971, are described in Puharich’s book. the Israeli’s talents proved to be far more formidable and diversified than the investigator had dared imagine. By concentration alone Geller was able to do the following: move compass needles ninety degrees; cause matches to slide along a glass surface; dematerialise a marked steel ring enclosed in a wooden box and make the ring reappear in the empty wooden box; dematerialise the ink cartridge of a ball-point pen while the pen was in a cigar box, then produce the same cartridge three days later; and cause a leather camera case, which Puharich said was locked in a closet at his house in Ossining, New York, to materialize in Tel Aviv.
Ingeniously staged tricks? Mediumistic phenomena? Not according to Puharich. He hypnotized Geller, and a voice, the source of which the investigator could not detect, was heard in the room. Later the same voice spoke from tapes on his recording machine. It answered questions, then the cassettes dematerialized.
Geller was controlled by a superior intelligence on the far-off planet Hoova, the voice said. The force that enabled Uri to circumvent the laws of nature beamed down on him from Spectra, a spaceship as large as a city. Sometime in the future a craft from Hoova would land on the Earth. From time to time Uri and Puharich would receive further instructions.
The American – selected, he was told, because of his remarkable thought processes – immediately took command of the terrestrial situation. The mysterious voice had suggested that a movie be made about Uri; Puharich assigned a friend to the task of preparing the script. Geller needed a business manager; Puharich found him one in Israel – Yasha Katz. The voice had said Geller and Katz should go to Germany; they went.
Puharich’s friends raised the thousands of dollars needed to pay for an investigation of Uri’s phenomena at the Stanford Research Institute. This seemed a master stroke. The American public would learn of the young Israeli’s importance after he had stunned the parapsychologists at Menlo Park, California. But as the time approached for Geller to fly to the West Coast, he became increasingly apprehensive, and the voice from Hoova expressed doubts to Puharich as to the wisdom this venture. At length, however, permission was given for Uri to meet the researchers.
The welcome in California could not have been more cordial. Former astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell was to supervise the experiments; physicists Harold Puthoff and Russell Targ were tremendously impressed by Geller’s impromptu feats. One of several brass rings that Puthoff brought with him bent after Uri had examined it and told the physicist to cover it with his hand. Another vanished from Uri’s clenched fist; hours later, it fell from the air in front of Puthoff while Uri was walking behind him.
After visiting the laboratory and seeing the equipment on November 12, 1972, Uri announced he would be ready to be tested the following morning. He was not an easy subject. He made it clear that he might walk out at any time and not return.
The researchers made two interesting discoveries. They had heard, as have many people before and since, that Uri could bend metal without touching it spoons did indeed bend in the laboratory, but Uri had always handled them before the curvature appeared. Rings became misshapen, but only after they had been in his powerful hands. Not a single object dematerialised while he was being filmed or video-taped.
Geller scored his greatest successes indicating which one of ten closed aluminum film cans held a concealed steel ball or was partially filled with water; guessing the number that would be uppermost after a die had been shaken in a closed box; and sketching a near facsimile of a design, which had been selected at random from several in another room by an investigator, then enclosed in one envelope and sealed in a second before he came into the laboratory.
The voice-over on a Stanford film report of these tests stresses that the design duplication feat is not to be considered “a laboratory experiment, since the activity is totally under Geller’s control.” This and the feats with film cans and dice are part of Uri’s stock in trade: he performs them in parlors and on television.
Three interested observers came to spend a day at the Stanford Research Institute while Geller was there: Ray Hyman, a University of Oregon professor of psychology, who has often been consulted by the Defence Department; George Lawrence, an official of the Pentagon’s Advanced Research Projects Agency; and Robert Van de Castle, a parapsychologist from the University of Virginia.
Uri told the visitors that before the 1972 Olympic Games opened in Munich, he and his friends had visited the grounds. The blaze of lights irked him; with a single snap of his fingers, he doused every bulb and neon tube on the site. Later while riding in a cable car with witnesses, he concentrated and stopped the car halfway between the starting point and the mountaintop.
He gave an exhibition of his skill for the guests. Lawrence wrote down a number between one and ten on a pad while Uri covered his eyes with his hands and turned away his head. Hyman, a proficient magician and mentalist himself, noted, though no one else did, that Uri was peeking through his fingers. The professor, who could not see the face of the pad from his seat beside Geller, knew the number as soon as Uri did. Watching the arm of a writer or following the movements of the upper end of a pen or pencil is a dodge mediums have used for years.
Geller did not attempt any feat as spectacular as the outdoor exploits he had described, but he made the needle of a compass move slightly while he was staring at it. Lawrence, shifting his weight as Uri had done and exerting pressure on the floor, caused the needle to swing far more. Uri then charged him with practicing deception; he said Lawrence had used a concealed magnet or some other device. This was untrue.
Time magazine received favorable reports from a correspondent about Geller’s work in the laboratory. The editors mulled over a possible cover story on the psychic. The mere fact that a nightclub performer was the subject of expensive scientific scrutiny at a prestigious research center intrigued them. Was Geller a medium or a trickster? Someone recalled that Charles Reynolds, a member of the Society of American Magicians Occult Investigation Committee, and David B. Eisendrath, Jr., had written a devastating article for Popular Photography on Ted Serios, who claimed to be able to project mental images on Polaroid film. Reynolds was hired as a consultant.
He and James Randi, a professional magician from Canada who is an avid crusader against psychic fraud, were present when Geller gave a demonstration for Time in February 1973. Reynolds had decided that two pairs of eyes familiar with deceptive techniques were better than one. While he observed from one angle, Randi watched from another. After Geller left, Randi duplicated Geller’s telepathy tricks and metal-bending stunts for the editors, and Reynolds summed up the data he had gathered on Geller’s background.
Friday, March 2, was Occult Night at the Society of American Magicians. Before Reynolds and I went on stage to comment as films of Russian mediums were projected, he told me that Time’s article on Geller was scheduled for the next issue, and added that he had invited Yasha Katz, Geller’s manager, to see the show. When the performance was over, Reynolds introduced me to Katz. A few moments later Katz challenged me – his one hundred thousand dollars to my ten thousand dollars – that I could not duplicate or explain Uri’s marvels. I accepted immediately before twenty witnesses. I gave Katz my address, asked him to put the challenge into writing, and said that as soon as I receive his letter, we could meet, set the time and place, and select the judges.
Katz letter never came. That Monday the March twelfth issue of Time carried their article on Geller. He was not the subject of the cover story. Professor Hyman had “caught Geller in some outright deceptions” during his brief visit to the Stanford Research Institute, the magazine said, and Randi had duplicated the psychic’s feats at their office. This was not the sort of nationwide publicity that Puharich, Geller, and Katz appreciated. It did, however, lead to Uri’s first appearance on network television in America. A slight bend appeared in a “spike” held by Jack Parr on his late-night ABC talk show. Uri drew designs that had been sealed in envelopes before the program began, and he called the number on the surface of a die that had been shaken in a box. Edgar Mitchell, another guest, assured Parr Uri had materialized a metal tie ornament that the astronaut had lost long before he met Geller.
When CBS-TV’s “Sixty Minutes” planned in August to run a segment on scientific research in the field of parapsychology, James Jackson, the producer, called me before his unit flew to California to ask what precautions they should take to rule out trickery. In essence, I told him not to let Uri touch any forks, spoons, watches, or sealed cans before he went onstage and to keep close tabs on his hands. No metal bent while Uri was on camera with Mike Wallace; nor did any of the broken watches provided by CBS start ticking as Uri gazed at them. I was filmed in New York after having seen the footage shot on the West Coast. Mike asked if I thought Uri was a fraud. I replied I had seen nothing that indicated he had psychic powers.
Randi performed a similar service for the “Johnny Carson Show.” On the Carson program, Geller sat by the table on which the requested props rested for more than twenty minutes – and nothing happened. Some people thought this was evidence that Uri was a genuine psychic. They reasoned that if he were a trickster, he would have done something – anything! Believers say that sensitives often are unable to produce marvels when skeptics are present, but I have as yet to hear of a skeptical reporter who didn’t get a demonstration from Uri, or an auditorium audience, a show, once he walked out on the stage. All of Uri’s tricks worked on Merv Griffin’s television show. Merv was not interested in testing. Merv wanted a performance, and Geller delivered.
I was in the seventh row when Uri appeared at Town Hall in New York on September 25, 1973. “This is a phenomenon,” a program note stated, “that might blow apart the reigning Orthodox Scientific Values.”
Andrija Puharich welcomed the audience. Since I had last seen him, his hair had grown longer and shaggier. He talked of Geller’s work for parapsychologists here and abroad, said it was (® p. 34) said it was raising serious questions in philosophical and religious circles. Uri entered from the side of the stage. Tall, graceful, his hair neatly coiffed, he wore a short-sleeved, open-at-the-neck red shirt and sleek, black clinging slacks. Though nervous, he said he would try to do his best but the audience must be with him.
He needed several volunteers. No men! Women were more open-minded than men. He would start with simple things, “Not tricks, not magic.” Uri invited those who wished to participate to raise their hands. Perhaps sixty pairs of hands shot up in the air. He pointed, “You, you, you,” until six were chosen. One woman he led to the blackboard; the other five sat in chairs to the audience’s right.
Standing at the front of the stage, holding a portable microphone in his right hand, Uri asked the woman at the blackboard behind him to write a color. She wrote rose. He did not get it. She wrote down another color – green. “Green,” he called out confidently, and the audience applauded heartily. I wondered where Shipi, who was still travelling with Uri, was sitting.
Geller sat down in a chair on one side of the stage; grasping the microphone and holding an opaque shield to cut off his view of the blackboard, he asked that the name of a capital city, “Not Rome, not Paris,” be written. The woman wrote Denver. He hesitated, wrinkled his brow, looked strained. “It’s a city in America.” He asked the audience to repeat the name of the city silently in their minds. “Denver!” Tumultuous applause. He also asked the woman to draw a simple object, “Not a house, not a flower.” She drew a round face with lines for eyes and mouth. On his board Uri drew a circle. Again a warm response from out front.
One woman selected a color and wrote the word on the blackboard; another stood by his side at the front of the stage and tried to get the mental impression Uri said he would receive from the color and convey to her. This took some time, but eventually she said purple. Purple it was.
Then Geller chatted informally with the audience. He told them he had been born in Tel Aviv twenty-six years ago, said that at seven he realized he had a gift. His mother liked to play cards. When she came home, he could always tell her how much money she had won. Yes, he said in answer to a question, he believed in God. He described an experience with a flying saucer. He said Israel would never lose a war; it was protected by an invisible field of energy. It’s source, the Great Pyramid in Egypt! Long, long ago travellers from a distant planet had landed there. In two or three years he would have a message of great importance for the world. When he felt strange, he knew something momentous was about to happen. Several times in the past he had felt that way, and “something big” had occurred.
Now he was ready for broken watches. Were there any in the audience? Several women rushed forward. Choosing a timepiece, he put it in the hand of a volunteer who had been sitting onstage. He held his hand over her hand. He strained, listened, and shook his head. “Try winding it!” someone at the rear of the hall shouted. “Try it with Beverly.” (Beverly was the name of the woman who had received his “purple” thought.)
None of the broken watches started. He shrugged and asked for a finger ring. Forty women hurried down the aisles with rings of all sorts. He picked one out and told the owner to hold it in her closed fist while she stood by his side. He strained to concentrate, then asked her to open her hand. He picked up the ring and shook his head. He replaced it, concentrated again, and he repeated this several times, then became disgusted. He said he would try one last time. When the woman opened her hand, he took the ring and held it up triumphantly to show the audience it had developed a crack. I myself could not see the break from the seventh row, but the woman agreed that the ring was broken. Uri said the crack would widen. By the time members of the audience had surged onstage around him, the ring had opened wide.
Almost fifteen hundred people had paid either four or six dollars for their tickets. Those who believed in Geller before the show believed in him when it was over; those who were dubious remained dubious; and those few who thought him a fraud had also not changed their view.
In October Ted Kavanau, news director of Metromedia’s ten-o’ clock New York report phoned and asked me to come to the studio to look at some film they had shot at Geller’s apartment. I watched as the reel was being edited. So did Yasha Katz, Geller’s manager. This was the first time I had seen him since “Occult (® p. 36) Night” at the Society of American Magicians. “Whatever happened to your hundred thousand to ten thousand dollar challenge?” I asked. He raised his eyebrows. “That was just a joke,” he insisted.
Kavanau wanted my opinion of Geller. I gave it, but the reporter and the camera crew who had filmed Uri assured him there had been no deception. “Send me with your reporter and the crew to Geller,” I suggested. “Have him repeat any of his marvels.” The producer phoned Geller. Uri said he would welcome anyone from the station except me.
If someone really had the power that Geller claims he has, I’m sure such a person would delight in astonishing magicians. With nothing to hide, what great fun it would be to see the expressions on the faces of those who present mere tricks.
Most reporters who write about Geller do not know how mentalists and magicians perform their feats. Some, however, try to find an explanation that will satisfy both themselves and their readers. Andrew Tobias, for instance, whose “Okay, He Averted World War III, But Can He Bend a Nail?” appeared in the September 10, 1973, issue of New York magazine. After talking with Randi and visiting Louis Tannen’s magic shop, he changed his initial views on Geller. When Tobias met him in the apartment of Judith Skutch, who heads her own Foundation for Parasensory Investigation, Geller concentrated and drew a heart pierced by an arrow. This was the same design that Tobias had earlier sealed in two envelopes and brought with him. A later session had far different results. Having seen the Stanford Research Institute film of Geller successfully guessing eight times the top spots on a die, the writer brought his own box and his own die, and they never left his sight for even an instant. Eight times Uri tried; and eight times he failed. Tobias had another design sealed in an extra-heavy envelope. He watched Uri like a hawk, never giving him the opportunity to get at the package unobserved. Result: Uri again failed.
New York Daily News reporter Donald Singleton phoned me in October, the night before I left for a tour of the West Coast. He had been with Geller in Philadelphia. Backstage at the KYW-TV studio, where Uri taped a “Mike Douglas Show,” Geller had bent the key to Hugh Downs’s hotel room and several others belonging to the stations staff. At a party given by the sponsors of Geller’s public show, Singleton had been present when rings warped and an amulet bent. The following night, while Singleton stood with the psychic in a theatre lobby, a soft-drink machine began acting up, sending crushed ice cascading down long after the flow should have stopped. Uri said things like this happened wherever he went; at the Stanford Research Institute, on three occasions, candy-vending machines had poured forth their wares.
These were amusing bits for the story Singleton was writing, but what really perplexed him was how Uri was able to duplicate the drawing sealed in two opaque envelopes and to bend borrowed keys. Singleton had taken a photographer to Geller’s apartment in New York; the photographer swore Uri bent his key while he was watching closely. Singleton had not been in the room at the time. How, he wanted to know, could he guard against trickery at his next visit? I suggested that after he drew a design at home, he wrap aluminum foil around it before he sealed it in the envelopes, that he take a thick key, and that he never let the envelopes or the key out of his sight.
I was in Hollywood when the second of Singleton’s two-part series appeared in the November 8, 1973, Daily News. Geller tried for thirty minutes to duplicate the design; then he gave up. He put Singleton’s key aside, while he diverted the reporter with bending a spoon. Later he again called attention to the key. There was an “ever so slight” bend in it, but Singleton admitted he had been unable to watch it as closely as he had planned.
It is extremely difficult for an observer not to be distracted. Charles Reynolds told me that when Uri worked in the Time offices in New York, Geller had taken a key (Reynolds’s), stroked it gently a number of times, then put it down, suggesting that some other piece of metal might respond to his thoughts more quickly. While a search was being made for something suitable, Reynolds and Randi saw Uri casually pick up the key, and gripping it firmly, press the tip down on a table to force a slight bend in the key. As this was being done, Uri’s eyes followed the activity in the office and never once looked down.
The Time people did not see this move. Why should they? Geller was not performing then. In key bending, as in many other feats of deception, the vital move is made before the trick (as the audience sees it) begins.
Picking up the key so that his fingers concealed the bend, Uri asked a Time staffer to hold it, then after due concentration, he announced it was beginning to bend. Having been alerted, and with their attention focused on the volunteer’s hand, the onlookers saw the slight distortion after Geller lifted his fingers which had been rubbing the key. Uri often puts a key on a table after his first slight bend and rocks it back and forth with a fingertip. As the key is no longer flat, this rocking emphasizes the bend.
Later, after the key has been passed from one spectator to another so they can examine it, Geller puts the key aside, and goes on with his other tricks until the right opportunity comes for him to pick it up again. Then, unobserved, he increases the extent of the curve.
When a bent key or spoon is displayed, Geller promises that the bend will become more pronounced; it does – after he has seized the opportunity to increase it.
Often a photographer will take a picture after the first bending of a spoon. While he is busy changing plates, or advancing the film, Geller bends the spoon more. Thus a series of pictures can be taken showing the metal “in the process of bending.” Another of Uri’s effective dodges is to show a key with its flat side facing the TV camera, then tom turn the key so that the bend (which is already there) seems to take place as the viewer watches.
With war raging between the Israeli and Arabic armies in 1973, reporters naturally asked Uri why he wasn’t there bending hostile tanks and cannon. The question annoyed him. If he could do that, he replied, he would be in the front lines, but, as yet, his power had not developed to that extent.
Judy Bacharach, whose interview with the mind-over-metal expert appeared on October 12, 1973, in the Washington Post, was having lunch with Geller when he announced that his knife had warped and held it up to show her. She had not been looking at the knife, nor had she been watching the spoon that Uri later held up to display its unusual curve. Geller stated that no one could (® p. 39) possibly do this with manual pressure. A skeptic, she reached for a spoon and bent it in two herself.
“You must be very strong,” Uri marvelled, and he turned the conversation from cutlery to his career. He talked about the intelligence in outer space that had manifested itself through Jesus and Muhammad and was now supplying him with power. He talked about his American mentor, Andrija Puharich, who was writing a book about his incredible experiences with Uri. This inspired Judy Bacarach to call Puharich’s wife and ask how the advent of Geller had affected their life.
Anna Puharich said she was no longer living with her husband. Bored with his talk of flying saucers, voices that spoke from tape machines, and his championship of Uri’s mystical cause, she had moved out.
The Washington Post photographer who took pictures of Geller that day had a strange experience. Uri, who has learned quite a bit about photography since he met Puharich, asked the camera man to cover the lens with a leather bag, then snap a rubber band around it to hold the improvised cap in place. Proclaiming he could take pictures of himself under these conditions, Uri tried several times. All the exposures except two came out black … but these two were close-up shots of Uri’s face! This new addition to his repertoire brought him extensive publicity several weeks later.
Uri complained to several American interviewers that, although he had appeared on many television programs, and been featured in stories in magazines and newspapers, few people were aware that he existed. In Israel, he said, crowds followed him through the streets.
Unhappy with his impact on the United States, Uri had cause for jubilation in Britain. England, like Israel, is a relatively small country. Literally overnight, he achieved fame there.
Announcer Jimmy Young described what was happening during his daytime Radio 2 show in London on Friday, November 23, 1973. Uri bent a key with his mental power; then he held a paper knife, stroked it, and the letter opener broke in two. Phone calls to the station reported stranger occurrences miles away. A watchmaker’s tweezers twisted out of shape as he listened; the ladle housewife in Harrow had been using to stir soup in her kitchen warped; a gold bracelet contorted on the wrist of a woman in Goldalming, Surrey.
That evening most viewers watched the “Miss World” competition on Channel 1; Geller was David Dimbleby’s guest on the 10.30 “Talk-In” that followed. “Can thoughts bend metal?” the listing asked. Apparently they could. While Uri was amazing Dimbleby in the studio, knives, forks, and spoons were bending in homes throughout England.
Not since P.C. Sorcar, the Indian illusionist, had sliced through a girl with a buzz saw on Dimbleby’s father’s program in 1956 had a telecast created such a stir. That show ran over time; only the studio audience witnessed the restoration. To still the furor, Richard Dimbleby had to explain the next day that the magician’s assistant had not been murdered.
Front-page stories in Saturday’s papers carried such headlines as “URI CATCHES BRITAIN BENDING” and “URI PUTS BRITAIN IN A TWIST”. At a hastily arranged press conference, the Israeli psychic demonstrated his unusual talent and told reporters, “I don’t know how I do it.”
No mention was made of the planet Hoova or the spacecraft Spectra. En route to the airport in a taxi with Bryan Silcock of the Sunday Times, Uri bent the key to Silcock’s desk, then put a curve in a KLM metal paper knife while waiting for the announcement of his Paris flight. During the day he had found time to make arrangements for a future concert-hall tour and a cross-channel psychic experiment for the Sunday People, a national weekly.
At half past twelve the next day in France, Uri turned west toward England. A front-page story in the newspaper had alerted its readers to be ready with their old cutlery and broken watches. “Bend!” cried Uri, and, according to the account in the Sunday People published a week later, the command mysteriously started 856 broken watches to ticking. On one, the hands began moving backward, and a twelve-year-old Brighton boy reported his bent knife had straightened.
Then Clifford Davis, television editor of the Daily Mirror, set up one of the most unusual luncheon parties ever held at the London Hilton. The guests were women and girls who claimed metal had bent in their homes during Geller’s “Talk-In” telecast. Davis, a showman, wanted an interesting story. He suggested everyone shut their eyes and concentrate. While all eyes were shut, a silver-plated Hilton coffee spoon “curled itself around a saucer.”
There were heated discussions in academic circles about Uri’s powers. The New Scientist in its issue of November 29 commented: “Something more then a good story for journalists is at issue here.” Geller had convinced many scientists, including those at the Stanford Research Institute, that what he did was worthy if investigation.
The New Scientist invited Geller to appear before a committee made up of specialists: a representative of the Society for Psychical Research, a psychologist, a biologist, one of their own reporters, a reporter from a national newspaper and – “a professional magician of international standing.” Though Uri has been in England since, he has not accepted the invitation.
Following a brief visit to Paris, Geller flew to the United States; a News of the World reporter went with him. Roy Stockdill’s “My Fantastic Week with Uri” appeared in the December second issue of the British weekly. Elated by his television triumph in London, Geller boasted of his success with women. He said he won them over with his “power.” No preliminary dates were necessary. He read their minds, he said, and bent them to his will.
Geller tried his new camera trick for a News of the World photographer in Miami Beach. Michael Brennan fastened an opaque cap on the lens of his Nikon F camera. Holding the camera at arm’s length with his extended hands, Uri aimed the covered lens at his face and began clicking away. Occasionally he brought the lens cap to his forehead, explaining that he was photographing his mind. When the film was developed, the shots of his mind were blank. Two frames, however, carried images of his face. These were published under a front-page double streamer: “URI’S MIRACLE PICTURES. WITNESSES SAY: NO SIGNS OF TRICKERY.”
A day later the Daily Mail quoted two experts. Dennis Constantine, president of the Council of Professional Photographers of Europe, said it was impossible to produce an exposure on film when a metal cap covered the camera lens. Reginald Mason, editor of Amateur Photographer, thought infrared light might have penetrated the opaque cover or possibly an exposed film had been in the camera.
Though Uri was then in Europe, he continued to be a subject of great interest to British readers. David Berglas, Ali Bongo, Romark, and other conjurers duplicated his metal bending for the press. Robert Harbin, who had at first accepted Geller as a psychic, changed his mind and joined the skeptics.
There were rumours that when Geller returned to England, he would move the hands on Big Ben, stop an escalator in the Piccadilly Circus underground station, and warp one of the royal crowns on display in a glass case at the Tower of London.
He was featured on Thames TV’s “Is seeing Believing?” on January 15, 1974. Geller said he had stalled the French liner Renaissance with his mind. Then, as before, spoons bent when he rubbed them. Clifford Davis headed his Daily Mirror story the next day: “URI DOES IT AGAIN.” Davis, an associate member of the magic Circle, said, “I’m convinced that Uri does have a strange psychic power.” Tim Ewbank said in the Daily Mail that once again metal had behaved peculiarly in British homes while Geller was on the screen. What made this especially noteworthy was that Uri was not even in England at the time; the show had been taped before his November “Talk-In” debut.
On January twenty-fourth Dan Coolican began a series of articles on Uri in the Daily Express; a front-page headline said the writer knew how Geller bent metals. An Israeli army officer had revealed the secret. A chemical rubbed on spoons and forks made them as brittle as crackers. Coolican also demonstrated the trick on television. Five days later, however, he admitted he was again baffled. He had gone to Copenhagen where Geller had disproved the chemical theory by washing his hands thoroughly before he bent a key. John Rhodes commented on Coolican’s experience in Denmark in The Budget, the monthly journal of the British Ring of the International Brotherhood of Magicians: “Pity some of our professional magicians weren’t present.”
Geller had flown to West Germany from the United States to appear on “Drei am Neun” (“Three Times Nine”), a prime-time television panel show on January seventeenth. Front-page stories told of his astounding feats. The next day, Der Spiegel, the largest selling news weekly in Europe, sent Herman Schreiber to interview him. When Uri rubbed Schreiber’s fork, it broke in half. But Uri refused to repeat this demonstration for Werner Geissler-Werry, the specialist in close-up magic Der Spiegel had called in as a consultant.
Analysed by the Federal Institute for Material-Testing in Berlin, Schreiber’s fork showed traces of a chemical at the breakage point. The official report said if the fork had been forcibly bent back and forth five times, this stress would have fatigued the metal. A diluted nitrate of mercury rubbed on the fatigued portion would then cause the fork to break when a slight pressure was applied. This procedure was tried with another fork of the same metallic composition. The resulting fracture, compared under a 200-power microscope with the break in the reporter’s fork, proved to be identical.
Aqua regia and other corrosives have been used by entertainers for many years. The technique was discussed as long ago as 1895 in the “Tricks of Strong Men,” a chapter of Samri S. Baldwin’s book The Secrets of Mahatma Land Explained.
Geissler-Werry, the editor and publisher of Magische Welt (Magic World), described Geller’s subtle TV presentation in the January 28 issue of Der Spiegel. Uri first passed a fork to a guest on the panel for inspection. Then he picked up three more; he gave one to the host, one to a girl panellist with instructions to grip the prongs, and put the remaining fork on the table. Afterwards viewers had the erroneous impression that every fork had been examined. Uri’s fingers had masked the slight bulge created by the fatiguing process before the program began. As he rubbed this with his thumb and fingers, the fork broke in two. Geller’s picture had made the cover, but the text of the story must have caused him considerable anguish.
By varying his methods, Uri succeeded in baffling those like the Daily Express writer who knew one of his techniques but not the others. In Germany, as in Britain, viewers of the TV show had reported that while they watched Geller’s performance, cutlery warped in their homes. Once the idea has been implanted that such things can occur, autosuggestion often produces miracles. Some were undoubtedly unaware that they themselves (® p. 44) had bent the objects; others yearned to see their names in the papers.
LATE IN January Uri flew to England to capitalize on the publicity he had received during his absence. In London he talked with a British publisher about an autobiography, considered offers from national newspapers to write articles, and avoided confrontation with the New Scientist investigating committee.
Geller was to open in Birmingham in February. Then he read that members of the Magic Circle had booked front-row seats. Panicking, he cancelled this date and others to follow, telling reporters before he left the country that he had received a phone call threatening his life. Uri had been terrified, not by an Arab assassin, but by the horrifying thought of public exposure.
A spoon-bending psychosis swept Scandinavia when Geller toured there. My friend Finn Jon, a Norwegian conjurer, was interviewed by an Oslo journalist an hour after Uri had completed a press conference. She showed the magician a bent spoon, “ as proof of Geller’s power.” Fin Jon asked her to place the spoon on the table, behind which they were sitting, then top take both of his hands in hers. The spoon quivered and turned over! “The people who saw this,” Finn said, “were so baffled that later if someone said the spoon had been dancing, they would have agreed.”
Some Danish TV viewers believed Geller had amazing curative powers. As they gazed at him on the television screen, scratches healed, coughing children quieted, and old women reported their arthritic pains ceased.
DN (Dagens Nyheter), the influential Stockholm daily, warned readers that there was more to Geller’s feats than met the eye. Helmut Fischmeister, a professor at Chalmers Institute of Technology in Gothenburg, had told their reporter that he had not had the opportunity to say he had discovered a corrosive additive on the spoon Uri had snapped in two during his television appearance. The professor and other scientists had discussed the seemingly inexplicable marvel following Geller’s demonstration, but time ran out before Fischmeister could announce his find. He was not the only scientist to report a chemical had secretly been employed, the professor added; academic friends in Austria and Norway had reached the same conclusion after they, too, had subjected Geller-broken tableware to close scrutiny.
Magician Alexander Adrion had written disparagingly of Uri in Die Zeit, a German periodical, in February; then the publisher offered a hundred thousand marks to Geller, or anyone else, who under controlled conditions was able to prove they could disturb metal with their minds.
Bjorn Sorem, president of the Norwegian magic Circle, announced an award of fifty thousand krone for an authentic mind-over matter performance in the March twenty-sixth issue of VG, an Oslo paper. Felix Greenfield, a member of the Society of American Magicians Occult Committee, had personally offered Geller ten thousand dollars on Metromedia’s “Midday” television program in New York City if he could reveal what was in Greenfield’s sealed envelope as he had in the case of an envelope sealed by the program host. Geller said he would perform this feat later, but he has never done so. Nor has he accepted the other challenges. Why should he? He can make more money from personal appearances – without running the risk of public embarrassment.
Charles Reynolds showed me evidence of Uri’s duplicity in Geller’s “impossible photograph” stunt before the psychic made the cover on the June issue of Popular Photography. Two articles shattered the Geller legend. The first, by Reynolds, explained the tricks the self-professed mystic had performed for Time. The second, by Yale Joel, a former Life photographer who is now a free lance, said Uri had attempted to take photographs of his mind through the sealed lens cap on Joel’s Pentax camera. After clicking away, Geller had lost interest in the camera and said he would like to try a telepathy test. The photographer and his son were sent into another room to draw a picture and seal it in two envelopes. When they returned, Uri duplicated their chair design, and Joel, who was busy taking photographs of this and of Geller’s spoon bending, forgot about the episode with the Pentax. Later when the Tri-X film was developed, there was a surprise near the end of the reel. Joel enlarged the image, and – lo and behold – there in the upper right-hand corner was Geller. But something else was also there, something far more fascinating. In the center of the frame was a round black object, held at the sides by a thumb and fingers. The lens cap had been removed!
The “impossible photograph” mystery was solved. While the photographer and his son were in the other room making the sketch for the telepathy experiment, the lens cap, which had been fastened with black tape, had been taken off, and the shutter had been triggered. Had Uri done this himself, or had one of his friends assisted him? Joel found the picture could have been snapped either way. The Geller photograph and two similar photographs – one taken by one person who held the camera at arm’s length, and the other taken by a second person – illustrated the article. Joel had not been present, so he couldn’t be sure which procedure had been used, but he had the conclusive proof of fraud.
Yet Geller still draws standing-room-only audiences. The majority of his patrons have not read about the various exposures. They prefer to believe affirmative stories such as those in the June 1973 issue of Psychic and the December 1973 and January and February 1974 issues of Fate.
I have gathered data on Uri in many cities during my travels. In San Francisco, for instance, I talked with Jim Dunbar. He had been the host of ABC-TV’s “A.M.” shoe in New York when Geller was a guest. Jim cautioned the young lady who worked as a production assistant not to let Uri near the props he had requested for the program. Just before the show went on the air, Jim entered a side room. Geller, with one of the ten film cans in his hands, was there, talking with the girl. In Toronto a magician was in the studio control booth before a Geller show was taped. He saw Geller pick up a bunch of keys from a table on the set and carry them behind the scenes; later Uri replaced them. During the program one of these keys bent as Geller stroked it.
Dr. Joyce Brothers was prepared when she welcomed Uri to her syndicated TV show in New York. Uri said he was in the mood to bend spikes. (The “spikes” Geller and some writers refer to are long nails.) Uri started unwrapping the nails, which had been bound together with black tape. She stopped him, opened her purse, and took from it her own nail. “Bend this,” she challenged. Geller’s power left him!
On the “Mike Douglas Show” in Philadelphia one of the nails had been previously bent. When Geller stripped away the tape, he held this nail, concealing the bend (an inch or so above the pointed end) with the fingers of one hand. With the other hand he picked up a straight nail, which he banged on the table to prove its solidity, but it was the first nail that a panel guest grasped by the head, as Uri, still masking the bend with his fingers, stroked the metal. After due concentration and gentle rubbing, Uri slid his fingers away to reveal that the nail had bent.
One of the two nails that Geller displayed on the Jack Paar television program had been previously bent in the middle. This bend was slight. Unless attention had been called to it, it might have gone unnoticed. Paar held the nail, with ends extending above and below his fist, and Uri rubbed the upper portion. When the ebullient Geller proclaimed that the nail had distorted, and the camera came in for a tight close-up view, this slight bend could be seen.
Geller might have caused this nail to “bend” visibly. Anyone can do it. Hold a bent nail between your thumb and index finger. From one angle the nail appears to be straight, a slight, slow roll then brings the bend into view.
As studios supply the nails for Geller’s use, he must have access to them before the program goes on air. Unless he bends one backstage, the nail feat will not be performed. In his television shows, there are almost always more props supplied than he will use. Those he has not handled secretly are not used.
Uri bends or breaks borrowed rings onstage, or during his impromptu exhibitions, by the pressure of his unusually strong fingers. He puts a ring on a woman’s palm and tells her to close her hand. She sees the ring several times as he tries to bend it with his “power”. Before the final attempt, he bends the ring manually. The spectator afterward remembers having seen the unbent ring in her hand; she will frequently say she felt it bend, because he has told her that it will do just that while she holds it.
If the ring breaks this heightens the effect. Once a crack has been displayed, Uri will later force the ends apart. Occasionally the rings offered by spectators are too substantial for him to bend. In these instances he shrugs after several tries and gives up. Should a magician dare to do this, the audience would hiss, but Geller is a “psychic”, and the audience sympathizes with him. He has tried so hard, been so “honest,” that he gets applause for his failures, as well as his successes.
Some scientists and even a few laymen who have read modern conjuring books are flabbergasted when Uri holds a watch, stares at it – and it stops. William Hooper described the feat in Volume Three of his Rational Recreations, published in London in 1774. Even then it was old. A concealed magnet halts the movement of the balance. The magnet can be hidden in a tabletop or, as in Uri’s case, palmed. However, readers are advised not to try this stunt with their own watches – at least not if they value them. Once a watch has been magnetized, it will run erratically after the magnet has been removed.
Watchmakers are not as awed by Uri’s trick of starting broken watches as less knowledgeable spectators; they know that watches often start running again when they are handled, but there are few watchmakers in Geller’s audiences. Uri specifies that no parts must be missing from the watches. Sometimes none of the timepieces given to him react to his power. When one does there is loud applause.
Geller is quick to take advantage of any situation. Often there is trouble with the studio equipment during a television-taping session. If he is present, he suggests this was caused by his mysterious power. While performing in Israel, he wavered on the stage and seemed to lose consciousness. He asked for a doctor. One came up from the audience. Uri said he was ill because something important had occurred in Egypt. He was sure Nasser had died. After the show the spectators learned of the Egyptian presidents death. The word spread that Uri had known of this the moment it happened. Not until Haolam Haze investigated the story in 1974 did the public learn the facts. Danny Peletz, who was backstage at the Solan Theatre that night, said someone had heard the news-flash on a radio. The word was passed to Uri, and he staged the fainting act to convince those out front that he had received this information psychically.
While Geller was at the Stanford Research Institute, he left one day and then came back saying that he had a feeling there would be a terrible airplane crash. There was a crash, but the news had been broadcast before Uri made his prediction.
The tales Geller tells to TV audiences and newspaper reporters are more fantastic than his tricks. Once, he said, he projected himself astrally to Brazil. He was living in New York with Andrija Puharich at the time. Puharich asked him to go there again and bring back evidence of his visit. Shortly afterward, Geller produced a Brazilian coin. Other “evidence” of Geller’s astral projections is equally ridiculous. Uri once claimed he had transported himself to a distant beach; as proof, he removed his shoes and poured out some sand.
Uri assured James Crenshaw who wrote a three-part series on him for Fate magazine that while with a Greek Orthodox archbishop in New York, a waiter poured white wine in Geller’s glass and the liquid changed to red. Had he been trying to convince the churchman he had Christlike powers? Geller did not say. Why else would he perform that old chemical trick?
In his book on Uri, Puharich says Wellington, the parapsychologist’s dog, vanished from a room and reappeared outside the house. This he accepts as proof of the mighty force form another planet. Martin Gardner in the May 16, 1974, issue of New York Review of Books offered another solution to this “mystery”. Did Geller toss Wellington out through a window or door, Gardner asked? This seemed likely, for not long afterward the dog, who until then had been friendly, bit Uri.
Puharich described another miracle that he said occurred in Uri’s presence. Nine pens suddenly appeared on a desk spelling out the word “WHY.” Then, as Uri and his sponsor watched, the pens “flipped simultaneously in the air.” Six came down, side by side in a row; the other three formed a triangle.
You won’t be seeing Uri Geller perform this on stage or on television. As a perceptive British editor remarked when he heard about the parapsychologist’s book: “With friends like Puharich, Geller doesn’t need enemies.”
One wonders how long dedicated researchers, trying desperately to validate any phase of psychic phenomena, will continue to search for the true source of Uri’s power. The frustrated son of a famous Israeli soldier candidly admitted to his biographer that his prime assets were his “naïve appearance” and his showmanship. These, plus his strong agile fingers, his alert eyes, and cleverly contrived ruses, enable him to present his tricks effectively.
Geller is supremely confident; he firmly believes he can deceive anyone who does not know his methods. He confessed during a television segment, taped in another country and transmitted in Israel in Aril 1974, that he cheated when he first attracted attention in Tel Aviv. Since then, he stressed, he has relied solely on his mysterious power. Uri made a similar statement to Francine du Plessix Gray, whose article, “Parapsychology and beyond” appeared in the August 11, 1974 issue of The New York Times Magazine. He said his aides in Israel had jotted down the numbers on the licence plates of the automobiles that brought members of the audience to his shows, then added notes on the cards of the facial features, sex, and clothing of the people who got out of the cars, and conveyed this information to him. In this way he could ask a person he had never seen before to write down the license number of his car, and then astound him by dramatically revealing the number.
Though Francine du Plessix Gray saw Randi duplicate Uri’s metal-bending and watch tricks, she reported that she still thinks there is the “possibility” that Geller’s “telepathic feats are genuine.”
Uri is more tense than he has been in the past. He has gained weight, and in recent television conversations, he has attributed the fantastic tales about the planet Hoova and the spaceship Spectra to Puharich. Geller says magicians try to duplicate his authentic mind-over-metal demonstrations by switching keys, but he still refuses to appear on television programs with conjurers who are critical of his performance.
Only once, to my knowledge, has Geller been challenged in court. Before Puharich brought him to the United States, an irate Israeli spectator sued Geller in magistrate’s court in Beersheba for breach of contract, charging that he had failed to perform the supernormal feats of telepathy, parapsychology, and telekinesis he advertised. Instead, complained Uri Goldstein, a mechanical engineering student at the University of the Negev, Geller’s act consisted merely of sleight-of-hand and stage tricks. The judge agreed; he ordered Geller not only to refund the money Goldstein had paid for admission but to foot court costs of the case.
Geller is at his ingenious best in laboratories where he is being observed by scientists who believe he has extraordinary ESP ability and think – without justification – that they have ruled out every possibility of fraud. Unless an expert in deception is present while such tests are being conducted, these experiments are as valid as a four-dollar bill.