Israeli mind over matter wizard Uri Geller a tour Australia in March. His claims to bend spoons and forks, start and stop watches by sheer willpower have baffled scientific investigation.
Can Uri twist metal with his will? I saw him bend a fork on television and I believed it.
So did millions of viewers in the United States and Europe who are fascinated by the 35 year old Israeli psychic superstar.
For the past three years, audiences have been flocking to see this handsome, 6 foot 3 inch former paratrooper perform feats of telepathy, clairvoyance, psychokinesis which my dictionary defines as "the production of motion especially in inanimate and remote objects, by the exercise of psychic powers"
keys curl, spoons and forks twist when Uri strokes them. Broken watches start to tick. In Munich, Germany, with journalists and photographers in tow, he reportedly stopped a cable car in mid air by sheer concentration, stilled a moving escalator the same way.
When he met Dr. Werner von Braun, the father of the space age, he split the scientists wedding ring in two by staring at it.
Skeptical? You are not alone. While bending spoons - and credibility - On the entertainment circuit - Uri Geller has become the centre of considerable controversy in the U.S.
Many call him a fake, many, though impressed with his telepathic feats, are skeptical of his alleged psychokinetic skills.
Detractors offer various explanations of his metal-bending "powers". It's mass hypnosis of his audience, a Defence Department psychologist says.
He bends metal with his hands after distracting his audience, suggests the Great Randi a professional magician.
But some scientists have been taking Uri Geller seriously.
Whether he has psychic powers as he claims, or whether he's a brilliant fraud, Australians will have a chance to decide as he tours the country in March.
Uri often begins his performance with a demonstraion of telepathy.
He will ask a volunteer (usually a pretty girl) to write a name - a colour - or a city - on a blackboard.
Keeping his eyes averted, he asks the audience to "send" the name. Mostly but not always - he gets their message.
Then he may demonstrate psychokinesis by asking someone to bring him a broken watch, having the owner hold it, and putting his hand over their's.
Sometimes the watch starts ticking - sometimes it doesn't.
He often tries, on stage, to bend metal objects - though he won't guarantee success.
He's candid about the fact that his powers are not always with him. "Unlike magicians, it doesn't always work for me. So what - if it doesn't work, it proves I'm real." he says.
With equal frankness, he's admitted having indulges in a few tricks, along the way, to increace his fame and fortune. (Can't a chap be true psychic and a magician too?)
Geller says the mental attitude of his audience is crucial to his performance. If people are with him, all sorts of things happen. If they aren't, little may occur.
On the "Tonight" TV show he wasn't able to accomplish much. He tried to detect, telepathically, which of ten metal film cannisters water and he tried to bend nails - and he couldn't do either. But on the "Merv Griffin Show" - the one if watched - things did happen.
Geller's audiences aren't usually disappointed. He's so good looking, so earnest, so tentative, so seemingly modest and sincere, you want him to succeed. He seems genuinely disappointed when things don't work out.
Uri Geller was born in Israel on December 20, 1946. He first became aware of his psychic powers, he says, when he was seven years old and noticed, in school, that he could make the hands of his wristwatch move when he wanted them to. He told his parents about it but they weren't impressed.
From the age of 11 to 17, he lived with his family in Cyprus, the returned to Israel to join the army as a paratrooper.
His first job in civillian life was export manager for a textile firm.
In 1970, to supplement his income, he decided to give performances to small audiences, showing off his psychic skills, and by the end of 1971 he was famous in Israel.
His passport to international fame was firnished by Dr. Andrija Pharich, a New York physician, who had been investigating psychic claims for many years.
Studying Geller at a laboratory near Tel Aviv, Puharich became convinced of the young man's unusual powers. He enlisted the help of physicist and ex-astronaut Edgar Mitchell, who had conducted ESP experiments on the moon during the Apollo misssion in 1971.
Mitchell, who now runs an institute for the study of psychic phenomena, raised the money to bring Uri to the US and also arranged to have Uri tested at the Stanford Research Institute, one of the nations most notable "think-tanks."
Geller spent six weeks at the institute, with the following published results.
Precognition: He predicted the throw of dice eight times in a row. Stanford puts the odds of this a million to one.
Clairvoyance: He guessed 12 times without error which one of ten aluminium cans contained objects at of a trillion to one.
Telepathy: SRI researchers selected line drawings from a ocked safe and mentally "transmitted" them to geller. He drew almost exact reproductions seven times in a row.
Psychokinesis: Geller reportedly deflected a calibrated laboratory balance under a jar without touching it. He also peturbed a magnetometer, a device measuring magnetic fields, through apparent force of will.
Stanford has refused to accept Geller's ability to bend and break things with his will because, to do so, he has to touch them.
But the two physicists who conducted the tests, Harold Puthoff and Russell Targ, reported: "We have observed certain phenomena for which we have no scientific explanation. Further investigation is cleary warranted."
The influential science magazine "Nature" carried the researcher's report, which concluded that Geller has at leeast some of the powers he claims. The magazine carefully dissociated itself from the findings, saying it carried the report to spur further inquiry.
But another physicist, Joeseph Hanlon, after a two-month investigation of Geller and the SRI experiments, criticiced the controls and wrote, "No matter how good they are as laser physicists, Russell Targ and Hal Puthoff are no match for Uri Geller."
Controversy doesn't faze Uri, who says that he is now being studied by leading scientists throughout the world. He mantions that, at the University of London's Birkbeck Laboratories he triggered a Geiger counter to 500 times its normal count.
The US Naval Ordnance laboratories have been studying his influence on metal, particularly on nitinol, a recently invented alloy which behaves totally opposite to its built-in characteristics under the "Geller-effect", he says, adding: I'm working with some of the top scientists in the world and soon the planet will be blanketed with scientific papers. Then everyone will have to admit that these psychic powers exist.
"I believe that there are other dimensions and other universes and this energy that comes through me is comimg from another universe ... and that it is sent to me for a purpose.
"If people on earth will accept the fact that there are other intelligences out there, I believe these energies will come here very soon. There will be many red faces on that day, many red faces."
But Uri isn't giving any definite answers as to the source of his psychic powers. People will have to wait to read his autobiography, "Uri Geller: My Story," which he is now writing.
The man who does offer the answers is Dr. Puharich, now Uri's friend and mentor.
Puharich belives that Uri is here as an ambassador from extraterrestrial intelligences inhabiting a spaceship called Spectra - stationed 53,069 light years away - to prepare mankind for the powers' eventuall takeover of our planet.
A computer on Spectra, called Rhombus 4D gave Puharich permission to write his book "Uri," which was published last year, he says.
But, one way or another, we're bound to hear more about Geller.
A major film of his life is now being planned by Australia's Robert Stigwood, who produced "Jesus Christ Superstar."
Geller's audiences don't seem to mid if he's a messenger from outer-space or a very fine magician. He's a charismatic fellow, and his performances are intriguing.
His first appearance is at Newcastle's Civic Theatre on March 6, the Sydney Town Hall, March 7, Bisbane City Hall March 8, New Concert Hall, Perth, March 15,
Apollo Theatre, Adelaide, March 18, and Melbourne Town Hall, March 19.
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