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The Fact Sheet

Originally published in The International Journal of Psychoenergetic Systems - Vol. 2 - 1977
James Randi's replies originally appeared in The Truth About Uri Geller


The full details of exactly what occured during Geller's testing at SRI will probably never be known, therefore it is hard to say in most cases who is "right" or "wrong" with regard to the 24 points below. The appended comments are somewhat preliminary and subject to future expansion and revision. Input from interested readers would be greatly appreciated.





1.Foreword by Jaroff (p.7): Geller convinced executives and researchers at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) … that he could (among other things) distort solid metallic objects.

Fact: SRI's position on Geller's putative metal-bending ability is clearly stated in the researchers Nature publication: It has been widely reported that Geller has demonsrated the ability to bend metal by paranormal means. Although metal-bending by Geller has been observed in our laboratory, we have not been able to combine such observations with adequately controlled experiments to obtain data sufficient to support the paranormal hypothesis." (Nature Vol. 252   No. 5476 - pp. 602-607 October 18th 1974)

Randi's response 1982

Leon Jaroff penned that comment, not I. However, both he and I had good reason to believe T and P were referring to metal-bending in their glowing December 1972 letter to Scientific American magazine. They had already told professor ray Hyman, sent by the Department of Defence to SRI to evaluate T and P's claims about Geller and others, that Geller could bend metal paranormally without touching it. However, in denying that their comment to scientific American referred to Geller , T and P get in even deeper trouble. They have revealed to us that they were writing about the infamous Magnetometer experiment with Ingo Swann! This was probably the most messed-up pseudo-experiment that they ever did - incorrectly reported, badly run, loosely (if at all) controlled, and a general catastrophe. The fact that these scientists eventually reversed their opinions of Geller's ability to bend metal - by any "psychic" means - does not excuse their wild claims about the "extraordinary" powers they said they had "carefully verified and well documented" from their "highly gifted subjects.


2. Randi (p.13) Few of the Geller experiments, especially the famous tests at SRI in which Geller performed apparent miracles of ESP, include in their reports the fact that one Shipi Shrtrang, once claimed by Geller as his cousin and his brother, was present.

Fact: During the SRI experimentation, neither Shipi nor any other potential confederate was permitted in the target area, a pre-condition for experimentation adopted on the basis of advice by project consulting magicians.

Randi's response 1982

I stand by that statement. No reports mentioned Shtrang. It matters little whether he was "in the target area". I never said that he was! He was still there, and able to assist Geller. Verbal soft-shoe will not work.



3. Randi (p.14): But scientists are loath to consult magicians.

Fact: At SRI one of the two responsible investigators is an amateur magician with over twenty years experience, a Bay Area magician who specialises in exposing fraudulent poltergeist cases is a continuing consultant from the beginning of the project, and Milbourne Christopher, a world renowned magician and critic of psychic phenomena, was brought in to critique videotape and film of the Geller work, and to suggest protocols for further experimentation

Randi's response 1982

(a) Arthur Hastings, the part-time magician referred to but not named here, told me that he gave T and P some rules to follow. They ignored them, and Geller insisted that Hastings not be allowed to witness the experiments. (b) Christopher, far from being asked to witness the tests, saw only selected film and tape at SRI months after Geller had left! He has said that there ws not enough detail in the record for him to tell anything about how the tricks might have been done. Certainly none of his suggestions were later followed by T and P , who seemed willing to listen - after the event - and then chose to ignore all advice.


4. Randi (p.14) Even while the Stanford Research Institute was involved in testing the Israeli wonder, I wrote offering my services and never received the courtesy of a reply.

Fact: Randi's letter, dated September 6, 1973, was months after completion of the SRI work with Geller.

Randi's response 1982

There was more than one letter. None of them were answered.


5. Randi (p.18) Then, too, there seems to be developing a public belief that science approves the trend toward Parapsychological research and that most people believe in psychic marvels. It is a fact that the vast majority of scientists today have no interest, or belief, in these things.

Fact: According to a recent survey, reported by Chris Evans in New Scientist, pp. 209, January 25, 1973, "Parapsychology - What the questionnaire revealed," 67 percent of nearly 1500 responding (the majority of whom are working scientists and technologists) considered ESP to be an established fact or a likely possibility, and 88 percent held the investigation of ESP to be a legitimate scientific undertaking.

Randi's response 1982

I stand by this statement. Chris Evan's test was not all that it might have been, and he admitted it. He failed to realize that (a) "New Scientist" is a popularized U.K. science magazine, read mostly by the informed layman, not full-time scientists, and (b) those who answer such polls tend to be believers, who are thus more heavily represented in the results. Other surveys have failed to support the "New Scientist" inquiry.


6. Randi (p.31): Puthoff reprinted the Nature article without the page-and-a-half introduction! (Following paragraph implying editing out of material unfavourable to the paper.)

Fact: Reprint of article to which Randi refers is the standard Nature reprint sent to authors. The so-called introduction Randi claims is deleted refers to an editorial at the front of the magazine, several pages earlier. Nature reprints standardly do not carry editorials, letters to the editor etc.

Randi's response 1982

T and P had a responsibility to mention that editorial. It was an integral part, not of the scientific paper, but of the total picture "Nature" presented to it's readers. Technically, T and P have a valid point; ethically, they do not. My statement is still true: Puthoff did not publish the embarrassing editorial.


7. Randi (p.34) After reprinting Nature editorial Randi claims he must give his own version of SRI paper, as SRI did not make paper available to him.

Fact: SRI paper to which he refers was in same magazine as the editorial he reprinted, a few pages later…a document in the public domain, available in any technical library, permission for the use of which is obtained from the magazine as was done for the editorial.

 Randi’s response 1982

I was not aware the paper was “public domain”. I would rather have published the original. It was damning. I asked permission of SRI, but was never answered. That says something, I think.

Comment

As T&P stated, Randi had published the "Nature" editorial, for which he must have had the publisher’s permission, obtained in the normal way. Randi also included in his book all of the original drawings from the experiments and these were contained in the paper itself, the one he claims he could not reprint. Given Randi’s friends and connections within the scientific and academic communities it is hard to see how he could have remained unaware that permission is granted by the publisher, just as it is in the majority of other fields.


8. Randi (p.37): There was no way I could get to see the SRI film. Only the elite of the world of science and journalism were invited (to the Columbus symposium).

Fact: The Columbus symposium was widely known to be an open symposium to which any interested individual could come and for which no invitations were required.

Randi's response 1982

Hearing of the film. I tried to contact Dr. Gerald Feinberg, at Columbia, who sponsored the showing. I was unable to do so, and was unaware that it was an open showing. In any case, I certainly was not invited, in spite of my known interest.


9. Randi (p.37) Randi would have the reader believe that the compass sequence and spoon-bending sequence of the SRI film "Experiments with Uri Geller" are examples of where SRI scientists were taken in by magic tricks.

Fact: with regard to the compass sequence the film narration states: "The following is an experiment which in retrospect we consider unsatisfactory as it didn't meet our protocol standards. Here the task is to deflect the compass needle…However, according to our protocol, if we could in any way debunk the experiment and produce the effects by any other means, then that experiment was considered null and void even if there were no indications that anything untoward happened. In this case, we found later that these types of deflections could be produced by a small piece of metal, so small in fact that they could not be detected by the magnetometer. Therefore, even though we had no evidence of this, we still considered the experiment inconclusive and an unsatisfactory type of experiment altogether."

With regard to the spoon-bending sequence, the film states: One of Geller's main attributes that had been reported to us was that he was able to bend metal…In the laboratory we did not find him able to do so…(It) becomes clear in watching this film that simple photo interpretation is insufficient to determine whether the metal is bent by normal or paranormal means…It is not clear whether the spoon is being bent because he has extraordinarily strong fingers and good control of micro-manipulatory movements, Or whether, in fact, the spoon "turns to plastic" in his hands, as he claims." (Text of narration of film "Experiments with Uri Geller", shown at Columbia and elsewhere. Text released as part of SRI press release of March 6, 1973, accompanying Columbia presentation.)

Randi's response 1982

Yes, the film contains a disclaimer. Then why, gentlemen, were those "inconclusive and ... unsatisfactory" sequences included in a "scientific" film at a leading university in this official unveiling of the wonders of the Psychic World discovered at Stanford Research Institute, a leading center of scientific endeavor? To add glamour and to fluff up a very poor effort, obviously. The film belongs with the Mack Sennett epics.


10. Randi (p.48) Shipi was there, according to Hanlon, "constantly underfoot" during the tests.

Fact: Neither Shipi nor any other potential confederate was permitted in the target area during the tests. Hanlon's allegations to the contrary were refuted in Letters to the Editor, New Scientist, p.443, November 1974.

Randi's response 1982

Again, I never said Shippi was "in the target area." But he was there, underfoot, and so was his sister - a proven confederate, as is Shippi - throughout the tests. Why? simply because Geller wanted it that way. The mouse was running the tests - again.


11. Randi (pp. 40-50) If you made an excuse to leave the room - and could have gotten just one quick glance at Shipi Shtrang, and he was trying to signal…A quick glance at this target might have given Shipi an impression of a horse…Such a response could result from a hand signal…This shape, which could have been transmitted by simple hand gestures or by a verbal clue…They might even have been watching Shipi by now…etc.

Fact: As indicated above, neither Shipi nor any other potential confederate was permitted in the target area, and Geller was never permitted to change his position (i.e. enter or leave experimental room) while an experiment was in progress.

Randi's response 1982

Not so. the experiments with Geller were done largely over the weekends, when SRI was deserted. Soft-drink and beer cans, food wrappers and scraps, incense sticks and general debris were evident after these sessions. I have been told that Geller did leave the "sealed room" during tests, and in the Faraday cage series he could see Shippi/Hannah cleary through the mesh walls.

Comment

The dates given in the Nature paper show that only four out of the thirteen trials reported took place at the weekend and the remainder over the course of the week (see table). Randi repeats this claim on page 345 of "A Skeptics Handbook of Parapsychology" in his essay "The Role of Conjurers in Psi Research".


12. Randi (p.47): Captain Edgar Mitchell has said " I was ther virtually all the time. I am co-investigator on all that work…they were so eager to keep him (Geller) around that they worked themselves into a box meeting his every whim…"

Fact: Captain Mitchell was not at SRI for any of the experimentation reported in Nature, but rather only during early efforts to introduce strict protocols as was finally done successfully.

Randi's response 1982

Mitchell was there during the filming, but he was such a stickler for protocol that Geller preferred he leave during other sessions. Remember, these tests were done Geller's way or they were not done at all, or else they were done but not reported because they failed. Mitchell's comment is not less interesting just because he was subsequently shut out.

Comment

Regarding the claim that he was exluded form the later experiments Edgar Mitchell wrote in an email on 15 December 2003: "It was not a matter of being excluded. I got what I set out to get, and then went on to other things."


13. Randi (p.49) Only in the tests where there was no possibility of transmission of data from a confederate did Geller refuse to try the test or just fail it. (Referring to experiments 5-7)

Fact: Two of the three experiments (6 and 7) were carried out under the same conditions as all the others - no potential confederates in the target area. The third experiment (Exp. 5) was a special clairvoyance test - again with no potential confederate in the target area.

Randi's response 1982

So what? When there was no way of doing the trick (and it was most often done through a confederate) Geller "passed" - or, as in the "devil" episode, resorted to tried-and-true desperation measures and succeeded. Remember, there were many "experiments" with Geller - and others at SRI - that failed and were never reported

Comment

The problem with Randi's comments about the "devil" trial is that it relies in part on the assumption that the target was in the room outside the "sheilded room". Randi had suggested that for this trial:

"My conclusion has to be that Geller emerged from the room, saw the complex target drawing, seized upon the one "theme" that he could quickly sketch in (the trident), and did so, then looking at the result, he tried again for a better version."

On this trial however the target was located in a remote room some distance from where Geller was situated (see table). Randi does have a point however with regard to the two tridents in that their placement and execution is careless and sloppy compared to the rest of the drawings done for this trial - they do in fact look as if they might have been added quickly after the rest of the drawings had been done.


14. Randi (p.49) (With regard to the Faraday cage experiments.) He could even reach his arm out of the cage. What is to prevent Shipi signalling these three to Geller? Nothing.

Fact: The faraday cage is entirely sealed and guarded. Only by opening the door can one reach out. With regard to Shipi acting as a confederate to signal Geller, again, as in all experiments, neither Shipi nor any other potential confederates was permitted into the target area or knew of the target, a precaution insisted upon and followed as a result of advice from consulting magicians.

Randi's response 1982

I was told that the large mesh of the "cage" allowed one to reach out. I was never able to see the cage, or a photo of it, though opening the screen door is obviously not difficult. Hannah Shtrang was in the target area this time and was a general "gopher," thus being provided with an excellent opportunity to act as a confederate. Many people wandering by asked to see the target and were shown it. The control on this test was ridiculous.


15. Randi (p.52) And is it not curious that this Geller test series was never reprinted or mentioned by any of his SRI disciples? (Referring to the 100 envelope double-blind clairvoyance test that Geller failed.)

Fact: This test, with its negative results, is also in the nature paper, fourth paragraph from the end of the section on Geller.

Randi's response 1982

There is no way that anyone could identify the 100-envelope test reported in "Nature"with the Rebert/Otis test. T and P say in "Nature"
,..."On each day he made approximately 12 recognisable drawings, which he felt were associated with the entire target pool of 100. On each of the three days, two of his drawings could reasonably be associated with two of the 20 daily targets. On the third day, two of his drawings were very close replications of two of that day's target pictures." Fact: There was never any provision for "associating" drawings with the entire pool. He was to tell the contents of one envelope at a time. T and P are attempting to salvage something from these failed tests, which they had to report since they were designed by others at SRI. Fact: The episode on the third day took place after the test was officially terminated and involved a special set of six envelopes not in the original target pool. Geller left the room several times during the tests and scored direct hits on two envelopes. Rebert solved that one; anyone could.


16. Randi (p.59) …agreed to examine Geller's claims, with the arrangement that if the results were not positive no report would be issued…did Geller have the same arrangement with the boys at SRI before he agreed to be tested there? I'll bet he did!

Fact: Negative results on compass deflection and metal bending are reported in the film "Experiments with Uri Geller" Columbia Physics Colloquium, March 6, 1973, and negative results on metal bending and 100-envelope clairvoyance test are reported in Nature, October, 1974.

Randi's response 1982

T and P refuse to answer direct questions! Note that here they skirt the implication, never saying that they did not have any such arrangement with Geller. To have no negative tests - a 100 percent success - would be too good. (I'll still bet that Geller had the boys over a barrel with such an arrangement!)


17. Randi (p. 82) Now, SRI in its great wisdom, has called in a magician briefly as a consultant. Not before Geller's tests, mind you, but after. With them, the alarm system is installed after the robbery. It is interesting to note that when Geller did a subsequent series of tests there (p. 52) he failed. Any connection?

Fact: SRI called in a magician as a consultant before any of the tests with Geller, not after. (A magician who specialises in exposing poltergeist cases as frauds.) If Randi is referring only to Milbourne Christopher, no tests, including those of page 52, were done after Christopher's consultancy, all work with Geller having been completed before Christopher's arrival.

Randi's response 1982

See my response to point 3.

Comment

Unfortunately Randi's response to point 3 (above) is no answer to T & P's simple point that no further experiments were done after the consultation with Milbourne Christopher, hence Geller did not fail any tests as a result of SRI having consulted magicians - indeed in Randi's own response to point 3 he states that Christophers' advice wan't followed, hence it can't have been the cause of any subsequent failure to perform on Geller's part. It should be added that in 1992 "unofficial" SRI staff member Jean Mayo revealed in a letter that further experiments in metal-bending had been carried out with Geller in December 1973. Randi knew nothing of these when writing his comments and these experiments were apparently mildly successful.


18. Randi (p. 95) And the SRI public relations man (who has since quit the organisation) called Wilhelm of Time magazine to see what could be done about the story.

Fact: SRI's pubic relations man, Ron Deutsch, did not quit the organisation over this or any other issue, and is still there.

Randi's response 1982

Fellows, I never said that Ron Deutch quit "over this ... issue"! I merely reported what I had been told, that he had left SRI. T and P are partly correct. Deutch, at the time T and P wrote, was still at SRI; he left shortly afterward.


19. Ray Hyman quoted by Randi (p. 111): "So I asked them (Puthoff and Targ) if he could bend them without touching them (metal rings). They told me he could do it either way. I asked Puthoff if he or anyone else at SRI had seen Uri do it without touching the ring. That never did answer me. They simply assured me he could do it either way."

Fact: The above is false reporting. It is well known that Puthoff and Targ of SRI have been agnostic on the subject of metal bending since the beginning, and reported thus both in the SRI film and in the Nature paper.

Randi's response 1982

Here we either accept Hyman's word, or call him a liar (see my point 1). He is a reputable investigator, with no reason at all to fabricate his story. He prepared a report in writing, for Washington, immediately upon his return from SRI. His visit predated the "Nature" paper by almost two years, well before T and P had abandoned all efforts to get metal-bending evidence from Geller and were forced to fall back on their poorly controled "ESP" tests to submit as a report on what they'd done with the money.


20. Randi (p.117) First of all, Taylor's statement about the magician is not true. Where he got that idea, I cannot tell. There was no magician present.

Fact: Taylor's statement is true; he got it from SRI researchers. A magician was present.

Randi's response 1982

Taylor's actual words, reported in the book, (pafe 117) are, "Some ... experiments were scrutinized by a magician on television monitors ..." The account implies strongly that the magician (Christoher) watched the experiments in progress, not months afterwards! There was no magician there watching those experiments. hastings had been forbidden to watch, remember? See my response to point 3.



21. Randi (p. 128) You might recall, professor, that your counterparts in America - Targ and Puthoff - obtained single-sided pulses when Uri tried to hex a sensitive weighing device. And no one thought to try testing the chart recorder then, either.

Fact: As is apparent from the SRI film: (a) the chart recorder was remote from Geller in the experiment, and (b) the chart recorder was continuously monitored by film and videotape, specifically as a guard against chicanery.

Randi's response 1982

T and P make my point for me! The recorder was remote from Geller, and they were watching Geller. The recorder could not have been monitored while Geller was monitored! Q.E.D.

Comment

Judging from two pictures published in Wilhelm's "The Search for Superman" the chart recorder was apparently right next to the electronic balance and hence next to Geller during the experiment. The SRI film does not show what T & P claim in that the chart recorder is not being "monitored" in the SRI film nor has any other footage been released of the chart recorder taken during this experiment.



22. Randi (p. 140): And, finally, as if there were not enough doubts about the procedure used to conduct this "test," Time's Wilhelm has reported that the set of tries with the die actually consisted of many hundreds of throws, the object being to get a run of consecutive wins.

Fact: There was no selection of a good run out of "hundreds of throws." There were ten throws only, as reported in the Nature paper, eight of which were correctly guessed by Geller, two of which were passed. All the throws were reported.

Randi's response 1982

(a) The throws were made, a few at a time, over a period of days. This is not "an experiment" It is a series of sporadic demonstrations. (b) There were die tests made before and after the SRI "official" tests. (c) Tests were also made at "Psychic" magazine (Puthoff recently admitted these, and excepted them from the "real" tests.) (d) The tests were done at irregular times, when Geller felt "inspired" to do them. As usual, he was running the tests. (e) Pressman, the SRI photographer, reported to a scientist there that the successful tests were not done while he was present but were reported to him by Puthoff the next day. If that is the case, the filmed tests were re-enactments, in direct contradiction to the official text of the SRI film. Pressman now denies that he told anyone that. See my book Flim-Flam for details.

Comment

In an interview in 1985 Geller's mentor Andrija Puharich said:

"...to see if Uri could guess if you placed a die from a die set, or several as the experiment proceeded, inside of a sealed box, the box was shaken, and plasced down and uri was supposed to guess which faces were up, that is a one a two a six excetera. and so he was supposed to be seeing inside the box, and see how these rolling dice landed. well his score was absolutely phenomenal. The tests were run in blocks of ten, ten tests, and he would get consistently eight or nine correct for the whole blocks." - (original source: www.urigeller.com/uri/new/PuhvidA.ram - no longer available).

Further details about the die test appear in Wilhelm's book "The Search for Superman" where T & P mention that another series of die tests was filmed with Geller during a later visit to SRI. According to T & P:

"We have a very good-quality videotape in which Geller, on another visit, said: "I don't want to repeat that. I have a new way of doing that dice experiment." The new way is to write down on a piece of paper a number on the table. Then I [Targ] take the box and shake it vigorously. Then he takes my shaken box and he shakes it vigorously, dumps the dice out on the table, and it comes up the number he wrote down. We did that five times in a row." According to Puthoff, the dice was thrown "way up in the air, landing on the table, bouncing all over, and then coming up the [guessed] number."

This additional film has apparently not been seen by anyone outside of SRI.

Zev Pressman's statement about not being present for the successful trials is correct as he was only called in to film the final trial on which Uri chose to pass. This does not mean that the trial he filmed was a "re-enactment".


23. Randi (p. 140) An elaborate hypothesis is put forward as to how Geller might have handled the die box and cheated.

Fact: Film and videotape show otherwise, and magicians examining this material have failed to detect a conjuring trick.

Randi's response 1982

"Film and videotape show otherwise"? I have asked to see this evidence, and have been denied. The only film we may see is of a pass! Why is there is other film and videotape available that proves their point, did T and P choose to show a pass?

Comment

Randi asks a valid question, the answer to which was only fully revealed in Martin Gardner's 1982 article "The Great SRI Die Mystery". The short answer is that only one of the ten trials was ever filmed, trial number ten on which Uri chose to "pass". According to T & P they only called in Zev Pressman to film Geller when they realized that they were getting good results - at which point they'd already witnessed 8 out of 9 successful trials.


24. Randi (p. 211) Targ and Puthoff say, in a letter to Communications Society magazine, that, "In lengthy consultation with professional magicians, no viable conjuring explanation for these or other experiments reported in Nature has emerged." What magicians? If these gentlemen have examined this book carefully, they may now have another conclusion.

Fact: having examined this book carefully, we find that in every instance Randi, in his efforts to fault the SRI experiments, was driven to hypothesise the existence of a loophole condition that did not, in fact, exist. If Randi believes that the conditions he hypothesised were responsible for the results of those SRI experiments with Geller that were successful, then, by their negation, Randi has provided evidence for the genuineness of the phenomena as observed and reported.

Randi's response 1982

I am pleased to see that whatever was presented in "The Magic of Uri Geller" as speculation has been validated in the years since. In this "Fact Sheet" Russell targ and Harold Puthoff not only failed to rebut my book; they got themselves in deeper than ever before. All the semantic trickery and verbal obsfuscation employed by T and P (and I admit they are fairly good at it) will not serve to excuse their attempt to jam the Geller "phenomenon" down the unwilling throats of science and the public. There are those who will continue to believe that in the 1970's science validated the powers of an Israeli psychic; those who read this book and "Flim-Flam!" will know otherwise. The public can be decieved for a while, but truth is annoyingly persistent.


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