A Contrived Picture From Italy
When Uri Geller, the young Israeli described here, was tweleve years old, his mother married for the second time an Israeli who at the same time opened a hotel in Nicosia, Cyrus. Uri went there with his mother and his stepfather and one evening his stepfather told him the story of Jan Hanussen. Ten years later, Geller turned himself into an Israeli version of Hanussen. He had many astonshing feats that he performed, and everyone who saw him, or who came in contact with him, immediately developed a certain respect and awe. However, when Geller began to exaggerate, and crossed the very fine boundry between legend and rationality, he defeated himself - exactly as his model, Hanussen, had done previously.
About three years ago, Uri Geller succeeded in dividing the Israeli people into two camps. There were detractors and believers. He saw in this tactic a very fine publicity stunt, and saw his fame increasing with every exaggeration. He also went to Italy, then sent from there to the [Israeli] newspapers a faked photograph, in which he is apparently seen in the company of the Italian motion picture actress Sophia Loren, in order to "prove" that he actually met her. This was the beggining of the end of the Uri Geller legend in Israel.
The man who was able to fill three assembly halls to the point where there was standing room only found within one evening that he was appearing in a second-rate nightclub. His admirers and his detractors agreed that the era of Uri Geller had passed. However, an ambitious man like Geller, who had tasted the success, the publicity, and the easy profit, was not going to give up that easily.
A Student of the Shin Beth
Shortly after this, he left Israel for a while, and several weeks after that he again appeared in the headlines, this time in the headlines of the entire world. With this renewed fame on a very large international scale, Uri Geller returned to a prominent position in the Israeli newspapers as well. One columnist, Ephraim Kishon, a social critic for the newspaper "Ma'ariv," expressed himself sharply against all those persons who rejected this young man. Professor Amnon Rubenstein wrote in the newspaper "Ha'aretz" a series of articles in which he analyzed the image of Uri Geller, though he did not take a personal position or opinion on the matter. It was mentioned that the Israeli Ambassador to London during Uri's visit there prevented him from bending a fork, contending that it was the property of the State of Israel. This amusing item was covered extensively in the press.
In Israel today, however, all his friends and relatives, his girlfriends and his managers, and all others who worked with him are ready to swear by all that is dear to them that Geller is a cheat and a liar; and they are able to demonstrate with their own hands all of his tricks that he used in order to create his reputation. According to them, Geller learned personal data - special obscure details and information about individuals (both true and false) - which he used to support his claims to special powers of divination.
Uri Geller, born of a father who is an officer in the Israeli Armed Forces, told all who asked that he was born of a circus family and in one place claimed that he was born in Cyprus. But the simple truth is that he is an Israeli, and that is an indisputable fact. He travelled to Cyprus with his mother and his stepfather when he was tweleve years old, and that was the first time he had left Israel.
Ithaak Saban, one of Uri's close friends, has revealed that Geller used to use him as a confederate in the audience. He used to sit in the front row during Uri's performance and give him all kinds of signals, by means of motions, in order to make Uri succeed. On one ocasion, hearing him tell so many lies about his performance, Ithaak literally pressed him to the wall and forced him to admit that the entire performance was contrived. Uri had not bothered to tell anyone that some of these techniques he used were leaned from members of the Shin Beth, who had been quartered at his father's hotel in Cyprus.
A Book About Magicians
Several times, Uri maintained in his interviews with the press that even as a young student in elementary school he had begun to feel his special powers and was able to read the thoughts of his teachers and fellow-students. However, the actual truth about the beginning of this process in his life is told by his very close friend Hannah Shtrang. She is today an office worker for the Motorola Company in Israel.
"Uri was the councelor at camp of my little brother Shipi. The friendship between the two began shortly after that. My little brother always had very strange ideas, and Uri would tell him from time to time about a book which he had come across that told about magic and magicians, and the two boys decided to make a business out of it. Uri was then about twenty-one years old, and he was pretty depressed. It was only a few months after the termination of his army service. He had been thrown out of an officer's training corps and also from the paratroopers. He was very deeply hurt by these defeats. He had been rejected and he took it very hard, paarticularly because his father was a famous soldier and his sole ambition was to prove that he could be as successful as his father.
"My brother Shipi was at the time only fourteen years old, but Uri believed in him and my brother brought him into our home, which is where I met him.
There is a great deal of personal charm in him. He was a very good looking young man. A romance started between us and has continued until this present time. When Uri left Israel to conquer the world, he took me with him. After several weeks I was forced to return to my job, which I did not want to lose.
Uri and Shipi performed together all kinds of tricks. The basis of all these tricks was that my brother used to sit in the audience and pass signals to Uri that they had practiced beforehand. They began their performances in small living-room parties, particularly of students. They would receive forty to seventy pounds. However, when they realized that the audience was very excited and enthusiastic, they decided to change this mere cooperative relationship between the two of them and go into business.
"They turned to a manager, Baruch Conti, the owner of a stage production company, and they auditioned for him. They convinced him that the whole country would be wild about the talented Uri with his 'supernatural' powers. Uri represented Shipi as his younger brother."
(Uri's father says that he has only one son, in speaking to the reporter of this paper.)
Little by little, the Uri Geller mania began to make waves with the Israeli public. As a result of publicity in a prominent newspaper, which praised him sky-high, he began to do three or four shows a day.
One of Geller's conditions for performances was that his "brother" would always get a seat in a front row or at least in the middle of the second row. So said Baruch Conti. He went on to explain that once he caught Shipi making the agreed-upon signals and he pointed this out to Uri.
The next day, in a dition to Shipi, a young woman appeared who was very cute but not really a beauty. Geller made a new condition now, that this woman had to sit beside Shipi in the audience in a special seat. This woman was Hannah, Shipi's sister, and she began to be part of the act, passing signals to Uri on stage.
Hannah, who was Uri's friend and still is (she says that the other girls in Uri's life have been mere decoys, and that he always returns to her), maintains that Uri has very special supernatural powers but that he also uses a great deal of trickery. "I used to help him with his tricks during appearances," says Hannah.
In the meantime, [Geller's] chauffeur admitted to many tricks that he maintained Uri had instructed him about. He said that Uri confessed, in a heart-to-heart talk with him, that evrything in the act was just bluff.
"Uri is a good fellow. If he has driven the world crazy then he is a very talented guy!" says his chauffeur. "I know all of his tricks very well, and I can even appear in his place if I wish to. But Uri has a very special unique talent. When something does not succeed for him, he always manages to get out of it. He comes away clean from any situation and he controls people in a total manner."
Saban, Uri's very good friend, is one of the only men to whom Uri has [ever] confided that "all" of his performances were based upon fakery. "In front of all his other friends and even his parents, Uri has always maintained that he has supernormal powers. Among his very close friends, he claims that though he has supernormal powers, he sometimes uses some trickery."
To Explode the baloonSuccess gave Uri a swelled head. He used to go to his manager with continual demands for much more money than the contract called for. "He would come to me two or three times a week," says Baruch Conti, "with demands of two or three hundred pounds for each performance. There was no end to it."
The False MessiahDanny Pelz, the showman who worked at this time with Uri Geller says, "Until the whole thing blew up for him, after the episode with Sophia Loren, Uri Geller had earned more than a quater of a million pounds in Israel and purchased a brand-new Peugeot 404 and a luxury penthouse in the north of Tel Aviv. We, from our side, know all the lies. We have much proof of them. And also we helped him to perpetuate some of these lies.
CounterintelligenceIn the heyday of Geller's performances in Israel, he performed his tricks before professors from the Weizman Istitute. It was a regular type of performance, but when they asked if they could frisk him he refused. This fact, however, did not prevent him from claiming that he was fairly frisked by the scientists from the institute. Professor Klassen assembled the scientists sometime later and asked the young son of Amos Deshalit to give him, Klassen, his watch, and he caused the watch to advance by sleight of hand.
Geller's Eleven TricksHere are the eleven tricks with which Geller fooled people in Israel and elsewhere.
(1) Reading Numbers Written on a Blackboard
Here Geller has a member of the audience write a two or three-digit number in large script upon the board, so that it can be seen by the audience. Geller has been blidfolded with a black handkerchief. After the audience has seen the number, it is erased and Geller removes his blindfold, then reproduces the number exactly. It is done by means of a code ransmitted by his confederate in the front row. Here is the code:
1. Touch left eye.
2. Touch right eye.
3. Scratch nose.
4. Lick lips.
5. Touch left ear.
6. Touch right ear.
7. Cover wristwatch.
8. Pull the chin.
9. Chin resting on hand.
10. Elbow resting on right leg.
(2) The Blindfold Drive
In this stunt Geller would drive a car around the streets while blindfolded with his handkerchief. (Rest of description omitted in Randi's translation.)
(3)Moving the Hands of a Watch
Geller takes a watch and causes it to advance or turn back an hour or so. There are two methods described. First, simple sleight of hand enables him to wind the "hack" forward or backward as he handles the watch, after which he looks at it, keeping the face away from the owner, and "verifies" the time. After apparently trying several times, Geller suddenly succeeds, as the face-down watch in the owners hand is shown to have changed. In the second method, which only works with certain electronic watches, a small magnet that he bought in a Tel Aviv watchmaker's shop is used from its concealed place in his sleeve. This magnet is sold to be used for this purpose by the owner of the watch.
(4)Bending and Breaking Rings
Geller asks for rings, warning his audience not to bring expensive rings to the stage, since they may break. About twenty young girls rush up, and the rings are placed on a chair, Geller selects one and puts it in the hand of one of the girls. After several tries, he finally seizes the ring from her hand as she opens it, cries, "That's it!" and rushes down into the audience to show the ring. It is broken or bent. It is done by his very strong hands as he goes into the audience.
(5)The Lie Detector
While Uri is blindfolded, a member of the audience stands up and is seen by the crowd. With the blindfold off, Uri then asks many people up on stage, including the chosen one. He shuffles them about, finally selecting the one person from the crowd. It is done by the confederate, who signals Geller when he is near the right person.
Geller learned the trick, which only works about half the time, of breaking small chains as one breaks wrapping string.
(7)Drawing an Object
(According to Randi the description is unclear but might describe "a photographic-memory stunt to reproduce a drawing only glanced at).
(8)Causing a Rise in temperature
Geller calls a young girl up on stage and places a rolled-up pellet of aluminium foil in her hand. He then suggests to her that it is getting very warm, so she cannot hold it any longer. And she opens her hand to release the foil with a scream. It is a well-known magicians trick done with a chemical.
(9)Identification of Objects
In General, Geller used to peak at his crowd before his performance, and note those who took out objects from their pockets; and later would recite the objects to their owners. After he was caught at this, he was embarrassed, and insisted that the curtain be open before his performance, so he could not be accused of peeking through it. He developed a scheme wherby a confederate would hang around the box office, noting objects as people paid for their tickets. These objects, from their pockets and purses, were noted by the spy and the exact seat noted, so that Geller could call out the number and say what objects were carried.
(10)The Bending and Breaking of Metal
Geller used to exploit, whenever he could, the great strength in his hands, so that he would bend the key or spoon before it was examined. When the object was given to him before he could prepare it, he used a special chemical that he could smear on it after he put his fingers into his pocket. After one of his appearances, in a town called Naharia, geller invited his cohorts to supper in a restaurant called Finn John, and when the waiter presented him with the bill Geller said he was known as a "cheapskate" and if he could bend the fork without touching it, would they forego the bill? The waiter agreed, and Geller, who had the chemical already in his hand, bent the fork. But because this was not done in an open place, his friends who were sitting close discovered the funny chemical smell from the fork.
(11)The Prick of a Needle
(Randi comments, "[Here is descibed an unclear trick in which it is claimed that Geller used 'hypnotism' to cause a spectator to be insensitive to the stab of a needle. I have no idea what is referred to, nor can any of my translators solve the description.]" - This seems to be a description of a classic and well-known hypnotic stunt.)
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