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Research in Parapsychology - 1976


J. L. Hickman (Washington Street Research Center, San Francisco)


A HIGH-VOLTAGE PHOTOGRAPHY EXPERIMENT WITH URI GELLER


The Kirlians and others have reported evidence of anomalous high-voltage photographic images which appear to accompany the subjective feeling of "mental energy" entering or leaving a human subject's fingertips. Formation of such luminous images by conscious mental effort occurs rarely and, in general, only with unusual individuals. A possible example of one of these rare instances is described here in an experiment I conducted with Uri Geller. Although he had done a previous pilot study on high-voltage photography, Geller had had no previous contact with the particular apparatus used in this experiment, and appeared to be unfamiliar with its operation or use. The experimenter and the observers could find no evidence of trickery or deception.

 Geller and I met in Geller's hotel room in Palo Alto, Calif., at 9:00 p. m. on December 21, 1973. Also present were observers H. S. Dakin, J. Mayo, W. Westerbeke, and S. Kenny. During the period from 9:00 to 11:30 p.m., nine photographic exposures were made using a timer-controlled, high-voltage supply with an 8 by 10 inch aluminum plate electrode separated from the object being photographed by an 11 by 14 by 1/8 inch glass insulator plate. Only seven of the test photographs are included in this report. The other two were attempted with too short an exposure and no image appeared. For photographs 1, 2, 5, and 6, the observers and I chose an arbitrary geometric figure and one observer drew a picture of it while I requested Geller to try to make that image appear in the high-voltage photograph of his fingertip; for photographs 3, 4, and 7 I requested Geller to attempt a bioenergetic interaction with an external object.

 During each trial the lights were turned off and I placed a sheet of film on the glass plate insulator, emulsion side up. I guided Geller's right index fingertip to the film surface, feeling carefully for any foreign material which might influence the photographic image; for photographs 3, 4, and 7 I also placed an object on the film a few centimeters away from Geller's finger. One or two control exposures were then taken, depending on the size of the film used. I then moved Geller's fingertip to another portion of the film, again feeling for foreign material, and the observers, Geller and I concentrated on the target image. On Geller's command, one of the observers activated the high-voltage supply. The ex­ posed film was then placed in a light-secure box and the lights turned on.

 For photographs 1 and 2, two control exposures were made at the top of the film. Geller was then requested to produce a circle and triangle respectively. Photograph 3 was taken after a watch (supplied by one observer) and Geller's fingertip were placed a few inches apart on the film. This was the control photograph. In photograph 4 the watch and fingertip were placed as before but Geller was concentrating, in his own words, on "shooting energy toward the watch. " The target figures were easily identifiable from the produced images, and there was an obvious difference between the control photographs and the experimental ones. For photograph 5, after a control exposure was recorded in the lower center of the film, Geller was requested to produce an image of a heart. Although the resultant image was not recognizable as a heart, it was sufficiently different from the control photo to encourage further attempts. For photograph 6, after a control exposure, Geller was requested to make a line appear through the middle of the high-voltage photographic image of his fingertip. Again there seemed to be a significant correspondence between the requested image and the resultant photograph.

 For photograph 7, one of the observers suggested that Geller attempt to bend an object without touching it while a high-voltage photograph was being taken. I produced a metal ring which I had brought for this purpose. The ring was placed on a piece of film with Geller's fingertip one-half inch away, and a control exposure was taken. The ring was then moved to the center of the film and Geller's fingertip placed below it, an inch away. Geller concentrated for a few minutes and then signaled for the exposure to be made. When the lights were turned on, the ring was found to have an obvious bend not present earlier. As far as I could determine in the dark, Geller had not touched the ring during the entire procedure. However, the photograph is difficult to interpret since there is an obvious overlap of control and experimental images, and the possibility of incomplete surface contact between the ring and the film could account for the loss of corona discharge from the ring as seen in the experimental image.

 These results appear to show high-voltage photographic effects which cannot be easily explained solely in terms of physical conditions at the fingertip-film interface. Four possible explanations should be taken into consideration during further experimentation: (1) Geller may have used sleight-of-hand techniques to introduce material underneath his finger­tip which would influence the photograph. I took precautions to control for this possibility, and feel that under the circumstances no fraud occurred. (2) It has been suggested that the images could have been produced through conscious manipulation of subcutaneous musculature resulting in arrangement of fingertip surface skin configuration in the form of the requested geometric shape. Although this possibility would not explain the effects which extend beyond the skin surface area, nevertheless if Geller were capable of such extraordinary functioning, that talent alone would be worthy of extensive study.


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