Fame has preceded him for weeks, as he moves from the West towards Central Europe: he is Uri Geller, Wonder Boy of Psychokinesis, the Cutlery Magician and Telepathist who is said to be in contact with entities from distant solar systems. Before moving into Switzerland and Austria, Geller finished several spectacular television appearances in Great Britain, where he was quoted as boasting, "I can bring Big Ben to a standstill!" He threw Norway into confusion. During and after an unprecedented three-hour TV appearance in Oslo, the telephone switchboard of the station did not stop ringing for hours. Calls from Stockholm to the Artic Circle reported bent forks and spoons, watches that had started running again. On top of all this, there was a failure in the capital city's street lighting, which threw Oslo into darkness. All told, 2,500 calls were recorded.
My assignment, as a writer for the Vienna daily Kurier, was to report on Uri Geller's progress through Europe. Even before he made his appearances in Zurich and Vienna, I met Geller in the small German town of Offenbach-on-Rhine, where the second channel of the German television network ZDF had set up headquaters, Uri's forum was to be the popular quiz program run by Wim Thoelke, called "Three Times Nine."
The evening before the show, surrounded by newspapermen, Geller is in great form. Right off, he takes my brass house key, a flat Yale type, strokes it lightly with the fingers of his left hand - and the key bends upward by about ten degrees. While the key is handed around, Uri starts a second experiment: "Think of some kind of simple figure, draw it on a piece of paper, and try to send it to me telepathically." One of the reporters, accepts this challenge, concentrates briefly, and twenty seconds later Uri Geller draws a house on a piece of paper. The reporter uncovers his own drawing, and it actually is that of a house of the same type. Applause all around!
But Uri is not satisfied. He asks, "Did anyone here think of a dog? I clearly received the impression of a dog." Uneasy silence. Uri repeats his question. Finally the director of the TV show, Herman Rodel, sits up with a start and says, "Yes, I have constantly been thinking of a dog." he explained that a young woman, a production assistant on the show, owns a very lively, tiny dog that had caused numerous incidents and distractions during the planning and rehearsals for the performance. And while Rodel had not actually thought of the dog itself, he had been brooding about the disturbances right along. (Later in the evening I discover at the hotel that my key had continued to bend while in my trouser pocket. By now it is bent by about forty-five degrees.)
The following day the ZDF transmission features Geller for a total of nineteen minutes, during which he does a telepathy demonstration, an experiment with stopped watches, and metal bending. Everything goes swimmingly. A dozen watches, which a watchmaker had described as beyond repair, are running again; and a fork bends most satisfactorily.
While the german TV show is on, I am already in Zurich, where the Swiss television studio of SRG is filled with hectic activity. They are planning a Geller show to take place three days later, and I have been brought in as a consultant. A group of men and women are lined up before a television set, all equipped with forks, spoons, knives, and nails. Our hope is that while Geller performs 150 miles north of us, some of the power will spill over into Switzerland. We sit patiently, but there seems to be no qualified medium among us.Nothing bends, nothing breaks.
But at night there is cause for excitement. One of the SRG producers, Mr. Bichsel, had concentrated unsuccessfully on the metal pieces in his hand, just like the rest of us. However, when he pulled out his key chain at home, he discovered that all the keys on it had been bent by about fifteen degrees. This had happened, although the keys had remained in his car, outside the studio, all through the Geller TV show!
Three days later we make final preparations for Uri Geller's Swiss TV appearance. Walter Klapper, the shows director, and I spend all day walking through the offices of SRG, talking to everyone about the forthcoming show, aware that the general atmosphere has to be just right. We know from experience with other television productions that it is impossible to force a paranormal phenomenon to take place, but that we can increase the likelihood of such phenomena by creating the right kind of tension. Skeptics are no real problem, because their curiosity can contribute to the general air of expectation; their anticipation of the "impossible" overshadows the negative influences in their attitude of "It just can't happen."
Our preparations prove to be useful. Uri Geller arrives, looks over the paraphernalia we have assembled, but without touching anything. There is a collection of old watches that don't have any parts missing, but that a normal watchmaker's skill could not fix. Then we have huge nails, on the average about eight inches long, ladles, forks, spoons, and knives. In addition, we have set eleven film containers aside, which the prop department is to prepare for the show. Ten of the containers are to remain empty, while the eleventh will contain a key, fastened to its bottom with tape, so it won't rattle around. Uri, of course, will have to guess which container has the key.
While we are setting up cameras, Uri says, "There should be one monitor on which I can see myself, so that I can make sure that I hold the pieces in such a way that the audience can see them at all times. I want to avoid moving out of camera range for even one-tenth of a second. Otherwise, people will say that I'm using tricks."
Walter Klapper hands Geller the key to the gate of his house. Geller holds it up, and while the camera moves toward it, the key bends. "Look, look - I didn't do anything!" Uri himself is perplexed. He had neither concentrated nor wanted the key to bend. Klapper takes the key back, delighted that he has a Geller souvenir at last!
The actual show begins with one of Uri's telepathy experiments. A group of reporters sits in a room on their own, about three hundred feet from the studio. They can follow the transmission on a TV screen, but Geller can't see them. We in the studio are linked to the room only by telephone. Without any third person observing her, one of the women reporters secretly makes a drawing. The paper with her drawing is placed into three carefully sealed envelopes that are pushed inside each other. Now she sits in the room and concentrates, trying to send Geller her drawing telepathically.
It takes Uri a long time, five minutes. He interupts his own concentration several times and says, "But I asked specifically that the drawing should be simple. What I receive is plenty complicated. It may be a tree that is quite simple at the bottom, at the trunk. But on top, among the branches, it gets complicated." And he draws a tree with a few lines. Branches and leaves are clearly visible. The woman reporter is brought from from the seperate room. In front of the camera she opens the three interlocking envelopes. She has actually drawn a tree, exactly as Uri had reproduced it. There is excitement in the studio, approval, and applause.
The next test is clairvoyance. Uri has to find the one among eleven film containers that has the key taped to its bottom. Again the tension mounts. Again it takes him about five minutes to make a decision. He holds his hands about three inches above the containers, trying to catch an impulse. He says, "It is a sort of pressure that emanates from the container in which the piece is hidden." Finally he makes up his mind. It is - how could it be any other way? - the right one.
By now the task of getting some twenty watches to start ticking again is nearly a routine matter. The same goes for bending a ladle, which finally breaks. At last, after more than two hours working in the studio, Uri gets up. The show has been taped and will later be cut to about eighty minutes. Klapper rushes from the control room into the studio. But an outside authority, an experimental physicist, who had observed the transmission as witness and control, is unconvinced. He says, "The study of such conjurer tricks does not fall into our research area." Klapper pulls out the bent key to the gate of his house. Without asking permission, the professor of physics puts the key on the floor, places his heel on it, and straightens it out!
Klapper is furious: "That certainly isn't nice. You've ruined my only Uri Geller souvenir." The producer is furious. Hours later, while we are wating to meet Geller at Zurich's Hotel Kindli, Klapper repeats the story of the ill-mannered physicist to anyone willing to listen. we are a mixed bunch as we surround two tables in the hotel's restaurant, waiting for Uri. Some are just fans of Uri Geller, other are reporters and television people, and some are just curious. Upstairs, in his room, Uri gives an exclusive demonstration for the German news weekly Der Speiegel. We were told later that he bent no less than seven forks that are part of the hotel's heavy silver cutlery.
Klapper tells the story of the pompous physicist for the fifty-ninth time. His tension spills over onto a teaspoon. Like Geller, he runs his fingertips over the spoon's curved handle. Then he puts the spoon away and pulls out his ill-fated key once more. Finally Geller arrives. We had to wait for two hours during which Geller gave his all to the Spiegel people. He is totally exhausted and collapses into an armchair at our table.
Now Klapper tells his story for what seems the sixty-ninth time. Immediately, Uri is fully alert. As if electrified, he grabs the key. "You see," he says, "it is a small, hair-thin crack!" Klapper looks, and all of us study the key. It is true: where the key had been bent, there is a fine, barely noticable tear in the metal. Before all our eyes, Uri puts the key openly on the table. While we continue talking, it remains clearly visible in front of all of us.
From the back, the waiter approaches the table and asks, "May I serve now?" Klapper asks him to go ahead, and the waiter picks up Klapper's coffeecup, saucer, and the spoon which Klapper had absentmindedly stroked a little while earlier, some twenty or so inches above the table, now holds it next to Klapper's left ear - when, suddenly, the teaspoon explodes, with a slight sound, in midair. The two halves of the spoon fall, left and right, onto the table and come to rest on the tablecloth. All of us have witnessed the event, but Geller nevertheless jumps up, yells his famous, "Look, look!" and adds, "This never happened to me before. Look, look. Up in the air!"
While we are still involved in gasping over this spontaneous phenomenon, handing the two pieces of spoon around the table, and while guests from other tables join us, there is still another "ping" sound: the house key of Klapper, plainly before our eyes on the table, has broken into two parts. It appears as if hurled by a ghostly hand, and now the tip of the key lies some ten inches from the main part, although the rough table cover must have acted as a brake. Geller sighs, "This is the strongest day I've ever had." He leans back into the armchair. I ask him, "But you didn't use your energy at all?" "No," he answers, "and that is what is so surprising. I am convinced that I am only acting as a catalyst, someone who releases tensions which have accumulated in all of us during the day." Klapper nods agreement; he knows all about the day's tensions!
Now I put my hand down into my pocket and pull out the one thing I brought especially from Vienna for the Uri treatment. It is a heavy piece of long metal, a newspaper headline which reads: URI GELLER: DAS BIEGEN WIR!, which can be translated as "Uri Geller: We Bend This!" This material is an alloy of lead, bismuth, and antimony. I hand it to Geller. "Do you think you can manage that?" He looks at me with an air of desperation. "Not tonight, anyway. But give it to me tomorrow, when we're in the airplane. Then I'll try."
The following day we are at Zurich airport, ready to depart for Vienna. I pass throught the security control, and while the two metal headlines attract some attention, no one asks me any questions. Shortly before the check-in is finished, uri arrives, together with his manager Werner Schmid, and his friend Shipi Strang. I point to my bag and its contents, but Uri puts me off: "On the plane." Geller tells us where to sit, while we are finding our way into the cabin on the Australian Airlines DC-9. It isn't crowded, so Uri takes the aisle seat of a three-seat row. Shipi has to sit by the window, while the in-between seat remains empty. Uri puts me in the aisle seat of a two-seat row next to him, while my window seat remains empty.
There are only eighteen other passengers on the plane. Uri's manager is placed behind Shipi, and in the back of me are the two Spiegel reporters, who accompany us to Vienna. It is good flying weather, but Uri hardly glances out the window. He is much more interested in the Israeli newspapers he received that morning. I am begining to worry that nothing may come of our experiment, but suddenly he throws the papers aside and says, "Let me have it!"
I hand him the longer and heavier of the two metal headlines. He sighs, "Oh, that's very thick!" But simultaneously he begins to rub the metal with his left hand. Some twenty seconds later he gets excited. "Go ahead," he says, "touch it!" I reach for the metal, and pull quickly back. My hand experienced something like an electric shock, as strong as you can get from a car battery. But unlike the effect of an electric shock, the crawly feeling on the skin remains with me. In fact, it lasts for several hours.
While I am still involved with the effect of the shock on my arm, Uri keeps on rubbing the metal headline. I know what will happen now, and it does. "Look, look!" The headline bends downward, by about ten degrees. Uri says firmly, "Now we should get a girl, a stewardess." I know all about that. When Uri is dealing with a pretty girl, everything works fine, everything bends, and thoughts transfer in a jiffy. The stewardesses are quickly summoned. One of them, Barbara, is told to hold one end of the metal headline while Uri holds the other end. Barbara, too, experiences a sort of electric shock, and the headline keeps right on bending.
The demonstration ends with a bang. The headline breaks, and one end falls to the floor. The stewardesses cry out, the metal piece is examined, Uri stands up. We discuss what has happened. The chief stewardess asks to have her key bent. Uri bends it, all right, but with an added bonus: although he does not touch it, and as if it responded to his glance, the nameplate on the blouse of the stewardess also bends.
Now the whole plane is in an uproar. The girls forget their routine tasks and keep dragging forks, spoons, and keys to our seats. Uri, smiling, goes ahead and bends everything - but everything - that is placed in his lap. Now I wonder: could he bend the second headline? But where is it? We search in desperation. At last it turns up, hidden among newspaper on the empty seat between Uri and Shipi. We pick the metal headline up and shake our heads: without having been touched, the headline is noticeably bent, apparently by itself!
We land in Vienna. Uri holds his first press conference, but he is obviously tired. He seems to have spent himself on the plane. Nothing seems to work. The things that are usually child's play to him have zero results. The reporters keys remain unbent, and only one telepathy experiment is a partial success.
The Austrian television, ORF, arranges a show for Uri, and I once again act as consultant. Unfortunately, my work is in vain. No one seems interested in creating a cordial atmosphere, and there is no response to suggestions for detailed organizational preperations. The shows moderator, Alfred Payrleithner, is candid about his own lack of interest in paranormal phenomena. He obviously fears loss of prestige as a political commentator if his name is linked with the likes of Uri Geller. Failure is the inevitable result: rarely has Uri failed as completely as he does in Vienna.
Before the show starts, Uri pulls me aside and asks, "What do you think? What are they going to do if it doesn't work out? Will they be angry with me?" I feel that Geller knows that things won't work out, but I can't let him down at this point. So I say, "Uri, everything is going to be all right. Just you wait and see!"
We are getting ready for a telepathy experiment. An actress at the leading Viennese playhouse, the Burgtheater, is going to make the drawing which Uri is to replicate. Her name is Lotte Ledl, and she does a trial "transmission" before the actual show. The actress does the drawing in her dressing room, while Uri stands outside, tries to tune in on her, and keeps saying over and over, "I can't get it." Payrleithner, the moderator, seems uneasy, ill, and unsure of himself; as it turns out, he has the flu and a temperature.
The telepathy experiment begins. Lotte Ledl leaves the studio. As we are told later on, she draws a spiral. But Uri at first receives the impression of an arrow, which he crosses out. Finally he draws several concentric circles. The actress reenters the studio and shows the spiral. Professor Hellmuth Hofmann, a parapsychological specialist, describes as "a near success." After the show, Lotte Ledl says that she had originally planned to draw an arrow, but later decided on the spiral.
Several watches are present which reputable watchmakers have carefully put into a state of disrepair. Under Uri's hand they begin to run again. reports from the television audience show later that watches throughout the land began to tick again. The climax of the show is supposed to be the bending of a spoon. But nothing bends. Everyone is terribly disappointed, and Uri makes a rapid escape from the studio. But three minutes later, in the dressing room, Uri's powers have returned. A key bends, a telepathy experiment succeeds brilliantly, whereby a skeptical psychologist sends Uri a paragraph sign ( ¶ ), which Uri has never seen but reproduces accurately. The psychologist is properly impressed, and numerous broken watches begin once again to tick away merrily.
The crowning point of the evening comes, unfortunately, too late. Uri bends a teaspoon in the hand of the skeptical moderator, Alfred Payrleithner. And even after Geller has left the room, the spoon keeps bending under Payrleithner's fingers. Well, then, it was not a failure after all. But success at the wrong time is something no one can easily forgive a showman of Uri's international prestige.
"I had the very strong feeling that the cosmic being does not normally exist in our space-time framework, except when it is necessary for it to interact with humans. Through these principles I have just cited, I believe that a prophet, an Uri Geller, if you wish, is specifically created to serve as an intermediary between a "divine" intelligence and man. The same idea would hold for living beings existing anywhere on any planet in the universe. I now fully believe that life exists anywhere and everywhere in the universe as divine intelligence dictates. I was prepared to believe that life exists in forms and states beyond the imagination of man to conceive."