Is Uri Geller, the Israeli psychic wonder who bends forks with his eyes, merely another magician? cleverer and -richer than most, perhaps, but still a trickster?
Some professional magicians claim this. Geller, they say, is just one of themselves — a charlatan. His strange feats, such as mangling metal and stopping cablecars in mid-air and seeing hidden drawings on a "television in my head," are all tricks.
Well, Uri Geller admitted to me in the presence of two witnesses that in his days as a stage mentaiist in Israel he had cheated. But the question is: Does he cheat all the time?
His critics say, of course. Uri says, no.
One of Geller's most obstreperous critics is James Randall Zwinge alias the Amazing Randi, a little, bearded, baldheaded man who says anything Geller can do, he can do. And Randi'cheerfully admits he's a fake.
On a television show I hosted in November 1974, Randi-Dandy had a chance to prove his claim.
I brought into the studio a collection of knives and spoons. Randi took a spoon, had me hold one end, and gently stroked the handle. The handle bent. In fact, it broke in two pieces. I was not impressed.
THERE WERE several ways Randi might have done it. He could have gotten hold of the spoon earlier and pre-bent it (that is, worked the metal back, and forth at a certain spot until it was so weakened that, at the right moment, the merest pressure caused it to separate). The spoon had been out of my sight before the show.
Now what Uri Geller had done was quite different. He bent a two-inch steel nail which I produced from my pocket (and which had never been out of my pocket) while I held it between my thumb and forefinger. Producing such a nail from my pocket, I challenged Randi to cause it to bend while I held.it.
He asked to'take it in his hand for a moment but I refused. Magicians have numerous tiny devices by which they can bend an object in the twinkling of an eye. Randi declined to bend the nail even a teensy-weensy bit while I held on to it.
So I related how Geller also had reproduced a drawing which I sketched in another room and sealed inside an opaque envelope. I invited Randi to duplicate this feat.
With obvious, and rather surprising, nervousness (Randi is a - pro who's been on scores of television shows) he took a sketch pad and quickly drew something which I couldn't see. When he showed me his drawing.
I was impressed, it was a virtual duplicate of mine — a sketch of a ship complete with smoke pour ing from the smokestack.
Surprised? Yes, I was. But I was as much puzzled by Randi's extreme nervousness as by how he had pulled off his stunt. (He was so visibly nervous that he tried to walk off the set with his lapel mike still attached.)
How did Randi perform his wonder? A one-in-a-zillion lucky guess? Or the law of averages? (A boat, I discovered, is one of the five or six most common objects people draw in such tests.)
NO, I DONT think it was luck or averages. Randi goodnaturedly chided me that I just wasn't prepared to deal with a "chiseler" (as he put it) like him. On reflection, I began to wonder about the role of a young Puerto Rican, Moses Figueroa, who is Randi's apparently constant companion.
Where was Moses, the invisible man, before the television show? Did he unnoticed slip into my unlocked dressing room, tamper with the spoon and use a flashlight to peek at my drawing inside the sealed envelope?
And if so, was Randi nervous because he feared that the drawing in my dressing room was merely a plant-, a decoy, and that' I was going to I trick him by producing a different drawing from my pocket?
As Randi left the studio, I said:
- "Well, you scored 50 per cent.
When you can bend the nail like
Geller, come back and we'll do
The offer stands ...
This article contains copyrighted material that has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available for the general purpose of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching and/or research. I believe that use of this material is covered under the terms of "fair use". If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes other than that provided by law, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.