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Uri Geller - Magician or Mystic?


by

Jonathan Margolis


Orion Books, 1999 - ISBN 0752810065


Quotes & Notes



  • Inside cover

    “His mind-reading was validated by the prestigious science journal, Nature.”

    Remarks

    Probably the publishers choice of words not Margolis’s. However, one of Uri’s favourite expressions is “I was validated by Nature magazine.” Having a paper published implies no such thing, especially given the comments in the editorial.

  • Page 1

    "And an "exposure" in popular photography, which managed with trick photography to replicate an ability Geller claimed".

    Remarks

    Popular Photography magazine did not use any form of trick photography, they took a picture while holding the lens cap an inch or so in front of the camera lens. This is exactly what Uri appeared to have done when he took an allegedly psychic photograph of himself during an interview with the magazine a few weeks before their "exposure". The casual reader might assume that the photography magazine employed special knowledge or techniques when this wasn’t the case.

  • Pages 11 & 15

    It is suggested that Uri’s first encounter with his powers was when a spoon melted in his hand aged 3-4. This differs from Uri and Puharich’s account from the early seventies that suggested Uri first discovered his abilities when he found himself able to tell his mother how well she had done at cards. This was followed by errant wrist watches and lastly, Puharich suggests, metal bending. Uri’s own earliest accounts also seem to omit this early incident with the soup spoon. For example, in an interview with "Psychic" magazine in June 1973 Uri said:

    "Actually the first observable thing that ever happened to me wasn't cracking or bending an object, it was moving the hands of a wristwatch. This happened by coincidence in school, when I was about seven years old."

  • Page 155

    "Uri touched it gently in Karger's palm and concentrated on it. The ring rapidly bent out of shape and cracked in two places. His colleague from the Institute, Manfred Lipa, also examined the ring for tool marks and found none."

    Remarks

    Manfred Lipa said almost the opposite regarding tool marks:

    "If Dr. Karger had not told me anything, I would state: The ring has been mechanically altered by a tool, with a pair of pliers, for example, or with a small chisel or a hammer. Then near the crack site, one can ascertain clear signs of reworking."

    Uri Geller - My Story - p.229

  • Page 165

    "Further crystallographic examination of the wires showed that the crystals which contained the metals memory had increased in size - which would have required Uri to have raised the temperature of the metal to 900 degrees C."

    Remarks

    Here Margolis is referring to the three wires used in the second test. Byrd’s original paper said of these:

    “All three pieces of wire were brought back to the laboratory. X-ray crystallographic analyses of the kinks revealed no discernible structural deformations in the molecular lattice of the wires. A scanning electron microscope photograph of one kinked section failed to reveal any clues as to the mechanism of the bending phenomenon.”

    Of the single piece of wire used in the first test Byrd’s paper stated:"The crystallographic analysis of the shaft of the wire that Geller had deformed showed nothing unusual in terms of crystalline size and uniformity. However, the crystal sizes in the kinked section appeared to have changed, but not significantly. The direction of change was one of enlargement, rather than one of shrinkage or of increase in density." (Emphasis added)

    Referring to the wires which Byrd gave to Uri to work on “at home” the paper says:"The only known technique to bring about this result is to twist the wire into an ellipse, constrain it so that it cannot move, and then heat it to 500 degrees C (or 932 degrees F).”

    None of Martin Gardner’s or Bob Couttie’s findings regarding Nitinol are mentioned, nor the fact that the original piece of wire supposedly permanently deformed apparently returned to its normal shape after re-annealing by Ronald Hawke ("The Psychology of the Psychic" p. 144).

    "Byrd wrote a paper on the trials, which was reviewed by his bosses and cleared for publication - the first time Para psychological research at a government facility had ever been so accepted."

    Remarks

    From Marks and Kammann 1980:

    "Byrd claims that several metallurgists at the Naval Surface Weapons Center where he worked could not remove the kink after putting it under tension in a vacuum chamber and heating it until it glowed. In an official four-page “Memorandum for the Record” (dated 19 July 1976), the Public Affairs Officer of the Center, Mr. J.P. Smaldone, flatly denied that such tests had been carried out by the laboratory’s metallurgists. Moreover, Byrd didn’t conduct the tests in the Naval Surface Weapons Center as stated by Panati; he conducted them at the “Isis Center for Research and Study of the Esoteric Arts and Sciences” (now defunct), which had no connection with the Naval Laboratory."

  • Page 169

    "In another test, though, in which he was asked to "guess" the face of a die shaken in a double-sealed steel box, so that the investigator could not possibly know the position of the die either, he answered correctly eight times out of ten. What was especially interesting was that on the two occasions when he did not give the answer, he had not attempted one, saying that his perception was not clear."

    The following is from the commentary of the SRI film:

    "Here is another double blind experiment in which a die is placed in a metal file box (both box and die being provided by SRI). The box is shaken up with neither the experimenter nor Geller knowing where the die is or which face is up. This is a live experiment that you see -- in this case, Geller guessed that a four was showing but first he passed because he was not confident. You will note he was correct and he was quite pleased to have guessed correctly, but this particular test does not enter into our statistics".

    There was no "double sealed steel box", it was a small box used for storing index cards and was not sealed in any way. As the text makes clear Uri did attempt an answer on at least one of the two occasions on which he first chose to pass. Randi also mentions that the box lacked so much as a catch on the lid.

  • Page 170

    "He is then shown playing what the experimenters call ten can Russian roulette, in which he successfully finds a steel ball in one of ten cans without touching them. He graduates from doing this by holding his hands over the cans, to detecting which contains the ball as he walks into the room and sees the cans lined up on a blackboard sill. He also succeeds at the same test when one of the cans contains room temperature water. When faced with a line up of cans, one of which contains a sugar cube, or a paper wrapped ball bearing, he says he cannot be sure. We are told in the film that whereas "officially" SRI could only report him as having achieved a one in a million chance, in reality, and taking all the tests into account, he had defeated odds a trillion (ten to the twelfth power) to one against correctly guessing the cans' contents."

    Remarks

    Firstly, Margolis makes it sound as though all these trials were shown on the SRI film when only two were, (The” cans on the blackboard sill” was almost certainly not part of this run of 14 trials which is why T & P phrased it “In later repetitions of this same experiment” - meaning a later experiment, one in which we have no idea how well Uri did. In addition, what the film actually says is, "He got to the point where he could walk into a room, see the cans lined up on a blackboard sill, and just pick up the one that contained the target" , rather than detecting which one contained the target while at a distance as implied. secondly, the film makes no mention of only "officially" being able to report odds of a million to one for the can test. What it says is as follows:

    "The whole array of this run had an a priori probability of 1 part in 10 to the power 12 or statistics of a trillion to one."

    There is no mention of two sets of odds for this or any other test anywhere in the paper.

  • Page 171

    "A massive wrangle, still being fought on the internet, concerns a tiny hole in the wall of the sealed cage that had been built to shield Uri from electronic or any other outside signals, which might help his psychic senses. The hole, a couple of inches from the floor, was there for wiring to pass through,"

    Remarks

    The room was not built in order to test Geller but was already in use at SRI, and only the Faraday cage used for the last 3 trials screened out electromagnetic signals.

    From the Nature paper:

    To prevent sensory cueing of the target information, Experiments 1 through 10 were carried out using a shielded room in SRI's facility for EEG research.

    From "The Record - eight days with Uri Geller" :

    "This room is the double-walled shielded room used for EEC research in the Life Sciences Division of SRI."

    Randi 1982 also makes it clear that this room was not built for the tests with Uri.

    Nor was the hole only a couple of inches from the floor but closer to the 34 inches claimed by Randi as can be seen in this photograph.

  • Page 172

    "The sceptics also argued that the SRI film cameraman, an ex-Life magazine war photographer, Zev Pressman, had not really taken any of the forty hours of footage edited down into the film, and that he had been forced to say he had shot it;"

    Remarks

    Sceptics did not claim that Pressman had not shot the film; what was claimed by James Randi (Flim Flam  p.144) was that:

    "Targ and Puthoff prepared that highly deceptive film for SRI, advertising their efforts. It was criticised by others on the staff, and the two issued a masterpiece of evasion and license in reply. They appended to it - without his knowledge or permission - the name of Zev Pressman, the SRI photographer who had shot the film. Some of the objections that were raised were based on Pressman's revelations about his involvement in it." [Emphasis added].

  • Page 173

    "Pressman says he saw spoons bends 'dozens of times', and both witnessed and videotaped an SRI stopwatch apparently materialising in mid air from Hal Puthoff's briefcase, before dematerialising, then materialising again, and dropping down gently onto a table. Unlike the 40 hours of raw film, which Pressman to this day has no idea of the whereabouts of (it is thought by Targ and Puthoff to be under lock and key somewhere in a US government vault) copies of the videotape still exist. But they are, of course, said to be fakes which Pressman was made to say were genuine, and even SRI was clearly too unsure about the segment being a Geller-inspired hoax to include it in their film."

    Remarks

    According to author D. Scott Rogo SRI had good reason to omit this event from the film as Targ & Puthoff apparently felt that Uri might simply have cheated: Commenting on a third-hand report of this event Rogo wrote:

    that Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff captured an apport (a wrist watch) on film at S.R.I. International. According to whom? Certainly not these researchers, who have personally assured me that the trajectory of the object is totally consistent with Geller's having merely tossed it in the air! (Journal of the Society for Psychical Research - Volume 53   - 1986)

  • Page 181

    Quoting Hal Puthoff:

    “Well, the thing wrong with that was that Shipi was in the sealed room with him on our insistence, because we were more worried about it than Randi was.”

    Remarks

    Here, Puthoff is allowed to imply that Uri was in the room with Uri during all the trials. Marks and Kamman, having interviewed Hal Puthoff said in their book:

    “The pre-eminent candidate is Shipi Shtrang, who was so much involved that on two trials, according to Puthoff, he was actually in the test room with Geller. He was also left sitting at a desk in a not very “remote room” on the other trials.”

  • Page 201

    Quoting Marcello Truzzi:

    “Second, and this has been ignored by Randi, Ricardo Montalban apparently felt the metal was bending, though not in camera view.”

    Remarks

    Randi did not ignore this episode. On page 172 of “The Truth about Uri Geller” Randi says:

    "when an actor on the show was directed by Geller to pick up a spoon and caress it, there was a very slight difference between that spoon and the other two the staff had supplied to be used.It almost seemed like a partial “win” for Geller. But luckily I had videotaped the show, and in replaying the tape I was delighted to see the evidence staring at me: There were three silver spoons placed in a row on the table. The center one, in a close up “pan” of the camera over the props, showed a slight difference before Geller even started talking with Carson. And it was the center spoon that Geller told the actor to pick up. Need I say more?"

  • Page 203

    "The Haolam Hazeh article was purported to reveal "the eleven basic tricks with which Geller fooled people in Israel and elsewhere". His watch effects are said to be caused by a magnet bought from an (unnamed) Tel Aviv jeweller, and concealed in his sleeve - even though he rarely wore long sleeves, and magnets can hardly start broken watches."

    Remarks

    Firstly, the article does not say that Uri uses magnets to start watches as Margolis states, but to change the time on the watch. Secondly, Margolis omits any mention of the sleight of hand method described in the same article. A translation of the Haolam Hazeh article appears in Randi 1982. Uri's basic trick number 3 is described as follows:

    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. The magnet is sold to be used for this purpose by the owner of the watch."

  • Page 205

    "Randi is also inconsistent with both opinion and fact; perhaps the most reprehensible example of his deception exists in his reprinting of the Haolam Hazeh "eleven basic Geller tricks": in neither the original nor the corrected later edition of "The magic of Uri Geller" does Randi intervene to reassert his own point that there is no spoon bending chemical. The journalistic fiction is simply left for gullible sceptics to believe it has the endorsement of the master behind it- and believe they do".

    Remarks

    Randi does however refute this idea on both p.161 & p.183 of "The Truth about Uri Geller" published in 1982. some readers are likely to think that the phrase “corrected later edition” refers to Randi’s 1982 revised version. However, in principle Margolis is right to suggest that Randi had a duty to refute the chemical idea in his book if he didn’t subscribe to it.

  • Page 209

    Referring to Uri's appearance on the Dimbleby show; "..and seemed to cause the hands on Watson's watch to bend under the glass while he was still wearing it."

    Remarks

    Lyall Watson found that his watch had stopped during the broadcast. The watch with the bent hand had not been examined prior to the bent hand being noticed.

  • Page 211

    Referring to John Hasted;

    “In the 1970s, after exhaustive laboratory tests centring on his use of mechanical strain gauges to measure the bending in metal, he proclaimed Uri Geller genuine.”

    Remarks

    None of Hasted’s work with Geller involved the use of strain gauges, these only being employed in Hasted’s work with children.

  • Page 253

    "Uri is amused by the idea of Hutchinson believing he caught him red-handed, when nobody else has, in decades."

    Remarks

    At the time of Margolis's writing a number of people had reported that they had seen Uri cheating when bending metal; Sandy MacRae, Bob Couttie, in print and on his radio show, Billy McComb, James Randi, C. Eugene Emery jr., Jack Delvin, Charles Reynolds, John Wilhelm and others. In addition, many people feel that the video of Uri on "Noel Edmonds House Party" clearly shows Uri bending the spoon by force.  (Click here for a review and to watch the clip)


    Please send any comments tosteveknightspost@hotmail.com

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