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Journal of the Society for Psychical Research - Volume 49 number 771 - March 1977 - Page 447



A. Sanlaville, "Paranormal et illusionnisme" (The paranormal and the art of illusionism) Parapsychologie , 1, No. 3, September, 1976, pp. 17-21.

Early in 1976 a new periodical devoted to the parapsychological sciences was issued in France. It is edited by prominent French parapsychologists and well printed on excellent paper that does credit to the illustrations accompanying the various articles.
The essay noted above, written by an expert professional illusionist, who organises the World Conference of Magicians, deals with the present conflict between several prominent illusionists such as the American Randy, and those exponents of PK and ESP who present their paranormal faculties on TV, such as Uri Geller, J.P. Girard and some others who developed their PK gifts while watching the Geller-shows demonstrating paranormal metal-bending faculties. It seems that many world-famous illusionists fear that if people believe in the reality of such paranormal phenomena (PK and ESP), they will lose interest in conjuring tricks however wonderful these would seem to be at first sight.
This conflict dates back to the time of early spiritualists. Even then several illusionists maintained that all mediums were money-grubbing frauds who simply used well known conjuring procedures to convince the public that they could summon up the spirits of the dead. The author points out though that the genius of several generations of magicians, Robert Houdini, himself experimented with famous sensitives and physical mediums, such as Alexis Didier and Daniel Dunglas Home. He regarded the phenomena of both men as completely outside the field of illusionism. In advertising his famous levitation act, Houdini claimed only that this was an imitation of Home's "very impressive phenomena". When asked, Houdini confessed to T.A. Trollope that Home's phenomena were completely beyond his ken.
Since some well-known illusionists repeat that Geller refuses to demonstrate to them, (a sure sign they claim that Geller is afraid they might discover his tricks), Sanlaville summarizes the conclusions of a number of illusionists, professional and amateur who in disguise visited Geller in order to expose him. However they had to confess that they could not find a single manipulation that could suggest the use of trickery. Among those mentioned are William Cox, member of the Society of American Magicians, Zorba and Abb Dickson and Dr. Brumm-Antolioni, president of the Zurich Magic Circle.
The writer then goes on to say that the majority of those illusionists who, though very sceptical in the beginning, attended psi experiments conducted under good control, became convinced of the authenticity of the paranormal explanation.
Finally, Sanlaville mentions the last, and probably best new-comer of the metal-bending fraternity, Jean Pierre Girard, who, he maintains bends metal objects sealed in glass tubes, rods of steel half an inch in diameter held in other person's hands, and so on. Girard is not shy of illusionists and is ready, so he told Sanlaville, to demonstrate his gifts to any magician, and even to the Congress of Illusionism, to be held at Paris in November 1976. Those still sceptical of the existence of psi, remarks Sanlaville, are backing a horse that has already been scratched. There are now so many mini-Gellers all over the world that upholding the conviction that psi is only another name for conjuring is getting a bit absurd.

©The Society for Psychical Research - Reproduced with permission

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