Text as edited by James Randi for inclusion in Gellerism Revealed by Ben Harris
Yasha katz, Uri Geller's former manager, says that he helped the so-called Mind Bender to trick the public. Story by James Randi, a member of The Inner Magic Circle, London, and author of "The Truth About Uri Geller," by Prometheus Books, 700 Amherst Street, Buffalo, N.Y. 14215. Price $9.95 plus $2. handling.
Since Uri Geller first challenged scientists about five years ago, he has been widely branded as a fraud and equally widely hailed as a miracle worker. For the first time since his girlfriend, Hannah Shtrang, revealed his methods to the press in Israel, someone from inside the Geller organization provided a further set of answers in 1978. Yasha Katz, Geller's manager when he first went to England and the USA in 1973, revealed on RAI, the Italian TV network, that he helped Geller cheat.
When Geller was still in Israel, Katz signed an agreement to manage him outside Israel for a percentage. He now says that Geller never paid him either his commision or his other expenses, and that he was deserted by Geller after the "psychic" really got rolling in the USA. Bitter and angry, Katz to me the story in Israel before the RAI cameras.
At first, he said, he believed in Geller. Even after he became aware that Geller at least sometimes used tricks, Geller continued to perform for him as if it were all real. Eventually, however, Geller announced to Katz that he would have to act as a confederate, particularly when shipi Shtrang, the usual (and still!) assistant, was not available to do work. Part of his job would be to sit in the audience and signal to the stage.
Katz was taught a gesture code, which was partly done by the position of his cigarette (pointed up to designate the color "blue," down for "green," etc.) and certain hand signals as well. He served in this way many times at public performances, with Geller presenting it as genuine ESP. (The gesture code has been recorded on videotape being performed by Shipi in New Zealand.)
Katz observed that Geller, assisted by Shipi, took notes of the license numbers of cars driven by members of the audience as they arrived. He was able to reveal these details to the spectators as if he had obtained them by ESP. Once, Katz watched Geller take down the plate number of a special model Porche belonging to a reporter, and he waited to see if Geller would use the information at a press conference then being held. He did.
Geller took Katz entirely into the fold when he was told to station himself at the door of the theatre to note details about seating and possesions of certain people. It was common practice at that time in Israel to have handbags searched at the door by security personnel, and Geller's assistants would see photographs and other personal objects during that process, and then note where each person took up a seat. Thus, Geller could tell a woman that she had some sort of object in her purse, and identify her by seat number, all the information having been relayed to him backstage just before the show started.
In Paris, when Geller was being interviewed by a reporter for L'Express, Katz was instructed to throw a previously-bent spoon into the air over his shoulder as they were walking down the street, so that it landed in front of them, creating the effect of a "teleportation." The reporter was impressed, and wrote it up as a miracle. Frequently, Katz said, he saw Geller throw objects in this way, unnoticed, to create the "teleportation" effect.
At a London hotel, Geller was trying to impress a publisher who was atempting to pry him away from Doubleday, with whom he had signed for the publication of Dr. Puharich's book, "Uri." Geller arranged a subterfuge with Yasha. When Geller got up and left to go to his room "for a nap" thus leaving Katz and the visitor alone. Katz was to call Geller in his room, then only pretend to hang up the phone, actually leaving it on the floor near the bed. Any conversation could then be heard by Geller, on another floor. After Katz had extracted a number of personal details from his visitor, and repeated them close to the active phone, Geller came bursting into the room announcing that he'd had a telepahic impression, and repeated the details he'd heard. The publisher was suitably astonished.
One of Geller's standard tricks, recreating a drawing, was done in several ways. Sometimes, Katz noted that Geller simply pretended to write down a guess of what the subject was thinking, then when the subject made his drawing, Geller would quickly and surreptitiously sketch an approximation, showing it as a previously-made impression. Geller always made a show of great excitement and satisfaction at the results.
At other times, Katz actually had to help when Geller found he could not easily see through an envelope used to conceal the drawing. (His usual practice was to have only one envelope used, first glimpse the drawing through it, then suggest that two or three more envelopes be used to enclose the entire thing. The impression to the audience was that multiple envelopes had been used from the very first.) For at least one TV program - in San Francisco - Geller instructed Katz to peek into the envelope in the producer's office while Geller distracted him at the far side of the studio. Katz did so, and informed Geller just before they went on the air.
Although Katz now claims he was brainwashed, it is curious how simple the tricks were that Geller used to first convince him, and to keep him believing even after Katz should have known the truth. Two Geller stunts were mysteries until I interviwed him in Tel Aviv for RAI-TV.
One trick involved the "teleportation" of a heavy planter made of huge glass bricks and bearing potted plants, that Katz claimed had been "teleported" through the door of the apartment he shared with Geller in New York City. Katz had returned from buying a newspaper, and found the planter in the hall. He said that it would have been impossible for Geller to have carried it here, since it took the two of them to replace it in the apartment. That same planter was now with Yasha in his apartment in Tel Aviv, and against his loud protestations, I simply removed two plants from it, lifted it, - with some difficulty, I admit - and carried it around the room. Katz dropped his claims on the matter at that point.
He went on to describe an event which he had forgotten having told me several years before in New York, and I was astonished to hear how much the story had gained in the interim. It involved a theatre chair arm-rest that he cliamed was "teleported" from the theatre into a puddle in front of him and Geller as they walked along the street. (Evidentally Yasha had forgotten the over-the-shoulder techniques used by Geller!) He said he had picked it up and found it to be bone-dry! He had the wondrous arm-rest with him as he spoke, and right there in front of him, I poured a glass of water over it, showing him that the specially-treated vinyl easily shed every drop. It was just as dry as when he'd handed it to me.
As the Geller myth continues in its final stages of disintegration, Geller has become a Mexican citizen after living there for some time, and is now resident in the USA again in the company of Hannah and Shipi Shtrang. And the Geller believers? No doubt they, too, have moved on - to other miracle workers...
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.