Uri Geller's metal Bending magic has made him famous throughout the world.
But how does he performed such baffling feats? What is the source of his remarkable power?
Colin Wilson investigates
In the summer of 1971, the teenagers of Israel were beginning to talk about a new pop idol- not a singer or a disc jockey, but a stage magician. His name was Uri Geller, and his popularity was undoubtedly influenced by the fact that he was tall, good looking, and only 24 years old. But the act itself was startlingly original. Who had ever heard of a magician repairing broken watches by merely looking at them? Or Bending spoons by gently massaging them with his finger? If all breaking metal rings without even touching them? Yet these were just a few of the tricks in Geller's is dazzling repertoire.
Tales of this magic reached the ears of a well known psychical researcher named Andrija Puharich, who was so intrigued that he flew from New York to Israel to investigate. On 17th of August, 1971, Uri Geller was performing at a discotheque in Jaffa, and it was there that Puharich went to see him.
The first thing that struck him was that Geller was a born showman; he obviously loved performing in front of an audience. Yet Puharich found most of his act disappointing. Geller began with a demonstration of mind reading. He was blindfolded, then members of the audience were asked to write words on the blackboard. It was impossible for Geller to see the board; yet he guessed correctly every time. The enthusiasm of the teenage audience showed that they found it amazing; but Puharich knew that such feats are simple if the magician has a few confederates in the audience.
But the last trick impressed him more. Geller announced that he would break a ring without touching it, and a woman in the audience offered her dress ring. She was told to show it to the audience, then holed it tightly in her hand. Geller placed his own hand above hers and held it there for a few seconds. When she opened her hand, the ring had snapped into.
After the show, Puharich asked if he would submit to a few scientific tests the next day. So far, Geller had consistently refused to be examined by experts. But this time he readily agreed- to his own surprise, as he later admitted. It was a fateful decision: Geller's first step on Uri to world fame.
Geller duly arrived at Puharich's apartment the next day. And his first demonstration convinced Puharich that this was genuine magic. Geller placed a notepad on the table, then asked Puharich to think of three numbers. Puharich chose four, three, and two:
"Now turn that notepad over," said Geller. Puharich did, and found himself looking at the figures, four three and two- written before he had thought of the numbers. Geller had somehow " influenced" him into choosing those three figures.
The point is worth remembering, for it suggests that Geller could hypnotise people by means of "telepathy". Yet whether this helps to explain the weird and incredible events that followed is open to debate.
At further demonstrations, Geller went on to raise the temperature of a thermometer by staring at it, move a compass needle by concentrating on it, and then bend a stream of water from a tap by moving his finger close to it. Puharich's conclusion was that it Uri Geller was no mere conjurer: he was a genuine psychic, with a definite power of " mind over matter"- a faculty known as psychokinesis.
Geller admitted that he had no idea of how he came to possess these curious powers. He had become aware of them when he was little more than a baby. At the age of six, he realized he could read his mother's mind. She came back one day from a party at which she had played cards for money. Geller took one look at her, and was able to tell her precisely how much she had lost.
When he started to go to school, his stepfather gave him a watch. But it always seemed to be going wrong. One day, as Geller stared at it, the hands began to go faster and faster, until they were whirling around. It was then that he began to suspect he might be causing it. Yet he seemed to have no control over this freakish ability. One day, when he was eating soup in a restaurant, the bowl fell off the spoon. Then spoons and forks on nearby tables began to bend. Geller's parents were so worried they even thought of taking him to see a psychiatrist.
By the age of 13, he was beginning to gain some kind of control over his powers. He broke a lock on a bicycle by concentrating on it, and learned to cheat at exams by reading the minds of more diligent pupils- he said he only had to stare at the backs of their heads to see the answers.
Puharich was intensely excited; it looked as if he had made the find of the century. Ever since the formation of the society for psychical research in 1882, scientists have been studying psychics and mediums, trying to prove or disprove their claims. They have never succeeded in doing either. And the reason is mainly that most psychics claim they cannot switch their powers on and off at will. Yet Geller's powers seemed to work to order, whenever he wanted them to. If they would work in laboratory as well as on stage, it would be one of the greatest triumphs in the history of psychical research.
And this point, events took completely unexpected turn. On the morning the 1st of December, 1971 Geller was hypnotised by Puharich in the hope of uncovering clues about the origin of his powers. Puharich asked him where he was; Geller replied that he was in a cave in Cyprus- where his family had lived when he was 13 and that he was " learning about people who come from space." He added that he was not yet allowed to talk about this. Puharich regressed him further, and Geller began to speak in Hebrew- the first language he had learned. At this point he described an episode that, he said, had taken place when he was three years old. He had walked into a garden Tel Aviv, and suddenly become aware of a shining, bowl like object floating in the air above his head. There was a high, ringing sound in the air. As the object came closer, Uri felt himself bathed in light, and fell down in a faint.
As Geller recounted these events, Puharich and his fellow investigators were startled to hear a voice speaking from the air above their heads. Puharich described it as " unearthly and metallic". " it was we who found the Uri in the garden when he was three," said the disembodied voice. " he is our helper, sent to help man. We programmed him in the garden." The reason, it explained, was that mankind was on the point of a world war. Uri, it implied, had been " programmed" to avert the catastrophe.
The voice stopped speaking. When Geller woke up, he seemed to have no memory of what happened; so Puharich played the tape back. As he listened his voice recounting the episode in the garden, Geller looked worried. " I can't remember any of this." And then, as the metallic voice began to speak, Geller's snatched the cassette off the record. As he held in his hand, it vanished. Then Geller rushed from the room. When they found him, sometime later, he seemed to be confused, and there was no sign of the tape.
What had happened? The skeptical explanation is that Geller performed a little ventriloquism, then palmed the tape and made sure it " disappeared", so that subsequent tests would not reveal the resemblance between his own voice and the " space being" on the tape. But Puharich and the others said the voice came from above their heads, and that it sounded mechanical, as if manufactured by a computer. And even if Geller could have tricked a number of trained observers on this first occasion, it would certainly have been quite impossible on some later occasion described by Puharich. For for the bodiless voice was only the first in a series of weird and explicable events- events that finally destroyed all Puharich's hopes of convincing the world that Geller's powers were genuine.
These events are described by Puharich in his book Uri: a journal of the mystery of Uri Geller. And the sound so confused and preposterous that the reader ends by doubting Puharich's common sense, then his sanity. He describes how, the following day, he recorded yet another hypnotic session with Geller, and how the " voice" again interrupted and talk about war. Them Puharich and Geller went for a drive, taking the recorder with them, and the tape suddenly vanished into thin air. From then on, hardly a day went past without the mysterious " entities" performing some mind boggling trick to convince Puharich of their reality. They made the car engine stop, and then start up again. They "teleported" Puharich's briefcase from his house in New York to his apartment Tel Aviv. When Geller and Puharich went to an army base to entertain the troops, they were followed by a red light in the sky that was invisible to their military escort. Geller actually photographed a "spaceship" on the orders of the metallic voice.
Was it a joke? Or some kind of trickery? Puharich, at least, was convinced that no fraud was involved. A few years before, a psychic had given him messages from some mysterious beings who called themselves "Nine", and who said they came from outer space. At one of the hypnotic sessions with Geller, Puharich asked whether the voice was one of the nine, and it answered " Yes". He went on to ask if the nine were behind the UFO sightings that had been taking place since Kenneth Arnold saw the first "flying saucer" in 1947; again the answer was " Yes". The voice told Puharich that the nine were beings from another dimension, and that they lived in a starship called Spectra which was " 53,069 light ages away". They had been watching her for thousands of years, and had landed in South America 3000 years ago. And they would soon prove their existence by landing on planet earth...
It is easy to jeer at all this, and to condemn Puharich's gullibility. The simple explanation seems to be the Geller had been reading Erich Von Daniken's chariots of the gods? And decided to fool the naive Puharich with this preposterous gobbledygook about space beings and starships. Yet if Puharich's description of the various events is accurate, this is totally impossible. No doubt Geller could have palmed the cassettes, imitated the metallic voice, and faked the photograph of a UFO. But it is hard to see how he could have transported Puharich's briefcase from New York, caused the car engine to stop and start, and arranged for them to be followed by a red light that was invisible to the soldiers who were escorting them.
Could Puharich himself be telling lies? This hypothesis must also be ruled out. Puharich's aim was simply to prove the Geller possessed paranormal powers, and all he had to do was to arrange for scientific tests of these powers- as he later did in the United States. Far from making his case more convincing or interesting, all this talk about spectra and the nine only makes it sound absurd. By writing about it, he only destroyed his own credibility.
Does this mean, then, that the nine were genuine, and that they have really chosen Geller to be their emissary on earth? This is equally difficult to accept- and Geller says that he himself does not accept it. Then what does he believe? The answer is: nothing. He declares that the events described by Puharich leave him totally bewildered, and that he has no idea of their explanation.
Geller himself was becoming rather worried by all these strange events by the beginning of 1972. Unlike Puharich, he had no desire to convince the scientific establishment of the reality of his powers; he was more interested in becoming rich and famous. And the bewildering tricks performed by the nine seemed unlikely to bring him closer to that goal. The same thing applied to Puharich, with all his talk about scientific proof and laboratory testing. Geller must have heaved a sigh of relief when, in April 1972, Puharich flew back to New York, promising to return a few weeks. He proceeded to finalise plans to display his psychic talents in Germany, under the guidance of a professional impresario.
A sign from the nine
Another curious event, described in Uri, guaranteed that Geller was able to make this trip to Germany alone. According to Puharich, Geller went into his apartment on the 1st of June, 1972, and found a letter from Puharich on the mat. It stated simply that Puharich was unable to leave the United States for another three months, and would join Geller later. Accordingly, Geller flew on to Rome- en route for Munich- and telephoned Puharich to ask about the delay. Puharich was amazed, and he denied writing any such a letter. At which point, it struck them both the the letter must be yet another sign from the nine. The proof was that it had vanished from Geller's shirt pocket while he was on the aeroplane- obviously dematerialised by the owner of the metallic voice. A simpler explanation might be that Geller had invented the letter. But then, its appearance and disappearance are no more incredible all the other baffling events described by Puharich.
Whatever the explanation, the letter incident convinced Puharich that the nine wanted him to remain behind in the United States, trying to convince various eminent scientists that Geller was worth investigating. Meanwhile, his volatile and unpredictable protégé flew onto Munich, to keep his first appointment with fame and fortune- or at least, with notoriety and publicity.
After a successful tour of Germany it seemed that Uri Geller had at last been accepted as a genuine psychic. But in the USA he was not so well received, and, as Colin Wilson explains, faced serious accusations of fraud
Uri Geller arrived in Munich in June 1972, and immediately displayed that gift for publicity that would make him the most famous- and the richest- " psychic" in the world. The Tour had been arranged by an agent named Yasha Katz, who made sure that Geller was met by crowds of reporters. One of them asked him: " what can you do that would be really astounding?" " suggest something," said Geller. " how about stopping a cable car in mid air?" After a moment's hesitation, Geller said: " sure, why not." And the crowd of goggle eyed reporters trailed behind him to the Hochfelln a funicular line outside Munich.
The car left on its journey to the mountaintop, and Geller concentrated hard. Nothing happened. It came down again, and still nothing happened. Then up And Down Again. By this time, Geller's confidence had drained away, and the reporters were losing interest. Then suddenly, to everyone's astonishment, the cable car stopped in mid air. The mechanic the called control centre and was told that the main switch had suddenly flipped off. Minutes later, the reporters were scrambling to get to the nearest telephones.
Inevitably, they wanted him to do something else. Someone suggested stopping escalator in a department store. This time, Geller's luck seemed to have run out. Up and down, up and down they went. Then, at the 20th attempt, the escalator stopped.
Not surprisingly there were sceptics who felt that the amazing feat could be explained by a large bribe to a friendly electrician. Yet can also impressed the German scientist, Friedbert Karger, with his ring breaking trick. Karger held the ring tightly in his hand; Geller held his own hand above it for a few moments- and when Karger opened his hand, the ring was broken. Karger was so excited that he rang Geller's mentor, Andrija Puharich, in New York, suggesting that Geller should stay on in Germany to be thoroughly investigated by scientists. Puharich Squashed that one. Geller was already booked by some of America's most eminent scientific investigators.
Geller himself was not that enthusiastic either. He was tasting fame, and enjoying the flavor. One impresario even wanted Geller to play in a musical about " unknown powers", and Geller loved the idea. When told about all this over the telephone, Puharich gave a heartfelt sigh, and flew to Germany. And the young celebrity was persuaded to drop his plans to become the world's first singing mystic, and accompany his distraught Svengali back to the United States.
In fact, he was not too difficult to persuade. After weeks of non stop exposure in the German Media, Geller's feats were beginning to lose their impact on the public.
One of the oddest things about the Geller story is that he failed to achieve the same instant fame in the United States that he had found in Germany. There seem to be two explanations. One is that the Americans are hardened publicity, and tend to become skeptical of the site of " miracle workers". The other is that Geller's reputation had proceeded him, and he found himself faced with considerable " sales resistance". Tales about Puharich's new protégé had already reached the world of paranormal research in the United States- a world in which Puharich was regarded as an eminent scientific investigator. According to the rumours, Puharich had been completely " taken in" by this Israeli " pop magician", even to believing that he was an emissary from outer space. There were whispers that Geller was Puharich's " evil genius". So when Geller arrived in New York in the autumn of 1972, he found the atmosphere distinctly chilly.
From the beginning, he was surrounded by eminent scientists- men like Ed Mitchell, the Moon astronaut, Verner Von Braun, inventor of V2 rocket, and the physicist Gerald Feinberg. Geller was suspicious and unhappy; yet his powers seemed to be working excellently. In Von Braun's Office, he performed an interesting variant on his ring breaking, flattening the gold wedding ring Von Braun held tightly in his own hand. Then Von Braun found that his calculator battery was flat, although it had been put in that morning. Geller held the calculator between his hands. And when Von Braun pushed The On switch, the battery was no longer dead, but the display flashed random numbers. Geller had another try, and this time the calculator worked normally. There was no way in which it could have been faked- even a conjurer cannot get at the circuitry of a sealed calculator. Von Braun concluded that Geller could produce some strange electrical currents- the reasonable and probably correct assumption.
Return of the " space spooks"
In spite of the successes, Geller was tense and miserable. Apart from anything else, this space spooks were at it again. In a room in a Washington hotel, ashtray floated off the table, as if moved by invisible hands. Then the tape recorder began to work of its own accord. When Puharich- who was present-played the tape back, the weird metallic voice that they had first heard in 1971 spoke again, explaining that the starship spectra would soon be making a landing on Earth-but only for refueling. The "mass landing" promised in earlier interviews was evidently to come later. They also-to Puharich's surprise and irritation-told him not to start experiments with Geller for the time being, and not to tell anyone about the strange messages. When all this was over, the taken according to Puharich-simply dissolved into thin air. Later messages that arrived through the tape recorder again insisted that Puharich should scrap his plans for scientific tests. Understandably, Puharich was distraught. These beings from outer space-if that is where they came from-were wrecking his plans. Even Geller was unexpectedly skeptical; in one indignant outburst he said that he thought the space beings were clowns playing practical jokes.
All this, culminated in one highly significant event that Puharich dismisses in a single paragraph in his book on Geller, yet that could well provide the key to the mystery.
A psychic storm
When Puharich told Geller that he intended to ignore the "space beings", and go ahead with plans for scientific testing, Geller lost his temper and hurled of sugar bowl at his head. Puharich exploded in violent indignation. At that moment, an immense wind blew up outside, shaking the trees, and a grandfather clock shot across the 12 out of shattered into a thousand pieces pieces. Overawed but still determined, Geller begged Puharich to together scientists. Puharich dug in his heels, and eventually won his point.
These incredible events-assuming that Puharich is reporting them accurately-may seem to confirm that some " superhuman" powers were involved. Yet every paranormal researcher is aware that poltergeists can often produce the equally amazing effects. And there is general agreement that poltergeists are closely connected with the unconscious minds of some human being or beings.
If the "space beings" really existed, why should they suddenly order Puharich to drop the scientific investigations that they had earlier approved? On the other hand, if the strange manifestations originated in an Uri Geller's unconscious mind, it would be perfectly understandable. He wanted to be famous and (if possible) rich, and the idea of being tested by sceptical scientists worried him. Significantly, the one project to which the "space beings" gave the go ahead was a film about the life of Geller.
Puharich told how, the morning after the "storm", his friendly black Labrador dog suddenly bit Geller on the wrist. The day before the same dog had suddenly vanished from the kitchen before their eyes, and a few moments later, was seen walking towards the house from 70 yards (65 metres) away-mysteriously "teleported" by the space men, according to Puharich, to demonstrate their power. But the perhaps the dog knew better. Perhaps it knew intuitively that the real culprit was Geller himself-or rather a stranger living in Geller's unconscious mind.
A few days later, the scientific tests began. They were held at the Stanford Research Institute in California, and conducted by Dr. Harold Puthoff and Russel Targ. And as soon as the tests began, Geller knew he had nothing to worry about. Most psychics find it hard to perform under laboratory conditions; Geller had no such problems. As soon as he began to concentrate on trying to bend a Brass ring out of shape, the television monitor through which he was being watched began to distort, and its distortions occurred every time Geller's face distorted with concentration. Obviously, he was producing some kind of mysterious electrical effect. At the same moment, a computer on the floor below began to go wrong.
Next, Geller was tested for extra sensory perception. Here his success was spectacular. a die was placed in a closed box and shaken; then Geller was asked to guess which side was uppermost. His guesses were right every time. 10 empty cans were placed upside Down on a table, with a small object hidden under one of them; then Geller was brought into the room and asked to guess which can concealed the object. Again, his scores were incredible- 12 out of 14 correct guesses. He was then asked to try to duplicate drawings sealed inside double envelopes; again and again, his response was breathtakingly accurate. Yet when " Parker drawings" was selected at random from a huge pile made by many people in the building-so that the experimenters themselves had no idea of what was in the sealed envelope-Geller's scores fell dramatically. This suggests a his success in the drawing experiments depends heavily upon telepathy or " mind reading". Yet this failed to explain the experiments with the dice, which prove genuine ESP about telepathy.
Challenged by the sceptics
Just as it seemed that Geller had passed his most difficult tests, and proved the genuineness of his powers, his American visit began to go badly wrong. He was asked to present himself at the offices of Time magazine; but the "photographer" who made the appointment was, in fact, a professional "magician" named Charles Reynolds. Puharich guessed that the magician's of America were plotting to lynch Geller-and he was right. James Randi-one of the most celebrated illusionists since Houdini-was convinced that Geller was a fake, and was determined to expose him. Puharich was inclined to refuse to allow Geller to be tried by this kangaroo court of stage magicians; but Geller realized that his refusal would only be interpreted as guilt. So on were 6 February, 1973, he and Puharich presented themselves at the Time offices.
Geller was understandably nervous, faced with the office hostility of two "magicians" and two Time editors. But he succeeded in demonstrating his telepathic powers by duplicating a drawing in a sealed envelope. After this, he bent a fork by stroking it lightly with his finger; the fork went on bending after he put it down. Charles Reynolds offered Geller his own apartment key-to make sure there could be no "switching"-and Geller bent it by concentrating; again, the key continued to bend after it had left his hand. On the whole, Geller performed very creditably, and might have been justified in expecting a favourable report. In in fact, the article that appeared in Time a few weeks later was damning. The two magicians claimed that they could easily duplicate everyone of Geller's "tricks", and that Randi actually did so after Geller had left the office. It ended by stating-quite untruthfully-but Geller had been forced to leave Israel in disgrace after a computer expert and some psychologists had duplicated his feats and accused him of fraud.
Randi and Charles Reynolds even asserted later that they themselves had caught Geller cheating-or at least, had Seen him bending the fork by pressing it against the desk. Oddly enough, this extremely important accusation is not mentioned in the Time article-which seem strange in view of its determination to prove Geller a fake.
As far as the great American public was concerned, the Geller myth had now been exploded; he had been "proved" to be a mere trickster. And since Time had such an immense worldwide circulation, there was little that Geller or Puharich could do about it. By the end of March 1973, it looked as if the amazing career a Uri Geller had come to an end-a mere 18 months or so after it had begun. Yet as Puharich sat down at his desk, and wrote the opening lines of his book Uri: a journal of the mystery of Uri Geller, he experienced a quiet conviction that there was more to come.
What Geller experienced was more than quiet conviction; it was an outraged determination to make the sceptics eat their words.
Scientific investigation largely redeemed Uri Geller from accusations of fraud, the controversy still raged. Drawing on his own experiences of the Israeli psychic, Colin Wilson assesses "that Geller Phenomenom"
Fame arrived Uri Geller on the evening of the 23rd of November, 1973 when he appeared on BBC TV's David Dimbleby talk in. Overnight, that television programme turned Geller into the most controversial man in the British isles.
By his own standards, the feats Geller performed that evening were not spectacular. With his eyes closed, he duplicated a drawing that had been made just before the programme and sealed an envelope. Then he bent a fork-which Dimbleby held in his own hand-by gently stroking it. He started two broken watches by rubbing them, and caused the hands of one of them to bend upwards inside the glass. a fork on the table began to bend of its own accord. At the end of the programme, the producer came on to announce that they had received dozens of telephone calls from viewers saying that that their forks and spoons had begun to bend.
The next morning, there was probably not a single office or factory in England where Geller was not the main topic of conversation. Possibly the British are more gullible than the Americans. Or possibly, as JB Priestley once suggested, they are simply less accustomed to high pressure advertising, and therefore less cynical. Not the there was any absence of cynicism after the programme. One journalist stated authoritatively that Geller had invented a powder that could cause mental to crumble instantaneously-then had to admit this was pure speculation.
The science editor of the Sunday Times, Brian Silcock, was also a sceptic, until he rode with Geller in a taxi to the Airport, and offered his own front door key for experiment. The moment Geller began to stroke it with one finger, the key bend like melting wax.
Metal Bending Nationwide
The excitement in England was reported all round the world. After two false starts-in Germany and the United States-Geller had achieved what he always wanted: the instantaneous fame of a pop star. Even the Americans, who had declined to take him seriously, suddenly had second thoughts: when Geller went back there later, they made up for their former indifference and treated him like a returning hero. Meanwhile, in England, a Sunday newspaper-the people-organized an experiment at short notice. They announced that at noon on the Sunday following the broadcast, Geller would concentrate his powers, and trying to make spoons and forks bend all over England. They asked readers to report any such phenomena. The following Sunday, they described the flood of mail and telephone calls to began soon after the appointed time; 300 spoons and forks had curled up, and over 1000 broken clocks and watches had started up again.
The British seem to have broken the " skepticism barrier". Only two days after his triumph on the Dimbleby programme, Geller was demonstrating his powers in Paris; then he moved on to Scandinavia, Spain, Italy and Japan. luck - or perhaps his guardians from from outer space-continued favour him with amazing coincidences. In Oslo, he told a reporter jokingly that his psychic powers could fuse lights-and all the street lights in Oslo fused. And ship in the Mediterranean, Geller said he would try stopping the ship-and a few minutes later, it slowed down and stopped.(a crimped fuel line was found to be the cause.)
Back in the United States, he received the kind of attention and adulation he had hoped for the first time-and also discovered that old enemies like Charles Reynolds and James Randi had lost none of their hostility. Time magazine once again denounced him, and took the opportunity to pour scorn on the whole psychic scene, from Kirlian photography and psychic surgery to the "secret life of plants". Reynolds and Randi this belated opportunity to assert that they had seen Geller beckoning a fork manually against the desk in the previous Time interview, although they failed to explain why they had withheld this important piece of information for so long. On the other hand, the publication of the report from the Stanford Research Institute-in the influential magazine nature -convinced many scientists that Geller's powers were basically genuine. Air and the affirmative reports of various British scientists- like John Taylor and Ted Bastin- supported this view.(John Taylor, however, has since concluded that there is nothing paranormal about Geller's powers.) So instead of being merely the helpless victim of a campaign of defamation, Geller was now a figure of controversy.
Now that all the controversy has died down, and Uri Geller is merely another one of those names of the 1970s, a nine days' wonder that no longer causes wonderment, we can look back on his remarkable career, and see that Puharich was right from beginning. What Geller really needed was to be studied by scientists, not exposed in front of television cameras. A film star or a pop singer has a firm foundation for celebrity; people all over the world is still listening to records of Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley, or watching old movies of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe. But once you had seen Geller bend a spoon on television, there was nothing more to look forward to- except watching him bend a fork on some other programme. Geller himself was painfully aware of this: he wrote an autobiography; he wrote a novel; he made persistent attempts to star in a film about his own life. And he submitted to hundreds of scientific tests.
The essence of all this investigation is published in a remarkable volume called < I> the Geller papers.<\I> in makes impressive reading, and demonstrates beyond all doubt that Geller possesses some kind of paranormal powers. Yet because he achieved his main celebrity as a "magician" on television, Geller has suffered the fate of so many overnight celebrities, and become a merely half remembered name.
A personal view
My own acquaintance with Geller began when he was at the height of his fame, in 1974. My agent rang me one day and asked me if I would be interested in writing a biography of Uri Geller. I said no. I had just read Puharich's book, which had been one of the major publishing disasters of the year. All his incredible stories about disembodied voices speaking out of tape recorders, and dogs being "teleported" down the garden, sounded too absurd to be taken seriously. A "straight" book about Geller's psychic abilities would probably have been a bestseller; but the miracle working inhabitants of the starship spectra turn the whole thing into farce.
Geller, it seemed, had persuaded the famous impresario Robert Stigwood- producer of hair and Jesus Christ superstar(and later of Saturday night fever)- to back the idea of a film about his life. First of all, someone had to write the life. When I declined, they suggested that I might like to work on a film script. And as for the pay- for an underpaid student of the paranormal- was generous, I decided it might be worth looking into.
I met Geller had Robert Stigwood's offices in London. He seemed a charming and unassuming young man, whose enthusiasm seems to keep his whole personality on rather a high note. As I walked into the office he asked me: " are you anything to do with Spain?" I looked blank. " just as you walked in that door, a coin jumped out of the tray on this desk- the Spanish peseta- it made me wonder if you had anything to do with Spain." Stigwood's personal Secretary, Rae Knight, verified that this had actually happened, and I later learned to regard her with total trust. They had both been on the opposite side of the room when the coin leapt across it.
At lunch in a nearby restaurant, Geller talked non stop, made my watch go back several hours by simply holding his hand above it (he changed the date bent a spoon, and broke a Key I'd brought along by simply running it. But he insisted on taking the key to the other side of the room, where there was a radiator- he said he could gain power from metal stop on the whole, I was not too impressed. I knew enough about conjuring to know that the spoon bending and watch changing could have been sleight of hand, and the fact that he had to cross the restaurant to bend a key struck me as suspicious. Yet he performed one feats of me in no doubt of his genuineness.
What happened was this: Geller's turned his back on me, so he looked out over the restaurant (I was in a corner), and asked me to do a drawing on the back of the menu card. I did a sketch of a funny monster I draw for my children. I kept glancing at Geller to make sure he wasn't peeping, or holding a mirror in his hand. Then he made me turn the menu over and cover it with my hand. He turned round again and asked me to redraw the thing in my mind, and try to convey it to him. After a couple of false starts, he suddenly drew a duplicate of the "monster" on the menu. There was no way in which he could have "guessed" it, or Rae Knight might have conveyed it to him- even if she had been an accomplice.
An odd coincidence
A few months later, when asked to write a short book about Geller, I travelled to Barcelona to see him- it struck me only later that his first question to me had been: " Are you anything to do with Spain?"- an odd coincidence. Again objects fell from the air, and Geller demonstrated metal Bending and mind reading. In the office of my Spanish publisher he silenced the sceptical audience by holding up a spoon by its end, and bending it by simply "tickling" the thin part with his index finger- no kind of pressure would have been possible. He placed his foot against a radiator as he did this.
My own study of Geller has convinced me that his powers are genuine. His mind reading was particularly convincing. James Randi- who likes to call himself the "Amazing Randi" declaring that he could easily duplicate any of Geller's "tricks"; but when I met him, he was unable to duplicate the mind reading trick- although he offered to do it for me next day (obviously when he'd had time to prepare it). But Randi did bend spoons by stroking them and made my watch go back several hours by rubbing it. The film on Geller never came off, although I made several " outline" sketches. I continued to see and correspond with Geller, on and off, for a year or so, but lost touch with him when he moved to New York. In one of his later letters to me he mentioned that he had produced a tremendous impression Mexico, and was a frequent guest at the home of the president. He also mentioned that he had taken up "dowsing" for metals from an aeroplane, and made a considerable success of it, working for a mining company. From the financial point of view, I gather he has no reason to complain of the way the world has treated him. And if his spoon bending has ceased to attract much attention, this is hardly surprising. From Geller's Point of view, I feel it is a pity it ever did.
And what do I feel about the source of his powers? After great deal of thought, and still inclined to believe that Geller is an unconscious "medium", and that he simply produces more or less controlled " poltergeist effects". (That other remarkable psychic, Matthew Manning, whom I have also investigated, began his career as the unconscious "focus" of a series of alarming poltergeist occurrences in his own home.) Geller told me how, at the age of three, he received a bad electric shock from his mother's sewing machine; this, I'm inclined to believe, may have started the whole thing. It is surprising how often "mediums" have had severe traumas or emotional strains in childhood.
And what about the from the starship Spectra? Here again, I believe that Geller's unconscious mind is the basic explanation. But I suspect there was more than that involved. In one of their mysterious "interviews", the "space men" told Puharich that he himself had psychic powers. I believe this to be almost certainly true. And the astounding series of events that began when Puharich and Geller got together in Tel Aviv where a kind of wild collaboration between two " unconscious mediums". Unlikely? I can only say that the more I have studied the evidence, the more I feel this is the case.
There is one more point. Spiritualists believe that there are such things as disembodied spirits, hanging around on the "earth plane", and often getting into mischief. Such spirits may cause poltergeist effects. And the more I read the weird but inconsequential communications of the "space beings" from spectra, the more I am reminded of the confused and usually irrelevant material that emerges at so many seances.
These may not, I agree, be the correct explanations. But of one thing I'm certain. There is something about. Geller the demands a deeper and more far reaching explanation than mere trickery.