A PRELIMINARY SCRUTINY
OF URI GELLER
by William E. Cox, The Institute for Parapsychology, Foundation
for Research on the Nature of Man, Durham, North Carolina.
William E. Cox is a research associate at the Institute for
Parapsychology, Durham, North Carolina, and a specialist in psychokinesis.
He is also a semi-professional magician, an associate of the
Society of American Magicians, and formerly a member of the International
Brotherhood of Magicians. He is a Fellow of both the American
and British Societies for Psychical Research. Mr. Cox has been
active in the fields of both magic and parapsychology for over
forty years, and is the author of numerous parapsychological research
papers, as well as an advisory booklet for magicians on ESP. He
has organized a committee within the Society of American Magicians
to investigate fake claims of ESP.
The following investigation of Geller took place on April
24, 1974, at Geller's New York City apartment. Cox's paper is
the first of three reports by magicians. It has been suggested
that the design of many parapsychological experiments can be tightened
and enhanced through consultation with magicians, for a magician
brings his own rigorous standards to testing procedures - standards
that can help rule out any form of trickery or deception. Thus
the reports by magicians in this book are of particular interest.
Where several of the scientists whose papers appear here state
that they cannot guarantee that sleight of hand did not occur
under their eyes, all four magicians (William Cox, Artur Zorka
and Abb Dickson, and Leo Leslie) are convinced that Geller did
not use any magic tricks to accomplish the events they witnessed.
In fact, the statements made by the magicians in their respective
papers are among some of the most positive and forceful claims
to the genuineness of Geller's talents. However, not all magicians
are convinced by the affirmative words of their colleagues. In
talking with several conjurers who have not had the opportunity
to work with Geller, it has become clear that each magician wants
to see for himself what Geller can do before he will draw any
conclusions. Theoretically this is commendable. It is, however,
an impracticable procedure. It has been suggested, therefore,
that a committee of magicians be formed to test Geller and that
their collective report be taken as the "final word."
At the time of this writing such a committee has not been convened.
Published for the first time, with the permission of the author.
A shorter version of this paper was published in the Journal
of Parapsychology, VOL 38, Dec. 1974, pp. 408-11.
THROUGH THE GOOD OFFICES of Mrs. Judith Skutch, President of the
Foundation for the Investigation of Parasensory Phenomena, I was
able to spend an hour with Uri Geller in the early evening of
April 24, 1974. This is a report of my findings, in some detail.
A full description often is essential when an effort is made
to arrive at a definitive conclusion (if I may call it that) about
a personal demonstration of one or more of the strong paranormal
claims made by reputed or alleged sensitives.
Although there still is the unfulfilled need for standardized
PK-testing with Geller, I felt that my first objective should
be a further certification of his chief claims, I already had
considered what approach to take. To be too demanding, I reasoned,
or equipped with too many arbitrary rules, would not be any wiser
than to be extremely lax, since quite likely little or no phenomenal
effects would ensue. To give Geller as much freedom as he liked
- for a limited portion of the session - was, I felt, the best
course. This is not to imply that I had come to any judgement
in the matter of his being a genuine psychic or a fraud. It shows
mainly the advantage of having some specific objectives. My technique
was first to let him in on a novel idea or two concerning proposed
test procedures, during a preliminary telephone conversation,
and thereby heighten his interest in undergoing semiformal study
by a PK research specialist.
One idea was the use of a ten-sided die, both openly and under
glass, which he might make roll about in specified directions,
or until specified numbers were uppermost (visibly and then blindly).
Six-sided dice seemed less appropriate, as well as less novel,
nor had Geller been known to have any affinity for throwing dice
in the manner of standardized test procedures.
Another static PK novelty was related to his favorite public
practice of starting defective watches. I would propose that
he start a watch whose internal speed regulator had been adjusted
too far to one extreme to allow any continuous function, with
the novel objective of letting him get it running and then ask
for the back to be opened up to confirm that he had indeed caused
the regulator arm to change its position.
I was admitted to Geller's midtown Manhattan apartment by Mr.
Yasha Katz, his associate, who introduced me to another on his
staff, Mr. Werner Schmidt, and then to Geller. A fairly large
living room was the scene of operations. Geller and I were alone,
on either side of a glass-topped coffee table.
1. After a few preliminary remarks, Geller asked if I had a key.
I handed him one that looked new; simply a flat, blank key, neither
grooved nor toothed. He examined it and asked if I did not have
a personal key he could use. I said I did not (though
I did), and he agreed to try something with the one I had given
him. He directed me in what to do, and within a minute he had
bent the key to an angle of 12 1/4 degrees. I was seated at a
corner of the table; Geller stood on the other side.
Before describing the event in detail, I should describe the
key. It is made of steel, with an overall length of 2 1/4 inches.
It was of a commercial quality and was unyielding to efforts
at bending it by hand. It is extremely unlikely that such a plain
and blank duplicate key of this kind would have been in Geller's
possession. The key was of the safe-deposit box type.
Geller returned the key to me and asked me to place it near the
edge of the coffee table, and to put my finger on its larger end.
My motive in letting him handle the key was deliberately to allow
opportunity for trickery, in the event that Geller had contemplated
attempting such means. Being a magician myself (which I did not
allow Geller to learn), I was impressed with his general attitude
and his lack of interest in details.
The key was flat upon the glass table, touching along its length.
My right forefinger pressed upon one end of the key with only
a normal force, and Geller's right forefinger gently stroked the
rest of the key as he stood bending over the coffee table.
I took advantage of the table's transparency to gain a view of
the underpart of the key with the aid of a mirror I held in my
left hand. Light from a window, at 6:15 P.M. EDT, enabled a relatively
clear view. The top of the key, of course, could be seen directly,
with Geller's finger touching it. After making several strokes,
he said it was bending, then raised his hand and pressed his end
of the key so as to rock it approximately one eighth of an inch.
He slid the key from under my finger and again rocked it, expressing
some pleasure. I resumed control of my end of the key, bringing
the mirror into use at this point. Geller then resumed stroking
the key until it bent to an angle of about 12 1/4 degrees. The
entire event, I would judge, took less than a minute.
The temperature of the part of the key under my finger did not
appear to change. What is more important is that the position
of my end of the key did not change, except when Geller first
rocked the key. The distance between my eyes and the key throughout
the test was no more than one and a half feet. Intentionally,
I had exerted no strong pressure on the key, nor did the normal
downward pressure of my finger vary more than it might have if
Geller had met with complete failure.
Other tests followed the key bending event.
2. From my briefcase I took a plastic ten-sided object, roughly
the size of a three-
inch diameter ball. Its faces were numbered in ink from 1 to
10. I proposed that Geller attempt to make this object roll about,
and stop with a desired number uppermost. He reacted by saying
that he did not like numbers. I replied that he could keep the
die and perhaps try it at some later time. The die remained on
the coffee table.
3. I had brought with me two other keys, of the skeleton key
variety. They were of zinc alloy, and could be bent by hand if
enough pressure was applied. When Geller again asked if I had
another key, I produced one of these from a previously unopened
plastic container within the confines of my briefcase so as not
to give the appearance that the key was a recent purchase, for
Geller expressed a preference for a "used" key. The
key was secured in the same manner as before, except that I held
my finger upon the toothed end. A bend soon began to appear,
but this time it took place an inch closer to the opposite end
instead of right at my finger. The movement was conspicuous,
moderately slow, and continuous, until the key was bent to an
angle of about thirty-six degrees. Why the bend was located at
a relatively isolated spot an inch from my finger is a question
in itself. An ordinary upward force at the end of a projection
would produce a bend at the fulcrum instead of an inch away. (See
My angle of vision was about forty-five degrees (for both key
events), plus the angles gained by the mirror held in the background.
The second key then was laid to one side of the table in order
to leave it in view without its being near the hand of either
of us. (The first key also was on the table.) This was because
Geller and I had discussed his talent for causing silverware,
etc., to continue bending after it had been laid down. We both
had mused about seeing this happen to the first key, as I recall,
and also to the extra skeleton key in my briefcase (which I mentioned
but did not use, and which was later found not to have bent).
A second reason for thus protecting this key was because it was
relatively easy to bend by hand. I also was aware that
such a key was easily obtainable by a trickster, but I preferred
not to make identification marks on them.
[This account, written two days after the experience, was followed
by a metallurgical examination of both keys and of two "control
keys." The examination revealed no abnormalities, since the
deformations due to bending were insignificant in comparison with
the effects the metals had undergone during manufacture. A detailed
report of metallurgical findings is available from the Institute
for Parapsychology, Durham, N.C.]
4. Three CESP [GESP means General Extrasensory Perception, that
is, ESP that could be telepathy or clairvoyance or both.] Effects
made up the next test, which Geller himself suggested. He asked,
in his usual lively manner, if I would draw something on a piece
of paper. "I'll go out of the room while you write,"
he said. Then he added, "No. Will it be all right if I
just turn my head to the wall?" He did the latter, and I
did not ask for any further safeguards. This was an objectionably
weak precaution against his peeking; but I was not there to test
his ESP, which already had been satisfactorily tested at the Stanford
Research Institute. Since I had a continuing interest in detecting
any signs of deception, I intentionally allowed the upper part
of my pencil to be exposed as I wrote on the inside surface of
a small envelope, but Geller's head remained turned completely
away (toward a wall). He asked, while trying to perceive the
diagram, for me to look at him (rather than at the coffee table),
and after a pause he said, "I can't get it. I think you
are thinking of a word. What did you write?" I then showed
him figures representing the Greek letters psi and kappa.
"Let's do it again," he replied, "and please write
a geometric figure this time." The same procedure was repeated.
I drew a circle with two lines inside it, and Geller responded,
after looking at me a moment, by quickly drawing two diagrams,
each containing a circle and lines. His comments were, "I
think you drew either this," as he drew the larger of the
two responses, "or a triangle and a circle like this,"
as he completed the second with equal speed and an air of certitude.
We agreed that the second showed a very good degree of success.
5. A cheap digital counter was used for the next test. I asked
Geller to see if he could guess its three exposed numbers. He
asked that I change them. I punched all three buttons several
times, stopping on the combination 402. His incorrect guess was
6. I next withdrew from my briefcase five colored dice and told
Geller of their usefulness in testing for PK among other subjects.
He was asked to think of numbers and then I tossed the dice against
the wall. But his thoughts had no effect on which sides of the
dice landed face up.
7. I spoke to Geller about his claims for making objects leave
a closed room, or a container, and pass through other matter to
reappear suddenly in another location. Then I showed him two leather
rings, which I had made years earlier for just such an occasion
as this. They were oval, about four inches in the greater diameter,
having been cut from flat sheets of leather of two different thicknesses.
"If these should ever become linked in your hand,"
I said, "it would be a most exceptional accomplishment."
He took an interest in the idea, which was quite novel to him,
and gladly retained them for the purpose. To my knowledge, nothing
since has happened to the rings.
8. The most impressive experiment came next. It involved my
jewel Hamilton pocket watch. Before I list any subsequent actions,
a description of the watch itself, and how it was prepared, is
Advance preparation of the watch: Plate 43 shows how the inside
of the watch appeared when I gave it to Geller. It was intentionally
Placed in his hands without any instructions. The back has two
covers, both hinged to the case. The outer one is very easy to
open. The inner one is very difficult to open without a knife.
A deliberate obstruction - a piece of aluminum foil - projected
into the balance wheel and prevented normal operation of the watch.
The strip of foil was about 3/32 of an inch wide and an inch
long. It had been laid flat upon the balance wheel bridge and
beneath the regulator arm. This regulator was set slightly beyond
the letter F (for Fast), on the left side of its range of movement
when the watch is held with the stem downward. Projecting directly
to the left of this arm, and extending over the balance wheel,
was a 3/16-inch strip of foil. The remaining foil projected down
and to the left, having been folded over upon the mainspring barrel
plate, though not fully touching it, to form a figure 7.
Installation was done by me at a jewelry shop in my hotel (the
Commodore) during the afternoon. To prevent damage to the foil,
a folded paper containing the foil was first inserted beneath
the regulator arm and then removed. The source of the foil was
a candy wrapper, whose thin layer of wax paper was allowed to
remain on one side of the narrow strip. The strip had been cut
approximately one third of an inch wide and then folded along
its length. This was done somewhat off-center, which allowed
the white waxed surface to make up nearly half of the underside.
The short end projected over the balance wheel, but did not touch
it at this time.
At 5:50 P.m., ten minutes before arriving at Geller's apartment,
I had opened the back of the watch and depressed the short projecting
foil strip in between the spokes of the balance wheel. (The regulator
already was at F.) Apparently no amount of shaking would dislodge
the foil obstruction.
I told Geller that I had fixed the watch so that it would not
work, but I did not mention having employed a foreign obstruction.
The watch and chain were placed in Geller's hands, even though
he has claimed to repair watches without having to touch them.
He held it to his ear, shook it gently, and discovered that the
outer back could easily be opened. He made no move to start the
watch by any ordinary twisting of it - nor would it have worked
if he had. The watch was never out of my sight, nor was it even
partly concealed by Geller's fingers.
Geller's only remark was that he did not know if he could make
it work, since he often fails. He already knew that I had pushed
the speed regulator to an
extreme. Within half a minute, he held the watch to his ear for
the second time and exclaimed, "It's ticking, it's ticking"
He handed the watch to me, I confirmed the ticking, and promptly
opened the back of the watch; I encountered some difficulty with
the inner lid.
I discovered the, F-S regulator had moved completely to the S
side of the gauge and beyond (to the right when the watch is held
stem down). The 3/16-inch piece of foil that had been positioned
between the balance wheel spokes had also moved. This was not
all that occurred within the watch, for the remainder of the narrow
foil strip, that is, the 3/4-inch length, which had been folded
by me to form a figure 7, had been severed and was now lodged
with its nearer end half an inch away from the F position, at
an angle of approximately ninety degrees from its original position.
(See Plate 44.) The end looked as if it had been "pulled"
from the remainder. It adhered to the plate surface of the works
when gently lifted part way with my fingernail. A knife was used
to complete the removal, care being taken to detect to what degree
the waxed foil was stuck upon the plate. It was not loose, but
appeared to adhere slightly. This I tentatively attributed to
some sort of gum upon the plate (unlikely), to gum upon the wax-paper
underside of the foil strip (almost as unlikely), or to softened
or melted wax. Tests for the latter were later made upon a similar
foil wrapper and resulted in a similar adherence to a metal
It would appear that Geller personally appreciates a challenge,
if my experience is any criterion. He is aware, to be sure, that
if he is not interested in someone's proposed experiment he will
not be likely to succeed in it. Since success is what he earnestly
desires, at this stage of what I would suppose to be a search
for identity, he apparently can rely on his paranormal proclivities
to achieve it. Further research should help to answer this question,
if it is designed toward that objective. Equally as important,
certainly, is the necessity of measuring the extent to which he
can effect PK through conventional techniques.
As for my opinion on the question of paranormality in the events
I observed, I so far have failed to find any support for hypotheses
of fraud and deception of any variety. Of the three major types
of effects I have seen (GESP with drawings, key bendings, and
starting a watch) the one that was most impressive was the last,
and the next most impressive was that of the keys.
There is no doubt in my mind concerning the events I observed
when Geller was under my close scrutiny. I do not consider the
absence of an assistant or coexperimenter to be sufficient reason
to invalidate the accuracy of my observations of the key phenomena
at this stage, inasmuch as they were limited to uncomplicated
movements at fairly close range, in good light, upon a clear glass
table surface, and with the aid of a mirror. Furthermore, the
chance of Geller's having had his own untoothed safe-deposit box
key is most remote. If there had been such a bent key available
to Geller, his substituting it under the procedural conditions
outlined would have been quite out of the question, as the bending
I saw occurred in two distinct steps. The force that normally
would be required for the first and more difficult of my two keys
is nearly 40 pounds upward at Geller's end, and some 100 pounds
downward at my fulcrum end. This is two or three times the force
that an ordinary Corbin-type key would require. In this problematical
issue, Geller's lack of interest (which would have been unthinkable
to a deceptionist) was obvious.
Concerning the watch, there are particulars that would appear
to support strongly my contention that the effect was no more
dubious than were the key phenomena; it was the result of static
1. In subsequent test efforts, as well as in previous experiments,
the balance wheel spokes could not be caused to disturb a similar
piece of foil, inserted downward as before, if the watch was shaken
in any manner. The spoke-striking force thereby produced was
2. Even so, the implications of this scientific finding (1) are
obviously weaker than those drawn from the positive movement of
the regulator itself from the F to S position, against the confirmed
normal tightness of the arm. The distance was slightly in excess
of the lettered and gauged area, for a total of forty degrees
counterclockwise. Its exceeding the normal limits was the result
of my set-
screws' having been permanently removed.
3.. The impossibility of Geller's opening the inner back cover
has already been described.
4. The transference of the superficial 3/4-inch long extension
of the narrow foil strip to a secured position 1/2 inch farther
away and at an angle of nearly ninety degrees from the original
(which had been on a line from balance wheel to stem) was unmistakable.
If this record is read by others, some discount for what might
appear to be a prejudicial view on my part in the above, or in
this accounting of it, could hardly surprise me, for it clearly
would appear that I am reporting occurrences that are "manifestly
impossible." Confirmation of the effects I have observed
with Geller will, of course, be necessary by other experimenters.
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