EVERYBODY HAS HIS OWN GELLER!
A Summation by Martin Ebon
Now that you have read the varying reports and opinions on Uri Geller, you are well-justified to ask, “Well, what does it all add up to? Is this Geller a unique sensitive or a fake, a man from another dimension or just a clever conjurer?”
As editor of this volume, and having spent some two decades in the field of psychical phenomena, I ought to give you a clear yes-or-no answer. But, instead, I’ll give you an honest answer.
The young Israeli has provided us with a new Rorschach Test (you remember, those ink blots into which people read their personal images, desires, and fears). Geller is a human Rorschach Test. Or, to put it another way: Everybody has his own Uri Geller, his own idea of what the man and his feats are all about.
Geller has aroused wide interest, and he has gained all types of publicity – adoration, annoyance, wishful thinking, hope, disillusionment, and all the rest of it. Few people have been basically influenced by him; most of us have merely had their preconceived ideas confirmed by Geller’s performances and stunts.
The most interesting people have been those who either said that they started out as skeptics and later became convinced that Uri was genuine; and those who, conversely, came to Geller as true believers and went away disenchanted. But even these apparent changes have not been profound; they were in the nature of a temporary infatuation, a sort of crush on Geller or on what Geller seemed to stand for, that eventually gave way to doubt and detachment. One of these observers was Dr. Andrew Weil, whose first article in Psychology Today was full of wide-eyed awe, but whose second article was all shakes of the head and perplexity.
A major case of disillusionment is that of the British physicist Dr. Joseph Hanlon, who first drew the attention of the London weekly, The New Scientist, to the Geller phenomenon. Hanlon Published a detailed report on his own Geller investigation in the weekly magazine on October 17, 1974, to coincide with publication of the investigations undertaken by Mr. Targ and Dr. Puthoff at the Stanford Research Institute (see page 66). Hanlon feels strongly that “the next interesting breakthrough in science may well come not from expensive research by huge teams in physics and biology, but from research by individuals and small teams into the interaction of people and themselves and their surroundings.” He has, therefore, looked into such research areas as biofeedback and Parapsychology; Hanlon persuaded The New Scientist to organize its own research team to study Uri, who at first enthusiastically agreed, but then backed out.
Dr. Hanlon had been quite taken by Geller at first, although every Geller event he investigated had “a normal explanation that was more probable than the paranormal one.” He had observed “the really strong desire of people to suspend disbelief and accept Geller.” He added: “On the latter point, I must admit that I, too, was strongly taken with Geller, and that I could not help liking him and being swept up by his enthusiasms-despite the fact that I was looking for tricks.” He noted that “many people believe implicitly in Geller – often based on a very few demonstrations of powers, swept on by their own desire to believe, and by the force of Geller’s personality. Indeed, some supposedly objective scientists now talk of the ‘Geller effect’ as a fact.” Dr. Hanlon is critical of the Targ-Puthoff experiments with Geller and of the paper in which they reported on it. He wrote:
“A dry scientific paper can never capture the feeling of an experiment. In this case, the Targ-Puthoff paper totally fails to communicate the circus atmosphere that surrounded all of the tests with Geller. As Targ commented to me: ‘Deliberately or accidentally, Geller manipulates the experiments to a degree of chaos where he feels comfortable and we feel uncomfortable. Then he bends something.'” Hanlon quotes Targ as saying, “I feel confident that Geller will cheat if given a chance,” but doubts that their “vigilance against cheating was rigorous enough, to eliminate Geller’s possibly “sophisticated magic and psychological trickery.”
Professional magicians suggest that Geller is using very simple stage-magic tricks to achieve his results, whereas Dr. Hanlon speculates that Uri’s original sponsor, Dr. Andrija Puharich, may have equipped him with a miniature radio receiver. Puharich holds U.S. patent No. 2 995 663 for a radio receiver, attached to a tooth, which permits signals to be received by the gold filling, converted to electric signals in the audio frequency range by the rectifier crystal, and passed on directly to the nerve endings of a live tooth. A deaf person could carry a small transmitter in his pocket that would send sound signals to the tooth; it could, of course, also pick up signals from elsewhere.
Dr. Hanlon notes that “Uri’s drawings are representations of words which would describe the target drawing, and thus are consistent with radio communication.” Also, Puharich told Hanlon that “Uri will not submit to excessive examinations like total body X-radiation,” which, Hanlon suggests, would be “the only test for a Puharich implanted receiver.” Who would be Geller’s co-conspirator in such an electronic setup? Hanlon names Uri’s companion Shipi Strang as someone who could “easily have signalled Uri in code with a transmitter hidden in his pocket.” But would Puharich help Uri? Perhaps, Hanlon writes, if Uri phrased the request as if it “came via Spectra,” the extraterrestrial agency in which Puharich appears to believe so strongly. Puharich need not have been “party to a widespread and continuing fraud to have helped Uri in this way,” Hanlon concludes.
In a later issue of The New Scientist (November 7, 1974) Mr. Targ and Dr. Puthoff attacked the Hanlon analysis. It was their team, they wrote, that first alerted Dr. Hanlon “to take appropriate precautions,” as they were “well aware of Dr. Puharich’s expertise in the field of microelectronics.” They wrote that their SRI experiment took several weeks and was “carefully controlled,” while some of their critics had only “spent an engaging couple of hours with Geller in which they observed the informal coffee-table demonstration which Geller favors.” They called for “more experimentation, not more speculation.”
Dr. Hanlon rather heatedly replied: “It is absolute rubbish for Targ and Puthoff to claim that they told me about Dr. Puharich’s expertise in the area of microelectronics. Indeed, in their discussions with me they dismissed, virtually out of hand, suggestions of the use of radio.” He added that, while they claimed to have excluded “everyone other than the experimenters from the target area, Puthoff himself complained to me about their inability to exclude Shipi Strang – Geller’s inseparable companion.”
And so the argument continues, more or less where it began, with scientists as well as laymen defending what are, with few variations, previously established positions. Among the forums of parapsychology that are most prestigious are the annual conventions of the Parapsychological Association and the quarterly Journal of Parapsychology, which is published by the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man, directed by Dr. J. B. Rhine in Durham, North Carolina. A longtime associate of Dr. Rhine, W. B. Cox, presented “A Note on Some Experiments with Uri Geller” to the Association’s 1974 convention (August 22), at St. John’s University, Jamaica, New York, which was published in the December 1974 issues of the Journal. Cox described an hour spent with Geller the previous April 24, hoping to witness psychokinesis (PK or mind-over-matter) evidence under “adequate safeguards,” while allowing “opportunity for trickery” as might be practiced by a stage conjurer.
Cox described how Geller bent a flat steel key of the safe-deposit box type until it gradually bent to a total of 12 ¼ degrees. “The key was about fifteen inches from my eyes,” the researcher reported, “yet I detected no semblance of trickery.” – A second key was of the “ordinary three-inch skeleton-key variety” and made of a softer zinc-alloy metal. It was bent until it reached a 36 degree angle, and although Cox had his own “forefinger pressed against the toothed end” of the key, he felt “no noticeable pressure upward against my finger. He added: “Metallurgical examinations have been made of both keys and two ‘control keys.’ The examinations revealed no abnormalities, since the deformation due to the bending was insignificant as compared with the effects the metal had undergone during manufacture.”
The final experiment was with Cox’s pocket watch in which he had inserted a piece of aluminum foil. It was partly pressed into the spokes of the watch’s wheel “and thereby stopped it.” Eventually Geller managed to get the watch to tick, and when Cox opened it up he found that the foil inside it had been partly severed and moved inside the watch. He concluded that “increased research into Geller’s abilities is warranted,” although noting that Uri is “more interested in entertainment and publicity than in research, which makes his case rather difficult.”
There are still ongoing arguments about these and other psychic figures of the recent and distant past. Uri Geller is likely to go down in history as a similar controversial personality – even if he were to announce, tomorrow, that and how he employed stage magician tricks, or if someone like Shipi Strang were to “tell all,” one way or another. Yes, even if Geller were “unmasked,” a loyal band of true believers would continue to assert that Geller’s gifts had been genuine, but that he had somehow “betrayed” them. What, indeed, could Dr. Puharich say if Uri were to state clearly that at least part of his performances are tricks? After all, Puharich’s whole view of the universe, and of his own role in it, rests on the legitimacy of Geller’s claims.
No, I do not believe Puharich’s stories about his and Uri’s mission from such space entities as “Spectra” or “Hoova.” But we have the right to our personal delusions, large or small; and, with a variation on Voltaire, I would defend Dr. Puharich’s right to his own. I just do not share them. And now the crux: Yes, I have seen Geller perform, talked to participants in the Geller experiments, and have certainly read the vast number of reports in detail – but I am not a true believer.
I do believe that Uri Geller may have psychic abilities – but also that he helps them along, in psychological and physical ways, to gain maximum dramatic effect, admiration, fame, and money. The argument about his psychic power will certainly never end.
PSYCHIC PHENOMENA OR SLEIGHT-OF-HAND?
Tape recordings from extraterrestrial intelligences which can only be heard in the presence of Uri Geller.
Keys and forks which break hundreds of miles from where Geller is filming a television show.
Photos of Uri which have been mentally imposed on film.
A meteorite which mysteriously appears several rooms away from the still-sealed case which had contained it.
Teleportation, psychokinesis, or the most cleverly engineered magician’s tricks ever? Is Uri Geller a psychic, the instrument of an alien intelligence seeking peaceful contact with Earth or an adept fraud out to make his fame and fortune at the public’s expense? Scientific and parapsychological researchers have tested Uri’s powers with startling results. Magicians have often tried to duplicate his feats.
NOW THE EXPERTS SPEAK OUT ABOUT THE QUESTION THAT EVERYONE IS ASKING: IS URI GELLER A PSYCHIC OR A FRAUD?
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