Uri Geller
Uri Geller

In the early 70s, a British TV personality named Uri Gellar made a name for himself by appearing on TV and at various live shows, and displaying what he called psychic powers. His main ability was to bend spoons with the stroke of his fingers. People were a little impressed, but most thought he was just a skilled illusionist.

Most except for the CIA.

During the 60s and 70s (and possibly into the 80s), the CIA ran several experiments on the possibility of mind control and psychic experiments. The agency wasn’t certain it could exploit the potential of the human mind, but it had enough resources that it decided to say what the hell and give it a try.

For the most part, the experiments were unsurprisingly failures. From dousing people with LSD to using marijuana as a weapon, the CIA had some nutty ideas. A few of them, however, may have worked.

In 1973 after witnessing Gellar’s shtick, the CIA brought him in for a few tests. The agency released a 32-page document covering the experiment, and the end result was that Gellar convinced the agents that he was legit. And these are agents that are trained to be skeptical. Enough so that it claimed to witness “his paranormal perceptual ability in a convincing and unambiguous manner.”

Over the course of weeks, they isolated Gellar and asked him to focus on someone in a “far flung” location. The researchers grabbed a dictionary and chose a word at random, then draw a picture of it for Gellar to psychically “see.” In one instance, the researchers selected the word “fuse.” One of them then drew a picture of a firecracker, and Gellar’s immediate response was a “cylinder with noise coming out of it.”

The researchers were several buildings away, making it impossible for Gellar to have known what the image was. The second word was “bunch,” so they drew a bunch of grapes. Gellar quickly responded that he saw “purple circles.” He then drew an image of his own – a bunch of grapes. To make things even stranger, both images – Gellar’s and the researcher’s – had 24 grapes.

This scenario was repeated several times, with multiple images drawn by researchers and Gellar recreating or describing them. He was also able to recreate specific images, or at least elements of images stored on a computer where they were not visible evidence.

He wasn’t always successful, of course. Sometimes he was just flat out wrong, while others he simply would say “pass.”

The end result was that the CIA was convinced there was at least something to Gellar’s powers. One agency even asked him to try to stop the heart of a pig. This incident was partially recreated in the George Clooney movie The Men Who Stare at Goats. He wasn’t successful, but it made the CIA stop and pause. In 2013, the Israeli-born Gellar was featured in a documentary that claimed he was a “psychic spy” for the CIA and the Mossad. The report (and Gellar himself) claim that he deleted KGB floppy discs containing vital information.

The 70 year old Gellar remains a controversial figure. Others have attempted to test his abilities and left convinced that Gellar was an excellent stage magician, but not a true psychic. Several spy agencies around the world seem to disagree.

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