Extracts from “The World’s Greatest Mysteries”
ISBN 1 85152 482 7
Mind Over Matter
BENDING METAL OBJECTS
On 23 November 1973, Uri Geller appeared for the first time on British television. He held a fork to his hand, stroking it gently until it bent and then broke. He rubbed his fingers across the glass of broken watches and they began ticking. After the broadcast the BBC switchboard was jammed with calls reporting bent cutlery or restarted watches and clocks from all over the country.
A Sunday newspaper followed this up by announcing a set time when Geller would be concentrating his powers and asked readers to report anything that happened. They recorded 300 bent spoons and forks, 1,000 broken clocks and watches starting up again.
Opinion regarding the phenomena was sharply divided: Was Geller a conjurer or a genuine psychic? Was his performance just a trick played on a gullible public or a genuine demonstration of psychokinesis, moving objects by the power of mind? Some sceptics dismissed the whole thing as mass hallucination, though that made it hard to explain away the permanent bends in metal implements.
Tests for Uri Geller
Geller had already undergone tests at Stanford Research Institute in California, supervised by two physicists. They had made a filmed record of Geller’s effect on a Bell gaussmeter, an instrument measuring magnetic fields. By passing his hands near the gaussmeter he was able to achieve a full scale deflection of the instrument several times, indicating that his magnetic field was at least half as strong as that of the earth.
In the next few years he underwent tests at 17 different laboratories. Some of the most thorough testing was carried out in Britain by two academics from London University, Professor John Taylor of King’s College and Professor John Hasted of Birkbeck College.
Geller was often accused of bending metal by sheer pressure, so he was asked to bend a brass strip attached to a letter balance which would register the exact amount of pressure he exerted. As he stroked the strip the scale read only 15 grams (1/2 oz), but the strip bent upwards, against the pressure of his fingers.
Another experiment involved influencing a Geiger counter. When the instrument was held near him, the count was zero. When Geller held it in his hands and concentrated hard, the needle deflected to 50 counts per second and its gentle bleeping sound rose to a wail, which would normally indicate dangerously radioactive material. When he stopped concentrating, the wailing stopped. After several attempts, Geller was able to deflect the needle to 1,000 counts per second, with the machine screaming.
Two researchers from the University of Bath, Dr Brian Pamplin and Dr Harry Collins, tested a group of children who had bent metal at home, following Geller’s broadcast. The children were in a room with an observer, who was told to glance away at certain times, while scientists watched with keen attention through one way mirrors. Once the children thought no one was looking, they cheated: one put a rod under his foot, others used two hands and as much strength as they could muster. Afterwards the researchers stated: ‘We can assert that in no case did we observe a rod or spoon bent other than by palpably normal means.’
These exposures undermined confidence in scientific testing. However, among the rash of twisted forks and headless spoons appearing when Geller fever was at its height, there were some feats that seemed inexplicable. For instance, a 12-year-old girl managed to bend a metal towel rail 5-mm (1/4 inch) in diameter at an angle of 40 degrees as her parents watched. The rail was made of mild steel with a chromium plate finish and later tests showed that bending it would have taken the force of at least a quarter of a ton.
Serious attempts at investigating the field of psychokinesis began in the 1930s when Joseph Banks Rhine set up the world’s first laboratory for the study of parapsychology in North Carolina. He attempted to investigate claims from a professional gambler that it was possible to influence the fall of dice by willpower but, though the results attracted a lot of attention, he was criticized for his lack of scientific safeguards.
In a long running American project, the Society for Research into Rapport and Telekinesis devised a system of
minilabs. At first, these consisted of wooden boxes with glass lids. Various objects would be placed inside the box, and a layer of coffee grounds spread across the floor before it was locked and sealed in the presence of witnesses. Members of the group would then concentrate on the objects, trying to move one across the floor of the box. The coffee grounds made sure that no one could shake or tilt it; after a successful experiment there would be a single trail across the box to mark the path of the chosen object.
Later a perspex minilab was developed, so that what happened inside could be recorded by cine camera. However, the resulting film of levitating pens and objects moving across the floor of the box have been disputed by psychic researchers who have produced films of their own to show how the evidence could have been faked.
Solid proof is hard to find but many sincere researchers are convinced that the power of mind over matter does exist, perhaps as a result of tapping a reservoir of energy that is all around us.
A spoon bent by Uri Geller. The energy required to produce such an unnatural bend must have been considerable.A Kirlian photograph of Uri Geller’s index finger during a burst of energy which shows the considerable force generated.
Above: Uri Geller is seen (left) with Jimmy Young inspecting the Automobile Association’s telephone box key which bent during Geller’s appearance on Young’s BBC Radio 2 programme in October 1974.
A Kirlian photograph, showing Uri Geller’s ability to bend keys with psychic energy.
One of the Children in the above (Julie Knowles) did not cheat. Another of the other children bent an object outside in the lounge infront of several witnesses while waiting to enter the observation room.
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“There is no spoon!”
“The world needs your amazing talents. I need them”
“Uri Geller gave an absolutely resonating talk on his life and career. He had every single magician in the room on the edge of their seats trying to digest as much information as they could. Uri emphasized that the path to frame is through uniqueness and charisma and that professional entertainers must be creative in their pursuits of success and never shy away from publicity.”
Tannens Magic Blog
“The man is a natural magician. He does everything with great care, meticulous misdirection and flawless instinct. The nails are real, the keys are really borrowed, the envelopes are actually sealed, there are no stooges, there are no secret radio devices and there are no props from the magic catalogues.”
James Randi (In an open letter to Abracadabra Magazine)
Sir Elton John
“Eternity is down the hall And you sit there bending spoons In your mind, in your mind”
“I Have watched Uri Geller… I have seen that so I am a believer. It was my house key and the only way I would be able to use it is get a hammer and beat it out back flat again.”
“Better than watching Geller bending silver spoons, better than witnessing new born nebulae’s in bloom”