A BRIEF REPORT ON A VISIT BY URI GELLER TO KING’S COLLEGE, LONDON, JUNE 20, 1974
by John G. Taylor, Ph.D., Department of Mathematics
King’s College, University of London.
John G. Taylor is Professor of Mathematics at King’s College. He has held Chairs of Physics at the University of Southampton and at Rutgers University, New Jersey. His present research interests include the problem of matter in extreme states, such as in black holes, and the development of a suitable theoretical framework for paranormal phenomena. He is the author of three books on popular science, a physics textbook, several science fiction plays, the book Black Holes, and his most recent book on paranormal phenomena, Superminds, in which he presents his research with Uri Geller and expounds on the Geller Effect.
In his first paper, “A brief report,” Dr. Taylor recounts the sequence of events that took place the first time Uri Geller visited King’s College. Taylor’s second paper, “Analyzing the Geller Effect,” is based on more work with Geller and on observations and reports of individuals who appear to be able to duplicate many of Geller’s psychokinetic feats. (A more detailed presentation of Taylor’s psychical investigations can be found in Superminds: A Scientist Looks at the Paranormal [New York: Viking Press, 1975].)
Both papers by Dr. Taylor are published here for the first time.
IN AN OFFICE at King’s College I had set up several experiments designed to measure the pressure applied by Geller during metal bending. The two main ones were very simple. The essential apparatus for one of them was a balance of the type used to weigh letters and parcels; it was sensitive enough to measure weights to a quarter of an ounce. A brass strip about 20 cm long was taped horizontally to the platform of the balance. The major portion of the strip extended out from the platform, and Geller stroked the top surface of it while I measured, directly, by reading the scale, and by using an automatic recording device, the pressure he was applying. At the end of the test the strip had acquired a bend of ten degrees although Geller had at no time applied more than half an ounce (20 gm) of pressure. It was out of the question that such a small pressure could have produced that deflection. What is more, the actual bending occurred upward-against the pressure of the finger. Earlier, another subject gave a similar result, producing, with less than an ounce of downward pressure, a smaller upward deflection (two degrees) on a strip of copper.
While Geller was doing this experiment, we found it a little disconcerting, to say the least, to have the needle, which indicated the amount of pressure on the letter balance, also bending, as it moved, through seventy degrees.
The apparatus for the other test was a small cylinder imbedded in a strip of aluminum in such a way that one end of the cylinder, covered by a pressure-sensitive diaphragm, was flush with the surface of the strip. When pressure was applied to the diaphragm by a person’s rubbing the strip gently with a finger, an electric current proportional to this pressure was generated by a device installed inside the cylinder. This pressure-measuring device had been used with various subjects, but no bending was achieved. In Geller’s case the consequences were drastic. Holding the strip in one hand, he made it bend in the appropriate region so that the pressure could be measured. But as the bending occurred the mechanism in the cylinder suddenly stopped functioning. I took the apparatus from Geller and observed, to my horror, the pressure sensitive diaphragm begin to crumble. A small hole appeared in its center and spread across its whole surface till the diaphragm had completely disintegrated, the entire process taking about ten seconds. After another three minutes the strip in which the cylinder was imbedded had bent a further thirty degrees.
Attempts to influence objects without contact yielded more information. Geller held his hands over a plastic container in which had been placed a small crystal of lithium fluoride; within ten seconds the crystal broke into a number of pieces. There was absolutely no chance of Geller’s having touched the crystal. Throughout the experiment I could see a gap between his hands and the container holding the crystal. He also buckled a small disc of aluminum, which again was inside a plastic container. I held my hands between Geller’s and the container in order to prevent any possibility of his directly manipulating the disc.
Geller was then led into another room to work with other pieces of apparatus. One of these was a standard strip of copper on which was glued a very thin wire. Distortion of the strip would cause a change in the electrical properties of the thin wire, which could be measured very accurately. Geller tried to bend the copper strip without direct contact, but had not done so after several minutes; there was no significant change in the properties of the thin wire. We broke off in order to start measuring his electrical output, but, turning around a few moments later, I saw that the strip had been bent and the thin wire was broken.
Almost simultaneously I noticed that a strip of brass on the other side of the laboratory had become bent. I had placed that strip there a few minutes before, making sure at that time that it was quite straight. I pointed out to Geller what had happened, only to hear a metallic crash from the far end of the laboratory, twenty feet away. There, on the floor by the far door, was the bent piece of brass. Again I turned back, whereupon there was another crash. A small piece of copper, which had earlier been lying near the bent brass strip on the table, had followed its companion to the far door. Before I knew what had happened I was struck on the back of the legs by a perspex tube in which had been sealed an iron rod. The tube had also been lying on the table. It was now lying at my feet, with the rod bent as much as the container would allow.
None of the flying objects could have actually been thrown Geller as he was some distance away from them and would not have been able to get close to them without being spotted. I was not wholly surprised because an earlier occurrence in the corridor had led me to expect something of the sort might happen. I was walking along with Geller after the first batch of tests when a strip of metal, which had been left on the desk in my office, suddenly fell at feet. We were at least seventy feet from the office when this occurred. I have to admit Geller could have brought the thing of the room with him.
Later, I set a compass on a stable surface and asked Geller to to cause the needle to rotate without touching it. This he did by passing his hands over it, achieving a rotation of up to forty degrees. Then I tried to do the same, keeping 10 cm away from the compass, as Geller had. It proved impossible. Even rocking or rotating the compass directly had little effect except when obvious violence was used. Nor could Geller have been using a magnet unless he could “palm” it with consummate skill at particular moments, for he appeared to be able to “switch” his magnetic effect on and off at will in spite of the fact that he might have been making similar hand movements. Nor could my two companion observers detect any such deceit.
The next step was to make further tests and especially to see if nonmagnetic material could be moved. But unfortunately Geller’s timetable did not allow this. Right at the end of the session comparatively loud click was heard at the far end of the laboratory. Looking toward its source, we discovered that the small piece of metal that had flown to the far end of the laboratory was no longe lying on the floor. We searched the laboratory, but it was nowhere in sight. Geller remarked that this was not the first time things around him had disappeared; the piece of metal had most likely vanished from the laboratory, he reckoned. After he left I made a more thorough search of the room, and finally found the piece of metal under a radiator at the end of the room opposite where it had been. How it had got there I do not know, but it clearly had not dematerialized, as Geller had suggested.
This left me in a state of even greater mystification than before. The bending of metal by known means had been shown to occur, as had the distortion of other materials. But objects had apparently been made to “fly” through the air, and a compass needle had been caused to rotate without the intervention of a visible mechanism. These events seemed impossible to comprehend; I should certainly have dismissed reports of them as nonsense if I myself had not seen them happen. I could always try taking the safe line that Geller must have been cheating, possibly by putting me in a trance. I had no video tape to support my own direct observations, though other people had seen the rotation of the compass needle. Yet I was sufficiently compos mentis at the time to monitor various pieces of scientific equipment while these objects were “in flight.” I certainly did not feel as if I were in an altered state of consciousness.
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