THIRTY-FIVE MILES south of San Francisco is the Stanford Research Institute, a giant think-tank that conducts wide-ranging research for government and for private industry. Over the years SRI staff scientists have made major advances in computer technology, genetics, and laser communications. The institute has a reputation to uphold, and it does not thoughtlessly plunge into new areas of research. In late 1972 SRI invited Geller to visit its laboratories for six weeks of testing. The visit was arranged by former astronaut Edgar Mitchell, who since his Apollo space flight has been interested in psychical research; the actual tests at SRI were to be conducted by two laser physicists, Dr. Harold E. Puthoff and Russell Targ, who for years had been interested in parapsychology.
Puthoff and Targ had heard stories about Geller’s alleged telepathic talents and about his even more remarkable ability to bend forks and spoons without touching them (psychokinesis). Now they were going to get a chance to test him. For six weeks Geller was put through the laboratory wringer, never knowing from one day to the next what would be expected of him. He came out of the ordeal exhausted, and the SRI scientists came out with a statement: “We have observed certain phenomena . . . for which we have no scientific explanation. All we can say at this point is that further investigation is clearly warranted.”
More testing did take place about a year later, and this time the SRI scientists made a startling statement: “As a result of Geller’s success in this experimental period, we consider that he has demonstrated his paranormal perceptual ability in a convincing and unambiguous manner.” What had Geller done to draw such an endorsement?
In their paper “Information transmission under conditions of sensory shielding,” Puthoff and Targ present their investigations into Geller’s perceptual talents of telepathy and clairvoyance. For most of thirteen experiments, Geller sat in a room that shielded him, visually, acoustically, and electrically, from the outside world. In another room down the hall, one scientist opened a dictionary at random, selected a word, and drew a picture of what it suggested. Geller’s task was to “see” telepathically, and draw on paper, each target picture. Men, for example, the word chosen was grape, the scientist drew a bunch of grapes. Minutes later Geller said over a one-way intercom that he ” ‘saw’ . . . drops of water coming out of the picture,” and he spoke of “purple circles.” Finally, when he was quite sure he “had it,” he drew a bunch of grapes. The target and Geller’s rendition of it both contained exactly twenty-four grapes. (For all target pictures and Geller’s responses, see Plates 1 and 3.)
This mental impression had come to Geller easily, but, for reasons still unknown, at other times he had to strain and concentrate for up to half an hour before all the bits and pieces he perceived came together to form a complete picture. In their paper “The Record,” a sort of daily log kept by Puthoff and Targ during experiments conducted in August 1973, we see the difficulty Geller had one time when the target picture was a devil with a pitchfork. During a thirty-minute period Geller got impressions (and drew pictures) of “Moses’ Tablet containing the Ten Commandments,” the earth and a pitchfork, a worm crawling from an apple, a snake and a leaf. Puthoff and Targ speculate that the negative religious connotations of the target picture might have been the reason Geller drew “thematic” rather than “direct” responses to the target.
The degree of success in these experiments was high, so the difficulty of Geller’s task was heightened. For three tests he sat in a double-walled copper-screen Faraday cage – a housing that blocks out virtually all radio waves and magnetic fields. If Geller could score “hits” in this room too, then the hypothesis that his impressions were carried by standard electromagnetic radiation would be greatly weakened. To further complicate Geller’s task, the scientists did not draw the target pictures on paper. In one test a computer drew a picture of a kite on the face of a cathode-ray tube (a device similar to a TV screen); Geller drew a kite. (See Plate 2(a).) Next a picture of a church was drawn and stored in a computer’s memory bank; Geller drew a picture vaguely resembling the target. (See Plate 2(b).) In the third test a picture of a heart pierced by an arrow was drawn on the screen of the cathode-ray tube and then the device was turned off. Geller perceived it correctly. (See Plate 2(c).) From a total of thirteen such perceptual experiments the SRI scientists concluded that the odds for Geller’s success being due merely to chance were more than a million to one.
“Information transmission under conditions of sensory shielding” was published in Nature on October 18, 1974. It was the first parapsychological research paper to appear in a major scientific publication. An editorial accompanying Puthoff and Targ’s article said in part: “We publish a paper . . . that is bound to create something of a stir in the scientific community . . . [The claims made are] bound to be greeted with a preconditioned reaction among many scientists. To some it simply confirms what they have always known or believed. To others it is beyond the laws of science and therefore necessarily unacceptable. But to a few though perhaps to more than is reaised – the questions are still unanswered, and any evidence of high quality is worth a critical examination.”
The paper did cause the stir that the Nature editors thought it would, and there remains much misunderstanding about the views of the three independent judges who voted on whether the paper should be published. For this reason the full text of the Nature editorial “Investigating the paranormal” appears in this book, preceding Puthoff and Targ’s article.
That article is detailed and scientific, but its two companion
pieces, “The Record” and “Experiments with Uri Geller,” contain more experiments related in a simple and personal way.
An ordinary die was placed in a small steel box; the box was shaken and placed on a table. Before the box was opened Geller wrote down his impression of the uppermost face of the die. This is called a “double-blind” experiment because neither the subject nor the researchers know the number until the box is opened. The test was performed ten times, with Geller “passing” twice because he received no psychic impressions. But the eight times he did record a number, he was right every time. The odds: about a million to one. In another test, also under double-blind conditions, Geller located a hidden object placed in one of ten aluminum cans. He did this correctly twelve times in a row, with odds of over a trillion to one. He also mentally altered the reading of an electrical scale and disrupted the workings of a magnetometer, a device that generates an electric current from a radioactive source.
When Geller is pressed for an explanation of how he performs telepathic and clairvoyant feats, he gives a simple, if frustrating, answer: “I put a screen in my mind, like a television screen. Even when I talk or listen, it is still there. When I am receiving something, the image appears there as a picture. I don’t feel it; I actually see it.” But Geller himself is at a loss when it comes to accounting for his psychokinetic talent.
He demonstrated this ability for physical scientist Eldon Byrd at the Naval Surface Weapons Center, Silver Spring, Maryland, by deforming an unusual metal alloy called nitinol. Nitinol wire is composed of approximately 55 percent nickel and 45 percent titanium. It has a physical memory. That is, a piece of nitinol wire actually “remembers” the shape in which it was manufactured. No matter how much it is crumpled or bent, a nitinol wire, when heated, springs vigorously back to its original shape. Byrd is quite familiar with the properties of nitinol. He knows that no simple, ordinary forces can alter the wire’s memory; he wanted to see if Geller could.
Geller arrived at the Naval Surface Weapons Center in October of 1973. In one test Byrd held a five-inch straight piece of nitinol by its ends while Geller “gently stroked” the middle of the wire with his thumb and index finger. After twenty seconds Geller felt a “lump” forming in the wire. He removed his fingers and there was a sharp “kink” at the wire’s center. Byrd placed the wire in boiling water, which should have removed the kink. It did not vanish. “Instead of [the wire] snapping back with some force into a straight shape,” Byrd writes, “[it] began to form approximately a right angle.” Byrd then placed the kink over a flame, but still it did not straighten out.
In his paper “Uri Geller’s influence on the metal nitinol,” Byrd states that a crystallographic analysis of the kinked section showed that the crystals that contain the wire’s memory had actually increased in size. Such a change requires that the wire be reannealed by being heated to a temperature of about 9000 F. “There is absolutely no explanation as to how Geller bent the wire by gently touching it,” says Byrd.
Perhaps not, but the metallurgists at the Naval Surface Weapons Center were intent on removing the kink. They put the wire under tension in a vacuum chamber, and heated it by passing an electric current along its length until the wire was glowing and almost molten; in other words, they reannealed it into a straight shape. When the wire was removed from the chamber and laid on a plate to cool it was indeed straight; it appeared to have regained its original memory. But when the wire cooled to room temperature, the kink spontaneously returned. “The day following the experiment” writes Byrd, “I took another piece of nitinol wire and tried to bend it into as tight a kink as Geller had formed: I used the point of a screwdriver . . . It was impossible for me to [do it] without using Bunsen burners and pliers.” Byrd also tried various chemicals on pieces of nitinol wires to see if the wire could he temporarily “softened” so that a kink might be formed without extreme heat and sizable force. The nitinol proved impervious to all the chemicals tested.
But experimentation between Geller and nitinol does not stop there. Byrd reaised that anomalous effects can occur in the best of experiments. Perhaps the wires Geller altered (there were several of them) had a structural defect: Is this why Geller had been able to change their memory? Byrd pondered this question for eleven months before he got another chance to test Geller. This time it was not at the Naval Surface Weapons Center, but in an informal setting at the home of a friend of Geller’s in Connecticut. Byrd brought with him three pieces of nitinol wire; all had been thoroughly tested at the lab to make sure that on being heated they sprang back to straight configurations. Geller rubbed the wires one at a time, and all three became deformed. (See Plates 4-7.) Heating would not straighten them out. On later examination, nitinol experts at the lab concluded that the only way “permanent deformation” could have occurred was through the use of intense heat and mechanical stress. “All of the bends that Geller has produced thus far in nitinol wires have been permanent deformations,” says Byrd. “The wires can be . . . twisted into any shape by hand, but on being heated . . . [they always] return to the shape Geller had imposed upon them.”
Could Geller have somehow cheated to achieve the results he did? Because of the unusual nature of nitinol, the scientific controls essential for an unambiguous investigation are, for the most part, built into the testing material. Byrd and his colleagues conclude that Geller would have had to either “palm” a Bunsen burner or substitute his own pieces of nitinol, manufactured to his specifications, if deception is to be the explanation for the events that took place. Geller had to deform the wire, Byrd thinks, by paranormal means.
Working with nitinol was a new and novel experience for Geller, but in the physics laboratory of Kent State University, he bent metals with which he was more familiar: steel and platinum. He fractured four metal objects in the presence of Dr. Wilbur Franklin, a physicist, and his associates: two stainless steel spoons, a stainless steel needle, and a platinum ring. (One of the spoons was to serve as a control, but it bent spontaneously, without being touched.) The bending of the objects, reports Franklin, was amazing in itself (an associate of Franklin’s held the ring while Geller concentrated on it and its surface cracked), but Franklin’s primary interest was an analysis of the fractured surfaces under the probing eye of a scanning electron microscope, a device that can achieve extremely high magnifying power and very fine resolution of detail.
Until Franklin’s work with Geller, as far as any scientist could discern, all of the fractures Geller had induced in metals resembled “fatigue fractures” – ruptures caused by excessive wear and tear (even though many of the objects Geller had broken were brand new). But Franklin’s analysis revealed something new and unusual. To the naked eye the platinum ring appeared to have a single crack in its surface, but the scanning electron microscope showed that there were actually two cracks; they were spaced a hundredth of an inch apart. (See Plates 13-17.) Yet despite their extreme proximity, they appeared to have been produced by two entirely different conditions. One crack resembled a type that typically occurs at the temperature of liquid nitrogen, – 195′ C. The other was typical of the melting point of platinum, 1773′ C. In his paper “Fracture surface physics indicating teleneural interaction,” Franklin concludes that it would be extremely difficult, even under the best laboratory conditions, to produce two so totally different fractures at sites so close to one another.
In another paper printed in this book, Franklin gives more details of his work with Geller and offers some theoretical models in an attempt to understand how Geller’s powers might operate. In one model, Franklin concentrates on the interactions we know to exist between living systems and matter, then extrapolates them to include psychokinesis. Using another approach, he looks at information theory – a powerful tool that has been invaluable in computer and satellite communications – and considers how it might be used to explain paranormal phenomena. The net result of all of Franklin’s experimentation and theorizing can be stated briefly: “The evidence,” he writes, “based on metallurgical analysis of the fracture surfaces, indicates that a paranormal influence must have been operative in the formation of the fractures.”
Shall we one day be able to see that paranormal influence? Actually detect and measure the energy that many scientists feel must be traveling from Geller to the metals he bends, breaks, or shatters? At UCLA, medical psychologist Dr. Thelma Moss has taken some unusual photographs, which she thinks capture on film “hints” of evidence that a paranormal influence emanates from Geller’s fingers.
The photographic technique Moss uses is known as Kirlian photography, named after two Soviet scientists, S. D. and V. Kirlian, who first demonstrated its operation in 1939. The process is simple enough. The object to be photographed (in Geller’s case it was his fingertips) is placed in direct contact with regular black-and-white or color film. An electrical discharge is sent through the back of the photographic plate to the object. When the film is conventionally developed, there is a halo, or corona, surrounding the image. The color of the halo, its intensity, and its geometrical configuration appear to vary markedly with the mental and physical states of the subject photographed.
Moss observed something unusual with Geller. A key lay on a photographic plate a few inches from Geller’s fingertip. While Moss took the photograph Geller was to try to bend the key at a distance. Moss hoped to photograph some “emanations” traveling from Geller’s finger to the key. She did. Several times. (See Plates 22 and 23.) The sequence of Kirlian photographs first shows a brilliant halo around Geller’s finger, then light flaring outward from the center; the light detaches itself and travels away from Geller toward the key. What is the “blob” of light traversing the film? Moss calls it “a spurt of energy,” and believes that it may be related to a form of “bioenergy” or “psychic energy,” which may be responsible for physical phenomena.
Moss is no novice in the Kirlian technique. She was one of the first American scientists performing psychical research to observe the Kirlian process, during a trip to Russia in 1970. She was so impressed with what she saw that, on returning to the U.S., she and her assistant, Kendall Johnson, built their own Kirlian device. Since 1970 Moss and Johnson have refined their equipment and have taken several thousand pictures. Although Moss observed many “strange” things in her laboratory during Geller’s two visits in June of 1975, in her paper “Uri’s Magic” she is careful to state that her scientific controls were not rigorous enough to rule out the possibility of deception on Geller’s part: for example, black-and-white Kirlian photographs must be taken in a room lit with only a dim red bulb, and for color pictures there must be no light. Moss discusses the drawbacks of these facts in her paper and states that her goal is to present a subjective description of the events that took place in our laboratory.”
But what interested Moss even more than those events were incidents that occurred after Geller’s several public appearances on the West Coast. “Since Geller’s appearance in Los Angeles,” she writes, “our lab has been visited by several persons who claim that they, too, can bend metals by stroking them. And they have successfully demonstrated their ability.” The phenomenon of certain individuals’ being able to duplicate Geller’s feats after watching him perform has been called the “Geller Effect” and has been reported by many researchers. Moss tested several children, boys and girls, and is convinced that they were able to deform heavy metal objects (see Plates 31-33) for a certain period of time after having seen Geller. British physicists Dr. John Hasted and Dr. John Taylor have also studied children who spontaneously developed similar abilities (Taylor’s research is presented here), and Dr. E. Alan Price of the South African Institute of Parapsychology has conducted an extensive statistical field study of the phenomenon (his paper “The Uri Geller Effect” details his investigations). Manifestations of the Geller Effect are treated in many of the papers here, and the phenomenon will again be discussed later in the Introduction.
During one of his trips to the West Coast Geller visited Ronald Hawke, an engineer working at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, one of the top physical research centers in the U.S. The meeting occurred in late 1974 and no formal testing with Geller was undertaken. But Hawke and his colleagues did observe events in their laboratory that they feel call for further scientific investigation. The targets of Hawke’s informal tests with Geller were four computer cards with magnetic programs permanently stored on their surfaces under a plastic coating. Geller’s goal was to alter or entirely erase the programs. Twice he failed: once when a card given to him was sealed in a glass bottle and again when he was not allowed to touch a card. Two other cards were handed to Geller and he was allowed to rub his fingers gently across their surfaces. Hawke states that mere rubbing of the cards cannot alter their magnetic programs, but when the cards were taken from Geller and fed into a computer, they were immediately rejected, indicating that their magnetic programs were now “ambiguous.” Hawke writes: “Subsequent inspection with a magnetic viewer after the meeting with Geller revealed that the magnetic patterns had been altered.” (See Plates 37 and 38.) Hawke’s paper, “Magnetic Pattern Erasure,” first tells of the laboratory events that took Place with Geller, and then suggests a method to investigate, without danger of ambiguity, whether Geller can indeed erase information from magnetic cards and tapes.
Geller has demonstrated his talents for some scientists in an informal manner. These scientists have not been able to impose the rigorous controls required to make a “demonstration” an actual “experiment.” But often a scientist is so impressed by what Geller has done, and so sure that it did not involve trickery, that he wants to speak out. Such is the case with Dr. Thomas P. Coohill, a biophysicist at Western Kentucky University.
Geller had been invited there to deliver a lecture to the student body. Afterward, Coohill asked Geller if he would like to try some “tests” in the university’s physics laboratory. (Coohill had planned the tests in advance.) Geller agreed. Several members of the physics and psychology departments were present that day. Geller successfully duplicated target drawings and deflected the needle of a compass. But what Coohill found most interesting was Geller’s attempt to influence a magnetometer. Geller worked hard at the task, Coohill reports, “clenching his fists, holding his breath, waving his hands, and visibly straining himself.” Several times Geller turned to Coohill and asked, “Are you sure it’s working?” He had a gut feeling that the needle of the device should be moving – as he said, he was confident that he was “making contact” with it. But nothing moved. After twenty minutes the test was called off. “Are you sure it’s not broken?” Geller asked. To satisfy him, Coohill checked the magnetometer. It was broken; nothing Geller or any of the physicists present could have done would have influenced the device.
After the tests, which are described in “On Uri Geller’s visit to Western Kentucky University,” Geller accompanied Dr. Coohill, his wife, and some faculty members to the Coohills’ home for lunch. In the second part of his report Coohill tells of a spoon that “mysteriously” fell to the floor during lunch, though no one was near it. But what amazed Coohill most was that the spoon landed with a metallic “clink,” despite the fact that the floor was thickly carpeted. Coohill picked the spoon up by its handle; to his astonishment, “it began to bend in my hand as if it were melting.”
Geller then asked Mrs. Coohill to place the spoon between her hands. He held his hands slightly over hers. Suddenly a “pop” was heard and the spoon was found to be broken in two. “At no time,” says Coohill, “did Geller touch the spoon.”
Coohill is sure that what he and his colleagues witnessed that day is genuine. He is no magician, but he is a highly qualified scientist who has performed biophysical research at the Veterans’ Administration Hospital in Pittsburgh and at the Marine Biology Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. I say this only to give some perspective to the event that Coohill and his wife witnessed two days after Geller’s visit. In Coohill’s own words: “I was about to put some sugar in my coffee when suddenly I noticed that the sugar spoon was bent. Since my wife and I had carefully checked all of our silverware after Geller’s departure and found none of it damaged, we were alarmed . . . The spoon continued to bend slightly . . . for about the next fifteen minutes.”
Admittedly this is only an anecdote, but it is not the first or only time that an inexplicable event took place in the wake of a Geller visit and was reported by a reliable source. Although Coohill admits the possibility of deception in the laboratory tests with Geller, he is certain that there was none involved in what occurred two days later in his own home. He feels that what happened was another manifestation of the Geller Effect.
William Cox is a research associate at the Institute for Parapsychology in Durham, North Carolina; he is also a magician. In fact, Cox has been interested in psychical research and magic for forty years. A long-standing member of the Society of American Magicians, he organized a committee made up of fellow magicians to investigate fraudulent ESP claims. Cox is well versed in the art of sleight of hand and he is convinced that sleight of hand is not what Geller performed one day in April of 1974.
The session took place in Geller’s East Side New York apartment, where, as Cox carefully points out in “A preliminary scrutiny of Uri Geller,” Geller could have plotted any kind of deception. As a matter of fact, Cox was doubtful of Geller’s alleged psychic talents and thought that the informal setting of the apartment would give Geller an easy opportunity to cheat if, indeed, that was how he achieved his results.
Cox had carefully planned his experiments in advance. He brought with him some newly purchased keys, a mirror, and a pocket watch that had been cleverly rigged not to work. One key, untoothed, was made of thick steel. Cox had previously determined that forty pounds of pressure were required to bend the key. He placed it on a glass-topped table in Geller’s living room and held one finger on the key’s head; with his other hand he held the mirror beneath the table. The arrangement gave him a top and bottom view of the object and its immediate surroundings. Geller stroked the middle of the key gently. After about a minute the key had bent upward at an angle of about twelve degrees. (See Plate 42.) Cox reports that he kept his finger on the key, and at no time did he feel pressure being exerted by Geller. The fact that the key bent upward from the table raises an interesting point.
Is there a preferred direction, that is, with or against gravity, to Geller’s metal-bending ability? In some of the papers here, spoons, forks, letter openers, and a variety of laboratory props influenced by Geller appear to “melt” in the middle and slowly droop downward under the force of gravity. But it is also clear from the papers that at other times, as in Cox’s test, a metal object touched (and sometimes untouched) by Geller inexplicably seems to defy gravity and turn upward. Why? At present no one knows if the apparent arbitrariness (if it really is arbitrary) has to do with the type of metal used or the particular experimental setup or if it is related to Geller’s mood at the time of the experiment. In Cox’s second paper, “On the issue of Uri Geller and his claims,” he suggests some other areas of research, which he feels could reveal the scope, if not the source, of Geller’s talents. Can Geller, for instance, heal wounds that have been intentionally inflicted on laboratory mice? Can he affect the growth rate of plants? Can Geller, by his mere presence transmit a temporary paranormal ability to a person physically near him – a phenomenon, if it exists, called telergy?
Cox performed other experiments with Geller that afternoon. Geller was able to start the pocket watch in which Cox inserted a physical obstruction to hold down the balance (See Plate 43.) Cox had arrived at Geller’s apartment a skeptic, prepared to catch Geller in some clever sleight of hand, but he left with different feelings: “If he is not, in fact, possessed of inordinate psi [paranormal abilities, then he is unquestionably more expert a magician than any professional twice his age – if my experience during four decades in the fields of both magic and parapsychology is any criterion.”
Cox is not the only magician who has tested Geller. In June of 1975 two professional magicians and members of the Society of American Magicians, Artur Zorka and Abb Dickson, ran Geller through some of their own “controlled” experiments. “I emphasize the word controlled.” writes Zorka in “A magician’s investigation of Uri Geller,” “because the type of control put on by a magician is different from that of any other investigator. It is a control designed specifically, by those very people who are professionally trained in the art of deception, to prevent fraud.”
The tests took place in a room that contained no mirrors and no windows; only Geller, Zorka, and Dickson were present. The first test involved Geller’s attempt to bend a fork, made of forged steel with a nylon-reinforced handle, that belonged to Zorka. The fork, which had been selected because of its extreme resistance to physical force, was placed in Geller’s hand while the two magicians watched for what they were certain would be an attempt at trickery. Geller curled his fingers around the fork and within seconds, Zorka reports, the nylon handle exploded, sending fragments across the room. (See Plate 45.) “Since it was my fork,” says Zorka, “and since Geller had no idea that any tests were going to be conducted with him that day, he could have made no preparations. I was thoroughly amazed at what happened.”
Zorka and Dickson were equally amazed at the successful telepathy tests that were performed that day. Dickson made simple drawings, careful of the sound of his pencil on the paper, the movement of his arm and of the head of the pencil (even though Geller’s back was turned away). “After a few false starts.” writes Zorka, “Geller was able to make remarkably accurate facsimiles of the target drawings.” Geller was also able directly to “read” images that were thought of by Zorka, but were never drawn on paper.
(See Plate 46.)
Geller did not know that Zorka and Dickson were magicians (nor had he known about Cox) until after the tests had been completed. Had he known in advance, it is quite possible he would have been unable to perform, as has often been the case. Geller explains this by saying that he must have either the confidence or at least the neutrality of the people testing him. Magicians, he feels, approach him with a negative attitude. Zorka and Dickson conclude their paper, an Official Report to the Society of American Magicians, with a powerful endorsement: “It is [our] unanimous finding that although we, as magicians, can duplicate each of these test results using methods known by us, there is no way, based on our present collective knowledge, that any method of trickery could have been used to produce these effects under the conditions to which Uri was subjected.”
[Release of Zorka and Dickson’s Official Report caused a good deal of controversy and an exchange of letters within the community of magicians. Printed here, following the Official Report, are three of the letters, which shine additional light on the two magicians’ investigation of Uri Geller.]
Yet another professional magician has been convinced that Geller’s accomplishments are not the result of trickery. In January of 1974 Geller visited Copenhagen and appeared on a local television show. The show’s producer called in a well-known magician, Leo Leslie, who instructed the members of the show in the magic tricks that Geller might attempt to use. For one thing, Leslie felt certain that Geller used mercuric salts to soften metal objects before he attempted to bend them. For the taping of the show certain precautions were taken: members of Geller’s personal staff were barred from the studio, and throughout the performance one camera always remained focused on Geller’s hands. Although Geller appeared to display telepathy and psychokinesis during the taping, Leslie, a skeptic, still was not convinced that what he had seen was genuine. After the show he and Geller got together in one of the backstage dressing rooms, where, under many precautions taken by Leslie, Geller was able to duplicate a target drawing made by the magician. But what amazed Leslie most was a “trick” that took place in his own hands. Geller had been given a nickel-plated, enameled key to try to bend. After stroking it several times, while a Danish journalist held it by one end, Geller claimed that he did not think the key was going to bend. As Leslie recounts in an excerpt from his book, Uri Geller, printed here: “I took the key from the journalist and studied it closely. But while I sat looking at the key the enamel suddenly started to crack, and a second later strips of the nickel plating curled up like small banana peels, while the key actually started to bend in my hand.” Leslie states that, so far as he could tell, Geller used no form of magic to accomplish the events he witnessed that day. He concludes by saying that “while Geller was in Copenhagen I did not catch him in any deceptions. Therefore I have to continue to rely on my own judgment and experience as a
mentalist; they tell that Uri Geller is genuine.”
Psychokinesis and telepathy are the phenomena for which Geller is best known. But on rare occasions he has produced “thought photographs,” that is, images projected by the mind on film even though a camera’s lens cap is on. A paper by award-winning photographer Lawrence Fried, a past president of the American Society of Photographers in Communications, describes an experience he had with Geller while on assignment for a national magazine. During the photographic session, Geller mentioned that he had once or twice before been able to project his own image onto film through a completely closed camera. He was anxious to try it again, and Fried was curious enough to go along with him. “I fastened the lens cap very securely onto a 50-mm Nikkor lens,” writes Fried, “and then, using generous amounts of photographer’s gaffer tape (a two-inch-wide . . . cloth-like tape), I put two complete layers . . . across the lens cap . . . I then wound another long piece of the tape around the lens barrel . . .”
Fried handed the taped camera to Geller, who held it at arms length, pointed at his forehead, and began tripping the shutter. He repeated this at various distances from his head while Fried, with another camera, continually photographed Geller’s movements. Two of Fried’s photographic assistants were present throughout the event.
When Geller had “exposed” the entire roll of film Fried took the camera, removed the film, and put it in his pocket. When it was processed the next day, all of the frames were black except for number 10: it contained a blurry but discernible picture of Geller at the exact location where he had been sitting the day before. (See Plate 48.) In his report, “Thought photography: a photographer’s account.” Fried tells of the precautions he took to prevent fraud on Geller’s part. He believes that the image on frame 10 was produced by paranormal means.
It is understandable that Geller is often accused of producing the effects he does by legerdemain: paranormal talents are not commonplace, and many people find it difficult to fit psychical events into their world view. Some scientists are convinced that Geller is a fraud and that their colleagues who have investigated him have been royally deceived. One such scientist is physicist Dr. Joseph Hanlon, an editor of the British magazine New Scientist. “Like witnesses to a motor accident,” wrote Hanlon in one article, (New Scientist, October 17, 1974, pp. 170-85.) “people who have seen Uri bend a spoon or do a drawing by telepathy tell widely differing stories about the same event.” Hanlon criticized Geller and the work of two scientists who investigated him: Harold Puthoff and Russell Targ. One of the theories Hanlon puts forward to account for the success of the SRI telepathy experiments was that Geller might have a small receiving device implanted in a tooth. This device could pick up broadcasts and transmit them, through nerves in the teeth, to Geller’s brain. Of course, one of the SRI scientists, or someone else present in the room, would have had to be an accomplice in the scheme of deception, whispering descriptions of the target pictures softly into a hidden microphone. Because the James Bond-like device Hanlon described does exist, and was invented by Dr. Andrija Puharich, the man who first brought Geller to the U.S., Hanlon’s suggestion that Geller might indeed use a tooth-receiver has become popular with Geller’s critics. Hanlon gave the idea more credence by writing that Geller refuses to have his teeth x-rayed. It is true that Geller had not had his teeth x-rayed at the time Hanlon wrote that statement. But since then Geller’s entire mouth has been checked for evidence of hidden receiving devices. Here are two paragraphs from a letter from dentist John K. Lind of the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City:
Mr. Uri Geller was examined in my office on December 7, 1974. He was given a routine clinical examination of the hard and soft tissues, and a full-mouth series consisting of fourteen dental radiographs was taken. Our examination revealed no prior dental restorations and only three moderately sized carious lesions: mesial of his lower right first molar, occlusal of his upper right first molar and the mesial of his upper right central incisor.
I can attest to the fact that clinical and radiographic examination of his mouth, teeth and jaws reveal no foreign objects implanted such as transistors, metal objects, etc.
Several months had elapsed between Hanlon’s suggestion that Geller might use a tooth-receiver and Dr. Lind’s examination. Could Geller have had the device removed in the meantime? That possibility is ruled out by one statement in Lind’s letter: “Our examination revealed no prior dental restorations . . .” Thus, none of Geller’s teeth had ever been drilled, not even for minor cavities.
Geller has been observed by scientists not only in the United States, but in Germany, Japan, Switzerland, France, England, and Canada. In Canada, observations of Geller’s talents were made by Dr. A. R. G. Owen, executive director of the New Horizon Research Foundation in Toronto and former head of the Department of Genetics at Cambridge University, England. Owen, who has published scores of technical papers on genetics and mathematics, has long been interested in paranormal phenomena. When he heard that Geller would be in Toronto to tape a television show, he decided that he would prepare his own type of test for Uri.
On Friday, March 8, 1974, Geller arrived at the CITY-TV studio in Toronto. He was greeted by the studio staff, by several members of the Toronto Society for Physical Research, and by Owen. It had been agreed in advance that objects would be collected from the TV audience before the show, and that once the program began Geller would try some of his metal bending. Owen, who wanted to “test” Geller, planted three of his own objects among those taken from the audience: his were rare, almost one of a kind items. Also on the tray was a variety of ordinary keys, nails, spoons, and forks. Owen examined each object, and once the tray was placed on a table between Geller and the TV show’s host, he kept a careful watch over it. He was curious to see if Geller would select an ordinary nail, a common key, or an undistinguished fork to bend – for which a sleight-of-hand substitution could be made – or if Geller would go for one of the rare items.
Geller, as anyone who has worked with him will agree, is unpredictable. Sometimes he prefers to work with an ordinary object, and other times the novelty of an item will strike his fancy. Geller claims that when he is confronted with a variety of objects, certain ones “suggest themselves” to him. That afternoon at the studio, Geller singled out three objects on the tray that he would try to bend: a fork and two keys tied together by a string. He stroked the fork and it bent some forty degrees; he held the keys up by the string (never touching them) and soon one key began to bend before a close-up TV camera. (See Plate 49.) Ironically, they were Owen’s items. Geller claims that he picked them because they looked so different from the others on the tray. The fork was rare: stamped on its back was, “Koba, Stainless, Japan.”
The two keys belonged to private rooms at Cambridge University. In his paper, “Uri Geller’s metal phenomena: An eyewitness account,” Owen argues that a magician would have selected the most common object on the tray; a standard sixpenny nail, perhaps – he could have such a nail, already bent, palmed or up his sleeve. But Geller had quickly, and without deliberation, selected the three unique objects on the tray. “The phenomena,” writes Owen after much consideration, “were paranormal and totally genuine.”
It is one thing to watch Geller bend a metal object, and quite another experience to have a “Gellerized” object become plastic-like and bend in your own hand. Thomas Coohill experienced this twice under very informal conditions but at Birkbeck College, the University of London, four scientists who tested Geller observed this phenomenon. A metal spoon, which had been previously tested and carefully weighed, began to bend in Geller’s hand. Not believing his eyes. Dr. John B. Hasted, a physicist, took the spoon from Geller. “The center was floppy . . . plastic . . . [like] a heated glass tube,” writes Hasted in “Experiments on psychokinetic phenomena.” When the spoon hardened, it spontaneously broke in two. When the pieces were weighed, and a microscopic examination of the break was made, the possibility that chemicals could have been used by Geller to corrode the spoon was ruled out. But during Geller’s three visits to Birkbeck, Hasted, along with world-renowned physicist Dr. David Bohm, Dr. Edward Bastin, and researcher Brendan O’Regan, observed some phenomena that had not occurred in the other labs in which Geller had worked.
The phenomenon of dematerialization really needs no defining. And, of course, it is clearly impossible to have objects suddenly vanish (except on “Star Trek,” “The Twilight Zone,” and “Space 1999”). This is what Hasted thought just a year ago. But today he is not so sure.
Dematerialization of an object had not been among the tests Hasted and his colleagues had prepared for Geller. For one of his visits to the college, the scientists had prepared two encapsulated crystal discs – about 2.0 mm in diameter and 0.4 mm thick, with central orifices surrounded by thinned sections. Each crystal had been specially sealed in a pharmaceutical plastic capsule about 1 cm long. Geller’s task was to try, without touching a capsule, to influence the atomic structure of the crystal. Hasted held his own hand directly above the capsules, and Geller’s hand was above Hasted’s. Suddenly, Hasted felt a warm sensation, and a moment later one of the capsules moved “like a jumping bean.” That capsule was taken to another laboratory and opened: half of the crystal was missing. (See Plate 52.) Hasted feels certain that a portion of the crystal atomically decomposed and vanished. “It did disappear under circumstances that led us to think that conjuring was out of the question,” writes Hasted. The next day the remaining portion of the crystal was examined under an electron microscope; the examination confirmed that no substitution of material had taken place. In an unpublished manuscript, My Geller Notebooks, Hasted goes into great detail about why he now believes in the possibility of dematerialization of physical objects; he claims that since the incident with the crystal several other “dematerializations” have occurred in Geller’s presence, under informal conditions. Two excerpts from Hasted’s Notebooks are printed here. They concern two of Geller’s visits to Birkbeck, and present important details concerning the circumstances surrounding the events reported in the first paper by Hasted and his colleagues. Hasted candidly evaluates the “controlled conditions” (they were not so controlled as they should have been) under which some of the testing was done, and some of the shortcomings of the experimental procedures. Anyone wishing to evaluate for himself the tests recounted in the paper “Experiments on psychokinetic phenomena,” will also have to read the two excerpts from Hasted’s Notebooks. One of them considers the dematerialization event, and the other discusses, at length, the influence Geller had on a Geiger counter which registered higher than normal radiation levels when Geller touched the device.
In working with Geller on four different occasions (one did not take place in the laboratory), the Birkbeck team reached some general conclusions: (1) In attempting to produce psychokinetic phenomena under laboratory conditions the attitude of the scientists is crucial; they must be in a relaxed state. Tension, fear, or hostility can communicate itself from members of the research team and affect Geller’s performance. (2) The probability of success is higher when all present actively want things to work well – a sort of team spirit. (3) Geller works best with experiments that challenge his imagination. Hasted also found that, in working with Geller, it is difficult to produce a predetermined set of phenomena. Fixed conditions are what any scientist strives for; thus, the spontaneous nature of many of the phenomena produced by Geller places a serious handicap on research efforts – one that unfortunately has not yet been satisfactorily resolved.
Dr. John G. Taylor, a mathematician at King’s College, University of London, was the first scientist to design experiments to measure the pressure applied by Geller when he bends metal. Taylor took two approaches in his tests. In one experiment he employed a scale of the type used to weigh letters. 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 scale. Geller had to stroke the strip, attempting to bend it, while an automatic reading device monitored the downward pressure Geller applied.
In one attempt, the strip bent, upward, by about ten degrees. The recording device showed that the maximum amount of pressure Geller applied when rubbing the strip was half an ounce (20 grams). “It was out of the question,” Taylor writes, “that such a small pressure could have produced the deflection.” What was totally unexpected, though, was that while the brass strip was bending upward the needle of the scale bent about seventy degrees away from the scale’s face.
Hoping to get additional information on the pressure exerted by Geller, Taylor devised a more elaborate experimental setup. He used a small cylinder that was embedded in a strip of aluminum; one end of the cylinder was covered by a pressure-sensitive diaphragm. When pressure is applied to the diaphragm as a result of the strip’s being rubbed gently with a finger, an electric current of an amount proportional to the pressure is generated by a device inside the cylinder.
Geller held the strip in one hand, and he did make it bend. But as the bending occurred the mechanism in the cylinder suddenly stopped functioning. “I took the apparatus from Geller,” writes Taylor, “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.”
Geller was in peak form at Taylor’s laboratory, for he was able to influence objects without direct contact, something he cannot always do. He held his hands over a plastic container in which Taylor had placed a small crystal of lithium fluoride; within ten seconds the crystal split into a number of pieces. “There was absolutely no chance of Geller’s having touched the crystal,” says Taylor. “Throughout the experiment I could see a gap between his hands and the container holding the crystal.” Geller also buckled a small disc of aluminum without touching it.
What happened after this, reports Taylor, surprised even Geller. He was taken to another laboratory where other experiments had been set up. One of these involved a strip of copper onto which was glued a very thin wire, Distortion of the strip would cause a change in the electrical properties of the wire, which could be accurately measured. Geller tried to bend the copper strip without direct contact, but after several minutes he had not done so. He became very frustrated and Taylor decided that it was best to call off the test. That decision sparked a rash of unusual happenings. In Taylor’s own words:
We broke off [the experiment to bend the strip] . . . 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 also 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.
Taylor insists that “none of the flying objects could have actually been thrown by Geller as he was some distance away from them and would not have been able to get close to them without being spotted.” Taylor had been ready, indeed expecting, objects to bend under Geller’s influence, but he was not prepared for flying objects. “These events seemed impossible to comprehend . . .” he writes in “A visit by Uri Geller.” “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 . . . 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.”
Since his work with Geller, Taylor has found fifteen children in England, all under the age of sixteen, who can deform metal as Geller does. He has named this ability the Geller Effect, since the children have developed this talent after having seen Geller perform on British television shows. In his paper “Analyzing the Geller Effect,” Taylor gives experimental evidence and states that the Geller Effect, as produced by Geller and the fifteen children, is genuine. He also looks at the metal-bending phenomenon from a physical standpoint. What variables are present in the Geller Effect? Are there changes in temperature? Does current flow? Are magnetic fields present? What type of energy produces the deformations? And what is the range of metals that can be bent?
Taylor gives answers to some of these questions. He has found that copper, aluminum, brass, several forms of steel, tin, lead, zinc, and silver all respond to the Geller Effect. He has never observed a temperature change during bending greater than two degrees — what one would expect from the gently rubbing of metal by hand. Using sophisticated equipment, he has determined that during Psychokinetic deformation of metal there is no flow of electrical current in the test object; no ionizing radiation is given off; there is no ultraviolet or infrared radiation; and no static magnetic fields are present in the vicinity of the subject or the object being bent. The lack of ionizing radiation is particularly disturbing to Taylor and to the scientists at Birkbeck, because they all observed Geller set a Geiger counter ticking by merely touching it. In Taylor’s case, the ticking indicated the presence of ionizing radiation up to 500 times that of the normal background level.
On one of his visits to Europe in April 1975, Geller was invited to INSERM, the National Institute for Higher Studies and Medical Research of the Foch Hospital in Suresnes, France. Seven experiments were conducted under the direction of Dr. Albert Ducrocq, in the presence of five other scientists. Some of the tests were successful, others were not; two of them raise some interesting questions.
Without touching a compass (his hands were held by two scientists, see Plate 55), Geller was able to deflect its needle “slightly” and with only “great difficulty.” After several unsuccessful attempts to get more motion from the needle, he asked the scientists and technicians in the room to form a tight circle around him. The people gathered together (three now held his hands). Geller encouraged them to come closer and closer until he “felt” they were at the right distance. He then concentrated on the compass and immediately there was an increase in the movement of the needle. Did Geller draw some form of energy from the people around him to help him move the needle? The scientists are unsure of the answer, but Geller himself feels certain that he draws his psychokinetic powers from others. “I have never been able to bend or break an object unless there are at least one or two other people in the room,” he says. “When I am alone I don’t seem to have this power. I feel that in some way I am taking energy fromthe people in the room.” Besides the presence of people, Geller sometimes needs around him metals other than the one he is trying to bend. At the Foch Hospital he was able to bend a key only slightly until it was placed on a metal plate. Then, claims Ducrocq in “The Uri Geller Report,” the key bent without Geller’s touching it.
Uri Geller visited South Africa from mid-July to mid-August 1974, giving lecture-demonstrations in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town, and Port Elizabeth. “From the beginning of his visit,” writes Dr. E. Alan Price of the South African Institute for Parapsychology, “it became apparent that numerous phenomena occur outside the direct physical presence of, or contact with, Mr. Uri Geller. I then decided to launch a project that would attempt to collect, record, and analyze the various experiences that were reported to be taking place throughout the country.” Thus Price’s paper, “The Uri Geller Effect,” is a “field study,” similar to the type of research that characterized the earliest days of parapsychological investigation. To get his data, Price appealed to people through the press and radio to report to the institute any phenomenon that may have occurred in association with Uri Geller’s visit to their area.
The unavoidable subjectivity in all field-study work makes most physical scientists balk. There are no unambiguous electric currents to be measured, no temperatures or pressures to he recorded – only the word of some individual about an ill-understood event. How can you trust the reports that are submitted to you? How can you be certain that an event, even if it did actually take place, is related to the propinquity of Uri Geller? Despite the obvious difficulties in field-study work, it is a well-established investigative tool, which has long served such subjects as sociology, psychology, and anthropology; and Price has conducted his investigation in a thorough manner. I will not go into the specifies of collecting data and determining the reliability of a source (Price does these things in great detail in his paper). In short, after considerable sifting and screening of correspondence, Price ended up with 137 “reliable case reports.” The elements of each case and the facts about the individuals who reported them were then analyzed by computer for correlations on such parameters as age, sex, I.Q.. social status, income. Here I will briefly summarize a few of Price’s results:
Age: The number of people who experienced the “Uri Geller Effect” (as Price calls it) increased with age. However, those who continued to claim that they could bend metal some time after Geller’s visit were all under the age of twenty.
Sex: Psychical researchers in England have determined that spontaneous cases of ESP occur about 19 percent of the time among males and 81 percent among females. The American Society for Psychical Research in New York City has come up with similar figures: 24 percent for males, 75 percent for females. However, Price found that manifestations of the Uri Geller Effect in the South African population had no sex-dependence.
Marital Status: A large percentage of widowed and divorced persons experienced spontaneous ESP phenomena. “The possibility exists.” writes Price, “that certain psychological factors, such as tension, stress, frustration, and loneliness, may play a part in facilitating psychokinetic ability or stimulating greater interest in the paranormal.”
Being married did not significantly influence a person’s reported psychokinetic ability.
Occupation: “A considerably larger proportion of professional persons,” writes Price, “than is present in the general population responded to the Uri Geller Effect. A rather small proportion of tradesmen and civil servants, on the other hand, reported such an effect.”
Type of Experience: 16.99 percent were telepathic experiences;
83.01 percent were of a psychokinetic nature.
Sensory Feelings: Only 43.15 percent of those reporting mentioned an associated sensory or emotional experience coupled with the psychokinetic experience. 56.02 percent experienced nothing.
Sense of Conviction: About the same number of cases of ESP were reported by confirmed believers as by confirmed skeptics.
After presenting all his data Price weighs the relevance of the information. Is the Uri Geller Effect nothing more than mass hysteria in the population, and are the people who report it consciously or unconsciously cheating or lying? He concludes by stating: “The present investigation is presented not as final and conclusive evidence of the existence of the Uri Geller Effect, but rather claims that enough evidence is present to suggest that the Uri Geller Effect exists and is genuine.” That conclusion has been reached independently by Dr. John Hasted, Dr. John Taylor, and Dr. Thelma Moss as well – all worked directly with individuals who developed spontaneous paranormal ability after having seen or heard of Uri Geller. If the Geller Effect does indeed turn out to be proved true, says Price, it may be the most significant happening in the history of parapsychology. “Thus, it would seem possible that a large number of ‘experient-percipients’ in a sizable population group,” (?) writes Price, “could be activated through mass media and a psychic with the personality and ability of Uri Geller, and PK phenomena could be produced. The discovery of mini-Gellers, who may then be subjected to laboratory investigations, would open up a completely new avenue, a new prospect and dimension in psi research. This could produce as near a repeatable laboratory experiment as is possible in biological science.”
At the moment, however, the only evidence we have on the Geller Effect – and on Uri Geller – lies in the papers that follow. They raise many more questions than they answer, which must be expected at this early stage of investigation. But they are a start. The papers are here to read and evaluate, and it is hoped that they will generate more scientific research on Uri Geller.
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