OFFICIAL REPORT: SOCIETY OF AMERICAN MAGICIANS, ASSEMBLY 30, ATLANTA CHAPTER
by The Occult Investigations Committee,
Artur Zorka, Chairman.
Artur Zorka is a professional magician and member of the Society Of American Magicians. He is founder of the Junior Magic Club of Atlanta, past Vice-President of a division of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, and Chairman of the Atlanta Occult Investigations Committee. He was voted by his Atlanta peers the Magician of the Year in 1974.
When the report by Zorka was made public, and material from it picked up by the press, Zorka and fellow magician Abb Dickson came under critical attack by many members of the Society of American Magicians. They argued, among other things, that the report was not “official” because it did not go through the appropriate internal channels of the n-magicians’ fraternity, and that both Zorka and Dickson were “relatively inexperienced investigators.” Following Zorka’s report here are four letters that shed light directly and peripherally on the investigation and on the attitudes of some magicians toward Uri Geller.
The first letter is addressed to Geller and is signed by Frank Bullock, President of the Atlanta Society of Magicians, and by five of the society’s members. The letter denounces the “official” nature of the Zorka report and claims that “the findings were totally inconclusive, being merely opinions of relatively inexperienced investigators. ”
Concerning this latter contention, Zorka’s biographical credentials speak for themselves – he is an experienced, competent magician, a fact that is ironically reinforced in Bullock’s own letter, in which he states that Zorka is the Chairman of the Atlanta Society’s Occult Committee. Mr. Bullock, in personal communications of November 1975, stated that Zorka is indeed a competent magician and a specialist in occultlike magic, and regretted the derogatory statement the society had earlier made against Zorka and Dickson.
The second letter is from Zorka to the National President of the Society of American Magicians, William P. Dunbaugh. Zorka states what he feels was the real focus of the attacks on him and Mr. Dickson: “I sincerely believe,” he states, “that had Mr. Dickson and I discovered Mr. Geller at some sort of trickery, and released that information, there would have been no concern.” His letter is followed by Dunbaugh’s reply.
The fourth and final letter is from Zorka to Milbourne Christopher, a magician, and the National Chairman of the Occult Investigations Committee of the Society of American Magicians. It is of interest because of the experimental details it adds to Zorka’s Official Report. Where the report summarizes the results of the investigation of Geller, the letter to Christopher gives a sequential account of the tests that Zorka and Dickson tried with Geller, including Geller’s failures as well as his successes. All of the experiments were done on June 2, 1975.
The following material is published for the first time, with the permission of Artur Zorka and Abb Dickson.
As CHAIRMAN of the Occult Investigations Committee of this society, I hereby submit the findings of this committee regarding its investigation of Uri Geller.
On June 2, 1975, I, Artur Zorka, and several fellow magicians witnessed a taping of a television program in which Mr. Geller was interviewed as a guest. Unknown to Mr. Geller, five magicians were seated at various locations in the audience for the purpose of detecting the methods by which he claims to be able to produce his “phenomena.” Although we were impressed by his ability as an entertainer, conditions were less than ideal for making any final judgement. Following the taping, however, Mr. Abb Dickson, [Abb Dickson is a professional magician who was selected master of ceremonies and performing magician for a State department-sponsored tour of eleven European countries in 1966. He has published several articles on magic in publications of the International Brotherhood of Magicians and the Society of American Magicians, and served as a consultant for the popular New York City production of The Magic Show.] a member of this committee, and I were able to meet with Uri Geller privately for a personal interview and some controlled experiments. I italicize controlled 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 who are trained for a profession in the art of deception, to prevent fraud.
Being a specialist in that particular area of magic which deals in the psychic, I took special care to set up tests under conditions that, I believe, could not produce results through trickery.
The tests took place in a room that contained no mirrors, no windows, and one door, by which we entered. The door was locked behind us. Mr. Dickson, Mr. Geller, and I sat facing each other. No one else was present or in the near vicinity of the testing area.
The first test involved Uri Geller’s attempt to bend a fork that I provided. The fork was made of forged steel, with a nylon-reinforced handle. I specifically selected this fork because of its extreme resistance to physical stress. I placed the fork in Mr. Geller’s outstretched left hand. His fingers curled around it, and in moments, without the fork’s leaving my sight for even an instant, it literally exploded, sending fragments of the handle across the room. (See Plate 45.)
For the tests of Uri Geller’s telepathic abilities, he was asked to turn his back while members of the committee, in turn, made simple drawings. The object was for Mr. Geller to duplicate the drawings without having seen them. After a few false starts, Geller was able to make remarkably accurate facsimiles of the target drawings. The target drawings were made on plain sheets of white paper, and when the drawings were finished they were covered. While each target drawing was being made, Geller was being carefully watched by the other member of the committee to make sure that there was no way for him to see the drawing. The person making, the drawing was extremely careful as to what paper was used and how the pen was held; he kept hand and arm movements to a minimum. In later tests, Geller was able to duplicate on paper target designs of which I merely thought. No drawings, in these later tests, were made by me. (See Plate 46.)
In another test, I watched, from a distance of no more than five feet, as a key bent beneath Geller’s touch. I was able to see, under these controlled conditions, the bending process actually taking place.
Therefore, it is the unanimous finding of this committee that although we, as magicians, can duplicate each of these test results using methods known by us, under the proper conditions . . . 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 Geller was subjected.
Dear Mr. Geller: August 14, 1975
It has come to our attention that you received a copy of a series of tests placed on you by the chairman of our local Occult Committee, Mr. Arthur Glick (a.k.a. Artur Zorka). As a copy of this report was received by you before the original was presented to the Atlanta Society of Magicians, it is an unauthorized copy of the findings and in no way represents the opinion of our Society.
The report was presented to the Society in an Executive Committee meeting where it was determined that the findings were totally inconclusive, being merely opinions of relatively inexperienced investigators.
Considering the above findings of the Executive Committee, the Atlanta Society of Magicians respectfully requests that you do not use the report in any of your publicity.
Mr. Glick does not have the official authority to commit the Atlanta Society of Magicians.
(signed) Frank Bullock, President Atlanta Society of Magicians Julian V. Boehm, Assembly #30
Harold R. Martin, Vice-President
Joe T. Gattis, Secretary
Walter J. Harris, Treasurer
John W. White, Sgt.-at-Arms
Calvin W. Tooles (Past President)
Dear Mr. President [William P. Dunbaugh, August 13, 1975
I have been asked by the Board of Director of Assembly 30 to respond to a recent inquiry of yours concerning my report on Uri Geller.
It was the decision of the Board of Directors that the only wrong done by me was to release an official report without the consent of the Society. If, indeed, it was wrong to give Mr. Geller a copy of a report concerning him, then I indeed apologize, and stand corrected.
However, I sincerely believe that had Mr. Dickson and I discovered Mr. Geller at some sort of trickery, and released that information, there would have been no concern. If this is so, then I’m afraid there is a contradiction here.
Be that as it may, if I have caused the Society any embarrassment, I am truly sorry. I only ask that your opinion of the content of the report not disguise the real issue.
I am enclosing a copy of a letter to Milbourne Christopher. It may answer some of your questions also.
Yours in magic,
(signed) Artur Zorka
August 19. 1975
Dear Mr. Zorka:
Thank you for your kind and courteous letter regarding the Uri Geller incident, but would like to point out the only reason I got into the picture was through a telephone call from Reader’s Digest as to whether you were speaking as the National Occult Chairman of the Society of American Magicians. This led me to make two inquiries of your Assembly’s Secretary and National Deputy, as I, personally, could not express an honest opinion regarding any action you took pertaining to your belief in Mr. Geller.
They informed me you were not speaking for the National Office of the S.A.M. and it was an internal or local problem. I so informed the Reader’s Digest that your opinion was not that of the Society of American Magicians and if any report you submitted implied that you were speaking for this organization, it certainly was in error. This was the extent of my contact with the people from Reader’s Digest.
You have not, in any way, caused the Society any embarrassment and inasmuch as you were thoughtful enough to inform Milbourne Christopher of your experience with Uri Geller, and your recognition that any report submitted by members of the S.A.M. for public consumption should not be submitted in the name of our Society without National Council approval should close this incident. Mr. Christopher, I might add, is the National Chairman of our Occult Committee.
I certainly do appreciate your concern in the matter, the respectful manner in which you outlined the entire situation to me and your compliance in the future with our regulations. In conclusion I must say that in no way am I questioning your personal opinion in this matter as we are all certainly entitled to that without criticism.
(signed) William P. Dunbaugh
The Society of American Magicians
Forgive me for taking so long to answer your letter. I have been on the road performing and have had very little time to keep up with correspondence. This incident with Geller has caused many people to write to me and I found a mountain of mail waiting for me when I returned home.
I really don’t know what I can add to what was written in the report. I do know that talking with you and reading your latest book was a great help in setting up conditions for the tests. I was prepared to nail the guy, but as Abb Dickson can testify, the results were quite another story.
To begin with, I was present during a taping of a TV program for educational television, to be aired this fall. When I heard that Geller was to be at the station, where there would be a live audience, I contacted as many local magicians as I could and asked them to be in the audience. I am quite friendly with the people out at the Georgia ETV network and was able to do this. I was even asked to help make up the questions the narrator was to ask Geller. The majority of them were questions you posed in your book.
The magi were seated at various locations throughout the audience. Most of them, unfortunately, were novices and probably could have been fooled by even a mediocre sleight-of-hand man and so most of what they had to say must be taken with a mountain of salt.
However, prior to the taping, Geller walked through the audience collecting key rings. With the lighted stage behind him, and him standing in the shadows, there would have been ample opportunity for him to do most anything with the keys he collected on his way back to the set. For this reason, all results occurring during the program must be discounted due to lack of control.
Following the taping, Geller was surrounded by members of the audience asking him to bend one of their keys for them. I was able to make my way next to him, and between demonstrations I was able to tell him that I needed to talk to him in private and that it was very important. He asked where we could go to talk. Abb Dickson and I escorted him to the office of one of the directors, and I closed the door behind us.
I had been hoping to get Geller alone, so I had come prepared. I handed him a fork and asked him if he could bend it for me. He looked puzzled, as if wondering why we needed to be alone. Why couldn’t I have given him the fork out in the hallway? I told him I would explain in a moment. The fork was part of the table service we used when you had dinner with us. It has a black nylon-reinforced handle, and is stamped “forged stainless – Japan” on the back. I tested a similar fork the day before. I could not bend it by hand. When I put the fork in a vise and tried again, the handle cracked, as it did with Geller, but with one significant difference. The metal rod which extends from the tongs of the fork and is inserted into the nylon handle was not affected. The handle cracked before the metal could give. With the fork Geller used, the handle cracked and the metal rod inside the handle was bent.
The sound that came from Geller’s hand after he closed his fingers around the handle was not unlike the sound ice makes as it cracks in warm water. The hand, with the ends of the fork protruding from either side, was in sight at all times.
It was at this point that I told Geller that I am a magician. I told him that I am very interested in what he is doing. His first reaction was to accuse me of doing something to the fork to make the handle crack. I told him that I am a mentalist, that while on stage I have had many experiences I am unable to explain, and that for this reason I am not close-minded when it comes to the existence of psychic phenomena. I told him that I am the chairman of the Atlanta Society of Magicians’ Occult Investigations Committee, S.A.M. Assembly 30, and in that capacity, along with committee member Abb Dickson, would like to give him some tests. I told him that I was not out to get him, that Mr. Dickson and I would be honest and fair with him. I told him that if, after the tests, we were unable to detect any trickery, I would give him a copy of the report I would be submitting to the Assembly. He agreed. He told me the reason why he decided to agree was that in the past every magician who ever approached him for testing had been hostile. He knew that they would be uncooperative. He said that there was a big difference between being a skeptic and being hostile. And for this reason, and because he believed me when I said I would be honest with him, he agreed to the tests.
I asked him what sort of accuracy he had been having with telepathy. He said he’d like to try some tests. There were three chairs in the room, so we formed the chairs into a circle and each sat down. I asked Geller to turn his head, and while he did, with his hands acting as blinders on either side of his eyes, Abb watched him closely. We made sure he was wearing no rings and had nothing in his hand which could act as a shiner. I picked up a book I had with me and made a drawing on the inside back cover. I held the book upright, just in case he might have had some method of seeing behind him. After I closed the book, Geller turned back to face me.
Following some time of concentration, he guessed. He was wrong. We repeated the experiment. Wrong again. Another try; again no results. Finally he told me not to write anything. Just think of some object. Some time passed as I concentrated on one of my dogs at home. He made some drawing on a pad I had given him, then became unsure of what he had drawn and discarded the paper. He said he was not getting anything definite. He suggested we go back to the original method of my drawing the object I was “sending.” I drew a picture of a dog bone. Then Geller turned around and told me to think. I did. Nothing. He told me that I should stare at his forehead as I thought. I did. Nothing. Then he held up the pad I had given him earlier. He told me, to imagine the object was drawn on it. Again nothing. Next he drew what looked like the outline of a TV screen on the paper. He told me to imagine that the object was inside the screen. After a short while, he drew four dots on the paper, forming the four corners of a rectangle. Another few moments passed and he connected the two upper dots with a horizontal line. I said, “Good.” He told me not to say anything, and then connected the two lower dots, making two horizontal parallel lines on the paper. He said that if this looked anything like what I had been thinking of, that I should complete the drawing in my mind. I thought of two opposing threes at the ends of the lines. He drew the threes. They were a little out of alignment for a perfect bone, but close enough to indicate to me that that is what it was. Afterward, when I showed him my drawing, he made some sketches on his paper describing what had gone through his mind.
In making my original drawing of the bone, I kept in mind the various methods of trickery, i.e., pencil reading, impressions, etc., making sure to take the necessary precautions, even though his back was turned. We made several other tests of a similar nature with the same results.
We then tried some metal bending with no success. It was getting late and I had a dinner engagement. Abb offered to drive me to my appointment, and Geller asked for a ride to his hotel, since his party had left long before. They had been waiting, with the security guard, in the lobby of the TV network, and when it looked as if Geller would be some time, they went ahead to the hotel.
As I was straightening up the office before we left, I picked up the paper Geller had discarded in one of the first tests. The one where I had not drawn the “target.” On it was a rough drawing of what looked like a dog. I had merely thought of that dog. I had not mentioned to him, at any time, that I had been thinking of my dog or that I even had a dog. I was careful not to show him any of the misses. I only told him that he was incorrect.
On the way to the Regency Hyatt House, where I was to meet my father for dinner, I showed Geller some sleight-of-hand magic. He seemed impressed. Upon arriving at the hotel, Geller got out of the car with me to say goodbye. I asked him to try, one more time, to bend a key for me. I gave him a very short key which I chose because its length might make it difficult to get a good grip on. He didn’t even take it from me. He told me to hold it between my thumb and forefinger. As I did, he stroked it with his finger and it started to bend. I placed the key into my palm and watched as it continued to bend. I cannot explain it.
We shook hands, said goodbye, and Abb drove Geller to his hotel. I kept my promise and had a copy of my report in the mail to him within several days.
That’s all I can tell you of what happened. I have never claimed that Geller was authentic, or that the Society had any opinion as to Geller’s authenticity. I only said that I know of no way that he could have used trickery to do these things. That is a fact.
I don’t believe I was fooled. The only way I will change my thoughts about this matter is when some magician comes along and duplicates what I saw Geller do, under the same rigid conditions.
I’m sorry that there had not been any more magicians present for the tests. I really tried to get as many as possible. I called all over the city, inviting everyone I could reach to come. Only Abb and a few novices showed up. It’s too bad.
I hope I have answered your questions. I really only regret that such a disturbance has been caused. However, at no time did I say anything to indicate that it was the opinion of the Society that
Geller is authentic. Only that, if trickery was used, neither Abb nor I were familiar with the method.
In any case, if there is anything more you would like to know, please contact me.
(signed) Artur Zorka
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