REPORT ON A MEETING WITH URI GELLER AT THE ROYAL GARDEN HOTEL, LONDON, OCTOBER 30, 1972.
by Edward W. Bastin, Ph.D., Language
Research Unit, Cambridge.
Tim Eiloart, correspondent for The New Scientist.
Edward W. Bastin holds doctorate degrees in both physics and mathematics. He won an Isaac Newton studentship to Cambridge University, and for a time was Visiting Fellow at Stanford University, California. Dr. Bastin’s current interests are in physics, mathematics, and parapsychology.
Tim Eiloart studied chemical engineering at Trinity College, Cambridge. He spent twelve years setting up and running a number of companies, including Cambridge Consultants. Since 1970 he has been a free-lance journalist and business correspondent for The New Scientist.
On his way to the U.S. in late 1972, Uri Geller stopped off in England, where he met Dr. Edward “Ted” Bastin of the Language Research Unit at Cambridge. The following report tells of that meeting and of the events that Bastin and others witnessed at the Royal Garden Hotel in London. This is a conversational paper; it is painted here because it presents an early picture of Geller and the feats he performed before any scientific testing of him was undertaken. About a year and a half elapsed between this first informal meeting between Geller and Bastin, and the subsequent testing that Dr. Bastin and his colleagues undertook at Birkbeck College.
Published in Theoria to Theory, Macmillan Journals Ltd., Vol. 7,
The meeting began with Geller attempting some quite ordinary “thought transference” tasks, which were at first not very successful but became more successful later on. It seemed that Geller liked to “warm up ” in this way – indeed, he himself said that this was so. He also said that if there were few people present then he needed to have a deep warm relationship with each. If there was a large audience this did not matter so much (Geller is used to giving music-hall demonstrations of his powers).
Geller then asked for some fairly small metal objects preferably of a rather personal, familiar sort. He didn’t like money. No one proffered a ring, and all we could find were spoons. One was a stainless steel spoon that Bastin found in Puharich’s bathroom while looking for metal objects. It turned out to be a spoon Puharich used for taking medicine. The rest were teaspoons belonging to the hotel. These latter were silver-plated and quite robust (probably with a cupro nickel base – it was later confirmed that they were E.P.N.S. [electroplated nickel silver]). Geller asked Eiloart to hold these four spoons loosely in his hands, which were cupped, with the spoons vertical and hands and spoons resting on the table. Geller then put his clasped hands an inch or two above the spoons – not in contact – and appeared to concentrate his thoughts upon the spoons. He concluded this “concentration” with a tightening of the clasp, which usually made his fingers click. Geller then said he thought nothing had happened. Eiloart released the spoons onto the table.
A minute or so later Bastin asked if the others thought that the stainless steel spoon had flattened its handle. No one was sure. Bastin picked it up and immediately dropped it involuntarily because it felt somehow “alive.” Then all saw that the bowl of the spoon was bent sideways, and some discussion took place as to whether the spoon could have been distorted as much as that before the experiment without this having been noticed. It was thought this was most unlikely since the spoons had been scrutinized when they were collected. This spoon continued to deform slightly in that the bowl took a sharper angle to the handle in the symmetry plane (the first movement had been at right angles to the symmetry plane).
In the next experiment Geller said he would try to move the hands of Bastin’s wrist watch (which had a segmented stainless steel strap). He laid the watch on the table face up and made the same motions as were described for the spoons. Nothing happened. (During this attempt and the next ones, everyone watched to see if there was daylight between Geller’s hands and the watch.) Geller then tried with the watch turned face down, and this time it was found that the hands had moved from a quarter to five (the correct time) to a quarter past three. The new position was a “possible” one in the sense that it could have been reached by turning the watch handle. The watch was still going, and Bastin returned the hands to the correct time after everyone had observed them.
Half a minute later Bastin thought he saw the back of the watch (then lying face downward) begin to go concave. In fact, this was an illusion and was probably caused by a deformation that had started in the metal strap at the end that was connected to the watch. Two links had been considerably twisted. Eiloart then examined the strap and made estimates of the angle through which it had twisted. It took about ten minutes to reach the state in which it finally settled, by which time the four end links had been twisted. The twist might have been produced by manually applied force, but it seems more likely that the strap would have broken.
The last phenomenon to be observed occurred when Geller made a movement to pick up one of the spoons (it is not certain whether this was one of the original set) that was lying in a saucer in order to stir his coffee or put in sugar. He lifted the spoon (as I saw out of the corner of my eye) by the end of the handle, and as he did so the bowl of the spoon fell off and clattered into the saucer. Everyone then looked, and Geller became excited, saying, “Look what has happened.” Eiloart then took a rather similar spoon (no exact duplicate could be found) and bent it backward and forward as far as it would go, using all his strength. It took about twenty such flexures for the spoon to break, which it did, and in a place similar to the fracture of the first spoon.
The affected pieces of metal from the various experiments were placed in separate plastic bags together with brief notes to describe what had happened in each case.
The only general remark I am able to make about the fractures from a physical point of view is that the easiest way to imagine them would be to consider the metal becoming momentarily plastic at the relevant point, and then being subject to gravitational and inertial forces for a moment.
My first impression of Uri was of an immensely enthusiastic person who really seemed pleased to encounter us. All smiles and friendliness.
He sat us down and warned us that he would not be able to do as well if he had not got a big audience or if we were skeptical. (This warning seemed to rule out any really skeptical investigation or thoroughly scientific procedures, so what follows, is put forward as an honest description of Uri’s way of working, not as proof of his paranormal powers.) Then he said he was able to do two sorts of paranormal thing, one being telepathy and the other being action at a distance. I expressed surprise about the telepathy, which I had not previously heard of. He then said yes, and asked Ted to write two series of three numbers on a sheet of paper. Ted did so, putting the numbers in groups of three. Then Uri asked Ted whether he could remember the last of each series. Ted couldn’t and I could so Uri asked me to transmit the numbers. He seemed quite sure he could get the first after a while but not the second (or maybe the other way about). He then got the one he thought he could get.
Next we tried my sending a picture. Uri was blindfolded when I drew it, and in most other cases was apparently looking away or was blindfolded. He was wishing to transmit this to Ted and we stood in various positions with Ted next to him and me on various sides of him. He admitted defeat after a while and Ted said, “Was it a castle?” As he said so, Uri said, “Was it a house with a big chimney?” Uri was right, though Ted was also pretty accurate. Ted also asked about squares, which were prominent in the windows.
Uri tried to guess a tree and got a circular thing with two lines, but they were horizontal, not vertical, beneath it. He tried to draw what I was holding, which was a comb, but “could have been a comb or pen.” He drew a sort of cigar-like object, in fact, and was disappointed that it was about 5 mm too long. He had hoped to get the right length to within 1 mm or so.
He tried to soften some spoons and bend them. After he had done so, one was very bent, although it was just conceivable that we had missed noticing it was bent when looking at them before he tried. At the time, I held the spoons in my hand and he held his hand over mine as if warming them with body heat. He had previously failed to make any impression on an individual spoon as far as we could see, though the curvature of the handle might have changed a little. I doubt that.
At a very early stage Uri had tried to transmit colors to Ted, without any success, and had transmitted green to me (though I never felt any conviction and felt I was merely guessing).
He then tried to change the hands on Ted’s watch, but without Success.
Next he did some more guessing of pictures from Ted. He got one impression of “a box-shaped thing on circles with lines beneath which could have been a train.” In fact, there was a box-shaped church on some lines of hills but no circles we could see. Later I held the piece of paper up to the light and the word Green appeared where Uri had written it, when transmitting it to me, in rounded script where the wheels would have been. (Uri never saw this interpretation of the circles.)
I went to the john and when I was coming out Uri was trying to alter the hands on Ted’s watch again. It seemed to work. The hands went back an hour and a half. I had not seen them previously and could not say that the effect was real; I had only Ted’s word for it. Then he tried to alter Ted’s watch and produced a very pronounced twist in several of the links of the strap. This appeared to increase and spread from one link to another. Eventually the first link went through about one hundred and thirty-five degrees and other links through ninety-, sixty-, and forty-odd degrees. I saw a few days later that all the links were nearly back to normal and the effect could hardly be credited anymore. Ted was wearing the watch and the tension on the strap would tend to straighten the links.
The last effect was when Uri picked up a spoon to show us something about it and it snapped in two. In fact, although the spoon was a few feet from me, I was not looking at it directly. I could see it from the corner of my eye. I heard a bang as soon as he picked it up, and Uri leaped with delight because it had broken in two. He could just have palmed it without anyone seeing. It was broken as though it had bent double first, which is inexplicable, too, since it certainly did not seem to be bending double. Put this another way: if it had broken alone this might have been less odd than the fact that it bent double and then broke as he picked it up. As a piece of spoon to palm, it was an odd choice. On the other hand, bending with subsequent breaking is standard Geller practice. Uri also tried to guess numbers from Ted, which did not work too well. He guessed 10 for 5 but got one other number right; 4 I think. He failed to get a picture of a boat from me but got a picture of a face with hairs coming out of it from Ted. I was watching Ted draw this and felt that it was a face. In fact it was a cat’s face with long whiskers.
In summary, the watch strap was the best piece of work apart from the spoon, which could have been a trick. The watch’s changing its hands should have impressed Ted most, perhaps. I did get the feeling that the telepathy was real and either a correct image came to Uri or he refused to guess in most cases. Only the single wrong number with Ted was a positive failure.
If Uri and Puharich were working an elaborate double act, it would have been possible to do some of the guesses, though a radio transmitter would have been needed for the cases where Uri was blindfolded and Puharich would have been an accomplice.
If we were hypnotized it would have been possible for Uri to twist the links in the watch strap to their original final twistedness, using pliers without our noticing, and to change its hands. However, the twist, which is now visible, could be produced with a quick hand movement.
Insofar as Uri cannot operate well with sceptics, it would be very difficult to test his powers properly, since he could always employ quite sophisticated tricks up to the point that the cross-checks stopped him, then plead scepticism. I did try writing down the state of the watch strap at 5:10 or so, when it seemed to be twisting more every few minutes, and at that time had stopped changing, as far as I could see. He does seem very genuine and might well be self-deluded if he is hoaxing. But then it is impossible to say how anyone could not be aware of such a depth of trickery if that were the case. It would need to be some kind of walking trance state, I guess.
Coda by Tony Bloomfield, journalist
At 10:00 A.M. on the morning after what Bastin has described, a further meeting was held at 52 Berkeley Square. Those present, aside from myself, were Uri Geller and his young cousin, Andrija Puharich, and Ted Bastin.
Geller began with “thought transference” experiments, in which he tried to guess simple line drawings and digits that I had drawn on a piece of paper. He had varying degrees of success with this, but the last attempt was strikingly successful. I had drawn a circle with a vertical diametric line, and began to hold the figure in my mind. He then reproduced the figure on his paper with complete assurance and no delay, and we both held the figures up for the others to see. This experiment convinced me that Geller was succeeding genuinely, though, of course, the elaborate precautions customary in this kind of experiment were not taken.
We then turned to metal objects. Geller wanted objects with some personal “character,” and I produced a very heavy object like a marlin spike. Geller said he thought that would be too strong for him to affect, and this turned out to be true. After that we were again reduced to the spoons, which had come in with the coffee I had ordered. They were again quite heavy silver-plated spoons. Geller asked Bastin to put his hands over one spoon, which he did in such a way that we could see the spoon and could see daylight between the spoon and his hands, Geller then put his own hands above Bastin’s and concentrated on the spoon. It was just as he stopped that we saw the handle of the spoon begin to distort slightly and I immediately said, “That’s it; it’s going.” Then I drew the meeting to a close as I had a further engagement.
I put the spoon in a drawer in my desk although Geller had wanted Bastin to take it away for some reason we did not fathom. Later it was put on a filing cabinet in my secretary’s office, where she commented on how badly it was bent. I told her the spoon was to be left on the cabinet and not to be touched by anybody. After about an hour the spoon handle was seen to have become much more bent. The spoon stayed there for some time; it was then seen again in the afternoon and then placed under lock and key for the evening.
At the same time a second spoon had been brought up from the kitchen. This spoon was in a sugar bowl and no attention was paid to it by any of us. However, when we came to send the sugar bowl out of the office, we noticed a “mangled” spoon in it. I asked my secretary, who said it had been slightly bent but not as badly as the condition in which it was being returned. However, as nobody was paying any attention to this spoon, no comment can he made on exactly when it became so much more bent.
Both incidents are significant because my secretary was quite a new person on the scene. She had not been subject to any possible collective hallucination or hypnotism on the part of Geller. In fact, she had neither met nor known any of the people present in my office that morning.
Later the same day I met Geller and Puharich in the same room, and again a spoon was bent in much the same way. One other incident took place while Geller was there that reminded me of the phenomena of poltergeist infestations. A heavy metal knob, which was one of a pair screwed onto the tops of the corners of my electric imitation coal fireplace, suddenly clattered to the grate. There was no reason to think that anyone had unscrewed it and left it in an unstable position.
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“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.”
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“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”