Starting Point

Chapter 4 / Starting Point

 ‘Look, look, it’s bending …’ (Uri Geller as he held the author’s spoon, July 1996. It wasn’t bending.)


Do we believe what we see? Or do we see what we believe? When we watch a conjuror make a rabbit disappear, we know perfectly well that in reality, bunny is safe and well, even when he seems to have dematerialised. In other words, we see what we believe – that conjuring exists and is a skill which enables people to create clever, convincing illusions. Uri Geller asks something different of us. He demands that we believe what we see, that we accept that he is honest when he says he isn’t cheating, and that he can genuinely do things which the most elementary physics states are impossible, and anyway, can be duplicated rather effectively by regular conjurors. It’s a tall order, but over the decades, a lot of people – tens of millions, in fact – have been adamant that they witnessed something very rare and special watching Geller. Yet – and this is the fundamental question about Geller, the crux of the entire, almost fifty-year phenomenon – when he seems to do amazing things, do we end up merely seeing what we believe? Does Geller, by strength of personality, by quickness of hand, or even by some form of hypnosis, convince us initially that he has paranormal powers, then strike quickly while we are vulnerable and cause us to believe that an illusion he just performed was actually not an illusion, but something real?

The process by which I became interested in Uri Geller illustrates, I believe, most sides to these questions. When I started out, I do not believe I was remotely receptive to him. I am not religious, had never had a psychic insight into anything, seen a ghost or experienced so much anything more than the mildest, silliest spooky feeling about anyone or anywhere. I had, I suppose, had the odd suspect-ESP experience, but when pressed, put each down to co-incidence. I had certainly never seen anything as way-out as a UFO, and was deeply suspicious of what I believe to be the personality types which claim they have, especially after once going as a journalist to a group for UFO ‘abductees’ in New York. All of the people in the group seemed to me to be in the throes of a complex rape fantasy, in which they convinced themselves they had been interfered with sexually by male aliens. Indeed, if there was one thing I found truly amazing about the paranormal, it was the astonishing number of people who don’t have paranormal experiences, even though 70 per cent of us apparently admit to believing in them.

I was quite irritated, therefore in 1996, when my son, David, then 14, became interested in the paranormal, and especially in the person of Uri Geller, whom I imagined was dead or in hiding somewhere, his fraud and trickery in bending spoons humiliatingly exposed decades ago by science. I was amazed to hear Geller’s name being spoken at all by a 14 year-old. I was about 18 when Geller first became known in Britain, and considered myself rather above conjurors, pseudo-psychics, or whatever he was supposed to be. Uri Geller was someone who irritating 14 year-olds into magic would harp on about; but that was in 1973. Geller must be about 50 now; where had my irritating 14 year-old heard of the rogue? It turned out that Uri Geller had been bending spoons on an afternoon TV show, and David was hooked, just as boys had been in the heyday of flares.

Now, of course, the irritation factor was even greater, because of the World Wide Web, on which I was astounded to discover some 3,000 sites concerning themselves with Uri Geller. David pointed me to Geller’s own Internet site, and told me that publications from the Sunday Times to a bunch of computer magazines had that year voted the Uri Geller’s Psychic City site among the best in the world. I tried to explain post-modern irony to David, and how even the more intellectual media were going through a phase of re-assessing unfashionable Seventies icons like Max Bygraves, Gary Glitter and, come to mention it, Uri Geller. He had to understand that it was all strictly tongue-in-cheek, to be read as if in inverted commas. Getting excited about Uri Geller’s Website was a just a sophisticated, grown-up joke, like lava lamps. David didn’t get it.

A few days later, on a warm May Monday evening, I had to drive out to a town near Cambridge on a story for the Sunday Times. I was going to see a millionaire electronics manufacturer called John Knopp, and David came along for the ride. Knopp was doing some interesting work, ended sadly by his death a year later, on a potential electrical cure for cancer. Although he was a country boy, who left school unqualified, conventional scientists I spoke to about him were anxious to explain that Knopp was a genius at observational physics. Michael Laughton, professor of electrical engineering and dean of engineering at Queen Mary and Westfield College, London, regarded him as ‘very likely the greatest inventive mind Britain has produced this century, a national hero, but an entirely unsung one’. Another contact, a London University lecturer in physical chemistry, said of Knopp: ‘Any academic who looks down their nose at him because he doesn’t have letters after his name and a string of publications is basically a prejudiced old git. He is very, very impressive.’

But what impressed – or to be utterly accurate, depressed me – that evening was when John Knopp got talking to my son. ‘You know who you remind me of slightly, about the eyes?’ he said in his broad rural Essex accent. ‘You’re a dead spit, you are, for my good friend Uri Geller.’ David was fascinated, as one might expect. Did he think Geller was real, he asked.

‘Well,’ Knopp replied, ‘I used to think he was just an old magician, but I totally believe in telepathy and in people having a psychic affinity for certain other people, and I think he is genuine, yes. He made my key bend right here in my own hand while I was holding it, and there was no way on Earth he could have done that by trickery. My argument with Uri is that I can’t see the point in it. If he could straighten a bloody key, now that would be something.’ Before we left, John took our phone number and promised he would get Uri to phone David.

On the way home, I restated my position: ‘Uri Geller is a fraud, a proven fraud. Don’t waste your time thinking about him. he’s a conman, he’s history. I don’t know what John Knopp was on when he told us that, and you’ll never find out because Uri Geller is not going to telephone you. Ever.’ There was a moment’s silence. ‘OK,’ David said. ‘If Uri Geller is a proven fake, prove it..’

I started to search through various databases for recent articles from serious British newspapers and magazines. All had done their best to be scornful of Geller, but in each case, sceptical journalists had admitted to leaving meetings with Geller a little crestfallen, because he appeared to be able to do just what he says – bend metal and read minds. It became more intriguing still. I was convinced that Geller’s powers had never stood up to scientific scrutiny, but the evidence, forgotten or deliberately ignored by me and rationalists like me, is almost precisely the opposite. As far as I have been able to discover, barely a scientist in 30 years, after running tests on Geller, has disputed that he has powers which, as they cautiously put it, are worthy of further examination.

On the other hand, in the same articles, were quoted the professional conjurors who opposed Geller doggedly, and at every turn. They said he is a cheap fraud, who has managed to convince a gullible media and public that a variety of well-known, simple tricks are paranormal. The magicians insisted that they could do the same as Geller by using conventional sleight-of-hand methods. Now, that was the kind of argument I was receptive to. They explained, convincingly to me, that there was nothing to Geller’s trick – all he did in essence was bend the spoon behind his back when you weren’t looking. Nobody has ever seen Geller bend a spoon in front of their eyes, they stated confidently.

The scientific and journalistic accounts were a little troubling, however. I couldn’t speak for the scientists, but I had worked with some of the journalists who reported being baffled by what they had seen Geller do, and know them to be hard-boiled to the point of quite unpleasant cynicism. One writer I didn’t know had reported in 1990 in the magazine Punch that he had brought his own large tablespoon to Geller’s house to try to catch him out. ‘He held it with one hand and stroked it with the finger of the other,’ he wrote. ‘It wilted like a flower. He gave it back to me, and it slowly continued to curl like a British Rail sandwich.’ A sceptical photographer from The Independent had come away from meeting Geller to find the keys in his pocket were bent.

One of the most intriguing reports for me on Geller’s mind bending was by Nigel Reynolds, the Daily Telegraph’s arts correspondent at the time, and someone I regard as very sensible and grounded. Nigel gave over a lengthy piece to an investigation he had done into how an appalling play, which closed after a few appearances at the Hampstead Theatre in London, succeeded in getting rave notices from all the critics who attended on press night. The play, Some Sunny Day, by Martin Sherman, starred Rupert Everett and Corin Redgrave, and had a paranormal subject, which Geller had been asked by the producer to advise on. The story Reynolds uncovered with some difficulty – even Geller was cagey about it, he says – was that Geller was present on the press evening, and managed to ‘bend’ the critics’ minds.

The evidence seemed to be there in the theatre crits. ‘It is fun and, in its demented way, original,’ wrote The Observer. ‘It’s the superb playing which makes the evening worthwhile,’ gushed the Evening Standard. ‘Brilliantly witty new play,’ reported the News of the World. ‘The play left me in an accepting, upbeat mood, but I did wonder. I really did,’ said The Times man. Most enthusiastic of all was the Telegraph’s critic, Charles Spencer, who announced that One Sunny Day was, ‘Without doubt, one of the most entertaining and unexpected plays of the year.’

Reynolds was fascinated by the notices, and how they contrasted with those of critics who came the next night, when, as he discovered, Geller was not present. ‘Absurd mish-mash. If there is method in Sherman’s madness, it escapes me,’ the Sunday Express reported. ‘I am not at all sure what this adds up to,’ concluded The Sunday Times. When Reynolds discovered Geller’s involvement, he put it to Charles Spencer, his own critic.

Spencer was quite candid. He actually thought the play was ‘preposterous’, and admitted that he ‘would not rule out at all’ that his mind was taken over by Geller’s, even though he did not know he was at the theatre. ‘There was definitely a good spirit, good vibes, in the air that night, and for a reason I can’t explain, I was in an uncommonly good frame of mind,’ Spencer said. ‘I was writing for publication the next morning. I normally find that torture, and I am usually in a complete panic, but I was relaxed and calm that night.’ Spencer even confessed that until he sat down to write his review, he had been unsure of whether to call the play a hit or a flop. And he was now ‘surprised’ by the depth of passion he had felt for Sherman’s play.

Even one magician, it seemed as I ploughed on in my attempt to prove to my son that Uri Geller was a phoney, had been convinced by Geller. Leo Leslie, a professional conjuror in Denmark and a leading light of the Danish Magic Circle, did tests with Geller in Copenhagen and concluded: ‘The judgement of all of us who were present for what occurred was one of total endorsement of Geller’s paranormal claims: both his ability to bend metal and his talent for receiving telepathic signals. When I am asked about the strength of my own conclusions as to what I witnessed, I can answer only that while Geller was in Copenhagen I did not catch him in any deceptions. Therefore I have to continue to rely on my own judgement and experience as a mentalist; they tell me that Uri Geller is genuine.’

David was triumphant at my discovering all this, but meanwhile, another week passed, and Uri Geller still hadn’t phoned. I might yet win the battle of wits with my 14 year-old. Perhaps he’d forget about all the pro-Geller stuff I’d unearthed, and finally believe his father, when the promised phone call turned out to be more Geller moonshine.

But Geller did call. After talking with him for at least twenty minutes, David handed me the phone, telling him, ‘I’m going to put you on to my dad. He’s the journalist, the total sceptic.’ I felt ridiculous talking to Geller. What was the point of it? I felt I was wasting his time. But Geller didn’t seem at all awkward. He was pleasant and enthusiastic, with a light, very Israeli voice. I apologised to him for David having taken up so much of his time, to which he protested that far from it, he was delighted to speak to him. He promptly invited the whole family of five round for tea one weekday afternoon. I was even less comfortable at this, since David had obviously told Geller how implacably opposed I was to him. But I found myself accepting and making a date for a Tuesday a couple of weeks hence.

Perhaps he placed in my head the idea of writing a biography of him. All I know is that in the space of a minute, I went from wanting to do nothing less, to thinking it would be a good idea. The extraordinarily opposed position of Geller’s supporters and detractors, along with the whole unresolved enigma of the paranormal were deeply intriguing. And, although I had paid it no attention, there had been a remarkable revival of interest in Geller in the preceding months. Broadsheet newspapers and respectable magazines had been featuring him one after the other, there having been almost no mention of him for nearly a decade. The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Sunday Times, the Sunday Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph Magazine had all interviewed him in quick succession. In each case, the journalist assigned had concluded, often with some reluctance, that there just might be something in Uri Geller after all. Wouldn’t it be interesting if I could prove conclusively that he was a conman? Or that he wasn’t?

On the appointed day, the whole family drove to where Geller lives by the River Thames just outside Reading. We were late. There were plenty of jokes in the car about it not being necessary to phone to say we would be late, as he would doubtless know already by his psychic powers. I still felt distinctly embarrassed about the whole thing. The chance of him giving such a doubting Thomas as me the access I would need for a proper biography was, surely, minimal, and then he would almost certainly be a control freak who would strike out anything vaguely critical of him from the manuscript. I would mention the book idea, I decided, out of politeness, but in such an unenthusiastic way that he would not take me up on it.

We didn’t need to go through the charade. Mr. Uri Geller was not at home. We learned this from a puzzled Israeli voice on the entryphone, which was on the wrong side of a fearsome-looking set of electric security gates. He was not expecting anyone, we were told. He had gone to London. He might be back tonight. We returned home in silence. My wife and I didn’t say so, but we were clearly sharing a comforting thought; we had wasted an afternoon, but on the other hand, at least we wouldn’t be hearing about Uri Geller from David ever again.

The phone was actually ringing as we got home. It was Uri Geller from his mobile, with the one of the more impressive excuses I have heard for a missed appointment. It was the day before the Euro ‘96 football semi-final between England and Germany, and Uri had been to Wembley Stadium to plant energised crystals under the goalposts to help England, because he was worried they were going to lose the following night. ‘You’ll read about it all in the papers tomorrow,’ he said. He had completely forgotten we were coming, was terribly sorry, and re-invited us a week the following Sunday.

Minus my wife and younger daughter, who had both retired uninterested, we arrived at Geller’s house mid morning. Geller is a lean, intense man, who looked nearer 35 than 50. He struck me, David and Ruth, who was then 17, as an eager man, quite disorganised, but very hospitable and thoughtful. We were introduced to Uri’s manager and brother-in-law, Shipi Shtrang, a smiling Passepartout, who from the first moment, reminded me of a cautious Boo Boo Bear to Uri’s impulsive Yogi. Then there was Uri’s wife (and Shipi’s sister) Hannah, a pretty, blonde, shy woman who I felt would be quite difficult to get to know, his mother Manci, in her eighties and speaking only Hungarian, hence quite difficult to form any first impression of, and the two polite, attractive and beautifully behaved children, Daniel and Natalie.

The house was huge and modern, in colonial style, with a sizeable gravel forecourt and several cars and dogs around. Inside was immaculate, and full of strange, New Age pieces or art and countless crystals, some of them enormous, man-sized specimens. It was plain that this was a house built by, inspired by and largely a monument to Uri Geller’s gifts and talents, a place in tune above all to his needs and desires. Although there was an earnestness in all the New Age artefacts, there were also quirky things everywhere, which suggested a family with plenty of humour. Fixed high up on a wall in the entrance hall was what looked like a bicycle from the Starship Enterprise, an amazing space-age machine which Uri told us was the world’s fastest bike; on display in another room was a huge, eight-foot wingspan model of a Boeing 727 in Libyan Arab Airlines colours, which Uri had somehow ‘liberated’ from the airline’s Piccadilly office when it closed down after Britain severed relations with Col. Gaddafi. The furnishings throughout looked as if someone had run riot with an open chequebook in an extremely expensive store somewhere in the Mediterranean. The items were colourful, ornate and clearly costly – yet it was all perfectly comfortable in a way such millionaire homes often are not. There was a pleasant smell of some kind of incense in every room.

Uri asked if we minded him using his exercise bike while we had coffee. He is a fitness fanatic, as well as a vegan. The exercise bike is in the conservatory, where we sat looking out over a pool, which was covered although it was the middle of summer, and across vast, trimmed lawns down to the river. We chatted over the whooshing of the bike, which was less off-putting than it sounds; he punishes himself on it for an hour a day, working up a sweat, but talking easily without puffing. He seemed to have guessed, or mind-read, or something, that I was thinking of writing a book on him; so much for leaking the idea gently into the conversation. But we left the idea hanging. He talked mostly to the children.

Geller doesn’t need to be psychic to know that most even social guests are hoping that at some stage it will be show-time. As he was cycling, he tossed a pad and a fibre-tipped pen to David, who was sitting about ten feet away. ‘David, draw a simple figure on that while I turn away with my eyes closed,’ he instructed, ‘then place it face down on the table, make sure I could never possibly see it, and try to transmit the picture to me mentally.’ David drew something, shielding it with his hands, although Uri had now stopped cycling, turned his back to us and had his hands over his eyes. David placed the drawing face down as instructed, and Uri turned round and started to concentrate.

I decided at this stage it could be interesting to try to sabotage the supposed ESP demonstration by thinking of spurious images and beaming them in the direction of Uri. Of course, if Uri picked them up, it would be the opposite of sabotage, but this wasn’t a controlled experiment. I thought very hard of hippopotamuses, dollar signs and Stars of David. I do not know why these images sprang to mind, but immediately Geller asked if I would mind stopping ‘all that junk’ because he couldn’t read David’s thoughts. Quite impressive, but possibly a worthwhile gambit on Uri’s part; maybe most journalists try to interfere in the way I had. If I had said, ‘What junk?’ he could simply bluff that my mind was too active, and I should try to think of nothing.

David did another drawing as Geller looked away again. This time, after the paper was firmly face down, Uri turned round, smiling. ‘You’ve drawn a stick man,’ Geller said, immediately grabbing a pad and pen of his own from the untidy ledge above the speedometer of the exercise bike. ‘It’s something like this.’ He scrawled briefly and the two held up their sketches simultaneously. Geller’s was a perfect copy of David’s – so exact that when we measured them, the height, 6 cm, and the width of the head, 1.8 cm, were identical. Uri cycled on for a few moments as we tried to work out if we had been fooled. Then he stopped, and asked the very thing we had, of course, been hoping for.

‘Would you like me to bend a spoon for you?’ he asked. We would, we confirmed. ‘Just a minute, I’ll go and get one,’ Uri said. At which point David, like half the visitors, I imagine, to the Geller place, produced one we had selected from the cutlery drawer at home. It was an oversized tea spoon, chosen because it was thicker and heavier than most. Geller’s brow furrowed fractionally, in what I suspect is his customary reaction. ‘It’s a little thick,’ he said, ‘but I’ll try.’ He steered us all over to a radiator, saying it sometimes works better if he’s touching metal. He then put his right hand on the radiator (which at least kept it out of the way for illicit bending purposes) and held the spoon half way down its handle between his thumb and forefinger.

I was amused to note that nothing happened. Fifteen or twenty seconds passed, the four of us in a close huddle. ‘Look, look, it’s bending,’ Uri said. If it was, none of the three of us could see it. ‘David, hold out your hand,’ Uri said. He placed the spoon flat on David’s hand. I dipped my head down to see if there was some slight bend which I could at least be polite about. Viewed side on, there was a barely perceptible warp of perhaps a few millimetres out of true. It was sufficiently bent, let us say, that we could have congratulated him, if half-heartedly. ‘Wait, wait,’ Uri said. None of us noticed if he was smiling or looking anxious, because we were staring at the spoon, wondering what precisely there was to wait for. What must have been two or three seconds passed, but seemed like much longer. And then, like a miniature Loch Ness Monster arching its back upwards, a point a couple of centimetres south of the spoon’s bowl simply, spontaneously and rather graciously rose, until it was bent at a ninety degree angle and standing up from David’s hand in an upside-down V. We gasped. To see a spoon bend in Geller’s hand, as everyone has on TV, is one thing. It could be a special spoon of some sort, he could be in collusion with the TV people, anything, But to watch your own spoon actually in the process of bending and without Uri touching it at the time was truly disturbing. I picked it up to try to feel if it was at all warm, or had some caustic chemical on it. There was clearly no chemical. I touched the bend point to my upper lip, a specially heat-sensitive spot. It was cold.

Uri held the spoon to look at it horizontally as if to assess his handiwork (or whatever you call it – mindiwork, perhaps) and seemed particularly pleased. (I later measured the bend; the tip of the spoon handle had travelled 12 cm – five inches – under our gaze). He signed inside the bowl with an indelible marker.

It was a remarkable moment, and I judged it the time to leave, as we had now been at the house over an hour. Ruth, either through teenage truculence or genuine puzzlement, had her arms folded, an elementary piece of body language Uri noticed, because in the hall on the way out later, he touched her on the elbow, smiled, and said, ‘Ruth, there’s something that will interest you in this room.’ He led us in, and gestured theatrically, as if introducing a turn on the stage, to a pair of chairs in pride of place, in the centre of the sitting room. They were made of hundreds of layers of crystal glass, laid horizontally one on top of the other. What was remarkable to Ruth and to me about the chairs, made by an artist called Dani Lane, was that two weeks previously, on an A-level art trip to The Craft Council in London, she had bought a postcard showing one of them. She liked it so much, she had put it up in her bedroom. A little shocked, we left and promised to keep in touch.

It had certainly been a persuasive finale. How could he have known that the chairs were special to her? Did he rummage around in her mind until he found some unusual item filed away within it which he happened to have in the house? Was it purely a lucky guess? What would have happened if she had shrugged and failed to react to the chairs? A rigorous scientific approach, of course, would have to conclude that Geller must have surreptitiously prepared the entire morning by applying some undetectable caustic chemical to our spoon, installing hidden miniature video cameras all over his conservatory, and burgling our apartment to see what we had on display in it, before hurriedly buying two priceless arty chairs. My own version of rationality, however, could only deduce that we had either seen three genuine examples of paranormal powers, or some exceptionally high-class magicianship. What militated against the latter was that the magicians whose comments I had read on the Internet mostly said he was a very poor conjuror indeed. The legendary Penn and Teller, for example, had described spoon bending as ‘a lousy trick for lousy people’. Could they really be talking about the same thing as we had just seen?

I wanted to accept the rule of scientific law, yet what three of us simultaneously saw (or believe we saw, or saw what we believed) Uri Geller do that morning calls two established facts into doubt – indeed, strictly speaking, disproves them. It is beyond question that rigid metal at room temperature cannot bend by its own volition, and silent mindreading, without any known form of communication does not and cannot exist.

The following week, early on Monday morning, Geller phoned me to ask if I had had any psychic experiences since meeting him. It often happened, he said. I replied that I had not, and had a strange feeling I was not going to. He either missed or ignored my little joke. Had I had any odd dreams, he continued? I said that the previous night, I had dreamed about an Alitalia A300 aircraft crashing after part of its tail was blown off. He said I should watch out, because he feared something like it would happen in a few days. He added that he thought there would be a large earthquake on the west coast of the USA that week too. (On the Wednesday, the TWA 800 Boeing 747 crashed off Long Island after an explosion on board; it obviously wasn’t Alitalia, but it was, as Uri excitedly pointed out, carrying a party of Italians on a cancelled Rome flight. On the Thursday, an earthquake measuring 10 on the Richter scale hit the west coast of South America. Well, all right.

I took the opportunity of Geller’s calling to say I had been thinking more about writing a serious, objective biography of him. Has the time not come, I argued, for Uri Geller, as a middle aged man, to be thoroughly reassessed? He seemed receptive, but guarded. Over the forthcoming weeks, he warmed to the idea, finally accepting three weeks later. It was agreed, most crucially, that I would have his full co-operation, but would be at liberty to interview whichever of his fiercest opponents I chose. He would also have the right to read and correct the manuscript if it was inaccurate, but could not censor it.

Now I had to write a proposal and find a publisher. It was August by this time, and we were going on holiday to a borrowed apartment in Torquay, on the Devon coast. Anxious to get my thoughts down, I slipped my three month old IBM Thinkpad computer into the car, and decided to get up early each morning, while the family were still asleep, to write the treatment. There was a lot to sort out in my mind even then, before I had started researching properly, about the experiences on July 7th at Uri’s house, and the mass of material I had read on the Geller phenomenon.

The plan worked out well. I would get a couple of hours done before breakfast each day, and the children never even realised their dad was doing what they hated – working when we were on holiday. On the fifth morning of this routine, I reckoned I would finish. I happened to mention towards the end of the proposal on this last day of writing that Uri was not the most intellectually brilliant of men; a fair observation I thought at the time, but one, I suppose he might be hurt by. He was, as I later discovered, extremely bright at school. At about 8 am, I finished, read the proposal, was happy with it and went to make some tea. While it was brewing, I went back to the Thinkpad to alter a couple of words. It was turned off. That was odd, I thought. I didn’t remember doing that. I flicked the switch to re-boot. nothing happened. Assuming the computer’s battery had run down, I plugged in the mains supply. The machine still refused to turn on. I checked the fuse in the power supply plug. It was fine. I tried another socket, having first checked that it was live. Still no luck.

I began to sweat. For some stupid reason, I had failed to back up any of the proposal onto a disc. The IBM had been so reliable up to that moment, that it seemed unnecessary. I called the helpline in Scotland. They ran me through dozens of tests before declaring the machine had suffered a major hardware failure and needed to go back to London for repair or replacement. ‘I hope you’ve backed up your documents,’ the IBM man said.

By now, the family was up and wanted to go to our favourite beach, half an hour’s drive away. David tried to get the Thinkpad working, to no avail. ‘Why don’t you try the Uri Geller method?’ he asked. ‘Just shout at it: “Work! Work! Work!” Despite all I had learned in the past three months, this reference to Gellerama still irritated me, and I brushed it aside. He persuaded me, and feeling rather foolish, I did it anyway. The computer instantly came to life, not even going through the re-boot procedure, but opening straight up, in the word processing programme, and with the document open. It was as if none of the trauma of the past two hours had happened. I put it down to co-incidence.

The drama over, I saved the proposal to disc, and then tried to fax the proposal from the computer to my agent in London. This took another hour; after every page, the fax software went into spasm. The document eventually went across in eleven separate takes.

It was now 11 am on a beautiful day, and I was exhausted and far from popular with the children. My wife went into the kitchen to make some tea. Seconds later, we all heard a loud crash from the kitchen, and Sue shouting, ‘Oh, my God”. We rushed into the kitchen. A plastic wall clock had somehow detached itself from the above the cooking hob, where it was hanging at a height of about six feet, traversed the room to a point seven feet horizontally from where it started, and smashed down onto the ceramic tiled floor – all without cracking or missing a tick. Although Sue was only aware of the accident it when the clock hit the floor, it seemed to have fallen impossibly. If the fixing had become loose, the clock would simply have slid down the wall and onto the work surface.

We assured each other that it was just a co-incidence that I had written a line which was incorrect and that Uri would have been angry about; and that the computer had promptly malfunctioned in a bizarre manner, and that then a clock, of all the clichéd Uri Geller things, had then misbehaved seriously. But the spoon, the drawings, the glass chairs; did all these have a banal explanation, too? Did three of us suffer a simultaneous hallucination when we believed we saw our own spoon bend five inches on its own? Was identifying so spectacularly a rare item special at the time to my daughter a mere confidence trick? Was I simply being open-minded and believing what I saw. Or had I started on the slippery slope downwards towards unreason, towards seeing what I believed?



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