The Geller Effect
Ever since I can remember, I have been inventing things. For the child of a family like mine, life in Israel in the fifties was hard, and although my parents were not exactly penniless, they had no money to spare for all the toys I would have liked. I remember pressing my nose against the window of a toyshop in Tel Aviv, gazing longingly at a jeep on display and knowing that my mother could not afford it. Today, when most families can afford some kind of electronic gadget for their children to play with, the time seems to have passed when boys and girls had to make their own toys.
When I was about six or seven, my father came home one day with some old bullets, probably blanks used in weapons training. Although it was long before the beginning of the space age, I soon converted the bullets into little moon rockets, building a launching pad with bits of wood and elastic bands and firing them off into space one by one. They all probably ended up in the bushes or in the garden next door, but in my imagination they headed for the moon, the stars, and all the other worlds of which even then I seemed to be unconsciously aware.
My next invention was more practical, one that many children have invented for themselves and probably still do. It was a wind-up alarm clock attached to a piece of string that pulled a box off my bedroom shelf when the bell rang, so that the box landed on my head and gave me an extra reminder to get up.
Before long, I had moved on to more sophisticated projects. Watching my mother pedalling away at her old Singer sewing-machine, I felt it was time to introduce some modern technology into our home, so I took an old electric motor that had been part of a ventilating unit and adapted it to drive the pedals. The result would never have won any design awards, but it worked, as did my next invention: a bicycle powered by an outboard motor. This was the heaviest and most awkward-looking bicycle imaginable, but it took me to and from school every day. (Licences were not needed for mopeds in those days.)
Although I have never had technical training of any kind, except in the army, I always seem to have had an understanding of the way in which things work, and of ways in which new things could be made to work. In my early twenties, after I had completed my military service and begun to work as an entertainer, I kept up my habit of inventing things in my mind even though I had neither the means nor the know-how to manufacture them.
In the late sixties, I was earning a modest living as a photographer’s model and demonstrating my telepathy and metal-bending at private parties in the homes of my friends, and it was at one of these informal gatherings that I met a young fellow named Meir Gitlis. He had a small workshop in his back yard, and was apparently able to repair just about anything that had broken down. He was the electrical genius I needed, and we soon became good friends.
He was as interested in my abilities as I was in his, and he was in fact the first person ever to make any kind of scientific study of me. One of the first things he asked me, the first time we met, was whether he could wire me up to an electro-encephalograph (EEG) so that he could have a look at my brain waves while I was doing a demonstration of telepathy. I do not remember what he discovered, if anything, for we both soon became more interested in all the gadgets and machines I was carrying around in my head but did not know how to put together.
Our first joint ventures, naturally enough for a couple of Israelis, were in the field of security and alarm systems. As I knew even then, security is taken very seriously in Israel and the absolute minimum is left to chance. (Anyone who has flown on El Al will know what I mean.) There is none of the casual attitude towards the protection of life and property that I have come across in many other countries, both on the premises of major companies and in the private homes of their directors, and even, as I have already described, in the personal security system of a head of state.
My army service had given me plenty of first-hand experience of security of all kinds, from self-protection to the defence of the country, and I was able to feed Meir with enough ideas to keep him busy for years. A good many of these have taken shape over the years and are now in production by Meir’s small company, Nachshol Electronics. He and I have never had a written contract or a formal agreement of any kind. We have just become firm friends, who seem to share a mind. If my career had not taken other directions, I might be working today as a full-time industrial designer, with my drawing-board on a screen inside my head, and I might also have spent much more time than I have in promoting our designs and inventions.
In the early days, I said little about these because there was not much to show for them. Most of them existed only in my mind, and no inventor likes to say too much about his projects before they are patented. Later, when I became well known, I had another reason for keeping a low profile as an inventor.
In October 1974, the New Scientist published a huge cover story on me, a whole page of it being devoted to the suggestion that I was doing all my feats in the laboratories at SRI with the help of a radio receiver embedded in my teeth! I suppose this made sense, to some, at the time. Dr Andrija Puharich, who had helped set up the experiments, was the holder of many patents for miniaturized hearing aids, including one that could be embedded in a false tooth; and since what I was doing with my telepathic skill was clearly ‘impossible’, it had to be explained in terms that a scientist or a magician could understand. The suggestion was that it involved some kind of signalling between me and my sinister accomplices, Shipi and Hanna Shtrang. Although a New York reporter promptly arranged for me to be examined by a dentist, who found nothing in my mouth apart from perfectly normal teeth, I felt that it might not be a good idea to become known as an inventor, so I have never discussed this side of my career in any detail. However, now that a number of Meir’s and my inventions are on the market and have been demonstrated to members of the media, I see no reason not to mention them.
It may strike you as curious that some of our first inventions to go into production were designed to detect fraud. One of these is called the Diamontron. It is about the size of a small pocket torch, and instead of a bulb it has what looks like the tip of a ballpoint pen protruding from it. The operator switches it on, allows it to warm up until the ‘ready’ signal lights up, then places the tip on a diamond and presses it gently. This must be done carefully, but it only takes a few minutes to learn how to do it. If the diamond is a real one, a light then comes on accompanied by the sound of a buzzer.
The secret of this little device is quite simple, although the electronic and metallurgical technology and ingenuity that went into its construction are far from simple. The principle on which it works is that a diamond has unique crystalline properties, with the highest thermal conductivity of any gem-stone. When you press the tip of your Diamontron on your stone, you are heating it and at the same time measuring the heat flow into it. If the stone’s heat conductivity is characteristic of that of a diamond, then the light comes on and the buzzer sounds. If not, then what you are examining is not a diamond.
Another of our inventions enables anybody to distinguish at once between real and forged banknotes. This one is known as the Moneytron, and although it looks something like the diamond-tester, it works on an entirely different principle. Instead of a ballpoint-tip, it has a small roller which is passed over the banknote. This does not transmit any heat, but scans the banknote for a certain chemical with which it is impregnated and which cannot be detected visually. The original model was designed for American paper currency, which does not contain the thin strip of silver which you can see in English banknotes, for example, just by holding them up to the light. Other models have been adapted to the individual requirements of various countries – for Bank of England notes, the Moneytron scans the ink used to print the serial number and responds accordingly, and again the light and buzzer only come on if the note is a real one.
One of our favourite inventions is the one I call the Electronic Canary, although it is sold under several names. Its purpose is to detect the presence of gas, and when it does, its red light starts blinking and it emits an alarm signal louder than any real canary could manage. I hope the days are over when these unfortunate birds were taken down mines to warn when gas levels had built up to dangerous levels, which they could only do not by sounding an alarm call, but by dropping dead.
The Electronic Canary is about half the size of a brick, and is another tribute to Meir’s skill at packing a lot of advanced technology into a small space. This sensitive bird works on the principle of semiconduction, and responds to as little as five per cent of the lower explosive limit of certain gases, including those most commonly in commercial and domestic use. It will, I hope, help save human lives as well as those of canaries.
Another of our recent inventions is a miniaturized radiation detector. Following the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in 1986, we received large orders for this from several countries.
Meir has also manufactured a number of sensor devices that respond to sound. I cannot give any details of these, for obvious reasons, except that they are designed to provide what is known as a pre-entry alarm. That is to say, they detect the presence of intruders before they have actually intruded. The familiar home burglar alarm goes off when somebody tries to force a window or a door, whereas with one of the devices made by the General Sensor Division of Nachshol installed, you can be creeping up behind your intruders before they get within reach of your building, or in a military context you can be lining them up in the sights of your rifle.
One of our most ambitious and successful inventions to date has been the GS Inertial Sensor, which can be used on installations large or small, from a warehouse to a state border hundreds of miles long. Like many of our products, it has been sold to several countries, in some of which it is also made under licence. From a distance, it looks like an ordinary chain-link fence, but by the time you get close enough to have a better look at it, it has already taken a good look at you and the duty operator monitoring the central control unit will have taken appropriate action.
Some time ago, a company based in Helsingborg, Sweden, bought the distribution rights for the Inertial Sensor in that country. Naturally, we did not ask what they or their customers might be planning to use it for – in the security business nobody tells anybody anything they do not need to know. I should also mention that none of our inventions can be used for aggressive purposes, but are all made to improve security and defence systems.
In October 1982, there were numerous reports in the media that a Soviet submarine had been located in Swedish territorial waters, close to the secret naval base at Musko, twenty miles south of Stockholm. It was a most confusing affair, to judge from reports. Some said there were two submarines, not one, and that they had been bombed with depth-charges to force them to the surface. Others said they (or it) had escaped, and later in the month it was even suggested that no Soviet submarine had ever been there in the first place. One report I found particularly interesting, in the Daily Mail (6 October), stated:
The intruder is believed to be penned inside Horsfjarden Bay at Musko by anti-submarine netting and thick metal chains which were put into position when its periscope was first spotted five days ago.
The same reporter, Christopher Mosey, seems to have covered the story more thoroughly than most. On 5 February 1983 he reported in The Times that the Swedish Defence Ministry had confirmed the discovery and filming of caterpillar tracks on the sea-bed, which had been made by ‘a four- to five-metre-long robotlike, previously unknown vehicle’. The same reporter had speculated at the time of the incident that the ‘trapped’ vessel was in fact a robot sent from a submarine. I can merely speculate that such a robot can only have been sent to test Sweden’s defences, which it seems it did very successfully from the Swedish point of view.
I could only speculate further when I received a copy of the promotional material issued by Stangselnat AB of Helsingborg, distributors of the Israeli-made system known in Sweden as Direkt-Larm. On the cover of the colour brochure was a photograph of a Soviet submarine half out of the water and alongside two Swedish naval vessels. The flags of the two nations were clearly visible. In the lower part of the picture, there was a section of our fence, which may have been superimposed. The picture itself could have been taken during an earlier incident in which another Soviet submarine ran aground near another Swedish naval base. Anyway, the brochure specifically referred to the fact that ‘Direkt-Larm has protected and saved everything from human lives to major valuables at airports, military installations, ports and harbours, industrial areas, yes, even war zones.’
There were a lot of rumours around in the early seventies that both the Americans and the Soviets had been doing experiments in telepathy between a submerged submarine and the shore. The original story in a French science magazine was almost certainly a ‘plant’ designed to test official reactions from both sides, though ‘remote viewing’ experiments from a submarine were later carried out and published by scientists from SRI International. I have done some underwater telepathy experiments myself (not at SRI) which have never been made public, and all I can say about them is that they were very successful.
There was no telepathy involved in the Swedish incident, as far as I know, and if it was one of our Inertial Sensors that helped locate (or trap) a Soviet submarine (or something) then it was only doing what it was designed to do.
There are still things that machines cannot do, and in my time as a freelance business consultant I have been given some fairly strange assignments. I always insist on a down payment in advance for my services, as a guarantee that the client is not going to waste my time, and I always make it clear that I cannot guarantee results. When I am asked to do something I consider unethical, the client is in effect fined on the spot, because my down payment is not returnable.
On one occasion, I was hired by a European company that was in the process of negotiating a very large deal, involving the purchase of land for the building of town houses with landscaped gardens. It stood to make a handsome profit, but the price being asked by the seller seemed excessive to them, and I was asked to attend a conference in order to find out, by mind-reading, the lowest price the seller was willing to accept – whatever he might say it was.
When I arrived at the company’s headquarters, I was surprised to find myself being shown into a small room next door to the conference room, which was completely empty except for a chair beside a large window that overlooked the conference table. The window turned out to be a two-way mirror, and may have been installed especially for the occasion. I cannot imagine why a firm of this kind would normally need a two-way mirror in a conference room.
The meeting went ahead as planned, with figures being hurled from one side of the table to the other. I did what I was supposed to do, and the deal was signed in due course to the buyers’ satisfaction. I did this job with a clear conscience, reckoning that the seller could make a lot of money even if it was less than he hoped, while the buyers were only doing what anybody would gladly do if they knew how: finding out the lowest offer they could get away with.
Once or twice I have been asked to do things that were definitely unethical, if not illegal. I was once hired by an aircraft company that gave me few details until I had accepted, subject to my usual conditions, and received my advance. There have been several well-publicized instances of aircraft companies bribing senior members of governments and even, it is said, a member of a royal family in their eagerness for business. It soon became clear that this particular company was thinking of something even more contemptible than bribery – and expecting me to do it for them.
It was hoping to sell one of its products to an African country, whose representative was rather smarter than it had bargained for. He had done his homework thoroughly, and concluded that the aeroplane in question was quite unsuitable. The salesman knew this, and wanted me to change the African’s mind for him – forcibly. I replied that this was the kind of thing my powers would not allow me to do, and that was the end of that assignment.
A word of warning to anybody with psychic gifts who may be tempted to use them in order to do things that should not be done: your powers are not entirely your own, and if you disobey what seems to be a natural law, you may be tried and punished sooner than you think. I learned that lesson after my night at the roulette table in London.
My attitude towards the use of psychic powers is the same as it is towards the inventions. Either can be used for defence, or for espionage, which is an essential part of any defence system, since without adequate intelligence there can be no secure defence. Neither can be used for offence.
Some of my inventions come into my mind spontaneously, often during my daily run. Some, however, are born in other ways. They can result from suggestions made by others, who may not take them seriously themselves. Here is a recent example of how a potentially useful invention can come about:
In May 1985, Meir was staying in my London apartment on a visit, and on 26 May I invited a dozen of my friends round for dinner. My guests included a Member of Parliament, Clement Freud, and my co-author Guy Playfair. The subject of chemical warfare came up and somebody, I think it was Guy, suggested that there should be a form of chemical ‘peacefare’ involving the use of pheromones, or biologically active chemical substances. There had been a radio programme a few days previously on possible uses of airborne pheromones, and the speaker, a scientist named Dr Bill Fletcher, had suggested they might be used to control potentially violent crowds.
Clement Freud liked the idea. It would come in useful in the House of Commons, he said with a chuckle. Neither he nor most of my other guests seemed to take the idea very seriously, and the conversation moved on to another subject.
Meir, whose English is not perfect, was not laughing, and nor was I. Later that evening, I had a few words with him in Hebrew and asked him to get to work right away. Afterwards, Guy gave me more details of the broadcast, which fortunately he had taped.
According to Dr Fletcher, pheromones are known to play an important part in animal life. They cause ants to scatter in the face of danger, and bees to muster for an attack on an enemy. Even trees communicate by means of them, sending out chemical messages that warn of an invading virus. They affect human beings in a number of ways.
It was possible, Dr Fletcher said, that pheromones of human origin might have helped create the atmosphere at the Hitler rallies, at which a single emotion came to dominate the minds of huge crowds. It was also possible, he added, that there might be a chemical component as well as a social one to the crowd violence that was becoming such a problem in English football games, where it had already led to serious incidents. Yet even he did not seem to take his ideas very seriously, and he ended his talk by suggesting the search for a pheromone that would make men and women more sexually attractive to each other.
On the evening of 29 May, just three days after my party, English and Italian football teams met at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels. Before the game even started, there was an outbreak of senseless violence on a scale never seen before even in a crowd of English ‘football supporters’. A large group of young people went on the rampage, and as a result of their blind stampede thirty-eight people died, most of them Italians.
In all the discussion that followed this horrendous incident, there were plenty of suggestions on ways of stricter control of potential hooligans, and steps were taken to ban English spectators from attending any games abroad. Less attention was paid to possible causes of such crowd behaviour.
Perhaps Meir and I were responding to our Israeli conditioning – to look closely at anything at all that might help improve defence and security, however crazy it might sound. He and I are now looking very closely into the biologically active human pheromones, and ways of temporarily suppressing them.
As for Dr Fletcher’s reference to chemicals that do something for the sex life, this is something I have been working on for some time. Now that the active ingredient of musk has been isolated and synthesized, it is no longer necessary to kill animals in order to obtain it, and it may be that an aerosol-borne aphrodisiac is on the way at last.
On the commercial side, I have created a new collection of cosmetics, colognes and perfumes which in my opinion have a fantastic scent and hopefully attract both sexes, and which will be available to the public soon.
Not all my inventions are as complicated as those I have mentioned. A recent one is a pair of sun-glasses that enable you to see out of the back of your head. Well, not literally, but when you wear them you can see who or what is behind you. I originally thought of these ‘spy sunglasses’ as useful for women who are afraid of being followed by strange men, though they might also come in useful for espionage purposes.
Then there is my line of games and toys for children and adults being manufactured, marketed and distributed by Matchbox Toys. The first three are: ‘Uri Geller’s Strike!’, which gives players the chance to win ‘millions’ in gold bars, or just a collection of my bent spoons, by discovering treasure and minerals hidden in the map of Europe; ‘Spoon Bender’, a game which tests your guessing skills; and ‘Blow Your Mind’, a mind-boggling memory game.
I have also begun to think of ways in which computers can be used in psychic experiments, both for home entertainment and more serious purposes. These are based on my own experience of many years as a somewhat unconventional computer ‘operator’, which I will tell you about in more detail in the following chapter.
I never know which of the many ideas that tend to come to me during my daily run are going to work in practice. That is for Meir to decide. My job is to capture whatever comes into my mind and pass it on to him.
I do not want to give the impression that I am a natural genius who simply waits for inspiration to descend from the blue. Inventing and creating are not all inspiration; an inventor has to have a reason for wanting to find new ways of doing things, and a good knowledge of the need for new discoveries in the area in question. All my successful inventions have come about as the result of a good deal of thought beforehand about the genuine necessity for something or other; whether serious, like a defence system, or less serious, like a perfume that makes you sexy, or toys and games. There are two or three areas that I have been thinking about a good deal recently.
One is the ocean. It has always seemed strange to me that we have probed so far into outer space and landed men on the moon, yet we still know very little about three-quarters of the surface of our own planet, and the mass of water that covers it. The recent rapid growth of the offshore oil industry gives some idea of what should be possible in the fields of marine agriculture and mining of precious minerals once the formidable technical problems have been overcome. Did you know, for example, that the sea is full of gold? Not only the sea floor, but the water itself? In some parts of the world, such as off the coast of Brazil, you can actually see it with your own eyes. Yet there is still no economically feasible way of getting it out. Some day, there will be.
Some day, we will also invent ways of making the sea itself work for us, by harnessing the tremendous natural power of its waves and tides. We will follow the lead the Japanese have taken in harvesting the crops that grow naturally and abundantly in sea-water, such as the many varieties of kelps and seaweeds that are a standard part of their daily diet. We will learn to develop the surface of the sea, instead of destroying more and more of our landscape, to make way for factories and airports that could be anchored off our coastlines, where they would interfere with the environment to a far lesser extent than some of them do today.
Another subject in which I have a special interest, and have already invested money, is that of medical technology. I have never gone in for any form of psychic healing myself, for several reasons, chiefly because the force involved is too erratic and unpredictable. I have always been very reluctant to use it on anything living.
The nearest I have come to influencing living things is making seeds germinate, which I have done twice on television recently: on the BBC children’s programme Roland Rat (4 October 1986) and the West German show hosted by Thomas Gottschalk and watched by seventeen million people (10 January 1987).
As with so many other things I have done, the original idea was not mine. It came from the astronaut Edgar Mitchell, shortly after we first met in 1972. We were sitting and chatting with Dr Wilbur Franklin, when Mitchell suddenly produced a seed and asked me if I could make it germinate while he held it in his own hand. As you can see in the photograph, I just stared at his hand and concentrated on making the seed sprout.
When it did, Mitchell and Franklin were delighted, but I was not. In fact, the experience scared me stiff. I felt I had been tampering with life, something I should not do, and I tried to tuck it away in the back of my mind. I did not try anything of this kind again for more than ten years, until my visit to Japan described in the following chapter.
I have often been told that if I can make a seed grow much faster than normal, I should also be able to heal people by speeding up natural regenerative processes. This may be so, and I have recently been in touch with some medical researchers who are anxious to have me do some experiments of this kind, although I do not feel I am yet quite ready for them. One day, I hope I will be.
I once saw a photograph in a magazine of a little Korean eating-place in France called Restaurant Uri. I cut it out and framed it, to remind myself of another of my long-term plans: for a chain of ‘fast health food’ bars where people can enjoy some real nutrition instead of junk. Having seen what a change in eating habits did for me, I would like to encourage others to find out what it could do for them.
I met two people, Craig Sams and George Schrenzel, who are already in the health foods field. Together we are creating a range of healthy foods that I enjoy eating myself which will sell under the label ‘Truly Healthy by Uri’. The range will be produced to the highest standards with no artificial ingredients, animal products, added sugar, or preservatives and will be marketed worldwide.
For the present, I will continue to research for beneficial ideas, and my team will continue to look for ways of making them work. It may be that only one out of ten proves to be successful. Behind every successful creation there are any number of failures, and this explains why I may seem to be jumping on so many different bandwagons.
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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.”
Tannens Magic Blog
“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”