A Shopping List
I was doing some lazy window shopping in the Zona Rosa, not far from my borrowed penthouse, and peering at some phoney-looking jewellery, of which there is plenty to be found in Mexico City, when a man came and stood beside me.
‘Hi,’ he said, pleasantly. ‘You’re Uri Geller.’
I assumed he had recognized me from one of my stage or television shows. He was in his mid-forties or fifties, I guessed, and looked harmless. I said yes, I was.
‘Well,’ he went on, ‘I really would like to talk to you about something you might find interesting. I know about the work you did at Stanford Research Institute. Can I invite you for a drink?’
His attitude was friendly and relaxed, and not in the least pushy. He struck me as a knowledgeable man with a genuine interest in parapsychology. I told him that I did not drink, but would be happy to have a cup of coffee with him.
We headed for the nearest coffee shop, and sat at a table. When we had ordered, he took off his Ray-Ban Pilot sun-glasses and put them carefully in their case. Then he was silent for a moment, and I felt there was something on his mind that was important to him. People often expect me to know everything about everybody I meet, but telepathy does not work like that, at least not with me. I was curious.
I asked him how he knew about my work at SRI.
‘Oh,’ he replied, ‘we know a lot about you.’ I wondered who ‘we’ might be, and why they found me of such interest. I waited for him to get to the point, which he soon did. He was, as I should have guessed, involved in intelligence work. I forget his exact words, but ‘intelligence’ was definitely one of them. He offered to show me some identification, but I said that was not necessary. (It would also have proved nothing -there is a store on 42nd Street in New York where you can buy all the identification you like.)
He went on to talk about my usual repertoire, from bending spoons, reading minds and seeing inside sealed boxes to erasing computer tapes. Then he casually dropped a couple of remarks that seemed to establish his credentials better than any card would have done. The first was a reference to a videotape made during my stay at SRI, on which a watch can be seen materializing out of the air. This sequence was not included in the film of some of my work that was shown publicly, and not many people knew about it. Then he mentioned, equally casually, that ‘we’ even knew about some work I had done some time previously, of which there has never been any mention in public and never will be. (In 1985, I learned for the first time that SRI scientists had been given an Israeli intelligence report on me. There must have been some very high-level pressure to release or obtain any such report, and no doubt there was an exchange of favours involved, although it could be that Israeli intelligence simply wanted to be kept up to date on the latest research into me.)
We went on chatting for an hour or so. Mike, as he asked me to call him, made a note of my home telephone number and said he would like to meet me again some time. Nothing specific was said, but what I felt he was trying to convey to me was ‘Maybe you can help us, and maybe we can help you.’ I was definitely intrigued.
He telephoned me about ten days later and asked if we could meet, at a fast-food place not far from my apartment. I had an engagement that evening, and told him I would not be able to stay for long.
‘What I’m asking you for is your help, Uri,’ he said as soon as we met. ‘There are certain fields in which we are interested where we are always coming up against brick walls. So we thought perhaps you might be able to help us with your powers, by accomplishing certain things that we can’t do.’
‘Like what?’ I asked.
‘Wait a minute.’ He held up a hand, as if I had interrupted a well-rehearsed speech. ‘Another thing,’ he went on, ‘quite apart from your psychic powers, do you realize just how influential you have become in this country?’
It was no time for false modesty. ‘Yes,’ I said.
‘Well, I could also use you in that capacity. There are other fields in which we could use your help. I can list a few. . ‘
‘Give me your pen, then, and I’ll write them down,’ I said.
‘No, no. Don’t write anything down.’
I asked him to give me an example, but instead he launched into a classroom lecture on communism, capitalism, the strategic importance of Mexico, Cuban influence in Central America, and the special part played by the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City. It was, he said, one of their largest anywhere in the world. It was a leading centre of espionage against the United States and Canada, and it was reckoned that at least half of the 300 people who worked there (six times as many as the number of Mexicans in their Moscow embassy) had received special KGB training in the stealing of secrets, both military and industrial, from the USA. The current KGB boss, Mikhail Muzankov, was believed to be in charge of revolutionary and terrorist activities in the whole of the Americas.
‘There are a good many things we would like to know that we don’t know,’ he concluded, again without being more specific. I asked him how my influence with the president’s family could be of any help.
Again he held up a hand. ‘Oh no, no. Now we’re talking about your powers.’
I was beginning to wonder just what we were talking about, in fact. ‘You mean you want me to help you with my influence, and also with my psychic powers?’ I asked. ‘Which is more important to you?’
‘Both,’ he replied. ‘And Uri, don’t discuss what I am telling you on the telephone, and don’t let your friends know about it either. Now, let me tell you something about the Central Intelligence Agency, or “the Company”, as we call it.’ It was the first time either of us had mentioned the CIA by name, and I noticed that he did not use the initials, but spelled it out in full.
‘There are a few people in this community who are totally devoted to going all the way in intelligence gathering. Most of us ridicule the whole psychic scene, because we’ve had bad experiences in the past with people like you.’
‘What makes you think I’m different?’
‘We know more about you.’ Again, he said there were certain things I could do for him, but before I could ask what they were he was off on another lecture.
‘Israel has the finest intelligence service in the world,’ he began. ‘It finds needles in haystacks. How? Because it tries everything. Its people can be ninety-nine point nine per cent sure that there’s nothing in so-called psychic functioning, but they leave the possibility open: what if it’s real? That’s why the Mossad is what it is.’ He paused, perhaps to see if I had anything to tell him about the Mossad. Then he mentioned that he had an older friend who had been a member of Haganah, the Jewish self-defence organization, and that he had pro-Israeli sympathies himself. He then changed the subject abruptly.
‘There are people in this community who would like people like you to work for them,’ he said. But, he explained, this was an individual matter and no such orders had come from the top. There was a very small group of CIA agents who were well informed on parapsychological matters, believed in its potential, and were quite prepared to make use of it on their own account. There was no need for their superiors to know, and no official ‘agency authorization’ involved.
‘If it works, it works,’ said Mike, ‘and if it doesn’t work, all that was wasted were a few hours.’
Time was running short, and I had no-intention of showing up late for my engagement. We arranged to meet again soon, when we would get down to the details of this famous shopping list.
Although I did not know it at the time, I had already had direct contact with a member of the CIA. One day, not long after my arrival in the USA in 1972, I received a telephone call in New York from a man who introduced himself as a scientist from Washington, DC, and wanted to know if I could demonstrate my telepathic abilities right then, over the long-distance phone. I gave him my usual answer to this kind of request: I didn’t know, but I could try. He then said he had drawn a picture on his pad and was looking at it. Could I tell him what it was?
I immediately told him what I thought it was, which made him sound quite pleased, and I never heard from him again. I cannot remember what the picture was, having done thousands of experiments of this kind.
Several years later, a friend of mine happened to meet the man concerned. My friend was given an account of the experiment by the ‘scientist’, who by then had left the CIA. The former agent said that he had no doubt that my abilities were genuine, and several of his colleagues who had been keeping a close watch on my career agreed with him.
At our third meeting, Mike at last got down to business.
‘I’m throwing the ball into your court, Uri,’ he said, in his usual relaxed and friendly way. ‘You choose what you can do best, and what you would like to do first. We’re not pressing you.’
Had either of us written down the shopping list he then read me, it would have looked something like this:
If I was to be driven round the block where the Soviet Embassy was located, would I be able to describe certain things in certain parts of the building? Could I locate the computer room? Could I erase certain tapes there? Could I ‘read’ the number of a combination lock? Could I name the ranks and duties of people seen entering or leaving the building? Could I crack codes? Could I predict espionage drops? He seemed particularly interested in the last item.
It was quite a list, and there was even more of it to come. The next item struck me as exceptionally optimistic.
‘On certain dates that we know, and some we don’t,’ said Mike, ‘two Soviet diplomats board a certain Aeromexico flight with diplomatic pouches handcuffed to their wrists. Could you tell us what’s in those pouches whether it’s papers, computer parts, software or whatever? Would you be able to switch the bags for us?’
I told him I thought this was completely crazy and unnecessarily dangerous as well. Mike did not seem offended. He just laughed and moved on to yet another item: could I make a drone (a small remote-controlled pilotless aircraft) go off course? I said I thought that sounded like something I was more ready to try.
‘Let’s drive out to a field one day and do it,’ he said eagerly. I wondered for a moment if he really meant it, and as we shall see later, he did.
Then he came to his second shopping list. This was of the things he wanted me to do by normal rather than paranormal means, that is to say, by making use of my access to the president.
He prefaced the list with another of his mini-lecture-briefings. This was the Mexican one, and it began by stressing that although Mexico was a democracy, it was not as anti-communist as it could be. Its neutral position had become somewhat distorted, and the American government was becoming increasingly concerned at the Soviet presence in a country the other side of the world from the Soviet Union, with which it did virtually no trade at all, a country that also shared more than 1,000 miles of frontier with the United States and was in addition located right on the back doorstep of Latin America’s first communist state – Cuba. Mike was unhappy about this state of affairs, and wanted me to do something about it.
‘Get real close to the president, Uri,’ he said earnestly. ‘Talk to him as much as you can, philosophize with him, try to make him appreciate that he is allowing his country to be used as a base for hostile operations against the United States.’
He became more specific. ‘The president’s wife has a close friendship with a certain person, and we would really like that friendship to be terminated.’ He named the man, whom I knew as one of many who seemed anxious to cultivate relations with Muncy. He was not a Mexican, and had a Russian or at least a Slavonic-sounding surname. He was in some kind of import-export business, and was based in Europe.
Mike then asked me if I could obtain invitations for him to attend receptions and parties at the Eastern bloc embassies. Failing that, would I be prepared to take as my guest a certain girl to whom he would introduce me, if I managed to get myself invited?
I told him to cross that item off his list right away. I could just imagine Muncy’s reaction if I had shown up with a ‘girlfriend’ on my arm at a function to which she had secured me an invitation! That was not very smart thinking on his part.
Having delivered his shopping lists, and asked me again to take my time before attempting to deliver any of the items, Mike returned to a topic that was clearly of great personal interest to him: parapsychology. He seemed genuinely concerned by the fact that his own government had no serious commitment to research into it, whereas the Soviets were known to take the subject very seriously indeed, as they had done ever since the dust had settled after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. He hoped that I could be instrumental in correcting this imbalance to some degree, although he did not go into any detail.
All this time, there had been no mention of payment for my services by either of us. Mike knew that I was earning a good living, and he had probably guessed, correctly, that I could hardly refuse a few favours to a country that had done so much in the past to help my own homeland.
‘What kind of US visa do you have?’ he asked, just as I thought our meeting had come to an end. It was clever timing on his part. Maybe he was psychic himself? He had certainly mentioned something that was often on my mind. As an Israeli citizen who made frequent visits to the United States, I had spent several whole mornings of my life standing in line at US consulates all over the world in order to obtain a re-entry visa. An ‘indefinite multiple’ stamp in my passport would mean an end to that for ever.
‘If there’s anything you need from us, feel free to call this number,’ said Mike, without waiting for me to reply. It was not his own – I never did know either his number or even his real name – but that of a man at the American Embassy whom I will call Tom Morris.
Shortly afterwards I went up to the Marine guard and said I had an appointment with Mr Morris. Behind him, I could see those familiar lines of applicants for US entry visas snaking around the huge hall of the Consular Section, and I wondered if it was really possible that I would never have to join them again.
To my astonishment, I recognized one of the people standing patiently in line. It was the son of ex-president Echeverria, who now had to wait his turn just like anybody else. When you are out of office in Mexico, you really are out, and I could understand why Mike was so anxious to make use of my relationship with the family of the current president. He would not be at the top for ever.
The Marine directed me to a desk at the side of the hall, where the secretary immediately recognized me and asked me to come with her to the main embassy lobby, which was wonderfully quiet and empty. After a short wait, I was in Tom Morris’s office.
He seemed very pleased to see me. He had heard a lot about me, he said, and had bought a copy of My Story, which he had found very interesting. Without further delay he helped me fill in a form, and handed this and my passport to an assistant, who took them away.
Then, just as Mike had done, he started to give me a talk. This one was on the Mexican system of government, the presidency, the powerful Partido Revolucionario Institucional, and the subtle interrelationships between them. I learned a good deal about how things were run in a country that, though ostensibly a Western-style democracy, was to all intents and purposes a one-party state in which the president of the day had the powers of an absolute monarch – but only as long as he remained in office. (As I had just seen, once out of office he had next to none.)
The assistant returned with my passport. I could not wait to find the page with the fresh stamp on it: ‘Valid for Multiple Applications for Entry Until Indefinitely’. Yes, there it was. The Americans had done me a ‘favour’, so now I would do one for them.
I turned down the offer of a car and driver, explaining that I could not work properly with somebody breathing down my neck. Anyway, I preferred to walk whenever I could, as I still do. So Shipi and I set off for a stroll along the Calzada de Tacubaya on the western edge of town, where the Soviet Embassy was located.
I had never tried to obtain information from the inside of a building before, but I saw no reason why it should be more difficult than any other exercise in either telepathy or clairvoyance. I had done plenty of each, and my usual practice was to visualize a blank screen in my mind and wait for a word or an image to take shape on it. Sometimes these impressions are very clear, and stay on my screen for several seconds, and when this happens I know I have picked up the right message. Sometimes they come and go, or fade, and in this case I can be either right or wrong.
On this occasion, and on a number of similar strolls around the large block over the following couple of weeks, I picked up a good many impressions. I noted them down as they came, making hasty scribbles and sketches on pieces of paper and stuffing them in my pocket without trying to figure out what they might mean. I passed these on to Mike, with such explanation as I could provide.
He was particularly interested in what I had to tell him about espionage drops. He did not tell me, of course, that I had strolled into centre stage of one of the major spy dramas of the century, in which one of the chief actors was a Californian drug-pusher named Daulton Lee, who is now serving a life sentence for his part in selling details to the Soviets of the ultra-top-secret Rhyolite and Argus communications satellites. Lee had made several visits to the Soviet Embassy in 1975 and 1976, and on 6 January 1977 he made his last, on which he foolishly threw a piece of paper through the railings and was promptly arrested by the Mexican police.
According to the official version, he was arrested on suspicion of having murdered a Mexican policeman some time previously. An American Embassy official just happened to be in the Soviet Embassy at the time on a courtesy call, and was able to alert the US authorities. They soon found out who he was and what he had been up to. Whether my information had anything to do with this episode or not, I cannot say, although it did strike me as odd that the Mexican police seemed to be ready and waiting for the spy who could not of course be arrested by the Americans in a foreign country. Officially, however, I was told nothing at all, as is invariably the case with an affair of this kind. As one of my friends in the intelligence community put it later, ‘If you’re any good, there’s no need for you to know how you’re doing. If you’re no good, then we don’t use you any more.’
There was at least one occasion, though, when I was able to see immediate results. Mike had brought up the subject, already mentioned, of whether I could make a drone go off course. This seemed to be a pet project of his, and I thought it sounded like more fun than gazing over the high wall of the Soviet compound at a row of barred windows, so we agreed to try it.
One morning, Mike picked me up in a large station-wagon, the back of which was crammed with all kinds of boxes and packages. He had a colleague with him, who was introduced to me as ‘Jack’. We drove out of town and stopped beside a large empty field, where the two Americans unpacked their gear. If there had been any children around, they would have been fascinated to see two grown-ups putting together a huge model aeroplane with bright red and yellow lines painted on it. They would have envied the fellow who held the little black box and turned knobs to make the plane take off, turn in a wide circle and then come in to land right beside him. They would probably not have known that RPVs (remotely powered vehicles), as they are known, are already in use by the military of several countries. What we were playing with was no toy.
Jack and Mike held several more test flights to make sure everything was in order. They had it make a number of straight passes directly over our heads, from one side of the field to the other, so as to make sure that it flew in a straight line when required. When Mike was satisfied that the drone was performing as it should, he turned to me.
‘Now,’ he said, ‘knock it off course – to the left.’
I concentrated hard and shouted out loud ‘Go left!’ Immediately, the little plane began visibly to drift off course by several degrees, maybe between five and ten – quite enough to make it miss its destination. Mike, who never let go of his control box and never allowed me anywhere near it, stared first at his knobs and switches and then at the drone in disbelief. Then, both he and Jack began to jump up and down like high school kids at a ball game.
‘Hey, there you go! Whoopee, you’ve done it!’ they cried. I was as pleased as they were, as I always am when I succeed in a new type of task.
They immediately wanted me to do it again, of course. Mike had the drone make another overhead pass. I repeated my shouted instructions to go left, and once again it went left.
‘Now make it go to the right,’ said Mike.
I repeated my procedure as requested, but nothing happened. The plane flew on in a dead straight line until it was almost out of sight. Mike brought it back and we tried again. Still no luck. I was equally unsuccessful in getting it to go up or down, yet I succeeded again and again in making it drift to the left.
We all reckoned that our outing had been a partial success, and it reminded me that the only way to see if something can be done, however unusual it may seem, is to go ahead and try. It was also reassuring for me to get instant confirmation that I had done exactly what I had been trying to do.
I was never invited to go drone-flying again. Had Mike simply been putting my powers to a simple test? I suspect that he was really more interested in what my counterparts in the Soviet bloc were capable of.
Tom Morris, on the other hand, seemed more interested in my normal talents. He was particularly curious to know what the president of Mexico and his wife were doing and saying, and what countries they were planning to visit. This led to a conflict of interests. I had no intention of spying on a family that treated me as a friend, and I never passed on any personal information about any of its members.
I saw no harm, however, in bending the president’s ear whenever I had the chance about the Soviet presence in Mexico, and as it turned out my next intelligence assignment came not from the Americans, but from a Mexican member of the president’s security corps. His briefing was very vague. All he wanted me to do was visit a certain street market and try to locate a stall that was thought to be connected with illegal political activity of some kind, and was dealing in more than fruit or vegetables. I duly went to the market and strolled around it several times, and I kept coming back to one particular stall, which looked just like all the others. I had a good look all round it and caught sight of a large pile of books under the counter, one of which I could see was the famous ‘little red book’, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, required reading in those days for followers of the Chinese form of communism.
This was intelligence-gathering at a very low level, and it was nothing compared with what was to come. It may, however, have had something to do with the next request for my services, which also came from the Mexicans. As for the Americans, before I received any more requests from them, I was suddenly asked by Tom Morris one day if I would like to stay in his house on my future visits to Mexico, instead of in my borrowed penthouse. He had a fairly modest rented house that was nothing like the place I was living in, and since he had a wife and a servant there was not much room for me, not to mention Shipi or any friends I might want to invite to stay. Yet Tom was quite insistent, explaining in a rather imprecise way that the time might come when I would need a safe place to stay, and the home of a foreign diplomat was as safe as you could hope for in Mexico City.
Tom also asked me if in future I would send him postcards whenever I travelled anywhere, just any card with a simple message of greeting and no more. I should send them to the APO, the Washington department that handles all diplomatic mail. Later, I found this to be standard practice in intelligence circles (although I do not know that Tom had any connection with the CIA). It is a fairly simple way of knowing who is where at a given time.
Tom struck me as somebody who had a good reason for whatever he did or whatever he wanted me to do, so I agreed to both his requests. After all, it was him I had to thank for that ‘indefinite multiple’ stamp in my passport, which had made life so much easier for me.
So I took a last dip in my private rooftop pool in the Zona Rosa and packed my belongings. From then on, the Morris family residence became my new home base whenever I was in Mexico.
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“There is no spoon!”
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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”