Close-up Magic

There was always something different about Uri.
When he was four or five, his mother and his godmother, Mrs Susan Elisabeth Korn, were on one of their regular visits to the Tel Aviv coffee-house where they liked to sit on the pavement, watch the world go by, and bring each other up to date on the local gossip. Neither of them took much notice, at first, when Uri picked up a spoon, held it in the palms of his outstretched hands, and began to stare at it.
Before long, it was Mrs Korn’s turn to stare, in complete amazement. More than thirty years later, she was able to recall for me what happened next as vividly as if it had taken place the previous day.
‘He just looked at it,’ she told me, ‘and it started bending.’ Uri’s hands had not moved. Wondering how on earth he had done it, Mrs Korn reacted as hundreds of others were later to react in similar situations, and asked if he could do it again with another spoon.
Uri could and did, as he did on several subsequent occasions in front of his godmother, who was probably the earliest witness outside his immediate family to any of his paranormal demonstrations. His mother had already become accustomed to them, as mentioned in Chapter One, and more were soon to follow. One day as she and Mrs Korn were playing cards, which they did regularly, she noticed that her watch had stopped, so she took it off her wrist and put it down. Uri promptly picked it up and began to rub the glass with his finger, whereupon almost at once the watch began to tick again.
At about the same time, Mrs Korn became aware of her godson’s uncanny telepathic ability. ‘He used to say things as if he could see through your soul or your brain,’ she told me. ‘He always seemed to know what we were going to do, or where we were going.’ Having a son of her own a few months younger than Uri (her son is now a high-ranking officer in one of the Israeli armed services), she reckoned she knew what was normal child behaviour and what was not.
Playing card games when Uri was around became slightly unnerving. He always seemed to know who was going to win, and Mrs Korn suspected that he could see through the backs of the cards in her hand. (Many years later, Uri admitted that he could, though only when she was holding a joker.) One day, she decided to put his strange powers to the test.
‘He told me to draw something,’ she recalled, ‘and said he would tell me what it was. So I sent him out of the room and drew a picture of a dog. I put it in an envelope and sealed it, and then I gave Uri the envelope and asked him what was inside it. He just held it in his hands and said “You’ve drawn a dog”.’ (Uri’s present dog, like one of its predecessors, is named Joker.)
‘You have to watch this boy,’ Mrs Korn told his mother. ‘I don’t know how he’s going to grow up.’ Uri, on the other hand, seemed to know exactly how. Mrs Korn clearly remembers him assuring her that she would hear more about him later on, and when she read his book My Story, more than twenty years later, her immediate reaction was: ‘My God, it really happened, just as he predicted.’
* * *
Mrs Korn is not the only witness who can testify that Uri was not quite like other boys.
Donald Wood is a successful entrepreneur whose interests range from electronics engineering and computer software to property development and his own think-tank, which specializes in the invention of new technologies. He is one of two ex-pupils of Terra Santa College in Nicosia, Cyprus, now living in England that I was able to locate without much difficulty in 1985. Although he was two years junior to Uri, he remembers him very well.
‘Uri was a very daring fellow, very much a leader,’ he told me. ‘If there was anything to be done, he could do it very well.’ He remembers Uri teaching him to shoot with an air rifle, training him on the basketball court, and leading regular expeditions around the maze of underground caves near the school, a task none of the other boys was willing to undertake. Once, the two of them climbed to the top of the tallest building in Nicosia close to the ‘green line’ that divided the Greek and Turkish sections of the city. As they peered over the parapet, they were spotted by a Turkish guard who promptly opened fire on them. Donald was terrified, but Uri calmly led him out of the line of fire to the safety of a doorway. In quieter moments, he remembers them collecting stamps and making model aeroplanes together. His most vivid memory is of Uri’s skill on the basketball court:
He used to throw the ball from a long, long distance and get it into the net every time, even when he was looking the other way. I have no doubt that his psychic powers are real, and I think scientists should apply their minds to them instead of arguing about them.
Joseph Charles spent the whole of his six years at the college in Uri’s class and knew him very well. With the minimum of prompting, the memories flooded back:
There was a circle below the basketball net, and we thought we were pretty good if we could score from the edge of it. Uri would get the ball and pause for a bit, then he would throw it with one hand and get it in, every time, even from the half-way line.
There were many unusual things about Uri. Those caves, for instance – there were sixty or seventy of them running for miles, deep down, in all directions, and they were pitch dark. We’d never go down there on our own. But we always felt confident with Uri – he would always be our leader, and he would lead us right to the end and get us back out again.
Uri’s classroom-break demonstrations of his unusual abilities soon became a regular feature of school life, both on and off the basketball court:
He would tell me to do a drawing and fold the paper while he was out of the room. We’d make sure he wasn’t peeping through the keyhole or the window. Then he’d come back in and draw exactly what I’d drawn. He did that several times, and always got it right.
He’d throw a pack of cards on the floor, face upwards, and tell me to think of one, without touching it. When I said I was ready, he would grab my hand and go over them, and find the exact card. I didn’t believe it the first time, and thought it was just a coincidence, but he did it many times. That was brilliant.
Then he had this watch – he could make its hands go forwards or backwards without touching anything.
Joseph joined the merchant navy after leaving school and later worked as a courier before starting his own transport firm in the East End of London. He recalled a memorable visit to Uri in New York in 1974:
We went out for a meal, and were talking about the old times. He was eating his fruit salad with a normal restaurant spoon and it just started to bend. ‘You see, Joseph, this is the problem I get even when I’m eating,’ he said. He threw the spoon on the table, and it went on bending on its own, and then it broke without either of us touching it. I’ve still got it – both parts – at home. I also gave him a very short and thick key to bend, which he did. I’m fairly strong, but I couldn’t straighten it out again.
Uri a fake? Nothing of the kind!
For every report that Geller is a fake psychic, there are dozens of accounts of incidents like these, both from people who have known him well for many years and from those who only met him once. Is it possible, I soon began to wonder, that anybody could fool so many people for so long and so often?
In theory, it is. Magicians frequently fool each other as well as the public. Sometimes they pay a lot of money for the secret of a new trick – there being no other way they can figure out how it is done.
I have been totally fooled myself on several occasions. The late Milbourne Christopher put on a spectacular display of close-up sleight-of-hand when I took him along to visit the site of the Enfield poltergeist, which I described in my book This House is Haunted (1980). He did things with a single piece of torn newspaper that were as impressive as anything Geller has ever done on a stage, and if he had claimed to have psychic powers I would have found it difficult not to believe him. The piece of paper seemed to move around the room on its own while I was standing right beside him. I have still not worked out what he did with it.
This is simply because, like any skilled magician, Christopher knew exactly what he was going to do, and when, and I did not. I could only see what he wanted me to see. Neither I nor anybody else can prove Geller to be genuine (or false, for that matter) solely on the basis of what we see him do, or think we see him do. We have to approach the question from several different directions.
I have already established that Uri’s unusual abilities were well witnessed long before he met Shipi and Hanna Shtrang, and that almost everything he has ever claimed to do has been done by numerous other people. This increases the probability that his abilities are genuine, though it does not constitute proof. This will only be achieved when a sufficient number of ordinary people have found they too can bend things or receive telepathic information. In this high-strangeness area, proof has to be reached on an individual basis.
In my Introduction, I described the first of several intriguing incidents that I was to witness over the following months in Uri’s London apartment. I will now give an account of some of the others, in approximate order of strangeness, beginning with some examples of what may have been his normal, rather than his paranormal, powers.
One day, I arrived to find Uri lying flat on the floor beside a large-scale map of an area he visited later in 1985 to look for minerals. One corner of it was weighted flat with a ship’s compass which, I noticed, was not orientated in the same direction as the map.
‘What’s that for?’ I asked.
‘Oh, it’s a kind of good-luck thing,’ said Uri casually. ‘I use it to get in the right mood. Look, I’ll show you.’
I sat on the floor beside him, noticing as I did so that the fat compass needle did not move at all when I gave the concrete floor a good thump a few inches from it. Uri clenched his fist lightly and waved it in the air a good six inches above the compass. Immediately, the needle began to rock to and fro, quite slowly.
‘You try it,’ he said. I did, tensing the muscles in my hand and wrist as hard as I could without making any impression at all on the needle. Muscles do generate tiny magnetic fields, I knew, but I could not manage to affect the compass with mine.
Satisfied with the feedback he was getting from the compass, Uri put it aside and ran the flat of his hand over the map, on which he had already drawn several circles in pencil, and one or two in coloured ink. These were the spots over which he had felt reactions in the palm of his hand of the kind he has already described. In November 1985, he showed me a tiny strip of gold, about a centimetre in length, that he had personally fished out of the rock-crusher and separator that had been placed on one of the spots he had selected.
Some time after this, I brought along my own pocket compass, and asked Uri to show me how he made needles move. ‘I’m not asking you to do it,’ I said, ‘I just want to see how you go about it.’
‘I never tried with a cheap one,’ he said, rather disdainfully. His own ship’s compass was a high-precision model, its needle suspended in oil. Mine had cost me about one pound and its needle was balanced on a small spring. It had one advantage over his expensive model, however: when a magnetic field was applied to it, the needle would shake up and down in response to the pulse rate of the field. The same thing would happen if it were physically disturbed by knocking the table beside it. Therefore, if, as I originally suspected, Uri’s needle-moving routine was a purely magnetic one, caused by his unusually powerful hand and wrist muscles, my cheap little instrument would register the effect better than his, for when its needle shook, it made a clearly audible sound.
‘This is what I do,’ he said. He clenched both his fists and brought them to within six inches of the compass, moving his head towards it at the same time.
‘It could be a magnetic effect,’ I said. ‘Muscles do create small magnetic fields, and you’re fairly muscular.’
‘No, you’re wrong,’ he replied. ‘Look – I can’t clench my left fist completely and I can’t stretch out my left arm fully, either.’ He showed me the large scar where he had been operated on after being wounded in the Six Day War. It was close to his left elbow joint, and the stitch marks were easily visible.
‘I’m not strong in this arm at all,’ he added. ‘I can’t even lift a heavy suitcase with it.’ I and many others had assumed Uri to be stronger than most. There went that myth, debunked by Uri himself. ‘Anyway, I do it with my mind, not with my hands. I can do it with no hands at all. Watch.’
He knelt on the concrete floor, resting both hands on the carpet, concentrated hard for a few moments, then brought his head sharply towards the compass as if he were a dog about to bite it, letting out a sharp grunt as he did so. I watched the needle from a distance of a few inches.
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘It moved a little.’ It had not, but I felt that some false feedback would encourage him, as indeed it did.
He tried again, and this time the needle swung quite slowly through at least fifteen degrees, without wobbling. From where I was watching, I could see that he did not touch the table. Anyway, even if he had, the needle would have wobbled up and down and not moved sideways as I had seen it do.
Later, I tried to do what he had done with much effort and no success at all. I could more or less repeat the effect with my small nine-volt magnetic pulse generator, bringing its probe to within four or five inches of the compass – about the same distance as when Uri had zapped it with his head-power. So it may be that there is some human magnetic field involved in his case, which is of interest in itself if true. How it could turn itself on or off to order is quite beyond my understanding.
Uri himself insists that the power involved is not a magnetic one, even if it can produce results similar to those of a normal magnetic field. He believes it originates from the centre of the forehead, site of the pineal gland or ‘third eye’ long believed to be associated with mysterious human powers. All I can say is that Uri can unquestionably make a compass needle move by bringing his head close to it. He can also make the same motion and not cause it to move, which would seem to rule out the ‘hidden magnet’ in his hair, neck or mouth theory.
Another example of what could have been either normal or paranormal ability took place in the summer of 1985. One day, Uri telephoned me to ask if I could contact somebody in one of the security or intelligence services. To shorten a long story of which I cannot give any details at present, he had met a man whom he felt to be up to something illegal, and he wanted it to be on record that he had no connection with the business involved. I did what he asked, and in due course I was telephoned and told that the man in question had been arrested and charged with a serious offence. (He was subsequently sent to prison.) I was thanked for my help, but told no more. As Uri has pointed out, in cases of this kind you never are told any more.
The first of many informal experiments in telepathy between Uri and me took place at his kitchen table, where much of the work on this book was carried out. We were talking about the transmission of simple drawings or single words.
‘Think of a letter of the alphabet,’ Uri said suddenly. I closed my eyes and immediately saw the letter R. with several parallel lines running through it. As I opened my eyes, Uri scribbled on a newspaper and passed it to me. At the bottom of the page he had written the letter Q and circled it. Above it, he had written R and crossed it out. I had neither written nor said anything at all.
‘Now, think of a city,’ he said. I thought of Bratislava in Czechoslovakia, which I had visited in 1983. I recalled a delightful evening at a pavement restaurant that I had spent with friends from the conference I had attended. Then I remembered that the meal had not been in Bratislava but in Vienna, where we had all stopped on our way home. The two cities are only forty miles apart, and are linked by the winding, muddy (not blue) River Danube, the image of which popped uninvited into my mind. I decided that I had messed up the experiment, and was about to suggest we try another when Uri handed me my notebook, in which he had been scribbling.
He had drawn two parallel wavy lines across the page, which could be said to resemble an aerial view of a river. However, underneath he had written ‘Wall? China.’ What he had done fitted a well-established pattern noticed by almost everybody who has ever done experiments of this kind: he had reproduced the shape of what I had been visualizing very accurately, but had misinterpreted it, for which I could hardly blame him, since my thoughts had been very muddled. I was also interested to see that he had not mentioned or written the name of a city, which he had asked me to think of and which I had failed to do properly.
Our next spontaneous experiment arose at my suggestion and not his. I had received a postcard showing a very dull-looking hallway in Sigmund Freud’s house in Vienna, and one evening I took it along with me to show him. I held it up several feet away, and gave him a generous clue.
‘There’s a connection with you,’ I said. This was the name Freud, his mother’s maiden name. Uri looked at the picture intently, but said nothing, so I put the card away. Later in the evening I produced it without warning and held it up again, now in a very dim light and still several feet away from him. I visualized the grim features of Freud as hard as I could.
‘All I’m getting is an old man with a beard,’ said Uri, scribbling something on a piece of paper. I leaned forward and read the words ‘Freud. Vienna’. That, I decided, could as well have been guesswork as telepathy. Or he might have visited Freud’s house, for all I knew. I said nothing, not wishing him to think I was putting his powers to the test – he had already given me his views on scientific experiments. I was putting them to the test, but in my own way: by letting them manifest themselves naturally and spontaneously.
The best of my informal experiments of this kind, carried out several months later, also involved a man with a beard. Again, I managed to spring it on Uri without warning. While he was making a long telephone call, I drew what was meant to be a portrait of Father Christmas on my pad, holding the pad parallel with my chest as before. I was about to add Santa’s traditional nightcap when Uri rang off. At the same time, I decided the cap was too complicated to draw so I left it out.
Uri noticed that I was up to something. ‘What are you drawing?’ he asked.
‘You tell me,’ I suggested.
In less than a minute, he had drawn a face with thick and straight lines for the eyebrows and nose, exactly like mine. He omitted the beard, but added some straight lines very similar to mine at the top of his face. Underneath, he had written: ‘Hat on head.’
‘I just thought of a hat,’ he said as I showed him my drawing, but before I said anything about my thought of the night-cap.
This was rather uncanny, as was the fact that each of our drawings was precisely twenty-seven millimetres in height.
On 5 August 1985, there was an incident of a slightly different order. I telephoned Uri in the morning and said I would come and see him in mid-afternoon, when I had been to my bank. At least a week previously, I had asked him if he could discover the number of a Swiss bank account belonging to the father of a friend of mine, who had died without telling it to her. She was hard up and needed the money she knew to be there, but Swiss bankers are Swiss bankers and would not let her have it without the number. Uri said he did not think that was something he could do and I said no more about it.
On my way to his apartment building, I thought of asking if he could read my bank account number instead. He had never met my friend, but he had met me, which might make a difference.
He was taking a shower when I arrived, so Hanna brought me a coffee and some biscuits and left me in the living-room for a few minutes. Then Uri came in, rubbing his hair with a towel.
‘I just got a flash while I was washing,’ he said. ‘Guy’s bank account, and the number 88. Do you want me to see if I can read your account number?’
I was just about to ask precisely that. The number 8, incidentally, is not in either of my two account numbers, though the last two digits of my bank code number are 86. It could be said that Uri had remembered my earlier mention of my friend’s father’s bank number, plus the fact that I had just been to my bank, and come out with a lucky guess. Even so, the precise timing was impressive.
So was the demonstration of instant telepathy by Uri’s lively son Daniel. By the age of four and a half, he had already flown with several different airlines, and could reel off the names of at least twenty of them on demand. Uri told me to write down the name of an airline and ask Daniel to guess it.
I wrote down SAS, the line I was due to use a week later, and visualized it as well as I could. Daniel got it wrong with his first two guesses.
‘No, you’re doing it wrong,’ said Uri to me. ‘Look.’ He turned to Daniel. ‘Which airline would you like me to give you for your birthday?’ he asked, when I had shown him what I had written. Daniel was the other side of the large dining table.
‘SAS,’ he replied at once.
‘You have to make it very direct,’ Uri explained. ‘You have to put it in a way he can understand.’
I suspect we shall be hearing more from Daniel Geller in due course.
None of these incidents struck me as a perfect example of the kind of mind-reading for which Geller is famous. I mention them merely to illustrate the sort of thing that seems to happen more often in the Geller household than elsewhere in my experience. There were three others, however, that gave me a good deal to think about, and I am still unable to provide any normal explanation for any of them. One of them remains in my mind as the nearest I have yet come to witnessing an anomalous event in perfect conditions. I will describe them in order of strangeness.
On 17 October 1985 at about 6.50 P.M., I was sitting in the living-room and talking about nothing in particular with Uri and Shipi when we all heard what I can only describe as a quiet thud coming from the adjoining toilet, which I had been the last person to use.
‘That was something,’ said Shipi, without much interest. We all got up, opened the door of the toilet and switched the light on. A plastic hairbrush was lying in the middle of the room, which was about eight feet by six. There had definitely not been anything on the tiled floor when I had left it a few minutes earlier.
I asked Uri to stay there, close the door, and drop it again when I had returned to the chair in which I had been sitting. He did so, and the sound was identical. The hairbrush, we all agreed, had been on the shelf beside the basin the last time we had seen it. I was unable to suggest any possible normal means by which it could have travelled three or four feet on its own, as it unmistakably had.
On 20 August 1985, Uri and I were sitting at the small table in the kitchen having a snack. Shipi was between us, and Hanna was standing at the worktop preparing some cooking. Uri mentioned that he had found a pen in his bathroom that he could not remember buying, and this led me to describe various instances of ‘apports’ in my experience, in which unfamiliar objects had simply turned up without explanation. I embarked upon a long account of one of the most intriguing cases of this kind that I knew of, which involved my colleague Maurice Grosse.
Several years previously, and long after the Enfield poltergeist case which he and I investigated in 1977 and 1978, Maurice’s wife had mislaid a treasured ring. She had taken it off one night and left it in the usual place on her dressing-table, and the next morning it was not there. They searched the room, and indeed the entire house, repeatedly, and even turned out all the rubbish sacks. They took everything out of all the drawers in the dressing-table and combed every inch of the bedroom, but no ring appeared. Finally, and reluctantly, Maurice wrote to his insurance company to put in a claim for compensation. This was about three months after the ring had been lost.
He posted the letter on a Friday, and on Saturday morning both he and his wife were baffled to find that the ring had appeared in its usual place on the dressing-table.
While I was telling this story, Shipi was making a shopping-list on an old paper bag he had fished out of the kitchen waste bin, having failed to find anything to write on within reach.
As I was saying the words ‘he wrote to the insurance company’, I noticed an odd expression on Uri’s face. He was staring at the table in front of him with his eyes bulging out of their sockets, as if he had just seen a ghost, or perhaps a worm crawling out of the packet of crisp-bread in front of his plate.
‘Are you all right?’ I asked.
It was some time before he said anything. He just sat and stared at the table. Finally, he picked up a folded sheet of paper and handed it to me. It was a cover note from an insurance company, dated 1 May 1985 and referring to a more recent claim, announcing the enclosure of a cheque in payment for the policy belonging to Mr M. Grosse, whose home address was written beneath his name.
Maurice, I knew, had been to visit Uri about a week previously. He told me later that he had definitely not been into the kitchen. He agreed it was possible that the piece of paper had been in his briefcase at the time, but he had no reason to take it out.
Eventually I managed to get a coherent account from Uri. ‘When you said “insurance”, I looked down and there it was,’ he said. ‘It was between the plate and this packet of biscuits, and part of it was underneath the packet.’
The kitchen table, as usual, was fairly cluttered with packets, jam pots and plates. I thought I would have noticed the paper when I came in, but could not be sure. I was more certain that Uri had been sitting back in his chair while I was telling the story, and had not made any movement towards the table.
Even assuming that he was playing an elaborate practical joke on me, I could not understand how he persuaded me to embark upon a story concerning an insurance policy belonging to Maurice Grosse. Moreover, if he was inclined to play practical jokes, I thought it likely that he would have tried something similar again, but although I visited him three or four times a week throughout several months in 1985, he never did.
This was one of those frustrating incidents that do not lend themselves to thorough investigation. Uri insisted that the piece of paper had simply appeared in front of him, and I had to take his word for it. As the incident to be described next had already taken place just over a month earlier, I had to admit that sudden materializations of things in Uri’s apartment were not only possible but also reasonably probable.
The incident I shall always think of as The Big One took place on 18 July 1985. It was a quarter-past three in the afternoon of a cloudless summer day, and bright light filled the living-room. Uri was sitting motionless on his exercise bicycle, reading a draft of one of the chapters of this book. I was sitting about four feet from him, with the back of my chair at about forty-five degrees to the window, which meant that I was looking along the room towards the hallway and front door and Uri was well within the limits of my right visual field.
I just sat there and waited for him to finish reading the draft, looking in front of me and thinking of nothing at all, as is my habit when I have to take a short break during working hours. I was certainly not in any kind of altered state of consciousness, though. I had drunk nothing all day apart from coffee and water. I had not been sitting in silence long enough to fall into a state of reverie.
The object appeared, in mid-air, directly in my line of vision at a height of about eight feet from the floor and two feet below the ceiling. It seemed to hover there for an instant, and then it fell to the thickly carpeted floor, making only the softest of sounds. It did not fall straight down, but at an angle of seventy-five degrees as measured from the floor.
I said nothing. Uri seemed not to have noticed it. He went on reading the draft, holding it in front of his face and concentrating all his attention on it as I had noticed he tended to do, whatever he was engaged in doing.
I thought to myself: did I see what I think I just saw? I decided I did. There was the object, which looked like a small shaving mirror, lying on the floor just under the edge of the coffee table. So it could not have fallen straight down. It landed about five feet from me, and at least nine or ten feet from Uri. It also fell slightly towards us.
He had definitely not thrown it, I could be sure. He had not moved a muscle for several minutes, and in any case the falling angle was wrong. It fell as if it had come from a good distance in a wide arc.
I kept quiet for long enough to satisfy myself that Uri was not going to say anything about this unexpected apport. Then I cleared my throat.
‘Excuse me, Uri,’ I said. ‘What’s that?’
He looked up and saw where I was pointing. ‘Oh, that’s my shaving mirror. What’s it doing there? Perhaps the children . . .’
‘They’re out in the park, with Hanna and Shipi,’ I said. ‘It wasn’t the children. It just dropped from the ceiling.’
‘That’s funny,’ he said. ‘I didn’t hear anything. Drop it again and see what sound it makes.’ I did so, from about the height where I had first seen it. It made a much louder sound and did not land anywhere near the table. (Later, I found that it measured two-and-a-half by three-and-a-half inches, and weighed forty-eight grams.)
Uri was mildly intrigued by the incident, though nothing like as much as he was after the discovery of the piece of paper described above. He seemed to accept the fact that this kind of thing happens now and then. We went to the main bathroom, opening two doors to get there, and he showed me the travelling toilet case where the mirror was normally kept. There were two very solid walls in between it and the spot where I had seen the mirror appear.
‘It’s the first time this has happened since that silver coin turned up in the kitchen,’ he commented. That had been about three months previously. ‘Sometimes it happens five or six times in one day, like when the writer from Esquire magazine came to see me in New York. Then it doesn’t happen for maybe half a year.’
In my book The Haunted Pub Guide (1985) I described the ‘Was It Something I Said?’ Effect, whereby things fall off walls or shelves at the precise moment when somebody makes a remark, usually a disparaging one, about the traditional ghost of the establishment. It has been frequently reported, and there is good first-hand testimony for it, including some of my own.
In 1980, for example, reporter Barry Leighton and photographer Bob Naylor of the Wiltshire local newspaper the Evening Advertiser were visiting the supposedly haunted Crown pub in Pewsey, where a number of odd incidents had been reported. The landlord’s daughter had been clouted on the nose by a mustard pot that had taken off from its rack in full view of both her and her mother, who in turn narrowly avoided being struck by a flying frying pan. A bundle of five-pound notes went missing from the till and turned up in the bedroom, laid out like a pack of cards, and so on.
While the landlord was describing all this action and excitement, Bob Naylor was taking a picture of an antique pistol hanging on the wall.
‘It’s annoying-sometimes,’ said the landlord, ‘especially when an ornament crashes to the floor without warning.’ The pistol immediately did so, followed by another of the bar’s decorations.
‘It happened in front of our eyes,’ Barry Leighton wrote in his story (3 January 1980). ‘There was no trickery involved. It was unnerving.’
I managed to unnerve a BBC radio reporter myself while recording an interview late one night in the highly haunted Seven Stars pub in Robertsbridge, Sussex. We were on our own in an upstairs room, and I was holding forth on my theories of how ghosts tended to do things in a certain order, for reasons known only to them.
‘You always start,’ I began, ‘with either knocks . . .’
Before I could add ‘or loud banging noises’, there was an almighty thump on the floor a few feet from us. The timing could not have been more precise, as listeners were able to hear for themselves in the Colour Supplement programme on 13 October 1985. My trusted fellow ghost-hunter Andrew Green, who was downstairs at the time having a quiet cup of coffee with the landlord and his wife, and the programme’s producer, assured me that he had not heard the noise, nor had he or any of the others done anything that could have caused it. I reckoned I had good evidence on tape for the ‘Was It Something I Said?’ Effect.
Immediately prior to the mirror-materialization episode, however, neither Geller nor I had said anything at all for several minutes. I wondered if what he had been reading might have been responsible, but this did not seem possible. He was reading the page numbered 7/4 (page four of an early draft of Chapter Seven, now Chapter Eight) in which he mentioned his work at SRI International, and noted that seven plus four is eleven his ‘magic’ number. I found this somewhat far-fetched, although I had to admit that Uri’s magic number certainly seems to produce results.
There was another possible connection. During one of the many videotapes and films shot while Uri was at Stanford, a very similar incident took place in which a watch is said to have materialized in mid-air and fallen in front of the camera. I have not been able to see this piece of film, but I have been assured by somebody who has that the watch appears complete from one frame to the next. The mirror would, I am sure, have done the same had I been able to film it.
Going through my notes later, I found that three days before this incident I had been discussing such phenomena with Byron Janis, who had witnessed a good many of them since he and Uri first met in 1972.
‘They happen in three ways,’ he told me. ‘Sometimes they shoot across the room as if they’d been thrown, or they can just appear in place without any sign of how they got there, or they can drop from just above your head.’ He gave me several examples of all three categories that he had witnessed.
‘I’ve never seen anything like that,’ I said, referring to the third category. I had witnessed several examples of the first two during some of the cases of the poltergeist type that I had investigated. ‘Hope I do one day,’ I added.
Had it, after all, been Something I Said?
Six months later, I was to ask myself the same question. On 18 January 1986 I was kneeling on the floor looking at some of the maps Uri had used while working on the Bronfman kidnap case. The map of New York City reminded me of another of his early cases.
I put my finger on the Yonkers district. ‘That’s where the Son of Sam lived,’ I said. As I spoke the word ‘Sam’, there was a loud noise behind me. Uri was seated on his exercise bicycle in front of me. Neither of us had seen anything move, but we found the shaving mirror on top of a box beside the mirror-wall in the dining area. There was a large scratch on one of the strips of plastic that covered the mirror-wall, and the shaving mirror itself was cracked on one side. It was the same one that had materialized in front of my eyes the previous July.
We went into the bathroom to see if anything else was missing from the shelf beside the basin. All seemed to be in order. I was last out of the bathroom and shut the door behind me. Uri went back towards the living-room, and I followed. As I shut the door of the corridor, there was a very loud thud almost under my feet. A large plastic bottle of bath foam was lying on the floor beside a cardboard box opposite the bathroom door. The box had been there when I came out of the bathroom. The bottle had not. If it had, I would have trodden on it.
On another occasion, in the same month, there was a more direct connection between something I said and an unusual incident. We were sitting in the kitchen, and I was describing some of Maurice Grosse’s many experiences of objects moving around in mysterious ways. I remembered that the last time I had mentioned them the insurance form had appeared on the table, and I wondered what would happen this time. What did happen was a sound that caused me to look under the table, where beside my feet I found a toothbrush that had apparently travelled there on its own. It was still damp, and an Israeli house guest later assured me that it was hers, and that she had last seen it in the bathroom, where she had used it that morning. She had known Uri for a long time, and was not particularly surprised.
Once again, on 15 February 1986, I noticed that something I wrote could have the same effect as something I said. I had shown Uri what I hoped was the final draft of this chapter and asked for his comments. He had none, except ‘Okay’, and after handing it back to me he went into his bedroom, leaving me alone in the living-room with Shipi, who was making a telephone call.
While the call was going on, with Uri still in the bedroom, there was one of those now familiar noises. I investigated it at once, and discovered two small golden objects that looked like marble-sized ball-bearings. While I was searching the floor, there was a very loud noise beside my feet, and another of the ball-bearings appeared on the carpet about a foot from where I was standing. At the same time, Uri came out of the bedroom saying that ‘something’ had just shot past him. Whatever it was, neither he nor I could find it.
I showed him the three ball-bearings. (Shortly afterwards I discovered a fourth on the floor.) ‘Where do they come from?’ I asked.
He looked at them for a moment. ‘They’re part of one of Meir’s devices,’ he replied. ‘The last time I saw them they were in his factory – in Israel.’
He immediately telephoned Meir and asked him to open the safe where the bearings were kept and count them. There should have been one hundred of them. Meir called back soon afterwards to say that there were six missing. Several months later, the remaining two had still not been found.
One way and another, I became convinced of something that many had learned before me: inexplicable things do happen in the presence of Uri Geller.


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