Computers and Scientists
There are a good many people scattered around the world, from California, Israel and Japan to England, Switzerland and Germany, who are probably hoping that I will never get near their computers again. I shall now explain why they may be feeling this way, and I will begin with an independent eye-witness account of one of my recent encounters with a piece of modern technology.
In March 1985, I went to see my Swiss lawyer, Dr Ulrich Kohli. In addition to being an attorney-at-law and owner of the Zurich law firm Dr Kohli and Partners, he is a lieutenant-colonel in the Swiss Army, where he is second-in-command of a tank regiment. In his early forties, he takes professional care of a demanding and high-standing international clientele in corporate, financial, contract and private investment matters. He is married, and has three children.
In the middle of a general conversation, he said, ‘I heard so much about how you can affect computer discs.’
‘Oh, sure,’ I replied casually, although it was not something I was in the habit of demonstrating. So Dr Kohli asked me to show him what I could do, and later he kindly wrote out his own version of what happened. He entitled it ‘The day I got goose-pimples’, and began with a summary of our ten-year business relationship:
I met Uri Geller unexpectedly in 1976, and it became clear at our first meeting that we would become good friends. I felt somehow that our minds were in a state of communication, and on several subsequent occasions we have simultaneously thought of the same project or course of action, even when we were miles apart.
One evening in 1976 we went to the Kronenhalle restaurant in Zurich for dinner. There were about seven of us around the nicely-decorated table. The management knew that Uri Geller was coming, and we had the full attention of all the waiters.
During dinner we casually discussed several subjects, and then I happened to ask Uri when he had first discovered that he could bend spoons and keys. He began to tell us about his childhood, explaining that he had found that he could bend metal when still a small boy. At that point, something incredible happened.
Uri was eating some salad, holding a massive silver fork in his left hand. I remember, as clearly as if it were yesterday, that while he was talking about his childhood the fork in his hand suddenly started to bend, very considerably. It was quite startling, and even Uri was baffled. We could not believe it. The evidence, however, was overwhelming. The Kronenhalle’s strong silver fork was irreversibly distorted.
The waiters stared at it in utter disbelief, and said they would frame it and hang it on the wall beside the distinguished works of art there. They did so, and the fork is still there today.
Over the following years I had many opportunities to be with Uri, in Switzerland and in New York City. Whenever he came to see me in my office in Zurich and we had new staff in the law firm, he would put on a little private show for them. He would bend keys, coffee spoons or letter-openers, or have one of the girls draw something while he was out of the room. He would come back and ask her to look into his eyes and concentrate hard on the drawing she had just made. We were all thrilled when he managed to read her mind and put an almost identical drawing down on paper.
I knew Uri could do much more than this with his powers, but I did not ask him to put on shows for fun too often. We became involved in many successful enterprises, in which I could really appreciate the extraordinary power of his mind. Now and then, he had to cope with difficult situations or take important decisions for himself or for others. Sometimes there were very tough negotiations with hard-core business people. It was quite fantastic to see how, sooner or later, everything would fall into place the way we thought it should.
Concentrating his mind on something and sending messages and getting results – is something at which I would say Uri Geller is an absolute master. Most people would not believe the results because their minds do not have an adequate dimension in which to process such phenomena properly.
One of the most exciting experiences I have had with my friend Uri was in March 1985, in my Zurich office. All of us who witnessed it, including myself, were completely taken aback. For my part, I freely admit that I got goose-pimples, and I would not be surprised if the flesh of some of my staff began to creep as well. This is what happened:
The day Uri and Shipi Shtrang came to see me, I happened to have had a short session at my personal computer. Uri asked me to give him a diskette, a floppy disc used for working and writing with personal computers. Due to a slight misunderstanding, I thought he wanted to read the contents of the diskette with his mind, so I gave him one with an important legal text which my secretary [Barbara] had just finished processing. I thought it was a good idea to let him work on a clear and coherent draft of a document.
Uri took the diskette and went next door into my private office, a large well-furnished room with a solid round antique conference table near an old Louis XIII wardrobe which serves as a filing cabinet. The rest of us followed. He sat down at the round table and the others standing around and watching him were Matthias Meister, one of my associate lawyers, his secretary Beatriz, Barbara and myself.
He carefully slid the diskette into a light plastic folder in front of him on the table. We all held our breath in silence. Then Uri clenched his fists, held one above the other and brought them close to the diskette in its plastic folder.
He never touched the diskette, and there were no instruments or anything else around that might have been hazardous to floppy discs. The plastic folder was supplied by us.
He made some strange twisting movements with his fists directly above the diskette, and I could see him concentrating all his will-power on it. His eyes gleamed and flashed – it was as if lightning were about to strike the table in front of us.
Then he suddenly spoke the word ‘Erase’. He repeated it, then leaned back and relaxed. I quickly took the diskette from inside its plastic folder.
‘Now try it,’ said Uri. ‘Whatever was on it has gone.’
We went back into the other room where the computer was. Barbara took the diskette and inserted it in the disc drive of the IBM PC computer. Then she started the program to retrieve the contents of the diskette. The tension rose, and I expected something sensational to happen. We were all staring at the display screen when the message appeared: ‘ERASED’!
Barbara was worried, because a full day’s work had been saved on that diskette. She had naturally believed me when I told her that Uri just wanted to read its contents. In disbelief and anger, she tried to reload and retrieve the text, but to no avail. It had all gone. The diskette was empty, dead.
Matthias Meister, the computer enthusiast among my attorneys, also tried to retrieve the text and found that Uri had even erased the format on the diskette. A floppy disc must be formatted before it can be used on a personal computer, but the formatted part had been removed as well, making the diskette virgin and temporarily useless.
Uri was very quiet and in complete self-control. I felt that something big had happened, something that could not be explained rationally but that was made to happen in the act of total concentration that is part of Uri’s incredible ability to create, to get things done, to make other people act, or to make things move with the powers of his mind.
All of us who witnessed Uri’s amazing performance with the diskette had no doubts at all that there was no trickery involved. I have known Uri for several years and I am absolutely sure that what he does is real. Such was the impact on all of us of what he did to that computer diskette that my staff began to wonder what else he could do to computers. Somebody suggested locking up the diskettes every time he came to see us.
Poor Barbara had a hard time. She had to rewrite the whole document that Uri had erased. She, for one, will never forget what Uri Geller is capable of doing.
Another person who may be feeling the same way about my effect on a computer is Avraham Mardor, the general manager of Israel’s state-owned telecommunications company. During a trip I made to Israel at the end of 1984, he assembled a large group in his Tel Aviv office, including at least a dozen reporters and one of the few female magicians I have ever met, a lady named Dalia Peled. He inserted a demonstration disc in his Columbia computer, and asked me to do my stuff. The picture that appeared on the screen was of a comic-looking elephant.
Once again, I will let somebody else describe what happened. The witness on this occasion was Yitzhak Oked, a reporter from the Jerusalem Post, who had this to say in the issue of the paper of 21 November 1984:
Geller took the disc and put it on a table, looked at it, concentrated on it for about two minutes, and then put it back on the machine.
‘I couldn’t believe my eyes when the words DISC FAILURE blinked at me,’ Geller’s challenger stated. ‘I’ve never seen the program state that. Everything on the disc was garbled, not erased but garbled. The main operating filing of this program became non-operational.’
The international manager of the company that had made the computer, who was present, took the disc and announced that he was going to have it examined in an effort to find out what I had done to it. I never heard whether he succeeded or not.
A couple of months later, the News of the World arranged for me to visit the headquarters near London of the Wang company. This time, the technicians at the computer centre not only watched me scramble the floppy disc, but joined in themselves. This was how reporter Stuart White described what happened:
Geller waved his hand over the disc, stared intently at it, and got staff to shout ‘Erase!’ When the disc was put into the computer, the machine refused to display any information.
Mr Cliff Edwards, a computer expert who was present, testified that he had personally tested the disc before I set to work, and found it to be performing perfectly. ‘This is absolutely amazing,’ he was quoted as saying in the 17 February 1985 issue of the paper. He reckoned the odds against it going wrong when it did were ‘astronomical’.
My association with computers of the inexplicably malfunctioning kind dates back to November 1972, and an incident that was to have far-reaching consequences. It was my first day at Stanford Research Institute in California, where I was to take part in the long series of laboratory experiments supervised by Harold Puthoff and Russell Targ. Over the previous weekend, I had already given them an idea of what I could do by bending a heavy copper ring that Hal had made especially for me, and also by breaking his own silver bracelet into three pieces.
SRI International, as it is now called, is quite an impressive place. More than 2,000 people work there on all kinds of top secret defence projects, and the security is tight by any standards. Russell and Hal showed me inside one or two of the buildings, but I saw nothing more exciting than some people making model aeroplanes and another group of technicians working on some costume jewellery. What that might have had to do with the US defence programme was not made clear. There was, of course, a lot more that my hosts could not show me, such as the bank of computers on the floor below theirs that belonged to the Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the Department of Defense, one of the highest security agencies of its kind in the country.
After my weekend warm-up, I felt on fairly good form. The first thing I was asked to do was to deflect the needle of a chart recorder that was connected to a magnetometer, an-instrument that measures very small changes in magnetic fields. I clenched my fist and shouted ‘Move!’ as I tried to send bursts of energy at the machine, whereupon the chart recorder began to behave very erratically. The needle jumped almost off the paper altogether.
While this was going on, it seemed that something else had begun to behave erratically: one of the D-ARPA computers down below. It had apparently shut down completely, and word began to spread around the building that it was all because of me, especially after I had given a spontaneous demonstration with an ultrasonic scanner, making the image on the screen move up or down on demand. Before long, it seemed that not only were Targ and Puthoff investigating me, but somebody was investigating them. A three-man team of psychologists, one of whom was also an amateur magician, turned up to have a look at me on the orders of the head of D-ARPA himself, US Air Force Colonel Austin Kibler.
The team was headed by George Lawrence, a D-ARPA staff psychologist who was in charge of research funding. The other two were Ray Hyman (a psychologist and amateur magician) and Robert Van de Castle, a respected member of the professional parapsychology community. (I did not know it then, but he had just come back from the conference of the Parapsychological Association in Edinburgh, all his travel expenses having been paid by DARPA. This suggests that the US defence community had a fairly serious interest in psychic matters at that time.)
As you will see, there was a connection between the visit of the men from D-ARPA and my next encounter with a computer. It was certainly not my most successful one to date. In fact I should count it as a failure for two reasons. I did not do quite what I intended to do, and I had no witnesses. So you just have to take my word for it. This is what happened:
One result of my work at SRI was an invitation to the headquarters in New York of Time magazine. I already knew one of their reporters, John Wilhelm, quite well, as he had been following me around for some time and had witnessed me in action, as he described in his book The Search for Superman. He had told me in advance that everyone in his office had decided I was a fraud – the science writer Leon Jaroff had even made a bet on it before he ever saw me, so I expected a fairly hostile reception.
This was what I was given, and on 12 March 1973 the magazine printed a long story about Targ and Puthoff’s research with me, which had not even been published. Hyman had written some notes on what he had observed during his brief visit to SRI (not all of it very well observed, for he described my dark brown eyes as blue). Somehow or other, a copy of these notes, made without Hyman’s knowledge or permission, reached the Time office before my visit, for one of those present has since admitted in print that he had a copy in his pocket. So did a copy (also unauthorised) of a letter written by Targ and Puthoff to the publisher of Scientific American.
Based on this material, and ignoring the weeks of careful first-hand research of one of its own reporters, Time ran a story that was not only negative but full of incorrect statements. It alleged, for instance, that I had left Israel ‘in disgrace’, which I did not, as a reporter from the New York Post easily verified by checking with the Israeli Consulate. According to Benjamin Ron, vice-consul for scientific affairs, in a reply dated 19 December 1973, ‘there is no official reason to claim that Mr Geller left Israel “in disgrace”‘. He also denied the allegation that Israeli scientists had ‘duplicated’ all my feats.
Leon Jaroff may occasionally get something about me right. In 1984, he told a meeting of sceptics that his ‘expose’, of me in 1973 helped ‘rocket me to stardom’. I did not appreciate that at the time, as negative articles used to annoy me in those days, though they no longer do.
Early in 1974, I was tipped off by a friend who worked for Time-Life that a cover story on parapsychology was to come out in the issue of Time of 4 March. It was very negative, he told me, and included some more defamatory references to me. This time I decided to answer the magazine’s charges – in my own way.
A few days before the magazine was due to appear, I went out on the balcony of my apartment on 57th Street, looking in the direction of the Time-Life building at the Rockefeller Center, and began to concentrate as hard as I could. I did not know anything about their printing schedule, or even where the plant was. I simply formed a strong ‘blocking’ thought in my mind, repeating the words ‘Don’t let it happen’ and visualizing the pages of the magazine rolling off the press with just my name replacing all the copy – column after column of Uri Geller Uri Geller Uri Geller . . .
I stood out there for at least half an hour, until I felt I had done all I could. Whenever I put that amount of time and effort into a task, something usually happens even if it is not quite what was planned. What happened on this occasion was duly reported by the publisher of Time himself, Ralph P. Davidson, in his regular letter to his readers.
First, he said, there was the small matter of Leon Jaroff’s clock-radio. Three mornings in a row over the past week, it had inexplicably failed to go off and wake him up, so that he was late for work. (I am not claiming any responsibility for that, although I do have something of a reputation for interfering with clockwork.)
‘Even more bizarre’, Mr Davidson went on, ‘was the mysterious force that glitched Time’s complex, computerized copy-processing system on closing night – at almost the precise moment that our psychic-phenomena story was fed into it. Against astronomical odds, both of the machines that print out Time’s copy stopped working simultaneously. No sooner were the spirits exorcised and the machines back in operation than the IBM computer in effect swallowed the entire cover story.’
What had happened, the publisher explained, was that the ultramodern IBM 370/135 had developed a flaw in its programming. This in turn ‘sent the copy circulating endlessly through memory loops from which it could not be retrieved’. It took a further thirteen hours and a second overhaul to get it back.
I am sorry about that. I always was synchronicity-prone.
In August 1973, on my second visit to Stanford, I was able to do some constructive work involving a computer, for a change. During the series of experiments that were described in Nature (18 October 1974), Puthoff and Targ wanted to see if I could read the ‘mind’ of a computer as well as a human mind, so they put me in an electrically shielded room about fifty yards down the corridor from their computer room. Targ then drew a picture of a kite on the display unit, while Puthoff stayed near me. I then drew a square with intersecting lines inside it that looked very much like the original, although I received no impressions of a kite, just a shape.
We did two more experiments using the computer. In the first, the picture was stored in the machine’s memory, and not displayed at all. In the second, it was displayed and the screen was then wiped. The targets were a church, and a heart with an arrow through it. I did not do very well with the church, though I reproduced part of its outline accurately, and for the second target I picked up the arrow but put it inside a square suitcase instead of a heart. Of course, all these pictures existed in the mind of the programmer, so I may well have been reading that.
I always do this kind of experiment in the same way, by looking at a screen in my mind and waiting for something to appear on it. If it stays for ten seconds or so, I am very confident that I have picked up the right image. Often, I am less sure, and pick up the right shapes but assemble them wrongly, maybe upside-down or back to front.
Sometimes, it seems that I miss the target for other reasons. In one experiment at Stanford, the drawing was of a figure supposed to represent the devil, holding a trident. I worked longer than usual on this one, and did three different sketches. The theme of all three was the same: the tablet on which Moses wrote the Ten Commandments dominating the globe, and some symbols from the Garden of Eden. I finally added a couple of pitchforks, but no figure. The scientists guessed correctly that my inability to reproduce this target may have been ‘culturally induced’. I had drawn a representation of the forces of light and good instead of those of darkness and evil.
The first time I was specifically asked to interfere with a computer in a major scientific laboratory was in 1974, when I visited the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, a huge place employing more than 7,000 people, where nine out of ten American nuclear weapons are designed. The quality of both their security and their researchers is very high. Ronald Hawke, the physicist who invited me there, had published several articles in his highly specialized fields.
He asked me to wipe out the pattern on a magnetic program card or at least to alter it, which I did on two out of four attempts, by holding the cards and rubbing them a little. They were then fed into a Hewlett Packard 65 calculator and both were rejected, although they had been accepted just before I had touched them. Dr Hawke wrote an account of this experiment, which is included in The Geller Papers.
A couple of years previously, I had been asked to repair an electronic machine by the distinguished space scientist Dr Wernher von Braun, when Edgar Mitchell and Andrija Puharich took me along to see him in his office. He was very sympathetic and open-minded, especially after I had bent his heavy gold ring for him while he held it in his closed fist. (I never touched it.) Then he found that his calculator was not working, so I offered to fix it for him on the spot.
I held it for a short while and gave it back to him. He switched the button to ON and the light came on at once, which it had not done a couple of minutes earlier. A whole lot of numbers came on as well, which did not look right, so I took it back and tried again, ordering the machine to ‘work, work, work!’ It then worked quite normally, much to Dr von Braun’s delight and amazement.
These were not exactly controlled experiments, of course. To date, I have only taken part in one well-controlled encounter with a computer, and for reasons to be explained later I am not particularly interested in repeating it. It took place in Tokyo on 29 March 1983.
I had been engaged by Nippon TV to take part in an hour-long special, for which the producers wanted as much live action as possible in the studio. They asked Professor Toshibumi Sakata, head of the computer department at Tokai University, to help set up something involving a computer that could be filmed. He kindly agreed, but insisted, reasonably enough, that everything must be under his personal control. The experiment would have to be in his own laboratory, where he could monitor everything himself, instead of in the studio. We eventually agreed to do the filming before the live show.
Eldon Byrd, the US Navy scientist with whom I had done some of my first controlled metal-bending experiments back in 1973, was with me on this trip. We had been good friends for ten years, and I knew how keen he was to see me back in a laboratory setting. He came along when we began the filming on 28 March.
When we arrived at the laboratory, a special program had already been inserted in the Hewlett Packard computer and thoroughly tested. It consisted of a coloured pattern that passed continuously from top to bottom of the screen over another fixed pattern that remained in the centre. My specific task was to stop the moving pattern, which was a representation of a picture of Tokyo taken from a satellite. Before we started, I was checked with a large magnetometer probe – as I was every time I left the room and came back.
I went through my usual routine for trying to influence anything, clenching my fist, concentrating hard, and ordering the tape to stop. I had no luck, and tried again. Still the picture went on appearing at the top of the screen and drifting down and off it, only to reappear almost at once. I yelled at it to stop, but that had no effect. I tried passing my hands close to the tape, but that did not work either. I went on trying for hour after hour, until I felt I was not going to get anywhere. It was just not my day.
The patient Japanese agreed to set the whole experiment up again on the following day, and I went back to the hotel feeling very depressed. I had wasted a lot of people’s time, and miles of film, and had nothing to show for it.
At first, it seemed that it was going to be the same story when we all started again on 29 March. Again and again, I balled up my fist and shook it at the screen, commanding the image to stop, erase, wipe, just go away . . . Yet it kept on coming back with infuriating regularity, as if mocking me. The session had begun in the early evening, and it must have been well after midnight when I finally slapped my thigh in exasperation and exclaimed, ‘It’s not going to work!’
As a last resort, I asked Professor Sakata if he could fetch some water – not for me to drink, but to place near the computer. I thought it might help, as I have often noticed that it is easier to produce effects when there is water, preferably running, or metal around. One of the five or six assistants immediately went out and fetched a large kettle of it, which the professor agreed to hold as he stood beside his computer. If he thought he must be looking rather silly, he never showed it.
Eldon was getting as tired as I was. He sat silently through both evenings of this infuriating experiment, in which he had taken no part at all except that of an observer – or so I thought at the time.
Later, however, he told me that when the kettle of water had been brought, he decided to see if he could send me a silent message:
Uri, if you can do telepathy, get this. I’m getting tired. Do it, get it over with, and let’s get the heck out of here!
Eldon has noticed that psi effects often seem to occur just after the person stops concentrating on making them occur. He calls this the ‘disconnect’ effect. ‘They concentrate and concentrate,’ he explained to me, ‘and if nothing happens, they give up. And then it occurs.’
If I had thought of this at the time, I might have given up several hours earlier. For he was absolutely right.
The tape was run for yet another control test. I decided it was to be now or never, and sent a final burst of power at the computer screen, shaking my fist at it in defiance. The picture went on slithering down the screen. I turned my back in disgust.
Thank heavens for the patience of the Japanese, especially that of the cameraman. After all those hours of disappointment, he was as fresh as the moment he had started, and he captured the whole scene.
‘Uri! You’ve done it!’ somebody yelled. The cameraman pulled out his zoom with a lightning reflex action for a close-up. His film clearly showed the exact moment at which the moving image appeared at the top of the display screen and then froze.
For a moment, I just could not believe what had happened. I had already half-admitted defeat. Yet there was the image, or about 10 per cent of it, absolutely motionless at the top of the screen. Yes, I had done it.
Professor Sakata’s face was also frozen. Then I rushed over to him and hugged him, rather to his embarrassment. I felt as if I had just won a top tennis championship.
I went back to my hotel and collapsed, exhausted but delighted at this unexpected turn of events. For Professor Sakata and his assistants, however, there was work to be done, and the next morning Eldon told me what had occurred after I had left the laboratory.
‘They ran the tape back,’ he said, ‘and they kept trying to figure out what had happened. Eventually they analysed it – two bits on the tape had swopped, and the machine, not knowing this, thought there might be something terribly wrong, and if it continued to play this tape, damage might occur. So it shut down.’ The technicians had played the tape several more times, but it had always stopped at exactly the same place. ‘It was not a tremendous effect, such as erasing a part of the tape,’ Eldon said, ‘but it was still very effective – it stopped the tape from doing what it was supposed to do.’
Nobody could deny that, for there it was on film for millions of Japanese to see on the evening of 31 March. Whether or not I was really responsible for stopping the tape, the incident put me in good form for the live part of the show. I managed to make a radish seed germinate, and also to perform an unusual feat of metal-bending: with the help of two tiny little children, I rubbed the steel shaft of a golf-club for a while and then held it up in the air, whereupon the thing fell apart in the middle, right on camera. During the show, the host was surprised to find that one of his metal jacket buttons had fallen off, having parted company with the ring secured by the thread. So was I.
Professor Sakata did not have much to say to the reporter from the US Department of Defense newspaper Pacific Stars and Stripes (3 April 1983). He admitted that there had been a ‘parity error’ indicating that the data on the tape had changed. It could have been caused by any number of things, from dirt, static electricity or a magnet to the tape just wearing out, he added. The reporter, Frank Sugano, was rather more positive, describing how I had reproduced the drawing he did behind my back almost exactly, and how he himself had bent his own key – a heavy steel one – after I had shown him what to do.
Later, Eldon made some interesting comments on the computer experiment in a filmed interview.
After six gruelling hours, it looked like it was not an easy thing to do. However, Uri does not practise how to do this sort of thing. Maybe he should give up sooner? Maybe there’s something about starting the process, disconnecting, and it’ll happen right then? This intense concentration he puts into things seems almost counter-productive until he gives up.
The fact that he was able to influence these two bits on a magnetic tape doesn’t sound like a major event. But very small amounts of current flow through the chips in a computer, and most of the really good so-called PK effects occur at the levels of molecules and atoms. It’s probably a quantum mechanical kind of effect.
With the ability to swap two small bits on a computer tape, you can start thinking of other things in that realm, such as making a chip malfunction. Whether or not you can get this long-distance still has to be demonstrated, but in the same room it certainly has been demonstrated.
As I have already described, it was demonstrated again a couple of years later both in Israel and in London, and not long after my demonstration for the technicians at the Wang office, I was given the chance to show an audience of several hundred highly specialized people what I could do to the latest model of IBM personal computer. The occasion was the annual meeting of the Young Presidents Organisation in San Diego, in October 1985.
The YPO is an elite group of business and community leaders from all over the world. It meets every year for a week-long seminar at which prominent members of their respective fields are invited to give ‘keynote’ addresses on all aspects of contemporary society from world politics to personal development. Keynote speakers for 1985 included former US President Gerald Ford, the West German ‘Green Party’ politician Petra Kelly, oil magnate T. Boone Pickens, American Express board chairman James Robinson, well-known personalities such as Henry Kissinger and Alexander Haig, and me. It was my fourth appearance as keynote speaker – all speakers are evaluated by members of their audiences on a points basis, and ever since they gave me the honour of being highest-rated speaker on the course, they have kept inviting me back.
You can talk about anything you like, and the only condition is that you do not read from notes, which I never do anyway. After giving much the same presentation for several years, I decided to try something new in San Diego, and in fact I did three things I had not done before for this audience.
First, I made the needle of a ship’s compass move by concentrating on it, with the help of a group of young women from the audience. Then I made a radish seed sprout by holding it in the palm of my hand and rubbing it for a few minutes. Both of these demonstrations were filmed on the closed-circuit television that I had specially requested, so that the whole audience could see what was happening on the large screen beside the stage. The seed was taken from a packet brought along by one of the YPO organizers and handed to me in full view of everybody, and there was enough of a sprout to be clearly visible on the screen.
Then I turned to the bank of computers that had been brought in from the IBM stand in another part of the building. There were several technicians from the company present, and they had all grabbed seats in the front row so that they could keep an eye on their precious hardware – and on me. I took one of the seven or eight floppy discs they had prepared for the occasion and began to work on it much as I had done on the previous occasions I have described. The men from IBM seemed to find the whole affair very amusing, especially when after five or six attempts I was unable to affect the disc. They refused to come on to the stage to insert the disc, so a member of the audience had to do this instead. Later, I learned that they had been ordered by a member of their legal department not to go near me while I was giving my presentation.
After about twenty minutes, I decided to try one more time, with the help of a group of women volunteers. I asked one of them to hold the disc, gave my usual order to ‘erase’, and then watched the screen as the written message began to appear as before. The audience cheered me on like a crowd at a baseball game, and they were all clearly on my side.
Lights began to blink on the computer, and the message stopped in its tracks, much as it had in Japan. There was loud applause and shouts of ‘Hey, you did it!’
I walked over to the row of open-mouthed IBM men. ‘Well, say something!’ I said.
‘It’s not there,’ was all any of them was prepared to say.
Afterwards, one of the conference organizers told me that the computers had been shipped back to company headquarters in Atlanta for a thorough examination.
Towards the end of the seminar, I was stepping out of the elevator in the hotel just as the YPO chairman, Douglas Glant, was about to escort two of his distinguished guests into it. They were David Kimche, director-general of the Israeli foreign ministry, and Henry Kissinger, who recognized me from our meeting in Mexico.
We were both in a bit of a hurry, and I just gave him a friendly ‘Hi!’
When the doors had closed, Kissinger said to Glant, ‘Wasn’t that Uri Geller? I always believed in his powers.’
On 14 November 1986, I visited the offices of the West German magazine Hor Zu, which has a readership of twelve million. There, under the supervision of several computer experts, I was asked to affect a computer tape which I was unable to touch since it was behind a plastic cover. I went through my usual process of concentration, and results came much more quickly than they had in Japan, perhaps because I was not being filmed. On the screen there suddenly appeared the words MELMAGTAPE FAILURE.
A couple of months later, it was the turn of the Munich newspaper Abendzeitung to witness ‘der Geller-Effekt’ at work on its office computer. Again, there were technical experts present, but this time it was a floppy disc that I was asked to erase. As the paper reported in its 12 January 1987 edition, this is what I did.
‘Everything in America is on a computer,’ the astronaut Edgar Mitchell said to me, rather nervously, after he had seen one of my demonstrations at SRI in 1972. Today, just about everything everywhere is on discs or tapes, and if people like me can interfere with computers then scientists should be doing something about it. They will have to count me out as a guinea-pig, though, for a number of reasons.
Firstly, I reckon I have done my share. When Andrija Puharich came to Israel and helped arrange my first visit to the United States, the very first thing I did was offer my services to scientists. I spent a good deal of the period from 1972 to 1975 shuttling from one laboratory to another, usually for nothing except my expenses, and doing whatever I was asked to do. As a result, Charles Panati was able to compile a 300-page book on ‘scientific observations on the paranormal powers of Uri Geller’, as The Geller Papers was subtitled. There were twenty contributors, of whom four were magicians, and every one of them had something positive to report. (Many of them could have reported a good deal more than they did, but that is another story.)
None of these people won prizes for their work in psychic science. Most of them had to put up with a lot of general aggravation, often from people who had never met them. Hal Puthoff’s work was attacked on the grounds that he had taken a course in Scientology several years previously. Russell Targ was written off because his father used to run a bookstore that sold works on astrology! Such was the level of criticism from some of the ‘scientific’ investigators of claims of the paranormal, who had no difficulty in ‘exposing’ me as a fraud without ever setting eyes on me.
Secondly, I am not particularly interested in being proved genuine or false. I am not an additive or a preservative or an ingredient. I am just a human being, and I do not need the scientific seal of approval. As a matter of fact I find all the controversy quite enjoyable, and I have never yet sued anybody for libel. I could have done so in the early days, if I had been able to afford it, and I could have won. Now that I can afford all the top libel lawyers I want, anywhere in the world, it seems I have nothing for them to do.
I am interested in people of all kinds, and I am fascinated by the different ways in which they react to what I do. For example, nearly all the pilots, policemen and military people that I have met tend to accept what I show them, as do top people in general. On the other hand, the most sceptical and hostile of all are the people you might think would be most interested in exploring the powers of the mind: medical doctors and psychologists. As for magicians, they can fall into one group or the other.
“Never mind that. Can you bend the spoon?”
3 Omni Magazine‘s comment on the approach of some scientists towards parapsychological research.
There are things I cannot do, and there are things I will not do, and it is because I have often been asked to do things I did not want to do that a barrier of suspicion has grown up between me and the scientific community. I will not go into much detail here, but I will give some idea of what I mean without mentioning any of the names of the people or the various countries involved.
I was once taken to a marine research institute in a certain coastal city, where I was asked to try experiments in telepathic communication with dolphins. I was given a two-week course on the sounds made by whales and dolphins, and then asked to try to emit these noises and signals in my mind in order to influence the behaviour of dolphins in a tank or in the netted-off area of the ocean nearby. I was quite successful at first, and I soon developed a strong rapport with these beautiful and intelligent animals. I found I could direct them towards certain shapes or colours, or away from the gap in the net. When they were let out of the nets, I could summon them back again. I did this by visualizing what I wanted them to do, rather as I had done in Mexico with the model aeroplane.
At first, I was told nothing about what was really going on at the institute, but gradually I found out. The project in which I had become involved was nicknamed Kamikaze Dolphin, and the animals were being trained to attack ships and submarines with bombs strapped to their heads. Some of the harnesses, I was told, could be adapted to take nuclear warheads, and I learned that some of the animals had even been operated on and devices implanted inside them. Naturally, the kamikaze dolphins would be blown to pieces together with the vessel they had rammed.
I learned later from an independent source (who knew nothing of my involvement) that earlier experiments had used limpet-bombs that the dolphins could attach by suction to the hulls of the target vessels before swimming to safety. This had been abandoned after one smart dolphin, having performed his task perfectly with a dummy bomb, was given a real one, which he promptly dumped on the sea-bed. Good for him.
There were many internal arguments at the institute about this project, and some of the civilian participants dropped out when they discovered what its real purpose was, which is what I also did as soon as I could.
Later, I became involved in some even more alarming experiments, again without having any idea at first of their real nature. These involved people, and their purpose was to study telepathically-induced change of behaviour. It was held at an army base, and the subjects were a mixed bag: some were prisoners, others were brought in from a mental institution, and there were also students earning some extra money. The experiments went on for about two months, during which I was asked to work with three types of subject: awake, asleep and under hypnosis. I never spoke to any of them, though I could observe them from my room next to theirs through a slit in the wall.
Among my tasks were to wake people from sleep, to induce dreams into their minds, to implant certain suggestions that would cause them to change their opinions about things, or make them reveal information. One of the experiments, I learned later, was designed to see if it was possible to interfere from a distance with critical stages in the nuclear-alert sequence. I was told nothing at all about my success rate, although I had the impression that I was much more successful with the sleepers and the hypnotized subjects than with those who were wide awake and alert, although I do not think my powers allow me to invade the privacy of others to a serious extent.
On one occasion at another place I was asked to try a really far-out experiment: to bend several keys at a time, and at a distance. I pointed out that I cannot even bend one key on demand, especially if I do not know where it is. I could not hope to do anything as ambitious as this unless I had some idea what it was all about. Eventually, after being kept in the dark for ten days, I gathered that it had to do with a certain stage in the nuclear-attack sequence, during which officials at missile silos would simply have to insert a key into a lock. I believe that this experiment, like some of the others I am mentioning here, was designed not to see what I could do, but what it might be possible for an enemy to do to the defences of the country concerned.
One very simple experiment that I carried out successfully involved using me as a human polygraph, to see if a subject was telling the truth or a lie. I was asked to do this on the telephone and by listening to tape recordings, as well as in the presence of the subject. I found that I was only successful when listening to live conversations. This was essentially a defensive type of procedure and not an aggressive one, so I had no resistance to it.
That was not the case when I was taken to a laboratory where there was a stall full of large pigs and was asked to stop the heart of one of them from beating. Although this was before I became a vegetarian, I had no intention of doing anything of the kind, and I just spent four days there doing nothing. Then I left.
Could it be done? I think it could, given sufficient training and practice, though it could never be done by me. If my psychic powers rebelled on that silly gambling venture, I hate to think what would happen – to me, as much as to the victim – if I ever tried to use them for outright aggression.
* * *
While I was being tested at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, one of the security men there, Ron Robertson of the Atomic Energy Commission, wondered if somebody like me could trigger a nuclear explosion or, worse still, a malfunction. ‘All it takes is the ability to move one-eighth of an ounce a quarter of an inch at a distance of one foot,’ John Wilhelm quoted him as saying. The same writer mentioned reports of unexplained bomb explosions aboard American ships in the Vietnam area, and noted that I had already moved a one-twentieth-of-an-ounce weight on a pan balance at SRI.
Some time later, I was taken to a very high-security installation in another country where somebody with no connection with the Livermore scientists, as far as I know, asked me to do precisely what Mr Robertson had in mind. The nuclear warheads were real, though obviously they were not armed. During the experiment, which was continuously photographed, they were hidden from my view by a screen, so I could not see if I was affecting them or not, and I was never told.
Perhaps you now understand why I have not been ‘serving the cause of science’ recently. I still have many good friends who are scientists, and one day I would like to do some positive research with them in such areas as healing, or simply studying telepathy and spoon-bending in greater detail. Yet I cannot completely trust the scientific community as a whole. I cannot always be sure what an individual’s real motives are, or for whom they are really working, although now and then I have found out from my own sources.
I am not ruling out any further scientific research involving me in the future, but one thing is certain: never again will I have anything to do with government-sponsored research in any country. In my experience, it has always been aggressive and negative in nature.
I have already generated a good deal of scientific research, in two areas. The first is the scientific community itself, where dozens of men and women now take a serious interest in psychic matters, which they never would have done if they had not worked with me or just seen me somewhere. This is not a boast, but what they have told me themselves.
The second is the group that science is supposed to serve: the general public. Millions of people in all six continents have had a little magic – real magic- brought into their lives as a result of something they have seen me do, or read about. Many have immediately found that they have powers just like mine, as I keep telling everybody, and that their lives have been enriched as a result. Again, this is what I have been told.
One way and another, I have done enough scientific research for the time being. As you will see, I have other priorities.
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