In the presence of a ‘strong’ metal-bender, the ‘power’ is sometimes transmitted to other people, who temporarily ‘produce’ deformations of metal objects in their own hands. This I shall term ‘induction’.
Typically, at Uri Geller’s television performances or press conferences, he would attempt deformation of cutlery or latchkeys and would ask the audience themselves to concentrate on bending something, whether it be an item in their own pockets or hands, or the object which he himself was trying to deform. Several times in my experience someone in the audience came forward with a bent object, reporting that they felt it bend in their own hand, and sometimes that they saw it bend there. The frequency of such events cannot yet be estimated. Scattered around the world are journalists whose latchkeys have bent in their own hands. To some extent, a journalist could be regarded as a sceptical observer.
In sessions with Jean-Pierre Girard, similar induction effects have been reported. Some of the people involved are technologists, some are journalists, some are scientists of distinction: it is unlikely that they are all fooling themselves or being fooled. In Italy and Spain successful attempts at induction have been made on television and radio by charismatic entertainers.
At this stage it is premature to attempt an answer to the question of how far it is the inducer and how far it is the induced person who is ‘responsible’ for the bend; it might even be someone else entirely. Usually the member of the audience finds that he cannot repeat the performance on his own, but there have been many instances of child metal-benders starting in this way, documented in Britain and Japan.
In the studio of a British Independent Television ‘Jimmy Young’ show during 1975, I saw Uri Geller and six-year-old Belinda H. bend a spoon together; there were two members of the audience, a housewife and a cameraman, to whom this induced bending happened. At a press conference for Uri Geller during 1976, I saw it happen to the astronomer Patrick Moore. Privately I smiled, as I thought he made rather a meal of it. But the laugh was on me, since a few days later when Uri fractured a silver fork for the Marquess of Bath at Longleat, it happened to me also, and I too was unable to prevent myself making a meal of it. In my case it was merely a cufflink which snapped, and coincidence is just possible. On three different occasions I have experienced the loosening of metal tooth-stoppings after successful sessions with Uri Geller, Girard or Masuaki Kiyota. Maybe these were coincidences.
When Girard first came under the scrutiny of Dr Crussard and other French physicists, a particular point was made of practising induction effects, since they are of some sociological value from the point of view of validation. A physicist who has felt a piece of Pechiney aluminium alloy bending in his own hands is unlikely to regard this as fraud. Some of the people to whom this has happened are of great distinction; I will not drop names, because they are embarrassed by the events. It is necessary to understand that an emotional shock can occur, and I have indeed experienced this myself.
A particular observation made by Dr Crussard was the following. When a metal-bender holds a strip of metal in his hand and ‘allows’ it to bend, there will usually be only a single bend, at one position along the strip (see also chapter 6). But when Girard held one end and a physicist held the other, there were sometimes two quite distinct places along the strip at which bends occurred. Similar effects may possibly have occurred in our distance effect experiments described in chapter 9. When I exposed a long strip of aluminium to Stephen North with three or six resistive strain gauges mounted along its length, the vast majority of the synchronous signal triplets or sextets were strongest in one region of the strip, falling off in strength at each side of it; it will be recalled that their magnitudes were fitted to Gaussian probability curves; the ‘centre of action’ end ‘region of action’ both varied somewhat with time. But there were occasional signals appearing uniquely on the far sensor, with the strip in a radial horizontal configuration, and of course the usual position of one of the experimenters was at the far end of the strip. Could these signals have been examples of the induction effect?
There are further questions, which we cannot yet answer. Does a fraction of the induction effect last much longer? Do all the child metal-benders owe their ability to an original induction process? How effective is induction at a distance – because many of the child metal-benders, unlike Belinda H., have never been physically near to Uri Geller so far as they know? In the belief that induction may be a real effect, at least at small distance, I have tried to ‘activate’ children by inviting them to parties with Geller and with Girard. But for most metal-benders watching Geller on television seems to have been sufficient Thus the effect is probably more psychological than physical.
Some light may be thrown by a report of adult psychokinetic subject Suzanne Padfield, now married to physicist Dr Ted Bastin. Suzanne does not bend metal, but has shown great ability at psychokinesis, moving light mobile objects under glass domes (chapter 20). She claims to have induced the ability in other people, when these were in her presence. But in one instance her pupil was able to reproduce the effect in her absence, on the same afternoon as the original ‘lesson’.
I have observed possible induction effect during a psychokinesis demonstration by Dr Julius Krmessky in Bratislava. I almost convinced myself that when asked by Dr Krmessky I could myself will the change of direction of movement of the suspended pointer. However, Dr Krmessky and also Czech physicist Dr Adamec were in the room, and it could well have been that Dr Krmessky was picking up my will and, consciously or unconsciously, producing the changes himself. I have never had any similar psychokinetic success myself, either before or since the session in Bratislava.
Another form of induction has been explored by Uri Geller twice in my presence. He sometimes attempts to call an additional ‘power’ from an observer, asking him to place his hand over the metal object which is to be affected. Geller then moves his clenched fist over the top of the observer’s hand, without touching it. At some position the ‘power’ is supposed to be strongest; this is sensed physically by the observer, who tells Geller; concentrating in this position, Geller is able to produce an effect. The feeling in the observer’s hand is basically a tingling sensation (possibly the pricking of chapter 15). On the first occasion on which I saw this it was physicist Dr Jack Sarfatt who was the active observer; Geller succeeded in producing a sudden bend in a pure molybdenum disc which later exhibited ferromagnetism (chapter l1). On the second occasion I myself extended my hand and experienced the sensation quite distinctly in my knuckles; Geller brought about the fracture and partial disappearance of a vanadium carbide
electron microscope foil from within a capsule (chapter 19). My knuckles were not entirely free from discomfort for more than an hour. The extent, if any, to which Geller’s ‘power’ was assisted by me is almost impossible to determine, and systematic experiments have not been carried out.
I include mention of a reported instance of remote induction which, if replicated, could have far-reaching consequences. David Nemeth is a young metal-bender who has demonstrated his ability to me on resistive strain gauges, and in other ways, in the presence of various observers. His mother was nursing in a hospital more than ten miles from their home, and she had the keeping of the key of a poisons cupboard, a special responsibility for her. One day at work she searched for her key and found it in her pocket, bent; she was unable to reopen the cupboard lock. Although her first thought was that the paranormal bending was her own, it transpired that David had at that exact time been particularly anxious that his mother should come home to him. Mrs Nemeth wished to discourage this from happening again, but there was a recurrence under similar circumstances. I attempted to stimulate an experiment, giving David and Mrs Nemeth identical sets of different-shaped metal pieces; David was to concentrate on one and see if the similar one in his mother’s possession bent in the hospital. No success was achieved with systematic experimentation.
My interest in such induction experiments has been stimulated by the feeling sometimes subscribed to by metal-benders that ‘the power comes through them or from outside them’. I do not yet know whether this is true or not, or even whether it is a meaningful statement to make. Certainly there is a ‘distance effect’ (chapter 8) in that the power demonstrates itself within a slightly mobile ‘region of action’, removed from the body of the subject. But the metal-benders do not regard this region as a manifestation of an ‘external’ source of power.
Induction effects are one of the most tantalizing of all the metal-bending phenomena, and their existence is very difficult to prove quantitatively. A great deal more study is necessary. Our understanding is made more difficult by the possible existence of ‘poet-active effects’, discussed below. Metal-bending is sometimes found to continue after the ‘conscious’ action by the psychic has ceased; but has the action really ceased? And might an induction effect have taken its place?
All attempts I have made to send telepathic messages or communicate by means of signals on resistive strain gauges have failed. It occurred to me that strain gauge signals were similar in many ways to the paranormal raps produced on table-tops and elsewhere by ‘sitter groups’ when a question is asked of a ‘discarnate entity’. This entity can even be imaginary, invented just for the purpose of the experiment.(48) The answer is usually given paranormally by code in raps. During successful resistive strain gauge sessions, the metal-benders and I have occasionally asked questions in order to obtain answering signals, but have been vouchsafed none.
There is one possible type of induction we have not yet considered induction by inanimate objects rather than by people. There is no experimental proof of such an effect, but the following is worth mentioning. Mrs Lloyd told me that certain items of cutlery bent by her daughter Alison, when placed with other cutlery in the kitchen drawer, would bring about further bends of neighbouring cutlery. These events do not represent a proof of induction by inanimate objects, since the influence of Alison was not eliminated. But it does suggest a profitable line of experiment. Do particular inanimate objects stimulate a subject to bring about signals on resistive strain gauges? One is reminded of the rocks and gemstones sometimes held by water-diviners in their hands during their dowsing activity.
By a post-active effect we signify the continuance of deformation of a piece of metal for a period of time after the metal-bender has apparently ceased his action.
The evidence for such an effect is difficult to quantify, because it is not easy to know by what criterion we should decide that the metal-bender has in fact ‘ceased his action’. Many people, including myself, have observed events with Uri Geller and others in which the bending of a latchkey or spoon was attempted, with some degree of success; the object was then allowed to lie on the table, and Geller regarded the attempt as successful; minutes later someone who was keeping his eye on the spoon reported that in his opinion the bending was continuing; this was confirmed or sometimes contested by those present.
Such an event cannot be cited as a post-active effect, because in the absence of instruments Geller does not know for certain, neither does anyone else, just when he is ‘ceasing his action’. He is still close to the object and may still have it in his mind. The only criterion at present available to us is that action at more than l0 m distance has not been reported, except by inductive effects; therefore, if continued deformation was reported after the departure of Geller, either a post-active effect or an inductive effect might be claimed. Anecdotal evidence satisfying this criterion exists, but I am unable to cite anything that I have observed personally.
Since inductive effects seem to be fairly common, I am inclined to ascribe even departure-criterion post-active effects to induction. What is required is a rigid application of the criterion that the subject and all observers should depart, while strain gauges are left running.
There is another complication, purely physical in nature, of which we must take account. Many household metal objects, formed from rolled strip and having at some stage suffered differential cooling, are permanently under residual internal stress; if this is suitably relaxed they will warp or bend slightly. The relaxation might be brought about by heat, by machining a layer off the surface or by paranormal softening. Only annealed specimens- heat-treated to relax the internal stresses – are free from this property. However, the relaxation deformation is usually not large, and would certainly be insufficient to account for paranormal metal-bending effects in general. Many of my deformation experiments, and also those of John Taylor, have been performed with annealed specimens.
In early researches I performed the following experiment (chapter 11) to find whether internal stresses play a role. Identical brass strips, precisely machined, were prepared. One was annealed and the other was left with its internal stresses unrelaxed. The two strips were now mutually attached, side by side, by pinning through one end with two steel pins. The standard of machining was such that the combined pieces had the appearance of being a single strip of brass with a fine line down the middle. The strips were exposed to observed action by Uri Geller and by Belinda H.; on the two successful occasions, it was the internally stressed strip which bent slightly; the bend was in the same direction as those in pieces cut from the same bar and heated. The annealed part remained undeformed. The experiments were stopped by removal of the specimen before further bending occurred, and there did not appear to be any post-active effect.
Although it was demonstrated that internal stress relaxation played a dominant role in this case, there is no proof that normal residual stress is responsible for post-active effects, if indeed there really are such effects. It would be more probable that anomalous internal stress was produced paranormally, as we know it can be; internal stress relaxation might possibly contribute a post-active effect.
Resistive strain gauge experiments are necessary to the study of post-active effects. Suppose that a series of signals is obtained at a metal specimen, without visible deformation occurring. Will the signals continue if the subject departs from the sensor? Several sessions with Nicholas Williams and Stephen North were deliberately interrupted in this way, but no significant signals have been recorded after the boy had accompanied me out of the room. No evidence for post-active signals was afforded.
On the basis of the foregoing discussion, l am unable to claim experimental evidence for a genuine paranormal post-active effect.
If metal-bending is supposed, as we think it is, to be a largely spontaneous phenomenon, then the whole concept of ‘poet-action’ roses its value. There is some evidence to show that when metal-bending is occurring, the subject’s electroencephalographic (EEG) signals are predominantly in the low frequency, alpha band, with possibly some delta and theta. But apart from this, there is typically little observable connection between the metal-bending action and the physiological functioning of the subject (see chapter 13).
It is of importance to research also the psychological background to the action of the metal-bender and his companions. This type of work was first carried out by Batcheldor and Brookes-Smith(41) on the psychokinetic contributions to table-lifting sessions. They proposed the hypothesis that the action occurred at moments of sudden change in the psychological state of one or more of the subjects. Such a hypothesis is readily tested in the case of metal-bending by experiments with resistive strain gauges. Julian Isaacs has taken on a programme of such experiments, including audio-recording of conversations during sessions with several subjects; the audio-recording was synchronized to the strain gauge recording.
I have personally observed several occasions on which the sudden relaxation of concentration on the part of the subject has been accompanied by a dynamic strain signal. Sometimes the relaxation was not spontaneous, but was brought about by the initiative of the experimenter – e.g. by saying, ‘How about a rest and a cup of tea?’ Julian Isaacs has observed similar features, with other changes of mood. With a psychokinetic subject the strain gauge apparatus could possibly be used as a lie detector. In a sense the relaxation-triggered events could be classed as post-active.
Goal orientation and the psychology of experimentation
Although I am no professional psychologist, I shall try to describe some
of the psychological features of the experimental sessions which my colleagues and I have mounted.
My policy has been to spend as much experimental time as possible with children, at the expense of time spent with adult subjects. Although some powerful adults undoubtedly produce greater and more frequent effects than do the children, there is currently an atmosphere of dubiety that has been deliberately created around the adults and which I have tried to avoid. The historical reasons for this are obvious.
Hundreds of years of naturally-occurring strange phenomena have had their social repercussions. Society’s fear of and distrust for that which is not understood has spilt over into the ranks of the scientists themselves, the majority of whom have refused to regard psychic research as important. The seriously interested minority have been forced onto the defensive, so that they now usually regard the psychic subject as a sort of laboratory animal. This relationship has led inevitably to polarization, distrust and, at worst, fraud. I have therefore tried to develop a pool of psychic subjects from virgin territory, using immature teenagers and younger children. These groups are quite capable of mischief, but their efforts are primitive and easily detected. The mystique that surrounds the conjuror’s abilities rests partly upon his patient development and practising the sleight of hand for long daily periods; this is not a profession which produces many child prodigies. I am much more confident of being able to detect fraud when investigating children than when investigating adults. Moreover the motivations of children are as readily understood or misunderstood as those of adults: they are best understood by other members of their family, with whom a close relationship must be maintained during the period of experimentation.
What must be established above all else is some degree of curiosity motivation in the child and family. They are, after all, being asked to spend long boring periods in collaboration, without appreciable material gain. Subject motivation is a problem faced by human psychologists everywhere, and very often the traditional solution is simply one of payment for time spent. I have avoided this, partly so as to conserve research support, but more particularly so as to avoid any motivation of the children to produce results. Of course result-motivation must be present even when there is no payment, but I try to minimize it by working in the family home, by doing experiments in which negative results are an occasion for satisfaction, and by the replacement of the positive result-motivation by other goals.
The curiosity motive must not be confused with logically conceived reasons for co-operation in the research. However simple the social and cultural origins of these reasons may be, the curiosity motive is distinct from them. Although the prime motivation for man’s pursuit of science has been the need to control his environment, this environment includes himself; the control and development of one’s own abilities is itself a powerful motive, closely allied at a subconscious level to curiosity.
The children who have contributed most to this research have on the whole been drawn from families with some academic or educational connections; this is partly by my choice and partly by theirs. I have tried to develop an atmosphere in which the entire family respects and becomes curious about what is being done. Clearly this in itself is insufficient to induce paranormal effects: there must be relaxation, psychological good health and, above all, the learning of the appropriate ‘attitude of inattention’. For some practised people such as JeanPierre Girard, attention, even concentration, is necessary, but always accompanied by and interspersed with relaxation. We have seen that during metal-bending there is a preponderance of alpha waves in his EEG, combined with a very high pulse rate.
For most children, on the other hand, it is a matter of learning inattention, or avoidance of concentration on concentration. This is a skill rather similar to learning not to stay awake at night. The intention to bend metal, like the intention to sleep, must be firmly maintained, but the subject can allow the conscious thought and the senses at times to wander. I find that while observing I must keep conversation going, so as to induce what by experience I believe to be the correct proportion of inattention on the part of the subject. I also find it useful to play upon motivations that I know by experience to be successful. These include the following: (l) competition: on one occasion I organized a race between children in the rate of production of signals; (2) relaxation: for example, saying that we are now going to break for tea will sometimes induce signals; (3) feedback: for example, drawing the child’s attention to special features of the signal just recorded; (4) the need for antagonism to the scientist or parent: the motive to prove him wrong, by producing data which are at variance with preconceived ideas he may be unable to put aside; (5) vindication of the child’s belief and confidence in himself; finally, but rarely (6) affection and joy at being close to the wonders of nature.
Part of the observers’ learning of inattention is their learning not to glare fixedly at the metal specimen and strain gauges when dynamic strain pulses are being sought. Certainly, one must watch carefully, in case the desire to touch the specimen becomes too strong and the child yields to it. But if possible several people should be present so that the need for constant staring by each one is lessened. We may use indirect viewing through a mirror, or the various methods of touch prevention and touch detection.
My experience is that any feeling on the part of the child that the watching is entirely directed at the detection of cheating can inhibit the action. The desire to touch is not usually strong, but it may be triggered by feedback; when a signal is seen or heard, there can occasionally be an instinctive response to move a hand towards the metal specimen. This should be pointed out and avoided.
With younger children there are good reasons, as there are in education, for making the whole thing into a kind of game. Games demand goals, and displays and rewards when they are achieved. For example, dynamic strain gauge signals can be made to switch on lights, or can be incorporated into the scoring system in a game of chance. The game remains essentially one of chance because the phenomenon remains essentially spontaneous; in researching it we are trying to reduce it to a succession of observations. This process is an unnatural one which cannot be forced, though it may be assisted. Inevitably there are frustrations, since, in the words of the Australian poet John Manifold: ‘Nothing is born without screaming and blood’. With very young children, dynamic strain gauge signals can be made to operate puppets with which the child can identify.
The most rewarding result is the production of finished articles, decorative or useful, in bent metal. These have provided the strongest motivation for children such as Andrew G., Stephen North, Julie Knowles and Willie G. An example of Nicholas Williams’s work appears in Plate 17.1.
The complicated forms taken on by easily deformed metal strips and wires contain psychological and parapsychological information. Despite the difficulties of validating the events, even unobserved phenomena should not be entirely ignored; we should consider the circumstantial evidence surrounding them.
Andrew G. ‘invented’ these complicated forms. He was the first to use paperclip wires as a sculptural medium, and thereby to develop both his creative and his metal-bending talents. He found that paperclip wires would become screwed up tight into interesting shapes, which were christened ‘scrunches’; he was soon able to control the bending to such an extent that the scrunches had representational forms: little men, animals and so on. But he found that in order to get results it was necessary to work in solitude, in his own bedroom or in the bathroom. His mother, a sculptress, had her own workshop in the house, and Andrew no doubt wanted to imitate her.
From the point of view of our research, it is very important that the metal-bending operations be observed visually. But from the point of view of the craft of metal sculpture, observation is of little importance. Andrew followed his own motivation and that of his parents, and made small attempt to train himself to work in anything other than solitude. For this reason he did not progress very far under observation in achieving extensive and complicated movements of wires and thin metal. Several other children have produced bending with extensive motion, albeit in the family home and of a spontaneous character; and with these there has been some observation, at least by the family. Julie Knowles, Nicholas Williams, Stephen North and Willie G. have achieved motions and deformations of wires or thin metal strips with family observation; thus the degree of validation is higher than before.
The pattern has been as follows. I have offered strips of aluminium alloy, usually 40 cm X 8 mm X 0.75 mm, to the metal-bender, and at first my only instructions have been: ‘Just experiment with these and see what happens; leave them around and see if they will bend.’ I was careful not to let it be known what forms I expected; but the forms that were reported and shown to me had usually great similarities.
Some children and families were a little scared when the first no-touch
Plate 17.1 ‘Conflict’, produced by Nicholas Williams; photograph by David Rookes
movements and deformations occurred, and in several cases I received late-night telephone calls which l tried to answer with reassurances. One end of the strip would be held in the hand, and some bending with stroking started. Gradually the strip would ‘start to go on its own’, either into a coil, a spiral, a twist, a fold, a tangle or a work of art. I would examine the deformed strips and study the similarities and the differences quantitatively as for example in the work on the pitch of twisted strips described in chapter 7. Occasionally the strips would not be held in the hand, but just laid on a table; one or more would start to move on its own. In chapter 7 l described such an event with Nicholas Williams in which I observed the movement, not visually, but aurally and by dynamic magnetic field measurements. But I have never actually seen complicated bending movements of these thin strips; the only people who have are the children and sometimes members of the families. I have video-tapes of no-touch sudden and gradual bends, and also of some pulling and pushing of thin strips by what might be imagined to be an invisible hand; but although this resulted in bending, the forms produced were not complicated.
I have confidence that in broad outline the extensive spontaneous movement phenomena are in reality as I have described them. The folding rates (chapter 7) have been shown to be as high as three folds per second. At first the control of the phenomenon is very poor, but there are motives for the child to improve it. The game is to make decorative and representational objects and even to produce metal ‘strip writing’. There is no hard and fast dividing line between what is consciously intended, and what occurs in an uncontrolled way but is thought to be a felicitous result, and is therefore allowed to stand; in the Jackson Pollock mode of normal graphic and sculptural art this is no doubt equally true. The basic forms of metal-benders’ art are coils, spirals, anomalous plane bends, twists and folds. The most popular end-products are flowers, animals, human forms, abstracts, strip-written texts or messages, and jewellery. But only the strongest of the metal-benders reach this point, and many never succeed.
My experiments on paranormal metal-bending are continuing, but I have attempted here to complete my description of what little has been achieved so far; even at this rudimentary stage of investigation I believe it is worth speculating about the manner in which the phenomena fit, or fail to fit, into physical science as we know it. However, metal-bending is not unique as a psychic phenomenon; there are others which could be relevant; some are of great dubiety, some seem much more plausible. During my researches with metal-bending children some of these phenomena have come my way; I have not ignored them, but have tried to observe and investigate as best I can. It may be worthwhile to devote a few chapters to setting down these observations; they could provide a clue to the sorts of excursions into physical theory that are going to be necessary for the interpretation of psychic phenomena as a whole, with metal-bending as perhaps the most amenable part. But I have approached the other phenomena with the same attitude as that proposed in chapter l: ‘Believe nothing that you hear and only half of what you see.’ Another important text is: ‘The finest memory is inferior to the palest ink.’
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