The Sunday Telegraph.
In the land of his true believers
URI GELLER’S greeting is un-English in its Intrusiveness. He has brown eyes, wide as satellite dishes and full of wonder. As he says “Hi” they seem to look into you and past you at the same time. The knuckle-crushing handshake would be enough to bend an assortment of quality kitchen ware.
He has an un-English preoccupation with his health. He is dressed in tiny purple shorts and a string vest to enable him to carry on pedalling his exercise bike while we talk. “I hope,” he pants as he starts up, “this isn’t going to put you off.”
He has lived in England for nearly 10 years. He lives with his wife, Hanna, and two children in a massive mansion, reputedly worth £10 million, in Berkshire. “England made Uri Geller,” he pronounces ‘that’s why I love it so much.” He divides up his life into major “Uri Geller Phases”, the first one of which began in 1974 when he bent spoons on a programme with David Dimbleby. “There was mass hysteria. Spoons and keys were bending all over the country; people couldn’t get into their cars.”
The explanation for the phenomenon he puts down to the openness of the English to his telepathic energies.
“But I thought the English were known for their scepticism,” I say.
“Germany is a sceptical country. New York and Chicago are sceptical cities. The English, whether they are miners or politicians or singers, are more likely to be believers. They hear about phenomena from their fathers and grandfathers. They are an old race, and the country is full of ghosts.”
“Have you seen a ghost in England?”
“I have experienced a ghost in the house of the actress Sarah Miles. It threw a porcelain pot off a window sill on to the floor in front of my daughter. Natalie.”
Geller believes he was drawn to England because of his father, a Hungarian-born Israeli army soldier. During the Second World War his father fought for Britain with the Jewish Brigade. In his bedroom he has a framed collection of his father’s British army medals. He decides to fetch the medals to show me. The exercise bike wheezes to a halt and I switch off my tape-recorder.
On his return he firmly applies two long thin fingers to my tape machine to turn it back on. My murmur of protest is drowned as the bike resumes its whirring. Later I discover the machine rewinding itself in my bag.
He also brings me a framed collection of photographs of himself as a child with his father and his fellow British soldiers. “My father used to talk about his mates. He’d say to me ‘This one’s from London, this one’s from Liverpool’.”
Geller discovered his powers at the age of four when a soup spoon curled up in his hand halfway through a meal. As an adolescent he would play basketball, evidently never failing to get the ball into the basket. By the time he left Israel in 1972 he was well-known for his powers of telepathy and “psychokinesis” (bending things).
Having been contacted by an American astronaut he went to the States. Professors who watched him undergoing tests at Stanford University invited him to England.
Among his first memories of England is a cab ride through Hyde Park. “It was winter and the window was open and I loved the damp air.” He felt that he had finally become a real celebrity when he was besieged by jostling reporters in the Hyde Park Hotel as he bent the hands of the hotel clock. Since then, he tells me, his interference with British timepieces has come a long way, culminating in the successful stopping of Big Ben. “I stood in the garden gazebo with a postcard of the Houses of Parliament saying ‘Stop, stop’,” he explains.
He returned to America but came back to England in the mid-80s after witnessing several shootings in Manhattan. (“A boy was shot. I told Hanna: ‘We’re packing.'”)
Geller was particularly drawn, he says, to his village, Sonning. He discovered later that it used to be a healing centre. “It blew my mind when I found out. It’s written up as a healing centre in the Domesday Book.” One of the highlights of his life in England has been meeting the Queen after raising money for Barts Hospital. He subsequently bent spoons for the Duke and Duchess of York at a party given by David Frost. “The English Royal family are definitely believers. They believe in the paranormal and in spiritualism.”
As a committed non-sceptic – “I believe in everything” – Geller believes in ley lines and crop circles. “We are sending radio messages up into space; there are messages being sent back by a different civilisation. We’ll understand the signs one day.”
When not jogging (one hour a day) or swimming (one hour a day) or exercising on his bike (two hours a day), he writes a column for the Daily Star, in which readers take part in telepathic communal dreams. He is preparing a health video (due out this month) and is planning a spot on breakfast television. “I’m entering a new Uri Geller Phase which has nothing to do with bending spoons,” he puffs. “I am going to shock people with my breakfast spots.”
As I am ushered out I produce a spoon for him to bend. “Uh . . . okay.” He rushes off into a different part of the room, beckoning me to follow. He gives the handle some intense eye contact and a peremptory rub with two fingers. We both watch it droop. It continues to droop in my bands. “I’ll sign and date it for you,” he says breezily.
Does he plan to return to Israel one day? “There’s a saying that all Israelis go back. I know I’ll die there.” Gesturing out of the window towards the towpath at the bottom of his garden, he says it reminds him of Israel. “I smell the air on the towpath and it reminds me of the cow manure on our kibbutz.”
As we both peer in the direction of the towpath, the rain pours down. Geller claims to have stopped the rain in the past. “When I go out for walks with my dog I usually manage to stall the rain. I’ve been soaked only two or three times.” But when I ask him to try now, he is reluctant. “I’d like to be asked officially by the Meteorological Office.”
Yet finally he agrees. “I’m concentrating now,” he says. Ten minutes later, as the electric gates of Geller’s mansion whine to a close behind me, I notice that it has stopped raining.
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“There is no spoon!”
“The world needs your amazing talents. I need them”
“Uri Geller gave an absolutely resonating talk on his life and career. He had every single magician in the room on the edge of their seats trying to digest as much information as they could. Uri emphasized that the path to frame is through uniqueness and charisma and that professional entertainers must be creative in their pursuits of success and never shy away from publicity.”
Tannens Magic Blog
“The man is a natural magician. He does everything with great care, meticulous misdirection and flawless instinct. The nails are real, the keys are really borrowed, the envelopes are actually sealed, there are no stooges, there are no secret radio devices and there are no props from the magic catalogues.”
James Randi (In an open letter to Abracadabra Magazine)
Sir Elton John
“Eternity is down the hall And you sit there bending spoons In your mind, in your mind”
“I Have watched Uri Geller… I have seen that so I am a believer. It was my house key and the only way I would be able to use it is get a hammer and beat it out back flat again.”
“Better than watching Geller bending silver spoons, better than witnessing new born nebulae’s in bloom”