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Uri Geller

Uri Geller (December 20, 1946) is a TV psychic who claims to possess supernatural powers; his critics see him as a very successful con artist. Geller was born in Tel Aviv, Israel to Hungarian/Austrian parents, and is living in England. In his performances he claims to be able to bend spoons and keys with his mind. He has sometimes stated that he has received his powers from extraterrestrials, but has also held God responsible.


Geller during a performance

As Geller himself admits, the bending of cutlery has long been in the repertoire of many magicians. However, he asserts that he "really" bends using psychic powers, whereas others use tricks ("Sure, there are magicians who can duplicate it through trickery. But the real ones... there's no explanation for it." [1] (http://www.simon-jones.org.uk/articles/uri_geller_interview.htm))

There are several ways to create the impression of a spoon bent without the application of strong physical force. Most common is the practice of misdirection, also the underlying principle of many other magic tricks. In one or several brief moments of distraction, the "psychic"/magician physically bends the spoon, then gradually reveals the bend and thus creates the illusion that the spoon bends before the viewer's eyes.

Geller's many TV appearances and interviews have granted skeptics several opportunities to demonstrate how he does it: He often turns his back on the viewer, or claims that the spoons need to be moved in front of other metal objects for the magic to work, held underwater etc. For heavier objects like keys, he has even claimed that they need to be in physical contact with other metal objects, thus allowing him to use the leverage of these objects to bend them. It has also been claimed that he or an assistant try to prepare the spoons before TV appearances, pre-bending them and thus reducing the amount of pressure that needs to be applied; this claim is bolstered by the fact that Geller has repeatedly refused to bend spoons he had no prior access to.

As can be seen in the photo, Geller has large, strong hands. He bends the spoons usually at the base, where it requires the least pressure to do so.

His TV appearances have frequently involved viewer interaction: With hundreds of thousands of viewers, there were almost always callers who claimed to have located bent spoons or restarted clocks after Geller was on TV. (It has been demonstrated that about 50% of stopped mechanical clocks can be at least temporarily restarted by simple movement.)

Frequently, Geller has cancelled previously announced performances or failed to produce the expected results, usually blaming his apparent lack of psychical power on some interference, exhaustion, or lack of cooperation by the subjects. In some cases, Geller disagreed with the subjects about the success, such as the "telepathic drawing" trick, where Geller claims to be able to read his subject's mind as they draw a picture (in spite of the alleged mind reading, the subject still has to actually draw the picture, thus allowing Geller to infer common shapes from pencil movement and sound). Geller has refused to alter the conditions of the "telepathic" experiment so as to avoid the potential for trickery, and still frequently failed to produce the correct shape or image [2] (http://www.zem.demon.co.uk/ugtd.htm). With subjects susceptible to suggestion, Geller has the highest chances of success, as demonstrated by this interview from the Gerry Ryan radio show (February 20, 2002):

Ryan: Are you getting the image that I'm sending to you? I'm working working very hard on it at the moment.

Uri: it's very very hard for me because, you know...

Ryan: Just say what comes into your head, what's in your head?

Uri: Well the first thing that I drew was a, it had a triangular shape at the top. Am I very wrong?

Ryan: I have sent you an image of the Pyramids. That's it! Are you really? You're not pulling my leg? No! No!

Uri: Gerry, I swear to you I drew a pyramid, and I also drew the stones in the pyramid, but I was not sure, so the first image that came into my mind was a triangle and then I drew the lines in it as the stones.

Note that Ryan's initial answer ("a triangular shape on the top") can apply to many different common objects (e.g. a house), and his second answer ("I swear to you I drew a pyramid") is somewhat in contradiction with that, but still sufficiently compatible for the suggestion to work. His initial reluctance ("Am I very wrong?") also helps to compensate the disappointment if he is indeed incorrect and leads a well-meaning subject to allow some room for interpretation. This openly displayed modesty has been typical for Geller's performances.

The artist has denied all demonstrations and explanations of his tricks, although the amount of cutlery bent by Geller has drastically declined in recent years, when he concentrated on enjoying his wealth allegedly accumulated by dowsing (a claim which could not be independently verified; Geller claims that the companies requesting his services are too ashamed to admit it).

Geller has also been paid to investigate the kidnapping of Hungarian model Helga Farkas[?]. He predicted that Farkas would be found alive and in good health; unfortunately, she was murdered by her kidnappers. [3] (http://www.randi.org/jr/090701)

Uri Geller has litigated or threatened legal action against many of his critics, claiming libel; most famously, his lawsuit against Prometheus Books, a publisher of skeptical books, was found frivolous and dismissed. Geller had to pay damages. Prometheus chairman Paul Kurtz commented: "It seems Mr. Geller's alleged psychic powers weren't working correctly when he decided to file this suit." [4] (http://www.csicop.org/articles/uri_dis)

Geller has denied scientific verification of his claims under controlled laboratory conditions, and has not taken the Randi challenge. For all these reasons, he is not taken seriously within the scientific community today, although during his early career, he allowed some scientists to investigate his claims. An early study [5] (http://www.uri-geller.com/books/geller-papers/gpap.htm) by Stanford researchers Harold Puthoff[?] and Russell Targ[?] of Geller's claims regarding remote viewing was published in Nature in 1974, in spite of reservations which were simultaneously published in an editorial. The paper is now widely considered methodologically flawed.

When Geller renewed his wedding vows in 2001, he chose Michael Jackson as his best man[?].

Geller is the chairman of English third division football club Exeter City[?]

See also: James Randi, pseudoscience, Derren Brown

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