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Uri Geller

Uri Geller (born 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 currently 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 extraterrestrialss, but has also held God responsible.

Geller during a performance

As Geller himself admits, the bending of cutlery has been reproduced by 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])

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 analyze how he does it. He often turns his back on the viewer, or says that the spoons need to be moved in front of other metal objects for the magic to work, or held underwater, or provides similar explanations that give him the opportunity to divert attention away from the bending. For heavier objects like keys, he has claimed that they need to be in physical contact with other metal objects, 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 to which he had been given no prior access.

As can be seen in the photo, Geller has large, strong hands. His standard method is to bend the spoon where the bowl of the spoon meets the handle, 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 around half 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" demonstration, 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 draw the picture, allowing Geller to infer common shapes from pencil movement and sound).

Geller's performances of drawing duplication usually take place under informal conditions such as television interviews. He 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 [1]. 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 Geller'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.

In recent years Geller has demonstrated spoonbending less frequently in public. In the 1980s he was, by his own admission, semi-retired from public life. During this period, 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 to find commodities such as oil, gold and minerals 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. [1]

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." [1]

Geller has avoided scientific testing of his claims under controlled laboratory conditions, and has not taken the Randi challenge. For these reasons his claims of paranormal powers receive little support within the scientific community today, although during his early career he allowed some scientists to investigate his claims. An early study [1] by Stanford researchers Harold Puthoff and Russell Targ of Geller's claims regarding remote viewing was published in the British scientific journal Nature in 1974, along with reservations in an editorial. The paper is now widely considered to be methodologically flawed.

In November 2000, Uri Geller filed a $100 million lawsuit in a Los Angeles federal court against Nintendo for its alleged use of his likeness for a Pokémon character, "Un-Geller" (or "Yun-Geller", 'Kadabra' in translation). The lawsuit was dismissed.

Geller has also unsuccesfully sued Ikea over their furniture with bended legs 'Uri', and has sued skeptical book publisher Prometheus Books of Amherst, New York unsuccesfully for libel.

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

Geller became the Honorary Co-Chairman of English third division football club Exeter City in 2002. The club was relegated into the Nationwide Conference in May 2003. Geller has since severed his formal links with the club.

See also: James Randi, pseudoscience, Derren Brown

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