Journal of Occult Studies
A Mass Public Experiment in Psychokinesis and Telepathy at
a Distance with Uri Geller as Agent
by Howard Smukler and
Abstract: Approximately one hundred and fifty people responded
to a mass psychic experiment using the picture of Uri Geller on
the cover of ESP magazine as a triggering device.
Eight bent objects were received and analyzed to determine their
authenticity. Only one was felt to be psychokinetically influenced
beyond a reasonable doubt. Results of a simultaneous telepathy
experiment indicated highly successful responses suggestive of
thought transference over a long distance. Three of approximately
one hundred parapsychologists reported favorable results.
While there have been many popular and successful psychics, no
one can compare to Uri Geller in his ability to use the mass media
to convey his message. Much like Muhammad Ali, he combines calculated
success with showmanship into an attractive and convincing package.
(Geller reveals in his autobiography that he discussed techniques
with Ali at the Pennsylvania training camp.)
Geller also has the ability to be all things to all people. He
has involved himself in the widest spectrum of exposure. Favorable
articles about him appear in such diverse publications as the
National Enquirer and the Mind/Brain Journal. He
appears equally at home demonstrating his talents at a crowded
high school auditorium or at the Stanford Research Institute.
Explanations for his powers range from an extraterrestrial source
(Puharich, 1974) to an as yet unknown magic technique break-through
Despite this exposure, the Geller controversy is as strong today
as it was in the early 1970 s There is almost a pattern of successes
and failures which accompany his activities. The dramatic failure
on the Johnny Carson Show was matched with impressive displays
on Merv Griffith and Tom Snyder. A convincing article in Psychology
Today (June, 1974) is followed immediately by an equally convincing
criticism (July, 1974) by the same author. A complicated watch-starting
experiment with William Cox (JP, 1974) is balanced with an inconclusive
experience with Dr. Pratt (ASPR, 1976).
Geller personally feels that this controversy is a positive element
in the growing belief in psychic ability. Just as a dialectic
of opposites can produce a creative synthesis, so too does the
constant interaction of skeptics and believers produce a more
durable understanding of his powers. He has expressed to H.S.
a feeling that the forces which direct his powers use controversy
as a vehicle for creating attention and from this attention will
follow proof and belief.
Our interest in Geller was not in resolving any of the major disputes
surrounding his abilities. We were involved in a specific talent
which he has exhibited in other countries, namely the ability
to focus his energy to a picture of himself and trigger psychic
ability in distant participants.
This talent for long range psychic projection takes on several
variations. Whenever Geller appears on television or radio the
switchboard of the station lights up with people reporting unusual
phenomena. Another aspect of this ability involves the transference
through prerecorded sound. In this case Geller's voice is put
on a tape and at a later date the participant merely plays the
voice and produces the psychic effect.
Geller takes special pride in his magazine cover experiments.
His apartment is filled with about twenty framed magazines with
his picture on the cover. Some give instructions for using the
cover in mass experiments with Geller's eyes as a triggering mechanism.
In England such an experiment with Sunday People produced
over 1,000 responses and similar success was reported in Germany
and Japan. To our knowledge the experiment had never been performed
in America and through a series of fortunate coincidences we were
able to conduct the following study.
The vehicle for the experiment was a magazine called ESP of
which H.S. was then editor. The September issue had a circulation
of approximately 155,000 copies and is distributed on newsstands
in America and Canada. It was inexpensive and generally was bought
by an average, mass publication audience.
Geller suggested the experiment and provided a picture of
himself to be used on the cover. The following words were printed
in red across his forehead, "This Cover Can Bend Your
Key on September 1, 1976 at 11:00 EDT." There were other
distracting cover lines on the magazine over which we had
no control and it was felt that they would have a minimal effect.
Inside the issue was a positive, illustrated article about Geller
by M.S., reporting favorably on his powers and including book
reviews and pictures of people and objects that had been affected
by his powers. Two pages described in simple terms how the experiment
was to be performed. Participants were told to place keys,
silverware and broken watches and appliances on the cover They
were then instructed to concentrate, saying the words bend and
work over and over.
A brief statement should be made about Geller's involvement in
writing the directions. First, he insisted on using the words
which had been successful in the English experiment. He did not
want to disturb the formula that had worked successfully for him
before. He also made sure that no promises were made in the article.
Thus anytime a phrase said "your key will bend",
he changed it to "your key may or can bend."
He was extremely precise about the wording maintaining the potential
for his power and not offering a concrete promise.
Shortly after the magazine was in print, Geller went to Brazil
where he stayed during the experiment on September 1st. He mailed
us a sealed envelope containing a telepathic picture during the
later part of August. He was frequently informed of the operations
of the experiment, but we only have his word that he did in fact
project his energy to the cover at the appropriate time. Considering
the importance he placed on the project, we have no reason to
doubt his honesty in this situation.
Approximately 100 copies of the magazines were mailed to the parapsychologists
appearing in the ASPR's education directory. Another 200 copies
were sent to selected radio and TV stations, editors and prominent
personalities. This mailing took place about three weeks in advance
of the experiment and included a cover letter explaining the procedures
In addition to these mailings, M.S. designed several experiments
which were to take place at the appropriate hour. Pharmacist Kenneth
Gozdowski placed keys and a broken watch on the magazine and placed
them in a safety deposit box in a local
bank. Biophysicist Dr. Marsha Walsh placed viral cultures on the
magazine and willed them to die. Newspaper reporter Tony
Lioce took the key to the city of Providence and placed it on
the magazine in the newspaper's vault. Finally M.S. personally
appeared live on the evening news with a broken watch and a key.
We began to receive feedback shortly before the experiment took
place. About ten letters trickled in from magazine readers,
saying that they had already picked up telepathic images
and requests for special help from Geller on the night of the
There was no response from the parapsychologists before the experiment
either acknowledging the receipt of the magazine or offering
any assistance. On August 28th Alan Vaughn of Psychic magazine
commented to H.S. that 'There isn't a parapsychologist in the
country who will try this experiment." A similar attitude
was expressed by one of the science editors at the New York Post
who would not do the experiment without the presence of a professional
magician. When told that she could do the experiment alone she
responded quite seriously, "I don't trust myself." Robert
Nelson, the director of the Central Premonitions Bureau and an
employee of the New York Times, said there was absolutely no chance
that any member of the Times' science staff would even consider
taking part in the experiment.
Positive responses came from WJW-TV in Cleveland, WMRO in Aurora,
Illinois, WJAR-TV in Providence and WEHR in Pennsylvania. These
stations agreed to participate on the air with the experiment
and return the results to us.
On September 2nd we received our first verbal indications of the
results. No experiment that was performed live on television
or radio proved to be successful; also no experiment that
was performed in front of either of us was successful. Thus there
was no direct observation of a paranormal phenomena by
first hand experience.
Two cases stand out on the first day which provided some encouragement
for us. Another editor from the company that publishes ESP
came to H.S. and displayed a house key bent in the typical
Geller fashion. This person took the magazine home and claims
to have thrown his keys on top of it without any further thought
of the experiment. In the morning the key to his apartment was
so badly bent he could not lock the door. This person had absolutely
no interest in psychic phenomena and has always displayed a very
honest personal style with H.S.
Another case occurred with a friend of M.S. This woman is a high
school teacher with a history of psychic experiences. During the
experiment she had no results with a watch or a key, but at 11:20
she noticed that a nail file on an adjoining table had developed
a ripple. She had never touched the file, but was convinced that
it was in perfect condition before the experiment.
We include these stories because they involved people we felt
we could trust and because they were the first positive results
that we received.
Because of the lack of response from any parapsychologists we
felt a follow-up postcard was necessary. These cards were sent
out three weeks after the experiment and asked if the magazine
was received, if the experiment was performed and if there were
any results or comments. Twenty-eight cards were returned (approximately
30%) and of these six indicated that the magazine did not arrive
in time or did not arrive at all. Twenty-two of the remaining
parapsychologists had received ESP and were aware of the
Of the follow-up group, nine people (43 % ) did not participate,
four of whom simply forgot. Stanley Krippner felt it was "inadequate
control day", but did not elaborate on that statement. Dr.
M. Wagner suggested that Geller was a fraud and did not participate
William Cox who had published a successful Geller experiment (JP,
1974) felt Geller was "burnt out." Charles Panati, editor
of an important collection of Geller research (Panati, 1976) could
"not in any way" participate because he was involved
in other writing commitments.
Eleven of the follow-up group (50%) performed the experiment and
got no results. Two of these thought Geller's
abilities were authentic, one doubted his claims and one was disappointed
with no results after a "good try". One expressed interest
in the possible UFO link and said Geller's abilities "resembled
a coded message from an incredible source." Gertrude Schmeidler
gave as her comments on Geller, "only the usual opinions."
Three parapsychologists reported positive results, Eloise Sheilds
a school psychologist from Hawthorn, California, Claudette Kiely,
Director of Parasensory Awareness Research Organization at Amhurst
College and Arthur Lyons of the Mesa Parapsychology Center.
Ms. Sheilds had her children participate with her, but was called
away from the room during the experiment. When she returned a
broken watch was working. She concludes, unfortunately, that she
was "unable to score due to lack of supervision, but suggestive
of some PK."
She further comments, "I feel that your experiment is only
good for locating possible subjects for later experiments, but
could not be considered scientific enough to report results
where you were not present and were depending on the testimony
of unreliable witnesses who may mean well, but are not accurate
Considering the phenomena of the Geller children' mentioned by
Taylor (Superminds, 1977), we agree that this type of mass experiment
would be a viable way to search for psychic individuals for later
Claudette Kiely, (one of the psychics successfully tested by Karlis
Osis in his well known OOBE "fly in ' experiments) states:
We (9 people, mixed ages and both sexes) began to prepare about
10:40 by meditation, holding the objects, laying them on the cover
of the book. By 11 p.m. we felt attuned and prepared for success.
A slight click was heard in the watch only briefly as Jane Thompson
held it." No other paranormal occurrences took place. Ms.
Kiely concludes, ''Needless to say, we were all disappointed."
The most dramatic results came from a research group known as
MESA in Toledo, Ohio. Arthur Lyons one of the research coordinators
states, "We started the experiment by yelling, work-work-work,
bend-bend-bend. We kept up the experiment for 20 minutes and at
the end of this period . . . 5 keys bent (one, a skeleton key
bent in three ways, another bent in about a 45 degree
angle. The key that bent the most was bent while a ten year old
boy, Artie Huff, was holding it in his hand."
The group was amazed by their success and credited it to "Confidence
plus Expectation plus Excitement." They concluded "In
all, this was a very memorable experiment and experience. '
We had no way of directly verifying any of these successes and
had to rely on the professional integrity of the participants
for an accurate description of the events.
The sales on this issue of ESP were approximately 40,000
copies and it could be assumed that many of the buyers did so
on the basis of the cover story. It is also possible that one
copy was used by several people performing the experiment. The
estimated number of people performing the experiment could range
from about 15,000 to 50,000 individuals. One hundred twenty-seven
coupons were returned from approximately one hundred forty two
participants. Of this group we concluded that seventy-seven were
female and sixty-five were males (from names only) and that the
letters showed a generally even distribution throughout the country.
Sixteen coupons claimed bent, broken or twisted keys involving
twenty-nine people, nine female and twenty male. Because we felt
these objects best lent themselves to analysis, a follow-up letter
was sent to the participants requesting the objects. Six people
responded with the following objects.
1. One large nail about 3 inches long and l/2 inch in diameter
with a barely perceptible bend.
2. Two twisted keys on a chain with 3 keys on it; one key was
twisted more than the other.
3. A skeleton key that was markedly bent and slightly twisted.
4. A bent aluminum key.
5. One metal nail file with a 'ripple" in it.
6. One jewelry box key broken in half.
7. The base half of a broken key with the edge smoothed.
8. The bent key to the city of Providence, Rhode Island, provided
by Mayor Vincent Cianci.
Photographs provided by Dr. Thomas Rockett and Dr. Kenneth Mairs
of the University of Rhode Island using a scanning electron microscope
- Hitachi-Perkin-Elmer model.
a: This key is new and was broken mechanically in the laboratory.
It shows a typical fracture surface with lateral cracks along
the shaft at the right of the picture (small arrows). The initial
fatigue that caused the break is the smooth section near the right
side of the photo. Plastic distortion on the left 2/3 of the picture
is typical of ductal fracture of brass. Magnification 500 times.
b: This key is the magnification of the photograph f. It shows
lateral cracks along the shaft similar to a on the right side
and similar fracture surface in the depressed area in the middle
(small arrow). The smoothed over sections on raised sections at
top and bottom of the fracture (large arrows) are indicative of
the key having been rubbed or polished over a period of time.
Dr. Rockett felt that this worn surface did not show high temperature
melting due to the localisation of the smoothed areas and the
flatness of the surface. The similarity of the depressed area
with a suggests that the key had been normally broken and the
smoothed areas indicated that it probably was done some time ago
thus wearing the rough edge.
c and d: These two photographs are different pictures of the same
steel jewelry key shown in photo h. Dr. Mairs analysed the composition
of the key by polishing it and viewing it with a microscope. He
stated that there were enormous elongated grains in the cross-wise
direction of the key. This indicated a low carbon content and
therefore the strength of the key was limited since pure iron
is weaker without carbon.
c: This cross-section of the key in photo h shows successive lines
of cracking in the ridges on the top and right (small arrows).
The dark spots in the middle and top left are iron oxide rust
spots. The bottom right section devoid of the ridge pattern is
flat and suggestive of a quick break.
d: This picture is of the same key as above, only farther down
the shaft. Both were taken at 100 times magnification. The ridged
pattern which starts at the top left and goes across the key (small
arrow) indicates the series of numerous cracks which occurred
before the Geller experiment. The smooth area starting in the
middle left and going half-way across the key is the area which
indicates the quick and recent break. The cracks on the bottom
left are part of the tooth of the key and indicates its frequent
use and the type of stress that it undergoes.
Photographic Descriptions Photographs by Steffan Aletti
e: The cover of ESP magazine prominently displayed
Uri Geller's eyes along with the caption in red, "On September
1, 1976 at 11:00 EDT This Cover Can Bend Your Key." Additional
cover lines tended to distract from the over-all effect of the
picture and it is possible that better results might have been
received if the picture had appeared by itself.
f: This top portion of a broken key was submitted with the statement
that the bottom half had been misplaced. Investigation revealed
that it is common for keys to break-off in a lock in this fashion
and result in the permanent loss of the bottom shaft. Magnification
showed polished marks on the crack surface indicating that the
key had been broken for some time (see photo b).
g: These twisted keys were submitted with a very convincing letter
describing the owner's experience. There were no witnesses to
the event and the participant did not want her name used. Laboratory
attempts to duplicate this effect were highly successful. A locksmith
indicated that this type of twist is common in keys incorrectly
inserted in locks and then twisted.
h: This jewelry box key broke under carefully observed conditions.
The small size makes it extremely difficult to secure the required
leverage for a manual bend. Magnification indicated that as much
as 60% of the key may have been fractured before the experiment
with no one's knowledge (see photo c and d).
i: This skeleton key is slightly twisted in addition to being
bent. It is made of a moderately strong alloy and was - supposed
to have been bent more significantly at the time of the experiment,
but has resumed some of its normal shape over time. There was
no feasible way to test the authenticity of this sample.
k: Probably the most convincing submission was the rippled nail
file. Even though the file is made from a soft metal, the ripple
is extremely difficult to duplicate. The reliability of the experimenter
was considered high, but no one saw the ripple actually develop.
m: This picture from the Providence Journal shows reporter
Tony Lioce holding the key to the city just as it was taken off
the cover of ESP magazine. Even though the top of the key
is extremely soft, Lioce places his finger on it and from the
position of the knuckle appears to put pressure on it. The caption
stated that the key was not bent when it came out of the vault.
n: In this sequel picture, Lioce is shown measuring the bend he
claims took place over a five minute period. The 3/8 inch bend
apparently took place while the key was taken from the vault to
the newsroom. Interviews with the participants indicated no conscious
intention of fraud only a lack of adequate controls.
These objects were examined using an interdisciplinary approach.
A variety of experts in different fields were consulted and each
one, utilizing the experience and measuring devices of his particular
specialty, gave us his opinions. Because of the uniqueness of
having a large collection of ''Geller affected" objects,
we enclose a detailed analysis of their findings.
Item 1: The large nail was almost imperceptibly bent even though
the sender claimed great excitement at the feat. He felt this
was the first time anything like this had ever happened
to him. A small nick was evident in the center of the bend and
this was highly suggestive that this point had been used as a
fulcrum and manual pressure could have created the desired effect.
Item 2: The two twisted keys initially looked quite impressive.
The accompanying description was equally convincing since it came
from a woman who did not wish to have her name mentioned. The
keys belonged to her son who was in the service and although she
thought the experiment was silly, she went by herself into an
empty room of the house at 11:00. Accordingly she wrote, "So
I picked up the keys and just held one between my fingers and
thought, come on Uri you can do it. A weird feeling came over
my body. I felt numb, yet my whole body had a tingling sensation
and the key I was holding between my fingers started bending.
I had thought earlier that if by some streak of luck the keys
bent, that I would be scared out of my wits, but it wasn't like
that at all. In fact I felt calm, relaxed and amazed at what had
The set of keys was taken to a locksmith who stated that both
looked like they had been twisted in a lock. He explained that
this was a very common accident with keys and demonstrated how
it could be done. We then took a new key, inserted it partially
into the lock and began turning. The result was almost a duplication
of the effect on the keys that had been sent to us.
Item 3: This skeleton key was submitted as one of five keys bent
by the group called MESA. It has a marked, gradual bend with a
slight twist to it. It was claimed that originally this key had
two bends in it, but that one returned to normalcy. Two other
keys apparently experienced a complete return to their normal
shape after bending, but these were not submitted.
There was no technical way of investigating this key further.
We saw no unusual marks on the key that might have indicated the
use of a pliers or vise. The key was extremely strong and the
long gradual curve was unlike the kind of bend created by using
a fixed fulcrum or mechanical pressure-point.
Item 4: This aluminum key was also submitted by the MESA group.
The metal was extremely soft and the bend which was about 45 degrees
came from a fixed point high on the shaft. We tried to duplicate
this feat using a new aluminum key and found that we could do
so quite easily with just the use of our fingers.
Item 5: We consider the metal file to be the most believable example
of a psychokinetic phenomena that was reported to us. The reliability
of the participant is extremely high and the type of "ripple"
created was of a very unusual nature. The file was made of a soft
metal and was perfectly straight everywhere except at a 1 1/2
inch ripple. This effect was similar to one which could be created
by heating a phonograph record. An attempt was made to duplicate
the ripple, but we could not find a file of similar quality. A
tool and die expert felt that it would be necessary to use a forming
hammer and a soft piece of lead backing in order to produce an
identical shape. He also felt that the ripple could not have been
produced without the use of several specialized tools.
The only negative factor associated with this example is that
no one apparently saw the file bend. The participant Nancy Folgo
reported that the file was sitting untouched on a table next to
the magazine. After twenty minutes of meditation with an especially
intense friend, she was disappointed that nothing had happened
to the key and watch she was holding. It was only then that she
noticed the altered file. She specifically remembers that the
file was straight before the experiment, although her friend believes
this point to be in doubt.
Item 6: This broken jewelry key came to us from the Hammond Psychic
Club. According to their report, Wilma Frey took the key (still
on a necklace) and held it in her hand. The key was to her only
jewelry box and she actually did not want to bend it. From concentrating
so hard on the cover she soon noticed a third eye appear. After
about fifteen minutes, she noticed a very bright light appear
on the cover above Uri's eyes, which slowly turned into a star
or sun - very brilliant. At 10:20 she noticed for the first time
that the key had not only bent, but broken in a peculiar fashion.
Mrs. Frey complained of a severe headache afterwards. The key
was examined by metallurgists Dr. Rockett and Dr. Mairs from the
University of Rhode Island under 400 power magnification. They
found lateral cracks and rust specks along 80% of the broken edge.
From this they concluded that the key had been used extensively
and had contained a hairline fracture for a long time. They theorized
that the key was actually held together by a very thin strip of
metal at the point where no rust occurred. To the naked eye the
key looked solid, but it really wasn't. Either the pressure or
the heat of Ms. Frey's hand was in their opinion sufficient to
break the remaining metal holding the key together.
One factor tends to modify this judgment. The key does appear
to have a slight bend in it when the halves are placed together.
Under magnification we observed an "orange peel" effect
similar to the one described by Taylor (Supersenses, 1977) in
cases he felt were suggestive of PK activity. Thus while the rust
area indicates an old break, it is conceivable that the final
breaking was preceded by a psychic bending.
Item 7: This half of a broken key was accompanied by a sincere
letter concerning the participant's inadvertent misplacing of
the other half. Assuming no one would be interested in the key,
she had set it aside and simply lost the front shaft. A locksmith
provided an interesting insight into the problem. He stated that
frequently people jam their keys into a lock and then are unable
to pull them out. In their anger, they bend the key back and forth
several times and it snaps off leaving the shaft permanently in
the lock. We performed just such a duplication and found that
the key snaps quite quickly with only one or two motions of the
Under a microscope the broken edge appeared to be polished and
had almost no rough metal fibers. In comparison, a freshly broken
key easily demonstrates its newly fractured state. Our metallurgists
felt that this key had been broken as long as five years ago and
left on a key ring that was regularly put into someone's pocket.
The continual rubbing of cloth against the broken edge polished
it over time.
Item 8: The most newsworthy result of the experiment occurred
with the Key to the City of Providence, Rhode Island. According
to accounts of Providence Journal reporter Tony Lioce, the
seven inch pewter key was locked in the newspaper's vault on the
night of September 1st. In the morning he removed a still straight
key from the cover of the magazine and carefully carried it to
the newsroom where it was shown to several other reporters. After
approximately 5-10 minutes a 3/8 inch bend was observed in the
top portion of the key. The evening paper carried the story on
the front page with eight columns of pictures and commentary.
It was almost a month later that we were able to get a hold of
the key which proudly set in a velvet lined box on the mayor's
desk. A caption above it mentioned the unusual circumstances for
its altered shape. As a preliminary step to determine its strength,
H.S. pushed slightly on the bent crown of the key. It moved about
an inch without any pressure at all. It was then that we noticed
that the pewter not only was extremely soft, but had been engraved
with the emblem of the city and thus was attached with only a
small amount of metal.
Mr. Lioce was contacted and confirmed that that the top of the
key was extremely soft, but he was definitely convinced that it
had bent without any physical touch. Being aware of its soft nature
he had taken extreme care in handling it. The picture on the cover
of the newspaper however does indicate that at some point in time
he did touch the top of the key, but before or after the bending
Sixteen letters claimed bent knives, spoons or forks. Fourteen
people involved were women and five were men. We felt that because
of the ease of faking bent silverware, it would not be helpful
to follow-up on these reported cases. Here however is an example
of the types of descriptions we did receive.
One woman said she saw a vision of a prong of a fork bend then
looked at the fork handle and it bent. Another stated, ''I took
a spoon and rubbed it and after a short time the spoon started
bending in my hand like putty." A third mentioned that her
husband jokingly took a fork and physically bent it. She then
held it in her hands where it resumed its normal shape.
Thirty-seven people claimed to have broken watches and clocks
start. There were twenty-five female responses and twelve males.
No effort was made to follow-up these reports, but many of
them were accompanied by extensive descriptions. Here is a sample
of some of the more interesting letters.
A convincing story came from a woman in Florida who wrote, "I
have a wrist watch which I believe belonged to a grandmother.
It was not in working order and a watch repairman said it could
not be fixed. There was no discernible change when I cooperated
with the experiment. The following afternoon however I was able
to set the watch and it ran for about twenty-one hours. Friday
it returned to its dormant state and has remained so since.
Poltergeist phenomena erupted when another watch started for a
woman in Missouri. She said, "It sounded like someone was
trying to open the front door and then side door. There was also
a kind of thumping sound at one point. " Another woman wrote,
''At two minutes after 11 my watch started to tick. This is a
watch that is fifteen years old and hasn't run in ten years. I've
kept it as a keepsake for its the first watch I ever got as a
An excellent example of Geller's watch repairing ability was described
by William Cox (JP, 1974) and appears to be one of his more convincing
talents. Our letters frequently mentioned that the watches had
been inspected by repair personnel and in many cases had not worked
for some years.
Seven people claimed to have had appliances started. Three of
these were male and four female. The appliances included one hair
dryer, a television, an electric movie camera, an ice cream maker,
a tape recorder and an electric typewriter. One man stated that
his TV had horizontal lines on it from 11-11:30, a case similarly
reported in the English magazine experiment.
A woman from North Carolina reported that her daughter had tipped
over an electric typewriter a year ago. "After that not even
the motor would respond to the on switch. Shortly before the hour
of 11, someone reached over and turned the typewriter on and the
motor came on at once." One man claimed he took the TV to
a repairman who couldn't fix it and it began to work during the
It has become a standard response for people to call radio and
television stations reporting paranormal activity following a
Uri Geller appearance. In the cases where our experiment was broadcast
live, we received reports of listeners calling the stations and
claiming that objects had bent or that watches and appliances
At WEHR in State College, Pennsylvania approximately ten people
called the radio station. At WJAR-TV in Rhode Island about fifteen
people reported unusual psychic results. In Cleveland WJW-TV received
over one hundred calls. It was impossible for us to make a detailed
follow-up of these reports, but we did receive some additional
information on this aspect of the "Geller effect."
M.S. had performed the experiment live on WJAR-TV and was unsuccessful.
A number of names were collected by the station following the
experiment. One man who was given a key to the city for twenty
years of public service reported that it had bent. A camera crew
filmed his story and it was presented as a sequel on the news.
Because of our negative experience with another key to the city
we tended to view this episode sceptically.
In Cleveland Dr. Sheridan Speeth attempted to follow-up the many
calls he received after performing the experiment unsuccessfully
on television. He collected twelve descriptions from people who
claimed paranormal experiences. The difficulty of verifying these
claims was illustrated in the case of a man who called to report
the bending of all the silverware in his house. When Dr. Speeth's
researchers arrived they found that the silverware was indeed
bent, but that it had stopped doing so shortly before they arrived.
This was simply another example of how elusive the proof for the
Geller phenomena can be.
Dr. Marcia Walsh, a biologist at the University of Rhode Island,
placed two test tubes on the ESP cover and two control
samples in a separate room. The first tube contained an intestinal
bacillus in a metallic solution, the other contained silver nitrate.
She reasoned that if Geller could influence metal the bacteria
growth pattern would vary and the silver nitrate change color.
In the morning she compared the pairs of test tubes and concluded,
"under the conditions of this experiment, Geller's ESP powers
had no affect on either the growth of E. Coli or silver
nitrate solution." She cautioned against hasty conclusions
from such a limited experiment and recommended further tests.
Figure 1: Simulated drawing of Geller's telepathy targets and
the word he wrote "Star".
Table 1: Types of drawings according to their component parts
submitted in response to the telepathic message sent by Uri Geller.
|20||pictures with triangles in them:
|10|| triangles and circles
|7|| plain triangles
|2|| sailboats and suns
|2|| direct star hits
|1|| moon and triangle
|15||pictures with circles in them:
|15||abstracts with no discernible shapes
|9||animals, mostly birds
|1|| six pointed Star of David
|1|| five pointed star
Near the end of August, H.S. received a double sealed envelope
from Geller sent from Brazil. At 1 1:30 p.m. on September 1st,
he opened the envelope and found a drawing of a large five pointed
star and a large six pointed star. The lines were drawn with a
black magic marker and the word "star" was written along
side of them.
Ninety-five people sent in drawings, made up of approximately
fifty-six females and thirty-nine males. 85 % of these pictures
were from people who only participated in the telepathy experiment.
There were only two letters which exactly identified the target.
One contained the drawing of the six pointed Jewish star, the
other the drawing of the five pointed star. No picture was received
containing both stars. Initially we felt this indicated a failure
of the telepathy test. M.S. developed a thesis, however, which
provided a fuller explanation of the results.
According to his analysis, two conceptual ideas can be extracted
from Geller's drawings. The first is the idea of a star and could
be expressed visually as a "sun" or some form of mandala
with rays. The other concept was that of a triangle since the
target drawings contained at least eleven clearly recognizable
triangles. Thus a prominence of objects which are made up of triangles
could be considered significant.
There is some justification for assuming that Geller's two stars
could become translated into images as different as a picture
of the sun or the drawing of a triangle. Because the subconscious
tends to express itself in symbols, it could receive the image
in the form Geller sent it, but express it in personally meaningful
symbols. It is common in telepathy experiments for subjects to
break images down into their component parts and then reassemble
the material into a synthesis utilizing the essential concepts
of the target.
Using this model we found that the submitted pictures showed a
high degree of relationship to Geller's targets. Under the "star"
concept there were six suns, one moon, three star-like mandalas
and the two star hits.
A more convincing number was attained by using the concept of
the "triangle". There were over twenty pictures which
had some kind of triangle shape in them; seven of these had plain
identifiable triangles and seven were sailboats with three-sided sails.
It can be seen that several drawings combined both the sun and triangle
concepts within the same image.
Altogether 33 % of the pictures contained some symbol which seemed
to us to be directly related to Geller's target, whether seen
as a star or using M.S.'s modifications. It is interesting to
note that in the British experiment Geller drew a simple daisy-like
flower. Although the magazine received six flower-like pictures
and at least one direct hit, we received no pictures of flowers.
We found the abundance of sailboats unusual and asked Geller about
this after the experiment. He stated that on the day of the experiment
he had spent the entire afternoon sailing on a lake in Brazil
and his secretary confirmed that she had been with him during
that time. His recall of this event was quite spontaneous and
although we can not prove or disprove it, the statement appeared
to be honest. He felt and we agreed that because of the distances
and times involved, it is possible to believe that many participants
actually received impressions of the sailing event and recorded
them as their telepathic images.
It was one of our goals in this experiment to provide an opportunity
for parapsychologists to participate in a unique mass psychic
experiment. As many as two hundred copies of ESP were mailed
in advance to people we felt could have made this possible. The
effect of a large majority of parapsychologists either confirming
or denying Geller-type results, we felt would have been a significant
contribution to the field. Unfortunately the response of this
group was less than enthusiastic.
One of the major problems in this area was the poor timing of
the event. September 1st found many people either on summer vacation
or without their normal group of fall semester students. Our follow-up
postcard which was sent in October had a thirty percent return
and much of this we felt was caused because school was in session.
In the future any such experiment should take in consideration
the school schedules of most of the academic people.
Another purpose of our experiment was to try and refine the continual
controversy which surrounds Geller's psychic demonstrations. We
had hoped some very dramatic and convincing event would have happened
to a prominent personality. Copies of ESP were sent to
as many important people as we could think of. These included
President Ford, Governor Carter, Senators, newspersonnel and the
editors of every major news periodical. As the results indicate,
nothing extraordinary happened with these individuals. We believe
this was more a failure to perform the experiment rather than
a failure of the experiment itself.
Rather than decreasing the Geller controversy, we now recognize
that we have probably just added another dimension to it.
The inconclusive nature of our results show that well-meaning
people are capable of providing evidence of a questionable nature.
So often we pursued an interesting experience related to the experiment,
only to find that it fell just short of the reliability required
in serious scientific investigation.
An interesting account is provided by William Cox of the Foundation
for Research on the Nature of Man in a letter to H.S. He describes
how a group of researchers performed a Geller experiment similar
to ours in a December issue of the National Enquirer. In
an experience similar to Pratt's (ASPR, 1974) he tells how half
the group thought a key had bent while the other half was unable
to verify the event. Finally they agreed that the key was bent
before the experiment and that the confusion had been caused by
lack of attentiveness and an optical illusion.
It is unfortunate that the key has become associated with Geller's
powers for it provides researchers with a whole host of additional
problems. As our discussions with a locksmith revealed, keys are
far from standardized. A close look at your personal set of keys
will reveal marks, twists, bends and even minute cracks which
you never have noticed before. It is variables of this kind that
make reliable investigation more difficult.
Fraud and the "Geller effect"
We feel a final statement about fraud is appropriate at this point,
Psychic researchers have long had to deal with this problem in
a number of different guises. The particular variation which we
encountered was not surprisingly the desire to fake the bending
of a metal object. A characteristic story will demonstrate how
this desire is expressed.
In early December we joined a group of friends who were participating
in the National Enquirer's duplication of the Geller experiment.
Everyone began concentrating on bending a key and about eight
minutes into the experiment a woman in the group stated that her
key had bent. The man next to her (whom we shall call Hank) immediately
verified that he had seen it bend about 45 degrees. Since this
was a trusted group of people, H.S. initially had no reason to
doubt the validity of the experience. About a minute later, M.S.
saw "Hank" bend another key on the side of his shoe
and then handed it to H.S. Because M.S. had witnessed the deception,
the fraud was short-lived and the incident was placed in a humorous
Anyone who has participated in a key bending experiment knows
how strong the desire for results becomes. As you close your eyes,
holding the keys you can imagine the metal becoming soft, your
fingers apply more pressure and you become convinced that it is
in fact bending. With one application of the "Hank effect'',
you are the proud owner of a psychically bent object and reap
all the psychological and sociological advantages that it can
bring. It is irrelevant whether this act is done consciously or
unconsciously; the results are the same.
Another illustration of this phenomena occurred with an eleven
year old boy who was directed to us because of his knife-bending
abilities. The boy's mother gave us a large electric knife which
had a long, gradual bend in it. The boy, who had no knowledge
of Geller, claims it took two hours to create the bend through
the use of mental imagery.
M.S. took the knife to a party where it quickly attracted the
attention of a young woman. Viewing the object with a bit of envy,
she proceeded to gently rub her hand along the blade. About ten
minutes later M.S. asked to see the knife and found it practically
straight. The woman claimed that she had put no pressure on it
and this seemed plausible to M.S. even though he found the incident
Now that the knife was straight, M.S. thought this would be a
good opportunity to attempt to manually duplicate the bend and
he proceeded to pull down on the top of the blade. As he bent
the knife, it broke into three pieces, a middle section of about
1 1/2 inches went flying across the room.
Meanwhile, H.S. had shown the boy a picture of a fork that Geller
had bent and included in his autobiography (Geller, 1976). A week
later the boy produced a fork that was bent exactly as the
Geller fork had been and this time he claimed it had taken six
hours to psychically create the effect. Needless to say we were
greatly discouraged that such a promising subject had so quickly
engaged in a questionable display of his abilities.
The existence of fraud is nothing new, but what makes these possible
instances interesting is their rapid adaptation to what Geller
is claiming as his authentic ability. A similar situation has
probably developed in the area of psychic surgery in which a legitimate
practitioner may have been immediately initiated by a group of
capable frauds. It would probably be possible to analyze the history
of new psychic phenomena in these terms, i.e. the first authentic
levitation or first successful seance was immediately followed
by convincing frauds. As a result of this practice it becomes
almost impossible to separate the real phenomena from the contrived
1. When readers of ESP magazine were encouraged to take
part in a psychic experiment using the picture of Uri Geller as
a trigger mechanism, approximately one-hundred and fifty people
reported participation in the experiment.
2. Three out of approximately one hundred parapsychologists contacted
reported some kind of paranormal activity and only in one of these
cases were the results significant.
3. Eight bent objects were mailed in for analysis and of these
only one appeared to be authentic beyond a reasonable doubt. Two
other keys, however, were suggestive of PK activity, but this
could not be verified completely.
4. Ninety-five people submitted telepathic drawings which they
claimed to have received from Geller. While only two of these
could be considered exact hits, a third of the pictures were correct
in symbolic content and we considered this to be a significant
indication of telepathic activity.
5. Our experiment tended to replicate under more scientifically
controlled conditions the experiences of other mass media who
have had varying success in creating Geller-type effects in their
Ebon, Martin, editor, The Amazing Uri Geller, New American
Library, New York, 1975.
Geller, Uri, My Story, Warner Books, New York, 1976.
Panati, Charles, The Geller Papers, Scientific observations
on the paranormal powers of Uri Geller, Houghton Mifflin, Boston,
Puharich, Andrija, URI, A Journal of the Mystery of Uri
Geller, Bantam, 1974.
Randi, James, The Magic of Uri Geller, Ballantine Books,
New York, 1975.
Taylor, John, Superminds, Warner, New York, 1977.
Berendt, H.C., Uri Geller, Journal of the Society for Psychical
Research, December 1974.
Dr. Puharich and Uri Geller, Journal of the Society for Psychical
Research, June 1976. p. 315-321 .
Cox, William, Note on Some Experiments with Uri Geller, Journal
of Parapsychology, December, 1974.
Hanlon, Joseph, Uri Geller, New Scientist, October 17,
Hasted, J.B., New Scientist, October 31, 1974. p. 408-411.
Pratt, J. G. and Stevenson, Ian, An instance of possible metal-bending
indirectly related to Uri Geller, Journal of the American Society
of Psychical Research, January, 1976. p. 79-93.
Targ, Russell, and Puthoff, Harold, Information Transmission Under
Conditions of Sensory Shielding, Nature, Oct. 18,
1974. p. 602-607.
Wiklund, Nils and Jacobson, Nils Olof, A Public Experiment with
Precognition, Journal of the Society for Psychical Research,
September, 1976. p. 293-300.
C. Popular Media
ESP, Uri Geller - A Psychic Analysis, Marc Seifer, Sept.,
The Uri Geller Results, Howard Smukler, January, 1977.
More Exciting Geller Results, Howard Smukler, March, 1977.
Esquire, A Charming Evening with Uri Geller, Mr., 1976, p. 116.
New Horizons, Uri Geller's Mental Phenomena, An Eyewitness
Account, A.R.G. Owen, Vol. 1, No. 4, 1974, p. 164.
New York Times, Editorial on Geller Research, Nov. 6, 1974,
Magicians Discussion of Uri Geller, December 13, 1975, p. 5.
New York Times Magazine, Parapsychology and Beyond,
Francine du Plessix Gray, August 11, 1974, p. 13.
Newsweek, No Guesswork, October 28, 1974, p.72.
Popular Photography, Uri Geller's Photos, Real or Fake?,
June, 1974, p. 73.
Psychic, Interview with Uri Geller, A. Vaughan, June 1973,
The Phenomena of Uri Geller, A. Vaughan, June, 1973, p. 13.
Uri Geller and Extraterrestrials, Andrija Puharich, Ju, 1974,
Through the Looking Glass with Uri Geller, Ila Zeibell, Feb.,
Psychology Today, Search for the True Geller, Andrew Weil,
June, 1974, p. 45.
Search for the True Geller, Part TWO, July, 1974, p. 74.
Science News, Geller Performs for 'Physicists, July 20,
1974, p. 46
Time, Magician and the Think Tank, March 12,
1973, p. 110.
New Flap over Uri, November 4, 1974, p. 100.
Today's Health, Behind Science's Growing Fascination with
Psychic Phenomena, November, 1973, p. 24.
Howard Smukler: MA (Political Science) New York University
is a member of the faculty of the New School for Social Research.
He is the former editor of ESP and Ancient Astronaut magazines.
PSI the twenty-third letter of the Greek alphabet has been
chosen as the descriptive symbol for psychic phenomena such as
telepathy, psychokinesis and prophecy.
Journal of Occult Studies: Marc Seifer, Box 32, Kingston,
Rhode Island 02881
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