The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research
Vol. 70, January 1976
An Instance of Possible Metal-Bending
Indirectly Related to Uri Geller
J. G. PRATT AND IAN STEVENSON1
INTRODUCTORY REMARKS BY J.G.P. AND I.S.
The extraordinary occurrences of metal-bending associated with Uri Geller have made his name famous around the world. A beneficial side-effect of Geller's own activities as a reputed metal-bender has been the discovery of a number of other persons reported to be capable of bending metal objects such as knives and spoons by stroking them gently or only wishing them to bend. Reports of such persons have received much attention in newspapers and books directed at the general public. Unfortunately, a search for detailed reports of incidents of metal-bending (and associated phenomena, such as the unexpected starting of long-stopped watches) in the scientific literature of parapsychology has revealed that only two such reports have been published (Cox, 1974; Owen, 1975). One book published by a scientist (Taylor, 1975) describes numerous instances of the "Geller effect," but it does not furnish essential, and one would have thought elementary, details about the circumstances of any of the episodes therein reported.
The present article reports an instance of the "Geller effect" in which a knife appeared to bend paranormally. We hope its publication will encourage other scientists to publish detailed reports of similar incidents which they may witness.
In preparing this report we adopted the following procedure. The episode occurred on May 21, 1975. J.G.P. wrote out a draft account on May 27, 1975. He then sent this draft to the other observers (Robert and Judith Skutch) present at the time of the episode and asked them to read and amend his account if it did not accord with their memories of the episode. At the same time he asked them some questions about details.
About a week later, I.S. (who had been away on a trip) came in as an invited investigator of the episode. He reviewed the relevant events with J.G.P. and wrote to the Skutches in order to ask them some additional questions that had occurred to him. He also made some observations of his own on knives and asked some other persons to make observations about the straightness of knives he showed them. I.S. then drafted his section of this report and showed it to J.G.P. We then discussed certain differences of fact and interpretation as we each had understood the episode. This enabled us each to make some further revisions in our drafts until the presently published versions were reached.
J.G.P.'s DESCRIPTION AND INITIAL EVALUATION OF THE OCCURRENCE
During the evening of May 21, 1975, I visited Mrs. Judith Skutch in her home in New York City. We were meeting chiefly in connection with an interest we shared in the possibility that some arrangement could be made for studying the "Geller effect": reports of the bending of metal objects (spoons, forks, knives, keys, etc.) in the absence of known physical causes when the individuals who claimed to have witnessed such bendings were separated from Geller and were acting solely under the influence of suggestions from him that objects they selected would bend. Many such reports were sent in after TV, radio, and newspaper "appearances" by Geller during his visits to Britain, the European Continent, and South Africa. Mrs. Skutch and I were interested in studying the same kind of development in the U.S.A. if Geller's media appearances for the promotion of his new book should trigger the same reactions in this country.
As Mrs. Skutch and I were talking in her study her husband, Robert, joined us. I learned that they had a copy of Uri Geller: My Story, and we took this from the bookcase to examine it more closely. I learned also that they had a copy of a record Geller made in Britain that was shortly to be released in this country. When asked if I would like to hear part of this record, my answer was in the affirmative.
The first parts of the record are musical, with the lyrics sung or chanted in part by Geller and partly by an accompanying vocal group. The last section of the record is purely vocal, with Geller giving suggestions to the listener to take some metal object and concentrate upon having it bend. The words of the record are printed on the cover, and I held this and followed the words as we played parts of the record.
Before starting the last section of the record with the suggestions of metal-bending, we decided that we would have suitable metal objects available. Mr. Skutch brought a teaspoon from the kitchen. As far as I am aware, there was no expectation on anyone's part that anything would become bent. I know I took the whole matter lightly and was making only a formal concession to the occasion when I considered what object I had on my person that might be suitable. Acting partly in a spirit of fun but at the same time with deliberate seriousness, I took out my stainless steel pocket knife and opened its only blade (a smaller one having been broken several years previously). I sighted carefully along the handle and the extended blade and made the comment that the blade was quite straight but that there appeared to be a barely noticeable angling of the blade toward the right (with the knife edge held upward) where the blade was hinged to the handle.
Just before we started hearing the last section of the record I laid the knife on top of and parallel with Geller's nose in the picture on the cover of his book, with the blade pointing away from me toward his forehead. The book was directly in front of me on a low table at a distance of about four feet. Mr. and Mrs. Skutch were seated side by side on a couch facing the opposite side of the table. The blade pointed directly toward Mr. Skutch and about 30 degrees to the left side of Mrs. Skutch. She was therefore in a better position to see whether there was any bend in the blade (or, conversely, if the blade was straight), since she was looking at the knife in a manner approaching the view shown in Figure 1.
Fig. 1. Photograph of J.G.P.'s knife showing the bend in the blade. The knife has been kept by I.S. since he was first informed of the episode on June 6, 1975, and the photograph was taken by him later that month. The knife is a German stainless steel product made in Solingen and was purchased by J.G.P. in the Frankfurt Airport approximately 10 years before the "Geller effect" episode.
While the record was playing I continued to follow the words on the envelope, but at the same time kept my attention upon the knife to the degree that I was (and am) sure that no one touched it. When the record ended, Mrs. Skutch commented that the blade on my knife seemed bent to her. It had been in full view of both Mr. and Mrs. Skutch from the time I placed it on the book, and they had made no comment on its appearing bent at the outset. Even though I had announced on the basis of my close inspection of the knife when I first opened it that the blade was straight, Mr. Skutch commented that I had not asked him to examine it (which was true) and that he could not directly confirm my judgement that it was straight initially.
When I picked the knife up by the handle and repeated my examination, I found that the blade was obviously bent toward the right at about the halfway point of its length. This would have been an upward bend as the knife lay on the book. Mrs. Skutch suggested that if I would place the knife back on the book the blade might bend further. This was done, but no noticeable further bending occurred. When I started to close the knife, Mrs. Skutch asked: "Will it close?" I said that it struck the side of the opening but it could still be shut.
The blade is still noticeably bent at the time this note is being written (from memory on Tuesday forenoon, May 27, 1975, five and a half days after the event). The end of the blade still strikes the side of the handle when the knife is closed. The sharp edge of the blade begins to touch the side of the slot approximately one-sixth of the distance from the end of the blade. The contact with the side of the slot can be seen, heard, and felt as the blade closes through the final five-to-ten degrees, but the blade adjusts to the sideways pressure exerted by the slot without causing any appreciable difficulty in either opening or closing the knife.
I sent a letter to the Skutches in which I enclosed duplicate copies of the first draft of this section of this report. Attached to each copy were two sheets of paper containing the following four questions with spaces for their answers, and the Skutches were asked to give separate answers without prior discussion.
1. Do you remember seeing me examine the knife when I first opened it and hearing me say that the blade was straight?
2. When I first laid my knife on the book before we started listening to the final section of Geller's record, did you have any impression whether the blade was straight or bent? What was the impression?
3. Did you observe independently and on your own initiative that the blade was bent during or at the end of the playing of the record and before I picked up the knife?
4. When we examined the knife at the end of the Geller record, did you agree that the blade was bent to a degree that was obvious and indisputable?
Mrs. Skutch's answers:
1. "Yes. I do remember seeing you examine the knife when you first opened it. I heard you remark that the blade was straight. I did not get up to examine it, however."
2. "I watched you place the knife on a copy of Uri Geller's book, My Story. I laughed as you superimposed the blade on the picture of Uri's face, the blade on top of the nose. I saw the blade flat."
3. "As I was stroking the spoon supplied by my husband, I glanced over at the knife and saw it curving upward slightly. I thought I was mistaken and that it couldn't be. I did not say so at the moment as I felt I would be embarrassed if wrong. It certainly seemed bent."
4. "At the end of the record when we examined the knife I certainly saw the bend and was duly amazed. There was no doubt in my mind that the blade was not straight."
The sheet also invited comments, and Mrs. Skutch added to her answers as follows:
"I remember having told you, Gaither, about how this had happened (the bending of metal while listening to a record) in someone else's home. I was not present but M- J- relayed the information. This preceded the attempt we made while hearing the "Mood" piece. I was also struck by how often such phenomena have occurred under less than ideal conditions and regretted the many such incidents we have been unable to report upon for this reason. I'm glad YOU were present!"
Mr. Skutch's answers:
1. "Yes. I recall your holding the knife up, sighting along the edge, and stating the knife blade was straight."
2. "No impression."
4. "Yes, the blade had a slight, but definite bend."
The Skutches returned only one copy of the questions with their answers written on it instead of on the duplicate lists I had provided, as I had intended they should do.
About the time I received their replies I.S. returned from the trip that had kept him away from the Division of Parapsychology since before my own trip to New York. By this time the matter of my bent knife seemed to me to have such important implications for parapsychology that it deserved independent scrutiny by an experienced investigator of spontaneous experiences. I therefore asked I.S. if he would study the occurrence in any way that he deemed appropriate. If so, I would have no further contact with the Skutches until he had completed his investigation.
I.S. accepted my suggestion, and he began by interviewing me. First, he asked me to show him how I examined my knife when I observed that the blade was straight before placing it on the cover of Geller's book. I showed him my method of pointing the handle and the extended blade away from me with the knife held at my normal reading distance and with the blade pointing slightly upward from the line of sight in a manner that foreshortens the length of the blade so that any bend in it would be apparent from comparing the near end, middle, and far end of the blade. If they formed a straight line, then I could say with assurance that the blade was straight. If any part of the blade deviated from the straight line, this fact would reveal that it was bent. My examination extended over a period of several seconds (long enough for me to verbalize my findings as indicated above, and I remember clearly shifting the position of the knife slightly this way and that to double-check on the conclusion that the blade was straight).
After my description and demonstration of this method of inspection, I.S. took the knife in its present condition (see Figure 1) and looked at it in the way I described. He said that when viewed in that manner it appeared straight to him even though he could clearly see that the blade was bent when he held it in a vertical position and compared the blade with any convenient straightedge in the background. His experience therefore seemed to cast doubt upon whether my method of examining the blade would have made me aware of the fact that it was crooked even if it was already bent before the knife was placed on the book.
Before ending my own statement of the case and giving place to I.S. to report the results of his investigation, I will say that I remain personally fully convinced that my examination of the knife was thorough and adequate enough to reveal the bend in the blade if the knife had been in its present condition at the time. It seems worth while to attempt to make my own confidence more realistic for the readers by mentioning a few personal and/or biographical circumstances that are relevant to the judgement I made and still sustain. From early childhood spent on a farm, I became experienced at judging whether a long object was straight by using the method of sighting along its length in the same manner as I used for my knife. Of course this method would not be needed if a board, rod, etc. was obviously bent, as is the case for my knife blade in its present condition. But if the first glance does not reveal a bend in an object regardless of the angle of observation, then the method of foreshortening the length while sighting along the object is the way I was taught to make sure that there was no slight bend, one that might not be seen when using other methods of observation. (I should perhaps mention also that I am mechanically inclined and that I took a short course in blueprint reading and machineshop work in 1942 and subsequently worked for nearly two years as an inspector of precision machined products in a war plant.)
I have astigmatism in both eyes, and I have worn a correction since about 1940. My last eye examination early in 1975 showed that I have 20/20 vision when wearing glasses, and I always wear them when reading and when making a close inspection that requires clear, sharp vision. The matter of putting on my glasses and taking them off has become so automatic that it is done, as a rule, without conscious decision or awareness. I almost certainly was wearing my glasses when I inspected my knife blade and found it to be straight, though I cannot say that I clearly remember that I was doing so. What I do remember is that I saw the blade clearly and sharply, and I know that this would not have been true at the end of a long, hard day if I had not been wearing glasses. Incidentally, I should say that my glasses are bifocals, which means that I do not see clearly at the same time objects that are close up and far away. For this reason the method I.S. used of holding the blade vertically and comparing it with some vertical line in the background would not be suitable for me to use in judging whether the blade was straight.
INVESTIGATION OF THE EPISODE BY I.S.
J.G.P. first described the episode of possible knife-bending to me on June 6 and June 7, 1975, at which time he also showed me the knife in question (Figure 1).
I examined the knife and when I looked at it, using the method I prefer, I had no difficulty in observing that it was bent. My favorite positions for examining linear objects that may be bent are (a) from above down and against straight lines (this is the view shown in Figure 1) and (b) with the object held vertically in such a way that I can align it throughout its length against some vertical line of the background, say a window frame that I assume to be adequately straight. Since I could easily see, according to my preferred ways of examining the knife, that it was bent in the middle of the blade, the really important question for me became that of whether the knife had been bent before J.G.P. placed it on the book in the Skutches' apartment. If that had been the case then J.G.P. had not adequately examined it since he was, and is, convinced that the knife blade was perfectly straight before he placed it on the book.
Pursuing the matter further, I asked J.G.P. to show me, as nearly as he could remember, how he had himself examined the knife before he asserted that the blade was straight and placed the knife on the book. He demonstrated then how he sights an object along its length from behind. He held the knife with the tip of the blade forward and pointed up at an angle of perhaps 2 to 5 degrees. He looked at it somewhat as one might sight along a gun barrel, except that the tip was elevated above the handle a little so that different points along the same line could be observed.
When I repeated J.G.P.'s maneuver I found that I could not detect any curve in the blade. Instead I perceived that the blade (with edge held up) was slightly angled to the right in relation to the handle. In other words, it appeared to me that the blade itself was straight, but that it departed from the handle at an angle. This was the defect that J.G.P. said he observed (at the Skutches' apartment) in the knife when, at the same time, he said that the blade itself was straight. J.G.P. recalls, however, that the deviation of the blade on the handle was then "barely noticeable"; in contrast, the deviation now observable, whether seen as a curve of the blade or (by me) as a deviation of the blade on the handle, is quite marked.
I have since repeated this observation a number of times and I am bound to say that on most such repetitions I have had the same perception - that the blade itself appears straight but seems to leave its handle at an angle. On two occasions I have perceived the blade itself as curved when I have examined it in this manner. One of these occurred when J.G.P., in order to help me, as he saw my difficulty, attached some small strips of colored tape to the blade to make it easier to sight along its length. The other occasion occurred when I looked along the blade (in the manner of J.G.P.) and did then have the perception of its curvature that he says he can always see when he examines the blade in this way. I can usually not see such a curvature when I do this, and indeed I have never seen such a curvature when I have examined the knife (by J.G.P.'s method) except on the two exceptional occasions just noted.
J.G.P. understandably felt that I must be a poor observer of straight lines. I, on the other hand, required to be convinced that he had examined the knife with adequate care and under sufficient lighting so that he could be sure that the bend the blade now has was not present when he placed the knife on the book. If the photograph is accepted as adequate evidence it will surely be agreed by all (a) that the blade does have a distinct bend beginning about half way along its length and also (b) that the blade does not depart from its handle at an angle. My point then is that if J. G. P. did not examine the blade and knife with sufficient thoroughness before he placed it on the book he might conceivably have mistaken the curve in the blade for a deviation of the blade in relation to the handle. As mentioned above, J.G.P. remarked on such a deviation (albeit one that was "barely noticeable") before he placed the knife on the book, but in fact no such deviation now exists. When I examine the knife by J.G.P.'s method I also see a deviation of the blade in relation to the handle (thus having an illusion) and fail to see the blade as curved (thus having another illusion). The discrepancies seem similar to those experienced when one looks at the ambiguous figures used by psychologists of perception; one can see such figures as representing one object, say a vase, or two other objects, say two faces in profile looking at each other; but one cannot see both gestalts at the same time. I am suggesting therefore that J.G.P., before he placed the knife on the book, may have made the very errors that I now make myself. Then afterwards, upon examining the knife again, he became aware (as did the Skutches) that the blade was bent.
I thought we might obtain help by asking more questions of the Skutches and by calling in other observers to examine the knife. We also arranged for an objective examination of the straightness of the blade in relation to its handle.
Inquiries about the Circumstances of the Episode and the Skutches' Observations
The Skutches answered (in correspondence) the additional questions I sent to them and I will summarize their replies as well as those of J.G.P. to some further questions I put to him.
The episode occurred in the evening with the room lights on. Both the Skutches described the lighting in the room where the episode occurred as "average" with Judith Skutch inclining to remember it also as "quite bright."
Unfortunately, J.G.P. could not remember whether he put his glasses on to examine the knife before he declared the blade straight. And neither of the Skutches could remember whether J.G.P. was wearing his glasses when he examined the knife. J.G.P. has some degree of presbyopia, which means his vision for near objects requires correction. He wears glasses for reading. He held the knife with his arm out, but the elbow half bent. The knife was farther from his eyes than he would hold a book to read it, but at a distance where his vision would be impaired if he did not have his glasses on. He is quite sure that he had the knife in clear focus when he examined it and it is certain that he could not have done this without his glasses. J.G.P. further remembered that almost immediately before he examined the knife he had been reading the lyrics for the earlier, musical parts of Geller's record as printed on the cover; he would certainly have had to wear his glasses for this reading. It is therefore highly probable that he was wearing his glasses at the time even though he and the Skutches do not remember that he was doing so.
Both the Skutches afterwards remembered that J.G.P. had examined the knife before putting it down on the book.2 They differed as to the length of time he took for his examination, Judith Skutch saying J.G.P. took a minute to examine the knife while Robert Skutch wrote that J.G.P. examined the knife twice, each time for a "few seconds." Both the Skutches remembered that J.G.P. had declared the blade straight before he put it down on the book. Neither remembered that he also remarked that "there appeared to be a barely noticeable angling of the blade toward the right (with the knife edge held upward) where the blade was hinged to the handle."
Neither of the Skutches handled the knife before it was thought to have bent. Robert Skutch did not pay any attention to the knife itself before the bend was remarked upon. Judith Skutch said that she watched J.G.P. examine the knife and afterwards noticed that the blade was straight as it lay on the book after J.G.P. had placed it there. She was sitting about three feet from the knife and somewhat to one side of it. Unfortunately, she did not comment aloud on the straightness of the blade at the time.
The Prior History of J.G.P.'s Knife
It occurred to me that perhaps J.G.P. could remember when he had last examined the knife prior to the episode in the Skutches' apartment. Upon asking him about this he told of the following incident which occurred two days before the episode in the Skutches' apartment.
J.G.P. was in a hardware store in Charlottesville and had noticed on display in the store a stone for sharpening knives. A sign by the stone invited customers to prove its excellence by using it to sharpen their own knives right then and there. J.G.P. pulled out his pocket knife and began to sharpen it on the stone. As he was doing so, a man whom we will call Joe Stranger observed him and then came over and offered to show J.G.P. how to sharpen the knife properly. J.G.P. had been making small circular strokes in the center of the stone. Joe Stranger said the correct method was to stroke the knife from one end of the stone to the other along its entire length. This, he claimed, was better for the knife and better for the stone which would otherwise become worn into a hollow area in its middle. Joe Stranger took J.G.P.'s knife, made two back and forth strokes in the manner he prescribed, holding the full length of the blade on the stone, passed the knife back to J.G.P., and then went about his other business. J.G.P. then made one or two more strokes with the knife, closed it, and also went about his business.
J.G.P. said that he did not particularly examine the knife after he and Joe Stranger had handled it during the above incident. He did not look at the blade again before the episode in the Skutches' apartment two days later.
J.G.P. said that Joe Stranger was not an unusually muscular man and did not appear to be handling the knife forcefully.
This incident with Joe Stranger may be interpreted in two ways. On the one hand, it provided an occasion when J,G.P. could well have noticed any existing bend in his knife at the time he and Joe Stranger were sharpening it. It could also be argued, however, that both J.G.P. and Joe Stranger paid attention to the sharpening stone and the sharpening process rather than to the knife just as, in riding a bicycle, one pays attention to the road and not the bicycle. In this way one or the other of them might have induced the bend. It is difficult, however, to see how either J.G.P. or Joe Stranger could have bent the knife in the middle - where it is now curved - if they applied the entire length of the blade to the stone as J.G.P. clearly remembers they did. He, moreover, has owned this knife for about 10 years, has sharpened it often, and never at any time found that he had bent the blade in sharpening it.
Observations of Knives by Other Persons
I asked three other persons to examine knives at my direction for any bends in the blades. The persons who agreed to do this were A, a colleague parapsychologist, B, a summer research assistant in the Division of Parapsychology, and C, a colleague psychiatrist of the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Virginia. A and B wear glasses regularly, but C only for distant vision as when driving a car. A, B, and C made their observations independently in my office. J.G.P. was present when A made his observations, but was not present for those of B and C.
After explaining briefly to the observers that I wished their opinion on the straightness of some knife blades, I then demonstrated as best I could the method used by J.G.P. of sighting along the blade held extended in front of the observer and with the point tipped up slightly from the true horizontal. To A I gave two knives, the one figuring in the present episode and another pocket knife that also belongs to J.G.P. Later, however, I equipped myself with two more pocket knives so that I was able to offer B and C four knives for comparison. One of these was a Swiss army knife and the other a conventional American pocket knife.
A, B, and C all said that they could see the bend in the blade of J.G.P.'s knife (of the episode in question) when they examined it by the method used by J.G.P. None of them spontaneously said they could see any deviation of the blade in relation to the handle and they persisted in this opinion even when I asked a leading question about such an angular deviation of the blade on its handle.
The observers found nothing wrong with J.G.P.'s other knife or with my American pocket knife. C and I agreed, however, that the Swiss knife showed a slight deviation of its blade in relation to the handle. B did not observe this but thought that the Swiss knife had, apparently in the blade, a slight deviation that I could not perceive. On A's first trial I had not shown him the Swiss knife so I asked him to examine it and J.G.P.'s knife (of this episode) again. He then said that he thought the Swiss knife had a slight deviation of the blade in relation to the handle, and repeated that J.G.P.'s knife had only a bend in the middle of the blade.
The observations of A, B, and C showed that by using J.G.P.'s method of observing the knife they could detect the bend in the blade of his knife. Their observations support J.G.P.'s conviction that if the blade had had such a bend before he placed it on the book in the Skutches' apartment he himself would have detected it. Unfortunately, we cannot say that the conditions were similar for the following reasons: First, A, B, and C could easily surmise that one of the knives I was showing them had a bend in it. (Otherwise what would be the point of taking up our time with this kind of activity?) They were therefore alerted to the possibility that one of the blades was not straight, which was not the case when J.G.P. examined his knife in the Skutches' apartment before placing it on the book. And second, A, B, and C did not take their responsibilities lightly and I think that each of them took rather longer to examine each knife than I believe J.G.P. took when he was in the Skutches' apartment, judging by my memory of the duration of his demonstration to me. I now think that I should have timed the various observations of the blade, including J.G.P.'s first demonstration of his method to me. Since I did not do this, I may well be wrong in thinking that A, B, and C took more time to examine the knife than had J.G.P. when he examined it in the Skutches' apartment.
A Mechanical Examination of the Straightness of the Blade in Relation to the Handle
J.G.P. said that the deviation he had observed of the blade in relation to the handle (to the right with the blade held up) was slight, but he thought it might be detected by fine mechanical instruments even though it was not visible to me or to Observers A, B, and C, and was also not detectable in the photograph of Figure 1. We sought the help of Mr. E. F. Spenceley of the Research Laboratories of the Engineering School of the University of Virginia. He examined the knife with an instrument capable of measuring extremely small deviations from a straight line. He showed us that there was a minuscule, barely detectable, deviation of the blade in relation to the handle to the left with the blade edge held up. The deviation amounted to 0.0015 inch in 0.2 inches. For practical purposes, therefore, the blade is set straight on the handle at this time.
Mr. Spenceley pointed out that a deviation of the blade on the handle would be easier to detect, if one had existed, when the blade was straight before it became bent as it now is. He also said that whatever force had caused the bending in the blade itself might have been accompanied by a counterforce acting at the junction of the blade and handle in such a way that a deviation existing there before the blade was bent could have been reduced or even abolished altogether. In short, although the blade now has no angular deviation in relation to the handle, we cannot exclude the possibility that it did have one at the time J.G.P. examined the knife in the Skutches' apartment.
If I had only my own observations to go on, I would be bound to say that we have insufficient evidence concerning the straightness of the knife blade before it was put down on the book. My experience in looking at the knife in the way J.G.P. says he examined it is that of two illusions; namely, not seeing a curve that is there (here I appeal to the photograph shown in Figure 1) and seeming to see an angular deviation of the blade from the handle which is not present (as both the photograph and the precise instrumental measurement confirm). It then seemed to me possible that J. G. P., examining the knife in the informal setting that he has described, might have experienced the same optical illusions that I do when I sight along the blade as he says he did.
Since J.G.P. has included some personal notes about his qualifications to observe straight lines, I think that I should do so also and mine are not favorable to me in a comparison between us. I have been myopic (short-sighted) since youth and have some degree of astigmatism. At present, however, my eyes are corrected with spectacles to 20/20 vision. My vision for close objects is excellent and I appear to have no presbyopia whatever despite the fact that I am much older than the usual age when this sets in. Unlike J.G.P., I am not mechanically inclined, and have not had much experience in sighting for or along straight lines.
We do not, however, need to depend on my observations. First, the independent observations of A, B, and C all support J.G.P.'s judgment that if the blade had been bent before the episode in the Skutches' apartment he would have noticed this.
Secondly, Judith Skutch has stated that she noticed that the blade was straight when J.G.P. first put it on the book. One or two points of an imaginary total score might be deducted for the fact that she did not say so aloud at the time, but these would by no means cancel the value of her observation as supporting J.G.P.'s statement that the blade was definitely straight when he placed it on the book.
On balance, however, my own judgment of paranormality in this episode is the Scottish one of "Not Proven." This is a verdict we are obliged to bring in for many observations in parapsychology. If, therefore, I say that I do not favor a paranormal interpretation of the episode, I am far from saying that one has been excluded. In many spontaneous parapsychological experiences the persons immediately concerned are often firmly convinced that a paranormal interpretation of the events best fits them. The task of scientific investigation then consists in describing and examining the available data in such a way that other reasonable persons, apart from those immediately concerned, can reach the same conclusion if this seems justified to them. The process of "spreading a conviction" in this way does not occur rapidly and it is not desirable that it should, because that would suggest a mere thoughtless contagion rather than judgement reached after careful reflection. In the present case repeated reviews of the episode in my own mind and in conversations with J.G.P., together with the other testimony and observations, have gradually worked on me so that I am now more inclined to favor a paranormal interpretation of the case than I was initially.
On one point I can speak without reservation. Too often we read in reports of parapsychological experiences some qualifier such as "Assuming the honesty of So and So." In the present case I have no need for such assumptions because knowledge of J.G.P.'s honesty from many years of association with him has developed in me an unshakeable conviction con concerning his integrity.
The purpose of this report, however, will have been imperfectly served if readers attach too much importance to the convictions of either J.G.P. or myself concerning the incident. We have endeavored to present our own judgements together with evidence from which they can form their own conclusions. Whatever these may be, I heartily commend J.G.P.'s willingness to put this episode on the record. A parapsychologist cannot always be expected to go about with notebook, tape recorder, and camera in hand ready to exploit instantly any incident that hints of the paranormal. And too often we may neglect to report events that may be paranormal because we are not completely satisfied with our observations or the conditions in which they occurred. It seems to me that we have much more to lose by suppressing reports of events that may be paranormal than by publishing reports of those that may not be.
FINAL COMMENTS BY J.G.P,
As I.S. and I were preparing this report, he suggested that I might wish to comment on his observations and inferences. I have decided not to do so, however, because it might appear that I am arguing in favor of a higher scientific value of this metal-bending episode than the one he has placed upon it. The fact is that I do not think the evidence for PK here should be compelling for others.
Speaking purely personally, however, more than three months after the episode, I still cannot doubt that my knife blade was straight when I examined it before placing it on the book, and that it was curved before it was touched again and picked up after the playing of Geller's record. For me, some kind of paranormal event occurred that caused the blade to bend. I do not think this result should be accepted by others as proof of a PK occurrence because my own conviction, resting largely upon my personal observations and memories, does not make the event qualify as scientific evidence. I do think, however, that it should increase to some degree for others the probability that there is some paranormal reality among the large and growing number of claims for a "Geller effect": the mysterious bending of metal objects or the starting of broken timepieces or other mechanical objects when Geller is not physically present. As a result of this experience, I know I will be more alert to seize opportunities that may arise, or that can be created, to investigate such claims and to do so with more forethought and formal precautions than were involved on this occasion.
This report has said nothing about the source of the PK force that bent my blade (assuming it was done paranormally) for the simple reason that I have no opinion to offer on the matter. As far as I can say, no one in the apartment that night would take credit for being the responsible PK agent. And the idea that Geller has somehow implanted some of his own psychic gift in the recording so that his personal PK powers are released when the record is played borders on the fantastic at this stage of our knowledge.
1) Our thanks are due to Robert and Judith Skutch for their patience in answering many questions about this episode and for their willingness to have their testimony put into the record with their real names attached. We are also indebted to Mr. E. F. Spenceley of the Research Laboratories of the Engineering School of the University of Virginia, who replaced one of our conjectures by facts derived from objective measurements.
2) The Skutches answered the questions sent to them by J.G.P. and later by myself independently and without discussing them before they had answered us.
Cox, W. E. Note on some experiments with Uri Geller. Journal of Parapsychology, 1974, 38, 408-411.
OWEN, A. R. G. Uri Geller's metal phenomena: An eye-witness account. New Horizons, 1974, 1, 164-171.
TAYLOR, J. Superminds: A Scientist Looks at the Paranormal. New York: Viking Press, 1975.
Division of Parapsychology
Department of Psychiatry
School of Medicine
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia 22901
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