Uri Geller – The Spoon Bender
Definitely one of the most controversial magicians in the history of magic is the Israeli pseudo-psychic Uri Geller who continues to this day to deny that he is a magician. Geller was born in Tel Aviv, Israel in December 1946. He claims that when he was a young child a ‘bright light’ from above gave him strange powers. Later, he was conscripted into the Israeli army and was wounded during the 1976 Six-Day War. In 1978 he began to perform as a nightclub magician around Tel Aviv with his friend Shipi Shtrang, performing card and fairly standard magic tricks.
Geller had an unusual personality, that of a humble performer who didn’t really understand how the tricks he was doing actually came about. He began to claim that his powers were paranormal and that he was psychic. It was not long before the public and magicians began to take more serious notice of this new phenomenon, as did the scientific fraternity. Despite being exposed as a mere trickster, his claims of metal bending, telepathy, and psychokinesis were done with the power of his mind, he still attracted a huge almost cult-like following of believers.
When he introduced spoon bending, stopping and starting clocks and watches into his show he gained even more popularity. This quickly led to television appearances and trips around the world including America, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and South Africa. He became the new age phenomena in every country he visited. He no longer performed traditional magic tricks or big illusions but rather mental mysteries that challenged his audiences that perhaps he truly did have strange powers! Spoon bending and reading sealed messages became his theme, often making use of stooges like Shipi Shtrang and Shipi’s sister Hannah sitting in the audience secretly making signals to him on stage.
He made a great impact on the scientific boffins who attended his shows. Professor Leon Juritz, a Physicist who examined Geller in his Lab. declared that Geller may indeed have had psychic powers. Two weeks later he retracted his statements saying that Geller was merely a clever conjuror using simple magic tricks and could duplicate almost everything Uri had done in his laboratory. Professor John Taylor of Kings College University London after examining Geller’s metal-bending also wrote that what Uri could do was not faked and might even change science. It only took a short while before he had to retract his statements and to admit that he had been completely fooled by Geller. Professor Taylor’s book Super Minds crediting Geller as having some sort of undefined powers became an embarrassment.
“Quite often it’s easier to fool academics than children with magic. And in the beginning Geller was certainly fooling the scientists.”
Earlier, Dr. Andrija Puharich who claims he discovered Uri Geller, wrote Uri’s authorized biography that claimed that Uri had received his strange powers from “Extra Terrestrials” in outer space! This concept was readily accepted by the scientific community some of whom believe in the paranormal that soon led to an invitation by the Stanford Research Institute to scientifically study and test Geller. Laboratory tests were conducted by physicists Professor Russel Targ and Professor Harold Puthoff. These tests were carried out in a very loose very unscientific manner and were quite inconclusive but it got Uri’s photo on the cover of Time Magazine and further publicity. However, Geller was drawing criticism from the magic fraternity for his refusal to admit what he was doing were just simple magic tricks. James (The Amazing) Randi, a professional magician and escapologist wrote a book debunking Geller as a fraud , which led to a libel suit. Randi and many other magicians were duplicating all of Geller’s effects by using magic conjuring, principals and techniques, while Uri maintained his stance as a psychic and was fast becoming very wealthy.
Randi once stated that “If Geller was bending spoons with his mind then he was doing it the hard way”.
Magicians were now all doing spoon and key bending and duplicating drawings hidden in sealed envelopes under the banner of mentalism. By now bending cutlery became known as the “Geller Effect”, and it was beginning to bend some people’s minds that it was maybe all real after all. Geller claimed he was using telepathy and E S P as well.
It is only in recent years that Uri Geller has agreed to attend magic conventions as a guest speaker still maintaining the stance that he is not a magician doing magic tricks. A few years ago he was hired by a large UK corporation to act as a psychic geologist to try and locate underground minerals and oil operating from an aircraft and paid incredible sums of money but were once again unsuccessful. He wrote his own autobiography titled simply ‘Uri Geller: My Story’ where he still maintains many very weird claims. If Uri had admitted that he was a magician he would have been welcomed within the magic fraternity because he brought with him a new type of magic but his ongoing denial still excludes him.
Uri Geller now lives in Berkshire and has made a few movies, and acts as a psychic life coach. He has been a psychic coach for one of England’s major soccer teams that never won a series despite him placing ‘energy crystals’ behind the goalposts. He continues to maintain that his power and energies come from an ‘alien out there’ paranormal entity.
Uri will indeed be remembered in the history of magic, not for his marvelous illusions, but mostly for how he conned the masses and duped the wise men of science. But remember, we as conjurors may perform by suspending the audiences’ belief temporarily. However, we never claim supernatural or paranormal powers for our magic. Our goal is to be entertaining! Everyone loves to be entertained!