Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Psychic Spoon Bender or Trickster

By Michael Russell

Uri Geller is, without a doubt, one of the most famous psychics in the world. His primary claim to fame is the bending of spoons using only his mind. Most of us have seen him do this on television. But is it real?

No, it isn't. It wasn't. It was all parlor tricks. That was proven in a court of law and Mr. Geller has the empty pockets to show for it.

But what makes us believe a man like this? How did he gain so many followers? How did he even fool a team of scientists at Stanford Research Institute, which pronounced Geller such a gifted psychic that they invented a term to describe his powers, the "Geller effect"? The bending spoon or key trick is accomplished by bending the object beforehand. Then during the show, it was all in the angles he revealed. At first, he'd show the object with the bowl or flat side facing out and the bend wasn't visible to the audience. Then he'd start rubbing and slowly revealing the bend, as if he had just made it happen, when it had been there all along. Sound easy? It's not. It took him years of practice. Witnesses would claim they had never taken their eyes off him, but never saw it. Video tapes showed he distracted these people just long enough to make whatever adjustments he needed.

He had other tricks that seemed to fool people endlessly, even though they see the same kind of tricks hawked at fairs. He'd "see" a drawing inside a sealed envelope by secretly holding it up to the light. He'd copy down license plate numbers and car models from the parking lot of his shows to later amaze their owners with his psychic car-matching abilities. He'd ask audiences to bring in old, stopped watches and he'd make them run. Many times shaking a broken watch will make it run for a short time and this is what he banked on. He could always find one of those. Within a few hours or days, it would stop again. But in the meantime, he was "amazing".

So why do simple parlor tricks fool even intelligent people into thinking they've seen magic? As one astute writer said, "Because even many intelligent people are too foolish to realize that they are not so intelligent as to be beyond being fooled". But think about this - if there ARE people with the ability to move things with their minds; or read other peoples' thoughts; or see hidden objects; or predict the future, why are they messing around entertaining us? Why wouldn't they be playing the stock market, working the casinos, finding a cure for cancer, or changing the course of rivers to put out forest fires? Easy. That would take a little more than simple distraction.

There is something mysterious about a man who has made a career of breaking things! Sure, he can bend 'em, but can he straighten 'em out again? If so, I've got a bunch of bent up silverware in my kitchen drawer for him! But this very mysteriousness attracted detractors.

James Randi, a famous debunker of the paranormal and a magician himself, was constantly in battle with Uri Geller. As many times as Geller demonstrated his amazing abilities, Randi was right there behind him to give an interview on how the trick was done. Eventually, he and other detractors convinced the public of Geller's fraud. Randi's point that this would have been accepted by everyone if Geller had just been honest in that he was an entertainer, not a supernormal psychic was well taken. Law suits were lost and Geller, you'd think, would have slowly faded into history.

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