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Uri Geller

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Uri Geller

Uri Geller (born December 20, 1946 in Tel Aviv, Israel) is a famous but controversial alleged psychic and television personality.

Originally a magician in Israeli nightclubs, he then became well known for a number of years for performances featuring claimed paranormal abilities such as telekinesis, dowsing and telepathy; metal objects were bent and watches were apparently stopped or made to run faster without any apparent physical force being applied to them. Although many people believe he is a genuine psychic, he also has numerous critics, especially in the scientific community, who claim he is both charlatan and con-man.

Contents

History

Born to Hungarian and Austrian parents, Geller was named after a cousin who had been killed in a bus accident.

According to Geller, he first became aware of his abilities when he was five. He relates that he was in the garden of an Arab family's house opposite where he lived when he was hit by a light from the sky that knocked him to the grass, after which he ran to tell his mother. Shortly thereafter he was having soup during a meal, when his spoon bent and broke.

He lived in Cyprus from age 11 to 17. He served as a paratrooper in the Israeli Army, and was wounded in action during the 1967 Six-Day War. He worked as a photographic model in 1968 and 1969.

In 1969 he began to perform for small audiences as a stage magician, but quickly became a household name throughout Israel. At the peak of his career in the 1970s he worked as a full time professional, performing for television audiences worldwide.

Geller semi-retired from public life in the 1980s. He reported he was concentrating on enjoying wealth accumulated by dowsing, although this has not been verified; Geller maintains that companies who use his services to find commodities such as oil, gold and minerals are reluctant to admit it. In recent years he has performed demonstrations such as spoon-bending much less frequently in public.

Geller has written sixteen fiction and nonfiction books. He now lives in Berkshire, England, on an estate on the bank of the River Thames. He makes various personal appearances, is involved with art and design projects, and contributes articles to newspapers, magazines, and an Internet web column. In 2002, he became honorary co-chairman of the English Nationwide Conference football club Exeter City, which was relegated to the Nationwide Conference in May 2003. He has since severed formal ties with the club. He is a vegan and speaks five languages, English, Hebrew, Hungarian, German and Greek.

Geller might be called something of a bon vivant, and he maintains many ties with celebrity society. He owns a 1976 Cadillac that is adorned with thousands of pieces of bent tableware given him by celebrities or otherwise having historical or other significance. It includes spoons from celebrities such as John Lennon and the Spice Girls, and those with which Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy ate. Geller designed the logo for popular music group *NSYNC and contributed artwork to Michael Jackson's CD, "Invincible," and Jackson was best man when Geller renewed his wedding vows in 2001.

Controversy and criticism

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Geller during a performance

Geller's claims of paranormal powers receive little support within the scientific community, and his critics see him as a very successful con artist. His focus on small feats like spoon bending seems inauthentic to his critics.

Parallels to stage magic

As Geller admits, the appearance of spontaneous bending of cutlery has been reproduced by stage magicians. He asserts, however, that he actually does bend the cutlery using psychic powers, whereas others use tricks. ("Sure, there are magicians who can duplicate it through trickery. But the real ones... there's no explanation for it." [1] (http://www.simon-jones.org.uk/articles/uri_geller_interview.htm)) Stage magicians note several methods of creating an illusion of a spoon spontaneously bending. Most common is the practice of misdirection, an underlying principle of many stage magic tricks. In one or several brief moments of distraction, a "psychic"/magician can physically bend a spoon unseen by the audience, then gradually reveal the bend and thus create the illusion that the spoon is bending before the viewers' eyes. The spoons usually bend at the point where the bowl met the handle, where bending would require the least force. Skeptics note Geller often turns his back on the audience, and further point to unusual conditions Geller at times sets for his performances, such as that the objects to be bent need to be moved in front of other metal objects for the psychic effect to work, or to be held underwater. They note these conditions would allow opportunities to divert the audience's attention away from the item to be bent. Regarding sturdier objects like keys, they note Geller sometimes claims these items need to be in physical contact with other metal objects, which could allow surreptitious use of leverage between the two objects to achieve the bending.

It has also been suggested that he or a confederate prepares the spoons before television appearances by pre-bending them and thus reducing the amount of force later needed to be applied, and Geller at times has refused to bend spoons to which he has not been given prior access.

Geller claims in "telepathic drawing" demonstrations that he is able to read subjects' minds as they draw a picture. Although in these demonstrations he cannot see the picture being drawn, he is present in the room and can see the subjects as they draw. Critics note this may allow Geller to infer common shapes from pencil movement and sound, with the power of suggestion doing the rest.

Disagreements over measuring success

Critics note Geller's success rate is not one hundred percent. He is not always able during his telepathic drawing demonstrations to divine the shape or image drawn. [2] (http://www.zem.demon.co.uk/ugtd.htm) He was paid to investigate the kidnapping of Hungarian model Helga Farkas, and although he predicted she would be found alive and in good health, she was murdered by her kidnappers.[3] (http://www.randi.org/jr/090701.html). He was unable to bend a spoon for Richard Feynman. The physicist mentions this in his book Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!.

Geller was unable to bend any cutlery during an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson where the spoons he was to bend had been preselected by Carson. Earlier in his career, Carson had been an amateur stage magician, as had James Randi who advised Carson on how to thwart potential trickery. Many in the U.S. who had earlier accepted Uri's claims of supernatural talents changed their opinions of him as a result of this event. Geller has at times cancelled performances or failed to produce the expected results, sometimes blaming his apparent lack of psychical power on some interference, exhaustion, or lack of cooperation by the subjects.

You can view a clip of Geller's appearance on this program, and a presentation by James Randi here: [4] (http://www.darat.org/~dimossi/James.Randi.debunking.on.Tonight.Show.wmv)

His critics often disagree with Geller regarding the degree of success actually achieved during demonstrations. For instance, his television appearances have frequently involved viewer interaction, and among the viewers there are very often callers who claim to have located bent spoons or restarted clocks after Geller appeared on TV. Skeptics maintain this does not necessarily indicate paranormal success, however, asserting that about half of all stopped mechanical clocks can be at least temporarily restarted simply by moving them around.

Critics maintain that the power of suggestion artificially inflates the sense of success achieved, pointing to demonstrations such as this one during an interview on the Gerry Ryan radio show on February 20, 2002:

Ryan: Are you getting the image that I'm sending to you? I'm working working very hard on it at the moment.
Geller: It's very very hard for me because, you know...
Ryan: Just say what comes into your head, what's in your head?
Geller: Well the first thing that I drew was a... it had a triangular shape at the top. Am I very wrong?
Ryan: I have sent you an image of the Pyramids. That's it! Are you really? You're not pulling my leg? No! No!
Geller: Gerry, I swear to you I drew a pyramid, and I also drew the stones in the pyramid, but I was not sure, so the first image that came into my mind was a triangle and then I drew the lines in it as the stones.

Critics point out that in an exchange like this, Geller's initial answer ("a triangular shape on the top") is rather vague and could apply to many different common objects, such as a house, and further his second answer ("I swear to you I drew a pyramid") somewhat contradicts the first while remaining sufficiently compatible to allow the power of suggestion to convey an aura of success. They point to an initial reluctance ("Am I very wrong?") that would help to compensate for disappointment were he incorrect and may lead a sympathetic subject to allow room for interpretation. This technique is called "cold reading".

Controlled testing

Geller's performances of drawing duplication and cutlery bending usually take place under informal conditions such as television interviews. He has not taken up Randi's challenge to undergo testing and has not in later years undergone scientific testing under controlled conditions, although during his early career he did allow some scientists to investigate his claims. A study [5] (http://www.uri-geller.com/books/geller-papers/gpap.htm) by Stanford Research Institute researchers Harold Puthoff and Russell Targ of Geller's claims regarding remote viewing was published in the British scientific journal Nature in 1974, along with an editorial expressing certain reservations. Geller also underwent some testing at Birkbeck College, University of London. Critics consider all these tests to have been methodologically flawed.

Litigation

Geller unsuccessfully litigated or threatened legal action against some of his critics. These included libel allegations against Randi and illusionist Grard Majax. His lawsuit against Prometheus Books, a publisher of skeptical books, was dismissed as frivolous and he was obliged to pay more than $20,000 in costs to the defendant. [6] (http://www.csicop.org/articles/uri_dis.html) He also lost, or withdrew, several other suits of a similar nature. Upon the final resolution of the Prometheus suit, the chairman of the publishing house, Paul Kurtz, stated, "It seems Mr. Geller's alleged psychic powers weren't working correctly when he decided to file this suit."

In November 2000 he unsuccessfully sued Nintendo in U.S. federal court, claiming use of his likeness for a Pokmon character, "Un-Geller" or "Yun-Geller", translated into English as "Kadabra". He also unsuccessfully sued Ikea over a furniture line featuring bent legs that was called the "Uri" line.

See also

References

External links

he:אורי גלר es:Uri Geller nl:Uri Geller no:Uri Geller ja:ユリ・ゲラー sv:Uri Geller

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