It was quite a thrill to be invited to appear on Australia's
hard-hitting current affairs program, "Willesee", to
confront self-proclaimed psychic, Uri Geller. (The
program was broadcast as part of “Willessee” on
the 9 Network on November 6, 1986.)
We had come full circle! I had originally approached
this program in the late seventies. I was told then,
"We have all the proof we need (that he is REAL)".
But here we are, many years later, with the tables
turned. It happens too often that assistance is called in
after the horse has bolted.
I was briefed. It was a set-up. I was to play the
part of "Chris Norris, acclaimed psychic". A story was to be shot with me performing Geller's "hit" tricks and
then finish with a request for the people at home to
concentrate on their cutlery and broken watches. It
was well anticipated that immediately after the show
went to air, many people would phone the station
claiming "In Home Events".
The sequence was shot and was to go to air the
following evening. Immediately after this, we were to
tape an interview with host, Mike Willesee, Uri Geller
and myself. Mike was basically to interview Uri and
then turn to me for comment. Unfortunately, I was
told that Mike "likes to play his cards close to his chest".
This meant that I could not obtain the list of questions
or even the direction of inquiry for the interview. This
made mental preparation all the more difficult.
Security had been tight, but not as secure as we'd
have liked. An opposition show managed to hit on the
story, and decided to move in. They began to 'promo'
a Geller sequence to entice viewers to watch their
show on the following night. Our plans fell to the side.
The satellite hook-up to Geller in London was brought
forward to the following morning. This meant that both
segments would have to 'air' together and not one night
after the other. Sadly, we could not test our In Home
theory and then confront Geller with the details.
Mike and I sat in the studio as the cameras whizzed
about lining up their shots. There was plenty of info
bouncing both ways off the satellite as Geller was being
wired for sound. Mike had made a drawing of a simple
object and placed this on the table. The outlines of its
secret contents were obvious. I asked Mike to place it
in his pocket.
"Geller's critics say that he is nothing more than a magician. But he claims to have psychic powers and it seems that plenty of people are prepared to believe him. Mining companies are now paying him big money to help them find gold, diamonds and other minerals. Uri Geller is now promoting his psychic talents in a book called “The Geller Effect”. Before we talk with him, here's an experiment we tried to see just how easy it is to make people believe in trickery. Peter Wilkinson took a magician along to a Sydney club and pretended he was a psychic." [Here, my segment was shown. It involved my working for a group of about 30, performing Geller's big tricks. I did the drawing reproduction experiment, moved the pointer on a compass and caused borrowed keys and spoons to bend and break in people's hands. The participants were interviewed after the event and the most common comment was "I used to be a skeptic, but seeing is believing!"]
"Well, whether he is a psychic or a magician, Uri Geller hopes to cash in on his reputation again with a new book. We arranged an interview with him in London and we asked our local magician, Ben Harris, to sit in. Mr Geller, thanks for your time. You've been largely out of the public eye for about ten years now, what are you trying to do with this new book, 'The Geller Effect'?"
"Um, basically I wrote the book because I was asked to write it. I actually came to England to retire, and enjoy life. And er, actually there was a story about me in the Sunday Times a year and a half ago, and suddenly publishers were, er, calling me."
"How do you feel professing you have these great skills, but always having your credibility questioned?"
"Look Mike, what can I do? I'm er ... you know, since I came out of Israel seventeen years ago I've been knocked. I've been called a fraud, a charlatan, a con-man. Um, my gosh, I've also been called a miracleman, eh, eh, a messiah and so on. I ... I know one thing. Many years ago it hurt me and I was angered and sad at the controversy around me. Then, I learnt that it's advantageous for me. It sells books, it made me famous, it made me very rich and I just, quite enjoy it, in a way."
[The psychological impressions from these comments to the believers are "I'm helpless (innocent) and I'm always down-trodden. But don't forget I'm also called a 'messiah'." This is Uri again trying to give his case a 'Jesus 'feel.]
"What puzzles me, and has puzzled me for a lot of years, is why you don't prove your skills. Establish it as a science."
"Well Mike, the book, 'The Geller Effect' if I may plug it, this is it (hope you don't edit it out) explains why."
"You should already know!"
"Hah, hah, I do. Ah but, to make it short, why I don't prove myself is very simple."
[Here, Uri cops out and then happily admits that he has not scientifically proven himself. Let's hope that he remembers this admission!]
"Ten years ago I wanted to prove myself, because, I thought, if I prove myself I will, em, go down in history. I was young, naive. Then I went to Stanford Institute, I went to Kent State University, I went to London University. I mean, I can go on and on and on. And every time I did an experiment that I thought was foolproof, was always knocked. And people said 'He duped you, he fooled you, there was a hole, there was a laser beam, there was a bug in his teeth'. And that's when I saw I'm going nowhere with science. And you mark my words, Mike, the only way I can prove myself is going to be a show business stunt. For instance, I'm thinking of now, stopping Big Ben. And I will do it. If I won't get permission by the British authorities, I mean, I will go to Paris and do something on the Eiffel Tower. But only such an event will prove finally that psychic abilities do exist."
"One of your best tricks is having somebody sketch something very simple..."
"...and then you can reproduce that or describe it."
UG: "Yes." MW:
"I have done a very simple sketch, do you want to try that?"
"Most likely, I will fail. But at the end of the show, I will draw what I am getting from you. If it's wrong, you're not going to punish me are you?"
"It's not a question of punishment."
[Uri is suggesting it was due to his naivety that he
originally wanted to prove himself. Now that he is
much more mature, for some odd reason it does not
seem as important. He runs off the names of the
various institutions in order to establish a psychological
authority over the viewers. The tests that were run in
these places have been found to be seriously flawed.
In fact, Targ and Puthoff from the Stanford Research
Institute - now Stanford International - have now
claimed that they knew Geller was cheating and that
they wanted to study his methods.
Notice that he is trying to keep things in his arena.
That is, he wants to do a public stunt in an attempt to
prove himself as he'll have control over such an event.
He cannot prove himself in a lab if the contols are
tight. By the way, I'm sure he'll claim credit next time
Big Ben does stop for whatever natural reason.
Notice also that he was answering in the affirmative
each time Mike referred to one of his demonstrations
being a 'trick'. I think, after all these years, Geller is
becoming aware of the fact that the game is almost
over. His fighting spirit is dwindling. But, millions of
dollars can do that to you!]
"It is a very simple drawing, right?"
"Yes, a very simple drawing."
[Knowing that I'm in the studio due to the pretape access] "Okay, and no-one told you what to draw ... you drew it alone."
"No-one has even seen this."
[Uri was fishing. He had to establish if I had given a special design to Mike, something that was different to the standard type of sketches he normally gets. Now that he was convinced that Mike's sketch was 'clear' he felt confident that he could bluff it out, as we shall see.]
"Fantastic ... if it works, great!"
[Uri picks up pad and pen and starts drawing as the interview continues.]
"Now there are skeptics and there are skeptics. Urn, I believe there is a gentleman in your studio. In fact, telepathically I can see maybe he has a beard even, and a blue jacket. Am I right or not?"
"Let's have a look."
[Camera pans to me. Yes, I do have a beard and my jacket is dark with flecks of all colours including blue. The wonders of a two-way satellite!]
"Ah, there is a beard!"
[Don't act so surprised, Uri! You saw it telepathically, remember!]
"Hello Uri, it's a pleasure to speak to you after all these years."
"Ah, I was right!"
[Uri's first success to the people at home!]
"The camera did zoom in a little bit earlier on, I
"Yeah, well ah, I was not in the studio. I was asked to stay outside, to sit outside here."
[Something that could not be proved, then and there to the people at home.]
"I just want to make a point here. Doing something like stopping Big Ben, etc, that doesn't prove a thing. These things can be arranged. I mean, you can always have a secret assistant, and it's been known for years that you have Shipi with you..."
"... and it's been rumoured that he peeks in the envelopes, etc. I use the same techniques that you use, I learnt from watching you."
"So, what are you telling me?"
"I am telling you that I use your techniques [to perform the effects that the viewers have already seen at home, a few minutes before]. They are magic tricks and not psychic. And that you are a wonderful, w o n d e r f u l performer, you are a brilliant magician, however, you are not psychic."
"If you don't believe I'm psychic and want to believe that I am a magician, that's OK with me too!"
"Uri, how are you going with that drawing?"
"Ah, to be very honest with you, and I am honest at this point ... [There's an admission for you] ... I'm not getting it very clearly. If it was clear, I would say, 'Look, this is what I got'."
[Uri is in old form here. Preparing us for a failure and
shielding this behind a supposed veil of honesty. Thus,
if he fails, that is supposed to convey that he must be
genuine as he is being supposedly honest.]
"But it's not coming clearly."
[How come? My beard and jacket came in a flash!
Oh, but that was Uri's controlled conditions. This is
"You have been caught many times, Uri!"
"I drew something that appeared in my mind. That er, had a base and a triangular shape above it. But that's as far as it came. And ah, that's it."
[Notice that Uri claims, "that's it". Yet in a moment you'll encounter him trying to introduce other sketches into play to attempt a 'hit'.]
"Well, I went all circles, so we ... I drew a simple round face."
[Here it comes] "May I show what I got. First of all I got a boat and that was the first impression. Then I got two circles and something above it. That was my second impression. But it didn't materialise."
[Yes, Uri did a boat, two circles, a triangle and some other wiggly lines. Notice how he is trying to imply that he 'hit' on the circles. Note carefully how he originally announced one sketch, admitted a miss and then gave himself a second attempt. However, we had control over this experiment.]
"I noticed you using a technique there, where you did a basic drawing and several side pieces. A couple of circles, a triangle, etc. That's your technique for covering yourself to claim a partial success."
"Oh no, c'mon Ben! You know, Ben, you sound like a real nice man. Because in my case, it's unusual to have a magician, such a nice, a tender, a soft magician. There are no techniques Ben! Come on, at the end of the day, if I was using tricks and did have chemicals, or sleight of hand, or bugs in my teeth or peeking into envelopes I would have been caught a thousand times before!"
"You have been caught many times, Uri!"
[At this stage, Uri is getting a little hot under the collar.
He decides to turn the tables on us by regaining control.]
"Do I have 30 seconds to do an experiment with the people at home or not?"
"Yes, we do."
[Damn it. I realised that Uri was going to do the In
Home experiment. We'd have had him on this if the
entire episode had gone as planned. However, due to
the previous security leak, our In Home experiment
had not gone to air. We were wanting to prove, as has
been done before, that the In Home experience can
be initiated, with the resulting telephone calls, by a
non-psychic. I sat powerless.]
" OK, even if it's taped, it doesn't matter. You people at home, you go and get your broken watches and broken house appliances and with ... just even if I'm not on air ... for 30 seconds, believe that they will start working. That your broken watches will start ticking. Believe that spoons and keys will bend. And if anything does happen to you, and you are not lying, you are telling the truth, call Mike Willesee and write in your response. Mike, you're going to be shocked how many people will succeed in bending spoons. And, you will, all the skeptics will say that they're all making it up or lying, and that, you will to decide. Because things are going to happen in people's homes when this show is going to be televised!"
"Things will happen in peoples' homes when this is televised, Uri. Because the watch trick, the bending trick in peoples' homes is a natural occurrence! If people take their cutlery, they are going to find that there are kinks and that there are bends. The same with keys. Nobody, before you came along Uri, gave us a reason to consider these everyday, natural bends." [At this point, Geller sat, almost in a state of shock. The nail had been hit upon the head. His brain searched for a logical reply. Nothing came but an emotional, heated outburst and the termination of the interview. He sat, still thinking and furious. I added:]
"It's brilliant. It's a brilliant stroke on your part. But, it's a trick, it's not psychic!"
"That is not a trick! [Heatedly] And you people at home, exactly do what I said. Believe, for 30 seconds, that your watches will start ticking; watches that you know that your watchmaker said will never work. Or spoons that you are sure that are straight. You are going to experience this phenomena because this does exist. Metal bending does exist!"
"It will happen, yes."
"Mike, thanks for the interview."
"Uri, it's been very good to talk with you.
The whole program took up well over half the program's airtime. It was national, prime-time. Thus good exposure was received. Unfortunately, Geller did manage to come across as being partially successful. This was due to his clever twisting of the conditions to suit himself. He failed our simple test. The following day, several hundred phone calls came into the Willesee offices. This was a great deal less than expected and definitely less than on Geller's previous appearances on Australian television. [A full analysis of the "In Home" effect can be found in the author's book, Gellerism Revealed.] I was quite surprised to find people commenting about town that they believed friends and relatives caused bent spoons in the homes. Practical joking combined with the naturally introduced bends. A volatile combination for believers! All around, the effort was a success. Geller terminated the interview when it was getting hot! I think he clearly felt the pressure. Another story is in the pipeline. For security reasons though, it cannot be revealed at present. Hopefully though, you'll read about it in the not too distant future.
Ben Harris is a 27-year old "underground man". In layman's
terms, he is one of those who 'invents' the magic tricks that
magicians use in performance. He has written over 14 books
and in 1986 delivered in excess of 50 lectures around the
world on 'new-magic' and the secrets behind 'Gellerism'. He
is the author of "Gellerism Revealed".