Uri Geller and the Story of a Collective Scam
The name “Uri Geller” was very popular in the 70s, when the new wave philosophy was all the rage. At the time, people were very receptive to all kinds of supernatural phenomena. In fact, people were seeking out these kinds of stories. Anything related to paranormal activity was very trendy.
Uri Geller took advantage of the collective mood at the time. The way he managed to trick the general public is legendary. Thousands, maybe millions, of people all over the world believed in his powers, which made him a wildly successful millionaire. In fact, he still has followers all over the world.
“There is a distinct difference between having an open mind and having a hole in your head from which your brain leaks out.”
It can be difficult to understand how a single person can pull the wool over so many eyes. Alt hough Uri Geller is one of the most famous illusionists, he isn’t the only one who has managed to spark unfounded beliefs. Many political and religious leaders do the same. Even salespeople trick potential customers. They con people, and they’ll keep conning countless others.
Who is Uri Geller?
Uri Geller was born in Tel Aviv, Israel in 1946. Geller says that, when he was four years old, he saw a huge lightning bolt in the sky that struck him with energy and left him unconscious. After that, he went home to eat lunch. When he picked up a spoon to eat, he broke it with his bare hands.
His family moved to Cyprus when Uri was 11 years old. He lived there until he was 17. Later, he enlisted in the Israeli army and became a skydiver. He fought in the Six-Day War and was wounded in combat. After that, he became a model.
After modeling, Geller started to do magic shows at small nightclubs around Israel. It didn’t take long for him to become famous. Unlike other magicians, Uri Geller claimed to have psychic powers. He became particularly famous for his ability to bend spoons, even at a distance, and to stop or speed up the hands on a clock.
It didn’t take long for Uri Geller to become a celebrity. TV shows all over the world invited him to be a guest. He did his spoon bending and clock tricks in each and every one of them. Geller also added displays of his telepathic “gifts”. He asked his assistants to draw something. Then, he would reproduce the drawing perfectly without having ever seen the original.
Everyone was fascinated with him. He became so popular and well-known that even the CIA got involved. According to declassified CIA documents, the United States intelligence agency invited Uri Geller to their facilities so they could test his powers. They locked him in a room and had him replicate drawings done by CIA agents who were thousands of miles away. At the end of the test, they concluded that he had paranormal powers and started to work for the CIA.
In spite of his fame and popularity, magician and illusionist James Randi didn’t believe him. He was the co-founder and member of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, an organization dedicated to debunking pseudoscience myths and outing conmen.
Randi always said that the spoon-bending trick was easy, that even a child could do it. The difference between Geller and a random child was all of the marketing Geller used to create his collective illusion.
The jig is up
In 1973, James Randi pulled some strings so that Johnny Carson would invite Uri Geller to appear on his show. Randi challenged Geller to do his routine but in different conditions. First of all, he didn’t let Geller use the spoons that he always took with him. He gave Geller new spoons. He also didn’t allow Geller to choose who would do the drawing for him to replicate.
At the end of the day, Geller couldn’t prove his so-called “paranormal” powers. He didn’t bend any spoons nor replicate any drawings. He argued that they were putting too much pressure on him and that it was blocking his powers. Later, he sued Randi, who counter-sued and won the case after many years.
This wasn’t the only time that Geller’s “powers” failed him. On one occasion, he said he was going to stop Big Ben, but nothing happened. He said the same thing about the clock at Puerta del Sol in Madrid, but he didn’t do anything there either. In spite of all that, many people still believe in Geller and his powers. In fact, he still appears on TV and still claims to have great supernatural powers.