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Uri Geller and the YouTube Video Smear


Uri Geller and the YouTube Video Smear

By Peter Fotis Kapnistos (copyright 2009)


Some years ago, Uri Geller became the world’s best-known psychic celebrity. The belief that Soviet telepathic phenomena could in fact pose a grave danger to the Western world was taken rather seriously in the 1970s. Uri Geller was at the heart of the related uproar. Even “Nature” magazine, the world’s most respected science journal, published a detailed report on Geller’s remarkable talents.

Fatefully, after the Soviet Union collapsed so did scientific concern for psychic phenomena. Israeli-born Geller promptly came under ever-increasing attacks by the established media. Leading the hardened criticism was James Randi (Randall James Hamilton Zwinge), a stage magician and professional skeptic. In 1973, Johnny Carson asked Randi to secretly prepare a spur-of-the-moment test for Uri Geller’s scheduled TV appearance on the “Tonight Show.” Geller later said that Johnny Carson’s skepticism blocked his powers. Could a public figure recognized by prestigious scientists and “Nature” magazine fleetingly lose his intuitive ability?

Perhaps we might find a parallel to Uri Geller’s quandary in the famous story of the Swiss figure, William Tell. Whether by a coincidence or a striking synchronicity, the expert marksman was a native of Uri, one of the Swiss forest provinces. According to tradition, in the 13th or early 14th century William Tell defied Austrian authority and was forced by the hated Austrian governor to shoot an apple from his son’s head with a crossbow at a distance of 80 paces, or else both would be executed. At that remote distance the average human cannot make out an apple, let alone aim a crossbow at it. We can therefore only imagine that William Tell aimed somewhere vaguely over the top of his son’s head.

William Tell split the apple with a single arrow from his crossbow, without mishap. But if the skeptical Austrian governor had distracted him with peripheral mayhem and noisy commotion, would Tell have lost his instinctive talent? According to the Swiss narrative, William Tell carried a second arrow in his quiver. If he had ended up killing his son in that test, he would have turned the crossbow on the governor himself.

Today, over half of the Swiss population believes that William Tell really lived. A modern scientific view of the Tell account implies that any healthy adult male should be able to reproduce his success. But in reality, William Tell represents one in a million. The strict scientific premise of controlled repeatability does not apply in his particular set of circumstances. And that perhaps is also a major reason why many scientists shun Uri Geller. His psychic abilities do not conform to the scientific principle of repeatability.

More recently, it was alleged that Uri Geller was caught cheating in an Israeli TV documentary that has lately also circulated on YouTube. The accusation was that a slow motion shot revealed him producing a small magnet from behind his ear or out of his hair to influence a compass needle. In other words, he purportedly put on a magnetic false thumb. The claim was carried by major news agencies and repeated in several publications, including Wikipedia and some prominent science-oriented magazines. I found it rather puzzling because I’m a photographer and the Israeli documentary in question was actually Uri Geller’s own TV show. Why would he do such an unnecessary thing on camera? And if he did, why wasn’t the unsightly scene finally edited out of his finished video product?

To satisfy my curiosity, I finally confronted Uri Geller about the accusation. In a telephone conversation, Uri, who speaks three languages, bluntly told me that he never used a thumb magnet. “More ridiculous,” he exclaimed, “is that I plucked it out of my hair!” There was a time in Geller’s early career when he did use some crude magic tricks at the suggestion of one of his promoters. Uri actually wrote about it in his autobiography. But why would he admit to that –– and not the thumb magnet? What difference did it make? Those things led me to suspect that Uri Geller’s critics were perhaps wrong about the cheating accusation. So I decided to do a frame-by-frame analysis of the controversial video clip.


The Disingenuous Video Scene


  Photo 1

In “Photo 1” we see a wide overall view of the controversial Israeli TV video scene where Uri Geller’s critics accuse him one way or another of allegedly plucking a slightly thick “hidden magnet” from the edge of his hairline. Notice the fingertips of the young man standing to the right. It is clearly identifiable that motion blur and not some conjuring glove or terminal projection causes the bent deformation of the young man’s extended hand.


urigeller02 Photo 2

In “Photo 2” we see a close-up view of the young man’s bizarrely distorted hand. The Incredible Hulk-like transformation is not a trick of magic but a common effect of motion blur. Notice also the bright highlight on the young woman’s fingertip.


urigeller03  Photo 3

In “Photo 3” we see two separate frames from the same Israeli video scene showing similar chunky distortion effects on the tips of both of Uri Geller’s thumbs. But the video footage makes it readily understood that Uri could not possibly have placed pointlessly thick thumb magnets on both of his hands. Bright studio lighting (spectral highlights) and motion blur (slow shutter speeds) are the actual reasons for the apparent fingertip swelling. Notice how it also disfigures the ears of the subjects.

I spent several days studying the Geller video over and over, frame-by-frame, and came to the unexciting conclusion that the thick fingertip effect is nothing more than ordinary motion blur. Uri briefly touches his forehead and rubs his left thumb in the video scene but there is nothing out of the ordinary observable in his hair or behind his ears.

thumbI’m sorry to report that after I posted my video analysis results on Wikipedia, persons who aren’t really interested in objective truth (but would rather smear what they dislike) promptly deleted my posts. I’m even sadder to testify that the mainstream media has bought into and carried this piece of intellectual dishonesty for some years now, without the slightest concern for accuracy or scientific facts.

I don’t really claim to know how Uri Geller can influence the magnetic needle of a compass. But if you think he visibly cheated in the video, please excuse me for proving you are wrong.

Well-known examples of motion blur are astronomers’ time exposures of the night sky in which the Earth’s rotation causes stars to appear as bright smear-lines or wide concentric circles. It’s the very same principle that makes rapid hand movements look like fingertip swelling in the Uri Geller video frames.

And if you’re still not sure about my video analysis, mull over this: In December of 2008, I received an e-mail from someone named Oscar in Sweden who is not really an Uri Geller fan but remarked, “I think it’s wrong of skeptics to claim that he cheats without any proof.” Oscar suggested that he could post a video reply and said, “I have tested it at home and in a lab, and also have had a huge interest in magnets for several years, and no magnet of that small size can affect anything that far away. So get a small magnet, like a fridge magnet (10 gauss) and a standard compass, bring it over the compass and you can show that you have to go closer than 5 cm. or something like that to be able to control the compass, but it still does not move like it does in the video.” In other words, a magnet small enough to hide in someone’s hairline can’t possibly make a compass needle shift as much as it does in the Uri Geller video.

According to some observers, the YouTube transmitter of the disingenuous video clip is connected with Brian “Sapient” Cutler, ostensibly a young apprentice of James Randi. Brian Sapient is a co-founder of the online Rational Response Squad (and the Blasphemy Challenge), an atheist activist organization that has also posted a video of the Bible covered with dog excrement. Why the mainstream media should side with him and prop up a defamation video for years without first analyzing its actual focus material remains a mystery. In fact, Uri Geller was almost labeled a villain against the freedom of expression on the Internet when he tried to thwart the misleading video shots for being phony and underhanded. In the meantime, James Randi had an asteroid named after him (Asteroid 3163 Randi) by the astronomer Charles Kowal at the Palomar Observatory in California, for disproving claims of the paranormal. Of course, it’s a well-known fact in the global film industry that photographic tricks were used in some product TV spot commercials featuring Uri Geller. Yet Geller constantly rebuffs the accusation of using a thumb magnet to fool his audience, in a way weirdly reminiscent of William Tell’s intrepid defiance –– in the alpine region of Uri.


William Tell’s Second Arrow


Before the media could finally discredit the idea of psychic powers, a British lawyer named Lewis Gordon Pugh suddenly surfaced. Pugh is an arctic swimmer who holds world records for the longest swims in the coldest waters. “New Scientist” magazine recently published a fascinating article, “Superhuman: The secrets of the ice man,” describing Pugh’s severe physical and mental preparation for his gripping cold-water achievements. In 2007, Pugh took a 1-kilometer swim at the geographic North Pole, where the water was 29º F to 32º F (minus 1.7º C to 0º C).



Nearly all scientists attribute Lewis Pugh’s amazing capability to a phenomenon known as “anticipatory
,” which is just a technical name for mind-over-matter. There is little doubt in most researchers’ minds that his talent is actually a psi ability based on “superior mental powers.” Pugh can raise his core body temperature to 101 degrees without any physical exertion. It should therefore be evident that Uri Geller, in a similar way, can raise his core body magnetism. Yet some of the mainstream press today continues to mock Geller while presenting Pugh as some kind of Aryan superman. Uri Geller is Jewish.

randiNot long ago, “Discover” magazine published a short interview with James Randi in which Uri Geller was pointlessly mocked before Israel’s Knesset, referring to derogatory statements that were false. In its most recent issue, “Discover” printed a formal apology to Geller (although you might need a magnifying glass to see it).

James Randi has said he aims to ruin Uri Geller’s reputation. But perhaps Randi should be more worried that a distant person using the name “Randi Schimnosky” is pointing back to his website.

The Schimnosky eccentric is now and again either a woman or a man, who posts on “Mother Jones” and many other message boards concerning sex and atheism. It’s not clear if Randi Schimnosky is a real person, except for a pen name for weird child-sex and antireligious discussions, as well as unsympathetic letters against the church. In one forum debunking radio host Stephen Bennett, a member wondered if Schimnosky was in fact James Randi. Schimnosky irately replied that his or her accuser is “a lying poser if not actually Stephen Bennett.”

Schimnosky’s preferred topic is Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT). In one unsettling post Randi Schimnosky said: “I don’t agree with you that the definition of child abuse is something that is legally actionable.” In another odd post Schimnosky wrote: “N— said ‘LGBT Randi doesn’t think it’s child molestation to keep and view sexual torture porn on the bedroom computer of her ten year old son. LGBT Randi doesn’t think it’s child molestation to have lurid chat with a twelve-year-old, trying to lure them somewhere so you can teach them sexual techniques and have them use them on you.’ Obviously those things aren’t child molestation and you are a liar because you said these two people had molested children. Child molestation requires actual physical sexual contact and there was none in these cases.”

Schimnosky also mysteriously published a bare and vacant blog called “sch957” (http://sch957.blogspot.com/). One might assume the blog title is the abbreviation of his or her name. But in the view of science, sch957 stands for “Polytopes of Type 957.” A regular polytope is a geometric figure with a high degree of symmetry. SCH957 is named after the 19th century Swiss mathematician, Ludwig Schlafli, who characterized regular polytopes in higher dimensions. The catch-22 dilemma is that a search engine listing of polytopes returns a surprising number of links (almost a thousand) to James Randi’s own website. The SCH957 polytope is apparently a mathematical reference to “Asteroid 3163 Randi.”

In 1993, James Randi accused Uri Geller of blackmailing him with a transcript and a tape that appeared to be of Randi having intimate sexual conversations with teenage boys. Randi later said that he had been working on behalf of the telephone company in its attempt to track down a minor who had been making obscene calls. It seems that at various times Randi has said that this tape was made by his enemies to blackmail him, that he made it himself, or that the police asked him to make it in an attempt to track down a teenager making obscene calls to his home.

On May 22nd, 1999, Randi gave a public lecture at Cal Tech, in California. At that time Randi read from a formal statement that he had apparently already sent to some people, and for which he invited others to write to him. This statement consisted of Randi’s explanation for the infamous “Blackmail Tape” and repeated his version of the events that led up to the production of the tape. Randi claimed that he made the tape under the direction of the police chief of Rumson, New Jersey, to entrap harassing obscene callers.

James Randi fearlessly went to the trouble of producing a recording of himself chatting about sex with wayward boys. Perhaps he should also be complaining in public that a wacky sex promoter is using the Randi name on different web forums and cryptically pointing back to James Randi’s “scientific” website.




As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool returns to his folly. (Proverbs 26:11)













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