Uri Geller was born in Tel-Aviv, in 1946.

We are in 1972, in the Baylands Natural Reserve, near San Francisco.  In the cafeteria of the Museum of Natural History in Palo Alto, five men are gathered around a table on which there are metal rings, watches, bracelets and a few other pieces of jewellery.  Outside, daylight is fading and dissolving the shadows of the overhead bridges which span the Bay’s marshlands, like miniature Golden Gates.  One of the men is picking up the pieces of jewellery and placing them in the open palm of the man opposite him.  Then he puts his hand on the fist which is clutching all these objects and enters into deep concentration…  After which, he shakes his thick, brown hair and announces that something has bent.  His companion opens his hand and shows a ring that is now twisted into the form of an ellipse.  The four men around him let out exclamations…

Is this a student gathering where one of them is trying out some prestidigitation?  Or a spiritist seance, like in Allen Kardec’s time?  Not at all.  The men are eminent physicists from the famous Stanford Research Institute, which is specialised in research on plasmas, lasers and quantum electronics.  Two of them, anyway.  Another one, Doctor Puharitch, being one of the greatest specialists in the world on the paranormal, and the last one, Edgar Mitchell, the astronaut from the first manned flights to the Moon.

“Hal” Puthoff, one of the physicists, is sceptical.  He doesn’t understand how the young, dark-haired man has been able to twist the ring without getting it mixed up with all the rest of the “baubles”.  The young man, whose face is now bathed in perspiration, takes Puthoff’s heavy, silver bracelet delicately between his thumb and index finger, places it completely flat on the table and lightly touches it with a gentle finger.  He concentrates again, his face contracted and, fairly quickly, declares:

“It’s too thick!  I can’t do it… “

Then he takes his finger off the bracelet.  His companions can’t believe their eyes:  the researcher’s heavy piece of silver jewellery is cleanly broken in two places…

As astonishing as it is, the young man’s exploit does not convince the men of science who are with him.  They are professional doubters, who are as wary of their senses as of the young man’s prestige.  He is perhaps only a clever illusionist…

Mitchell has just obtained important amounts of money for paranormal research and they have met this evening to have a scientific look at the PSI faculties of a young Israeli whom Dr Puharitch has brought with him.  His name is Uri Geller and he comes straight from Tel-Aviv where the doctor has seen him twist all sorts of metal objects, apparently by willpower alone.  He also makes things disappear and reappear in the most surprising places.  Already, the day before, upon his arrival at the San Francisco Airport, Uri Geller had given a small preview of his talents.  Despite his hosts’ reticence, he sat at the wheel of the car of the other physicist in the group, Russel Targ, and with his eyes blindfolded, drove at high speed through the residential quarter of Palo Alto.  Describing along the way the shape and colour of the cars he passed and counting the signalisation panels…

During this first evening, Mitchell asks him if he would accept to enter a special sort of space capsule.  The Israeli replies:

“Of course!  That and other things.  Whatever you want!  If only you knew how much I want to know why I am different!”

Puharitch has brought along a movie camera, and Puthoff decides that the time has come to use it.  He pulls a pack of cards from his pocket.  It is a new packet, still wrapped in cellophane.

“Apparently you have done dematerialisations?”

While the camera rolls, Uri starts shuffling the cards, rather clumsily.  A few fall from his hands onto the table.  His companions then ask themselves if they aren’t victims of an hallucination.  They have the clear impression that some of the cards have dissolved into the table-top…

Puthoff grabs the pieces of cardboard.  They are still all there, but five of them have bits missing.  Which is why the onlookers thought that the cards were melting into the table.  However, a good quarter of each of these cards is missing…  On top of which, it is impossible to find the missing pieces.

Has this phenomenon occurred because our scholars have just spoken to Geller about dematerialisations?  Perplexed, they put an end to the seance.  But they are far from the end of their surprises.  Over the six weeks that Uri Geller spends at the Stanford Research Institute, Puthoff writes that they were daily witnesses of “astounding and marvellous things”.  On this particular evening, it begins again as soon as they are outside.  At the end of the avenue there is a “Stop” sign.  The metal pole which holds it no longer looks like a pole at all.  Whatever it is now, is on the ground:  an absurd object twisted into three complete loops, as if a giant has wrapped it three times around his finger.  The physicists make enquiries and learn that before Geller’s arrival, at the end of the afternoon, it still resembled all the other “Stop” signs…

But Russel Targ and Harold Puthoff are waiting for Uri Geller in a completely different domain.  That of the laboratory experiment, where guinea-pig nudity and the cold starkness of the measuring apparatus will render any eventual trickery impossible.  Therefore, a few days later, here is Uri, in jeans and T-shirt, facing a magnometre in the central laboratory of the S. R. I.  Near this installation is a sensitive sounding device, capable of determining that the medium is hiding no magnet on him.  A video will register the whole scene.  At a given signal, Uri advances towards the sounding device, his arms outstretched and his hands open…  The magnometre needle deviates so much that it indicates a measure close to that of the Earth’s magnetic field…

To be continued.

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