geller-hotline digest V94 #1

James Randi --- Wizard ((no email))
Wed, 26 Oct 1994 14:27:58 -0400

geller-hotline Digest Wed, 26 Oct 94 Volume 94: Issue 1

Today's Topics:

A correction....
News....
Aliens, Weird Things &...
Movie Review

Administrivia:

The following messages are a little old, due to the moderator
going on a vacation before Randi wrote them. Rather than send
them out separately, I have formed a digest of all four
messages. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Scott

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From: James Randi --- Wizard <geller-hotline@ssr.com>
Date: Tue, 4 Oct 1994 11:05:00 -0400
Subject: A correction....

Dowsing is still with us....
From a Dr. D. J. Fisher in the U.K., I've just
received a fax that quotes an item in the
newsletter of the "Planetary Association for Clean
Energy" in Ottawa, Canada, vol. 7, No. 4. Under
an obituary notice, it says:

"Vincent G. Wiberg, who gathered inter-
disciplinary insight into the physics of
consciousness and won a scientifically
witnessed challenge by the skeptical
magician, Randy."

I knew Vince Wiberg many years ago (my last
contact with him was in 1980) and he was a
"dowser" who did two dowsing tests with me in
Albuquerque, New Mexico.
First, we asked Vince to scan the room for any
water pipes, metal objects, wiring, etc., that
might affect his tests. He said there were water
pipes crossing a wall (none were there, according
to the hotel engineer, later) so we avoided using
that area.
The first test was of his claimed ability to
locate a hidden metal object. He had brought with
him a metal (steel) film can, an object he said
was easily located with his ability. I spread a
bed-cover on the floor, with several pillows under
it. The bed-cover had a design consisting of 8
large squares. To set a "base-line," we let Vince
know under which square the object was located,
for the first 6 trials. At least, that was our
plan; after the first two (in both of which Vince
was successful) Vince aborted the base-line trials
at that point and insisted on going ahead with the
"blind" trials.
I arranged for a third party, a teacher from
the local college, while Vince and I were out of
the room, to choose a random location by selecting
a slip from a set of 8 numbered ones, and to place
the target at that position. We then exchanged
places, so that the third party did not witness
Vince and me at work.
Vince made only 2 "blind" attempts, scoring
zero successes. He declined to do any more trials
after he found that in one case the randomization
system had placed the target at one end of the
bed-cover, which he said was "unfair." (He also
claimed "sleight-of-hand" had been used (?) and
later claimed that he had obtained a 50% success
in 4 trials.)
Next, Mr. Wiberg attempted an "auragram" (his
term) of my body. He said he'd located 8 areas in
which I had medical problems, one in my left
shoulder and arm. He also identified liver and
kidney problems, a knee and a neck problem. When
I said that the only problem I had was a painful
bone-chip on my left wrist, he later said that
he'd used the term "bone chip" and had specified
my left wrist. We have a recording of that
session, and at no time did he say that. And, in
the more than 14 years since then, I've had no
liver, kidney, knee or neck problems.
We had asked a local waitress (a friend of the
teacher) to attend. She had definite medical
problems that we knew about but did not share the
information with Mr. Wiberg until the test was
over with. She was "dowsed" by Vince, and he
found only problems in her lower back and feet.
Since she was still in her uniform and had told
him her profession, we found this a probable
diagnosis. However, this young woman was at that
time undergoing treatment for lung cancer, which
took her life -- as expected -- a little more than
a year after that date. Vince said nothing about
any lung/chest problems.
Vince Wiberg was an honest, self-deluded
individual who, along with several others over the
years who I've put through individual tests,
claimed that he'd won my challenge. He did not.
I'd like to set the record straight -- as well
as the spelling of my name.... I've sent a copy
of this fax to the "Planetary Association for
Clean Energy." I trust that the Association will
properly correct this item. I'll let you know.

James Randi.

------------------------------

From: James Randi --- Wizard <geller-hotline@ssr.com>
Date: Wed, 5 Oct 1994 00:13:00 -0400
Subject: News....

I'll be seen on PBS-TV on October 19th
(probably at 9:00 p.m., but check your local
listings) as part of a series, "The American
Experience." This episode will deal with
"Telegrams From the Dead." Now, I participated
in this while risking "creative editing," the
possibility that my segment wouldn't be used at
all if it was not "in line" with the show's
motives, and the ever-present danger of being
dropped in for a moment as a token skeptic. The
producer, "Rocky" Collins, assured me that these
were not matters to fear. However, now that I
see Ellen Burstyn listed as the narrator, I begin
to wonder if her previous involvement in very
pro-spook, quack-endorsing and I-believe-in-
everything shows might color this one. Well,
we'll see. I'd like to receive opinions from you
folks on this.
Good news: No crank phone calls or faxes
from the intellectual giant "Riley" of late, so
maybe he's found useful employment at last. Too
much to hope for?
The readership of this list continues to grow.
This effective little communication mode is now read
by many thousands of persons worldwide, and if I've
been lax sending out items of late, I apologize. My
good friend Scott B. manages the whole thing for me,
and deserves a vote of thanks from us all.
I've been (a) in Scandinavia lecturing,
(b) in the UK contracting for another TV special,
(c) finishing details on my next book, an
encyclopedia of occult and supernatural terms,
(d) conferring with my lawyer in NYC on our next
step in the Geller brouhaha, and (e) getting
together some very interesting data on two actors
in this ongoing drama. Surprises to come, folks!
I'm told, via Europe, that Mr. Geller has
announced "his" next book will be on "Retarding
the Aging Process." Oh, good! Put me on the
waiting list, please! I'm sure that this tome
will be just as effective, useful and accurate as
the others Mr. G has offered us. Can't wait!
I'm doing my annual lecture for the Florida
Attorney General's bunco group next week. Always
new material, scams and swindles to be informed
of. The sad part is that the scammers are
largely protected by inadequate laws....
More anon.
James Randi.

------------------------------

From: James Randi --- Wizard <geller-hotline@ssr.com>
Date: Wed, 5 Oct 1994 11:19:00 -0400
Subject: Aliens, Weird Things &...

WHAT? Three postings in a couple of days? What's gotten into the man?

I couldn't resist. First, a new book is available, designed for use by
teachers of freshman and sophmore-level students. It's titled

How to Think About Weird Things
by Theodore Schick, Jr., & Lewis Vaughan
published by Mayfield Publishing, Mountain View, CA

(Mayfield provided me with three different addresses so far, so I'll let you
discover which one is the proper one....)
Martin Gardner wrote the foreword. I am only briefly mentioned in
two places, so the book has this minor flaw -- but otherwise it is
EXCELLENT! As I read the gallies, I would muse about how the authors should
have mentioned a certain fact or idea, only to turn the page and find that
it was right there; that's an experience I seldom enjoy in such books.
I highly recommend the book, both as a personal reference source and
as a teaching tool. I can only hope that teachers are going to adopt this
book for either required reading or as a textbook; my book "Flim-Flam!" has
been widely used in the former capacity, but I would be happy to see it
replaced by "How to Think About Weird Things." Sincerely.
The language used is uncomplicated (always a plus) and the grouping
and development of the subjects is clear and provocative. A lot of work
went into planning and writing this most excellent volume and it deserves
your attention.
Slightly sour grapes dept.: After carefully reading the entire
manuscript with great dedication, I sent the authors and publisher a list of
typos and other errors of fact that I'd spotted. For some reason, they were
ignored and my efforts were never acknowledged. Their choice, of course,
but a little strange, I think.
Buy this book. Buy a lot of them. The authors and the publisher
were brave to invest in a book that will not support the current craze for
nonsense, and they should be supported and encouraged. Please.


Another interesting discovery: The current issue of Skeptical
Briefs, vol.4, No.3, September/94 (quarterly from CSICOP, Box 703, Amherst,
NY 14226, $18 a year and worth it) has a cover story by Martin Kottmeyer
extracted from the July/94 issue of the newsletter of the Rational
Examination Association of Lincoln Land (REALL, P.O. Box 20302, Springfield,
IL 62708) dealing with the popular image among UFO nuts of the alien figure
with "wrap-around" eyes, no nose, no hair, no ears. Kottmeyer describes his
search for evidence that Barney Hill (of Barney and Betty Hill/"Interrupted
Journey" fame) just might have gotten that image from a terrestrial source,
not from the interior of a spacecraft to which he'd been abducted. His
account is fascinating, and his conclusion convincing. Read it!

Finally, if you are as fond of Martin Gardner as I am, you may wish to send
him a card on his 80th birthday, October 21. Send cards to:
Martin Gardner
110 Glenbrook Drive
Hendersonville, NC 28739
We all owe this man heavily for his contributions to rational thought and
his copious writings on the subjects of both science and pseudoscience.
He's very shy and retiring, but I know he'd be touched by cards sent by well-
wishers.
James Randi.

------------------------------
From: James Randi --- Wizard <geller-hotline@ssr.com>
Date: Mon, 10 Oct 1994 19:53:00 -0400
Subject: Movie Review

URI GELLER: THE MOVIE

In a stirring film drama titled "Mindbender," famed director
Ken Russell, whose last movie was "Whores," tells a highly
fictionalized tale of the early life of "psychic" Uri Geller, he of
the bent-spoon reputation. This film, expected for 18 years
ever since another director, Robert Stigwood, made noises
about doing it, will finally emerge before the public sometime
this month.
The Jerusalem Report, under their Arts section, has referred
to Mr. Geller as a performer who first began bending spoons in
Israeli clubs some 25 years ago, and "became a national figure
despite the fact that a skeptical local press sometimes derided
him as a fake." This hardly adequately describes the rise to
fame of Mr. Geller, who is even now still believed, by some few
scientists, to have the power to do genuine psychic feats.
In a very candid statement, Mr. Geller tells the Jerusalem
Report writer, "I am not a magician who can constantly come
up with new tricks, and how many times can you see a spoon
bent?" How true.
The film itself shows sequences in a fictitious lab based, says
the article, on "California's Stanford University." This
obviously should be "Stanford Research Institute," now known
as Stanford Research International. Their participation with Mr.
Geller is something SRI does not discuss nowadays. Then, in
the film, Mr. Geller is shown being kidnapped by a mysterious
U.S. military agent (could this be the CIA?) and commanded,
in the spirit of scientific inquiry, of course, to stop the heart of
a human being; Mr. Geller nobly refuses. Lest the faithful
believe this episode to be entirely a fabrication, Mr. Geller
assures the writer that it was based upon his testing at an
un-named location at an un-named time "by an American
agency that I will not name, in an experiment in which I
stopped the heart of a live pig." A pig was used, explains Mr.
Geller, because of the similarity of porcine and human hearts;
that figures. Wowie! Though this episode is not endorsed by
anyone, let alone the pig, I believe it, don't you?
The film even contains an appearance by Edgar Mitchell, the
astronaut who apparently found God on the Moon. Strangely
enough, I'm not portrayed anywhere in the film, though I'd
always thought that Mr. Geller considered me an important
element in his career.... Says the Jerusalem Report article,
"The very mention of Randi's name seems to make Geller's
blood boil." I wonder why.
The writer wrongly describes my standing invitation to the
"psychics" by saying that "[Randi] has so far successfully
challenged any psychic to perform a feat that cannot be
duplicated by a magician's craft." Not so. Since most of the
feats reported to have been accomplished by the "psychics" are
fictional and/or grossly misrepresented, I simply ask that they
state what they can do, under what circumstances and with
what success rate, then do it. Seems simple, doesn't it?
But this "poorly scripted and amateurishly acted" film is far
from the last that we are promised from Geller. His future
plans, according to this article, call for him to "use the
broadcast of the Sydney 2000 Olympics to harness the psychic
energy of two billion viewers, as a way of carrying out global
nuclear disarmament." In fact, in anticipation of the glorious
event, this is the fictionalized scene that ends "Mindbender."
Well, since the psychic energy of any "psychic" amounts to
zero, two billion times zero comes to, lemme see now,
ummm....oh, you do the arithmetic. In the highly unlikely
event that his humanitarian effort fails, he'll be offering for sale
"candlesticks and other household items" made from his
"psychically-bent" spoons and forks. Again, wowie! Put me
down for a few of those, please!
Right now, Mr. Geller's 1967 Cadillac is on display outside
the Israeli Museum, covered with hundreds of bent spoons that
were screwed onto the body by an artist. He is plugging up his
next book, on the subject of delaying the aging process. He
confides that if he'd decided to be a "guru," he "could have
been a billionaire by now." Well, he's told us that he's a multi-
millionaire, and isn't that close enough? He says that some
people prefer him to "live on top of a mountain, or in a cave,
eat herbs . . ." A bit of advice: if you go for that scene, Mr.
Geller, avoid hemlock. It's already been done.

Anon, a bulletin re l'affaire Geller..... James Randi.

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End of geller-hotline Digest V94 #1
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