February 9, 2007
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Something that got right by me, but did not escape the sharp eye of reader Pieter Breitner: My account of Sylvia Browne’s “latest predictions for 2007, including her forecast on weather conditions in your area, the fate of our troops in Iraq, the presidential election, gas prices, and what’s in store for Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise, and other popular "celebrities" contained a possible impossibility…!
Says Mr. Breitner:
I predict there will be no presidential election in 2007.
Well, Pieter, Sylvia certainly can make a prediction in 2007 about a 2008 election, but if it’s of the same quality as her other such predictions, Mickey Mouse has as much of a chance to become president as Tom Cruise does…
Reader Keith Nichols of Dallas, Texas, observes:
I applaud your campaign against Sylvia, and the other charlatans practicing the same scams. After reading the transcript of her session that appeared last week, I'd say she's losing her chops. I think she'll self-destruct soon with no help from the Randi organization. Maybe it's age, or she's just lost her zest for the game. I mean, what I read was mainly Sylvia rambling on about her own problems and misquoting the Bible. I thought "cold reading" required the reader to elicit personal info from the sucker and hand it back. Sylvia certainly isn't very efficient at that. I guess as long as people will fork over money for her company, she needs to be shut down or at least made an object lesson for those aspiring to cash in on similar cons.
We’ll soon be putting up on SWIFT an “mp3” audio file of that $700 Browne reading, so you can experience just how dreary psychics can be.
Consider: the Anderson Cooper/CNN people invited Sylvia Browne – or, as it turned out, her business manager Linda Rossi – to offer them evidence supporting Sylvia's psychic powers. I ask you to remember that this is the very best Rossi was able to come up with; other evidence should pale in comparison. First, we were given a statement of confidence from Mr. Ted Gunderson, a retired FBI agent who Sylvia proudly trots out when an affidavit is required. Mr. Gunderson said:
I’ve worked with numerous psychics in the past and very few are really on target but Sylvia Browne is probably one of the most accurate in the country.
That seems like strong support for Sylvia's marvelous powers, and I must admit that I was unfamiliar with that statement until I heard it on the CNN show. However, I received a communication from reader Jeremiah Reed, which rather more accurately established the bona fides of Mr. Gunderson:
While watching your appearance on Anderson Cooper's show the other day I was surprised to find that you seemed to be uninformed about the total lunacy of Ted Gunderson, Sylvia Browne's alleged FBI connection. In response to Cooper's question about him, you suggested that he was simply unfamiliar with psychics, and needed to "judge these things much more carefully."
But a visit to his website, www.tedgunderson.com/Biography.htm should quickly invalidate his judgment about anything! These are the first two paragraphs of his official bio:
Retired FBI Special-Agent-In-Charge Ted Gunderson has compiled boxes of research and has assembled numerous reports describing unimaginable "operations" of treachery, sadistic savagery, degradation, abuse, and murder inflicted by intelligence agents of the United States government against its own citizenry, especially children.
The kidnapping of children for purposes of prostitution, pornography, high tech weaponry experimental abuse, mind control, child slave labor for underground alien-controlled facilities, white sex slavery, and the satanic ritual murder of untold thousands of American children snatched from the streets and playgrounds of America by agents working for the CIA is the principle reason for the existence of a covert CIA operation called "The Finders". The Finders is one of the most alarming and despicable covert operations against America's children that Gunderson helped to uncover, but it's only one of many covert Gestapo-like acts committed against American citizens by government agents under directives issued not by Congress or the President, but rather by international Satanists collectively known as the Illuminati, who control the Secret or Shadow government of the United States as well as every other major government in the world. The "Finders" operation began in the 1960's and continues kidnapping children to this very day.
Looking a little further into this, I discovered that Mr. Gunderson retired from the FBI in 1979 – before Sylvia Browne had attained any sort of prominence in the woo-woo business. Thus, he never made use of Browne's "assistance" while he was an agent of the US government. I find a certain amount of relief in that fact. His wild-and-woolly website reveals him to be stranger than strange.
Reader Daniel Loxton has a pertinent observation about Browne:
The Skeptics Guide to the Universe discussion brought up a good point that seemed to me like a very effective rhetorical device against Sylvia, simply asking: “Why is Sylvia wasting time arguing when she should be busy apologizing to the family of Shawn Hornbeck?" Surely any person of conscience would be beside herself with remorse, and begging for forgiveness for this horrifying "error" would be highest on her mind. Where's the remorse? Her excuses don't even sound concerned: "Those who negate it after one human error never truly embraced our philosophy anyway and that's okay." Big shrug. Even just looking at her own bottom line, I can't imagine why she thinks a big shrug is a good damage control strategy at this point.
Likewise, her people can brush past the Randi prize with "We have nothing to prove to you, Randi." But the rejoinder seems to me devastatingly understated: "No, you have something to prove to the Hornbecks," or, "Take the test. Prove that this terrible false information was an accident, not a deliberate fabrication."
Even the Holy Bible has a firm stand on such matters, but I guess that Sylvia and her minions think that Deuteronomy 18, 10-13 somehow doesn't apply to them:
There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord...
But we’re reminded from time to time that Sylvia is very religious. Reader Diane Bonewicz sent an e-mail inquiry to the Sylvia Browne site. Now, Sylvia assures everyone that she never reads her e-mail, but apparently someone does, and is not too happy with questions that are hard to answer! The exchange went like this:
Hello, my question is: "Does Sylvia ever plan on taking the James Randi challenge?"
The very succinct answer came back, fast. But it’s the stated qualifications of the person responding, that have to get your attention:
Cardinal Elect/Certified Hypnotherapist
Director, Sylvia Browne Hypnosis Training Center
To relieve you of your astonishment at the “Cardinal” reference, I’ll explain. Browne has a “church” – “The Society of Novus Spiritus,” founded in 1986 – set up. I guess she’s the pope, and folks like Vera can thus aspire to being lesser luminaries, like priests, cardinals and perhaps Vestal Virgins – or saints.
What a comic book strip this would make!
Reader Frank Cossentino has had an epiphany after our revelations about Sylvia:
I had a reading from Sylvia about four years ago and many of the things she has said to others, she said to me, like I have six angels around me and the name of my spirit guide is Michael. It is too bad that people like me who put faith in something like this have nothing really to turn to for answers. I know to you maybe we are all crackpots like Browne and Van Praagh, or even Edward. If you know if there is going to be a class action lawsuit for people like me to get back my money – which at the time was $700, please let me know.
Do you think you will be able to go after the likes of John Edward and James Van Praagh also? It would be nice to know that if they possess a gift of this nature, they can prove it.
Frank, I’ll let you know. You’re only one of several who have made this same request, following our recent announcement of the rule changes for the JREF Challenge, and the expansion of our pursuit of these people. Stay tuned…
Several readers perused the website of the Ukrainian “sun-eater” from last week – www.randi.org/jr/2007-02/020207geller.html#i5 – and one of them, Dr. Hanno Wertal of Linz, Austria, informed me:
Regarding your article in the last commentary, I have read most of the website of this Ukrainian gentleman and interestingly he states that he feeds only on sunlight, cosmic energy, “spays” energy (What is that?) and, well, liquid nutrition. In this case, liquid nutrition is not only water, but
…green tea, vegetable broths or boiling water with honey or with seasoning for fish-soup.
So, I think he is just fasting (and not very strictly) and using his spare time to get some sunbaths, which is certainly a nice way to pass the time.
I thought this line was the best, where he ordered his organs to do as told:
He went out in the yard and applied to his own organs with the order, which hardly made them glad. He said aloud in a not-objectionable voice three times: “We pass to cosmic energy and liquid nutrition!” Organs hear everything excellently, because the brain is a God for them. They heard the order, they felt that they don’t get habitual food, and they began to change little by little.”
Dr. Wertal, though I wouldn’t much like it, I think I could get by on green tea, vegetable broth, honey and fish soup. A surreptitious bit of pound-cake and/or pasta could be slipped in on holidays, maybe. But I’d probably have to chat a bit with my innards, since that seems to be the way the pros do it. Hey, I'm always anxious to learn!
Reader Trevor Dailey of London, Ontario, reports to us that the Supreme Court of Canada has now imposed a ban on testimony obtained under hypnosis, ruling that it is simply not reliable. This, after it has been used for almost 30 years in Canadian courts?
Long-time reader Avital Pilpel does some mathematics for us…
Congratulations on your (continued) exposure of that fraud, Sylvia Browne. But there is another institution that takes people's money in return for amateur medical diagnoses and fairy tales about angels: organized religion! Compared to what they take from the faithful, Browne's $700/reading is charity work. And, at least, Browne doesn't tell her clients to go kill themselves and others because that's what the figments of her imagination want.
Browne's idea of paradise is quite realistic compared to that of organized religion. She only assigns everybody four or six angels, totaling 100,000,000,000 or so – if we suppose every person who ever lived goes to heaven. But Dante saw in paradise "more millions than the doubling in chess" of angels, or more than 264 (1.84467441 × 1019) dwarfing Sylvia’s number. Nor does her paradise contain monstrosities like the angel seen by Muhammad, with
…70,000 heads, each with 70,000 faces, each with 70,000 mouths, each with 70,000 tongues, each tongue speaking 70,000 languages employed in singing God's praises.
That would make about five billion mouths and more than 31 trillion languages.
Further proof, friends, of how difficult it is to make sense out of nonsense…!
But note, please: reader John Darby points out to us that lawyer Benjamin Civiletti, a senior partner in Venable LLP, charges $1,000 per hour for a consultation. He was not only the first U.S. lawyer ever to charge this high an amount, but two years later he is still one of only three or so to charge this much. Sorry to say it, but Sylvia makes Civiletti look like a bargain. She charges – and gets – more than $2,000 an hour, her fee is paid in advance by credit card, and she doesn't even meet her victims; she does it all by phone!
Is there no justice...?
Reader Paul Erickson seems to doubt that God would single out this next momentous and critical problem for special attention. He writes:
I just wish Jesus would quit wasting so much time putting his image on everything from a piece of toast to an outhouse, and would get back to the important issues – like winning football games for Notre Dame.
Paul is quite correct. As an example of this waste of divine time and facilities, it’s reported that dog owner Roger Bowman and his family were planning to get rid of their two destructive dogs, Max and Hercules, until Jesus Christ sent them a signal. This made them quickly change their minds, of course; ignoring such an obvious command would be blasphemy, if not worse. You see, an image of Jesus had appeared in their home's doggie door! Yes, says Roger, he glanced at the holy door, and “It was if He was staring right back at me."
The family said they agreed to keep the dogs after seeing the image. Bowman said, "I mean what are the chances of that. I just can't help but take it as a divine reprieve for the dogs. I can't go against that image."
Yes, I’m sure that God Almighty can ignore the thousands of starving kids, soldiers in combat, HIV victims, etc., etc., to attend to the fate of these furniture-chewing dogs. Perfectly logical.
The Scripps Howard's Super Sage Award is presented each year to the celebrity in their Celebrity Super Bowl poll who picks the winning team and whose score comes closest to the actual final score of the Super Bowl.
Well, as we now know, Indianapolis won, 29-17. Penn & Teller won the Award this year when they named Indianapolis as the winner by a score of 28-17. Question: what “psychic” came anywhere nearly this close…?
Click on tinyurl.com/2hawhq.
Reader Yair Hollander, in Israel, refers us to a video at tinyurl.com/3crkku in which Uri Geller is seen at his very best. Look at the section from 40 sec. to 60 sec. Says Yair:
This video is from the beginning of the [Israeli] show "Uri Geller Looking for a Successor.” He was visiting an old apartment that he said he used to live in when he was young. When Geller came to the balcony, a bird was found trapped there, trying to escape through a closed window. Uri was not startled one bit, and boldly claimed that this was a message from his mother and that there is no question about that. He explained by saying that whenever his [deceased] mother is sending him a message, a bird comes into his house.
Amazing! He is far more sophisticated than Sylvia Browne and the like. They don't have special effects in their quackery.
This provides even more evidence that Geller used this show to promote his silly supernatural message to the Israeli people, as he has around the world. But I have to give him the Quick-and-Tricky-Thinking Award – inventing such bits of mythology so spontaneously, takes years of experience!
Another correspondent revealed an interesting fact that took me back to the time when Geller was trying to sue me, claiming that I cost him a fortune by criticizing his supernatural claims. He was trying to get the Israeli magicians to denounce me and provide him with affidavits that proved I was not being truthful about his actions and background, but he never made a case strong enough to get the charge into court. Over the years, several other magicians have also given me accounts similar to this one. Writes magician Ori Ashkenazy:
I must tell you something that has been on my mind for the past 15 years, and I thought I should share it with you. Back then, when I had a TV program in Israel, I met Uri Geller with a number of magicians. Then, he invited me privately to his hotel room the next day and told me that he had some kind of a problem – a trial with you – and that he needed me to write a letter which would attest to the fact that he never performed as a magician in Israel. I looked at him and said that I had no idea if he ever did or didn't perform as a magician, being much younger than him and having no knowledge of the facts, either way. He asked me, "Do you know that I performed?" and I said, "No." So he said, "Well, could you write that in a letter?" I, of course, said "No" but it didn't stop him from asking me again for it and telling me it would never be too late to get it…
I thank you again for not stopping this fight and pursuing it all the way.
The bad press that has pursued Geller, continues. The following appeared last week. I have inserted asterisks, to which I will refer at the end of the article:
Spoon bender? Big Deal!
Word of "The Successor" has reached the USA, where ex-magician James Randi, considered to be Uri Geller's greatest enemy, is shocked: “Geller deceives people, he brings shame to Israel all over the world, and the trick with the compass? The oldest trick in the book.” Geller: "He doesn't interest me."
By Meirav Crystal February 2, 2007
You are probably fed up with hearing about Uri Geller. He has probably had enough, too. But just a moment. Before he gets on the plane with a few extra thousands of dollars that he earned here and goes to distribute the format of his TV show all over the European market, someone who lives outside of Israel wants to tell you what the world thinks about Uri Geller.
Well, the world doesn't think too much of Uri Geller. Most of them don't know the Israeli mega-wizard. Those who know him, mostly don't know he has just finished a run of his own TV show in Israel. Those who do are not very pleased. Most are professional magicians who are watching Geller with great reluctance and see him call the tricks of the trade, "supernatural powers."
Geller gained many enemies among the world of magic but one of them is considered to be his most accurate enemy, one whose eyes are always open and whose mind is more alert: the famous James Randi, whose name magicians say in one breath with the greatest magicians of the 20th century, Blackstone and Houdini.* If the long-lasting rivalry between Randi and Geller were depicted in comic strips, Randi would be the good magician whose aims are nobler than making a buck, who chases the star, the charismatic millionaire who claims direct communication with higher worlds, in an effort to expose him as a professional. We all suspect that he is correct, but the allure of Geller shines more in the flash of camera lights, and the words he whispers offer us more dream possibilities than the plain gray mirror Randi presents to us.
"An actor does not claim to be Hamlet."
"All the magicians in the USA are talking about this program with great sorrow," Randi says. "Many Israelis sent me mail and told me about how the media is down on Geller. They say they don't understand why Geller did it, why the program was ever aired on TV, and that it is very embarrassing for Israel – which seems to be a true state of affairs, in my opinion. Magicians in the USA breathed with relief when he left for England, and even there people consider him a clown; every time a cow bears a two-headed calf, they call Geller to get his opinion. I think they have a sign in the office: ‘If it's stupid, call Uri Geller,’ and of course, he gives his opinion."
"From all the email, packages, videos, and DVDs that I get, I have accumulated a huge amount – 30-40 tapes – of interviews and programs he did. I have Israeli friends living down at the end of the street here and they had a big laugh when they translated [this material] for me. They nodded and asked, "Why does he do that?" They are very embarrassed by it. I have many Israeli friends, and none that aren't skeptical. It is a very healthy outlook, and not negative in any way. True, most people want some magic in their lives, but they must not be offered lies. Just like an actor playing Hamlet, I am a person playing the part of a magician. An actor does not say he is Hamlet, and I don’t say that I do real magic. Magicians are very honest people."
What do people around the world think of the program?
"People think: Is Israel hanging behind the rest of mankind, where people still believe in magic on street corners, and in casting spells? I don't want people to say that about Israel. Israel is going through tough times anyway and Geller shouldn't add to that. You don't do this sort of thing to your homeland. I think it’s degrading. Those TV stations want to make money, they know that especially after what happened in Israel, people will turn on their TV sets to see if Geller cheated, and you know he will do it [the show]. As long as they pay him, he will. I know the German magicians cannot wait for him to get there in order to expose him.”
So why was it claimed that the magicians on the program were asked to blur their true identity?
"Young magicians are very easily affected. They will regret having been part of this program for the rest of their lives, because they now seem like stupid people. It is sad, and I suspect that Israeli magic suffers from it."
Five-Six tricks and that's it.
[Randi] is 78, has been in the magic business since 14 years of age, and has aided generations of magicians. After years of escaping from straightjackets and drop-in-water-boxes, he retired at 60 and now heads an international skeptical society whose purpose is the sacred foundation of science: shedding doubts about anything. He wants to rid the world of liars, and fights mostly against fake mediums in the USA who offer their help to people who are deep in trouble, and vacuum from them many dollars. He was the first to expose Geller's tricks, and he has written a number of books, among them "The Truth About Uri Geller." He is the person who was behind the failure Geller suffered on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, as can be seen on YouTube.
"It was the only big show where Geller failed, but it was also the only time I was called before he performed his tricks. I made sure precautions were taken and that he wouldn't have any access to the props. Two scientists at the very well-known Stanford Research Institute had declared him to have supernatural powers. When I offered them my help they said, ‘No thanks, you are not a scientist.’ But I always say: when you need to fix a tooth you go to a dentist, not a plumber. You go to someone who has some expertise in the subject. They refused my help, and I thought: Let them make their own mistakes. And they did, much to Stanford's embarrassment. I also exposed him in a Time Magazine article.”
Geller tried to sue you a number of times.
“He did sue me a number of times, but never won. The only occasion when he ‘won’ was in Japan. He sued me for libel, if memory serves right. I couldn't get to Japan, and the judge changed the charge to ‘insult.’ This is not a valid charge in any country other than Japan and China. The judge ruled for him to get one third of one percent of what he had asked for, but then it was all cancelled and I didn't have to pay anything because Geller had to drop the charge against me to handle another legal matter he got himself into, so I never paid even one dollar or even one cent to anyone who ever sued me, and certainly not to Geller."
If it is his system to scare everyone, how come he didn't sue the media here for calling him a cheat?
"He must have realized that it does not work. If they call him a ‘liar’ or something similar, isn't that a good reason to sue? Can't he go to court and tell them, prove that I am a liar? He doesn't do it because he knows that they can prove that he is lying and using simple tricks."
What have you got against him?
"Nothing. Just that he misleads people, he changes their philosophies of life and tries to convince people that there is a supernatural universe and that they should believe in it and in Geller, and I do not think that people should have superstitions. These are not based on actual fact, because as it is we are having a hard time understanding the world around us. Being a professional magician, I immediately and easily recognize what he does. All professional magicians around the world recognize his tricks. The trick he did with the compass is an old trick we used to do at summer camp, as kids. It is such a simple trick it can be found in children's magic books. Mr. Geller has a very limited repertoire. He does no more than 5-6 tricks. He needs to rely on them and he does them all the time, all over the world.”
He gets so many hits, why does he go on?
“He has no other talent! What will he do? He doesn't dance, he doesn't cook well, he doesn't write music – as far as I know – he has no other profession. He’s a spoon bender! Isn't that exciting? How does it lead the human race forward? Has Israel ever gained from his spoon bending? I do not think it has ever done any good for Israel or for mankind. I try to find the virtues in it but I fail; maybe I am shortsighted.
“When I first heard about him, I wrote him a letter and said, ‘You will eventually fail. I can tie you up with an agency that could get you on the road with an illusion show of your own. You have a personality, good looks, and a wonderful accent.’ He never replied. He had his chance to become an honest illusionist but he didn't take it. He could have been a sensation that way, too, but he chose to take the crooked way. It will all get back in his face. We need to live according to our decisions."
Uri Geller in response:
"Is he [Randi] still alive? If so, he does not interest me, because I disconnect from negative people.** I have not looked at him in decades. He is out of my lexicon. A small part of the magicians and cynics and skeptics around the world have done for me what any PR man would charge a million dollars for. They made me Uri Geller. They built the Geller myth and they are the ones who forwarded my breakthrough.***
“They delivered this gift on a silver tray: dispute is a very valuable thing and it was the tool that brought me progress. That is why I send them a huge flower bouquet.
“The people who participated in the show are the best of the best. They have charisma and charm that you can't buy at a magic shop. My aim is to tailor a show for them in Vegas and see if I can make them famous abroad. In the first show I told a very meaningful sentence to Eli Ildis [the show's host]: ‘I don't know what each of them has and I don't mind how they do it.’ What I am after is a show, an amazing and stunning act – and that's what I got."
Daliah Pelled, President of the Magic Club:
"Saying that all the magicians in the world are against the program is an exaggeration. Not one of the 70 presidents of magic clubs around the world, with whom I am in touch, has said anything or attacked me about the program.**** Even mentalist clubs have not presented any protest. It is an entertainment program and the magicians did no harm."
Referring to the asterisks I inserted in the text:
*This comparison with Blackstone and Houdini is very flattering, but hyperbolic. My career has never approached those heights, in any respect.
**I strongly suspect that Mr. Geller is fully aware that I’m very much alive and still hot in pursuit. His attempt to “disconnect from negative people” sounds to me like an attempt to pretend – unsuccessfully – that I’m not here.
***Then why does Mr. Geller send them legal threats and try to sue them? That seems like a strange attitude toward persons who have been so helpful to him!
****Sadly, true. The Society of American Magicians (SAM) was established back in 1902, and Harry Houdini himself served as a president of this group. Their Occult Investigations Committee has been in place for over 80 years, yet they have declined to make any statement about Geller’s pretensions, though it must be very evident to them that he is not part of the conjuring community, and stands squarely against their ethics. Harry Houdini’s ethical stance in such matters has apparently been forgotten…
Last week, when I promised to expose some of the simpler tricks done by "psychics" so that the public would see how abysmally simple they are, I received a few objections from the magicians out there. I assured them, as I assure you here, that these revelations are not going to interfere in any way with the work of professionals who use the art of conjuring in order to entertain. In fact, the magicians will be astonished to see just how crude and inefficient most of these methods are, in comparison with what they use for their audiences.
We'll start with number one, the “moving-the-compass” trick.
As I've said before, this is strictly a kids trick, the kind of thing we used to do at summer camp to fool the new campers; they of course immediately learned it and played the trick on even newer and younger campers.
Note that the compass we’re referring to is, of course, the kind that tells direction, not the device for drawing a circle! Now, the interesting fact about this demonstration is that it works much better with a large, well-constructed, suspended-in-liquid, marine compass of the kind used on boats; these instruments are very sensitive, though they have a "lag-time" so that every small motion of a boat won't cause them to jump about wildly. For that reason, it's preferable to use as large a compass as possible.
An aside: I recall that years ago I was doing a videotape segment at the British Museum in London. A short distance away from the location where we were taping I noted in an entire display case full of marine compasses – most of them antiques. I amused the video crew by causing the compasses to follow my gestures even though they were sealed away behind glass. I must add that I was in possession of the "secret gimmick" necessary for doing this simple trick – that circumstance was entirely accidental, and not at all planned!
So just what is the "secret gimmick"? Well, as most of you will know, all it requires to move a compass is a magnet. Now, at one time it was necessary to have a rather sizable magnet in your possession; nowadays – as you'll see in the illustration – there are easily-available and very tiny magnets that are quite strong enough to affect a compass. The photo shows two of these "neodymium" discs – measuring 3/16” (<5mm) in diameter and 1mm thick, attracting one another strongly enough to stay in place even through the thickness of my little finger – which demonstrates their strength.
A compass will easily be deflected by bringing almost any magnet – or even a piece of iron or other magnetizable material – into its proximity, and it can be introduced by many different ruses. As kids, we used to find it necessary to conceal a magnet under a shirt-cuff or in a belt buckle, but the newer, stronger, magnets can simply be concealed between the fingers – held in place by a bit of flesh-colored adhesive tape – or perhaps taped to the inside of the wrist, where it's very unlikely to be noticed. Any sort of a thimble-like device with a tiny magnet in it would also do, and could easily be placed on a finger or thumb; however, this would be rather cumbersome, and could be easily spotted. Regardless of what method is used, simply moving the hand near the compass will cause all kinds of gyrations, which can be attributed to "animal magnetism," or "psychic" powers.
In the past, I have caused wild fluctuations in a compass while seated at a table with a strong magnet taped to my knee under my trousers. The spectators watch the compass on top of the table, unaware that my knee is raised and is waving about beneath the compass!
To prepare you for a funny episode that I once experienced using a tiny magnet, I must tell you that there exists a specific variety of magnet designed for veterinary use; it's called a "cow magnet," and it's used by tossing it down a cow’s throat. Yes, you read that correctly. Since it's appropriately shaped – smooth and rounded – the instrument makes its way through the cow’s digestive system and eventually emerges as expected. Along the way, it has picked up bits of barbed wire, old nails, and other attractable ingested detritus that might have disagreed with the cow, had it remained in place. Well, that almost happened to me a few years back when I was performing this trick for "The View" with Barbara Walters. I simply slipped the tiny magnet – slightly bigger than the ones you see in the illustration – into my mouth inside my lower lip. The compass deflected appropriately and effectively as I brought my face near it. When I finished, I used my tongue to shift the magnet to my cheek, but it got away on me and I swallowed it! Since it was so tiny, and not at all dangerous to my digestive system, I ignored it. After all, I was prepared with several more magnets, and didn't really need that one any longer! And no, I didn't try to recover the magnet, later!
The excerpt from “The View” shown here shows Uri Geller doing the “moving-the-compass” trick. Note that Geller clearly states here his standard mantra. There are no modifiers, no ifs or maybes, just the clear statement that he is doing something supernatural:
And this is not a trick. There’s nothing on me. There’s nothing under the table. It is an energy I believe we all have.
Notice that the compass moves directly in relation to the proximity of Geller’s head. When his head approaches the compass, it moves; when his head moves away again, it reverts to its regular north-south orientation, as it was before he moved in! I suspect that there’s evidence here that might even be within the acceptance range of a parapsychologist!
The uncomfortable fact for Geller is: If he can really do this demo without using trickery – and that could quickly, easily, painlessly, definitively, be proven! – he would receive the JREF million-dollar award. This is the one hurdle these fakers cannot get over, the one obstacle that they must face repeatedly and cannot get by.
I hope you have been informed and edified by this explanation of an old, tired, kids trick that Mr. Uri Geller has endlessly repeated as part of his very limited repertoire. Next week, we'll explain how to do the trick whereby the performer seems to send out a telepathic image of a drawing, an ESP card, or a symbol…
Last week, rushing to get SWIFT together, I downloaded, edited, vetted, stored, juggled, and otherwise handled the huge amount of text that I have to organize in order to produce this page every week. In the process, I inadvertently failed to credit a correspondent, Chris Calvey, with some text that quite well described what I had to say about a certain item. Now, the Forum watchdogs have begun barking at this innocent error.
Last Saturday, I sent this e-mail to Chris:
I admit, I shamelessly took your comments and dropped them in as part of SWIFT, simply because they exactly reflected my observations. I could have changed the wording, but getting SWIFT together each week – amid all the other duties that keep me here at least 60 hours a week – calls for some corner-cutting every now and then. Mea culpa...
It's 9:08 on Saturday morning, I've been here since 7:30 or so, and I'll be here until late today... This is what I do, I do it for as many hours as I can, and I love it, but I err occasionally as I did by stealing your comments so blatantly… If you want to use this on the Forum, or anywhere else, you're of course free to do so. We have few secrets here, except for a couple of jazzy card-tricks...!
Despite my publishing this earnest effort to explain myself, the Forum has been mumbling about plagiarism, the fact that I straightened out the grammar and form of Chris' text and various other sins, but I assure you that I won’t be losing any sleep over it. Gimme a break, folks.
I think it’s pretty evident, by now, that Sylvia Browne will be the first of the targets we’ll hold up when April 1st rolls around and the changes to the James Randi Educational Foundation million-dollar challenge go into effect. First, she already accepted to take the challenge six years ago, then she reneged. Second, she already has the "media presence" that we require under the new rules. And, third, she has at least the grudging acceptance of certain authorities – who should know better. And, recent developments have brought her into prominence, though in ways that certainly have not made her any happier. As you will have seen from items included earlier on this SWIFT, she and her staff appear to be on the run: despite direct invitations from the TV producers to do so, she has not appeared on TV to face me and to answer my comments, her flunkies are floundering about offering excuses for her, and the excuses on her website are meaningless and appear to be desperate. Robert Lancaster's most effective and devastating blog, to which I refer you at www.stopsylviabrowne.com, has been threatened by Sylvia Browne with a lawsuit – an obvious attempt at intimidation – which just will not work.
Yes, Sylvia is ready to be harvested.
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