A 1973 CIA study found that Geller ‘demonstrated his paranormal perceptual ability in a convincing and unambiguous manner’ but critics aren’t so convinced
Uri Geller’s first paid job was running errands for Mossad on his bike when he was 13. His father was an Israeli Army sergeant major and he grew up in Tel Aviv and Cyprus surrounded by spies.
His mother ran a Cyprus hotel that doubled as a safehouse for the Israeli intelligence service: “Mossad spies used to stay there and paid me £1 ($1.40) to deliver any post that came for them when they were not around.”
At least, that’s how Geller recalled his life in a 2018 interview - part spy thriller, part showbiz, the kind of sensational story befitting a ‘psychic spy’ and utensil-bender who built the world’s largest steel spoon (53 feet, one inch, if you must know).
It is easy to dismiss Geller as a showman. Born in 1946 in Tel Aviv, he has claimed to be an ambassador sent by aliens from a spaceship called Spectra who is still in contact with ET. He failed to show any paranormal powers during a memorable appearance on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson in 1973.
Yet Geller also served in the Israeli Defence Army’s Paratroopers Brigade and was wounded in action during the 1967 Six-Day War. His paranormal powers were also backed by the CIA after an intensive eight-day scientific study in 1973.
A BBC documentary, The Secret Life of Uri Geller, suggests CIA and Mossad spies have been using his ‘paranormal’ skills for decades, including during a mission to release 100 hostages trapped in Uganda’s Entebbe airport in 1976 and in the bombing of an Iraqi nuclear facility.
The US Stanford Research Institute performed top-secret tests of Geller’s psychic skills for eight days in 1973, according to declassified CIA documents recently released. The tests were part of the Agency’s Stargate program which investigated psychic powers and how to weaponize them.
Scientists used a series of image and word tests on Geller. A scientist would choose a random word from the dictionary that could reasonably be drawn on paper. When the word ‘fuse’ was chosen, the scientist drew a firecracker, then posted it on the outside door of a sealed room where Geller was waiting to draw the same image using only his paranormal powers.
Geller’s ‘almost immediate response’ was that he saw a cylinder with a noise coming out of it, according to the CIA documents.
Geller drew a drum and other cylindrical-looking objects (above) but missed the mark with his drawing of a giraffe (below).
The next word selected by scientists was ‘bunch’. Geller responded that he saw drops of water and purple circles, drawing a bunch of grapes.
Other experiments were purely clairvoyant. Geller failed to draw a rabbit, a tree, and an envelope but came closer when he drew a horse rather than a camel, and successfully sketched a bird to represent a flying gull.
The CIA said it was confident there was no ‘sensory leakage’ and scientists determined there were good results on the four days when there was no 'openly skeptical observer’.
Overall, they concluded that, “as a result of Geller’s success in the experimental period, we consider that he has demonstrated his paranormal perceptual ability in a convincing and unambiguous manner.”
Geller felt vindicated when the top-secret documents were released, telling Britain’s Daily Telegraph: “I’m mind-blown they’ve released this because there are still remote viewing programs active; many intelligence agencies use them.”
“I did many things for the CIA,” he added. “They wanted me to stand outside the Russian Embassy in Mexico and erase floppy discs being flown out by Russian agents. I had to get near someone signing a nuclear deal and bombard him with ‘Sign, sign, sign.'”
No actionable intelligence
Researchers who reviewed the CIA Stargate experiment findings criticized the methodology and accuracy: “A large amount of irrelevant, erroneous information is provided and little agreement is observed among viewers’ reports.”
The Stargate program was canceled in 1998, having 'never provided an adequate basis for actionable intelligence operations'.
BBC filmmaker Vikram Jayanti said Geller has a controversial yet intriguing reputation: “A lot of people think he is a trickster and makes things up, but at the same time he has a huge following and a history of doing things that nobody can explain."