Recently, I described how Uri Geller drove me, while he was blindfolded, through New York’s Central Park.
Pieter Lessing: “For your readers who are interested in reading more about some of the hoaxsters that fooled the gullible multitudes, I can recommend Flim-Flam by James Randi aka ‘the Amazing Randi’ (the same Randi you mentioned March 24). Some amazing episodes, including the ‘fairy’ hoax, that had even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes) believing in little flying nymphs!”
To buy this book from Amazon, click its title above. To buy it 10% cheaper — which, rooting for your financial success (and still being short Amazon stock), I’d rather see you do — go to www.buy.com . (Or save time and money and buy the audio cassette, which is cheaper than the book and will take you less time to read, especially if you can listen to it while jogging when, otherwise, you would be wasting your time thinking about how your knee hurts a little and maybe you should stop — but no, if you start stopping now, at 37, what will you be like at 40?). Or just check it out from the library.
Anyway, Pieter continues, “I’ve got some GREAT news for any of your readers who can duplicate Geller’s feats (but without the cheating part). James Randi has an open offer to pay $1 million ‘to any person or persons who can demonstrate any psychic, supernatural or paranormal ability of any kind under satisfactory observing conditions.’ For full details on the challenge, see www.randi.org/jr/chall.html .”
Pieter concludes that if one of you does win this challenge, all he asks in return is that you become his new stock broker. “I’ll even pay full commission!” he says, perhaps imagining you will know tomorrow’s prices today.
This may appeal to Lorraine. Lorraine, are you listening? Lorraine writes: “Many years ago Uri was on The Today Show. I listened to him, got an old unrunning watch when he suggested it, held it and it started to run as I was listening to him. I didn’t shake it or handle it unduly. It ran for a while and then stopped again, never to run again. It was a keepsake (dated 1925) and hadn’t run for a long time. Then I went to teach a few kids in a classroom, and said, with dice in my hands: “I can make such-and-such number come up.” It did. I did this three times. This had never happened to me before. I figured I had pushed my luck enough and stopped. I’ve never done it again but was amazed and it made a sort of believer of me about Uri Geller’s talents. Even long distance.”
Lorraine, the Amazing Randi would do this better (not for nothing do they call him Amazing), but the kind of thing he’d probably point out is that 10 million other people also watched The Today Show that morning. The odds of your calling — and getting — “six” three times in a row are, depending on how many dice you were casting and how the exercise was set up, small, but hardly infinitesimal. With a single die, the odds are 1 in 216. And think of all the amazing coincidences that didn’t happen that day! Hundreds of astonishing things that you didn’t notice because they didn’t happen. So it may be you were temporarily endowed with, or had found a way to unlock your normally bottled up, supernatural powers. But it may also have been one of those spooky coincidences. (Imagine how spooky — how unnatural — it would be if there never were coincidences. If for some reason you never got the number you called three times running.)
As to the watch, I’m no scientist, so I don’t know. But maybe taking a watch that’s been sitting at a 70 degree temperature for days and putting it in your hot little 98.6-degree hand heats the metal and makes things “creak” a little, as it were, releasing some tiny bit of energy left in the mechanism of the watch. Or maybe Uri has a supernatural force that can extend thousands of miles in every direction and set millions of stopped watches running again, at least while his mind is on it. (But in controlled experiments, he has not been able to do even a small fraction of this.)
Still, if I were you, I’d have remembered this day, and been impressed by it, too. That’s why, when I began writing about Uri, I in fact did become convinced he was for real, and unfairly maligned. My gosh, he had driven blindfolded! I will never forget my impassioned speech to my editor, who was counseling this fledgling young writer not to go with the story, about how he was suppressing the truth! About how I had seen proof with my own eyes! The elephant really had disappeared! (No, wait, that’s David Copperfield.)
Anyway, it’s fun, and 2% of me does believe in a sixth sense we will someday understand better. But I really don’t think it will ever bend a spoon or start a broken watch.
Tomorrow: Whatever Happened to Uri?
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Triumphant wife to down-and-out husband: I've consolidated all our bills into one missed payment.~Frank Cotham cartoon in the October 11, 1999, New Yorker
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