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Observations placeholder

Crichton, Michael - from Travels - Spoon bending



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Michael Crichton, Travels

In the spring of 1985, I was invited to attend a spoon bending party.  An aerospace engineer named Jack Houck had become interested in the phenomenon, and from time to time had parties at which people bent spoons.  I was given a street address in Southern California and told to bring a half dozen forks and spoons I didn’t care about, since they would be bent during the evening.

It was a typical suburban California house.  About a hundred people were there, mostly families with young kids.  The atmosphere was festive and a little chaotic, with all the kids running around.  Everybody was giggly.  We were going to bend spoons!

We all threw the silverware we had brought into the centre of the floor, where it made a great metal pile.  Jack Houck then dumped a carton containing more silverware onto the floor and told us what to do.  He said that in his experience, to bend spoons we needed to create an atmosphere of excitement and emotional arousal.  He encouraged us to be noisy and excited.

We were supposed to choose a spoon from the pile and to ask the spoon ‘Will you bend for me?’  If we didn’t think the spoon would respond, we should toss it back in the pile and choose another.  But if we had a positive feeling about our chosen spoon, we were instructed to hold the spoon vertically and shout ‘Bend! Bend!’

Once intimidated by being shouted at, the spoon was to be rubbed gently between our fingers and pretty soon it would bend.

That’s what Jack Houck said.

People were looking at him pretty sceptically

The party began; a hundred people selecting spoons and saying ‘Will you bend?’ and tossing them back into the pile if the feeling wasn’t right.

Then all around me, I heard people shouting ‘Bend! Bend!’ at their chosen spoons.  A lot of people were laughing.  It was hard not to feel self conscious, holding up a spoon and shouting at it.

I was sitting on the floor next to Judith and Anne-Marie.  They had finished shouting at their spoons and now were rubbing them between their fingers, but nothing was happening.  I was also rubbing a spoon, but nothing was happening for me either.  I felt foolish.  As we rubbed, a gloom descended over the three of us.

Rubbing her spoon, Anne-Marie said, ‘I don’t think this is going to work.  This is silly.  I just don’t see how it can work’.

I looked at her hands.  Her spoon was bending.

‘Look Anne-Marie…’

Anne-Marie laughed.  Her spoon was like rubber.  She easily twisted the spoon into knots.

Suddenly Judith’s spoon began to bend, too.  She was able to bend the bowl in half.  All around spoons were bending.  My spoon remained stiff and solid.  I rubbed it dutifully, but it wasn’t even getting warm.

I felt annoyed.  The hell with it, I thought, I’ll bend it with sheer force.  I tried:  the neck of the spoon would bend of course, but the bowl itself wouldn’t bend.  I was hurting my fingers trying.  I relaxed.  Perhaps it wasn’t going to happen for me.  Jack Houck had said a few people couldn’t bend spoons.  Maybe I was one.

‘Congratulations’ Judith said to me.



I looked down.  My spoon had begun to bend.  I hadn’t even realised.  The metal was completely pliable, like soft plastic.  It wasn’t particularly hot either, just slightly warm.  I easily bent the bowl of the spoon in half, using only my finger tips.  This didn’t require any pressure at all, just guiding with my fingertips.

I put the bent spoon aside and tried a fork.  After a few moments of rubbing, the fork twisted like a pretzel.  It was easy.  I bent several more spoons and forks.

Then I got bored.  I didn’t do any more spoon bending.  I went and got coffee and a cookie.  I was now far more interested in what kind of cookies they had than anything else.

Of course spoon bending has been the focus of long standing controversy…..magicians such as James Randi claim that spoon bending isn’t a psychic phenomenon at all just a trick.

But I had bent a spoon and I knew it wasn’t a trick.  I looked around the room and saw little children eight or nine years old bending large metal bars.  They weren’t trying to trick anyone.  They were just little kids having a good time.  Staying up past their bedtimes on a Friday night, gong along with the adults doing this silly bending stuff……………

The only thing I noticed is that spoon bending seemed to require a focused inattention.  You had to try to get it to bend and then you had to forget about it.  Maybe talk to someone else while you rubbed the spoon, or look around the room.  Change your attention.  That’s when it was likely to bend.  If you kept watching the spoon, worrying over it, it was less likely to bend.

The source of the experience

Crichton, Michael

Concepts, symbols and science items



Activities and commonsteps



Spoon bending