Hasted, Professor John – 02 Spoon bending - With Geller, 5 February 1974
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
THE METAL-BENDERS” by JOHN B. HASTED
First observations with Geller, 5 February 1974
It was already five o’clock. There was a television camera in the hotel lobby, fixed so that anyone walking in would be photographed. I had never seen this in an English hotel, but perhaps one day it will be nothing to notice especially. I was told that the hotel was popular with Israeli airline pilots, who needed security. But it made the evening seem a little unreal to me.
David Bohm and I were on our way to meet Uri Geller, the young Israeli who was visiting England and bending spoons on the television. I had seen his interview on the David Dimbleby ‘Talk-In’ show, and, sure enough, a spoon had apparently become quite soft in his fingers.
I am an experimental physicist, and David Bohm is a senior theoretical physicist; he developed the concept of the hidden variable in quantum theory. We had both come by taxi from the laboratories at Birkbeck College, which is part of the University of London. In my pocket I had four polythene envelopes each containing a brass latchkey, cleaned up and carefully examined for scratches. When I was an undergraduate, my laboratory training in chemistry included months of gravitational analysis, making weighings of chemicals to verify that ‘matter can neither be created nor destroyed’. So I developed the usual skill at handling chemical balances, and thought I would use this skill on the latchkeys. If they weighed the same after they had been handled by Geller, something would be learned.
This was my first venture into anything that could be described as ‘psychic research’, and I think this applies to David Bohm as well. The whole field is contrary to the huge weight of experiment and experience which make up the physicist’s life. The history of psychic research is spattered with doubtful reports and contradictions. What is one to believe?
I made up my mind, as most physicists would do, to take nothing on trust and believe nothing that I had not actually seen clearly myself. What a state of affairs! How fast would physics advance if we had to restrict ourselves to this cautious attitude? The young scientist is taught (in the words of Newton) that he has the advantage of ‘standing on the shoulders of a giant’. What if the giant had lied to him? On the other hand, I had often told my research students to take nothing on trust.
We found the hotel suite and were introduced to Uri Geller by Brendan O’Regan. Brendan is a research consultant who had met Geller at the Stanford Research Institute in America. It was he who at the instigation of Californian physicists Fred Wolf and Jack Sarfatt had persuaded Geller to talk with Bohm and myself. But he was more or less unknown to me, and I thought at first that he might be a colleague of Geller’s; this suspicion was helped by what happened next. David Bohm and I took seats, and Brendan and Uri went off together for a minute or so. I wondered what they could be cooking up, and tried to think how I could keep my eye on Brendan as well as Uri. But when they returned, Brendan kept well in the background, whilst Uri sat between David and myself around a plastic-topped wooden coffee table; I had already looked underneath the table and found nothing there. After all, spoons do not bend when they are stroked, and people were already saying that Geller was a very clever conjuror.
There was another scientist present – Dr Ted Bastin; he had with him a piece of electronic equipment which was not working; Uri Geller put his hands on it and tried to heal it but without success. I had the impression that Uri was rather nervous and unsure of himself in the presence of a new crop of scientists (he had already spent some weeks working with physicists at the Stanford Research Institute in California). So we started by talking about what Geller had been doing at Stanford, and after that he tried to receive telepathic messages from us.
We drew pictures on paper, which he could not see and he tried to guess what they were; but I had already decided that I would not investigate claims of telepathy at all seriously, since I had no experience, and the conditions were poor. I was waiting for the opportunity to produce my latchkeys. I judged that Geller had to be feeling confident before he would agree to try. I also wanted to make sure that the conditions were just right, so that David Bohm and I could get a really close-up view. I hoped that nothing would go wrong, and although I was in a mood of suspense, I tried not to let this be communicated to the others.
At length Geller said he would try, and asked for a hotel spoon. But I produced two latchkeys in polythene bags before he had a chance. I took them from the bags and laid them on the table.
Many spoons are so weak that anyone with moderately strong hands might bend them. But latchkeys, particularly the large ones issued by the Automobile Association, are much tougher, and I know few people who can bend them between the fingers; it is, however, not very difficult to bend them with one hand pressed against a hard surface. Also I knew all about my latchkeys, and my knowledge of the weights would enable me to test for chemical corrosion and abrasion.
Geller was quite happy with the keys, and at once took one in each hand, holding it lightly between the forefinger and thumb; I did not take my eyes off them once, not even for a moment. I can affirm that I did not see Geller’s other fingers touch the keys (except at pick-up) and that he did not move them more than about an inch from the table surface; they were in my field of vision the whole time. Nothing happened for about forty seconds, and then Geller put the keys flat on the tables about two inches apart and stroked them gently, one with each forefinger. All the time Geller was talking, but I never took my eyes off the two keys and I am certain they never left the table for a surreptitious bend to he performed. After one more minute’s stroking, the end of each key started to bend slightly upwards, one (the one stroked by his right forefinger) distinctly more than the other. The angles were 11 degrees and 8 degrees, as measured afterwards.
Geller picked up one key and held it a few inches above the table to see if it would bend further, or if the metal would soften extensively. But no more bending took place that I could see, and when Geller handed me the key I quickly put it back in the polythene bag and into my pocket. It was not even warm. During the entire time this key had spent out of the bag its movements had been very simple; table, Geller’s forefinger and thumb, table, pick-up by Geller, handed to me, back to the bag. I am quite sure that I did not take my eyes off this key or the other, and I am quite sure that Geller’s handling of the keys was light and gentle. Although the operation had taken little more than two minutes, the strain of the close observation was beginning already to tell on me. I do not think that I could have continued at this intensity for very much longer.
The other key had only a smaller bend; Geller tried by stroking to get it to bend further. We took it into the under a running tap, but to no avail. It remained only slightly bent, and it is my opinion that all of this slight bend (8 degrees) had the table during the stroking. I dried the water off and put the key back in the polythene bag; we said goodbye to Uri Geller, who was happy about what had happened. He promised to come to our laboratory when he returned to England, and David Bohm and I went off into the hotel lobby, past the television camera and out into the street. Altogether we had been in the hotel for an hour and a quarter.
We caught a taxi straight back to the chemistry laboratory where I had use of a balance, and I weighed both keys; next morning I weighed them again. Within the reproducibility which I was getting, there was no change of weight:
AA key EFG key
Morning 12.3264 g 12.5023 g
Afternoon 12.3267 g 12.5024 g
After bending 12.3265 g 12.5013 g
Next morning 12.3271 g 12.5023 g
One reason why I carried out this weighing routine was that I had heard that paranormally bent or fractured specimens had sometimes lost weight. This might be attributed to corrosion by chemicals or to scratching or chipping; but if normal causes were ruled out, something most peculiar must have happened. Metal can be changed chemically, or vaporized, or filed away, but it cannot just disappear, unless it is converted into energy, as in a nuclear reactor. But I now had evidence that this bent key did not lose appreciable weight. I was later to repeat the weighing – paranormal bending – weighing observations more than twenty times, and with one unreliable exception, no specimen was found to have lost or gained in weight.
More recently a weight loss of 0.03 g has been reported by Dr Sachiro Okada at Tokyo University in a spoon bent by Jun Sekiguchi: this report remains unique.
This was my personal introduction to the metal-bending phenomenon, and whilst it is obviously not worth very much on its own, the conditions of the observation were sufficiently good for me to claim that a conjuror could not duplicate exactly what I reported. But no attempt was made to video-record the events, so that all we have as a permanent record is my own testimony and that of the other physicists present.(5) Such testimonies are perhaps not worth very much in isolation, but when similar reports accumulate, as they have done, they amount to more than video-records.