One of the very few new directions in claimed psychic phenomena in modern times. It was first publicized in the mid-1970s by Uri Geller, an Israeli psychic, when he apparently demonstrated paranormal deformation of metal keys and spoons. When these objects were gently stroked or subjected to passes of his hand without actual contact, they tended to bend and often actually break, allegedly by some unknown force directed by the psychic's mind. The phenomenon became known as "the Geller effect, " but is now generally classified by parapsychologists as "Psychokinetic Metal Bending" or "PKMB."
In spite of many demonstrations by Geller and hundreds of laboratory experiments with him and other subjects by parapsychologists, the phenomenon remains highly controversial. However, some of the evidence is impressive. Metal samples sealed inside glass tubes appear to have been bent. Some samples have been bent when held by someone other than the psychic, while bends have been shown in alloys that normally break rather than bend when stressed. Videotape records appear to show paranormal bending of samples not held by the psychic concerned, but it must be said that other videotapes taken secretly have revealed fraud by some metal-benders, notably children, who have become known as "mini-Gellers." Parapsychologists believed for a time that they had found a new Geller in the person of a young Japanese psychic, Masuaki Kiyota. However, in 1984 he admitted to having accomplished his feats of metal bending by fraud.
The British scientist John Taylor spent three years studying the phenomenon, which he endorsed in his book Superminds (1975). Then three years later he retracted his endorsement and announced a position of complete skepticism. However, John Hasted, another British scientist who tested Geller and other claimed metal-benders, continues to support the reality of PKMB. For a detailed study of his experiments and conclusions, see his book The Metal Benders (1981).
The stage magician James Randi has demonstrated various methods of apparent metal bending and also has caused much confusion by planting fake metal benders in parapsychology laboratory tests, to show that scientists may be deceived. One of the most common methods of faking metal bending in tests with spoons is for the operator to surreptitiously weaken the spoon by prior bending, which can be achieved easily with the aid of a strong belt buckle.
Metal bending is a particulalrly spectacular form of psycho-kinesis. In spite of the revelation of fraud in some cases, defense of the ability by some continues among parapsychologists.
(See also movement ; psychic force )
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York: Paragon House, 1991.
Hasted, John. The Metal-Benders. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981.
Panati, Charles, ed. The Geller Papers: Scientific Observations on the Paranormal Powers of Uri Geller. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976.
Randi, James. The Truth about Uri Geller. Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1982.
Taylor, John. Science and the Supernatural. London: Temple Smith, 1980.
——. Superminds: A Scientist Looks at the Paranormal. New York: Viking Press, 1975.