When Uri Geller Failed

When James Randi was interviewed by Robin Ince at TAM, Randi regaled us with a story about Uri Geller appearing on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1973.  He was due to bend a few spoons with the power of his mind, and determine which film can out of ten contained some water using his psychic powers. Carson was keen to test Geller, and so phoned Randi for some advice. Subsequently, the spoons that Geller were due to bend were kept well away from Geller and his people, and each film can was weighed down slightly so the one with the water couldn’t be distinguished from the rest. You can see the clip of this below:

Now, I’m keen on people like Uri Geller who claim to have paranormal powers to be exposed, but you have to give credit to Geller for the way he handles the situation. He knows something is wrong straight away, and rather than ploughing on with the tricks, he starts to play the blame game. He talks about being put under too much pressure by Carson, and complains of having “low energy”.

In the end, this becomes a perfect example of why TV chat shows aren’t keen to expose psychics on live TV. The psychic just goes into a shell, nothing happens, and it makes for excruciatingly boring viewing. And anyway, I’m sure Geller would have appeared on another show the week afterwards and performed his parlor tricks successfully, therefore no-one remembers his appearance on the Carson show. In conclusion, exposing psychics is great, but they are tricky and know that giving nothing is better than failing.


  1. ” each film can was weighed down slightly so the one with the water couldn’t be distinguished from the rest.”

    For what it’s worth the film canisters were not weighed down. The bottoms were coated with rubber cement to prevent movement.

  2. lady

    What did he fail at again?
    being truthful?
    Being a good person?
    Being married?
    Being the least qualified for messiah?
    Being charitable and it counting for judgment day?
    Not being bribed?
    Not being scammed?
    Not being used?
    Finding a treasure?

    well never the less we accept people being defective as such we do not need to hide or have secrets or need to fake. Simplicity is power

  3. oaMar

    I remember the live performance. I didn’t find it boring, in fact I found it fascinating. It was clear Uri was lying and that he was caught in the trap of his own making. I have told my youngest son, now 27 years old about it. He asked why Carson was being such a “dick.” I explained that it’s not being a “dick” to expose lies and charades, although it would have been okay for Uri to say he was a magician. There’s a difference. One you admit you’re using tricks. The other is making it seem like you are something you are not. I also told him about Harry Houdini who used to expose charlatans repeatedly.

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