We may know him for spoon bending antics and for his lengthy friendship with pop star Michael Jackson but showbiz psychic Uri Geller has seemingly had a lengthy second career as a secret agent for Mossad and the CIA, albeit one that was more Austin Powers than James Bond.
Geller was at the Sheffield Doc Fest this week for the premiere of Vikram Jayanti’s The Secret Life Of Uri Geller – Psychic Spy?, a new film that offers compelling evidence of his involvement in the shadowy world of espionage.
“Uri has a controversial reputation. A lot of people think he is a fraud, a lot of people think he is a trickster and makes things up but at the same time he has a huge following and a history of doing things that nobody can explain,” Jayanti says of his Zelig-like subject.
Speaking to The Independent, Geller acknowledged alarm when he first saw Jayanti’s documentary.
“I was worried and I am still concerned,” Geller said of the way the documentary outs him as a spy. “I didn’t realise that Vikram was going to do such a thorough job of tying all the loose ends…making that the little hints I dropped throughout my career were real.”
When he signed up for the doc, the psychic didn’t realise quite how diligently Jayanti would track down his old spy masters. Nonetheless, he is happy that the doc is showing “a serious side” to him. “Some countries think I am a freak, bizarre, an eccentric,” he sighs.
On camera and in interview, Geller still remains coy about his espionage activities. Nonetheless, the psychic acknowledges that his handlers once asked him to use telepathy to stop a pig’s heart. He refused, knowing that if he had succeeded, the next target would almost certainly have been a human.
“I tried to execute missions that were positive,” Geller claims. “I said ‘no’ to dark things.”
Jayanti didn’t rely on Geller’s own cryptic testimony. Instead, he spoke to the high-level officials involved in recruiting and using him. These include scientists from The Stanford Research Institute as well as senior CIA operatives. Among the interviewees with first hand knowledge of Geller’s psychic spying activities are former CIA officer Kit Green, Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell (the sixth man to walk on the moon), physicists Russell Targ and Hal Puthoff, and retired US army colonel John Alexander (of The Men Who Stared At Goats fame). A Brit, Nick Pope, once the British Government’s UFO boffin, also puts in an appearance. We also learn about Geller's stint as a psychic bodyguard for Mexican President Jose Lopez Portillo.
The doc leaves a question mark in its title but provides so much background evidence that we are left in little doubt that even its most outlandish assertions are rooted in truth. Whether or not Geller had psychic powers, US security forces were certainly prepared to take a very hefty wager on him.
It is inferred that Geller attempted to use his psychic powers to disable radar during the “raid on Entebbe,” when Israeli commandos stormed a hijacked plane.
The spoon bender also used his mind powers to try erase the contents of floppy discs being carried back to Russia by Soviet diplomats in Mexico and to convince a Russian minister to sign a nuclear arms reduction treaty. (Geller is pictured alongside the minister flanked by a youthful and grinning US Vice-President Al Gore.)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears in the doc, testifying to his many years of friendship with Geller.
Jayanti’s thesis is that Geller was recruited as the US security forces were caught up in “psychic arms race” with their Soviet rivals, who were almost certainly bluffing about the strength of their own psychic warriors.
“When Jimmy Carter was elected President, one of the first things he did was to have Uri Geller give him a four hour briefing on the Soviet psychic threat. America didn’t want a psychic gap and Uri was the go-to guy about these things,” Jayanti said. “Sometimes, you wonder whether Uri’s entire public career has actually been a front for his shadow world activities.”
After 9/11, Geller was apparently “re-activated” as a psychic spy.
The key formative event in Geller’s youth appears to have been his near-death experience while fighting for the Israeli army during the Six Day War. He came face to face with a Jordanian soldier and shot him to save his own life.
“Out of the entire war, that one incident, that split second of killing another human being, left me scarred and I definitely have recurring nightmares about that. I learned to live with it,” Geller tells me. “When I woke up in hospital in Jerusalem, I realised what I had committed…that soldier is embedded in my soul now. He is like my brother. That is the way I feel. Although these recurring nightmares are such that he comes and grabs me and says what did you do to me, I still feel his soul is in my soul.”
Although Geller is coy about how he helped the Mossad, he had one revealing anecdote about Israeli military leader Moshe Dayan in a restaurant.
“He (Dayan) was an avid collector of archaeological items, very ancient ones, four, five six thousand years old. They’re all around Israel. When he met me and saw my powers, the first question he asked me, after the serious questions of military use and all that…was ‘Uri, do you think you can find for me some archaeological artefacts with your powers.’ I said, ‘You know, Moshe, I’ve never done it but let’s try!’”
This led to various late night trips when Geller would take Dayan with him as he went dousing for ancient relics. “I found quite a few things for him. He loved it. He used to collect them in his garden.”
Spying for the CIA is one thing, football another. In Sheffield, Geller belatedly offered his apologies to the Scottish people for using his psychic powers from a helicopter above Wembley to try to make the ball move before Gary McAllister took his fateful, missed penalty against England during the Euro 1996 tournament. He acknowledged that was one occasion when he had most definitely crossed ethical lines.
“I then realised after I got hate letters, hundreds and hundreds from Scotland, that it was absolutely and utterly unethical,” Geller confessed. “Guess what, I bought a Scottish island. I made up with Scotland. I am an owner of a Scottish island. That, to me, means I am partially Scottish.”
(The Secret Life Of Uri Geller – Psychic Spy? Was a premiere at the Sheffield Doc/Fest and will be broadcast by the BBC later in the year.)