‘I will bombard you with fascinating materials,” Uri Geller warns me on WhatsApp, earlier than giving me a tour of his new museum. I anticipated a wholesome quantity of exaggeration from the self-described psychic, who has for many years claimed he can bend spoons together with his thoughts. If something, he’s underselling the expertise. A 16m (53ft) curved metal spoon – licensed the world’s largest by Guinness World Data in 2019 – sits in entrance of the Uri Geller Museum within the port metropolis of Jaffa, at Tel Aviv’s southern edge. The enormous spoon is a style of what’s to return.
Geller left behind the marble flooring and silk-lined partitions of his mansion in Berkshire in 2015 and moved again to his native Israel together with his spouse, Hannah. Quickly after resettling, he spent $6m (£5.5m) on an Ottoman-era cleaning soap manufacturing unit, and greater than 5 years renovating it and turning it right into a museum.
The seemingly adrenaline-fuelled Geller, 75, runs each tour, solutions each electronic mail despatched to the museum – about 300 a day, he says – and, save for his brother-in-law, is the only worker.
Geller guides pre-arranged tour teams seven days per week however, to economize on safety guards, doesn’t settle for walk-ins. At current, excursions run for about 90 minutes. He guffaws once I ask if he makes cash from the museum: “Come on, actually? At 50 shekels [£13] per particular person? What do you suppose?” He provides that he donates any earnings to a youngsters’s coronary heart charity.
Strolling by way of the door, it turns into obvious that Geller has damaged with the custom of documenting his life in a linear method. Quite, he tells his story by way of his possessions. He appears to have crammed each object he has ever owned into the cavernous gallery, and regales guests with tales of how he acquired them.
“What makes this museum work is, it’s so eclectic,” Geller enthuses. “Have you ever ever seen a crystal that’s 55m years outdated? No. Have you ever ever seen a strolling stick studded in diamonds? No. Effectively, I obtained one from the king of Nigeria. In order that’s what makes this museum tick.”
Effervescent as he’s, he will be irritating to interview. Requested why he selected to return to Israel – his grown-up son and daughter dwell within the UK and the US respectively – Geller replies: “I consider in each Israeli’s coronary heart, in the event that they depart Israel, there’s some type of burning want to sometime come again. I stated to Hannah: ‘Let’s return to Israel.’ And, look, there’s Lewis Hamilton’s cap that he signed for me …”
Guests be taught not nearly his spoon-bending exploits and his friendships with celebrities and world leaders, but additionally about Geller’s artwork of inserting himself into the centre of each story.
Whereas photos of Geller smiling with Michael Jackson and Salvador Dalí attest to real friendship, there are a lot who could be stunned to seek out photos of themselves on these partitions, akin to Barack Obama, Invoice Clinton and Nelson Mandela. Or Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, who’re pictured above their soccer kits, which Geller has additionally collected. Even the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi will get a point out.
Regardless of being the curator of his personal museum, Geller cringes when he explains a few of the images of himself with celebrities from his youth. “I used to be on an ego journey. I used to be after fame and fortune,” he admits. “I had chutzpah and I walked over to well-known folks and I stated: ‘Right here, I’m going to bend a spoon for you.’”
He claims to have bent greater than one million spoons in his lifetime. It’s unattainable to face at any level within the museum and never spot a spoon. In locations, there are holes within the flooring with piles of spoons bursting out of them.
Nowadays, he has a tattoo of a spoon on his elbow so he can bend it if he’s stopped by a fan on the street, however on the museum he offers an precise spoon-bending demonstration on each tour. So, within the hours previous mine, I’m going to a retailer and pick a sturdy-looking, restaurant-grade chrome steel spoon.
I had learn that the key to Geller’s trick is that he expertly distracts the viewer whereas he bodily pressures the steel, so it seems to soften as he begins his performative rubbing of the weak spot he has created.
As I put together to focus and hand the spoon to Geller, I’m immediately distracted by a backward step he takes on to a platform. I lose sight of the spoon for all of two seconds – and from this level, I’m putty in his palms. He holds the spoon by the bowl and rubs the neck. I might swear the deal with appears to be like ever so barely bent, however he says that’s as a result of he has already began to bend it together with his thoughts. Inside seconds, the deal with begins to curve backwards. He locations it on a steel body on the museum flooring, and it bends even additional. It’s a powerful present – and frustratingly onerous to argue with.
Geller has spent years concocting headline-generating capers that usually fall flat, akin to his vow to make use of the ability of his thoughts to assist Scotland beat England of their Euro 2020 group match, and to cease Brexit. Just lately, he even promised to make use of his psychic powers to forestall the Russian chief, Vladimir Putin, from launching a nuclear strike.
Guests mustn’t anticipate to be taught a lot about these stunts on the museum. They are going to see the folder containing the CIA examine testing his psychic talents, however will be unable to learn the outcomes. Nor will they be taught in regards to the work of the late magician and sceptic James Randi, debunking Geller’s claimed expertise, or the Geller-inspired Bent Spoon award, from the Australian Sceptics organisation.
So what’s the goal of his museum? “Folks say I did this for my legacy. Nonsense. I did this as a result of a real-estate agent took me right here and opened the rusted blue door, and I assumed it was a terrific storage place,” he says. He describes himself as a hoarder. “I get a kick out of it – I’m impressed by seeing folks astonished by my issues.”
“Individuals are forgotten in a short time … I definitely gained’t be right here in 20 years,” he says. “Sometime, most likely, I’ll rent an actor – they are going to be taught my tales and communicate and costume like me.”
Geller says he expects to do occasional exhibits and tv work. He additionally lectures up-and-coming magicians, not in regards to the secrets and techniques of his craft, however about how he has “managed to realize this longevity that I’m nonetheless related”.
“It’s loopy,” he says. “I nonetheless blow my very own thoughts as to how I managed to instil spoon-bending into world tradition.”