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‘I’m still blowing my own mind!’ Uri Geller on spoon bending, showbiz and the museum he built for his own life

‘I will bombard you with interesting material,” Uri Geller warns me on WhatsApp before showing me around his new museum. I expected a healthy exaggeration from the self-proclaimed psychic who has claimed for decades he can bend spoons with his mind. If anything, it undercuts the experience. A 16m (53ft) curved steel spoon — certified as the world’s largest by Guinness World Records in 2019 — stands in front of the Uri Geller Museum in the port city of Jaffa, on the southern outskirts of Tel Aviv. The giant spoon is a foretaste of what is to come.

Geller left the marble floors and silk-lined walls of his Berkshire mansion in 2015 and moved back to his native Israel with his wife Hannah. Shortly after relocating, he spent $6 million (£5.5 million) on an Ottoman-era soap factory and spent more than five years renovating it to turn it into a museum.

The seemingly adrenaline-pumping Geller, 75, leads every tour, answers every email sent to the museum — about 300 a day, he says — and is the only employee aside from his brother-in-law.

The world's largest steel spoon, 16m long and certified by Guinness World Records.
The world’s largest steel spoon, 16m long and certified by Guinness World Records.

Geller runs pre-arranged tour groups seven days a week but doesn’t accept walk-ins to save money on security staff. Tours currently last around 90 minutes. He laughs when I ask him if he makes money from the museum: “Come on, really? At 50 shekels [£13] per person? What do you think?” He adds that he donates all profits to a children’s hearts charity.

As he steps through the door, it becomes clear that Geller has broken with the tradition of documenting his life in a linear fashion. Rather, he tells his story through his possessions. He seems to have stuffed every object he’s ever owned into the cavernous gallery, and entertains visitors with tales of how he acquired them.

“What sets this museum apart is its versatility,” enthuses Geller. “Have you ever seen a crystal that is 55 million years old? no Have you ever seen a walking stick studded with diamonds? no Well I got one from the King of Nigeria. So that is what this museum is all about.”

Effervescent as he is, interviewing him can be frustrating. When asked why he decided to return to Israel – his adult son and daughter live in the UK and US respectively – Geller replies: “I believe in every Israeli’s heart when they leave Israel there is a burning desire to leave one day Come back. I said to Hannah, ‘Let’s go back to Israel.’ And lo and behold, there’s Lewis Hamilton’s hat that he signed for me…”

The Uri Geller Museum in Tel Aviv.
The Uri Geller Museum in Tel Aviv.

Visitors will learn not only about his spoon bender exploits and his friendships with celebrities and world leaders, but also about Geller’s ability to place himself at the center of every story.
While pictures of Geller smiling with Michael Jackson and Salvador Dalí speak of genuine friendship, there are many who might be surprised to find pictures of themselves on these walls, such as Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela. Or Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi pictured above their football shirts, which Geller also collected. Even the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi is mentioned.

Despite being the curator of his own museum, Geller cringes when explaining some of the photos of himself with celebrities from his youth. “I was on an ego trip. I was after fame and fortune,” he admits. “I had chutzpah and would walk up to famous people and say, ‘Here, I’ll bend a spoon for you.'”

Geller shows off the tattoo on his arm - he bends it when fans on the street ask him to bend a spoon.
Geller shows off the tattoo on his arm – he bends it when fans on the street ask him to bend a spoon.

He claims to have bent over a million spoons in his lifetime. It is impossible to stand somewhere in the museum and not discover a spoon. In some places there are holes in the ground from which piles of spoons burst out.

These days he has a spoon tattooed on his elbow so he can bend it if he’s stopped by a fan on the street, but at the museum he gives an actual spoon bending demonstration on every tour. So, in the hours before mine, I walk into a store and pick out a sturdy-looking, restaurant-quality, stainless-steel spoon.

I had read that the secret of Geller’s trick is that he skillfully distracts the viewer while he physically presses the metal so that it appears to melt as he begins the performative rubbing of the vulnerability he has created.

As I prepare to focus and hand Geller the spoon, I’m immediately distracted by a backward step he’s taking onto a platform. I lose sight of the spoon for a full two seconds – and from that point I’m putty in his hands. He holds the spoon to the bowl and rubs his throat. I could swear the handle looks ever so slightly bent, but he says that’s because he’s already started bending it with his mind. Within seconds, the handle begins to curve backwards. He sets it on a metal frame on the museum floor and it bends even more. It’s an impressive show – and frustratingly difficult to deny.

Geller spent more than five years and £5.5million restoring the old soap factory which is now his museum.
Geller spent more than five years and £5.5million restoring the old soap factory which is now his museum.

Geller has spent years making headlines that often backfire, such as his vow to use the power of his mind to help Scotland beat England in their Euro 2020 group stage game and stop Brexit. He even recently vowed to use his psychic powers to stop Russian leader Vladimir Putin from launching a nuclear strike.

Visitors shouldn’t expect to learn much about these stunts at the museum. They see the folder with the CIA study testing his psychic abilities, but cannot read the results. You also won’t learn about the work of the late magician and skeptic James Randi debunking Geller’s claimed abilities, or the Geller-inspired Bent Spoon Award from the Australian Skeptics Organization.

So what is the purpose of his museum? “People say I did this for my legacy. Nonsense. I did this because a real estate agent brought me here and opened the rusted blue door and I thought it would be a great place to camp,” he says. He describes himself as a hoarder. “It’s fun for me – I’m inspired when I see people amazed by my stuff.”

“People will forget very quickly… I certainly won’t be here in 20 years,” he says. “One day I’ll probably hire an actor — they’ll learn my stories and speak and dress like me.”

Geller says he expects to do occasional shows and television work. He also doesn’t lecture aspiring wizards about the secrets of his craft, but how he “managed to gain that longevity that I’m still relevant.”

“It’s crazy,” he says. “I’m still blown away by how I managed to introduce spoon bending into world culture.”

The Uri Geller Museum in Tel Aviv is open to groups for pre-booked tours

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