A new Geller...?

James Randi --- Wizard ((no email))
Sat, 2 Apr 1994 01:34:35 -0500


A group of physicists who are apparently too smart to be fooled (where have
we heard THAT before?) have decided to import to the USA an Israeli psychic
(oh, no, not ANOTHER one!) named Ronnie Marcus. These savants have seen him
do his wonderful demonstrations and have described them in the usual way,
that is, incompletely. Since they have no knowledge of conjuring techniques
they can easily be manipulated by a performer, though they will never be
aware of that fact. "Hey! I'm very well educated and I'm a good observer,
so I can't be fooled!" Sure. And I can sell you the Brooklyn Bridge.
Would I lie?

There will be those who feel I should have said nothing and tried to be in
on the "tests" (actually demonstrations under the control of Mr. Marcus)
that are scheduled to take place upon his arrival here. However, when it
has been suggested to the Astute Scientists who are hosting this wonder that
I be present, Mr. Marcus has vetoed that possibility. (Mind you, these
scientists still think that they're running the tests rather than Mr.
Marcus. "Excuse me, little white rat, how would you like to do this
experiment? The choice is yours, of course!") Though you don't have to be
a PhD Physicist to suspect that maybe Mr. Marcus fears my involvement for
some reason not connected to "negative vibes" or "bad attitude," the Wise
and Intelligent Scientists have bowed to his command, and I'm uninvited.
Others who have similar expertise have also been taken off the welcome list.
And, when the actual expertise of some others becomes known, I have a
feeling that they will join the rejected.

You see, this has come to the attention of that paragon of truthful TV
reporting, "Unsolved Mysteries." The producer is hot to present this latest
Israeli Miracle-Worker to the American public, and since the program is
titled "Unsolved," they want it to remain that way. They will cover
Ronnie's performance, they will name and take selected quotations from the
Scientists attending in their august splendor -- their Phds prominently
displayed -- and the public will gobble it up. And Ronnie? He will return
to Israel and announce that he's been validated by US professors who were
unable to fault the "scientifically controlled experiments" he did with them.

Ronnie Marcus does five main demonstrations. They are:

(1) Hot foil. This consists of Ronnie wrapping a coin in a bit
of aluminum foil and handing it to a spectator (a suitably selected
one who is not informed and unlikely to solve the modus). The
wrapped coin then becomes unbearably hot and the spectator drops it.
Wow! The secret of how to do this if you don't have genuine psychic
powers, is that the performer secretly rubs the foil with a bit of
sodium hydroxide (NaOH, lye) as the coin is wrapped. This produces
a powerful exothermic reaction as the aluminum is etched by the
chemical and the freshly-exposed metal oxidizes. The "ash" that
remains, upon analysis, will reveal the chemicals used. However,
for some unknown reason, Ronnie the Psychic does not allow the ash
to be recovered and always washes his and the spectator's hands
immediately following the demonstration. Good thing, too, because
if Ronnie were using a trick method of doing this demonstration,
sodium hydroxide has a way of turning skin into soap.... More
dangerous, but just as effective, is the use of mercuric salts to do
the same demo.

(2) Levitation of a small match-box. Held in his hands, the box
appears to float slightly above Ronnie's hand. Although I'm sure
that Ronnie does this by his power of mind, of course, this is also
accomplished by conjurors having a loop of VERY fine thread
(invisible to the eye) around the fingers and thumb. Stretching out
the loop makes the box rise. Ronnie allows no examination of the
box while it is floating, nor of his hand at that time, but
afterwards (too late, for a trickster!) everyone is free to look at
everything. To the skeptic, it would seem that passing a finger
beneath the floating box would establish proof, but Scientists/Phds
don't wish to be too curious. Having the miracle is much more fun.

(3) Clairvoyance. Ronnie is able to tell what is enclosed in a
matchbox! The fact that a matchbox can be easily peeked into by
either squeezing it or by secretly sliding it open, has not occured
to the Highly Trained Minds who are accepting this as a divine
wonder, which it might be. And the thought never will cross their
minds. The suggestion that the box be wrapped and sealed with
opaque tape is rejected by Ronnie. "After all, if you don't trust

(4) Advancing a watch. Ronnie causes a watch, placed in a glass,
to advance rapidly. The Big Brains who report this fail to also
report that he chooses to use a watch supplied by a member of his
family, and that it's always the same watch. Perhaps that's just a
watch for which Ronnie has a particular fondness, but a device is on
sale in magic shops which cannot be differentiateed from the one
that Ronnie uses. This trick watch is activated by bringing it
close to a concealed magnet. Since the glass doesn't inhibit the
passage of the magnetic field, it still works. Will wonders never
cease? Perhaps Ronnie should investigate the trick version of this
demonstration. It's a lot easier than what he's doing by Genuine
Psychic Powers.

(5) Twisting a spoon. Ronnie is able to cause the neck of a steel
spoon to visibly twist while held in his (or another's) hand. My
good friend Steve Shaw (one of the two Alpha Kids from years ago)
has a great way of doing this by trickery instead of by Psychic
Power. I'll not go into the details of the trick method, because
these things don't interest Great Scientists who seek Truth but
wouldn't be able to spot it anyway because they don't want to see it.

The first four, above, are standard items of the conjuror's repertoire as
well as being part of Ronnie Marcus' performance. The last (the trick
version) is Steve Shaw's innovation.

So there you have it. Ronnie Marcus will arrive here totally protected from
proper observation, allowed to do things HIS way, IF he chooses to, WHEN he
chooses to, and he will convince more Great Scientists of his powers.
Unless, of course, he decides not to come here at all after learning of
these explanations of how identical wonders are done by conjurors.

And "Unexplained Mysteries"? They will love it all, and will allow the U.S.
public to believe that they researched the phenomena and found no fault with
them. And the public will believe it.

Ronnie's schedule (at this moment in time, though access to the "tests" will
certainly now close up tight) is to be in California on April 4th, then in
Louisville, Kentucky, on the 8th for "scientific tests." I'll keep you
posted as more relatively accurate information is available.

Just for fun: Ronnie Marcus, will you allow ME to be present at your
demonstration of your powers?

I'm waiting......but not holding my breath......
James Randi.