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Debunkers’ Group Targets ‘Trance Channeling,’ Uri Geller

April 4, 1987

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) _ A group of skeptics renewed attacks Friday on spoon-bending psychic Uri Geller, and dared ″trance channelers″ to prove they speak with spirits, as actress Shirley MacLaine and others claim.

″Uri Geller is back again making claims of psychic powers. Geller is a magician, and as far as we can tell, he has no psychic powers,″ said Paul Kurtz, a State University of New York philosophy professor and chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.

Kurtz spoke as about 1,200 scholars, scientists and others gathered for CSICOP’s two-day national conference, which is aimed at debunking astrology, fortune-telling, extra-sensory perception and other supernatural claims.

Geller’s claims that he used his mental powers to bend keys and spoons were widely publicized in the early 1970s, when he also came under fire from CSICOP. His new book, ″The Geller Effect,″ asserts he used his psychic abilities to become rich locating oil and gold deposits.

Geller, reached by telephone in New York, insisted his powers are real and said he ″loves″ CSICOP ″because they’re my free publicity department.

″I will always be happy and glad to hear their comments about me and my powers as long as they promise to spell Uri Geller correctly... I’m rich and famous because of them.″

Geller’s book includes a section about the skeptics ″and exposes their lies,″ he said, adding, ″in the long run, the truth always wins.″

The skeptics also took aim at ″the latest New-Age fad of ’trance channeling,‴ in which mediums enter trances to communicate with and act as ″channels″ for unseen ″entities.″

Miss MacLaine’s 1985 book, ″Dancing in the Light,″ told how the actress explored her ″past lives″ with the help of J.Z. Knight, a Yelm, Wash., housewife who claims to be the channel through which Ramtha, a 35,000-year-old warrior, speaks his wisdom - for a $400 fee.

″The burden of proof is on those who claim they can channel,″ said Cornell University astronomer-author Carl Sagan, a member of the skeptics group. ″If she claims to be in touch with somebody who lived 35,000 years ago, I’d be interested in a detailed description of what he’s eating and comparing that to what archaeologists know.″

In a statement issued by spokesman Les Sinclair, Knight replied: ″Isn’t it wonderful we have a society which allows us freedom of speech, movement, ideas and beliefs.″ She also said it was wonderful the skeptics ″can attain national media attention which allows them fame and glory. God bless them.″

CSICOP has spent years debunking reports of flying saucers, the Loch Ness mgnster, the Bermuda Triangle and the Big Foot creature.

The group Friday renewed its call for the Vatican to submit to scientific examination the Shroud of Turin, a piece of cloth that some believe bears the image of Jesus Christ and was used to wrap his body after his crucifixion.

Sagan said at one session that intelligent life almost certainly exists in outer space. Another session dealt with reports that people had burst into flames spontaneously.