Bend it Like Geller by Ben Harris
Ben Harris has released a new book tracking the genre of bending metal across fifty years and 221 pages (he even teaches some techniques along the way.)
The quality of this book is exceptional. It has a thick hard cover, vivid illustrations, high quality paper, and full page chapter headings. VI is the absolute best book creator in the magic market. No one makes them like they do. This book is beautiful and hefty. Let’s dive into the content.
The introduction begins, “First and foremost, this book is a celebration. Key-bending, spoon-bending, and coin-bending; the amazing world of metal-bending has now been part of the magical and mystical landscape for 50 YEARS! The impact of Uri Geller’s concept of Psychic Metal Bending has been profound, continuing to permeate our culture–to this day–across books, movies, music, and art. But how did this occur? What makes “metal-bending” such a seductive concept for both magicians and their audiences? Bend It Like Geller attempts to answer these questions…” This is a lovely summation of what this book hopes to achieve. This introduction also requests the reader to read the book from beginning to end as the book is written in chronological order.
Part One: Enter Starman
This part zooms in on the day Psychic Spoon Bending was born. Being in magic for as long as I have, I have obviously heard of Uri Geller and watched some of his clips, and I knew he claimed to be “the real deal,” but I had no idea the whole concept of psychic spoon bending started with him. It’s rare for a magic genre to be able to be traced back to the exact moment it was born, but with metal-bending it can be identified to the year, month, and day: November 23rd, 1973. The day Uri Geller appeared on The Dimbleby Talk-In show. This moment literally created an entire genre that has not only gtreatly influenced magic, but has become a pop culture reference. Ben shares his experience as a fourteen-year-old watching Uri’s appearance; he never thought he was watching a magic performance. Neither did the rest of the world. Ben even successfully bent a spoon with the power of his mind at home! Experiences like this were happening all over the globe anytime Uri appeared. The demonstration on the Dimbleby show was verified by a couple of scientists, and Ben uncovers who these scientists were and sheds some light on their past and why they may have been so quick to believe. This section also introduces us to James Randi who was one of the biggest skeptics to Uri’s claims. Magicians wanted to be part of this craze, so they created methods to emulate what Uri did. This leads us to Part Two.
Part Two: Look and Learn
This section exposes us to some of the methods early magicians used to duplicate Uri’s feats. Ben introduces us to the structure of a metal-bending effect which includes 3 parts to make it deceptive: inflicting the bend, concealing the bend, revealing the bend. This explanation is supported by quotes from magicians and skeptics who saw Uri’s demonstration in the flesh.
The early methods - These early methods were gritty, to the point, and bold. This includes an illustration who shows how easy it is to convince someone that a key bends before their eyes.
Keys: Inflicting the secret bend - Four methods of secretly bending a key are discussed. All of the bends happen very quickly, and they are all impromptu.
Concealing the secret bend - This is pretty obvious with a key, but it is explained in detail.
Revealing the secret bend - Three methods are taught. The first is a visual bend, the second allows the key to “keep bending” while it’s held out in the open, and the third bend happens in the spectator’s hand.
Additional Techniques - This discusses the idea of using coin slights with a pre-bent key to affect the bend.
Spoons: Inflicting the secret bend - Three techniques are taught. There’s good variations here which will ensure you can bend the spoon even if you have weak hands. They are the “classic” techniques you think of when it comes to spoon bending.
Concealing the secret bend - There are two techniques taught. One for while you’re holding the spoon, and one for while you’re revealing the bend.
Revealing the secret bend - Five bends are taught. The first is a “freebie” where you can show a spoon is bending before any work has been put in. The second happens while the spectator holds the bowl of the spoon. The next bend allows you to slowly bend a spoon as if it’s melting lik ebutter. The fourth bend happens in a flash–the spoon appears to go from straight to bent in an instant. The last bend causes the spoon to continue bending against gravity.
The melting spoon - This is a staple in most spoon bending routines. The spoon gets soft and plasticy allowing it to bend very easily, then the spoon “melts” in two as it is being shaked. This goes over how to prepare the spoon, conceal the prep, and make the break happen.
Part Three: Deep Thought
This part discusses the remote bending gambit in depth and looks at why so many people have experienced their own metals items bending or broken watches working again from the comfort of their own homes. This is something you can put into practice even if you perform in large theatre venues–as long as you can build the belief.
Part Four: Evolution
This sections discusses how magicians have taken Uri’s techniques and made them easier and sure fire. Ali Bongo was the first to introduce a device made for making the initial bending of a key easier. A few other products that followed are mentioned. Dr. Hiroshi Sawa’s trick “Gary Ueller” is also discussed. In it, a spoon is broken and restored. This gimmick led to the creation of many variations over the decades. His method is taught. Geoffrey Latta took this gimmick and used it to give the appearance of a bend. This is also taught. This section wraps up with how Ben imagined the gimmick would be used to affect a bend illusion.
Part Five: Reflections
This section gets various performer’s perspectives on spoon bending and Uri Geller. We get lovely essays from Pablo Amira, David Berglas, Richard Busch, Drew McAdam, Alain Nu, Richard Osterlind, Steve Shufton, and Peter Turner. David Berglas and Drew McAdam provide my favorite essays. Both give us a better idea of who Uri is as a person, and there is no dobt, he is an amazing person with a kind soul. Every person who has ever met Uri seems to rave about his charisma and charm, and from reading these accounts, it’s clear why. Richard Osterlind’s is also a fascinating read; he tips a method to help bend thick spoons with ease in performance. Steve Shufton teaches how to get two or three apparent bends out of a spoon even though you have only put in one initial bend.
Part Six: New Visuals
This section introduces us to Steve Shaw (Banachek) and Mike Edwards who were part of “Project Alpha.” A project which hoped to expose the lack of tight conditions when testing “psychic powers.” Banacheck was the first to perform the twisted spoon.
The Twisted Spoon - Now a staple in spoon bending routines, before 1982, it had never been done. Banacheck discovered it and began implementing it immediately. Ben walks you through how to set it up and then explains two methods for revealing the twist. One happens in the spectator’s hands, and one happens visually in the performer’s hands.
The Tine Bend - This was also introduced by Banachek. Ben teaches how to put in the bend and how to reveal it.
Pace and Tempo - The way spoon bending is presented has changed over time to match the speed of the 21st Century. Morgan Strebler is one example of a performer who has turned this into a fast paced frenzy with his routine Liquid Metal published in 2004. Guy Bavali’s material is also mentioned.
Part Seven: Parallel Paths
Here Ben explores some parallel paths to bending metal other than what has already been discussed.
Raised Temperatures - This section discusses the concept of memory metal and gives some history on applying it to a fork. Ben recommends a self bending key and self bending fork which he feel strike a nice balance between having the required properties and still feeling genuine.
Tubular Bends - These bends take a concept from 1939 and apply it to silverware to create bends that are virtually automatic and can appear to defy gravity by bending upward. Ben explains how to make it at home and provides two different ways of using the tubular gimmick.
Coin Bending - Ben suggests coin-bending is the current rage because coins are more common than extra keys. Ben gives a method to bend a coin and provides a few ideas for revealing the bend including visual approaches and an “in-their-hands” method.
Novel Mutations - This briefly describes a plethora of novelty itesm that are inspired by the bending spoon. Some are magic apparatus, some are gags, and some are other items that performers have been bending psychically like pens, paperclips, playing cards, and even wine glasses.
Part Eight: Looking Ahead
This section ponders whether or not metal bending will become extinct, and looks at the future of the genre. Ben gives a method for bending plastic spoons, and highlights some current performers who are still using metal bending in their acts. Geller is even adapting to the time as he has recently “bent” a spoon shaped sand dune on Mars, and “bent” a cargo ship that was blocking cargo in the Suez Canal. Uri Geller is still providing wonder and mystery 50 years after his first appearance to the world.
Ben includes an incredible map showing how the genre of metal-bending has shown up again and again through the decades. It’s pretty amazing to see.
The book ends with this quote from Uri Geller:
“Ben, I enjoyed your book and bouquets, but must declare ‘shenanigans!’ I maintain implicitly that I use REAL POWERS and not trickery. As your intent does seem kind and good-spirited, I will not sue your skinny ass.
Old Jaffa, Israel, 2022”
I learned a lot from this book. It’s part history book, part philosophical thinking, and part explanation of technique, but it’s ALL a very energetic celebration of the amazing accomplishments of one man: Uri Geller. If you don’t know anything about spoon bending, this is an amazing resource for you for the technical explanations. If you are a bending finatic and know all of the techniques, this is an amazing resource for you for the historical account. If you are somewhere in the middle, this is an amazing resource for you because it will fill in the gaps of your knowledge. The book is also a very easy read. It isn’t too dense with text, and it really is joyous to read without a cynical tone at all. It’s quite refreshing.
I won’t say it’s in my top 25 magic books, but if you’re into this subject, you’re going to love it.