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Spoon Bending

Before Dr. Dan Benor's talk to the FMBR on Spiritual Healing last February, we invited the well know psychiatrist to dinner at Khan's restaurant in San Jose, a quiet Vietnamese place near O'Connor Hospital. Attending the dinner with Dan were my wife Deborah and I, Bill and Marion Gough, and Dan's assistant. While we were talking about all things spiritual and paranormal the topic of spoonbending and psychokinesis came up. Bill mentioned Jack Houck and the PK parties that the FMBR had had over the years. Deborah impulsively asked Bill, "Can you do it?" He shrugged while we was talking to Dan and picked up a fork. While Bill was talking he proceeded to curl the fork around itself a few times. He struggled slightly using a firm grip but he actually bent it readily. Then he handed it to Deborah and kept on talking. I felt it and it was warm and I thought to myself, "These are those thin forks that are easy to bend." As I felt it I could see it was a standard stainless steel fork and very hard. Although still warm, it was so hard that I could not bend it at all. I tried again. Deborah was astonished but then she said, "Even though I saw that I didn't really belief it." We all sat there in quiet disbelief. There was no magic or slight of hand either. It was a graphic example of seeing something you don't believe and not believing it anyway. It goes something like, "I saw it but I know it's impossible so I can't believe it." This is the same criticism you hear from allopathic doctors about homeopathy studies that have a positive result. "Even if the data are correct, i.e., true, I still don't believe it because it is impossible." It violates a materialist principle that is part of their belief system. Materialism has become more fundamental than the principle of empiricism -- or they would let the "data speak for themselves."

In Michael Crighton's book of essays, Travels (Harpers Perennial, 1988) there is a chapter entitled Spoon bending (p.318). Crighton relates a story of a party in Los Angeles that Jack Houck gave where spoons were being bent by all: "...magicians, such as James Randi, claim that spoonbending isn't a psychic phenomenon at all, just a trick. But I had bent a spoon, and I knew it wasn't a trick. I looked around the room and saw little children, eight or nine years old, bending large metal bars. They weren't trying to trick anybody. They were just little kids having a good time. Staying up past their bedtimes on a Friday night, going along with the adults, doing this silly bending stuff. So much for the controversy between magicians, I thought. Because spoon bending obviously must have some ordinary explanation, since a hundred people from all walks of life were doing it. And it was hard to feel any sort of mystery about it: you just rub the spoon for a while and pretty soon it gets soft, and it bends. And that's that." (p.320)

Crighton concludes that spoonbending requires a "focused inattention." "You had to try to get it to bend, and then you had to forget about it." He also notes the same kind of non-belief even after witnessing it: "In fact," he goes on, "this sense of boredom seems to me often to accompany 'psychic' phenomena. At first the event appears mysterious, but quickly it becomes so mundane that it can no longer hold your interest. This seems to me to confirm the idea that so-called psychic or paranormal phenomena are misnamed. There's nothing abnormal about them. the minute we do do them we recognize them for what they are..." (p.321)

Sylver Quevedo, M.D., FMBR President , October 2003



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Updated Oct. 29, 2003.

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