Self-styled psychic wonder Uri Geller wants to help find a Spokane psychologist and three other Western tourists who were kidnapped 21 months ago in Kashmir.
He’s taking out ads in newspapers in India and Pakistan, asking people around the world to think positive thoughts about the four captives every morning and to touch an orange circle on his Internet home page to focus energy on the cause.
Spokane’s Jane Schelly, the wife of hostage Donald Hutchings, said she doesn’t put much credence in all this, but adds, “It can’t hurt.”
“I guess I don’t have a whole lot of faith in it,” said Schelly, a physical education teacher at Arlington Elementary School. “But on the other hand, stranger things have happened.”
Contacted at his home in Berkshire, England, Geller said he was approached by relatives of the two British hostages, Keith Mangan and Paul Wells, and The Hostages in Kashmir Campaign, a British organization trying to free the four men.
He knew little about the case other than the news accounts of their capture, but said, “I could not turn my back.”
Hutchings, the two Britons and Dirk Hasert of Germany were kidnapped by armed men in July 1995 while traveling through Kashmir, a disputed territory in northern India. Their captors, a previously unknown group calling itself Al Faran, demanded freedom for more than a dozen jailed Kashmiri separatists in exchange for the tourists’ freedom.
The Indian government refused, despite repeated threats that the tourists would be killed. The rebels broke off contact with the government in late 1995 and the fate of the hostages remains a mystery.
“I believe they are alive,” Geller said.
The Israeli-born psychic is a controversial figure who claims to be able to bend spoons and repair broken clocks through the sheer force of his mind. He sued an American author who called him a fake but lost the case.
Geller said he has helped mediate other hostage situations involving government officials and business executives, but refused to give details - even an approximate number of cases.
“These are confidential events. I don’t want to talk about it,” he said.
Indian newspapers Tuesday began running an ad, asking anyone with information about the hostages to contact Geller or the hostage campaign office in England.
He recently added a special page on the hostages to Uri Geller’s Interactive City - his Web site where he sells books and crystals, offers himself as a business consultant and promotes a movie based on his life. That page offers a large orange circle saying “Release the hostages.” Viewers are asked to touch the disk and pray every morning at 11:11 a.m.
Orange is a color with special psychic powers, he said.
Geller hopes to have hundreds of thousands of people “concentrating their mind power” on the hostages each day. Those thoughts could help convince the kidnappers to release them, he said.
“I’m not a miracle worker, and I’m not a prophet,” he said. “I believe in the power of prayer.”
If they release the hostages, Geller promises to deliver any message the rebels want given to the governments of the world.
While unfamiliar with Geller, Schelly said she agreed with one point - that this could generate more interest in the hostages. An offer for a reward for any information about their fate has yielded nothing so far.
“I think the most positive thing is that it focuses attention,” said Schelly, who hasn’t seen her husband since he was led away by armed rebels on July 4, 1995. “If it gets people talking about it, that’s a plus.”
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: ONLINE SEARCH Two sites on the Internet are devoted to the the four Western tourists kidnapped in the Himalayas in 1995. The Hostages in Kashmir Campaign offers news reports, an emblem and a compact disc at www.hostagesinkashmir.com Uri Geller’s Interactive Psychic City has a link to a page designed to concentrate thoughts on the hostages’ release. It can be found by entering www.urigeller.com, then clicking on the “Enter” box and scrolling down to “More surprising facts.”