The UK Good Thinking Society has revealed the latest snake-oil salesmanship from evangelist Peter Popoff.
Michael Marshall, project direct with Good Thinking, says that “Over the last six months, we have been investigating ‘faith healer’ Peter Popoff and his highly-lucrative current business of promising to heal sickness and cancel debts in exchange for ‘seed faith’, in other words: cash donations.”
Popoff was bankrupted in 1987 after an investigation by James Randi revealed that it wasn’t God who was telling him the ailments of people in the audience, it was his wife through a hidden radio earpiece.
But over the years, Popoff has returned with various ‘get well’ and ‘get rich’ schemes.
Members of Good Thinking attended a Popoff event in London in May to covertly record his miraculous claims and supposed acts of faith healing, and to witness thousands of people donating large amounts of cash to his ministry.
Among those ‘cured’ was a woman who said her body was wracked with pain. Popoff laid his hands on her and yelled “Back to the pits of hell”, apparently with remarkable results.
Marshall says that “The woman he ‘healed’ had a convulsive fit when he touched her on the head. But she seemed to be part of his team. She was handing out pens and a questionnaire at the start, which lead us to believe that it is possible she was a plant.
“If she was part of their team, they should have been open about this, but just before the ‘healing’ she came out of a row of seats in the auditorium as if she was just another member of the audience, and left soon afterwards.”
Popoff uses an aggressive direct mail campaign to attract customers using all manner of ‘miracle items’. These are the same techniques exposed by a then 14-year-old Northern Territory student, Max Lowe, who reported on Popoff’s campaign in The Skeptic magazine in 2013.
Good Thinking is a small pro-science and anti-pseudoscience charity established by Simon Singh. Apart from being project director, Marshall is also co-founder of the Merseyside Skeptics Society and co-organiser of the QED skeptical conference. He visited Australia last year to speak at the Australian Skeptics National Convention in Sydney.
He says Good Thinking has shared its findings with the City of London Police Action Fraud team for further investigation.