Video posted: Secret Footage of “Faith Healer” Peter Popoff in Toronto last month
June 8, 2011
The story of James Randi exposing Peter Popoff, the faith healer fraud and con artist (that's exactly the section in which Wikipedia appropriately placed him!), is now legendary. So when we were approached by a secret source who had gotten 4 invitation only tickets to an event in Toronto, we jumped at the chance to put all our effort into following in the footsteps of The Amazing Randi!
Coached by Randi himself in an exclusive teleconference with an eager and excited half a dozen members of the Centre for Inquiry team, we discussed the use of hidden cameras, how to maximize the effect of passing out critical thinking literature, and what to expect from Popoff supporters who would attemp to acquire information from the audience in advance of the show. Randi engaged with us for a half hour, during much of which he was somewhow simultaneously driving through the streets in rush hour.
As advised, we arrived early to ensure we sat near the front of the room for "Positioning you for harvest", as the event was named. I wonder if that name was actually a clue that Popoff was giving, unable to help himself from an inside joke, for the audience was literally being positioned for the harvesting of their hard earned money. In fact, Popoff had them stand in rows, almost like a field of corn, while he whisked around the room blowing the devil out of everyone's face.
Popoff engaged in his classic laying on of hands "healings", hosted testimonials which were a surreal blend of miracle cures, family reconciliations and spontaneous increases in bank account balances! The night's climax involved him requesting large sums of money, namely $1000 from each audience member, to benefit from his divine intervention. We actually captured footage of him asking for attendees to put "their best seed" into envelopes he passed out, as well as close up of a sick man being turned away by security staff for appearing too ill to be credibly cured.
Popoff disappeared in a cloud of dust (not literally unfortunately) at the end of the night but we did approach his assistant Lee to find out why destitute people would need to hand a millionaire money to benefit from his benevolence, which earned the response that I was a "lunatic". Other members of our team then followed up by asking how much money the Popoffs had made that night, which resulted in the rather ironic response from Popoff's organist, who had provided music during the healings, that we should "die of cancer". That's quite a clever system. Popoff's organist curses us with cancer, and then Popoff charges us to cure it!
#1 Blake (Guest) on Thursday June 09, 2011 at 1:08pm
You shouldn’t poison the well with this $1,000 claim that was not shown in the video footage of the event. Wouldn’t you have that on video if that claim was actually made? Why would you edit that out?
The man who was supposedly turned away was never never heard saying on the video that “They won’t let me be healed. Why?”
What’s wrong with there being a systematic way of having been gathered in the room in ‘rows, like a field of corn.’ Wouldn’t that be a proper way to be able to get to them?
I agree that Popoff is a quack and it’s awesome that someone would try to expose him, but claiming that he asked for such a large sum of money that you don’t back up when for all we know it could have been $10 that he was asking for is not the way I thought CFI skeptics worked.
If this had been some religious organization making claims about some skeptic event and claiming they were asking for such donations without any evidence for it, skeptics would be all over that.
#2 SkepticStalker on Friday June 10, 2011 at 5:34am
I have to agree with Blake. I tend to believe everything you guys said but it’s pretty aggravating that you had video that essentially shows him doing his healing schtick (which I’m repulsed by, but believers admire) and then adding commentary about the negatives. Even the one real potentially slimy moment you captured (sending the poor sick guy back to his seat) was ambiguous. We couldn’t hear what was said, and you stated speculation as fact.
Why no video of the organist telling you he hoped you’d die of cancer? Why no video of him specifically asking for $1,000?
I like what you guys are all about & I hate being the guy sitting on the bench while criticising your efforts. That said, please take these comments to heart so the next expose will be far more impactful. As it is, this one would have Popoff supporters laughing as they point out that almost none of your allegations are shown on the video.