Peter Popoff

27/6/19

The sing-song female voice calling out 'Hello Petey, can you hear me? If you can't you're in trouble' has become iconic in skeptic circles and it was said by the wife of US Evangelist and self-proclaimed healer Peter Popoff. He and his wife Elizabeth were famously busted by magician James Randi. Popoff's performance was typical of most TV preachers, he knew how to whip up an audience for Jesus, get people onto the stage and appear to divinely heal them of their ailments: the blind would see and the lame would walk. Popoff had an extra amazing ability whereby he could simply pick out any audience member directly by name and know before she even opened her mouth what her specific disease was: whether she had arthritis, or glaucoma or whatever. He would magically know where they lived and who they came with. Information he claimed came from his 'God-given ability'.

In 1986, magician James Randi accused popoff of using a radio receiver but he flatly denied it, labelling his critics as 'tools of the devil'. Randi, with fellow magician Banachek and electronics expert Alexander Jason used radio scanning equipment in the audience at a performance and were able to pick up transmissions from Popoff's wife, Elizabeth, who was using a wireless radio transmitter to broadcast information that she and her aides had culled from prayer request cards filled out by audience members before the show. After Randi released video of the event on the Johnny Carson Show, Popoff's ministry went bankrupt.

Unfortunately, his downfall was short-lived. Popoff is still doing the rounds, offering miracle water and similar useless trinkets, and offering 'fabulous extreme fortune' in return for donations. Peter Popoff Ministries is a tax-exempt religious organisation taking in millions of $ per year for him and his family. The video of his downfall is fun though, go see it here: https://youtu.be/q7BQKu0YP8Y

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