June 1989 +quot;BASIS+quot;, newsletter of the Bay Area Skeptics Bay Area Skeptics Informa
June 1989 "BASIS", newsletter of the Bay Area Skeptics
Bay Area Skeptics Information Sheet
Vol. 8, No. 6
Editor: Kent Harker
THE CASE OF THE COUNTERFEIT CHRISTIANS
by Don Henvick
[The inimitable Don Henvick, scourge of the fundamentalist
Christian healing crusaders, is at it again -- this time with a
decidedly different approach. For the benefit of new "BASIS"
readers a little background is in order. Don has for the last three
years dogged the trail of some of the more infamous healers (Peter
Popoff, W. V. Grant, et al.) posing under a variety of aliases and
disguises. Many cures of non-existent maladies have been pronounced
upon his pate and he has been "called out" in the spirit by
different names by the SAME healer (three times by poor Popoff
alone). Popoff even called out and healed "Bernice," a rather
masculine-looking matron, of uterine cancer. Popoff's spiritual
eyes failed to discern Don in drag.
It was early in 1986 that CSICOP, working with BAS, put the final
nail in Popoff's coffin in San Francisco: We caught him with a tiny
device in his ear, receiving revelation from his wife who was
backstage radioing information from prayer cards collected from the
audience. -- Ed.]
Faith healers come in all shapes, sizes and flavors. Some small
timers ask a person what ails him, pray for him and hope for the
best. Others claim that their prayers have effected a healing.
Some, like Pat Robertson, use a shotgun approach "word of
knowledge" by saying someone in the audience is being healed of
back pain, for example, and then waiting to see who responds.
Others, like Peter Popoff, enhance this process by researching the
audience and later spitting back the information as divine
knowledge. All of the faith healers have one thing in common: faith
in the value of unsupported testimonials to prove miraculous cures.
However, the "Happy Hunters" are in a class by themselves.
Charles and Frances Hunter are a sixty-ish couple out of Texas;
they draw audiences in the thousands with a unique formula. Not
only can they perform healing miracles themselves, but they teach
thousands of others how to do faith healing! David Alexander had
written about their operation in "Free Inquiry" some time ago after
he and BAS director Shawn Carlson had checked out one of their get-
togethers. Picture an audience of about five thousand people
gathered on the floor of an arena while the Hunters turn loose
about a thousand true believers who have read books, watched videos
and taken a three-day class to learn how to do "the stuff." Picture
arms and legs growing out, hundreds of people at a time falling
down at the healer's touch, and hundreds of others exclaiming that
they have been healed. Whew!
I read Alexander's report, talked to him, and started thinking.
What claims do the Hunters make? What evidence do they offer for
those claims? What opportunities do they leave for an
investigation? Well, as usual, they don't follow up on the people
they heal -- they merely wait for those who get better to come back
and claim they have been healed. Then they accept those
testimonials without further inquiry. Since they ignore all the
people who are not cured, their success rate by their reckoning is
100%. One could always track down some people who go to their show
and come away disappointed, but the Hunters don't specifically
claim that everyone will be healed. They leave the healing to their
thousand students so they can't be personally blamed for failures.
The Hunters don't claim that they hear God telling them who has
what problem because people hand in little cards detailing their
With so few gimmicks going for them, what explains the Hunter's
success in attracting so many people? The answer is, like the cut-
rate car dealer: VOLUME! With a thousand trained healers in
attendance, every member of the public gets personal, hands-on
treatment, and the power of suggestion convinces most that they are
or will be better. This is in dramatic contrast to other healers
on the circuit who, working alone, can only reach a few.
The Hunter's point of vulnerability is their claim that ONLY TRUE
BELIEVERS WHO HAVE COMPLETED THEIR TRAINING CAN INVOKE THE POWER
FROM GOD TO HEAL PEOPLE; i.e., if non-believers tried it they would
get no results. Now this is a proposition that can be tested.
Let's assume that the healings are the result of the placebo
effect. Let's assume that we can get people -- non-believers --
into the Hunter's program and that these people lay hands on the
faithful who in turn voluntarily testify that they have been
healed. Let's assume that with the mere touch of a finger, our
counterfeit Christians could cause people to fall over, "slain in
the spirit," just like the "real" faith healers do. Let's assume
that if we could do this we would demonstrate that something other
than the power of God can explain what happens to these people.
Let's stop assuming. Let's do it!
First off, we've got to research the Hunter's operation to find out
IF -- Big IF -- it can be penetrated. They will be coming to
Oakland in a couple of months, so I call their office for
information. Several evangelical churches in the area that have
organized study groups to watch fourteen hours of the Hunters'
video tape and to read their book. I call one of the churches,
borrow the tapes, buy a copy of the book and study at home.
Checking out the video produces some hints on how to proceed. Yes,
THEY DO CLAIM THAT ONLY BELIEVERS CAN HEAL. God does not work
through those who lack faith. We definitely have something to shoot
for. Almost as interesting from a medical point of view is their
theory of how diseases originate -- something they tend to soft-
pedal in their public appearances. The Happy Hunters, it turns out,
are nothing less than born-again chiropractors! Their video and
book, both called "How to Heal the Sick," are filled with seemingly
sage medical advice about relieving pressure on nerves in various
spots on the spine, thereby healing all kinds of ailments. However,
unlike a chiropractor's manipulation, the Hunter's method involves
simply touching or very lightly moving the body at various points
and COMMANDING a healing, because, after all, the believers have
God on their side, and He does all of the actual work.
The students are regaled with stories of miracles performed by the
Hunters using these methods. My personal favorite is the story
Charles Hunter tells about how he prayed over the amputated thumb
of a young boy and, before everyone's eyes, it grew out to full
length, including a thumb nail! Wow! (He only talks about this on
the tape, and never shows it. I wonder why?) In the excitement of
the moment, Charles also forgot to get the boy's name, so I guess
this miracle can't be checked by the doctors. But we have Charles'
word for it, so it must all be true.
Before you get TOO excited about their miraculous claims, however,
I need to point out that the Hunters are not necessarily the best
walking ads for their own methods. Frances, whose bulk would make
a '49er linebacker envious, also claims to be able to cure
obesity, and Charles, whose chrome dome rivals a billiard ball,
claims to be able to cure baldness. Furthermore, don't go whining
to the Happys about your lousy eyesight and expect God to give you
20/20. Sure He can do it, and sure, He likes to please the Hunters
and make the blind see and all that. But face it. It's much easier
and, yes, even fun, just to wear glasses and not bother the Big
Guy about not being able to see. Oh, did I mention that Frances
Hunter wears glasses herself?
Soon the Hunter's resident chiropractor shows up on the video to
explain the SCIENTIFIC basis for their method! He uses a model
backbone, a pointer, and big words, so I guess what he's saying
must be physiologically correct. I must confess, however, that he
loses me when he explains that since all the nerves are
interconnected, Charles Hunter is able to touch a man's earlobe and
cure his hemorrhoids. Isn't science wonderful?
In short, the Hunter method of divine healing doesn't involve
anything so mundane as laying hands on a person and praying for God
to heal. Come on folks! If it were that easy, there would be no
market . . . er, I mean, no NEED for the Happy Hunters to go
traipsing round the country holding classes, collecting donations
and graduating certified divine healers.
The Hunter method includes several techniques for different parts
of the body. The "Neck Thing" consists of placing ones hands on the
back of a person's neck and very gently moving the head around.
The Hunters claim that this will unpinch the nerves and realign the
vertebrae, curing anything from a headache to a broken back. A
skeptic might counter that any relief a person might feel would be
due to the soothing effects of a nice neck massage, but I'm a
believer. The "Pelvic Thing" is based on the notion that movement
of the pelvic bones will not only relieve lower back pain, but that
the nerves leading to internal organs will also "unpinch" and
relieve any number of diseases. (The Hunters do not explain why,
if pinched nerves discombobulate all the organs, there are many
paralyzed people whose nerves are completely nonfunctional, and yet
aside from their paralysis, are cruising along quite nicely with
no noticeable distress to their innards.) The technique for this
is more subtle since it does not involve any manipulation. The
healer places his or her hands on the patient's hips and commands
the pelvis to rotate and the lower vertebrae to properly align
Since this command must be done in a very forceful, authoritative
manner, it may seem to the uninformed that this is a prime example
of the power of suggestion at work on an eager subject, but we are
assured that it's just that God prefers to work through pushy
people. The meek may inherit the earth, but they'll never make the
grade as Hunter Healers. The trainees are constantly exhorted to
speak with AUTHORITY and to COMMAND miracles to happen. I tell you
one thing, when you see this stuff being demonstrated on the video
it LOOKS miraculous.
Growing out arms and legs is pretty powerful stuff, too. This is
not the crass trick as performed by W. V. Grant, who slowly swings
a person's outstretched legs to one side to make it look as if one
of them is really growing. The Hunter's don't claim that one leg
is actually shorter, only that a misaligned spine or pelvis will
cause the leg to be held crookedly so it will appear to be shorter.
The Hunters have the person sit back straight in a chair, legs
stretched out in front. They grasp the legs at the ankles and note
by the position of their thumbs if the legs are the same length.
If there is an apparent difference, they command the shorter limb
to lengthen, accompanied by helpful hints such as, "I can see it
moving a little bit now." This reinforces the belief that it's
miracle time as the patient watches the healer's thumbs come to
parallel alignment as the legs relax under suggestion and appear
to grow out.
The patients tend to want to close their eyes in emotional
anticipation, but the healers are instructed to tell them, "Open
your eyes and watch the miracle." After all, the purpose of the
whole exercise is to get the patients to SEE a miracle (the
growing of a leg) and so to BELIEVE that another miracle is also
happening (the curing of an illness). (The healer DOES NOT pull on
the legs. In the case of arm lengthening, the healer does not even
touch the outstretched arms to make one of them "grow." It is all
accomplished by the power of suggestion.)
The "Whole Thing" is the application of all the previous, plus
"slaying in the spirit," a ritual common to all the evangelicals.
It is done by placing a hand on the person's forehead, calling upon
God, and watching the person fall over. Simple, but immensely
impressive. In fact, slaying in the spirit seems to be the one
thing that impresses people most who look at faith healing,
especially when hundreds at a time are keeling over. Folks say, "I
don't know if these people are really being healed or not, but when
they're being merely touched on the head and they fall right over,
something must be happening."
William Jarvis, MD, was interviewed by "20-20" in a segment about
the Hunters, and he came up with a complex physical explanation in
which if the neck is held stiffly while the head is pushed back,
pressure on a nerve can cause temporary blackout. This may be true
for a mechanic like Peter Popoff, but unfortunately, it doesn't
explain how a thousand Hunter healers can do the same thing, and
they don't apply any pressure to the head. They touch lightly as
they say the "right" words. It seems clear that Randi was closer
to the mark when he said that people fall over because they know
they're supposed to fall over, and they're supposed to feel the
power of the Holy Ghost when the anointed healer touches them on
Can the power of suggestion really have such profound effects on
people? We'll soon find out.
The Hunters are coming to Oakland for the three days of training
sessions meant to turn out a thousand or more qualified healers.
I decide to go, and I recruit a colleague who prefers to be
anonymous. Our purpose: To scout out the terrain, to find out what
happens in training and take it ourselves if possible, and to try
to get hold of as many Healing Team badges as we can. (The badges
will be used by other skeptics as passports to go out on the floor
next to the "real" healers to see if they can do the same things
themselves.) If my suppositions are correct, our counterfeit
Christians will be just as successful knocking folks over and
getting them to affirm they have been healed.
Wednesday we go into the first training session (the Hunters
personally conduct the Wed., Thurs., and Fri. sessions) armed with
the knowledge that we were supposed to have read all the book, to
have seen all the video and are to attend all the training sessions
(two each on Wed. and Thurs. and a last one on Fri., each of which
lasts about three hours). I assume security will be tight, so I'm
surprised to walk into the hall to find no one checking IDs or
taking attendance. It becomes clear that they expect threats of
heavenly revenge to weed out those who are less than sincere. It's
also clear that any damn scoundrel who has the time and the
inclination can become a Hunter faith healer -- and maybe some
already have. I know at least two more who will.
We're prepared with cover stories to put on a good act, but with
about 1,500 people in attendance, the Hunter's staff has no way of
verifying who belongs and who doesn't. We settle in to watch the
live class, and a long show it is, with lots of lively hymn
singing, prayers, standing up, sitting down and listening to the
warm-up acts at every session. My favorite acts include the medical
"experts" who travel with the Hunters to testify to the legitimacy
of their miracles. The chiropractor who was on the video is there,
gleefully mixing legitimate information about nerves with stuff no
medical doctor could confirm. (When I later show that part to an
MD on one of our teams he laughs out loud.)
The gist of the pronouncement is that the working of all of our
innards can be vastly improved by having God straighten our
spines. Another charmer is the nutritionist who expands on the
benefits of the Hunter treatment to warn of the dangers of eating
or drinking virtually anything but distilled water. Most of us
already know that butter can load us up with potentially harmful
cholesterol, but this dear lady cues us in that margarine is no
better, since, as a polyunsaturated oil, it forms a "partial
plastic" when it gets in our bodies. If you think that's
nutritious, try chewing on a Baggie.
Toward the latter portion of each of the training sessions, Charles
and Frances Hunter come on in person and elaborate on the
techniques taught in the video and in the book. We also get some
practice sessions for the trainees to try out the techniques on
volunteers. At first I figure this will be just a dry run for lack
of real sick people, but when the Hunters, looking for volunteers,
ask how many of the would-be healers are themselves in need of
healing, almost two thirds of the hands go up! It's becoming clear
that there are reasons other than altruism compelling many of these
people to learn how to heal others. Lots of these folks have
serious problems of their own and they must figure that if they do
God's miracles for other people, maybe, just maybe, God will do a
miracle on them. Sad. So, for hours on end they lay hands on each
other, commanding those spines to straighten, arms and legs to
grow, and imagine they are feeling the power of the Holy Ghost when
somebody touches them on the head and they fall over into the arms
of a catcher.
We're still in the training sessions, and a big part of the show
is the night we cast out demons. The Hunters call up some pastors
from the crowd and "slay them with the spirit." Now the pastors
have the stuff to do it to us. All one thousand-plus of us line the
walls of the room, half standing in front to receive the spirit,
half standing behind to catch the slain when they drop. The
Hunters, their staff and the pastors go to different sections to
touch people, and in no time at all folks are dropping like flies,
scores at a time, 'cause they've all seen it before and they all
know their parts.
I'm lucky enough to get a good insight into the procedure when
Frances Hunter's daughter touches the man standing next to me. He
doesn't go down. She's a bit taken aback. She tells him to hold
out his arms and really let the spirit come into him when she
touches him. He does. He still doesn't go down. Now she looks
peeved. She tells him to not resist the spirit when she touches and
to REALLY let himself feel the spirit. She touches once more; He
wobbles but still does not go down. She glowers at him, and,
muttering that he needs to pray, leaves him to his disgrace. I'm
next. She touches me and down I go right away, "YES MA'AM!" I know
that you gotta go along to get along. So do all the rest of the
folks as the spirit slays five hundred en masse. Next it's switch
places, and we get up to catch the other five hundred as the
anointed healers make a second go-round.
As we get near the end of the training session, another angle to
the operation is becoming clearer: the money. Ah yes, the money.
There's a lot of it to be extracted from an operation of this
magnitude, but like other aspects of what the Hunters do, this is
pretty subtle. If one had to buy their videotape, it would cost
$175, but almost all watch the tape at their own churches, which
borrow it from the Hunters. The book must be bought, but for five
bucks, well, it's almost worth it.
The Hunter's training sessions themselves cost nothing -- yep, free
of charge. So what's the catch? Well, a collection is taken at each
of the five training sessions, and if you have ever heard high
pressure preachers lean on their congregations, you ain't heard
nothing yet. The Hunters start with the premise that each of us
trainees is highly motivated to do God's work, and if we show
enough faith, we will learn how to perform miracles. If we show
enough faith, we will be cured. If we show enough faith, our loved
ones will be cured. If we don't show faith in God, how can we
expect God to show faith in us? How can we best show faith in God
and in this miracle ministry? We need look no further than our
Five times we are given this pitch over the three days. On the last
day we are instructed to take out our wallets and checkbooks and
hand them to someone we don't know, as a show of faith. We do get
them back and get to remove the cash ourselves, but it's a
brilliant ploy because it gets the money physically away from our
persons, and it gets the suckers to confront whether or not they
are REALLY sincere about obeying God.
It occurs to me I've heard this pitch before: the pep-rally
atmosphere, the elite nature of the inner group and the pressure
on them to perform, and especially the emphasis on getting more
new members into the group rather than on getting more new
patients (or customers). The Hunter Ministry is Amway in drag! If
you think about it, it makes sense. Not only do you have people on
your mailing list who show up to be healed, you've got people who
think you've made them miracle workers and so are much more
committed to sending in contributions.
A lot more emphasis is placed on recruiting new healers and
collecting from them than on bringing in the sick to be healed
(and pitched) in the Friday night Healing Explosion. On the
afternoon before the public show in Oakland, the healers are told
that their donations have already paid the operating expenses and
that anything collected from the public is just gravy. Of course,
the crowd which shows up on Friday night is given no such message
and is hit hard for donations, but not as hard as the healers
were. And when the money comes in, only the Hunters know where it
goes. They refuse a public accounting of their finances.
In the graduation ceremonies on Friday at 4 p.m., me, my anonymous
friend and the other 1,000 grads get our final instructions on how
to act at the 7 p.m. Healing Explosion that night. No attendance
records have been made at any of the training sessions and none are
made here, but we fill out cards saying we have read all the books,
seen all the videos, attended all the classes and that we are true
believers. We turn in the completed cards to receive coveted little
red healing team badges in exchange.
None of the info on the cards is ever confirmed or checked, but
then we are all treated to a little skit from the Bible. Somebody
lied to God and God smote him up one side and down the other and
left him d-e-a-d. We both wait for a lightening bolt but nothing
happens and we breathe a little easier as we collect our badges. I
manage to get several ushers' badges for our team so several of us
will be able to get onto the floor of the arena. We are only able
to get Healer badges for the two of us who are at the final
briefing, but that's enough for a try.
Before the 7 p.m. opening time we go to the Oakland arena and pick
up other members of our party. Aside from the two certified
healers, our ushers include Brian McDonald, Wilma Russell, and
Ivars Lauersons. Ivars is allowed on the floor to take pictures
freely. None of us knows exactly what will happen, so we all have
to stick around for nearly three hours of singing and preaching
before the real healing stuff begins at around ten. They need time
to pitch for bucks, but the public gets off cheap compared to the
The high -- or low -- point before we get to work is when Charles
and Frances call all the cancer and AIDS cases down on the floor
for a mass laying-on of hands. The Dynamic Duo goes down the rows
of people and knocks 'em over. Now the rest of the five thousand
folks can see what is expected of them when one of us lesser
healers gets to them. There are quite a few people who get up out
of wheelchairs when they are touched, to the delirious rejoicing
of the throng. The crowd's enthusiasm is undiminished when those
same folks, after walking a few steps, get back into their
wheelchairs and are wheeled away.
Finally, our turn comes. The Hunters call the healing teams down
to the floor. The people seeking healing are sent down there with
little cards listing their names and ailments. We're supposed to
grab someone with a card and go to work. You bet we're nervous.
Will we be spotted as fakes? When we touch people's heads, will
they feel nothing and refuse to fall? Will they go away feeling
Our first customer is a young woman with head and backaches.
Despite my nervousness, I try hard to turn on the charm and pile
on as much bedside manner as is practical in this madhouse packed
with 5,000 people. I command her vertebrae to straighten out and
her back pain to end. Not much happens. Are we on the right track
here? The training book says if one thing doesn't work, try
another. We move on to the Neck Thing, with my voice alternately
soothing and commanding -- then I touch her forehead and command
a healing. Over she goes into the arms of our ushers! When she gets
up again she's smiling. The pain in her head and neck are gone, she
says. We sit her down in a chair and grow out her short leg as she
watches. Her muscles relax and she stares wide-eyed as her leg
seems to grow longer by itself. That gets her but not as much as
when she stands up, and to her surprise and ours, finds that the
pain in her lower back has disappeared and we send her on her way,
smiling and incredulous.
As we look around we can see the same scene being enacted all
around us. Some seem dramatically better, others less so. The next
woman who comes to us has already had her arms lengthened by
somebody else there, but she's still feeling pain, so she's gone
looking for a second opinion and has come to us. We do the Neck
Thing, then a slight touch on the head sends her to the carpet, and
she stays down for a full minute, dead to the world. When she
finally gets up I put my hands on her hips for the Pelvic Thing and
talk her lower spine and pelvis into place. After about a minute
of this, her hips start swiveling from side to side, much to her
surprise. She says, "I'm not doing it!" I say, "I'M not doing it
either," and take my hands away to prove it. Her hips keep
swiveling, apparently all by themselves, and when they stop she
reports her discomfort has lessened if not disappeared. She goes
away all smiles and we search around for another client.
The pickings are gettin' kind of slim because just about everybody
has already been worked on now, and the healers are casting about
for any warm bodies. Some of the healees are dissatisfied with
their first treatment, but the nice thing about this setup is that
a second opinion is only a few steps away. My better judgment
deserts me (if that's possible, considering that I got myself into
this whole thing in the first place) and I approach a morose-
looking woman whose card states that her problem is mental illness
and depression. Trouble! If anybody is unlikely to respond to
placebo and a few minutes of kind words, this lady is it. But we
try like hell to comfort her because we don't want to send her away
depressed. She falls over with a touch like all the rest, but when
she gets up she's just as sad as ever. In desperation I call over
a supervisor, a true believer, in hopes that she will have at least
more finely developed personal skills, plus I don't want it said
that this woman failed to respond because a real true believer
didn't work on her.
It's getting late now; the rest of the evening is spent assisting
the supervisor, who has no more luck with the woman than we did,
but we at least gave her the benefit of everything the Hunter's
claim they offer. As we look around the auditorium, some folks are
going out smiling, others are still looking around for another,
more successful treatment. At two for three, we have done pretty
well, but I want a larger sampling to see if we are for real.
The Hunters won't return to the area for several months, when they
will be in Sacramento. Now we are able to make more extensive
plans. I call up Joe Morrow, who puts me in touch with several
folks from the Sacramento group, including Robert Lee, Saul
Silverman and others. From the Bay Area, we have Ivars Lauersons
and Brian McDonald again, along with Wally Sampson and Tom Gibson.
By this time I have a video of the Hunter's pitch and our Oakland
effort, so on the night of the Hunter's Sacramento rally we can
hunker down at Robert's house for a detailed briefing. In essence,
30 hours of official Hunter training is compressed into a one-hour
crash course, the Official Henvick "No-Fail-How-To-Succeed-in-
Faith-Healing-Without-Really-Trying" Seminar. (The title is longer
than the course.) Since we now know the schedule, we can get there
just before 10 pm in time for our gig and not have to sweat through
the whole tedious show. It's nice to know what you're doing ONCE
in a while.
Anyway, we decide on jobs, and I hand out the appropriate badges.
Those who got the badges that afternoon aren't necessarily the ones
who will be wearing them tonight, but what the Hunters don't know
won't hurt them.
We get there just as the Hunters are teaching the audience in how
to speak in tongues. Oh, you thought speaking in tongues was
something that just happened to folks? That they got delirious or
God touched them and they just started babbling? Oh gracious, no.
The Hunters claim that people have to PRACTICE babbling BEFORE God
touches them, so when the big moment arrives they won't embarrass
themselves by mumbling their babbles. So we all spend a few minutes
enunciating our gibberish. Hey, when in Rome. . . .
The healing teams are called down to the floor and we go through
the same routine, except now we have Wally, Brian, Robert and I
taking turns doing the healing, plus ushers, two video cameras and
one still camera to record it all. The faces are different but the
results are pretty much the same. People come up to us with various
ailments and respond to what they believe is the power of God
working through us. Without exception they fall over when touched
on the head. Some of the dozen or so people we get to are
dramatically better, a couple even shedding tears of joy when we've
finished treating them. In fact, our brand new counterfeit
Christians seem to be getting even better results than I am
tonight. Beginner's luck.
We don't have any obvious failures tonight and everybody seems to
go away glad. I'm too busy to notice if any of our customers
wander off in search of a second opinion, but we do get some folks
who have been to true believers, and have come over to us for a
better deal. People are urged to go up to the stage to testify to
their miracles and encourage those who are not doing so well.
Charles makes sure that only the really enthusiastic get up to
speak. We could send up one or two of our patients but we're busy
trying to heal as many people as possible. We also don't have the
people or the time to follow up on those who do testify to see if
their miracles last. Experience suggests they won't, and most of
the "cured" people will find their ailments have returned; but
we'll have to leave those aspects of the investigation to other
groups of skeptics.
All of our healers, despite a thorough briefing, are amazed at the
power they are able to exert over people. Our little red badges are
like the doctor's white coat, only more so, because these people
believe we are using the infallible power of God to heal, not just
several years of medical training. At no point does anybody suggest
that we are any different from the other thousand people on the
arena floor, doing what the Hunters call miracles. Our results
compare very favorably with theirs as arms and legs grow out,
spines straighten and pain vanishes with the laying on of our
hands. It's been an exhilarating and yet sobering experience for
us to see how easily people can be manipulated. Our experiment has
been successful: Our healers, contrary to the Hunters' claims, can
perform apparent miracles just as well as the true believers.
Out of respect for the people we worked on, we'll never let them
know that we are not true believers. If they realized any benefits
from our treatments we won't jeopardize that by disillusioning
them. But there is no basis for the faith healers' claims that
their "miracles" are the results of supernatural, divine
intervention or that God works only through believers.
So what have we accomplished? We certainly haven't done anything
that will discourage the true believers. Maybe others will repeat
and expand this investigation, and this information will get to the
undecided, people who go to the healers out of curiosity, think
they see miracles, and contribute to the miracle workers.
Yeah, we're controversial, but we haven't hurt anybody and we might
have helped some people out there who will better understand the
facts behind the Happy Hunters' Healing Explosion.
(FLASH!! As of this writing, the Hunters have sent a fund-raising
letter saying: ". . . we need $100,000 or more just to be in the
black because of Frances having been sick. . . .")
Physician, heal thyself.
*The Hunters have taken careful precautions here. Healers are
instructed to COMMAND healing, not manipulate pelvises. Rotating
a pelvis could result in serious injury if the client has a valid
medical condition. The Hunters reiterate through all of the
sessions that they aren't doctors and that they are not practicing
medicine; they urge people to continue seeing their doctors and to
follow his or her orders and continue with prescribed medication.
The Hunters had a mistake in which an elderly woman was spirit
slain and there was no one to catch her as she went down. The
spirit was apparently unable to correct the damage, so the lady
decided her attorney would be more help than Charles -- she sued.
**There is always a danger in explaining something about which one
knows little. Magicians -- and certainly psychics -- have many
different ways of doing something, and as soon as we explain one
way (or the wrong way!), a procedural change puts egg on the face
of the skeptic and turns an uncommitted observer into a believer.
Uri Geller still crows about the absurdity of an explanation that
he has a miniature receiver in his tooth, and absurd it is. If we
aren't sure how something is done, there is certainly no need to
accept the burden of proof by trying to explain it.
In July we will resume publication of "Degrees of Folly," Bill
Bennetta's serialized article about the Institute for Creation
Research and the State Department of Education. Along with new
information about the Department's cover-up, Part V will include
a consideration of this question: Was Roy Steeves acting on his own
initiative when he named imposers to the committee that would
examine the ICR, and when he let the legitimate members of the
committee think that they were taking part in a legitimate
proceeding? Or was he acting on orders from higher officers of the
BAS BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Chair: Larry Loebig
Vice Chair: Yves Barbero
Secretary: Rick Moen
Treasurer: Kent Harker
William J. Bennetta, Scientific Consultant
Dean Edell, M.D., ABC Medical Reporter
Donald Goldsmith, Ph.D., Astronomer and Attorney
Earl Hautala, Research Chemist
Alexander Jason, Investigative Consultant
Thomas H. Jukes, Ph.D., U. C. Berkeley
John E. McCosker, Ph.D., Director, Steinhart Aquarium
Richard J. Ofshe, Ph.D.,U. C. Berkeley
Bernard Oliver, Ph.D., NASA Ames Research Center
Kevin Padian, Ph.D., U. C. Berkeley
James Randi, Magician, Author, Lecturer
Francis Rigney, M.D., Pacific Presbyterian Med. Center
Wallace I. Sampson, M.D., Stanford University
Eugenie C. Scott, Ph.D., Anthropologist
Robert Sheaffer, Technical Writer, UFO expert
Robert A. Steiner, CPA, Magician, Lecturer, Writer
Lowell D. Streiker, Ph.D., Anthropology, Religion
Jill C. Tarter, Ph.D., U. C. Berkeley
STEINHART AQUARIUM TOUR
This privileged tour takes you behind and above the tanks of the
aquarium to view the animals up close (we will be with the seals
and dolphins at feeding time), to the saltwater filtration area,
and the pathology lab.
Make your check payable to "Bay Area Skeptics -- Steinhart tour"
for $10 per person, and send it to the BAS address. A ticket will
be sent you by return mail. DON'T FORGET IT! Because of space
limitations, only about 32 people can be accommodated: first come,
first served! Should there be an over-subscription, you will be
offered an alternate date or a refund by return mail.
Wear comfortable, non-slip shoes. Because this special tour
includes work areas, seven or eight years is the minimum age if you
want to bring children.
We are especially indebted to BAS advisor Dr. John McCosker,
director of the aquarium, and his staff for providing us with this
Opinions expressed in "BASIS" are those of the authors and do not
necessarily reflect those of BAS, its board or its advisors.
The above are selected articles from the June, 1989 issue of
"BASIS", the monthly publication of Bay Area Skeptics. You can
obtain a free sample copy by sending your name and address to BAY
AREA SKEPTICS, 4030 Moraga, San Francisco, CA 94122-3928 or by
leaving a message on "The Skeptic's Board" BBS (415-648-8944) or
on the 415-LA-TRUTH (voice) hotline.
Copyright (C) 1989 BAY AREA SKEPTICS. Reprints must credit "BASIS,
newsletter of the Bay Area Skeptics, 4030 Moraga, San Francisco,
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank