Peter Popoff – My Persistent Pen Pal

When I think about the great moments in skeptic history a few things spring to mind: the 10:23 campaign; The Australian Skeptics getting the Anti-Vaccination to change their name, getting Derek Acorah to channel the spirit of Kreed Kafer, things like that. Of course no list of great skeptical achievements would be complete without James Randi’s many famous stings, and particularly his investigation of the Reverend Peter Popoff in 1986.

Popoff appeared to be a miraculous faith healer with an accuracy rate that would make some well known stage psychics green with jealousy. Sensing something was afoot, Randi, using a radio scanner, discovered the somewhat un-messianic source of these amazingly accurate addresses and ailments: Popoff’s wife was reading off ‘prayer cards’ the audience had filled in before the show, and was passing the information to the Reverend by wireless earpiece. “Hello Petey can you hear me? If you can’t you’re in trouble”. Oh, for simpler and more innocent times, when stage psychics would use earpieces…

Peter Popoff's Miracle Spring Water

Peter Popoff’s Miracle Spring Water

This expose was shown on national news in the US. You would have thought that he would have retreated into embarrassed and disgraced obscurity. And indeed it was that poor Petey filed for bankruptcy in 1987. Hooray!

Except… except fortune favoured plucky Petey, and after his fall from grace he discovered a real, definitely-genuine miracle. As he has described on his show, he became acquainted with a priest from Pripyat (the town near Chernobyl. Yes that Chernobyl) who had prayed to god after the reactor meltdown and god had answered by turning the water in a lake near town into ‘miracle’ water that was free from radiation, safe to drink and had  healing and other wonderful properties.

So Petey dusted himself down and reinvented himself as a televangelist with TV shows on religious TV channels all over the world including the UK to tell everyone about this ‘miracle’. Now I say TV shows, what I really mean is ‘infomercials’ for this ‘miracle’ spring water which he offers viewers for free! Free! Good old Petey. Giving away his miracles for free. So selfless. So lovely. So not at all a way get around advertising rules because he isn’t technically selling something. Nope.

So of course when I first heard about this miracle water a few years ago I immediately filled out a request form on Petey’s website, and just a few weeks later my water arrived… along with a long, seemingly-personalised letter from the man himself! This sparked off a long and protracted correspondence between myself and Petey (and, more recently, my dog) which i’m going to tell you all about in my next few posts. Stay tuned!

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InKredulous: Episode #033

Episode 33 of our satirical comedy podcast.

Your host is Andy Wilson (@InKredulosi) of the Merseyside Skeptics Society and co-organiser of QED conference.

For this episode we have lined up an American Uncivil War between podcast teams Cognitive Dissonance and Scathing Atheist. There will be swearing and epic comic timing.

Thanks for listening. And remember, we love reviews on iTunes, Stitcher or any podcatcher of your choice.

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Skeptics with a K: Episode #141

Exploding viruses, bad luck, zapping blood and the Emperor’s New Music Player. Plus obese mice, broken phones, stool transplants and the importance of back-ups. Pouring over hard work, it’s Skeptics with a K.

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Get out of debt free… or, not

Guest post from Emma, an MSS member.

I and my partner recently moved to a new house. It went relatively smoothly aside from the usual stress of packing, unpacking and remembering what addresses to change, that sort of thing. After the move a large volume of post for the previous owner kept arriving at our address. At first I diligently gave it to the estate agent to forward on as we didn’t have a forwarding address. After a while this became irksome so we began just returning to sender. Alas the deluge of post continued and I began to recognise some of the return addresses and some worrying looking ones (with red ink) didn’t have a return address.

I found that most of the letters were from creditors of the previous owner seeking repayment of various debts. They were threatening and I must admit I would have been scared to receive them if they were addressed to me. The previous owner is apparently in some financial distress and I found myself feeling quite sorry for them and the difficulties they were presumably having.

Following the financial crisis more and more people have found themselves in this position and there are fewer and fewer places where people can get help and advice given cuts to public services and legal aid.

BTBATBJMU

People receiving debt letters can turn to social media for answers – unfortunately, not always good answers.

For example, in 2013 all legal aid for debt matters was taken out of scope – meaning that it is very difficult to get professional advice with debt matters. In the same way that we see people given a terminal diagnosis turning to miracle cure peddlers in the form of Burzynksi or ‘Yes to Life’, in the debt world the equivalent is the Facebook page and website ‘Beat the Bailiffs and the Banks’ (BTBATB). At the time of writing this group has over 20,000 members. Every day there are dozens of requests for help from people who have received letters similar to those being sent to the previous owner of my house. Read the rest of this entry »

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Skeptics with a K: Episode #140

Oxidative stress, topical urine, imprinted silica, and free radicals. Plus crashed vans, cloning, growing cress, and spoilers. Lots of spoilers. Really, spoiler alert. There are spoilers. Probably not using more than 10% of our brains, it’s Skeptics with a K.

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InKredulous: Episode #032

Episode 32 of our satirical comedy podcast.

Your host is Andy Wilson (@InKredulosi) of the Merseyside Skeptics Society and co-organiser of QED conference.

Appearing this time are:

Thanks for listening.

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