After pondering how ladies in the nineteenth century could possibly have fallen for the con tricks perpetrated by Madam Rachel Leverson with her various miracle products guaranteed to make one “beautiful for ever”, it would seem there will always be those willing for some reason or other to be duped and fleeced. Snake oil salesmen still exist and their claims are even more outrageous than those of Rachel Leverson.
In 1984 when I first went to America to work at James Madison University, I spent the whole of my first Sunday morning ensconced in the rec room watching on television one evangelist preacher after another in their various magnificent temples and the experience was truly jaw dropping. I had to hand it to them. They certainly knew how to hold an audience. I won’t say congregation because the whole thing was so theatrical I think audience a more fitting word. A couple of them later fell by the wayside, Jimmy Swaggart for example, when their sins (usually sexual) found them out and there were penitential tears which sometimes led to forgiveness by their brainwashed followers, but what does one make of this man? His name is Peter Popoff and he has to be the greatest fraudster that ever was. In true evangelical fashion he tends to rant and rave and keep things moving with wild gestures, in fact he appears to be unstoppable. ‘God told me! God told me! Smite that cancer with your fist!’ ‘Words of prophecy given to me by God.’ ‘The power of God within me.’ Etcetera.
Evidently he first appeared with those others I watched in the eighties and it seemed he had psychic powers. He not only knew the names of his victims but he knew why they had come to him. Many of the cases were of course cancer but for example one old woman wanted to get rid of her walker and so he went to her, did his shove on the forehead bit ‘in Jesus’ name!’ (so theatrical) and told her to get rid of it after which she took a few faltering steps being held up by our preacher and a couple of others – Hallelujah, the Lord be praised. But the trick was discovered when his wife gave the game away. From notes written beforehand she fed him the information through his ear piece. Having been discredited, like Madam Rachel, he declared bankruptcy and disappeared for a while only to be resurrected in 2007 with even bigger plans this time involving all those little wonderful products like miracle spring water (Rachel’s miracle spring water she maintained came from the river Jordan so presumably Popoff’s does as well), bracelets, crucifixes, Dead Sea salt, miracle manna bread, (the recipe given to him personally by God), making money incense, (I love that one, could do with some of it myself) divine transfer sets, books and more. Evidently he will send you his miracle spring water in a clear plastic tube about the size of a large tube of toothpaste and clearly marked ‘Miracle Spring Water’ totally free of charge, but once you’re on his books as it were there come the follow-ups. In one of these he asks for $27, not $7, not $270, but $27 because this is supposedly a divine number, the seven will protect you and your donation will be returned to you many times over. This man, with ‘ The power of God’, can cure any illness, solve any problem, make you rich beyond your widest dreams and, make no bones about it, he is a leech a bloodsucker praying on the desperate, the poor, the gullible, the feebleminded, of which there are unfortunately too too many and it is totally sick. His ministry brings in over $23000000 a year and I presume as it is a registered charity that is tax free but, as the man is so obviously a charlatan and a thief, why is it nothing can be done about him and his like? Are they beyond any law?
In the US you can turn on the television any day any time and on five cable channels there is Peter Popoff offering you both earth and heaven. Heaven on earth?
If you want to know more you can look him up on Youtube. It’s really quite fascinating.