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Peter Popoff
Born July 2, 1946 (1946-07-02)
Hamburg, Germany, raised in U.S.
Occupation President of "People United For Christ"
Years active 1970s - present
Religion Pentecostal
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Popoff
Children Amy, Nickolas and Alex

Peter Popoff (born July 2, 1946) is a German-born American. He claims to be a faith healer, and performs revival meetings on national television which include laying on of hands. His ministry is based in Upland, California, and is funded through donations. A widely popular minister in the 1980s, he went bankrupt in 1987 after skeptics James Randi and Steve Shaw exposed his method of receiving information about revival attendees from his wife via an in-ear receiver.[1] He has since returned to his ministry.


Early life and career

Popoff was born in Germany. In a message entitled "10,000 Miles of Miracles", Popoff claimed he had been born in "the bomb shelters of Berlin at the end of World War II".[citation needed] Other sources indicate he was born in Hamburg in 1946.[citation needed]

During his appearances at church conventions in the 1970s, Popoff routinely and accurately stated the home addresses and specific illnesses of his audience members, a feat he allowed them to believe was due to divine revelation and "God given ability".[2] In 1986 when members of CSICOP reported that Popoff was using a radio to receive messages, Popoff denied it and said the messages came from God.[3] At the time of his popularity, skeptic groups across the United States printed and handed out pamphlets explaining how Popoff's feats could be done.[1] Popoff would tell his audience that the pamphlets were "tools of the devil".[1]

Randi controversy

Popoff's earlier claims were debunked in 1983 when noted skeptic James Randi and his assistant, Steve Shaw, researched Popoff by attending shows across the country for months. They discovered that radio transmissions were being sent by Peter's wife, Elizabeth Popoff, where she was reading information which she and her aides (Reeford Sherrill) had gathered from earlier conversations with members of the audience. Popoff would simply listen to these promptings with his in-ear receiver and repeat what he heard to the crowd. After tapes of these transmissions were played on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Popoff's popularity and viewing audiences declined sharply, and his ministry declared bankruptcy later that year.[1] In September 1987, sixteen months after the Carson airing, Popoff declared bankruptcy with more than 790 creditors having claims against him.[4]

As Randi explained in The Faith Healers, he originally took his research to the United States Attorney's office, but never heard back from them.[1] This led Randi's friend Johnny Carson to invite Randi on the show to explain how Popoff operated. Popoff at first denied that he used the tactics Randi claimed, even asserting "NBC hired an actress to impersonate Mrs. Popoff on a 'doctored' videotape."[1] However, as the media pressed with more questions, "on day three Reverend Popoff admitted the existence of the radio device, claiming, that 'almost everybody' knew about the 'communicator.' And, he added, 'My wife occasionally gives me the name of a person who needs special prayers'."[1] However, Randi appeared on CNN prior to this claiming Popoff used a transmitter, but Popoff said this was false and he got the information from God.[1]

Popoff's shows also featured audience members who were brought on stage in wheelchairs and then rose dramatically to walk without support. Two in particular were celebrities Kyle Ellsworth and Petrina Dy. These were some of Popoff's most incredible "healings", but what believing audience members and television viewers did not know was that wheelchairs were used by Popoff to seat people who were already able to walk.[5]

Popoff wrote several paperbacks in the early 1980s that were published by Faith Messenger Publications but are now out of print. He was also known for collecting donations to be sent to the Soviet Union, which earned him a profit from a fraud scheme.[1]

In 1991, NOVA's episode Secrets of the Psychics aired footage of Popoff with his wife's radio transmission dubbed in. Since then, that episode was released on video to teach critical thinking.[6]


In 1998, The Washington Post reported that Popoff's following disappeared after he was exposed by Randi, but Popoff "joined dozens of other preachers to become fixtures on BET."[7] Consequently, Popoff, along with Don Stewart and Robert Tilton, received "criticism from those who say that preachers with a long trail of disillusioned followers have no place on a network that holds itself out as a model of entrepreneurship for the black community."[7] Currently Popoff's infomercials can be seen late nights and early mornings in the U.S. and Canada on BET, The Travel Channel, The Learning Channel (TLC), Global Television, TV One, The Word Network and Vision TV.[8] This includes television in Australia on Nine, in the United States, United Kingdom, and New Zealand.[8]

A 2006 report from Fox affiliate WDAF-TV in Kansas City revealed that Popoff's salary in 2004 was over $500,000, and his assets include a 2006 Porsche convertible worth $90,000. Some reporters are urging those who have donated money to Popoff in hopes of receiving "miracles" to report to the Attorney General in their state.[2] In 2005, KPRC-TV brought hidden cameras to a "People United For Christ" event and were caught by Popoff's bodyguards and escorted out as one man tried to take a reporter's driver's license.[9]

In February 2007, Inside Edition did an exposé on his continued faith healing and "Miracle Spring Water." The show explained that his new television programs feature him "healing the sick" in a manner identical to his method prior to James Randi's exposé. The investigation led by Matt Meagher featured clips from the infamous Carson show, an interview with Randi, and Inside Edition seeking comment from Popoff.[10] Meagher confronted Popoff as he got into his Porsche, but was smashed as Popoff attempted to shut the door of the car against him.[10] Asking Popoff why he took thousands of dollars from a desperate married couple, Popoff refused to answer questions and declined to be interviewed. The interview ended with Randi saying "flim flam is his profession; that's what he does best. He's very good at it, and naturally he's going to go back to it."[10]

In May 2007, ABC's 20/20 focused on Popoff's "comeback" and explored the lives of a few people who felt cheated.[11] Various media outlets have run stories critical of Popoff's "comeback".[12][13][14][15] In July 2008, a Nanaimo, Canada resident was reimbursed by Popoff after the woman took her concerns over his fundraising public.[16]

In 2008, the UK broadcasting regulator Ofcom has given serious warnings to broadcasters for transmitting Popoff's material, which the regulator felt promoted his products "in such a way as to target potential susceptible and vulnerable viewers". These programs have included offers of free "Miracle Manna" that can allegedly provide health and financial miracles. If viewers asked for the "manna", they were sent letters asking for money.[17]

In 2009, advertisements appeared in the UK press offering a free cross which contained "blessed water" and "holy sand". The blessed water was supposedly from a source near Chernobyl (the site of a nuclear accident). Animals drinking from this source were purportedly free from any radiation sickness. The cross also bore the inscription 'Jerusalem'. The usual requests for money accompanied the cross and follow-up requests for money from Popoff were also sent out.

Financial details

At Popoff's peak in 1987, according to his comptroller, he took in $4.3 million a month.[18] After his exposure on the Tonight show he declared bankruptcy in 1987.[4]

According to Charity Navigator, in FYE 2004, Peter Popoff received $548,167 as president of his organization and the Peter Popoff Ministries raised $16,220,066 in revenue in FYE 2004.[19] Then in FYE 2005, Popoff received $628,732, his wife Elizabeth received $203,029, his son received $182,166, and daughter received $176,290 with $23,556,469 in revenue.[19] These figures are from IRS documents, which "only outline the millions of dollars people give Popoff's organization in the US." [12]


  • 3 Steps to Answered Prayer. Faith Messenger Publications (1981) ISBN 0938544101 (91 pages)
  • Calamities, Catastrophes, and Chaos. Faith Messenger Publications (1980) ISBN 0938544012
  • Dreams: God's Language for Life More Abundantly. Publisher: People United For Christ (1989)ASIN: B000NSMW2S (88 pages)
  • Forecasts for 1987. (1984) ASIN: B000B8K0MY (33 page booklet)
  • God Has Promised You Divine Wealth
  • God's Abundant Blessings
  • Prosperity Thinking
  • Releasing the Power of the Holy Spirit in Your Life
  • Guaranteed Answered Prayer
  • Demons At Your Doorstep. Faith Messenger Pubns (May 1982) ISBN 0938544136 (50 pages)
  • Six Things Satan Uses to Rob You of Gods Abundant Blessings. Faith Messenger Pubns (April 1982) ISBN 093854411X (93 pages)

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Randi, James (1989). The Faith Healers. Prometheus Books. ISBN 0-87975-535-0 page 141. 
  2. ^ a b Friedman, Jason (2006-05-08). "Reverend Rip-Off". WDAF Fox 4 News. 
  3. ^ "TV EVANGELIST DENIES USE OF RADIO IN HEALING SERVICE". Philadelphia Inquirer. July 15, 1986.,0EB29B46A4187CFC.html. Retrieved 2009-02-19. 
  4. ^ a b "Evangelist Popoff Off Air, Files Bankruptcy Petitions". Los Angeles Times. September 26, 1987. 
  5. ^ Seckel, Al (1987). "God's Frequency is 39.17 MHz: The Investigation of Peter Popoff". Science and the Paranormal. Retrieved 2006-05-06. 
  6. ^ NOVA Teachers (1993-10-19). "Secrets of the Psychics. Program Overview". 
  7. ^ a b "White Preachers Born Again on Black Network; TV Evangelists Seek to Resurrect Ministries". Washington Post. September 3, 1998. Retrieved 2007-05-17. 
  8. ^ a b "Peter Popoff Worldwide TV Schedule". Peter Popoff Ministries. Retrieved 2008-04-13. 
  9. ^ "Hidden Cameras Go Inside Evangelist's Service". KPRC-TV. May 24, 2005. Retrieved 2009-02-19. 
  10. ^ a b c "A Profitable Prophet". Inside Edition. February 27, 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-01. 
  11. ^ Avila, Jim (May 11, 2007). "Selling Salvation?". 20/20. Retrieved 2007-03-01. 
  12. ^ a b "Miracle Water: Ripoff or For Real Part II". KIDK. November 5, 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-07. 
  13. ^ "Prophet or profit?". KOMO-TV. October 9, 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-07. 
  14. ^ "Prophet or profit? Televangelist makes comeback". KATU. October 10, 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-07. 
  15. ^ "Abracadabra! The fraud is exposed". Toronto Star. July 21, 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-07. 
  16. ^ Bellaart, Darrell (July 21, 2007). "Televangelist gives back woman's cash: Nanaimo resident was concerned about Peter Popoff's fundraising methods". Nanaimo Daily News. Retrieved 2007-11-07. 
  17. ^ Ofcom Broadcast Bulletin
  18. ^ James Randi in a speech made at the Australian Skeptics Convention in 2000. (at 50:57 mark)
  19. ^ a b "Charity Navigator Rating - Peter Popoff Ministries". Charity Navigator. 2008. Retrieved 2007-11-07. 

External links

Official and critical


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