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Critical Thinker's Dictionary

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psychic "surgery"

Psychic "surgery" is a type of non-surgery performed by a non-medical healer. The healer fakes an incision by running a finger along the patient's body, apparently going through the skin without using any surgical instruments. The healer pretends to dig his hands into the patient's innards and pretends to pull out 'tumors'. Using trickery, the healer squirts animal blood from a hand-held balloon while discarding items such as chicken livers and hearts. The patient then goes home to die, if he or she was really dying, or to live if there was nothing seriously wrong in the first place.

Psychic "surgery" is big business around the world, but especially in the Philippines and Brazil, where "healers" like Alex Orbito and Laurence Cacteng ply their trade. Tony Agpaoa put psychic "surgery" on the map in Manila, where there are now several hundred practicing psychic "surgeons", many working out of hotels. In 1967, Agpaoa was indicted for fraud in the United States. He jumped bail and went home, forfeiting a $25,000 bond.

Some people find solace in psychic "surgeons" and other faith healers because they think the healers are divine agents. The practice is not restricted to third-world countries. Chris Cole practices psychic "surgery" in Sydney, Australia. One of the more popular psychic "surgeons" outside of the Philippines is Stephen Turoff, who runs the Danbury Healing Clinic in Chelmsford, England. Turoff, a follower of Sai Baba, performs therapeutic touch at no extra charge. Turoff also takes his show on the road. A Dutch group called Inner Journey reports on a weekend with Turoff where at least four people out of about 250 wrote two weeks after their visit to say they were healed.

Turoff has been performing for a quarter of a century and is popular enough to warrant a biographer, Grant Solomon. In 1998, Solomon published Stephen Turoff - Psychic Surgeon: The Story of an Extraordinary Healer. A revised edition appeared in 1999 with the extraordinary and remarkable revised title of Stephen Turoff, Psychic Surgeon: The Extraordinary Story of a Remarkable Healer. According to www.Natural-Healing.co.uk, Turoff is "a 16-stone, six-and-a-half foot, middle-aged, Jewish-Christian former carpenter from Brick Lane in London's East End whom many believe to be an instrument of God [sic]." To others, Turoff is just another pious fraud. Nevertheless, the popularity of psychic "surgery" seems to be growing, despite the debunking work of people like James Randi.

Psychic dentistry is also available for those who prefer dentistry without anesthesia or dental drills performed by a faith healer. "Willard Fuller has supposedly healed more than 40,000 people since he began practicing in 1960. Those who flock to his healing ministry claim his magic touch can fill cavities, make bad teeth whole again, and even produce a new set of teeth in some elderly patients" (Nava). Many patients are afraid to admit they've been defrauded because that would imply that they lack true faith. According to George Nava True II who operates the "only Philippine skeptical website to challenge the claims of alternative healers, psychics, and other quacks," psychic dentistry "has never been demonstrated under controlled laboratory conditions and most practitioners are simply sleight-of-hand artists who can't produce a shred of proof of their alleged powers." For those who have faith, proof is not needed.

James Randi performing psychic surgery

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further reading

Barrett, Stephen and William T. Jarvis. eds. The Health Robbers: A Close Look at Quackery in America (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1993).

Barrett, Stephen and Kurt Butler (eds.) A Consumer's Guide to Alternative Medicine: A Close Look at Homeopathy, Acupuncture, Faith-Healing, and Other Unconventional Treatments; edited by (Buffalo, N.Y. : Prometheus Books, 1992).

Brenneman, Richard J. Deadly Blessings : Faith Healing on Trial (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1990).

Christopher, Milbourne. (1975). Mediums, Mystics & the Occult. Thomas Y. Crowell Co.

Fuller, John G. Arigo: Surgeon of the Rusty Knife (Devin-Adair Pub. 1975).

Maki, Masao. In Search of Brazil's Quantum Surgeon: The Dr. Fritz Phenomenon (Cadence Books 1998).

Randi, James. The Faith Healers (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books).

Randi, James. Flim-Flam! (Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books,1982), chapter 9.

Raso, Jack. "Alternative" Healthcare: A Comprehensive Guide (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1994).

news story

Alex Orbito charged with fraud

Last updated 23-Dec-2013

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