There are a number of reasons supposed miracle workers are often successful in convincing their audiences of their authenticity. From cult leaders to false profits, people often want to believe there’s someone out there who can cure what ails them.
While the work of many such supposed holy workers is up to interpretation, most are eventually exposed when their followers want real miracle-quality results and they’re unable to provide them. It happens more often than you think.
Take, for example, these 10 miracle workers who failed miserably—in front of their respective audiences, no less—and were proven phony in the process!
1. Muhammad Sabir: In 2014, this Pakistani miracle worker convinced his followers that he was a prophet and that he had power over death. While attempting to prove his claims, one man named Muhammad Niaz volunteered to die and be brought back to life. Other followers then brought him on stage, tied him down to a table, and slit his throat. The leader then began chanting in an effort to bring the man back to life, but nothing happened.
At that moment, Sabir realized he didn’t have healing powers and attempted to flee the scene. He was later tracked down by his own followers and turned over to the police.
2. Alec Ndiwane: While visiting Kruger National Park in 2016, Alee Ndiwane, convinced he’d inherited the strength of the biblical character Samson, planned to kill a lion with his bare hands. Furthermore, he was eager to prove the skeptics that he was correct. He then set off to find a lion pride so he could battle them.
As soon as he exited his car, however, the lions charged toward him. He had a sudden change of heart, and he fled back to his vehicle. Luckily for him, there was a park ranger nearby who fired off several warning shots, scaring the lions away. Ndiwane survived the ordeal, but when interviewed about what happened, all he could say was, “I thought the Lord wanted to use me to show His power over animals.”
3. Jamie Coots: This Kentucky preacher told his followers that God had made him completely immune to snake venom. To prove this, he would often hold snakes in his arms while addressing the congregation. He was bitten a total of nine times, though he survived each event. Inevitably, a woman in the audience was bitten by one of the snakes. He demanded that no one bring her to a hospital, though this resulted in her dying on there on the floor of the church.
Coots attempted to blame the woman’s death on lack of faith. Some time later, he was bitten for a ninth time, and when an ambulance came, members of the congregation told them to leave, as he believed he could heal himself. Unfortunately for him, this bite would be his last, as he died just an hour later. Unfortunately, his son has stepped in and is convincing audiences he has the same powers.
4. The South African Prophet: One miracle worker in South Africa told his followers that his faith gave him the power to walk on water and to do anything he desired. In an attempt to prove this, he asked one woman to lie on the floor in front of the others. He then proceeded to place an extremely heavy speaker on her chest.
The man promised the woman nothing would happen to her as he climbed atop the speaker and sat in front of his congregation. All the while, the woman wasn’t making a sound… but that was because she’d been crushed to death. When police came to question him, he claimed it was not his fault, but the woman’s, because she hadn’t had complete faith.
5. Ganeshyogi Maharaj: This Indian man convinced his followers he had power over death by consuming poison and allowing snakes to bite him. Each time, he survived. In the ultimate chance to prove his ability, he claimed he would die, go to the afterlife, and resurrect in three days. In order to die, he consumed 200 milliliters of insecticide. Of course, he died shortly thereafter. His followers prayed through the night for his return.
Sadly, he did not come back to life. Even though his body began to decompose in the following days, the followers refused to let authorities take him away for burial. Eventually, doctors had to perform a series of ECG tests to prove that he was, in fact, deceased and not returning as planned.
6. Shamiso Kanyama: After becoming convinced that one of his follower’s homes had been infiltrated by evil spirits after they experienced financial issues, this Zimbabwean prophet believed if he died, he would cross over and exorcise the spirits away. To achieve death, he instructed a number of his followers to dig a large grave in front of the home so he could be buried alive.
Even though the family attempted to stop him from doing so, he insisted he had to do what he’d set out to do. When his followers eventually dug him back up to see if he’d completed his mission, they found him dead at the bottom of the grave.
7. William Miller: In addition to believing the world was going to end on October 22, 1844, William Miller convinced his followers that American colonists were brought to the New World in order to construct a new kingdom for God and Jesus’ return. When the world continued after his predicted apocalypse, Peter Armstrong, one of Miller’s most devout followers, kept his faith, and believed Jesus hadn’t returned because the sanctuary to God wasn’t properly constructed.
To fix the problem, Armstrong used all of his money to purchase more than 180 acres of Pennsylvania land, signed the tile to “Almighty God,” and invited Jesus to come live with him. When God failed to pay his taxes and the U.S. government showed up (surprise, surprise), Armstrong was eventually forced into selling the property.
8. Emmanuel Esezobor: This Nigerian bishop is said to have accidentally killed a man while attempting to perform a miracle. The deceased had been convinced to lie in a coffin and play dead until he was told to come out—all for 500,000 Nigerian nairas (about $1,400). Then, on command, he would rise in front of an audience, which would prove Esezobor’s power over death.
Unfortunately for the man, the coffin was closed so tightly that he missed his cue and ended up suffocating to death.
9. Jack Coe: This self-proclaimed miracle healer claimed to have the power to heal the sick—and people believed him. In 1955, when Coe attempted to help a three-year-old boy whose parents hoped he could help him overcome polio, he nearly killed the child. On stage, Coe instructed the young boy to take off his leg braces and walk around. When he did so, Coe claimed he’d cured him.
The only problem: he wasn’t cured at all, and attempting to get around without his leg braces only worsened his condition. Coe was later arrested for practicing medicine without a license, but his case was eventually dismissed. Then, he himself contracted polio and died just a few weeks later.
10. Pandit Sharma: As the self-proclaimed most powerful tantric in India, this man told his followers he was a master of black magic and could produce any results he desired. Hearing about this, skeptic Sanal Edamaruku called him out and asked to be killed on live television; Sharma agreed to partake. Not long after, he attempted to chant magic words and sprinkle water on the man’s face in front of a live television audience.
Despite his effort, nothing happened. Embarrassed, Sharma began to move a knife over his body while pushing his fingers into his head, and even resorted to writing his name on a piece of paper and burning it, all to no avail. This continued for two hours, with zero results. Sharma eventually claimed his foe must’ve worshipped a sacred god who was protecting him, to which Edamaruku replied that he was an atheist.
Ha! These miracle workers sure got their just desserts. It just goes to show that practicing faith out of convenience might not be the best idea.
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