The performance of miracles is something that reinforces the faith of the believer and the skeptisicm of the non-believer! What is without doubt is the miracle establishes the credentials of the pastor. But since the 1950s some pastors have literally been pulling their congregations legs.

The Miracle

The pastor tells a member of his congregation that one of their legs is shorter than the other. The knowledge must have come from the angels because, amazingly, the person with the short leg often doesn’t even know! Sitting the person down and holding out their legs, they do appear to be different lengths. Calling the name of Jesus makes the shorter leg grow…apparently.

The Method

The ‘miracle’ is a well-known parlour trick amongst magicians. Starting with the legs slightly sideways and pulling the shoe slightly off the heel, makes one leg appear to be longer – or the other to be shorter! Reverse the process and you have an instant, miraculous healing.

The best thing is to watch this wonderful old clip of faith healer A.A. Allen followed by a demonstration of the method by magician James Randi. Watch carefully as Allen swing the legs to the side and blatently pulls off the shoe. Also on this video is another leg-puller W.V. Grant.

A A Allen exposed by James Randi

From the Faith of Fire church in Denmark we have the following video [now taken down from YouTube!]. The pastor was rather careless because it was performed over a wooden floor where the strips of wood create a grid. Notice the position of the feet going across the grid at the start and the way they are lined up at the finish. Perhaps he thought no one would notice because his congregation’s faith would suspend their critical reasoning?

There are also pastors in Ghana who do the same thing. From the one’s I have seen they have learnt the same method.

YouTube is full of these videos. You can do a search using terms such as “miracle leg grows”, “lengthen a short leg miracle” or “short leg miracle”.

Based on my knowledge of this trick, none of the YouTube performances I’ve seen are convincing to me. What do you think?

Why Don’t We See?

Intelligence has no bearing on the ability to be tricked, as James Randi showed with his Project Alpha.

In James Randi’s book The Faith Healers, he quotes Joseph Barnhart, professor of Philosophy at North Texas State University. Barnhart claims the faith healing service functions as a grand drama in which all become participants. The division between performer and audience does not exist in this context. The gradual build up to the climax is a ritual of magical proportions. The afflicted wants to get close to the magic and suspends all doubt to reinforce “the myth that all the actors have agreed to believe in”.

“The faith healing service is a sort of mutually accepted morality play that is participated in without doubt or hesitation, for fear of breaking the spell.”

We suspend our disbelief within a church service because we presume the proceedings are being conducted honestly. In a stage performance of magic we know we are being tricked. Historically, unscrupulous pastors have exploited this.

The pastors cover their tracks suggesting that questioning is challenging God and that being critical is “touching God’s anointed”.

If we suspend our critical abilities we have no defence against this sort of deceit .

Just because we cannot think of an explanation doesn’t mean the thing is real. It just shows the limits to our imagination!