The Nigerian Benny Hinn

I’m sure you’ve seen Benny Hinn’s infamous blow-people-down-with-the-breath-of-god routine. Nigerian con man Chris Oyakhilome does much the same thing, only he makes it look like a Jedi using the force to topple people over by thrusting his hand at them. Seriously, how does anyone fall for this shit?


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  • D. C. Sessions

    Seriously, how does anyone fall for this shit?

    They want to.

  • Sastra

    They fall for it in part for the same reason dowsers fall for dowsing — a combination of experiencing a force pulling on you and thereafter discovering a result. Although there are probably some people deliberately falling down as a self-conscious performance in a well-known routine, my guess is that the majority will swear up and down that they actually felt something push them over. The force; the fall. They didn’t keel over on purpose and they know this: you can’t deny what you feel for yourself.

    No, but we can deny the interpretation. Dr. Steve Novella calls it “neuropsychological humility” — a knowledge of the many forms of human fallibility and the recognition that we all can and do use them to fool ourselves in surprising ways. We’re not reliable truth machines. The ideomotor effect occurs when an expectation leads to both a hand movement and the strong sensation that the hand isn’t voluntarily moving at all. Ouija boards, dowsing … and this sort of thing.

    In this video I noticed something I’d read about: an underlying musical ‘beat’ throbbing throughout the theater. Apparently this helps induce a hypnotic state which, along with expectation and commitment, leads to the illusion that real magic is happening here.

  • Modusoperandi

    Sastra “…fall for dowsing…”

    Dibs on band name!

  • Marcus Ranum

    I have long pondered that humans are much harder to fool one-on-one, but are increasingly easy to fool as the number of people involved in the “con” goes up. It’s as if we’ve got brains that understand personal skepticism but fail when pack interest gets involved, or something.

  • sinned34

    The experience of being “slain in the spirit” was pretty much the final straw that caused me to leave Christianity. I’d been involved with an evangelical church for almost five years. I’d been baptized, I prayed in tongues, but I could never get into the really kooky stuff like dancing for the lord, deliverance from demons, etc.

    So one time I joined an altar call because I felt like my “relationship” with Jesus was faltering. The pastor comes down the line of people, praying for them and each of them got slain in the spirit and fell backwards (caught by ushers and placed gently on their backs). He came to me, put his hand on my forehead and prayed for me and then ever so slightly pushed on my forehead. I didn’t fall backwards. This caused everybody near me to begin praying for me much more intensely, after which the pastor gave me a pretty good shove, and I fell backwards. I just laid there for a while, feeling nothing. I took a peek around me and all these other people were praying madly, supposedly having these amazing experiences with god, and here I wasn’t experiencing anything. That was when all the things that had been bugging me about my religion coalesced and I realized that it was all a big fraud.

    I wish I’d have figured it out sooner, so that I didn’t waste so many of my late teen and early adult years in church. I also wouldn’t have to be embarrassed because I probably looked a little bit like the idiots in that video. Ugh.

  • Marcus Ranum

    Aaaaaaaand I’d love to see him go up against this guy – the “kiai” master who went head to head with an MMA fighter and wound up paying the MMA guy $5000 to beat the crap out of him. It’s interesting to me because the “kiai” master must have believed his own bullshit.

    I wonder what would happen if Glenn Beck did that to his audience?

  • busterggi

    Wonder if Jesus would take away his power if the ground his parishioners were to fall on was sprinkled with large sharp shards of broken glass?

  • Marcus Ranum

    The pastor comes down the line of people, praying for them and each of them got slain in the spirit and fell backwards (caught by ushers and placed gently on their backs). He came to me, put his hand on my forehead and prayed for me and then ever so slightly pushed on my forehead. I didn’t fall backwards.

    The movie “Marjoe” has some great stuff where Marjoe Gortner describes how it’s done from the pastor’s point of view. It’s much like stage hypnosis – you get the marks to line up then give them a few simple requests and keep an eye on which ones are immediately “buying in” to what you tell them. When you see a hypnosis show, look carefully at the early part where the performer is selecting the candidate marks from the audience: the ones that appear to be most quickly doing his bidding are the ones he tests in more detail when he has them on the stage, “oh, let’s have you move over here…” and then they will often “adjust” the marks “here, angle this way so the camera can see you” — what they’re doing is measuring for any muscle response that indicates tension. Then they first do a few basic tricks on either a confederate or the second-most-likely “mark” to fully sink the hook, and do the main performance on the “mark” that is now thoroughly relaxed, primed to listen and obey, and convinced the performer has powers.

    (Yes, I’ve done this stuff. It works. It’s really amazing)

  • Marcus Ranum

    Wonder if Jesus would take away his power if the ground his parishioners were to fall on was sprinkled with large sharp shards of broken glass?

    I do bet jesus would take away his power if he tried that on Chuck Norris.

  • Modusoperandi

    Marcus Ranum “I do bet jesus would take away his power if he tried that on Chuck Norris.”

    Chuck Norris can turn water into fist!

  • ffakr

    @Marcus Ranum

    There was a fracture in the Akido movement years back. One faction felt it was a martial [physical] art. The other faction chose to focus more on Ki (sp?).

    I’ve taken the more traditional Akido, before my schedule interfered too much with my ability to make training. From that I can see how people fall for this stuff. The power of suggestion is pretty strong.

    Without all the voodoo, it’s still pretty impressive.. almost magical what a bit of leverage can accomplish. They demonstrated some tricks that the willing could easily take as some special inner power.

    – The unbendable arm: when you tense up your outstretched arm, you’re contra-positional muscles are acting against each other. It just takes a little bit of force to tip that balance and bend someone else’s tense outstretched arm. But, if you extend your arm and relax it.. and only use your triceps to oppose an attempt to bend your arm.. it’s nearly impossible to bend.

    – The unstoppable force: We also plaid around with adjusting our center of gravity. The exercise required us to imagine walking forward from our pelvis. When someone opposes you with hands on your shoulders and you try to barrel through them, it’s pretty much a stalemate if they’re of the same basic stature. If you alter your stance and they lean into you, you can plow right through them though.

    Probably a better example of this was a technique for taking down people without touching them. In sparring, your opponent would swing you around and strike at your face with their palm, but they would pull up at the last moment and punch over your forehead.

    Because rational people really don’t want to get punched in the face, and because your opponent clearly intends to follow through, your subconscious compels you to drop to avoid it. The experience is actually pretty amazing. You know its a fake punch coming but you fold under it. It almost feels like there’s real force behind it.

    The same thing happens with throws. Your body knows better than your conscious mind that you better flip or go flying when your arm is manipulated because if you don’t you’re going to get seriously hurt. That’s what made Aikido so fun. As soon as you become comfortable falling, you go flying when you’re tossed. You don’t need to process as much, you just let your subconscious and your muscle memory take over.

    The problem with the MMA fighter vs. the Ki master was that the MMA fighter had trained himself to not flinch. He was willing to take a blow instead of ducking it. He was willing to fight a manipulation where someone trained in Aikido is trained to roll out of it.

    I suspect there are plenty of people who really do feel the power of God pushing them over.. just like I could allow myself to feel like that strike to my face pushed me down without ever touching me. Now.. I could make myself not go down for it if I was prepared to take a punch to the face should my instructor miss.. but it’s more fun to just go with it.

  • troll

    I processed the headline as “The Nigerian Benny Hill”. It now appears I’ll have Yakkety Sax stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

  • sinned34


    That’s really creepy how suggestion like that works. I’d never thought of it that way. It really makes sense because my pastor and youth pastors often commented to me that I didn’t seem to be able to “give myself completely over to god”. They must’ve been reading my body language to see that I was uncomfortable with that kind of stuff. Apparently I wasn’t as willing a mark as they would have preferred.

  • shadow

    I thought it was interesting that people behind (second ‘row) would fall first.

  • lorn

    I once talked to an ex-Benny Hinn cameraman. He related that the crowd, particularly the front of the crowd was salted with people who would fall down on cue and that a lot of people, caught up in a group experience, once they saw people falling would go along. People tend to live up to the expectations of the group, and apply meaning to their actions after the fact.

    The logic is this: You get caught up with the program and really want to experience divine power. You know about the falling down thing. Hinn does his thing and the people planted in the front do as they were told, they fall down. You see people falling down in front of you and go along. Then, laying on the floor you are faced with a choice, admit that it is an act and that you were fooled into acting foolishly, or, you attribute your falling to a divine power.

    The choice is between admitting that you are a credulous fool who was tricked and manipulated into foolishness, or you had an encounter with divine power and are ‘blessed by God’. No surprise that most people chose the later and erase any memory of the former. There is also the fact that, done to a group, there immediately forms a social support group that reconfirms the proper interpretation. I don’t want o look foolish to you and you don’t want to look foolish to me. So we tacitly form a pact to reconfirm the safe interpretation. And once you relate the story a few times that version is pretty much locked in.

  • ArtK

    Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups — George Carlin

  • sinned34


    My initial reaction to your post @16 was, “Thanks for calling me stupid, jerk.” But yeah, I guess it was kind of dumb for me to go along with the crowd that I so desperately wanted to be a part of because I believed what they were telling me was true.

    I got better.

  • Modusoperandi

    sinned34, if you want I can push you down. You can even give me money afterwards. I’m cool like that.

  • karmacat

    So if someone gets injured, can he/she sue this guy?

  • sinned34


    That sounds about right. We’ll still be friends though, right?

  • some bastard on the internet


    No, they’d have to sue God, who is notorious for not answering any summons.

  • grumpyoldfart

    They are not gullible. They are cunning conniving Christians trying to book themselves a place in heaven with not a care for anybody else. Don’t feel sorry for them; they’ll teat you like shit if they think it would be to their benefit.

  • caseloweraz

    Presumably, if this pastor was pointing at the cameraman when he gave his “You want it? Take it!”, the cameraman would not fall down. Presumably, therefore, he’s careful to never point at the cameraman.