Two things happened recently that have caused me to revisit “Prophet” Reverend Peter Popoff of The People United for Christ, Incorporated. First, I’ve received a number of comments and emails regarding my first blog about Popoff’s “Miracle Spring Water” from Chernobyl that made me realize this guy is out there really hurting people, many of whom are desperate for answers. The second event that prompted another blog was that Rev. Peter Popoff himself phoned me! Well… sort of.
I want to tell you a little bit more about my professional background. After college I was an editor for a newspaper in Danbury, Connecticut. When the newspaper ran out of money, so did I. So I sold out and went into marketing and public relations. I spent the next six years working in the marketing departments of both public and private companies, and I even did a stint working for an advertising agency in Connecticut. During this time I learned a lot about direct mail by organizing campaigns for clients, writing the contents of some of these sales documents, and understanding what technology was available in regard to making the letters personalized and more innovative. So when I receive direct mail of any kind today, I have an understanding of what went into the creation of the piece.
So the other day my office phone rang and I picked it up. “This is your prophet Peter Popoff,” the voice on the other end said. I immediately recognized the voice. The recording of Popoff’s voice went on to tell me that I should watch one of his televised miracle crusades that was coming up. After I hung up, it occurred to me that I’d never spoken with a living human from Peter Popoff’s People United for Christ, Incorporated. The first toll-free number I called all those months ago was answered by a recording from Peter Popoff who asked me to leave my name and address (spelling everything out) on the recording. After that, the letters started coming, each one asking for a specific amount of money. I gave the amount he requested twice because I wanted to see where this would go. I quickly figured out where it was going. Each week I received one or two letters from Popoff, each with some crazy gimmick like holy bubble gum, blessed mood rings, or a supernatural fleece. You can see that one below (click on the image for a larger view).
I also noticed other features ofÂ Popoff’s direct mail campaigns. In the lower right of each piece of mail I received from Popoff, was a number: 1921805. This is a control number. The day I first called for the Miracle Spring Water, I was assigned this number in their computer. When I mailed in a “donation,” it was noted on my number and I became a higher priority for the campaign. Some of the cards Popoff asked me to fill out asked if I was married, or who I’d like him to pray for and what was my relationship to that person. He also asked how much debt I was in. I filled in a few things that are public knowledge anyway. I gave him my wife’s name on the card, and I told him the total I owe on my house’s mortgage. When my donation and filled-in cards went back, I noticed future letters became more personalized — they mentioned my wife’s name as well. How? Because when my mail goes back to his headquarters, someone enters that information in the database that corresponds with my control number 1921805. The more details he has, the more personalized the letters can become — and through the miracle of automation software and direct mail, he can send out thousands of these letters per day — all “personalized.”
Popoff’s letters are printed in two colors. A black “Courier” type face to make it look like it was typed on a typewriter, and then blue writing to make it seem like he personally wrote special notes that call the reader’s attention to various parts of the letter. These are probably written by Popoff himself because they’re generic (i.e. they don’t mention my name) and the lettering is different than other seemingly hand-written sections. Check out page 4 of his “fleecing” letter. Notice how he asks for $24.00 at the end? And see my control number in the lower right (click on the image for a larger view)?
One person who emailed me about my first Popoff blog mentioned that they had personalized hand-written notes from the good Reverend on their letters. The hand-written parts of the letters is simply a computer font. If you look at the letters, you’ll see all of the E’s are identical, as are the I’s, T’s, etc. It’s just a type face and it’s a different style than those generic messages I mentioned above. I’ve included one of these here (click on the image for a larger view):
A database feeds a printing press that churns these letters out, stuffs the envelopes, and then someone brings them to the post office. You wouldn’t need too many people to run an operation like this. No one has to answer phones or letters. They just have to run the checks to the bank, enter information from donations into the database, and run the printing press. It’s easy, and it’s obviously profitable. You almost have to admire Rev. Popoff’s approach. It’s a formula that is working for him. It’s completely impersonal, has nothing to do with teaching the Bible or anything else, and everything to do with pulling readers in to donating various amounts of money that can really add up over time. Along the way he’ll send you bubble gum, oil, water, salt, and anything else he can dream up in an effort to make you think you’re partaking in a supernatural ritual, when in reality you’re acting like a puppet and he’s just pulling your strings in an effort to get closer to your money.
Rev. Peter Popoff does have a divine transfer in mind. He believes it would be divine if you transferred your money to him. If you follow the steps of his letters and give the amounts of money he’s asking for, you will indeed be fleeced.
I’d like to close with this video from YouTube. In the 1980s, Rev. Peter Popoff was a well-known faith healer. Skeptic and debunker James Randi attended one of Popoff’s “healing” events with a radio scanner and discovered how Peter Popoff could supernaturally gain information about the people in his audience. Watch the video and see for yourself. If you’ve watched some of Popoff’s infomercials, you’ll recognize his wife’s voice talking to him over a wireless earpiece as she reads from the prayer cards that these people filled out before the event. Click here to watch the video and alsoÂ see how Rev. Popoff is living today: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxqRN5vjDHQ