A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

From Abracadabra to Zombies

What's the harm? archive

These links and comments illustrate the harm done by occult, paranormal, pseudoscientific, and supernatural beliefs. The harm may be tangible and easily documented: physical, financial, or interpersonal.

This page is no longer maintained (Feb. 2013).

17 February 2013. Belief in black magic persists in Papua New Guinea, where communities are warping under the pressure of the mining boom’s unfulfilled expectations. Women are blamed, accused of sorcery and branded as witches — with horrific consequences.

09 October 2011. A 12-year-old girl is duped into stealing $10,000 worth of jewelry from her parents by a psychic who convinced her the jewels were needed to lift a curse.

27 September 2011. A 13-year-old girl suffocated after she was strapped down and doused with water by her father and a monk who were trying to expel an "evil spirit."

20 August 2011. Rhinos threatened with extinction to meet demand for bogus cancer cure

16 August 2011. Self-proclaimed prophet jailed 18 years

11 June 2011. Texas tipster: Angels told me of mass grave site

21 May 2011. Persistent Infant Deaths Reported in Idaho Faith-Healing Church

01 April 2011. Florida pastor burns Koran; Afghans respond by killing foreigner.

29 March 2011. Tanzanian witchdoctor/pastor has them waiting in line for his "magic cure." Some are dying while waiting to get in to see him.

23 March 2011.The former roommate of a woman charged with killing her 3-year-old son and carrying around his dead body for almost a year has been arrested and charged with multiple counts for her alleged role in the crime, which she described to police as an exorcism.

18 Mar 2011. Mom's Exorcism on Daughter Ends in Evil

30 Jan 2011. Abuse Case Sparks a Clash Over Limits of Tough Parenting

28 Jan 2011. Massage therapist died after spiritual ceremony

13 Jan 2011. Facilitated communication charges results in $1.8M settlement.

9 Jan 2011. Danish psychic digs up old superstitions in search for Irish girl who disappeared almost 34 years ago.

4 Jan 2010. Pakistani governor murdered by his bodyguard for opposing blasphemy law.

30 Dec 2010. A group of men arrested in Denmark on Wednesday were about to mount a “Mumbai style” attack on the Danish newspaper that ignited Muslim fury around the world by publishing satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad

29 Dec 2010. Child dies as parent prays instead of seeking treatment for his diabetes.

7 Dec 2010. Two dozen kids and faith killing

7 Dec 2010. Pakistan mother denied presidential pardon for 'insulting Islam'

5 Dec 2010. A dozen killed in Haiti cholera witch-hunt

3 Dec 2010. Ghanaian woman burned to death for being a 'witch'

2 December, 2010. Exorcism rapist locked up for 11 years.

22 Nov 2010. Epilepsy patient killed during ‘exorcism’

27 September 2010. A severe case of exorcism involving two women of Greek origin is being tried the next few days in a courtroom in Sydney.

10 August 2010. "Exorcisms" performed on Chechen stolen brides

27 July 2010. Maldives man renounces Islam at lecture and is attacked by the audience; another commits suicide after admitting his atheism

21 July 2010. Girl beaten and burnt in exorcism ritual

15 July 2010. 4-year-old Russian boy dies after shaman performs exorcism to remove 'evil spirits' from his body.

27 June 2010. Jeffs gets 17 years for sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl.

18 June 2010. Circumcisions kill 20 boys in South Africa

26 May 2010. Five sentenced to death in honor killing of Indian couple from same clan.

30 April 2010. Measles outbreaks threaten progress in reducing child mortality in west and central Africa.

26 April 2010. Baby starved to death for not saying 'Amen'; mom gets probation.

21 April 2010. Senegal: Boys in Many Quranic Schools Suffer Severe Abuse.

11 April 2010. Child bride, 13, bleeds to death.

19 Mar 2010. TV presenter gets death sentence for 'sorcery'.

18 Mar 2010. Mexico Is Warned on Drug Detector

5 Mar 2010. Self-Proclaimed 'Psychic' Charged with Investor Fraud.

2 Mar 2010. Jury deliberations begin in trial of alleged cult members.

28 Feb 2010. Chinese herbal pills destroyed UK woman's health.

15 Feb 2010. Scientologist claims she was forced to have an abortion at 17 (she signed on for a billion years when she was seven). Another claims he was beaten several times by the head of the church.

15 Feb 2010. When a psychic's love spell failed, her client had her murdered.

12 Jan 2010. Karachi couple kill 4-month-old daughter to exorcise demons.


11 Dec 2009. Tillmon Webb put his faith in Jesus to heal his injured leg. He died without leaving his recliner for 10 months, saying he couldn't afford medical treatment.

30 Nov 2009. Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill, sponsored by ruling party MP David Bahati, a member of The Family, calls for a seven-year jail term for anyone who attempts to commit a homosexual act or who "aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage in acts of homosexuality."

28 Nov 2009. A 16-year-old Sudanese Christian girl has been lashed 50 times for wearing an "indecent" knee-length skirt.

27 Nov 2009. Saudi Arabia sentences to death alleged witch doctors, fortunetellers, and black magicians.

16 Nov 2009. Evangelists abuse sheep in their flocks.

6 Nov 2009. Adulterer stoned to death.

4 November 2009. A piece of pseudoscientific junk is still being used in Iraq to detect bombs.

18 October 2009. The branding of children as witches by Christian evangelists in Nigeria continues.

12 October 2009. Three people die in a sweat lodge at a New Age spiritual retreat run by James Ray.

11 October 2009. Parents guilty of manslaughter in faith healing regimen.

9 October 2009. Girl escapes from Russian convent, charges nuns with abuse.

31 August 2009 In Gambia, 1,300 suspected "witches" are taken to secret government detention centers.

13 August 2009. About 50 rabbis and Jewish mystics are flying over Israel in an airplane while praying and blowing shofars (ceremonial trumpets) to ward off swine flu.

11 August 2009. An Islamist group in Somali is forcibly removing gold and silver teeth from residents to comply with their religious law.

27 July 2009. A 15-month-old girl died of pneumonia as her parents and church members prayed over her and anointed her with olive oil.

10 July 2009. Police constable and two others charged with criminal actions in attempted exorcism on a teenage boy at a Lutheran camp in South Australia.

June 23, 2009. A six-year-old suffered second- and third-degree burns on 25 percent of her body, including her face, torso, and legs, at the hands of her 29-year-old mother and 79-year-old grandmother, who were using a Haitian voodoo practice known as “Loa.”

June 2, 2009. Scott Roeder, a 51-year-old Bible-quoting man with a history of anti-abortion and anti-tax protesting was arrested on suspicion of murdering Dr. George Tiller, 67, a doctor who provided late-term abortions at his clinic in Wichita, Kansas.

May 26, 2009. A Catholic father of four was beaten to death outside his home in Coleraine (county Derry, Northern Ireland) by a mob of some 40 young Protestant loyalists celebrating Rangers' clinching of the Scottish league (soccer) title.

May 24, 2009. Sex-slave traffickers arrested in Spain. Voodoo used to control the women.

May 20, 2009. Thousands beaten, raped by priests and nuns in Irish reform schools.

May 2, 2009. A 15-year-old girl had her head down and was looking at her cell phone when she walked into the path of a school bus and was killed on her way to Pilgrim High School in Warwick, Rhode Island.

May 1, 2009. A young woman arrested in Laos may face death for possession of heroin. She gets no lawyer but is impregnated while in prison awaiting trial.

March 30, 2009. Sylvia Browne told a northern California woman that her son, who went missing at age fifteen some 25 years ago, had been killed in an accident in Canada. Why? Because it just came into her head to say it.

March 14, 2009. A 19-year-old deranged sex offender claimed he was performing an exorcism to justify his bludgeoning, biting, and strangling to death a 13-month-old child.

March 9, 2009. Brazilian Archbishop excommunicates the mother of a nine-year-old rape victim and the doctors who participated in aborting the child's twin fetuses.

February 2, 2009. Mormon youth say they've been living in a Gulag.

January 10, 2009. Mbeki's policies on treating HIV may have cost 350,000 lives.

January 8, 2009. Woman burned to death as a witch in Papua New Guinea.

January 7, 2009. Christian writer accused of stealing story from another Christian writer.


December 19, 2008. Psychic arrested for elder abuse and Christian missionaries in Africa abusing children with exorcism rites.

December 11, 2008. A family of psychic scammers run the cleansing ritual and clean out others' savings.

November 19, 2008. Nigerian children accused of being witches by men claiming to be Christian clergymen, who force the children to undergo exorcisms or worse.

November 4, 2008. Somali teen raped by three men, then condemned by Islamic court to be stoned to death for adultery.

October 30, 2008. Kabbalah leads to Madonna divorce.

October 16, 2008. The parents of a severely autistic child are jailed and charged with rape and child abuse on the word of a paraprofessional practitioner of facilitated communication. Charges are dropped after 80 days and the parents file multiple lawsuits.

October 15, 2008. A 16-year-old boy died from heart failure due to complications of a urinary-tract blockage. A simple medical procedure could have saved his life, but his parents tried to heal him with prayer.

August 31. Senator defends killing women who defy tribal custom.

August 5. Nutritional therapists are quacks.

Twenty-six albinos have been murdered in Tanzania for their body parts to be used in witchdoctor potions to increase wealth.

June 17. Psychic tells teacher's aid that an autistic student of hers whose name starts with "V" is being sexually abused and Children's Aid Society investigates the "ridiculous" accusation.

May 21. Eleven "witches" burned to death in Kenya.

May 12. "Honor" killings of women by men in Iraq.

April 7. Thousands of women die each year from unsafe abortions.

April 7. Ugandan herbalists arrested in ancestral magic scam.

April 4. Italian priest accused of duping believers in demons of $6.5 million.

March 29. Diabetic girl dies while parents pray.

March 18. Tarot card reader bilks clients with the old cleansing-the-curse scam.

March 16. Religious group dupes mentally unstable women into Bible studies and exorcisms to rid them of the snares of Satan.

March 14. A man posing as a priest cons an elderly woman with mental problems out of 40,000 euros. He tells her he needs the money for an exorcism against "obscure presences."

March 12. A Australian man was sent to prison for 19 years for strangling a woman he had told "he had psychic powers and could remove her evil spirits by having sex with her."

February 24. South Africa's health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang says that medicines used by traditional healers should not be subject to clinical trials. California legislator Mervyn Dymally says insurance companies should pay for acupuncture treatments.

February 22. The number of measles cases in England and Wales jumps more than 30% due to parental fear that the MMR vaccine causes autism.

February 17. There have been eleven confirmed cases of measles in San Diego county, most because ignorant parents feared inoculation would give their children autism.

February 14 Saudi Arabia's religious police  force an illiterate woman to fingerprint a confession that she used witchcraft to make a man impotent

January 24 Lead found in folk remedies and Ayurvedic tonics

January 20 Priest in Mexico abuses children and his congregation in the name of religious tradition

January 17 Priest in Sweden rapes daughter to drive out Satan.

January 16 Gary Null's natural way to kill a cirrhosis patient.

January 14 Ponzi schemes in China.

January 8 "phony" psychic sentenced in cleansing scam.


December 7-18 Fr. Andrzej Trojanowski's exorcisms in Poland; Charles Sibley, depraved psychic.

October 8-November 26 William Nelson and energy medicine machines; Lola Miller's cleansing scam; Cláudia Simião da Silva dies waiting for sign from God; deadly herbal wine in Vietnam; deadly exorcism in New Zealand; deadly exorcism in Algeria; unregulated designer herbs in the U.K.; psychic Lorraine Warren sued for part in exorcism.

September 26 Oprah Winfrey provides a bully pulpit for Jenny McCarthy  and Holly Robinson Peete, mothers of autistic children who blame vaccines.

August 4-September 19 Australian naturopath charged with manslaughter; faith-based engineering in India; faith-based aviation in Nepal; deadly exorcism in Tunisia; deadly exorcism in Phoenix.

June 4 dietary supplements from China.

April 7-June 5 deadly New Age purification ritual in Australia; miracle or wrong diagnosis?; witch murdered in Guyana; arsenic in herbal kelp.

February 23 Nicolai Levashov, Russian psychic healer, blind faith, and Isabelle Pritchard.


January 5-September 18 psychic burns victim with candle scam; psychic removes cash instead of curse; 16-year old executed for crimes against chastity in Iran after being abused and raped by authorities; anti-vaccination movement and new measles deaths in England; deadly ozone treatment in Thailand; a psychic cleansing scam in Florida; Dutch actress and comedienne Sylvia Millecam dies of treatable breast cancer; Consegrity co-founder dies of untreated diabetes while she and her partner apply their patented brand of energy healing; mass marketing scams in the U.K.; Coretta Scott King dies in a Donsbach clinic in Tiajuana; psychic cleansing scam in Maryland; Taliban kill Malim Abdul Habib for educating girls.


January 31-October 31 pastor electrocuted during baptism; Dr. Roy Kerry treats 5-year-old boy with chelation for autism and boy dies; psychic scams in Australia; Jennifer Nicole Evans sentenced for curse removal psychic scam; deadly exorcism in Romania; "natural health therapist" accused of suffocation death in Ireland; Ayurvedic herbs in Boston packed with heavy metals; naturopath + homeopath = cerebral palsy.


February 11-November 23 naturopath David Eugene Pontius of British Columbia charged with three counts of unlawful and unprofessional conduct for advising a woman with breast cancer not to seek chemotherapy; Christian couple arrested for planning to sacrifice three children in Jesus's name; Princeton psychic, Christine Evans, arrested in curse removal scam; phony miracle worker dupes greedy folks in Ethiopia; Dorothy Prier arrested in Wisconsin for psychic cleansing scam; Florida psychic robs old men; Amanda Roxann Williams and her mother arrested in West Palm Beach for psychic protection scam; Rev. Dwayne Long takes lethal bite from a rattlesnake he handled during an Easter service at a church in Virginia; Doug Perkins, local administrator for the federal Transportation Security Administration director, orders a bomb search of American Airlines Flight 1304 at Southwest Florida International Airport because of a tip from a psychic; several northern Nigerian states announce they will not participate in a campaign to wipe out polio because Muslim clerics believe the vaccine is a western plot to sterilize their women; psychic's prophecy blamed in starvation death of child in Massachusetts; HIV-positive men having sex with children in Africa to cure themselves; HIV misinformation inspired by David R. Hawkins.


April 25-December 29 $300K taken in Nigerian scam; lawyer's bad logic costs him $74K; dead Nigerian shaman finds that anti-bullet charm doesn't work; deadly exorcism in Milwaukee; Brazilian cult leader goes on trial for kidnapping, torture, and murder; prayer-killing; Australian naturopath Reginald Fenn convicted of manslaughter; Dr. Roy Meadows and the Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy witch hunt; psychic scams.


April 4-June 18 New Zealand Adventists Roby and Deborah Moorhead  sentenced for the manslaughter of their six-month-old son, Caleb, who died of complications from a vitamin B12 deficiency; Japanese exorcist Sachiko Eto sentenced to death by hanging; 14-year old virgin girl strangled to death by sorcerer and his apprentice in Cambodia.


April 7 Colorado therapists  Connell Watkins and Julie Ponder suffocate 10-year-old Candace Newmaker in a "rebirthing" session.


March 20 Pat Davis, TV news anchorwoman, dies at age 39 after 2 1/2 years of Gerson therapy for breast cancer.


March 28 Thirty-nine members of a UFO cult known as "Heaven's Gate commit suicide as they wait for a space ship to take them to a higher level.

About harm

It is difficult to assess the harm done to society and the world at large by the spread and encouragement of anti-scientific, irrational, and magical thinking. It is also difficult to measure the extent of harm done to individuals and their families who give up thinking for themselves to follow some guru astrologer, psychic, or cult leader.

It is impossible to calculate the losses to those bilked because they are ignorant of basic logical and psychological principles. Even so, Tim Farley gives it his best shot.

For those cancer patients who are thinking of trying an untested alternative therapy, please read Dr. Stephen Barrett's A Special Message for Cancer Patients Seeking "Alternative" Treatments.

This page was designed by Cristian Popa.