WASHINGTON—Can a person reach into a human body and pull out tumors and other unhealthy elements leaving no wound or scar? That’s the claim of the psychic surgeons in some parts of the world, particularly in the Philippines, but others say its a sleight-of-hand trick.
“Of course when you admit you’re doing it by magic, it’s great, it’s a form of entertainment. But when you pretend you’re doing it for real, that’s a different story,” said Joe Schwarcz, a chemistry professor at McGill University in Canada, at the annual USA Science & Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C., on Saturday.
Schwarcz said the professed surgeons probably use pieces of raw chicken to create the illusion that they are pulling out tumors. The cures rely on the placebo effect, he said.
In a clip from the 1970 documentary “Mondo Magic,” a psychic surgeon is seen apparently inserting her fingers through a person’s skin and flesh. Magician and skeptic James Randi appeared on the “Tonight Show” in the 1980s and seemed to debunk psychic surgery (Watch both videos below).
Documentary Footage From Philippines
Randi, however, covers the “incision” with his hand much more than the psychic surgeon in the documentary, whose fingers are shown uncovered as they dig into the body. Though Randi could create a similar performance to that of a psychic surgeon, it does not definitively prove there is no such thing as psychic surgery.
Philip Singer, Ph.D., professor emeritus of health sciences at Oakland University, investigated further.
In 1986, Dr. Singer, in collaboration with the department of physics at Oakland University, had experts in various fields observe a psychic surgeon. The surgeon was Reverend Philip S. Malicdan of Baguio City, who was educated at the University of the Philippines at Baguio and the Lutheran Seminary at Baguio.
Malicdan said he gained his supernatural power while fasting in a cave. A voice told him, “Go in peace with joy, and help the ill, and I will help you in all you do.”
At the Kettering Magnetics Laboratory at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., he operated on eight women with various ailments.
Dr. Singer consulted with Randi and chose Max Maven as a magician-observer. He also brought in technical consultant and audiovisual coordinator Tom Peterson and pathologist Alexander S. Ullmann, M.D.
Ullmann conducted lab tests on the objects removed from the patients’ bodies. The blood types did not match. He said, according to Dr. Singer’s report, that the parts “were removed—whether from humans or animals I do not know—possibly weeks or months before [the demonstration] and were kept under unsterile conditions.”
The experts did not consult with each other before presenting their opinions. Maven said, according to the report, “Philip Malicdan is a willful fraud.” The others concurred.
A shaman in “Mongo Magic,” when asked how he does it, explained: “If you will ask me about this, I do not know, because I was entirely unconscious and I do not know what I am doing at that time. I only know that performance after the spirit gone.”