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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

Lourdes It is the town of Lourdes, France, that has attained the strongest international reputation for miracles of healing. This acclaim is the result of a very successful commercial venture that began with a story about Bernadette Soubirous (1844-1879), an ignorant peasant girl who said she had a visitation there from “a lady” in 1858.
      A shrine was established in 1876 to which some five million visitors a year now flock, occupying four hundred hotels built for them. The public relations people who sell Lourdes as a business claim that there are about thirty thousand healings a year, but church authorities deny that figure, cautioning that less than a hundred claims have been properly documented since the founding of the shrine, and the church has as of this date accepted only sixty-four as miracles, from the millions of cures claimed over the years.
      Whether these sixty-four were simply remissions of various kinds or perhaps recoveries brought about by orthodox medical attention, one cannot know, since the records are so sketchy. In several cases, we have no evidence that even the ailments were real. In the absence of proof that the attendance of the afflicted at the shrine was the one element responsible for the termination of the ailment, common sense, as well as the simple principle of parsimony, would require one to strongly doubt the miraculous nature of these events.
      Bathing in the mineral springs of Lourdes and drinking of the spring water have been confused with the healing stories. The church has never made any claim that the spring water from the Lourdes grotto is curative in any way, yet every year the souvenir shops sell thousands of gallons to the faithful in tiny vials, as amulets. Those who attend Lourdes in person have consumed millions of gallons more. It is amazing that more worshipers have not contracted diseases from that practice. Europeans are prone to accept the medicinal value of almost any natural spring water——especially if it smells bad. They cannot resist drinking from and washing in the Lourdes spring.
      See also Bernadette Soubirous.

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