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The Vandalia Meetings Branham's Rise to Fame

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The Vandalia Meetings: Branham's Rise to Fame:

The first nationally publicized revival meeting held by William Branham took place in Vandalia, Illinois in 1947. Working with Rev. W. E. Kidson of Houston, Texas, Branham attracted a crowd so large that it caught the attention of local news media and ultimately the Associated Press. Newspapers described a "nattily-dressed" Rev. Branham preaching and praying for the sick as loudspeakers boomed throughout the small town of Vandalia. An estimated 8,000 people from 28 States and Canada attended Branham's nine-day session. Some newspaper journalists mistakenly named William's brother Henry as the speaking evangelist. Newspapers around the country described a young "Henry Branham" until the name was corrected.

There was a shoe cobbler there also, in Vandalia, I believe had blind eyes that got healed in the meeting. One night the Lord broke through and just flooded the place, and they picked up cots and stretchers, and the papers packed it. It... Chicago paper called me Brother Henry Branham. I never will forget that, the "Tribune" here in Chicago. Had two or three pages of it in the meeting
Branham, 56-1003 - Painted-Face Jezebel

For Branham and his campaign team, the meeting was a financial success. As the audience sang the song "Only Believe", collection plates were passed around. Newspaper reporters described large boxes of money collected in the offering — to the extent that it took "two husky men" to carry them out.

[From the reporters after the Branham campaign arrived in Houston:] A man at the hotel later told us it had taken two husky men to carry in the boxes of offerings from the kind people of Vandalia the night before.
- St. Louis Dispatch, July 6, 1947

From a "healing" standpoint, however, newspaper reporters were unable to find any healings to report. Many were claiming that people were receiving their healing in the meeting, but none could be found that actually was. Though reporters searched high and low to find a miracle to report, not a single person could testify that they had been healed. Branham himself was unavailable for newspaper reporters. As the meetings went on, Rev. Kidson prepared the reporters for the worst:

You won't see as many miracles tonight as ordinarily, because there are so many people here we'll have to rush them through the line.
- W. E. Kidson, St. Louis Dispatch, July 6, 1947

Still, the reporters were eager to report the results of Branham's "divine healing" power, and sought after any willing to testify to having been healed by Branham. They convinced Kidson to ask the audience himself. Still, no person attending the meeting was able to display any signs of being healed:

"For the benefit of reporters was there anyone in the audience who had been healed", Brother Kidson asked. No one came up and Brother Kidson explained that this was because they usually went home as soon as they were healed.
- St. Louis Dispatch, July 6, 1947

On Thursday, June 26, a handful of people began to claim partial healing or testify to having been promised that healing would come. Newspaper reporters described "healings" — quoting the word as skeptical —, many of which were not so certain. Some claimed to have cancer, and testified that they were "assured" that the cancer would leave. Others described limps that were slightly better. One girl entered paralyzed, and was able to "toddle" on the floor after being "healed". Patients with arthritis were slightly better, and nervous disturbances were "healed". Two patients were mute, and unable to speak. One of them was Walker Beck:

Among them tonight was a boy recognized by nearly all of the Vandalia people present. Walker Beck, about 19, son of Roy Beck, Bluff City. Walker, who works in a shoe repair shop here, has been a deaf-mute since birth, unable to utter a sound. As the heads of the spectators were bowed, Rev. Mr. Branham prayed in a soft voice. He then instructed the boy to say "Ah!" Walker complied. Next, the boy enunciated "Da-da," and finally, "A-men".

The clergymen conceded these were no more than elementary sounds and said the boy would have to learn to speak, step by step. By the boy apparently had heard him, the incredulous expression on his face revealed.
- St. Louis Dispatch, July 6, 1947

Sadly, however, young Walker Beck did not learn to speak, and his condition did not improve. Since Beck was well-known in Vandalia, Branham was forced to explain why his condition did not improve. Branham blamed Beck — the one who entered the prayer line seeking healing. This caught the attention of James Randi, a former magician who recognized the tactics used by "faith healers" to swindle the unsuspecting out of money. Randi had started a career of exposing the "healers" as fraud, and was certain that Branham was just another in a long line of charlatans. For Randi, this was no different; Walker Beck was not healed, and Branham blamed the victim as did many of the other "faith healers".

Paster Branham was a fire-and-brimstone Bible thumper who offered his audiences spectacular performances and grand promises. He also was quick to blame his victims for their failures. In June 1947, in the town of Vandalia, Illinois, he apparently had cured Walker Beck, a deaf-mute. When he heard the next day that Beck's condition was as bad as ever, Branham replied:

I hear that Walker has smoked a cigarette after I told him that he would have to give them up. Because of this he will not be able to hear or talk and in all probability he will be afflicted with some greater trouble — perhaps cancer.
- James Randi "The Faith Healers"


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