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Dig A Little Deeper: 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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Resources




Branham's failure with Walker Beck mentioned in CQ Press: http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/document.php?id=cqresrre2005011400
Branham's failures mentioned in James Randi's expose on "faith healers": https://www.amazon.com/Faith-Healers-James-Randi/dp/0879755350



Newspapers:

St. Louis Post Dispatch Sun, Jul 6, 1947
The Decatur Herald Sat, Jun 28 1947
Research collection (Under Vandalia IL)


Branham's statements about the Vandalia meetings:
Now, here's a—a lady here; I suppose that she is a stranger to me. Are you, lady? We do not know each other, and never met, I guess, in life. But... Ma'am? You saw me one time. Where abouts? In Vandalia, Illinois, you saw me. All right. But 'course that's-that's been about ten years ago, when I first got started. And you just among that big crowd there in that tent. Oh, my. That was quite a—quite a crowd, wasn't it? Was you there the night that blind boy that had no eyes got healed? He come over and picked up my tie and said, "What color is that?" right along towards the last of the meeting. And it's been about ten years ago. 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, been a long time since then. Lot of water's went down the river. But God still remains the same.
Branham, 56-1003 - Painted-Face Jezebel

Remember, one thing too. This is not a gift to perform miracles. He... The last time He spoke to me was at Vandalia, Illinois. Is anybody here from the Vandalia meeting, was up there at Vandalia, Illinois? A person in the building here that was there when the Angel of the Lord came down, and said, "You are confined. It'll come to pass... [Blank spot on tape—Ed.]
Branham, 47-1102 - The Angel Of God

Now by the help of Almighty God, I want no one to bring me anybody, that say, "Heal this person", no more. God has permitted it to this day. And how many here has heard me say that the Angel of God met me in Vandalia, Illinois, that morning witnessed before the people. Stood there in a big rainbow in mist in the room, standing there before those people, and told me that I was confining too much of this gift of healing to working miracles. How many remembers hearing me say that?
Branham, 47-1102 - The Angel Of God

But the last time He spoke with me, He told me what I have been... told you last week. At Vandalia, Illinois, why, He told me I was confining too much of the work to working miracles. And it would come to pass that people would not believe me unless there was miracles performed. And that is true. It's got that way. People don't feel like they're prayed for...
Branham, 47-1123 - The Children Of Israel

Now, at Vandalia, Illinois, was the time of the visitation of the Angel, as I told you last Sunday, you, or, Sunday a week. You, remember me telling you that of Him coming? The next time was just before I come here. Sunday two weeks ago I was in the room. I'd been all through Canada and around. I'd never seen Him at all, and I was setting looking sideways, and I happened to see something in the room; and I turned, and there stood the Angel of God, standing looking at me. And I fell on my face, but I—I... Brother Lindsay was the campaign manager of the campaign in the north from the Assemblies of God. And he—he stepped into the room, and he heard me scream out. And he stepped into the room... Why, he didn't mean to do it; he's a fine man. And but when it did, it must've interrupted something, and the Angel left.
Branham, 47-1207 - Experiences

Father, I pray for my sister in Jesus' Name for her healing... [Blank spot on tape—Ed.] 128 Back in the room and everything... Without even eyes. That was at Vandalia. All right. Let's bow our heads now while we pray for them.
Branham, 48-0302 - Experiences

One night while speaking, and they seen a miracle performed by God, just they accept it right there, and there wasn't a cot, wheelchair, nor nothing but what was emptied, and they walked out: Vandalia, Illinois (That's right.), in a big tent meeting. Now, here's what it is, friends. It's... See, if you get It, you're a Christian because you believe that you're a Christian. And it's all settled because He's a High Priest.
Branham, 50-0711 - Ministry Explained

And I remember at Vandalia, Illinois, where I seen the great—one of the greatest...?... I ever seen in a meeting. And I said that same thing. I said, "You go get a person and bring them to me." They did, a boy brought born blind, about fifteen years old. I stayed right with the boy, stayed right there until that boy received his sight. And after I did that, taken the time where hundreds was setting to be prayed for, but put all the time on that one boy.
Branham, 50-0821 - The Angel And The Commission

I seen it one time in Vandalia, Illinois. Is anybody here was at the Vandalia meeting that night, when that great claps fell down in the meeting like that? And every wheelchair, every stretcher, every blind person, every deaf, dumb, every one of them was perfectly healed, plumb to the end of our audience. They just piled the things in the corners like that, twenty or thirty of them in the corner. And God, how He worked.
Branham, 51-0502 - The Angel Of The Lord

I never will forget the first time the boy ever seen the Angel of the Lord at Vandalia, Illinois. And I'd had a meeting, and I made a challenge to the people, "Just bring me anybody you want to, and let me have enough time with them. They'll—they'll be healed." And they brought me a blind boy, was born blind. And I stayed with that boy about an hour and forty minutes. And he walked off the platform with his sight.
Branham, 51-0714 - Expectation

I seen one time at Vandalia, Illinois, in the first beginning of the ministry, that when it hit like that, and there wasn't one feeble person left nowhere. They just piled up the wheelchairs, and the crutches, and the stretchers, and everything in the corners, and hauled them away. They was just... Everything hit at one time. Oh, I'd like to see that again tonight.
Branham, 51-0722A - Life Story

Now, you remember that night in Vandalia, Illinois, when you were laying, sleeping on the bed, and the Angel of the Lord was standing over me there? And I throwed a pillow over, and woke you up, and said, "Look." And you come, screaming, running over to me. That's the same Angel of God that's testifying here. It's the same Angel of God. That is the first time Billy ever seen it.
Branham, 51-0727 - The Church Of The Living God

Lady, we're strangers. I don't know you, do I? At Vandalia, Illinois, you saw me. That's been several years ago. Remember the big campaign there? Remember the deaf and dumb boy who couldn't speak and hear was the shoe cobbler, or something or other, down there? And the next day they had the big spread in the paper about it. Made... [The lady speaks to Brother Branham—Ed.] Yes. Yes. Yes, ma'am. I had a letter from him here not long ago, perfectly normal yet.
Branham, 53-1106 - Do You Now Believe?

It'd be a climax like Vandalia, Illinois, was that time. So I just..." And all of a sudden, why, I begin to see It, just look like drops a falling. I said, "If you'll just believe God, and listen now, you'll see something you've never seen before." 3 And then when I... The next thing I remember, the—the boy and them had me out somewhere else. So it was just—just so glorious. I believe that it's just coming to a place where we're just fixing to get somewhere in the meeting. The people are just begin to learn, catch on to what it means. By the way, of speaking of Vandalia, as I got out of the car a few moments ago, there was a lady (which is in the building here somewhere now, she and her daughter) was giving me a testimony of Vandalia. She said she was... And now, if I get it right. I hope I do. She just told me a few moments ago, said, she was, when I was in Vandalia, she was washing her dishes. And she had a great big tumor, size of a grapefruit or, and said, she shook her hands, the Lord said, "Go up to Vandalia to be healed." She went to her husband and he said, "We just can't do it, honey," said, "I only... We only got ten dollars, and so, I just got to have it for something else." 4 So that was on a Saturday, and she was so let down. So then she went ahead and went about, and commenced praying, said, "Now Lord, You done talked to me, now You talk to him awhile, so what to do with this ten dollars." And said, after while, next morning, said, she come up, and it was raining. Her husband come, said, "Did you say you wanted to go to Vandalia?" Away they went. And they got over there, they could... It rained us out in the tent, and they had us in an auditorium. And I was so completely gone, till I couldn't hardly stand up. So she said, she couldn't get a prayer card. And that's what she was relying on, getting up in the prayer line. I said, "Well, all of you line up, and all I'm going to do is just lay hands on you. Now, if you believe that what you seen happen, this is the truth, just lay your... I just lay my hands on you as you pass by. And each one of you be healed if you believe it." Now, where I base that, friend, is on what He told me. He said, "If you'll be sincere when you pray, get the people to believe you, nothing will stand before the prayer." See? Well now, the main thing, I said, "Well, I can't make them believe me, 'cause I have no education, very poor speaker, and oh my, no personality. I haven't got nothing. (See?) I'm just as blank." So I said, "How would they... how would..." He said, "As Moses was given two signs of a vindication, so will you be given. (See?) And by this the people will believe you."
Branham, 53-1122 - The Resurrection Of Lazarus

By the way, of speaking of Vandalia, as I got out of the car a few moments ago, there was a lady (which is in the building here somewhere now, she and her daughter) was giving me a testimony of Vandalia. She said she was... And now, if I get it right. I hope I do. She just told me a few moments ago, said, she was, when I was in Vandalia, she was washing her dishes. And she had a great big tumor, size of a grapefruit or, and said, she shook her hands, the Lord said, "Go up to Vandalia to be healed." She went to her husband and he said, "We just can't do it, honey," said, "I only... We only got ten dollars, and so, I just got to have it for something else." 4 So that was on a Saturday, and she was so let down. So then she went ahead and went about, and commenced praying, said, "Now Lord, You done talked to me, now You talk to him awhile, so what to do with this ten dollars." And said, after while, next morning, said, she come up, and it was raining. Her husband come, said, "Did you say you wanted to go to Vandalia?" Away they went.
Branham, 53-1122 - The Resurrection Of Lazarus

So that was on a Saturday, and she was so let down. So then she went ahead and went about, and commenced praying, said, "Now Lord, You done talked to me, now You talk to him awhile, so what to do with this ten dollars." And said, after while, next morning, said, she come up, and it was raining. Her husband come, said, "Did you say you wanted to go to Vandalia?" Away they went. And they got over there, they could... It rained us out in the tent, and they had us in an auditorium. And I was so completely gone, till I couldn't hardly stand up. So she said, she couldn't get a prayer card. And that's what she was relying on, getting up in the prayer line. I said, "Well, all of you line up, and all I'm going to do is just lay hands on you. Now, if you believe that what you seen happen, this is the truth, just lay your... I just lay my hands on you as you pass by. And each one of you be healed if you believe it."
Branham, 53-1122 - The Resurrection Of Lazarus

Now, lady, I suppose you and I are strangers. Are we, lady? You... Where abouts was that you met me? Vandalia, Illinois. My, that's a long time ago. Yes, ma'am. Well, was you there at the meeting? Well, of course I would not remember that in this much time. Was you a up at the prayer line or something? Oh, you wasn't prayed... You just attended the meeting. That's right. Well, that's makes us then just the same as strangers. You just saw me standing on the platform. Was you there the night, the boy that was born blind received his sight, and come back, and took my tie, and ask his mother what color it was? Well, then... That was along about the next to last night somewhere. Now, I want you to look on my just a moment. Not—not—I'm not reading you mind, no ma'am. That's not... No, ma'am, I'm not. I'm just trying to contact your spirit. See? Just like a—a picture camera, a film's been taken. God has to take me down that same line again. See?
Branham, 54-0216 - Jairus And Divine Healing

I've often wondered for something to happen once more, that happened here at Vandalia, Illinois. Certainly, God knows every one of you, every person in here. He knows everything about you. Isn't that right? Now, I—I don't want you to think that this is like a show. It isn't—it isn't a show. It's the Holy Spirit preaching the Gospel, confirming the Word that has been preached before. See? The Word that was preached before, the Holy Spirit's here confirming that to be the truth.
Branham, 54-0320 - Faith Cometh By Hearing

Now, here's a—a lady here; I suppose that she is a stranger to me. Are you, lady? We do not know each other, and never met, I guess, in life. But... Ma'am? You saw me one time. Where abouts? In Vandalia, Illinois, you saw me. All right. But 'course that's-that's been about ten years ago, when I first got started. And you just among that big crowd there in that tent. Oh, my. That was quite a—quite a crowd, wasn't it? Was you there the night that blind boy that had no eyes got healed? He come over and picked up my tie and said, "What color is that?" right along towards the last of the meeting. And it's been about ten years ago. 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, been a long time since then. Lot of water's went down the river. But God still remains the same.
Branham, 56-1003 - Painted-Face Jezebel

Your trouble is in your leg. That's true, isn't it? And it's in the bone, and it's a tumor, and it's malignant. You're in a serious condition and a black shadow hangs near you which is death. That's true. You are from Illinois, but not Vandalia. Place like a hill, Dover Hill, something like that, Illinois. [The sister says, "Tower Hill."—Ed.] Yes. That's right. Your name is Wahr. Lydia M. Wahr. Is that right? You believe me now to be His servant? Then come here.
Branham, 56-1003 - Painted-Face Jezebel

And just to show what little things mean, a while ago there was, before we had our dinner, there was a little lady who walked up here, and she said, "You've been looking tired and weary, Brother Branham, I just bring you a little courage." She said, "Twelve years ago in Vandalia, Illinois, my boy had just a third, or one third of his mind was gone, his brain cells or something, which had caused him to have epilepsy, up to twenty five spasms a day of epilepsy." She said, "When you prayed over a little cloth and put it on him, he's never had a spasm from that time since."
Branham, 57-0705 - The Eagle In Her Nest

Now, we just left Vandalia... Visalia, it was, California, and the first night the... We got over there, and they turned away hundreds and hundreds, and the second night doubled it more and more. We went to a fairgrounds, and there's enough people there at three o'clock they had to close the gates for—even get into the places. You see? Just... When the meeting gets started, and people begin to... The hungry-hearted begin to see that... Well, it's—it's the Holy Spirit moving among the people. See? It isn't some preacher with a some high super-duper faith. I don't believe in those things. I believe that faith comes by hearing the Word of God. And the individual ought to straighten his life up and get right with God, if he expects to get healed. That's... I—I believe if healing's lasting it's that the individual's got to get straight with God.
Branham, 61-0308 - Expectations

In a meeting, if I'm not mistaken, it was right here in Illinois. Is there a little place up here called Vandalia or something? Vande... Van. I believe that's where it was at, Vandalia, or—or just across the river in Missouri. It was somewhere here, I believe, in Illinois, coming through the line one night, there was a lady. And you have to watch what He says. Now, in these visions that you see here taking place in the platform, I don't do that. You know who does that? You do it. You don't know it, but you are the one that's doing it. You say, "Brother Branham..." That's exactly right class. You do that yourself. That's just... I wished I could explain it but there's no way of doing it. It's just like shifting your car and getting it into a gear. See? And just like the Holy Spirit, just a gift to know how to shift yourself out, and let Him do the talking. See? Shift yourself out, then it isn't you talking; it's Him. And you do that yourself.
Branham, 61-0413 - Why?

I remember one night in Vandalia, Illinois. I walked into the meeting, and had no more been in the meeting over five minutes, and there wasn't a feeble person around the place, anywhere. Wheel chairs pushed out and piled up. Blind was seeing, and deaf and dumb speaking, and—and just simply it...the Spirit of the Lord was present, and He just healed the whole group of them. Now that's when you can do something, when revival is going. But let that revival fire die down, then you can hardly...The people are still Christians, but they're not revived into that Spirit, that great atmosphere that does something.
Branham, 64-0319 - Calling Jesus On The Scene



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