(Investigator 211, 2023 July)

Like the psychic surgeons in the Philippines, Arigo, a Brazilian, became internationally famous because of his ability to perform seemingly miraculous surgical operations using crude implements and without the use of antiseptics or an anaesthetic, hence the name given to him by John Fuller in his book, Arigo: Surgeon of the Rusty Knife.

In his primitive clinic in Congon Las do Campo, Brazil, Arigo worked in a trance, his body allegedly taken over by a discarnate German surgeon Dr Adoiphus Fritz who died during the first World War.

After removing a lung cancer from a friend, Lucio Bittencourt, and a stomach tumor from a woman whose condition was reported as inoperable, Arigo’s fame spread, and both medical doctors and psychic researchers such as Dr Andrija Puharich and Dr Ted Bastin of Cambridge, investigated and filmed Arigo removing subcutaneous cysts and performing other operations during which very little blood flowed and the patients felt no pain. Puharich himself was operated on, having a tumour removed from his forearm. Arigo incised the arm with an unsterilized penknife, popped the tumour out and wiped the knife on his shirt. The patient reported no pain, there was little bleeding and no infection followed.

Despite Arigo’s record of hundreds of successful operations the Brazilian authorities were unimpressed and before a thorough scientific study could be made had him arrested and charged under the Penal Code which states that spiritual healing is a crime. He was sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment for witchcraft in 1964, and died in a car accident seven years later.


Although John Fuller has never personally met Arigo and relied entirely on data supplied him by others, it is to Fuller’s credulous book that Arigo primarily owes his fame. He was in fact an amateur doctor who, like many others in remote communities, had picked up the rudiments of elementary surgery and psychological manipulation.

Operations described in Fuller’s book completely disregard the facts, and his descriptions of some of them bear little resemblance to what actually took place. Puharich’s “tumor” for example was in fact a simple subcutaneous cyst.

Further reading:

Plummer, Mark. 1981. “Skeptics Test Psychic Surgeon.” the Skeptic. l(l):l
Randi, James. 1982. Flim-Flam. Prometheus Books. Buffalo. New York.
See also under Tony Agpaoa.

From: Edwards, H. 1994 Magic Minds Miraculous Moments, Harry Edwards Publications