Kathryn Kuhlman: Turning Points in a Christian Life

Eerdmans March 29, 2019Author Guest PostsTurning Points http://eerdword.com/2019/03/29/turning-points-in-the-life-of-christian-women-kathryn-kuhlman/

Kathryn Kuhlman

Amy Collier Artman (@AmyArtman3) teaches in the Religious Studies Department at Missouri State University. She holds a PhD in the history of Christianity from the University of Chicago.

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Trying to pinpoint five turning points in the life and career of healing evangelist Kathryn Kuhlman is an interesting project. Kuhlman worked diligently her entire life to control her narrative, to emphasize what she wanted known and to shuffle aside what she preferred not to talk about.

The Miracle Lady book cover

But in my research for the biography The Miracle Lady: Kathryn Kuhlman and the Transformation of Charismatic Christianity in America, I found that when it came to her early life, the turning points were the very moments she mentioned least. These make up the first 3 life moments I explore. Her later career and ministry, which is much more public, contained an additional 2 moments that must be noted in any summary of Kuhlman’s life. And that makes 5!

Turning Point #1
After an unsuccessful revival, Kuhlman is left behind in Denver by her sister Myrtle and brother-in-law Everett Parrott.

Kuhlman and her sister and brother-in-law travelled together on the “sawdust trail,” from Kuhlman’s home in Concordia, Missouri across the western states to California, then on to Idaho. After five less-than-successful years working with Myrtle and Kathryn, Everett apparently tired of the arrangement. After a series of arguments with Myrtle in Boise, Idaho, Everett abandoned Myrtle as well as 21-year old Kathryn and Helen Gulliford, the revival pianist, as he traveled on to South Dakota. The women were unable to make enough to continue by themselves. Outside the Boise Women’s Club where Myrtle Parrott continued to preach after Everett’s departure, a local Nazarene pastor encouraged the three women to persevere.

Revival congregation
The Sawdust Trail consisted of a series of temporary locations erected the American heartland for revival meetings.

Myrtle was unwilling to continue due to the dire financial situation and had already decided to return to Everett. But the man said to Myrtle, “Let the girls stay.” The steadying presence of 26-year-old Helen Gulliford must have helped Myrtle’s decision. Despite her misgivings, Myrtle chose to go back to Everett, and she left the two women to their independent path. Kuhlman was ready. She was an eager, enthusiastic, ambitious young woman determined to take the revival circuit by storm. Kuhlman began to travel with Helen throughout Idaho to preach. One participant in her Idaho services remembered the evangelists regularly filled the Baptist churches during their two to six week revival meetings.

She was an eager, enthusiastic, ambitious young woman determined to take the revival circuit by storm.

Turning Point #2
Losing “Papa” and Marrying “Mister.”

Denver Revival Tabernacle
The Denver Revival Tabernacle where Kuhlman led her first revival and broadcast her first radio show, Smiling Through.

Kuhlman and Gulliford met with success in Denver, and established the Denver Revival Tabernacle in the 1930s. Kathryn Kuhlman adored her father. Joe Kuhlman took on mythic qualities in her stories of growing up, her “papa” whose indulgent love countered the stern discipline of her mother. His death was a stunning blow to Kuhlman. She received a phone call on the Tuesday after Christmas.

“I recognized the voice on the other end as an old friend from home,” Kuhlman recalled. “‘Kathryn, your father has been hurt. He’s been in an accident.’” Joe Kuhlman was killed instantly when hit by a car driven by a college student home for the holidays. After her father’s funeral, Kuhlman returned to her ministry in Denver. At the age of 28 she was finally coming into her own as a leader of the thriving congregation at the Denver Revival Tabernacle. Soon she made the acquaintance of Burroughs Waltrip, an evangelist who came to Denver on a preaching junket in 1935.

At the age of 28 she was finally coming into her own as a leader of the thriving congregation at the Denver Revival Tabernacle.

Burroughs Waltrip
Burroughs “Mister” Waltrip

The pictures of Kuhlman and Waltrip during their courtship show a handsome and happy pair, smiling and obviously enjoying each other and their friends. Waltrip (called “Mister” by Kuhlman) was tall and slender, even a bit taller than Kuhlman, and the two began to share preaching in Kuhlman’s Denver Revival Tabernacle and Waltrip’s shiny new art nouveau Radio Chapel in Mason City, Iowa. The pair began to make the 800 mile trip between the churches a little too often for simply professional reasons. Their congregations began to suspect an affair. Such a union would be disastrous for the couple, especially for Kuhlman, due to the fact that Burroughs Waltrip was still married at the time, with a wife and two young sons in Texas. Despite the danger to his ministry, Waltrip divorced his wife Jessie and abandoned his children, Burroughs Waltrip, Jr., and William, in order to marry Kuhlman in October of 1938. Kuhlman made the staggeringly foolish decision to accept his proposal. Why? Whatever the reason, and the reality was most certainly a complex mixture of many motivations, the marriage destroyed both evangelists’ ministries. Helen Gulliford resigned her position in protest.

The Denver Revival Tabernacle congregation rejected Kuhlman, and Waltrip’s Radio Chapel fell apart soon after due to financial woes. Failure after failure followed the couple’s descent into obscurity during the six years that followed.

Turning Point #3:
Divorcing Mister and Starting Over: In April 1946, Kuhlman set in motion divorce proceedings. She moved to Pittsburgh, where she began the transformation into the Miracle Lady. 

gathering crowd
Crowds gather at Syria Mosque in Pittsburgh to hear Kuhlman (c. 1953).

It was necessary for Kuhlman to separate herself from the controversy connected with Borroughs “Mister” Waltrip that was bogging down her career. Judging from the rapidity with which she left Waltrip to return to her work, she instantly regretted her decision to marry him. Kuhlman faced a difficult problem. To preserve any shred of her career, she had to leave Waltrip and try to start again, but such a decision could itself destroy her.

Kathryn Kuhlman preaching
Kuhlman preaching in Pittsburgh (c. 1953).

A divorced female evangelist was not much better than a female evangelist married to a divorced man. In a masterful reinterpretation of her life, Kuhlman chose instead to present her decision to leave Waltrip as a difficult moment of submission, the yielding of a strong-willed woman to the relentless call of God on her life. Kuhlman chose to present the decision to leave her husband at the first possible moment as an act of sacrificial atonement for her defiance of God’s will. She obliquely indicated throughout her career that she had realized her decision to marry Waltrip separated her from God and from her call to ministry. As she told it, the sacrifice of her marriage was necessary for her final consecration as God’s instrument. Kuhlman’s only references to her marriage and divorce are couched in these terms.

She represented this moment as one of consecration, where she was baptized in the Holy Spirit and set aside for what would become a ministry of miracles through the Holy Spirit. Kuhlman’s presentation of her “death to self” was simultaneously a powerful image of sacrificial submission and a brilliant manipulation of her persona. If the divorced Kathryn Kuhlman was dead, then critics had little to work with.

Kathryn Kuhlman laying on hands
A woman falls “slain in the Spirit” presumably after Kuhlman “laid hands” on her.

As she told it, she was no longer the disgraced divorcee, but a chastened, sanctified, and consecrated vessel for God’s Holy Spirit. With this reinterpretation of her persona, she was able to move beyond what should have been a career-ending mistake and even turn it to her own benefit.

Turning Point #4:
Producing the talk show I Believe in Miracles: Kuhlman was the first to combine the power of television talk with charismatic Christianity.

Kathryn Kuhlman TV show
A picture of Kathryn Kuhlman in her TV program I Believe in Miracles which aired nearly 500 episodes.

Between 1966 and 1975, during the height of the charismatic renewal movement, Kuhlman recorded over 500 episodes of I Believe in Miracles. Her show was broadcast in syndication throughout the United States and Canada. Kuhlman’s use of television to spread the message of Christianity was part of a larger, deeper change in American Christianity influenced by the dynamics of television itself.

Televising Christianity did more than simply offer a new field for revival and evangelizing; it changed the way the Christian message was presented and received.

Televising Christianity did more than simply offer a new field for revival and evangelizing; it changed the way the Christian message was presented and received. I Believe in Miracles contributed to the changes in American Christianity produced through the media of television. Never before had a religious leader hosted a television talk show like Miracles.

Kuhlman’s talk show caught the wave of cultural excitement surrounding the new medium of television, and the talk show was a new format in itself, catering to formerly overlooked audiences in daytime and late night. Charismatic Christianity garnered significant benefits from Kuhlman’s talk show. Television viewers could now experiment with new forms of Christianity in the privacy of their own homes without the risk of public exposure. This was an important component in the transformation of charismatic Christianity, since popular culture, the press, and mainstream Christianity still regarded charismatics as freakish.

Kathryn Kuhlman
Kathryn Kuhlman

As audiences tuned in to Kuhlman’s show, they entered into a world where charismatic Christianity was unexceptional. In each episode, they were exposed to testimonies of charismatic experiences of “normal” Americans. In the new format of the talk show, the experience of the audience changed from worship participant to detached onlooker. Kuhlman and her guests conversed with each other as the television audience watched. It was a significantly different means of communicating the charismatic Christian gospel. The non- threatening space of television combined with the everyday appearance and behavior of the guests made I Believe in Miracles a significant contributor to the transformation of charismatic Christianity.

Turning Point #5:
Filming a Miracle Service: Throughout her career, Kuhlman refused to film her Miracle Services, preferring to share the testimonies of those who experienced the miraculous through her books and television show. In 1975, she finally allowed a miracle service to be filmed in its entirety.

Despite her enthusiasm for all media, especially television, Kuhlman did not record a miracle service in its entirety until very late in her career. Filmed May 3, 1975, the syndicated special Dry Land, Living Water was a rare glimpse into the workings of Kuhlman’s trademark meetings.

When those who knew Kuhlman only from her talk show tuned in for her special, they saw a markedly different vision of Kathryn Kuhlman and charismatic Christianity.

Kathryn Kuhlman tv special
Kuhlman’s special Dry Land, Living Water was filmed in Las Vegas.

On I Believe in Miracles, Kuhlman and her guests shared stories in calm and casual conversation of experiences such as being “slain in the Spirit” and divine healing. In Vegas, cameras captured the same events with all their attendant chaos and emotion. Kuhlman also presented a much more melodramatic image of herself inside the Shrine in Vegas. What changed in the Vegas film was Kuhlman’s presentation of herself and charismatic Christianity. She removed the mediating presence of testimony and gave audiences access to the complete miracle service experience.

Throughout her career, Kuhlman worked ceaselessly to hone an image of her ministry as refined, professional, and most especially, not fanatical. The carefully crafted media image of Kuhlman as the grand dame of gentrified charismatic Christianity predominated on her television show and in her books. Kuhlman the talk show host shared cultural space with genteel colleagues such as Dinah Shore and Barbara Walters. Kuhlman the miracle lady did not share such gentrified associates.

The Kuhlman of the miracle service platform was a figure who was heir to the theatrical Sister Aimee Semple McPherson, “holy roller services,” and old-fashioned tent revivalists. For those outside the historic Pentecostal churches and other Christian groups with a revivalist past, the service itself had little cultural or historical context. The Vegas miracle service offered a vision of charismatic Christianity that was genuine but also disconcerting for the viewer who resided outside of charismatic circles. Although the Vegas service was carefully controlled by Kuhlman and Dick Ross, the film removed the softening filter of the talk show and revealed Kuhlman and charismatic Christianity with

Kathryn Kuhlman revival
Kuhlman prays for a woman at a revival. Location and date not known.

all their strengths and weaknesses. In a risky move, Kuhlman chose to feature in the Vegas film some of the most marginalizing attributes of charismatic Christianity such as the slaying power of the Holy Spirit and end-times prophecy.

The meeting was characterized by flying wigs, people falling to the floor, and lines of eager audience members waiting to take the microphone to testify to divine healing. And then there was Kuhlman, the extraordinary deliverance evangelist finally captured on film. She died less than a year later, and the gentrified Kuhlman of the talk show and best-seller faded from the cultural memory, leaving only the wild-eyed platform personality for posterity. This last production captured Kuhlman in all her glory, for better or for worse.

*Daryl here. I research and report these things to discover and understand where ministries could have opened doors to demonic influence, then being used to spread deception. I do not rejoice in wrongdoing, but endeavour to reveal deceptive influences. For Kathryn Kulman, her influences were transferred to others, most notably Benny Hinn, who in the beginning of his ministry, encountered an apparition of Kathryn shortly after she died! These influences may continue to carry on, until recognition is made of the influences she allowed into her life thro’ continuously, seriously grieving choices, and all connections severed!

Forty Years After – Still Facts To Uncover


Many of her followers shunned her, however, after her 1938 marriage to evangelist Burroughs Waltrip, who had left his wife and children for her. Ms. Kuhlman later recalled that as her own marriage foundered, she surrendered her remaining life to God. “I can take you to the street … where Kathryn Kuhlman died!” she would say.

Few if anyone knew of the scandal when she began rebuilding her ministry in Western Pennsylvania, and by the time they did, most devoted followers were willing to look past it.

She arrived in Franklin, Pa., in 1946, first as a guest revivalist and then as a regular preacher to a growing congregation in a renovated skating rink. She began radio broadcasts, and it wasn’t long before she drew invitations to Pittsburgh.

Wayne Warner, author of the 1993 biography, “Kathryn Kuhlman: The Woman Behind the Miracles,” said the evangelist had many flaws — expensive tastes, fudging her age, some dubious miracle claims.

But he believes other healings were genuine.  “I have high regard for her,” said Mr. Warner, former archives director for the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination. “She’s human just like the rest of us. I think she was devoted to God and the purpose God had called her to.”

Kathryn Kuhlman was born in Concordia, Mo., on May 9, 1907 — a date that biographers unearthed only after her death. (When asked her age by the Pittsburgh Press in 1974, she said: “Put down ‘in the 50s.’ ”)

Ms. Kuhlman claimed a powerful conversion experience as a teenager in her hometown Methodist church. She followed her older sister and the latter’s evangelist husband on the revival circuit. 

Ms. Kuhlman soon found her way into the pulpit and drew ever-bigger congregations in Idaho, Colorado and Iowa.

Many of her followers shunned her, however, after her 1938 marriage to evangelist Burroughs Waltrip, who had left his wife and children for her. Ms. Kuhlman later recalled that as her own marriage foundered, she surrendered her remaining life to God. “I can take you to the street … where Kathryn Kuhlman died!” she would say.

Few if anyone knew of the scandal when she began rebuilding her ministry in Western Pennsylvania, and by the time they did, most devoted followers were willing to look past it.

She arrived in Franklin, Pa., in 1946, first as a guest revivalist and then as a regular preacher to a growing congregation in a renovated skating rink. She began radio broadcasts, and it wasn’t long before she drew invitations to Pittsburgh.

“The Lame, Sick and Weary Flock to Woman Evangelist,” a Pittsburgh Press headline announced, on Aug. 1, 1948. The article was accompanied by a drawing showing Ms. Kuhlman onstage at the Carnegie Music Hall on the North Side (now New Hazlett Theater), facing a large audience and backed by a large choir, all with hands raised in worship.

Night after night, it reported, a “blond evangelist from Missouri named Kathryn Kuhlman … has jammed the North Side Carnegie Music Hall to overflowing.”

People started arriving at noon for evening services. “Eyes glazed in anticipation, they jam the hot little hall hours before the services start,” it said. 

A boy “about five, said to have been crippled since birth, tottered down the aisle on his own legs,” and a woman with a wheelchair walked to the stage.

Yet most of those who arrived in wheelchairs also departed in them, the article noted.

Virtually all the themes of that early newspaper article would be repeated in the coverage across the world in the coming decades.

Rather than laying hands on the sick, Ms. Kuhlman would proclaim specific revelations at her services, such as that someone in the balcony was receiving healing from cancer or deafness.

She eventually began regular trips to California to record some 500 television episodes and to conduct monthly healing services.

She showed a genius for television, said Ms. Artman. Mainstream audiences had been put off by broadcasts of Pentecostal tent services featuring sweaty preachers laying hands on the sick.

Ms. Kuhlman, in contrast, used a talk-show format in which people calmly told of being healed at her services.

“These are just normal people talking about very supernatural things,” said Ms. Artman.

Ms. Kuhlman’s appeal to mainstream Christians received its biggest ratification when the North Side theater closed for renovations and the pastor of stately First Presbyterian Church invited her to hold services there. The services were thronged despite their Friday morning time slot.

A 1974 Pittsburgh Press article described her flowing gowns and elongated speech (”Issssnn’t God wonnnderful?”). It included the case of a man who claimed healing from a heart condition, and an interview with his doctor, who confirmed that the pacemaker he had installed had disappeared along with the surgical scar.

But a respected doctor and author, William Nolen, wrote a magazine article in the 1970s that tracked 23 people who testified publicly of their healing at a Kuhlman service, and finding no miraculous cures.

“The credibility of the whole organization became very questionable in my mind,” the doctor wrote.

Ms. Kuhlman said the doctor committed ”the biggest mistake … to attack the supernatural power of God.”

But Ms. Kuhlman herself said she always wrestled with why many weren’t healed.

Her reputation also suffered from a lawsuit from two former ministry insiders, which included allegations of extravagant spending before it was settled.

She rewrote her will shortly before her death, leaving bequests to individuals rather than her own foundation. She left nearly half her estate, valued at $732,543, to a Tulsa, Okla., auto dealer and his wife who had gained her confidence. The auto dealer, D.B. “Tink” Wilkerson, was later convicted of fraud related to his business and has since died.

“Truth is decorative, though not necessarily useful for success.

https://www.alexanderseibel.de/lies_for_the_glory_of_god.htm Alexander Seibel

“Truth is decorative, though not necessarily useful for success.” (German: Wahrhaftigkeit ist eine Zier, doch weiter kommt man nicht mit ihr). This may have been, to a certain degree, the philosophy of Kathryn Kuhlman, of whom it be claimed that she prepared the way for the Holy Spirit like no one else. She conducted healing ministries and popularized the phenomenon of being “slain in the Spirit” towards the end of the 1960s.

Her biographer and follower, Jamie Buckingham, writes:

It was her special joy to lead the media astray… She lied, though deathly ill, about her age to her doctor. To the end this pride dominated her life… That was the inexplicable trait of hers that she kept till death. Even though she was in her late sixties she insisted that her radio announcer introduce her with the words: “And now, Kathryn Kuhlman, the young woman who you have been waiting for” ...Kathryn was a loner. She rejected the counsel of her friends. Submission was something foreign to her, especially when it meant to submit to a man or to a group of men (Jamie Buckingham, “Kathryn Kuhlman”, [Daughter of Destiny], Verlag Johannes Fix, 1979, pp. 16, 83 and 85, translated from the German version).

Much weightier is tht fact that she lied to the world about her broken marriage with the already divorced Pentecostal preacher Burroughs Waltrip.

During her interview with Robert Hoyt from the Akron “Beacon Journal” she denied to have ever been married at all. “We were never married. I never made a marriage vow”,… She raised her finger threateningly and screamed at the reporter: “That is the truth, God help me” (ibid, p. 132).

False Prophecy-Last Youth Generation

from “Occult ABC” by Kurt Koch, 1978Examining Healing Reports


In these chaotic days, we have not only the right but the duty to test every movement by the standard of the Holy Scriptures. In particular, we must direct a Biblical test-lamp onto the paths of outstanding personalities who come up like comets on the spiritual horizon.




  • She committed open and unrepentant adultery
  • She had an “unbiblical” and unrepentant divorce.
  • She lied to cover it up
  • She had shady financial practices
  • She had many false healings/prophecies
  • She taught many “unbiblical” things
  • She promoted spiritual oneness with Catholics


Kathryn Kuhlman and Her Spirit Guide?


“Is it possible for a person controlled by a spirit guide from Lucifer to actually believe that this controlling spirit is the Holy Spirit? I believe the answer is clearly, yes. Satan and his minions are master imitators. Hell will be inhabited with a multitude that truly believed that in life they were following God. In fact, Jesus told of the Day of Judgment when men would remind Him of prophesying in His name, but listen to His answer, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:22-23).

Kathryn Kuhlman and Her Spirit Guides
I am personally convinced that Miss Kuhlman was controlled by a spirit guide masquerading as the Holy Spirit. There appears to be no other possible answer. Coming to this conclusion has been a very tough and heart-rending experience.

(see comments and explanations in article linked above)

The Modern Day “Holy Spirit”
“There is clearly something amiss in our present day emphasis on the Holy Ghost. Apostle Paul stated, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 6:14a) Deception is rank as churches talk about the Spirit’s operation that is so unfamiliar to biblical truth. Entire events on the church calendar are being planned to promote the Spirit/spirit and to teach people these new ideas. A cross-less Pentecost is nothing but the making of a religious holocaust.

The Holy Spirit wants you to know Jesus more. He never speaks of Himself, but only of Jesus. Masquerading spirits and spirit guides have become the hallmark of the New Wave churches. I believe it began with Kathryn Kuhlman and other ministers and now continues through Benny Hinn and a large portion of the same brand of churches. The only purity of the church is the living message of the Cross and the finished work of Jesus Christ on that cross. It was bound to occur that the loss of separation and biblical holiness would produce apostasy. That apostasy is now united with a satanically-controlled “One World Religion” preparing to deceive a liberal multitude. This deception will be exposed and those that continue in truth and holiness will be exonerated by the Lord of the Church, Jesus Christ Himself.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Holy%2BSpirit%2Bphoto.jpg
Billy attributes this to the Holy Spirit

“The caption for this billyburke.org photo shown below is: “Cowboy image that appeared in Ms. Kuhlman’s healing crusade in the Midwest.   Miss Kuhlman had just announced something about the Western atmosphere and that the Holy Spirit whom she loved had a real sense of humor, and said, ‘If we could see Him right here I am sure He’d be dressed in cowboy boots with spurs and a cowboy hat.’  Just at that moment someone in the audience snapped this picture of Ms. Kuhlman on the stage!

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