Local 'Healer' Gets Arrested… Finally
At Ottawa Skeptics, we’re always on the look-out for local people or groups who make extraordinary claims. We love to examine these claims and publicize our findings. We also encourage people to be skeptical of these claims. So when a local man offers to cure any illness by touch or by incanting over a polaroid, it gets our attention. Certainly, we don’t encourage partaking in these services, at least until a significant amount of credible scientific evidence substantiates his claims.
According to today’s Ottawa Citizen, just such a “healer” was plying his trade in the Ottawa region:
As a self-professed healer, [Richard] Dale touches people in desperate need. Most come to him after being diagnosed with serious illness, while others show up at his compound looking for help on running a business or keeping a relationship.
His followers, or clients, are told to sign a guest sheet upon arrival at the compound. If a follower leaves the grounds of the Dal-Grotto Mission for any reason, they lose their place in line. Sometimes that line is long — so long that some folks who make the trip to his compound arrive early and set up tents or sleep in their cars, waiting and hoping to be first in line to see the man who claims to heal by touch alone.
Once inside the compound, visitors sit and wait to see Mr. Dale, who takes their hand and says, sometimes, that traditional treatment at a hospital is no longer needed. Sometimes he offers them herbal pills, sold right next to a counter where waiting visitors can also buy chocolate bars, frozen treats and prayer cards.
Visitors are also offered a chance to throw a dollar down a wishing well in hope of having their problem solved once and for all.
Mr. Dale, wearing a white robe, greets visitors inside a small office festooned with likenesses of Jesus Christ and talks about his special power of healing, then reaches out and touches their hand, closes his eyes, and suggests that they will be healed. Sometimes he says a return visit is needed.
He sits at a desk that has an offering basket filled with cash — everything from $50 bills to $5 bills.
Once he releases his hand from yours, he looks at the offering basket on his desk and says he doesn’t charge money.
In the same breath, he compares himself to Jesus Christ, saying that when Jesus healed someone, he never asked for anything.
Mr. Dale also tells out-of-town visitors that he can continue healing them if they simply mail him Polaroid pictures. His rule, he has told the Citizen, is that no one else can be in the image.
The Citizen has seen thousands of Polaroids that have been sent to his compound. Every image includes a name and the reason they need healing or help. Many are suffering from chronic or life-threatening illness.
Obviously, this story raises many red flags concerning Mr. Dale’s healing claims, especially their contravention of nearly all current scientific knowledge. If what he claims to do were true, he would win multiple Nobel prizes and turn science on its head. Unfortunately, whenever claims similar to Mr. Dale’s are tested, they completely fail. It would be convenient if the cruelest diseases and maladies of our time could be erased simply with the wave of a hand, but we are not that fortunate. Instead, for effective healing, we are stuck with relying on scientifically proven remedies judiciously administered by caring and well-trained medical professionals. Short of this lurk the scam artists.
Medical scam artists, also known as quacks, prey upon sick people’s fear and anguish. Desperation can easily suspend people’s rationality and critical thinking, making them vulnerable to ridiculously implausible medical treatments. It is for this reason that we advocate for pro-consumer laws to prevent quacks from selling unproven medical treatments. We don’t think that people should earn money, whether in payment or donation (an often used loophole), by practising scientifically implausible and unproven treatments. These treatments can cause harm either directly, or indirectly by convincing patients to give up evidence-based treatments.
This brings us back to Richard Dale. A fitting end for his story would have been his arrest for bilking people out of money with his supposed miraculous healing abilities. Instead, according to the Ottawa Citizen article:
Richard Dale … has been arrested on charges of sexual assault and extortion of a woman at his 300-acre lakeside compound, set along Highway 41 some 130 kilometres west of Ottawa.
Mr. Dale, known as Rev. Dale, turned himself in on Jan. 7 after the Ontario Provincial Police launched an investigation into a complaint about a sexual assault at the compound of the Dal-Grotto Mission outside Eganville.
This is similar to Al Capone being arrested for not paying his taxes, as opposed to participating in organized crime. It is very unfortunate that it required an accusation of sexual assault to get this “healer” to stop selling his highly implausible and unproven treatments. He should have been stopped years ago.