Alex Malarkey recants his story: ‘I did not die — I did not go to heaven.’
It turns out that “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven” never went there in the first place. Many people are disappointed by the admission; others had questioned the story from the beginning.
Alex Malarkey was 6 in 2004 when he and his father, Kevin, were involved in an accident in which the youngster was critically injured. The boy spent two months in a coma, according to the bestselling book written by the father and son and published in 2010.
“Alex spent time during that period in Heaven, and when he returned to us, he had much to say about his experience,” his father wrote in the book’s introduction.
More than 10 years after the accident, teenager Alex Malarkey — who was left paralyzed — has recanted his claim of visiting heaven in a near-death experience in “An Open Letter to LifeWay [Christian Resources] and Other Sellers, Buyers, and Marketers of Heaven Tourism, by the Boy Who Did Not Come Back From Heaven,” published by the group blog Pulpit and Pen on Jan. 13.
The teen said that as a youngster he made up the story as a way to gain attention. He began his statement with an apology for brevity due to his condition and admitted, “I did not die. I did not go to heaven.
“When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible,” he explained. “People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.”
The boy’s mother, Beth Malarkey, posted a blog in April alleging that her son’s name and identity were being used against his wishes. She said that when Alex tried to tell a pastor that the book was wrong and needed to be stopped, he was told that the story was “blessing people.”
The book became a New York Times bestseller. It was made into a movie. It was not the first near-death memoir written by someone who claimed to have the experience. Many who read the book believed that the youngster had indeed gone to heaven and that some of what he said when he described the experience he could only have known had he had the experience.
After the boy’s recantation, LifeWay immediately pulled the book off the shelves of its retail stores and returned remaining copies to the publisher, according to spokesperson Marty King. The publisher, Tyndale House, announced it was taking the book and related products out of print.
Last June, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution “On The Sufficiency of Scripture Regarding The Afterlife” that warned: “Many devout and well-meaning people allow these [books and movies] to become their source and basis for an afterlife rather than scriptural truth.”
Alex Malarkey did the right thing by admitting he lied about visiting heaven while in a coma. His was the story that apparently kept on growing in the years after it was made public. Stories based on untruth sometimes do that. And that makes it harder and harder to set the record straight.
The teen did the right thing to put the lie to rest, even though it had profited a lot of people. It should be noted that his mother said her son is not an author and has received no money from sales of the book.
Bill Webb is editor of Word & Way.