The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven

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The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven
The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven.jpg
AuthorKevin and Alex Malarkey
CountryUnited States
PublisherTyndale House Publishers
Publication date
July 2, 2010
Media typePrint (hardcover)

The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven: A True Story (note that the story is not true, see below) is a best-selling 2010 Christian book that purported to tell the story of Alex Malarkey's experiences in heaven after a traffic accident in 2004.[1][2] It was published by Tyndale House Publishers in 2010[3] and lists Alex's father Kevin Malarkey as an author along with Alex, although Alex described it in November 2012 as "one of the most deceptive books ever."[4] It was adapted into a television film in March 2010.

Alex forcefully disavowed the book in an open letter to Christian bookstores almost five years after it was published and more than a million copies were sold,[5] describing his near-death experience as a fabrication. As a result, Tyndale House removed the book from print, and Christian bookstores removed it from their shelves.[6]

Alex had suffered various injuries in the accident, including a severe spinal injury, severe neck injuries, and brain trauma,[7] and he was left a quadriplegic.[8]


According to his own account, Alex Malarkey says that he and his father were driving on a highway near Rushsylvania, Ohio, when his father turned onto another road and was hit by a car, which he did not see behind a blind hill. After the automobile accident, he says he saw his father fly out of the window of his car, only to be caught by an angel and carried to safety. He says he was out of his body while he saw this happen.[9] His body was taken to a hospital in an emergency helicopter. The book says that soon after that he felt an angel take him through the gates of Heaven, which he describes as being "tall", to meet Jesus, who appears through a "hole in heaven".[10] After he woke up in the hospital, he told his family his account of his near-death experience. Tyndale House promoted the book as "a supernatural encounter that will give you new insights on Heaven, angels, and hearing the voice of God."[11][12]

Reception and aftermath[edit]

Books about purported visits to Heaven make up a popular and highly lucrative genre of religious books in the United States.[13] The 2004 book 90 Minutes in Heaven spent over five years on the New York Times best-seller list and sold over six million copies,[14] while the book Heaven Is for Real has sold over 10 million copies[15] and the film adaptation earned $101 million at the box office.[16] The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven sold 112,386 copies in the first year,[17] and received a platinum award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association in 2013 for over a million sales.[5]

In November 2012, Alex's mother, Beth Malarkey, wrote several blog posts saying that her family is not in agreement with the content of the book. She expressed frustration with several people calling and visiting their home over the years, saying, "[Alex] is just a boy not a statue to be worshipped or person with some supernatural gifts," and, "He does not go to Heaven, have conversations with supernatural beings, and whatever visions/experiences he has had or had not had, is up to him as to what he will do with those."[18] Later that month, she claimed the book's account had been embellished, adding that, "The truth is getting twisted, distorted, and packaged to be sold to the highest bidder." She also revealed that Alex himself had written a comment on the book's Facebook page in November 2011 calling the book "one of the most deceptive books ever." That comment was deleted, and Alex was banned from commenting after the moderators suspected he was an imposter.[4] Beth and Kevin Malarkey have become estranged since the book was published.[19]

On May 9, 2014, Beth Malarkey appeared on the Christian radio show, The Bible Answer Man, and said that the book is deceptive and embellishes the story of the accident. Beth Malarkey said Alex is still a quadriplegic and cannot legally receive any money from the book.[20] She also began communicating with Phil Johnson, the executive director of John F. MacArthur's media ministry, Grace to You, in hopes of communicating her story. Johnson said that Beth had told him she and Alex had been trying to publicize for some time that the book was "an exaggeration and an embellishment."[6] Johnson subsequently revealed in his blog, The Spurgeon Archive, that Beth Malarkey had sent Tyndale "a stack of correspondence" in which she stated that Alex not only received no royalties from the book, but that Kevin "neglects his duties as a husband and a father" and was "not even adequately supporting his family financially."[21] She had also revealed this to apologist Justin Peters, who proceeded to e-mail LifeWay leaders Ed Stetzer and Thom S. Rainer. They responded, but the book would not be withdrawn from LifeWay stores for another eight months [22]

According to psychologist and paranormal researcher Benjamin Radford, part of the reason that the story was so well-received and accepted among its American Christian audience is that it reinforced their existing narratives and beliefs. By sticking closely to a widely accepted interpretation of heaven, God and demons, Malarkey was assured that his story would meet his audience's expectations and be popular.[23]

Confession of fraud[edit]

On January 13, 2015, Alex Malarkey released an open letter to Christian publishers and bookstores via the Christian Apologetics blog known as Pulpit and Pen, confessing that the entire account of his journey to Heaven was fictional, and implored them to remove the book from their stores. In his letter he notes:

"Please forgive the brevity, but because of my limitations I have to keep this short. I did not die. I did not go to Heaven. I said I went to Heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. 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. It is only through repentance of your sins and a belief in Jesus as the Son of God, who died for your sins (even though he committed none of his own) so that you can be forgiven may you learn of Heaven outside of what is written in the Bible... not by reading a work of man. I want the whole world to know that the Bible is sufficient. Those who market these materials must be called to repent and hold the Bible as enough.

In Christ, Alex Malarkey.”[24]

On January 15, 2015, Tyndale House confirmed it would be withdrawing the book.[11]


In 2009, Alex Malarkey, aged 10, became the youngest person to have the surgical procedure first carried out for Christopher Reeve to allow him to breathe on his own without a ventilator.[25] Later in 2009, he was able to stand upright in a supporting frame and, with helpers moving his legs, to walk on a treadmill.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mark Woods (15 Jan 2015). "'The boy who came back from heaven' Alex Malarkey says best-selling book is false". Christianity Today.
  2. ^ Vencent Funaro (15 Jan 2015). "Boy Who Claimed He Visited Heaven Reads Bible and Recants Story; LifeWay to Pull Book From Stores". Christian Post.
  3. ^ Kelly Faircloth (15 Jan 2015). "Kid Named Malarkey Lied About Going to Heaven". Gawker Media.
  4. ^ a b Alex Malarkey, as quoted by Beth Malarkey "Alex's post on the Boy Who Came Back from Heaven fanpage". (self published). 20 Nov 2012. Archived from the original on 17 Jan 2015.
    as quoted by Phil Johnson (16 Jan 2015). "Setting the record straight". Grace to You. Archived from the original on 17 Jan 2015.
  5. ^ a b "'The Harbinger' marks a million in sales with two Evangelical Christian Publishers Association awards". Christian Retailing. 29 May 2013. Archived from the original on 17 Jan 2015. Tyndale also garnered two Platinum Awards for sales of more than 1 million copies for... The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven by Kevin and Alex Malarkey (more than 1 million sold).
  6. ^ a b Ron Charles (15 Jan 2015). "'Boy Who Came Back From Heaven' going back to publisher". Washington Post Style Blog.
  7. ^ "Eric Westacott Foundation Raises Over $30,000 to Help Young Quadriplegic Boy | News". Spinal Cord Injury Zone. 2009-08-11. Retrieved 2014-04-25.
  8. ^ Arturo Garcia (15 Jan 2015). "10 Year-old Author of Best-selling Christian Book Admits He Never 'Came Back from Heaven'". Rawstory.
  9. ^ Mark Furler (2011-02-12). "The Boy Who 'Went to Heaven'". Sunshine Coast Daily. Retrieved 2014-04-25.
  10. ^ Ed Mazza (15 Jan 2015). "Alex Malarkey, 'The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven,' Admits He Made It All Up". Huffington Post.
  11. ^ a b Bill Chappell (15 Jan 2015). "Boy Says He Didn't Go To Heaven; Publisher Says It Will Pull Book". NPR.
  12. ^ "The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven". Tyndale House Publishers. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013.
  13. ^ Robert Gottlieb (23 October 2014). "To Heaven and Back!". New York Review of Books.
  14. ^ "Piper's '90 Minutes in Heaven' Back on 'New York Times' Best-seller List". Christian Retailing. 25 April 2014.
  15. ^ Christine D. Johnson (11 Dec 2014). "'Heaven Is for Real' hits major sales milestone". Christian Retailing. Archived from the original on 18 Dec 2014.
  16. ^ "Heaven Is for Real". Retrieved November 4, 2014.
  17. ^ Claire Swanson (16 Jan 2015). "Tyndale Pulls 'Boy Who Came Back from Heaven'". Publishers Weekly.
  18. ^ "Alex Malarkey: Author of The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven says He Made Up Story". Sydney Morning Herald. 17 Jan 2015.
  19. ^ Public Statement; Beth Malarkey
  20. ^ Hank Hanegraaff (June 5, 2014); The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven; The Story Behind the Story; The Bible Answerman, at the Christian Research Institute
  21. ^ Johnson, Phil. Tyndale House Publishers Knew the Malarkey Book Was A Fraud; The Spurgeon Archive, 2015-01-16.
  22. ^ Emails Suggest Lifeway President Knew of Heaven Scam, Chose Not to Act; Pulpit and Pen; 2015-01-15
  23. ^ Radford, Benjamin. "Why People Believed Boy's 'Visit to Heaven' Story". Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  24. ^ ""The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven" Recants Story, Rebukes Christian Retailers".
  25. ^ "Boy, 10, Is Youngest Person to Get 'Christopher Reeve' Breathing Device". Fox News. Associated Press. January 9, 2009. Retrieved January 16, 2015.
  26. ^ Loehr, Many (April 4, 2009). "Worlds away from 'sheer survival'". Bellefontaine Examiner. Retrieved January 16, 2015.

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