Zé Arigó (pseudonym of José Pedro de Freitas; 18 October 1921 – 11 January 1971) was a faith healer and proponent of psychic surgery. He claimed to have performed psychic surgery with his hands or with simple kitchen utensils while in a mediumistic trance, therefore he was also known as the Surgeon of the Rusty Knife. During his operations he supposedly embodied the spirit of Dr. Adolf Fritz.
Zé Arigó was born José Pedro de Freitas on a farm located 6 kilometers from Congonhas, in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. His family was very poor and he could only study up to the third grade of school. At the age of 14 he began working at a mine where he worked for 6 years. According to his autobiography, around 1950 he began to suffer from strong headaches, insomnia, trances, and hallucinations. One day he felt that the voice that had been pursuing him took over his body, and he had a vision of a bald man, dressed in a white apron and supervising a team of doctors and nurses in an enormous operating room. This entity identified itself as "Dr. Fritz."
After claiming to have channeled Dr. Fritz, Arigó began to perform operations using scalpels and needles. His reputation soared and spread throughout Brazil after it was alleged that he had removed a cancerous tumor from the lung of a well-known Brazilian senator. Over the next twenty years, thousands of people who mistrusted traditional medicine, or had not found help in it, came to Congonhas in search of a cure.
In 1956 Arigó was convicted of illegally practicing medicine. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison, but was pardoned by President of Brazil Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira. In 1962 he was arrested and held for seven months for practicing medicine without a license. However, he was allowed to continue treating people while held in jail. Arigó died in 1971 in an automobile accident.
Magician and skeptic James Randi considered the psychic surgery of Arigó to be the result of sleight of hand trickery. Randi published a photograph of himself performing a knife stunt that Arigó was alleged to have performed.
Skeptical investigator Joe Nickell has written that Arigó "prescribed various potions and concoctions that obviously depended for their effectiveness on the placebo effect. His prescriptions were filled at the only pharmacy in town run by the amateur doctor's brother. By such means were Arigo's alleged "miracle healings" actually performed."
- Randi, James. (1982). Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions. Prometheus Books. pp. 174–176. ISBN 0-87975-198-3
- Nickell, Joe. (1993). "Looking for a Miracle: Weeping Icons, Relics, Stigmata, Visions & Healing Cures". Prometheus Books. p. 161. ISBN 1-57392-680-9
- Carroll, Robert Todd. (2004). "Pranks, Frauds, and Hoaxes from Around the World". Skeptical Inquirer 28: 41–46.
- Fuller, John G. (1974). Arigo: Surgeon of the Rusty Knife. Afterword by Henry K. Puharich, M.D. New York: Crowell. ISBN 0-690-00512-1.
- Playfair, Guy L. (1975). The Flying Cow. Research into Paranormal Phenomena in the World's Most Psychic Country. London: Souvenir Press. ISBN 0-285-62160-2.
- Haughton, Brian (2004). "José Arigó – Psychic Surgeon and Healer". Mysterious People. Retrieved 2006-10-05.
- Stemman, Roy (1986). "Arigo:surgeon extraordinary". In Peter Brookesmith. The Unexplained. 3. Great Britain: Marshall Cavendish. pp. 378–380. ISBN 0-86307-098-1.
- "Surgeon of the Rusty Knife". Retrieved 2012-10-10.
- "Arigo-Psychic Surgeon". Retrieved 2013-05-10.