Boy says he didn’t go to heaven; publisher says it will pull book

Alex Malarkey, seen here in a 2009 photo, has written an open letter saying that events described in the bestseller The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven were made up. (PHOTO: John Kuntz/The Plain Dealer /Landov).
Alex Malarkey, seen here in a 2009 photo, has written an open letter saying that events described in the bestseller The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven were made up. (PHOTO: John Kuntz/The Plain Dealer /Landov).

Originally published in NPR News

Nearly five years after it hit bestseller lists, a book that purported to be a six-year-old boy’s story of visiting angels and heaven after suffering a bad car crash is being pulled from shelves. The young man at the center of The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, Alex Malarkey, said this week that the story was all made up.

The book’s publisher, Tyndale House, had promoted it as “a supernatural encounter that will give you new insights on Heaven, angels, and hearing the voice of God.”

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But Thursday, Tyndale House confirmed to NPR that it is taking “the book and all ancillary products out of print.”

The decision to pull the book comes after Alex Malarkey wrote an open letter to retailer LifeWay and others who sell Christian books and religious materials. It was published this week on the Pulpit and Pen website.

“I did not die. I did not go to Heaven,” Alex wrote. He continued, “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.”

He concluded, “Those who market these materials must be called to repent and hold the Bible as enough.”

Here are a few key background details of the story: Alex Malarkey was paralyzed at the age of 6 when he was in a car wreck. He then spent two months in a coma. He’s now a teenager. The book lists him as a co-author along with his father, Kevin Malarkey.

Calling the book a “spiritual memoir,” The Washington Post notes that it “became part of a popular genre of ‘heavenly tourism,’ which has been controversial among orthodox Christians.”

Alex’s parents are now divorced; he and his siblings live with his mother, Beth Malarkey, who has previously spoken out against the book (and last year, a movie) featuring her son. She has also said that profits from the book haven’t been going to Alex.

Last spring, Beth Malarkey wrote a blog post stating, “Alex’s name and identity are being used against his wishes (I have spoken before and posted about it that Alex has tried to publicly speak out against the book), on something that he is opposed to and knows to be in error according to the Bible.”

She added, “I am fully aware of what it feels like to be pulled in. There are many who are scamming and using the Word of God to do it. They are good, especially if you are not digging into your Bible and truly studying it. They study their audience and even read ‘success’ books to try to build better and bigger … ‘ministries/businesses.’ “

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  1. It is great the this kid comes out with the truth, but one can only wonder at his taking a ‘moral ground’ stand to start pointing fingers at others, including those deceived by his initial lies!

  2. Hugh G Wetmore

    This is a sad story of deception that should stand as a warning to all who tell bizarre stories of spiritual experiences that are not compatible with Scripture. Even the true story of Lazarus being dead for 4 days doesn’t venture to include his post-death experiences. Deuteronomy 29:29 ‘The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things are ARE revealed belong to us and our children forever, THAT WE MAY DO ALL THE WORDS OF THIS LAW.’ God is not interested in satisfying our curiosity, but in our practical obedience to what He has commanded. Our faith must be based on objective revelation, not on subjective experience.

    • Dear Hugh,
      I think you said it so well – thank you for your wonderful comment.
      Kind regards,
      Magriet (Visagie)

  3. Is this the story from that movie heaven is for real?

    • No, Heaven Is For Real is a separate book and film. It is based on the experiences of a boy who had a vision or allegedly went to heaven during a surgical operation. Colton Burpo, is the son of a Wesleyan minister in Imperial, Nebraska. Interestingly, in response to this retraction by Malarkey, Colton Burpo said he stands by the book about him.

  4. Arrogant little squirt. Tells a bunch of lies then blames others for printing it!!!!!
    Needs a good old fashioned thrashing

  5. I think the embarrassment is on the Christian publishers and book distributors who fail to do due diligence and verify the authenticity of these claims before going to press (i.e. testing them against Scripture). American pastor and author, John MacArthur, is critical of both books and films.