JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (WHAS11) -- WHAS11 News is looking into a religious movement that has roots in Kentuckiana. It has millions of followers, yet you may have never heard of it.
It is called Branham Tabernacle and every year, hundreds of people make a pilgrimage to Eastern Cemetery in Jeffersonville, Ind. to visit William Branham’s grave.
“I've been watching them for 25 years over there,” said Dallas Jenkins, who lives beside Eastern Cemetery. “I see license plates from everywhere,” Jenkins added, “Oregon, Canada, Florida, Texas, California.”
Branham first catapulted into fame before there was television. He died in 1965, but his followers continue spreading his message throughout the world.
“William Branham was a prophet of God and it's wonderful to visit the place he actually was,” said David Forsberg, who brought his family from Norway to visit the cemetery.
Branham’s former colleague, Willard Collins, is now the minister at Branham Tabernacle. He spent years following Branham’s ministry and describes Branham as “the most remarkable man I ever met”.
“His whole ministry was a phenomenon,” said Collins. “He would minister the word like you never heard it.”
A former Branham Tabernacle member spoke to WHAS11. He does not want to be identified. We will call him ‘Mike’.
“He was to be the father of the charismatic ministry,” said Mike.
Traveling from city to city, Branham professed to use the power of God to heal. And quickly the message went worldwide.
“He was all over the world seven times,” said Collins.
A mysterious photo appeared in which Branham had a halo and he began offering predictions in more than 1,100 recorded sermons, which eventually became "Voice of God Recordings".
“He raised himself into this platform that is almost, if not, equal to Jesus Christ,” Mike added.
Then in 1960, Branham predicted the end of the world. “We have exactly, listen, 17 years left,” Branham said in the sermon.
“Anything that he predicted either already came to pass, we watched a lot of it unfold, or it's in the making now,” said Collins.
Branham predicted he would be alive to see the return of Jesus Christ, but he died on Christmas Eve 1965.
“They held his body from the grave from December, when he died, all the way into Easter, hoping he would rise back from the dead,” said Mike.
“Over there is an empty grave, like in Jerusalem, for us,” said Forsberg, pointing to Branham’s grave, which he visited Easter Sunday.
Nearly half a century after Branham's death, the movement is growing by leaps and bounds, as more than 6,500 volunteer ministers spread the word in dozens of countries, reaching an estimated 2,000,000 believers.
So why have so few people around here heard of it?
“It's almost behind closed doors. You invite somebody over to your house. You say ‘Did you know there was a prophet?’ You hand them this prophet's material,” said Mike.
Mike says many of the recordings are controversial, expressing Branham's view of women.
“Every sin that ever was on the earth was caused by a woman,” Branham preached in one sermon.
Branham compares women who wear makeup to Jezebel. “If you see a woman wearing that, you can say ‘How do you do, Miss Dog Meat?’ That's exactly what God called her. He fed her to the dogs,” Branham said.
And he had this to say about Catholics, Baptists and Presbyterians. “Denominationalism is absolutely, I prove it by the Bible, is the mark of the beast,” Branham preached.
“All through high school, I never made friends because all the people had the mark of the beast,” Mike said.
Mike says questions about Branham's teachings led to depression.
“I was struggling just to live from day to day. I laid in bed and cried most of the day,” he said. “I was actually publicly shunned from the pulpit from the pastor of this church. “
But Mike's membership has been replaced many times over. Voice of God Recordings operates out of a multimillion dollar building near Charlestown, IN.
Tax returns say the organization has assets of nearly $110 Million.
“People just love this message,” said Collins.
Recordings, DVDs, children's books and even a replica of Branham's briefcase leave southern Indiana by the truckload, bound, mostly for developing countries
“It's basically toys of Brother Branham's possessions that they're trying to sell and make money whenever there's ministers out in the field who don't even have shoes on their feet,” said Mike.
Brother Willard Collins says the ministry is nothing more than spreading the good word.
“It's not centered on Brother Branham. It's centered on Jesus Christ,” Collins said. “He was just the messenger. He never took any credit for anything.”
Collins says he believes that Branham will rise from the grave, just as he believes all true believers will, about a month before Jesus' return to earth.
Which he believes signs show will likely be very soon.