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People Unlimited the History of an Arizona Cult, the CBJ Medicine Show, and Secret World of the Physically Immortal

Updated on October 2, 2011

Charles Paul Brown and his partners BernaDeane Brown (also his wife), and James Russell Strole

People Unlimited has a long history a cult in Arizona, I have had experience with them personally. Which is why I am writing this...

" People Unlimited supports progressive individuals in achieving infinite health, wealth and well being through the pursuit and practice of death free living. Inspiring events and incisive life coaching help people of all ages to grow and tap into their unlimited human potential. People Unlimited also serves as the hub for an informal but impassioned community of like-minded people. This community offers invaluable empathy and encouragement for those seeking to live without limitations. We invite you to experience the excitement, power and fun first hand, and to contact us about organizing an event in your area ." - from the People Unlimited business website.

As Phoenix Paganism examiner, it is important to look at groups that are part of the Phoenix, Arizona religious landscape - this is one that perhaps should be looked at more closely.

It is for the reader to judge for themselves.

It is always hard to tell what a group or movement is from the outside looking in. So to be fair to People Unlimited in this set of articles, videos from Youtube that promote their philosophy are being included. In essence the ideas they promote are not bad or new, they combine ideas that have been used in self empowerment, network marketing, new age, and neo-religious groups before their existence and since. In essence they are not preaching anything inherently bad, in fact their focus and energy to most is outwardly positive.

So this examiner encourages you to take a look at the People Unlimited Website and judge for yourself what they appear to be about. Some of you may want to contact them and pursue their organization personally, maybe even attend meetings.

People Unlimited is an old group under the same management so to speak and has been in an institution in Phoenix, Arizona ( but more specifically in a Scottsdale location these days ) for quite a long time.

People Unlimited has been known under other names, aka The Eternal Flame, People Forever, and CBJ ( being the first letters of its founders names ) - it is the brainchild of Charles Paul Brown and his partners BernaDeane Brown (also his wife), and James Russell Strole.

In 1960, Charles Paul Brown (now 76), the group founder, a former lounge singer and traveling salesman, met BernaDeane, now 74. She was a preacher's daughter. The two began traveling around the preaching immortality to anyone who would listen. In 1968, Strole, now 61, joined the circuit.

Here are a few public statements from meetings held by the three:

"I want to break the appointment with death in your body. We're the new heaven! ...Get off death row! I'm opening the prison doors for the cells and atoms of your body!" -Charles Paul Brown

"Quit buying into death. We're offering you the greatest freedom there has ever been on this planet." -James Russell Strole

"I don't care that there's no proof...The biggest cult on this planet is the cult of death, and I don't belong to it...It's impossible to live in a world that is programmed to die, and seek immortality." - BernaDeane Brown

This examiner attended three meetings of People Unlimited and these statements were indicative of what the message they preached was like. It was very supercharged and very orchestrated, and the crowd was going wild for the message.

This examiner even felt the surge of energy and was swept up in it.

The idea of Physical Immortality was potent, and these three were well rehearsed and trained speakers, especially BernaDeane. She was a masterful speaker, and carried her message with a fervor and energetic power that you rarely see in public or private speaking.

There is much going on under the surface of this group. They openly claim they are a religion, a sect, and a cult...but during their meetings also openly contradict this and claim that they are none of these.

They have been in Arizona off and on since its early days, due to the large population of retired and elderly persons in the Arizona area. They have an ever growing following, and are tirelessly working at making People Unlimited profitable....

Charles Paul Brown, BernaDeane Brown, and James Russell Strole

The biggest cult on this planet is the cult of death, and I don't belong to it...

Now continues a look at the Phoenix, Arizona based organization called People Unlimited. Now let us take a look at some of the controversy that has occurred with the group during its existence, once again trying to be fair and as unbiased as possible.

Both of these quotes are from the People Unlimited website.

" Charles Paul Brown, BernaDeane and James Strole have spoken on physical immortality in 23 countries across four continents. As a result, People Unlimited has become a focal point for an informal but impassioned community of like-minded people from around the world. Collectively, these exceptional people form an environment in which, for the first time, immortals can truly feel at home."

" People Unlimited Charities has been created to help save lives. We donate time and raise money to help feed and shelter people in the Phoenix area and around the world."

Although the media has been quiet these days, over a decade ago People Unlimited had much media attention, which caused them to reshift their focus, and to change their name both publicly and privately. Before going further it is important to express the opposing view of People Unlimited, which can be found by watching the videos offered at the Rick Ross website. This site looks out for cults and various fringe groups throughout the world and has much documentation on People Unlimited and its evolution.

This is a portion of the information made public by Victor Dricks of the Phoenix Gazettein an article published on January 27, 1994. Part of a series of media releases concerning the group, then known as the Eternal Flame :

" The Scottsdale-based organization, which claims 30,000 adherents in 18 countries, released financial records Wednesday. The effort was aimed at rebutting recent charges that millions of dollars were being collected from members, with the bulk going to its three founders, Charles Paul brown, BernaDeane Brown and James Russell Strole.

The charges were made recently in GQ and Elle magazines and the London Daily Telegraph, and on the ABC-TV news program "Day One" and the nationally syndicated television program "American Journal."

They are complete poppycock, the group's founders said during a news conference.

"We commissioned this audit voluntarily to dispel the rumors, innuendos and accusations formulated by those who are either uninformed or who have 'hidden agendas' which have been spread by a small segment of irresponsible press who were quick to provide exposure but slow to check the facts," said Flame Foundation general manager Art Bejerno.

An audit of the organization's 1992-93 year, prepared by accountant Gregory Longstrom of Curosh & Williams, shows the three founders received salaries totaling $431, 597. Strole was paid $164,616. The Browns, who are married, were paid $266,981. The three also divided a $52,000-a-year housing allowance (they live together), and enjoyed the use of a late model Cadillac and a Land Rover, putting their total compensation each to more than $150,000 last year.

Bejarno dismissed reports that his organization is a "money-making machine" that "sold" the promise of physical immortality to the gullible who paid $650 each to attend the group's annual convergence in Scottsdale in July. The founders' earnings are "delayed compensation" since they invested three decades of their time and money to develop the physical immortality movement before they received any compensation, Bejarno said..."

Here is some of what is said in response to these media representations of People Unlimited from their own website:

" At the time these attacks were made we had operated for many years as a non-profit religious foundation, first as The Eternal Flame, then as The Flame Foundation, and finally as People Forever International, when we were also known as CBJ. We believe this was one of the main reasons why we were vilified so vehemently - because, although we came from a religious background, we had no attachment to any particular religious doctrine and our message was completely different from that of the religious status quo.

Through the late 1980s and early 1990s we continued to move away from a religious expression, recognizing its limitations, and finally dissolved the religious foundation. In 1996 we incorporated People Unlimited Inc. as a profit-making, self-development and coaching business. Since then, we have limited our dealings with the media to "live" interviews only, so that what we say can't be taken out of context or edited by an unscrupulous reporter.

This is because we realize that pursuing an unlimited life and encouraging people to value themselves and each other above anything else, stimulates controversy and is against how most people are choosing to live. We happen to believe though, that this is where true freedom lies. And we feel passionately that everyone should be given the opportunity to at least consider the possibilities.

Whether you agree with that stance or not it's important to be aware that most of the information that is being circulated about us is by people who have never met us, talked to us or even attended one of our events. So they really have no idea who we are or what we're about.

We happen to believe that our record speaks for itself. In the nearly 40 years we have worked together, neither we, individually or collectively, nor any of the organizations we have been responsible for, have ever been sued or been the subject of any other type of legal action.

So, should you come across any derogatory information about us, we ask that you please check the source. Read their disclaimers: judge for yourself just how much value to place on what they present as fact. Just because something has been published does not make it true. It is our opinion that anyone who is not willing to stand by what they say or what they pass on, is an unreliable source."

Fair enough. It is this examiner trying to report fairly that this information is being printed here. In the final portion of this article, this examiner will give a more personal viewpoint and express what was experienced in the three People Unlimited gatherings which were personally attended in the Phoenix / Scottsdale, Arizona area this last year.

One reason CBJ's need to be together is that ....

Another issue that seemed cultish and problematic was the integration with the group, particularly CBJ the leaders themselves has been the actual practices involved with the acquisition of Physical Immortality as laid out by People Unlimited doctrine.

Here is a bit more information from Rick Ross, and an article by Cathryn Creno of the Arizona Republic, in July 28, 1993 :

Rick Ross, a Valley cult-deprogrammer who was a consultant for the FBI on the Branch Davidian standoff near Waco, Texas. Ross says he has a "thick file" of complaints about CBJ from relatives of members.

"They haven't found the Fountain of Youth, they've found the Fountain of Cash," Ross said. Ross called CBJ's cellular awakenings "a manipulation of trance and mind control.

""What it boils down to is you have to be with the group and touch members of the group to live forever. If you become disconnected, you will die," he said. Massey, who, like many other CBJ members, moved from England to Scottsdale to be closer to other immortality seekers, defended her behavior, however.

'Programmed to die'

"It's impossible to live in a world that is programmed to die," and seek immortality, she said.
One reason CBJ's need to be together is that immortality requires regular "cellular intercourse" with other immortals. This kind of intercourse does not involve nudity or sex - hugs, hand-holding or emotional intimacy suffice."In England, you just don't touch people," Massey explained. "but most people really need to be touched and loved and wanted. To me, having people who want me alive forever is more important than anything."

These are from notes made after attending three meetings of People Unlimited by Blake Hall :

" All three meetings had a divide and conquer aspect about them. They were dividing the sheep from the leaders for purposes of getting everyone oriented. You were not required to pay the admission fee, or if you joined the monthly dues of membership, in fact - you were not obligated to pay anything, but a tally was immediately started that you would later compensate the organization until paid in full. This seems strange...if you are going to be Physically Immortal, then apparently you will owe money to People Unlimited until the end of time, and are obligated to equally lengthy a debt. The friend that I attended three meetings with was in a very bad state of financial affairs currently, yet she felt obligated to privately apologize to her friends at People Unlimited for not being able to pay them her back debts, even though she was at the time unable to make her own house payments. It made me wonder how much money she had already given them, and if that had anything to do with her current financial status. But that I do not know for sure either way..."

" The third meeting was very inspirational, and I left with a lot of energy and excitement, but then I began to analyze what the other people around me were doing, especially ones that seemed very integrated with the group for some time. There were people there who were professionals giving all of their free time and money to this organization, there were poorer people and families becoming in debt to the organization and willingly. The fact is this group has all the earmarks of scam artists, cult worship, and is mobilizing with web streaming and an international audience. The meetings that followed just confirmed my feelings about People Unlimited more."

" They have the air of charlatans, and possibly the ability to evolve into something more sinister and possibly dangerous...In fact my main problem with CBJ and People Unlimited, is not that what they are preaching is so off base. In principle I believe much of what they are saying is absolutely true. But the facts are clear when you see how they conduct themselves. Like all cult leaders, they tell their followers that only through their contact with the group will anyone else be able to transcend their mortal coil. They are not only necessary for the group to transcend to a state of physical immortality. But all the world must have them do so, and we must be careful or they will take it away from all of us. For it is their gifts to the world,...Well you know what People Unlimited, especially BernaDeane. I will spend any free time of my life that some one will listen to me to prove you to be the snake oil sellers that you are, I see through you and I dare you to hurt anyone else. Period, don't you have enough wealth from all the people you have scammed over the years, do you just keep needing more and more like vampires? I am here and so are a lot of others like myself...We don't believe in you, all humans can raise their consciousness freely. We don't need suckers and liars like the likes of you to do so. I dare you to admit yourselves for the frauds you are. If you are as wise as you lead your little flocks to believe. I will be watching you..."

This is one lament opinion, but People Unlimited is alive and active in Phoenix, Arizona...and many people here may not realize that they have a history of problems and bad press.

Some of it deserving. Some perhaps not.

A cult perhaps, or just a modern medicine show?

Or who knows what as James, BernaDeane, and Charles the three voices of People Unlimited approach centennial years, and we see if they are truly Physically Immortal.

Or mortal after all. We shall see.

It's impossible to live in a world that is programmed to die,, she said. To me, having people who want me alive forever is more important than anything.

A markerPeople Unlimited -
a101, 9380 E Bahia Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85260, USA
get directions


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    • profile image

      mmarietta forcht 14 months ago

      I personally have seen death when I was strangled left for dead by my exhusband. I came back to life when I was telling within my self "I'm not going to die", thats when I felt my self being drawn back into my body..

      A message came to me at that time I would like to share it with you.

      I was to be made old at a rapid pace. My life span was to be made shorter than the average indivual. All were my chrildren to be looked after, what ever I needed to open the eyes of society would be granted to me, the extra tissue in my brain was to be used for knowledge.

      The tissue in my brain turned out to be a benign brain tumor when removed it left me with a left sided palsey. Turning to doctors to correrct this problem they induced apotosis induced cell death. I was told it is the aging process. In 1991 I was told I had 6 months to live when visiting the Mayo Clinic I was told there was nothing I could do to live any longer this was all due to the process drs. induced in me. I am i writing a book, a tell all on how we are programed to die at a rapid pace and why the average patient has no say as to when and how this is done. I can explain death total recall and how this all comes about..

      Have no fear.

    • blake4d profile image

      Blake Ford Hall 23 months ago from Now Rising Out of Phoenix Arizona Earthlings

      Amen. KOH Blake4d

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      Nechach 2 years ago

      You people here all talk about scam and money and cult and profanity and brainwashed and what not. You probably think you are so awake and aware and in control of your mind and your life... You are so brainwashed into DEATH and DYING and you are sure you are not. The proof that you are is that you absolutely refuse to even consider that you are.

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      Betsy 2 years ago

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      Betsy 2 years ago answer a question above ... Chuck is dead ..popped his clogs .There is an obit on their website .

      I watch this group from a distance because a close friend has become entangled with them and I often wondered what would happen when the first one of the 3 'leaders' died..well one has has - and nothing has happened . I'd love to see how they've explained that one away but then again..I don't think I can be bothered wasting my time .

    • profile image

      Tim 3 years ago

      Life is hard and then you die and then you go to hell and then you come back and start over. The belief that death is inevitable has killed more people than all other causes combined. All you wonderful people here, you only think that you just give your honest opinion about those "People Unlimited"... the truth is you are only talking about YOU... You are scared to death to admit the FACT that you don't have the balls to deal with the fact that you are scared to death to find out that YOU WANT "your" body to go into the hole in the ground!!

      YES YOU DO! You don't think so? Think again... Because if dying is not what you want, then what that means IS that you want to live forever... just like them! There is nothing in between. Now watch what the little voice in your head is telling you so as to keep you safe from truth...

    • profile image

      test 3 years ago


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      Christian forever... 3 years ago

      This is the best most accurate review of these people. I know, I was there for a grueling three years. Am grateful for Grace... I am always forgiven for my bad judgment of sticking around so long and never speaking up nor leaving much sooner but I was hoping to find a new truth. I only found the biggest farce you ever seen.

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      better not say 3 years ago

      I was associated with this group a few years ago. I am much happier away from the energy that disturbed my peace of mind. I deeply care about these people but I must stay away from them. Where is Chuck? When I was attending he was fighting cancer and even though he was the founderBernie was ready to throw him away if he "chose to die." Weird, sick, and sad.

      So, again I ask, Where is Chuck?

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      Doug 3 years ago

      If this is supposed to be a balanced examination of this organization and it's principals, why have you used "Cult" in the headline? This immediately shows a bias as does your obviously interpretive description of the meetings you attended.

      Despite suggesting people make their own decision, implying that your position is

      independent and objective it's pretty clear this article is a product of your own prejudice and possibly even preconceptions.

    • blake4d profile image

      Blake Ford Hall 3 years ago from Now Rising Out of Phoenix Arizona Earthlings

      Thanx for your comments KTD my comrade pagan and hubpages honeybee. KOH. Blake4d

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      Serenity8 3 years ago

      I notice that Bernie and Jim seem to be carrying on but without Chuck participating. I would like to know how and where Chuck is in regard to People Unlimited. He is not featured on the FaceBook page.

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 3 years ago from the Ether

      When I say that they will physically die, that is not to say that they are any less than we's just that when we said we would incarnate here we knew that it was temporary in a physical aspect, so when people try to capitalize on this aspect and lie to others and say that we are physically immortal..they are merely just trying to gain monetary gain and control others...we all know that we only last physically for so long...although our energy or souls are eternal. That is the truth...physical;y and in this mundane plane we all die...but why resist it? We all live forever.

    • blake4d profile image

      Blake Ford Hall 3 years ago from Now Rising Out of Phoenix Arizona Earthlings

      Actually, you hit it right on the money KTD. This is just a group that happened to be on my radar, because of a couple friends that have been influenced by them. Yes, I agree with you whole heartedly. I hope you are feeling and doing well, it is nice to see you around again. Blessed be, dear honeybee. Keep on Hubbing. Blake4d

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 3 years ago from the Ether

      What I think is funny is that pretty of these "immortalists" will die, physically at least. LOL. Sorry...hate to be rude, but really? Loved your article though, blake4d...I like that you tried to be unbiased and present the facts. But I see right through the bullsh*t. Much Love!

    • blake4d profile image

      Blake Ford Hall 3 years ago from Now Rising Out of Phoenix Arizona Earthlings

      Thanx for all your responses and insight. Keep on Hubbing. Blake4d

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      Concerned for friend 4 years ago

      Just went to an "event" last night with a friend who, sadly, is a member. I have never seen worse public speaking in my life! No point was ever made or proof of immortality offered up.

      Calling them a cult is being kind! They are con artist.

      I am very concerned for my friend who pays over $200 a month to these people.

    • profile image

      Enofrappini 5 years ago

      .....can you say it with me? DENIAL! Otherwise healthy and normal looking people TOTALLY deluding of the basic lessons we all learn (if we're lucky) is for everything in the universe there is an equal and exact opposite...if there's BIRTH, for God's sake there HAS to be DEATH.....Jeez, why would I want to hang around here forever?!

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      David Gillespie 5 years ago

      there are only 2 people recorded in the bible that never died, and were translated (or transported) to heaven by the Holy Spirit. How heartbroken are all these poor folks going to be when Jim, Bernie, or Charles dies!?

    • blake4d profile image

      Blake Ford Hall 5 years ago from Now Rising Out of Phoenix Arizona Earthlings

      Sandra, my only concern is for my friends and people who maybe hurt by their influences. I am not saying that everything about their beliefs is bad or wrong, but I do believe they are manipulating a lot of people, mostly the elderly and people that are perhaps, unable to help from being victims. That of course is an opinion, but my personal friends have had experiences that verify at least some of my opinions clearly. Keep on Hubbing. Blake4d

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      sandra 5 years ago

      why does it concern you if your money is not involved and they are saying they are living forever as far as I can tell they are not saying you have to,so live and let live

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      truth shall make you free! 5 years ago

      I attended this scam' meeting in scottsdale in April of 2012. their meetings start at 7:30pm to 10:00pm. for nearly 3 hours most of the talk is done by audience members who get up on the stage with meaningless pompous talk about nothing - the other portion of what they say is PROFANITY. man, every other word F... this That Shit this. All of them from teenagers to old people they speak nothing special but profanity and emotional-pauses cause they're full of tears and emotions about nothing. THEY'RE SCAM.

    • blake4d profile image

      Blake Ford Hall 5 years ago from Now Rising Out of Phoenix Arizona Earthlings

      No they definitely do not call themselves a cult. And yes ScottsdaleMortal, you have it pegged pretty well. Thanx for commenting. Keep on Hubbing. Blake4d

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      ScottsdaleMortal 5 years ago

      I have met several of these folks and they are completely brainwashed. I think it is quite funny that the leaders are so old...I wonder if they say they are 400 years old? They don't want to believe they are in a cult and really what cult member would agree to this? They have tried to get me to go these 'meetings' and I simply refuse because I know what type of things they tend to say. I know for a fact they have to pay monthly dues and they often hold contests to see who brings more people in to these meetings. So sad to see grown, smart people get brainwashed so easily.

    • blake4d profile image

      Blake Ford Hall 5 years ago from Now Rising Out of Phoenix Arizona Earthlings

      Keep on Hubbing. Blake4d

    • blake4d profile image

      Blake Ford Hall 5 years ago from Now Rising Out of Phoenix Arizona Earthlings

      This comment has been found in violation of H.R. 3261, S.O.P.A and has been removed. ??? ???????? ?????? ?????????? ?? ???? ?? ???? ?????????? ?? .??? ???

    • blake4d profile image

      Blake Ford Hall 5 years ago from Now Rising Out of Phoenix Arizona Earthlings

      Thanx to everyone for reading and commenting. I will reserve my comments. I think the public opinions speak for themselves. Keep on Hubbing. Blake4d

    • Highvoltagewriter profile image

      William Benner 6 years ago from Savannah GA.

      Very interesting hub, and I agree with David that we will have the last laugh when they die! Though out history, people have been looking for ways to beat death and as far as I know none have proved it possible!

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      David 6 years ago

      CBJ bleed the australians dry, many up rooted their lives to go and be immortal in Scotsdale. Children and families suffered and people just came back broke and in some cases running from trouble.

      Almost all the aussie participant were in poverty not working , on the dole or doing low paid work. Afew exception sure. CBJ lived the high life wanting more and more money and the pressure was extreme. If you didn't pay up or you stood up to them and their Aussie Leaders you were ignored shot down or cut off.

      I heard Chuck had died ? but certainly the people who paid for Bernie and Jim face lifts could used that money to feed themselves pay their rent etc

      Do yourself a favour Keep you money folks and keep you mind out of their control and manipulation.

      The only charity they know about is their own pocket lined with your money !

      Complete phoneys high class grifters at best.

      We will all have the last laugh when they die !

    • profile image

      Oinky Boinky 7 years ago

      ..I've met "One of These Folks" out in the Real World..


      She is always preaching this "Live Forever Crap" to the point that she sounds like just one more "Wing Nut" in a world filled with Nuts & Bolts..

      ..Shut up already..give your money to a good Charity..

      You could get hit by a bus tomorrow..

      So much for living FOREVER...

    • blake4d profile image

      Blake Ford Hall 7 years ago from Now Rising Out of Phoenix Arizona Earthlings

      Thanx WB. I agree completely. Keep on Hubbing. Blake4d

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 7 years ago from Texas

      Greed has a way of exposing the truth over time. People are a needy lot and more than willing to believe the unbelievable if it takes them to a place where they so desire to be. The leader of the Branch Davidians claimed to be the son of God yet he wore glasses...a slight imperfection that might catch one's eye. The other ingredient that points directly to sham is the need for money in the equation. That is usually the give away. On top of that, the money that is necessary is above the fray calling for lifetime debt accumulation simply for the access. What a surprise when one day, the first one of this trio kicks the bucket. Of course those who remain will say that he 'stepped away from the organization' at a very crucial time in life. If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a's a duck! Thanks for a good write Blake! WB

    • blake4d profile image

      Blake Ford Hall 7 years ago from Now Rising Out of Phoenix Arizona Earthlings

      Foolish mortal, I don't want to live forever. But if I live longer than even one of this trio here in Phoenix, I will be showing up to pay my respects and laugh out loud. No pun intended, I rarely feel such strong concern about a cult group and their influence. This one just is too close to home I suppose. Thanx for taking the time to read the article Magnoliazz. Keep on Hubbing. Blake4d

    • magnoliazz profile image

      magnoliazz 7 years ago from Wisconsin

      So you want to live forever? That could be a curse if your health is not all that great.

      I think you are right, these people are out to get as much money as they can. If I had an extraordinary gift that would benefit people to that degree, I would give it away for free.

      Wait until the old guy bites the dust...and he will....that will be the end of the gravey train for these guys, unless they set up shop in another country.

    • blake4d profile image

      Blake Ford Hall 7 years ago from Now Rising Out of Phoenix Arizona Earthlings

      Thanx, Keep on Hubbing. Blake4d

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      carolina muscle 7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Interesting and informative post.