| Putting the psycho in|
|Men who stare at goats|
|By the powers of tinfoil|
Sylvia Browne (1936–2013) was one of the most popular, self-serving, and blatantly callous "psychics" out there. Now she is just one of the deadest. Browne was the leader of an allegedly Gnostic church called the Society of Novus Spiritus, based around the teachings of her channeled "spiritual guide" Francine; she promoted both a mother and father God, and claimed to teach Christianity the same way Jesus did. She publicly espoused both an afterlife (and afterlife communication) and reincarnation.
Career highlights and problems
Browne was a regular on the now-canceled Montel Williams syndicated TV talk show, where she was known for claiming to speak with the dead, and famous for several notorious flameouts. Her failures included mis-predicting the outcomes of the Shawn Hornbeck case, and on the syndicated radio show Coast to Coast AM, the Sago Mine disaster. Her method of "psychic" operation seems to be simple cold reading.
Browne attempted to claim James Randi's Million-Dollar Challenge, but after agreeing to the initial terms she made no further effort after 2001. In addition, those who consulted with Browne said that she seemed quite fond of lecithin supplements for some reason.
Due to her disproportionate fame for her cold reading ability, she managed to attract the attention of Robert S. Lancaster, an anti-bullshit writer who started a two-year exposure campaign to point out just how much of a fraud she was.
|Quackwatch says: |
|Throughout her career as a “psychic,” Sylvia Browne took money—under false pretenses—from people who were emotionally vulnerable. By inventing messages from or about lost loved ones, she could tarnish the true memories of these people. Sylvia’s medical diagnoses could lead people who trusted her to pursue incorrect diagnoses, waste money ruling them out, and/or ignore the advice of their own medical professionals.|
"You had one job. One. Job."
- Browne made a spectacular mistake when she used her "powers" to gain insight into the outcome of a mining accident. First reports suggested all but one of the miners had survived so Browne said this was not a "gloomy moment" and "I knew they would be found." Later, when it became clear in fact all but one of the miners had been killed she changed her story and said the dead miners were crazy to report they were alive and she meant their bodies would be found. Most people would consider finding bodies a very gloomy time.
- Browne went on The Montel Williams Show to inform Louwana Miller, mother of Ohio kidnapping victim Amanda Berry, that her missing daughter was dead. As it turns out, Berry was very much alive. According to Joe Nickell, editor of Skeptical Inquirer, "The [Ariel Castro abduction] is a test case for all psychics. Why didn't one psychic wake up in the middle of the night and know where they were?"
- She once predicted that Bill Bradley would win the 2000 U.S. presidential election and that the Reform Party would come in second. Neither event occurred.
- She predicted that she knew Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein were "hiding in caves." Hussein was found in a "spider hole", which could be described as a cave, but bin Laden was hiding in a mansion, surrounded by an army base.
- She said that Bin Laden was dead long before his 2011 death.
- She predicted a guilty verdict in the 2005 child molestation trial of Michael Jackson Jackson was acquitted of all charges.
- She died aged 77 and never saw it coming, having forecast that she would live to be 88.
Runs in the family
Browne's son, Chris Dufresne, is also in the business of psychic readings. Browne claimed that her son's psychic abilities are equal to her own—which, to be fair, is technically true. In 2012, Browne charged $850 for a 30-minute phone reading and Dufresne charged $500 for a 30-minute phone reading. In 2020, Dufresne's cost for a thirty minute phone reading is $219.
- Stop Sylvia Browne was a site documenting Browne's various shenanigans.
- Famous Psychic, Sylvia Browne Dead At 77. sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com, 20 November 2013.
- Randi Foundation Responds to "Psychic Nikki”, James Randi Educational Foundation, 6 September 2011.
- Psychic Defective: Sylvia Browne’s History of Failure, Skeptical Inquirer, Volume 34.2, March/April 2010.
- Sylvia Browne: Psychic or Con Artist? Quackwatch, 14 December 2013.
- Sylvia Browne reveals she’s a hypocrite as well as a fraud.; TV Psychic Misses Mark on Miners
- Montel: Amanda Berry Reading. Sylvia Browne tells a mother that her missing daughter is dead. Archived from the original at stopsylvia.com.
- Sylvia Browne's Failed Amanda Berry Prediction Returns To Haunt Her
- 2000 Predictions. Archived from the original at www.sylvia.org.
- Psychic Sylvia Browne's predictions come true - sort of. Archived from the original at fraudtech.org.
- Coast to Coast AM, The Other Side, October 22, 2003. Saddam was captured on December 13.
- In 2004 Sylvia Browne wrongly reported Bin Laden Dead
- Dear Sylvia. Archived from the original at sylviabrowne.com, 9 September 2009.
- Page 2: Predictions: Jacko Convicted, But Blake Gets Off. Archived from the original at msn.com, 14 January 2005.
- The 'fortune'-ate life of Sylvia Browne. Archived from the original at sylviabrowne.com.
Sylvia Browne knows for certain she'll die at the age of 88. Knowing one's own expiration date would alarm most; for her it's old-hat.
"I died at 26 and came back," Browne remembered. "The other side is magnificant. Unexplainable colors, landscapes, the meadows and the mountains. When you see something that gorgeous, how do you explain that? You just can't; words are stupid when it comes to that."
- Psychic Readings. Archived from the original at readings.sylviabrowne.com.
- Book a Reading. sylviabrowne.com.