Another Sylvia Browne Failure

May 9, 2013

I cannot get over the horrific revelations in Cleveland where, for a decade, three girls—now young women—were held as sex slaves by a vicious sociopath. As I reflected on the case, however, I said to my wife Diana that once again “psychics” had failed to locate missing persons. Wouldn’t three victims in a single location have provided increased stimulus for the mystics’ touted powers?

As it happens, not only were the nation’s so-called psychic sleuths obviously unhelpful in any of these three missing-person cases, but one high-profile psychic was a noteworthy failure. I refer to the notorious Sylvia Browne, who for years appeared on The Montel Williams Show and shamelessly fooled unsuspecting, unsophisticated people into believing she could do what she of course could not.

In 2004, the distraught mother of one of the three missing girls, Amanda Berry (who had gone missing the day before her seventeenth birthday) appeared on Montel. Browne told her, “She’s not alive, honey.” When the mother replied, “So you don’t think I’ll ever see her again,” Browne responded, “Yeah, in Heaven, on the other side.”

Nor is this the first time that Browne so terribly erred in telling grieving parents that hope for their child was gone. In 2003, also on The Montel Williams Show, Browne had told the parents of Shawn Hornbeck, missing for four months, that the boy was dead. She said Shawn “is no longer with us,” and claimed that his body was near two jagged boulders in a wooded area some twenty miles southwest of their Missouri home. In fact, Browne was simply describing a general area that had been searched several times. Almost four years later, Shawn was found alive, having been held with another boy, by a kidnapper in St. Louis.

Subsequently, CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 show devoted a segment to Browne’s many psychic failures. Titled Dead Wrong, it aired January 19, 2007. While Browne provided the show with a list of her alleged successes, Cooper and his staff scrutinized the cases and found them seriously wanting, including claims that were unverifiable and others that were only documented after the fact.

Interested persons may wish to read more about Sylvia Browne—including her unforeseen felony conviction, exposure for plagiarism, and other missed visions—in my The Science of Ghosts. Recently, she canceled an appearance in Niagara Falls due to “an unforeseen illness.”