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CNN Sylvia Browne Fraud - Comments

Katana's Avatar Comment 1 by Katana

It's just unfortunate that the parents were so desperate to find their son that they would ask and believe what this woman had to say.
What was annoying in that segment was that the police actually diverted their searching efforts based on her nonsense.

I remember reading an article on how often she was correct, i think it was around 2-3%.
Anyone could do random predictions based on the existing data and get it right that much.
But her obvious intention is made clear when they say her fee is $700 an hour.
To paraphrase Derren Brown's book, psychics are just mentalists that have crossed the line and prey on desperate people who want to believe.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 02:08:00 UTC | #17513

Homo economicus's Avatar Comment 2 by Homo economicus

Entirley agree Katana.

These con artists prey on desperate people in all situations who want answers and go against reason in there such for them.

Why such people are given air time granting legitmacy is a travesty of human intellect.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 03:27:00 UTC | #17515

The author's Avatar Comment 3 by The author

Wow, that was actually critical journalism. Even better than I would expect it in Germany. Such a thing on CNN - impressing.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 06:02:00 UTC | #17517

alfonso's Avatar Comment 4 by alfonso

Interesting statistic on the percentage of people who believe in psychics in the US. 19% on the East coast?

I wonder if those statistics were well prepared, proper population samples and adequate questions.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 06:20:00 UTC | #17518

blaine's Avatar Comment 5 by blaine

13%... said they believe in psychics.
Women are almost twice as likely as men to believe psychics can foresee the future, 18% vs 8%.

Since the proportion of females in the American population is only slightly higher than the proportions of males, it sure looks like the overall total (average) of people who believe psychics can foresee the future is 13%. Either these results say that less than 1% of people "believe in psychics" but that psychics can't see the future; the test didn't accurately differentiate the cases (which the "foresee the future" label implies they did); or the results are not being reported accurately. I think there must be a lot of people who think that Browne and people like her can see the dead, and the past, but not the future.

I didn't think Lancaster made his point very well. If he has all of this evidence, why must he resort to talking about "evil"? Also, as shown in the video, Browne doesn't claim a 100% success rate. He should have made the point that her success rate is worse than police work (or at least that her success rate is "very bad"), not just point out a couple mistakes over decades of work. He could make the same argument against police (incl. FBI, etc.), since they sometimes they screw up cases , accuse innocent parents of murder, etc., but that doesn't mean police aren't the most effective means possible to apprehend murderers.

Randi was great. My only complaint is about his lame reply about Browne's billing rate, that it is her opinion against his. I personally believe that Randi is much more honest than Browne, so I believe him. But it is not her opinion that is in doubt, it is her honesty. As shown a few sentences later, he has plenty of evidence about her billing rate, so he should have said that he has plenty of evidence to show that they are lying.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 06:55:00 UTC | #17521

Ian's Avatar Comment 6 by Ian

I agree with you Katana, except for one thing: It isn't unfortunate that these parents are desperate enough to listen, it's perfectly natural and that's why we all have a moral duty to protect them from con artists and charlatans.

That moral duty extends to any agent, including the media companys, so they must shoulder some of the responsibility for giving these 'psychics' air time.

What are Julia Brown, the producers of The Montel Williams Show and the TV companies who run the show going to give in recompense to these couples for thier grief and heartache?

Nothing of course: they will just take the money from the advertising revenue. That is how they benefit from the distress they cause and that is why they disgust me as well.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 07:09:00 UTC | #17522

simplicio's Avatar Comment 7 by simplicio

So I went to the Montel Williams show website to find out how to contact the show to complain that he gives this vulture publicity on his show and found that she is scheduled to appear on the show this very week!! Please consider sending an email to the show asking how they can give Sylvia Browne a megaphone when she has hurt so many people.

Please consider going over to Montel's website to ask the producers to stop inviting Sylvia Browne on the show:

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 07:34:00 UTC | #17524

ftvt's Avatar Comment 8 by ftvt

Browne has posted a response on her website( -- Under "Message from Sylvia").

A couple of excerpts:

If the brilliant scientists throughout history had a James Randi negating every aspect of their work, I doubt we would have progressed very far in medicine or in any technology.

...I cannot possibly be 100% correct in each and every one of my predictions.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 07:42:00 UTC | #17525

jeff_n's Avatar Comment 9 by jeff_n

If the brilliant scientists throughout history had a James Randi negating every aspect of their work, I doubt we would have progressed very far in medicine or in any technology.

In fact they go through up to ten gruelling years of tertiary education, dozens of very difficult examinations, and an uphill struggle to get tenure. And anything they wish to publish in scientific journals is peer reviewed before it ever sees the light of day and is then subjected to intense criticism by some of the smartest people on Earth, many of whom are rivals. A scientist's life would be a lot easier if he or she only had to convince James Randi!

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 08:32:00 UTC | #17527

Kingasaurus's Avatar Comment 10 by Kingasaurus

"...I cannot possibly be 100% correct in each and every one of my predictions."

Ah, my favorite red herring.

No one is asking for 100%. We're asking for a better accuracy rate than simply guessing or engaging in cold reading where the subject inadvertently "helps" the "psychic" get closer to the right answer.

If Sylvia is using magic powers to get the hideously bad success rate that she's offering, then she's doing it the hard way.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 08:50:00 UTC | #17528

cerad's Avatar Comment 11 by cerad

A number of books have present scientific documentation that her hit rate is around 80%. It is a bit strange that Ms Brown is the author of all these books but I'm sure the books would never have been published if they were not true.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 08:56:00 UTC | #17532

rnewson's Avatar Comment 12 by rnewson

"A number of books have present scientific documentation that her hit rate is around 80%"

Which books? Do you really think all books that are published are true?

If her hit rate is really 80%, this would be a millenium-defining event. It's far, far more likely that she's a complete fraud.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 09:03:00 UTC | #17533

mintcheerios's Avatar Comment 13 by mintcheerios

It should be noted that appearing on the Montel Williams show is also a great way to increase the awareness of a missing person however counterproductive Sylvia Browne may be. It doesn't mean that all her guests believe in psychics. But this isn't an excuse to going around with magic tricks claiming they are real.

Isn't Dawkins coming out with a documentary about this stuff? I think he said it was called "The Enemies of Reason" in an interview.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 09:14:00 UTC | #17534

fonex_86's Avatar Comment 14 by fonex_86

I wonder which is worse: one 'very famous' Sylvia Browne, who often appears on national TV... or THOUSANDS of less-known-but-equally-dishonest 'Sylvia Brownes'... cause where I live, the latter is the norm (shudders)

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 10:01:00 UTC | #17536

RickM's Avatar Comment 15 by RickM

The media continues to avoid the real issue; belief in the supernatural.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 10:08:00 UTC | #17537


"only god is 100% correct all of the time"

Well, since we know the illogic of god, we can only presume that Ms.Brown is just as illogical and in her profession, a thief of the lowest common denominator preying on the weakest of her constituency.

She's a complete fraud.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 10:46:00 UTC | #17539

blackbeauty's Avatar Comment 17 by blackbeauty

People like Randi should concentrate on the real sharks, there are Charlatans with millions , all over the world, following them. These are all in India. India exports these dangerous gurus.

Here is the list of parasites who live on the ignorance and loneliness of their followers. 1. Sai Baba [ he is estimated to have a following of about 30 million people, he does "miracles", many young men have reported that they have been sexually molested by him, BBC doumentary covers a lot of information] 2. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar [ he is the new Charlatan] 3. Kalki Bhagawan [ growing and amassing millions] 4. Amma : The hugging guru 5. The TM guru living in the Netherlands. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.6.. many more budding gurus in the pipeline.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 11:29:00 UTC | #17542

William's Avatar Comment 18 by William

Re: Comment #19566

There are skeptical organizations in India, such as the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations (FIRA) and the Indian Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (ICSICOP). There's even an Indian version of James Randi in the form of a fellow named Prabir Ghosh who, as head of the Science and Rationalists' Association of India, offers 2 million rupees to anyone who can prove that they possess supernatural powers.

I agree with you though. From what I've heard, it's bad over there.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 11:51:00 UTC | #17544

Zaphod's Avatar Comment 19 by Zaphod

People like Sylvia Browne and John Edwards disgust me. They are eithier totally delusional and should be put in a hospital with the guy who thinks he is Napoleon or they are sick con artists making money from people who are grieving and want hope.

John Edwards is a douchebag just like in that South Park episode. Love that episode lol.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 12:44:00 UTC | #17548

Zaphod's Avatar Comment 20 by Zaphod

Sylvia Browne said that the boy was dead because statistically if someone is kidnapped and missing for that long they are usually dead. She probably just made up the fictional killers description.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 12:51:00 UTC | #17549

MelM's Avatar Comment 21 by MelM

The psychic crap isn't the worst of it. She's the creator of the "Society of Novus Spiritus"
and then we have her web site:

Now, on to the stream of raw sewage she's pouring into the culture. This link is to her book list on This is truely shocking.

Good news though, Jesus has returned. Yes sir!

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 14:10:00 UTC | #17554

MelM's Avatar Comment 22 by MelM

Attend a nice "Spiritual Salon" with Sylvia in Campbell CA. Only $1000 a pop. The Feb 10 class is full though so you'll have to wait for the March 24 class.

Wow, she's only 53 miles away! Might be a kick if I wanted to waste $1000. But, I don't and I certainly don't want to reward the mess she's creating.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 14:48:00 UTC | #17557

William's Avatar Comment 23 by William

(From The Society Of Novus Spiritus Link In Comment #19580):

"A unique quality that (Novus Spiritus) possesses is that it states: all religions have some truth...Novus Spiritus teaches that there is a male God and a female God...The Society of Novus Spiritus believes that Christ was sent to earth as the Son of God...Reincarnation is viewed by the Society of Novus Spiritus as a tool used by God to help each one of us perfect our souls."

It sounds like Sylvia has just borrowed bits and pieces from different religions and creeds and mashed them all together. How very ecumenical. Anyone, be they Christian or New Age or Hindu or Feminist, is welcome to fork over their money to Sylvia and Francine.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 15:52:00 UTC | #17560

k1mgy's Avatar Comment 24 by k1mgy

It's time that these wackos were subject to some type of licensing with an exam, standards, and some level of protection afforded by state oversight.

This -creature- looked into the eyes of a distraught parent (having children I can somewhat connect with the level of pain a parent might carry) and lied. Did she know she was lying, or is this individual so self-possessed that she believes in her own "powers"?

I am sickened on a number of levels, including a disgust with a mass media that would knowingly allow such a horrible display of deception to be put forth.

I would think that Richard Dawkins might compare this incident, too, as less damaging than the slow and steady religious indoctrination of defenseless children. Perhaps, although this case has a very strong sting.

Damage done by frauds like Sylvia Browne are despicable. She should be put out of business and face, at a minimum, civil penalties for her charlatanism.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 18:33:00 UTC | #17567

MelM's Avatar Comment 25 by MelM

From klmgy #19593

It's time these wackos were subject to some type of licensing with an exam, standards, and some level of protection afforded by state oversight.

"Licensed wackos"? "Standards"? I don't think I want to go there.

Fraud laws might be sufficient in some cases but I certainly don't want the government deciding the truth or falsehood of ideas--such as "psychic powers". We need a proper division of labor here. The people decide what's true or false; the government protects our right to do that. There's a big difference between officials defending their decisions with ideas--which they have to do--and stipulating for the rest of us that those ideas are true. Sylvia Browne will get some victims but look at the potential for damage when some officials set themselves up a "guardians of culture."

I share your outrage but I must remember that others could be just as outraged by what I've just written.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 20:24:00 UTC | #17573

JDAM's Avatar Comment 26 by JDAM

Ref: 19599... It must have taken me 15 minutes to regain my composure after laughing myself into convulsions over the prospect of State Licensed Psychics. I can just imagine the practical exam: "Please predict the outcome in the next two weeks of the following political situations currently extant..." or "Based on your claimed powers, the next winner of the California Lottery will be...?" or..."Please predict the outcome of this examination..." Oh what fun!!

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 21:29:00 UTC | #17578

DavidJGrossman's Avatar Comment 27 by DavidJGrossman

Larry King is such a shill. He'll have any nutjob on there and treat them like they shit gold.

He did a show in two parts once with a bunch of the knumbskulls from What the Bleep Do We Know? and The Secret. It was nothing more than an infomercial for the Law of Attraction.

Larry King has no business being on CNN at this point. Montel Williams ... I don't know where to start with that douchebag.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 22:04:00 UTC | #17581

Aussie's Avatar Comment 28 by Aussie

Is the level of gullibility for paranormal phenomena, like the degree of religiosity, much greater in the USA than it is in say Europe, UK or Oz - or is this an incorrect impression that I have gained.

Of course we really need definitive statistics rather than relying on anecdote.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 22:54:00 UTC | #17583

Richard Morgan's Avatar Comment 29 by Richard Morgan

So, let us imagine a doctor, who has gone through many years of study and training, making the same kind of mistake:
"Well, actually, your son is dead. So you can arrange the funeral service and bury him."

In the funeral parlor, the kid wakes up screaming in the coffin.

What would happen to such a Doctor in the USA? In my country he would be at least banned from practising for life.
And he certainly would never dare to defend himself by saying that he's not God.

What kind of cultural climate exists that would allow Sylvia Browne to get away, not only with her evil fraud, but also her callous, stupid defense argument.

Would YOU consult a doctor who had declared living people dead?

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 23:26:00 UTC | #17587

GODLESS101's Avatar Comment 30 by GODLESS101

Looks like Sylvia Browne made yet another outrageous slip on national television. How many times must she flaunt her lunacy before people call a spade a spade? Did anyone catch the Larry King interview with James Randi? For years he's offered a million bucks to any psychic capable of proving their so-called "gift." I think it's safe to say that money isn't going anywhere.

Mon, 29 Jan 2007 21:17:00 UTC | #17742