Sylvia Browne: Are members of the “spiritual community” turning on her?

Psychic medium, Sylvia Browne

Psychic medium, Sylvia Browne

I have to admit I didn’t necessarily think much about the psychic medium, Sylvia Browne, until I read a few of her books. Seriously, you should read one. I really do think that her unusually gruff voice and appearance causes people to form unfortunate opinions of her when they may know nothing about her. For many people, her appearances on the Montel Williams Show (cancelled in 2008) may be all they know about her and her work.

Most likely you’ve run across some statements or articles being passed around social media this week following the shocking, sad, yet celebratory news of three missing women in Ohio escaping the hell where they were held captive for a decade or more. In 2004 Browne told the mother of one of the missing women that her daughter, Amanda Berry, was dead. The other big miss that people remember and refer to was in the case of Shawn Hornbeck. For me, this story was close to home and I remember it well. I had just moved to the St. Louis area to begin my teaching career when the young man went missing. In 2004 Sylvia told his parents that he was dead and a few years later he was found alive. (Click here for Shawn’s recent interview by the St. Louis Post Dispatch in light of this week’s events.) These were two very unfortunate blunders that no doubt caused pain and suffering.

This week I’ve seen some people from what I’ll call the “paranormal” and “spiritual community”, some psychic/medium personalities, turn on Sylvia Browne so very easily and quickly. Some of these community members constantly plaster statements all over social media about how everyone can learn to use their natural psychic abilities, trust your intuition, use your third eye, kum ba yah, etc. Most psychics and mediums (including Sylvia) will tell you that not all readings or predictions will be accurate. They are human just like anyone else. Apparently for some people, practicing what they preach doesn’t count in some situations. I don’t have any personal experience to back up whether or not Sylvia truly has the abilities she claims to possess, but scientists have gone back and forth for over a century trying to prove or disprove these phenomena. With so many psychics and mediums popping up on the scene, most of whom are relatively unknown, how is anyone to know who truly is “the real deal”? Is someone keeping track of and publicizing all of the misses of every local psychic/medium? Perhaps shaming another while they’re down will make them look more real and put some distance between them and the skeptics? 

This has definitely caused a setback for those of us interested in learning and researching all things paranormal or spiritual. All of this just shows how very careful a psychic/medium should be with their gift. Maybe these very heavy and emotional statements should never happen in such a public forum, and maybe they shouldn’t even be stated if they can’t be more certain of their accuracy.

But… a few highly publicized misses does not make someone a horrible fraud.

I hope I never have to eat my words from this post, but I’m not jumping on the tar and feather wagon just yet. Maybe I’m a fool. For now, my thoughts and prayers go out to those women and their families, and to the many missing people in this world who are holding on and just waiting to be found. 

Sylvia Browne during one of her many appearances on the Montel Williams Show.

Sylvia Browne during one of her many appearances on the Montel Williams Show.

About Patrick Keller

Patrick Keller is an educator, blogger, and the host of the Big Séance Podcast, which is a place for paranerds to have an open discussion on all things paranormal, but specifically topics like ghosts and hauntings, paranormal research, spirit communication, psychics and mediums, and life after death. He’s the founder of the now inactive Missouri Spirit Seekers and has spent a lot of time experimenting with spirit communication tools and techniques, such as EVP. Patrick also has a passion for spending hours at a time in cemeteries and loves cemetery photography. Visit BigSeance.com! View all posts by Patrick Keller

29 responses to “Sylvia Browne: Are members of the “spiritual community” turning on her?

  • Gary Leigh

    I don’t know much about Sylvia Brown, however psychic readings are a really iffy art, unless you are very, very connected to your guides, and are able to filter out every other spirit out there who loves to mess with energies. Let’s put aside the assumption of cold reading (which I truly despise) some psychics really get messages, by they don’t seem to take due care in checking the source. It’s as though they feel that because it’s from the astral levels, it must be true. Which is equivalent to saying I read it on the net, so it must be true.

    People are just better off trusting what they feel rather than having others tell them what they should feel.

    Great article, thanks.

  • Diana

    Patrick Amanda Berry’s mother died after the Sylvia Brown fiasco. She was 43.

    “Psychic Sylvia Browne, who has made a career of televised psychic readings, told Louwanna Miller on a 2004 episode of the show that her daughter was dead, causing Miller to break down in tears on the show’s set.

    “She’s not alive, honey,” Browne told Miller on the show, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper. “Your daughter’s not the kind who wouldn’t call.”

    Miller told the newspaper that she believed “98 percent” in what Browne told her. Miller died a year later from heart failure.”

  • brian

    She is a disgusting fraud with a criminal background.
    Do some background research on her to see what a piece of filth she is and how dangerous she is.
    She could easily have a ghost writer write hee books.
    Most her predictions are wrong. Go to youtube and write sylvia browne fraud and you will learn about her.

  • brian

    Patrick you sound like a naive fool. Learn to do background research.
    Being open minded should not mean you let your brains fall out.
    Start by googling sylvia browne criminal history.

    • Patrick

      I’ll probably refrain from approving any additional comments with insults, but I’m aware of her criminal history. She’s been very open about them.

      • Diana

        Patrick, try to imagine what shock and grief Brown’s announcement caused Amanda Berry’s mother and ask yourself if that could have contributed to her death, especially if she were already in poor health.

      • Patrick

        Do you think I’m heartless? I understand what you’re trying to say, Diana. And of course I can imagine the shock of being told that. I said that in the post. It doesn’t mean she lied to her on purpose. That miss alone does not make her a fraud. Yes. These are definitely big misses. Yes, she should have been more careful and sensitive.

  • Michael S.

    I don’t know; there are misses that are not-that-serious, and then there are big ones. As the sewing maxim says, “Measure twice, cut once.” On something like that I’d take some extra time, ‘discern the spirits,’ etc.
    I do geomancy, a mediaeval form of divination, but whatever topics the old manuals cover, I don’t predict time of death and I don’t diagnose disease.

  • Ash

    I’ve been a pretty big proponent of “psychic ethics” ever since I started with all this stuff. I have to admit, I’ve never liked Sylvia Brown much at all – but I’ve also never read any of her books (why would I if I didn’t like her, inititally?).

    I remember when the St. Louis kids were found and it was in the news, once again, that Sylvia was wrong about them. Knowing how these things work, I feel like Sylvia (and plenty of others who do this stuff) are not very upfront with that and I wish more people were – especially high profile people. Precognition is soooo…. dependent…. on the sitter and free will and everything, I don’t think anyone should ever guarantee a precognitive prediction. Be honest about how it works – we have free will. We have free choice. These are opportunities, not guarantees.

    As far as dealing with a grieving parent who is asking whether or not their child is dead – be honest about what you feel and say WHY you feel that way but also be clear that these thing are open to interpretation and let them draw their own conclusion. As a medium, that is exactly what you are – in the middle. This information is not for you, it’s for someone else. Pass along what you feel and be clear about how you get that info because sometimes that abstract visual or thing that you hear isn’t meant for you – it’s for the sitter.

    I feel like some people go to folks like Sylvia and rely on them too heavily – they give away their power. I always look at this stuff like giving and getting advice. You can take it. You can not take it. You can take parts of it and you can leave some of it…. and I feel strongly that is the way it should be presented as well.

    • Patrick

      I think that was well said. I would have to agree.

      • Diana

        Sylvia Brown went on television for fame and money. That corrupts her as a psychic. She was expected to make dramatic newsworthy predictions with absolute certainty, and no psychic is always right — the signal-to-noise ratio is very high even for the best of them. That was not acknowledged by Brown or she would have lost her gig on tv.

        She was fraudulent and irresponsible in giving the appearance of certainty when she had to know she might be wrong.

        Patrick I’m not saying anything about you. I’m addressing the responsibility psychics have to their clients.

  • Randall Keller

    Well, I don’t have to agree with you to appreciate and “like” your post. There’s no reason for you to jump on ANY band wagons – I agree with that for sure! I am no fan of Ms.Browne and it has nothing to do with her public mistakes. Mediums couldn’t possibly be right all the time – you’re right about that too. But whatever my particular reasons might be, I have no motivation to “trash” her – she, like all of us, will stand or fall on her record, and that’s fine with me, no matter how the chips fall. There’s too much finger pointing in this society – bravo for not jumping on THAT band wagon.

    • Patrick

      And if I DID jump on a wagon, it would probably be the choir wagon, anyway. An ironically funny story from my students goes along with this comment. This week at the end of our concert the 8th graders presented me with two small red wagons signed by them all… because so often I made comments about me feeling like I had them all in a wagon, pulling them up a hill with no one working to help me. They said something like “Thank you, Mr. Keller, for pulling us all in the wagon for 3 years.” 🙂

  • Anthony Holmes

    Sylvia Brown is a very good person, remember all of us make mistakes big and little mistakes, If people are turning there back on Sylvia Brown let them and my word for Sylvia Brown would be to keep doing what your doing! And keep the study going you see you know when you have friends if they are around even when thing are not so good or when you made a mistake. You see make’s take place all the time and always will. As log as we are a people we will make mistake’s.

    • Diana

      When people believe that everything a psychic says is absolute truth, a mistake can cause VERY serious consequences. A psychic who gives the impression they speak absolute truth is a public danger. If they believe they speak absolute truth at all times they are ignorant as well as dangerous. Sincerity doesn’t count when you are harming people.

      • Ash

        There’s just as much responsibility on the person believing that a psychic is telling the absolute truth as there is on the person purporting to speak it. We all choose which information we want to keep and what we don’t want to. And we often allow our emotions get the better of those decisions. Desperation is a bitch. I understand that vulnerable people can be taken advantage of and the situations that create that vulnerability are not easy – but like I said earlier: People are all too willing to give their power away and let their destiny be in someone else’s hands – ANYONE else’s hands (so long as they deem them “trustworthy”) but their own. There’s something to learn from both ends of this spectrum.

    • Patrick

      Thank you for the comment, Anthony. I see we have mutual friends on facebook! 🙂

      • Diana

        You’re blaming the victims. By your logic, false advertising should not be illegal, which it is by the way, because consumers should be smart enough to know which claims are false.

        Consumer protection agencies know that ordinary people do not have enough information to know when they are being scammed. Businesses that prey on people undergoing emotional trauma are especially despicable — and Sylvia Brown is a business, make no mistake. Her appearances on television were commercials for her books.

        Research on psychic phenomena, from JB Rhine’s early work at Duke University to Dr. Radin’s current laboratory investigations have produced robust data supporting the existence of ESP, telepathy, precognition and psychokinesis. In addition, Ingo Swann, Russel Targ and others who describe government remote viewing operations verify ESP in controlled settings. However, none of this research supports the infallability of any individual’s psychic ability. Ingo Swann, possibly the best psychic ever documented by laboratory data, said he frequently made errors, as did other psychics whose work he knew.

        For Sylvia Brown to tell traumatized parents with certainty that their children were dead was despicable. If Brown herself believed in her own infallability her ego inflation had reached grandiose proportions.

  • spiritchild1972

    Hi Patrick, as someone who also has ‘The Gift’ I can certainly see both sides of the fence. I think it takes a pretty self assured, self confident Clairvoyant who can catagorically say for sure if someone is alive or dead but we must ALL have a certain level of professionalisim when dealing with such issues. I have been asked such things about missing people and even though thus far I have never been wrong, I would neevr comment for the fear of getting it wrong. The pain I could cause someone in getting it wrong would be too much for me to bear. So i tell the people kindly and politely ‘I wouldn’t even want to say for fear of getting it wrong and hurting you’. You have to know when to draw the line. BUT!! at the other end of the spectrum you also can’t assume to know everything as things can change in a persons life to change the outcome of what you have seen for them. So we are bound to get stuff wrong. However, if you have no humility or are humble with your craft, you can not only make a LOT of money, but you can hurt a lot of innocent people in the process. Hence why I say ‘Just because everyone is born with the gift doesn’t mean everyone should be taught how to use it’
    Love your Blog Patrick, your a true Defender of the Dead like me. xoxox

    • Patrick

      Thanks for the words, Spiritchild. 🙂 (Or is it Debbie?) “Defender of the Dead”… Love it!

      • spiritchild1972

        Can I give you a nickname in my bklig? I shall be Dotd, like Dotty but Dotd. lol Your investigations are honest and that is what is lacking in this industry. I’m shocked at the things some people will do to get good investigations or even to get clients and publicity. It gives honest people like us a bad name. I have people emailing me begging for a nickname. So hence forth because I respect your kind honest Spirit, you shall be called Dotd lol

      • Patrick

        Yes! A nickname! Thank you.

        Sincerely,

        Dotd

        P.S. What’s bklig?

      • spiritchild1972

        lol It was supposed to be blog but my stupid phone sent it before I was able to correct it. Smart Phones are so dumb. I hate mine. Maybe it’s my telekanesis but it sends and opens stuff when my finger is hovering over something but not touching it. It drives me up the wall. I know many people who will be envious that you get a nickname on my bklig hehe

      • Patrick

        HAAA! Took me a while to get used to my smart phone, but I’m attached to it now. So along the same lines, is the “d” in Dotd not a mistake? 🙂 I’m so lost but I love it. 🙂

      • spiritchild1972

        Dotd is Defender of the dead. But maybe an American accent doesn’t pronounce it the way a New Zealand accent does but it sounds like D.O.T.Y, or D.o.d.y but it’s spelt D.O.T…..D. For Defender of the Dead 🙂
        Get it now?

      • Patrick

        Ohhhhhhh! I’m with ya now! Thank you for the clarification. 🙂

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