Not-so-Psychic Sylvia Browne

April 23, 2009

On March 27, 2009, Sylvia Browne spoke to a packed house at the Seneca Niagara Events Center in Niagara Falls, New York. An article appearing the day before in the   Buffalo News , written by staff reporter Anne Neville, was unacceptably uncritical.

I wrote a response, which belatedly appeared. Due to the lack of space, I did not broach the subject of plagiarism by the famed “psychic.” (Readers can check that out in the September/October 2005   Skeptical Inquirer in my review of Browne’s   Secrets & Mysteries of the World , p. 53. As will be seen, I was an inadvertent ghost writer of that book.)

My letter (identifying me with   Skeptical Inquirer science magazine) appeared April 2 under the heading, “Science will refute psychic’s ‘abilities.’” (In the letter, the scientific test I refer to is James Randi’s million-dollar challenge—which he tells me he’s continuing to offer.) I wrote:

“I wish   The News had been less fawning and more consumer protective in profiling Sylvia Browne. The article did mention that “financial trouble” had plagued Browne—or Brown to use her original name. She added the “e” following her 1992 felony conviction after the Browns sold security in a gold-mine venture that she had positive “feelings for” without a license. The failed venture led to their bankruptcy.

“Has she become more psychic? Browne obviously hopes we’ll count her lucky guesses and ignore all those tell-tale blunders—like when she ‘saw’ a missing child dead and he turned up alive. No wonder she’s still resisting a scientific test of her alleged powers—even with the promise of a million dollars for success. I guess she can foresee the outcome.”