December 06, 2003

What A Fraud



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Larry King can be interesting sometimes, but all too often the show gets just too trashy for me to handle. One recurring theme is the celebrity trial, or the celebrity investigation, which Larry tends to cling to for weeks or months, with Nancy Grace always hovering, always ready to gut and pillory whomever has been accused or is suspect, no matter what the evidence. Although not even close to a legal forum, it is nonetheless a highly popular show, and when Larry starts in by saying essentially that because a person--like Gary Condit, for example--does not come on the show and spill his guts, maybe he's hiding something, after which Nancy will jump in and comment on how suspicious-looking that is, and how if she were innocent, it is the first thing she would do. (As a lawyer herself, she should know what a lie that is--you should never needlessly expose yourself to questioning which can be used against you in court--especially when you are innocent.)

This is the kind of thing that drove me away from being a regular watcher. I have very strong feelings about the rights of the accused, and a carefully balanced justice system that will do its level best to discover and convict criminals but will be as cautious as possible not to convict or unduly harm the innocent. But such comments--essentially, appear on the show or we'll talk about how guilty you'll look--is not only a public affront to the individual's 5th Amendment rights, but is also a conflict of interest on Larry's part, one which should never appear on a show that often reports hard news, and one that could potentially destroy the reputation and careers of innocent people.

That tends to be the more serious reason I dislike the show; the more trivial but just as insulting is when he brings on guests like he had tonight, "psychics" like Sylvia Browne. Flipping channels, I saw a few seconds at a particularly outrageous point, and figured this was good blog fodder. Larry has them on from time to time, and every time they come across to any reasoning viewer as absolute frauds--but Larry gives them full credence, even cheering them on with credit they did not earn. I recall one that took a call and predicted that there were problems with the caller's roof, or the roof of the deceased, on which she was totally incorrect--but after the call had finished, Larry commented that she was "100% correct."

The "psychics," rather obviously, are performing what is called the "cold read." This is achieved by first allowing the person being read to give as much information as possible, and then making guesses that, while sounding specific, can actually be applied to almost any individual, or, if wrong, can easily be turned into a different "sight" or re-interpreted to fit the story given by the person being read. For example, a read-ee might introduce their story by asking about their dead father. Already, even from such a vague description, the cold reader has all kinds of data: the apparent age of the person being read, the gender and apparent age of the person who has died, and, from the speaker's voice, possibly what part of the country that person came from or grew up in. Then come the vague guesses: "I see a man with a receding hairline," or "I see a woman with her hair back," or "I see a man in a uniform." If the specific person who is being spoken of does not fit that description, then it is applied to any family member, dead or alive--and if that still doesn't conjure up someone who matches the vague description, then the psychic tells the read-ee that there is someone like that, so go and find out who it is.

So many psychics have their own schtick--John Edwards, for example, works not individuals but crowds--whenever he makes a wrong guess, he claims it's coming from someone new in the crowd; otherwise, his guessing is so transparent and uninspired, it is frankly astounding that even gullible people could take him seriously. Ergo, my particular enjoyment of the South Park episode that so thoroughly lampooned him.

Tonight on Larry King was little different, except that Browne was in particularly shameless form. Some psychics cover up their mistakes by saying they don't get them all right (no kidding), or that there are so many people, it is hard to see, or "I just get general feelings, not specific facts." Browne, however, just plows right through and claims she is right, no matter what. For example, one caller from Japan perhaps tried to trick Browne; here is the exchange:

CALLER: I'd like to ask about my mother. We had some unresolved issues.

BROWNE: Yes. But I don't know if you could have had any resolved issues with your mother because she was so very difficult to deal with. And I'm not saying that to be cruel. So, you see, the thing that you got to realize is when somebody goes to the other side, everything is OK.

CALLER: But she's -- you can definitely see her on the other side?

BROWNE: Yes. Little. She's little.

CALLER: Yes, well, the last time I spoke to her, she was alive.

BROWNE: Yes, but see, I don't -- she's not alive now.

CALLER: She's dead.

BROWNE: Yes.

CALLER: You're telling me my mother has died?

BROWNE: Yes.

CALLER: You're sure about this?

BROWNE: I'm positive.

CALLER: OK. Well, I'll have to get back to you after I've called her.

BROWNE: All right.

Naturally, the caller was not allowed back on or did not have time to check and get back. Highly unlikely that the woman's mother actually died, though.

A classic trick is the old "he went quickly" routine. If the psychic gets information that would indicate the person might have died quickly, they venture that guess. But all too often, it was a lingering disease like cancer, and the situation deteriorates:

BROWNE: What I'm saying is, wasn't this a fast death? It looks like she went quick.

CALLER: She has cancer.

BROWNE: Yes, but what I'm saying is she went quick. She felt you holding her hand.

CALLER: I was not over there.

BROWNE: I don't know. She says she felt you holding her hand.

CALLER: I see. Okay. Okay.

KING: She's saying she went fast when she discovered the cancer, wasn't long before she died?

BROWNE: Right.

Nice save, Larry. Usually the psychic provides that rationalization, but Larry has been hosting them for so long, he knows the routine.

Here's one where Browne guessed wrong and simply plowed through:

CALLER: Is he with me, Sylvia?

BROWNE: Yes, honey. Did you know that he had a stroke?

CALLER: No. The doctor said that -- the paramedics said that it was a heart attack, and he went peacefully.

BROWNE: Yes, he did, but it was a stroke, though. But it doesn't matter. But he did go peacefully. He didn't know what hit him.

Or this classic of cover-up:
CALLER: I lost my father six years ago on the plane traveling to Europe. I'd like to know how he died, because we never had any explanation from the airline. I was left with my mom suffering from Alzheimer's. I'm doing his wish. I hope he's happy and he's protecting us.

BROWNE: Was your father -- had beautiful dark hair with some gray in it?

CALLER: Very blond.

BROWNE: No, no. This man that I see is dark. Dark haired. Because he comes and says he's a spokesperson.

So if the man she identifies is not the right one, he's a "spokesperson"--a variant on the "who else could possibly fit the description routine. But Browne takes it to extremes, telling people when her guesses miss that relatives are dead, houses should be vacated, careers should be changed--stuff that could really mess up people's lives if they take her seriously, as many clearly do. Normally I don't object to psychics who do their best to make their clients feel good, as part of a self-indulgent fantasy (I don't respect it, but that's their choice), but when a person like Browne tells a person that loved ones are dead or that they should change their lives because she can't do a cold read that well, it's kind of sickening.

King was helping her out, too. You could hear some callers pausing to think, trying their hardest to come up with some connection that could account for the guesses Browne was throwing out. But sometimes, even the most cooperative callers would get stumped into absolute silence, at which point Larry would jump in, throw Browne a softball ("So once they die, there's no pain?"), Browne would give a quick reply, then King would move on to the next caller. That happened quite a few times.

Here's a transcript of the show--you decide.

Again, if this were widely accepted as pure entertainment, it would be fine--but these people try to pass themselves off as the real deal, and though some people get comfort, others get confusion and sometimes life-altering bad advice. Not too funny.

Posted by Luis at December 6, 2003 07:35 PM
Comments

Hi there,

Yeah, i can't say i am much of a fan of Larry King either. Have you seen Hardtalk with Tim Sebastian on the BBC. He is way better!!!

I have just started a blog about my life in Tokyo, Japan and about running my bookshop with my wife. I would love to link you if you would reciprocate.

The address of the blog is as follows:
http://www.bondibooks.com/Blog/blog.html

Cheers
Josh Carey

Posted by: Josh Carey at December 7, 2003 04:40 PM

Interesting take on psychics on Larry King. I suspect that he's required by the network to carry this sort of nonsense programming for ratings. Sadly, people watch this kind of drek -- just look at the viewership for the Crossing Over show. I read through the transcript, since I didn't see the show (nor would I watch it) and it's pretty clear that King is humoring her, but not to the extent to be insulting. He knows he's hosting a scam artist and gets his opinion in subtly, like when points out that people believe in psychics and ghosts because of the human fear of death: "KING: So we hope there's something after. We'd like there to be something after."

Then, soon after, when Sylvia claims that all spirits are the same age-- 30-- he says:

"KING: They go to 30? Sylvia, how do you know this? It's easy to laugh. How do you know this?
...
KING: How do you know 30? Why not 31?"

I particularly liked this bit at the end:
"KING: Everyone has a spirit guide?
BROWNE: Everyone.
KING: What is my spirit's name?
BROWNE: Malcolm.
KING: Malcolm! OK, I just wanted to scare him up a little bit. I haven't heard from him in months. Used to call, he used to write.

Posted by: Simon at December 9, 2003 12:53 AM

Hey I completely agree with you. Sylvia is such a fraud. I can't believe people out there fall for this sort of thing. I think her guessing games are much worse than John Edwards! It's pretty ridiculous.

Posted by: someone at January 10, 2004 04:38 AM

It seems to me you look toward the flaws of sylvia rather than her successes. She does have a reputation to hold up to, and when youre 98% right, being wrong can be a bit intimidating especially when youre on a live show broadcasting to millions of veiwers. Ive followed sylvia for 3 years now and read many of her books. Sylvia is only human and to deny her the human right, to be wrong is going to far. For a guessing game she is right all too often and there has never been anyone to prove she is a fake even to 60%. So its easy to call someone a fake when you just look at the negatives. As for the caller with the dead mother, you cant verify that the woman hadnt indeed just lost her mother. Its not impossible. You can sugar coat your words by saying the show didnt accept a return call but the fact is YOU DONT KNOW so you should of just left it out. Could you accept the fact that you could be totally wrong about Sylvia?

Posted by: Anon at April 2, 2004 11:45 PM

I believe her i dont care what any of you say shes right more then she is wrong!

Posted by: Matt at April 30, 2004 04:44 AM

Matt:

And, of course, you have statistical evidence to back that up?

Posted by: Luis at April 30, 2004 11:32 AM

I think if people feel better about dying when they hear from people like Sylvia Browne. What's the problem? I think if anything she's a compassionate person trying to console people about their own morality. I know I am less afraid of dying since watching her on The Montel Williams Show. I believe she believe's in what she does and that's what gives people comfort. Especially if you have lost somenone close to you.

Posted by: Terry at May 21, 2005 02:03 PM

This "Sylvia Browne" character is a complete sham!! Anyone can do what she is doing because you can buy books on cold reading for as little as ten dollars. It is exactly the same thing as what John Edward did, aka the biggest douche in the universe.
These frauds are manipulating people for the sole purpose of personal financial gain. They will mislead people about who is dead and who is alive, they will advise people to switch careers or move across the world because it is the only thing they can come up with after being caught in a mistake! In 1999 she told a woman who's grandchild was missing, Opal Jennings was the girls name, that she was sold into "white slavery" in a city in Japan (She certainly thought she was safe in this guess because the authorites in the girls homestate had conducted an extensive search with no luck). The simple problem arose when it was realized that there was no such city in japan and they later found the girl dead in her homestate of texas. These disgusting, vile pieces of filth are in my mind far worse then rapists, burglars, robbers, wife beaters, and almost all murderers, if there is a hell then predators like this fraud will be forced to suffer most.

Posted by: GRRRReg at May 26, 2005 04:47 AM

Years ago, during the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, I happened to be watching the Montel Williams Show. An audience member asked Sylvia if Clinton was guilty of committing adultery, and Sylvia adamantly proclaimed that Clinton was innocent. Well, we all know what the truth there really is now. I don't believe in psychics, but they don't bother me. What does is that Browne asserts her nonsense like it's fact. To make such big claims, for example, she has predicted that aliens will visit earth in 2010 and show us how to use anti-gravity machines, just like the ones they gave to the Egyptians for building the pyramids, is sooo absurdly ridiculous. Any educated person knows that there is archaeological evidence that the Egyptians used a system of levers and pulleys to move the massive stones. For anyone who sincerely believes in psychics, or any of that supernatural, I strongly suggest you read "The Demon-Haunted World" by Carl Sagan.

Posted by: Naveen at June 30, 2005 05:58 AM

What if I told anyone out there reading this now that I was standing in a field with my very religious friend when a bright flying circle appeared in the sky and sucked him up never to be heard from again. What would you say to me? I was a crazy nut UFO believer? Or perhaps you might prefer my story about a golden angle taking a little trip down to New York and handing me a golden book in which all of life's answers existed oh and my girlfriend got pregnant while she was a virgin and gave birth to the son of God. Oh and on Sundays my other friends they can talk in a funny language that sounds like gibberish, but I swear to you its God inspired. Or that grasshopper you just stepped on was my Uncle from another Life, he did not master all his Taoist principles so "Poof" Grasshopper Oh and don't talk to my grandfather your a woman and no woman but his wife can talk to him.
These are all sane ideas and certainly much easier to believe than the possibility that psychic could exist. Oh and by the way. If your Christian, then you believe that the bible was written very thoroughly and accurately such a sacred book after all would be very accurate.
Its talks in the bible over and over again about prophets now not all are good but it does acknowledge the existence of prophets! So they must indeed (good or Bad exist).
Secondly it doesn't condemn them it simply says "Suffer yee not a false prophet" Seems to me coming from God he would have said if he had wanted people to never believe in phrophets he would have had it written. Suffer ye never a prophet for all prophets are bad!!!!
But of course none of these people have ever ever asked for money, that basket they pass around its not real, and those funny little envelops there to send greeting cards. Oh and those shows that say to the little old lady on Social Security that God wants her to send him money, even though she has trouble feeding herself? Tides well that's something that washes in. What you say its for the poor , rare is it to see a poor preacher of any faith most in standard communitys seem to have the nicest houses drive the newest cars ....

By the way I don't believe in Hell, lets just take a logical approach, one it would imply I took my body with me , we all know that not to be true, Only flesh and combustion prone should fear fire Secondly if it was only my soul or my continuos well lets see take any mind light it me on fire everyday and any good psychiatrist will tell you Bye-Bye mind so what would be burning? Something that was no longer recognize what it did was wrong in the first place. If there is a hell I think its in Motor vehicle department on Saturday's with a mean Lady named End sending you to the back of the line. with 20 mins left before they close and your late for a daycare pickup.

Personally I think man is far more capable of hell than my loving God. Good examples would be the Hitler concentration camps, The Baton Death camps, Vietnam

By the way I do know many psychics that have helped find lost or stolen children, that never accept a dime, not that I condemn for that (Being musically gifted by God would did not stop Elvis from selling a million plus records or Bing Crosby or that Famous choir>

Yep, I am psychic, yep I have charged more often than not I do it for free, I always tell people that a reading is merely a guideline and not a basis to formulate any major decision. Like any deaccession you need to conceder all factors and weigh the odds. I have refused money from people because I didn't feel like I got enough of the information they needed. I worked helping find the lost . By the way did you know Medical Doctors have something like a 60 to 70 percent accuracy rate? And don't even ask about brokers..
I've had religious leaders come to me on the QT and ask advice. The signs of the zodiac are in tile on the Vatican floor. We are such a strange people we will suspend belief on some things but not others. Personally I think anyone who asks you for money on TV is going to that Motor vehicle line. (Including Stars who use their voices to sell me deodorant but won't show their faces)
Finally why isn't the other side of the coin ever shown, I once did a reading Where the man asked did my father leave me anything That I haven't found yet. I told him I saw sports tickets (which he kept saying he would do because they never went to sporting events they preferred to watch them on TV this was something they had discussed even described what they looked like though truthfully I was not able to read the team name He then asked me where to find it I told him the room they were in and that appeared to be inside a desk draw. Now I had read for him over an hour and told him many things and passed the many tests people like to give you. Later his wife said to me he doesn't think your real, I said "Why? He said the tickets were in a short dresser draw not a desk. Swear true story!
SO In the millions of common items I could have said everything from a watch to a photo I got tickets I got Sports tickets I got the room he left them in out of a ten room house it was in the attic! I got desk instead of dresser

Let me just say on a personal note I do believe in God that's what I call my higher power I do believe in Jesus. Surprised, you shouldn't be. I also believe that all faith serves a purpose, even yours I just don't belive in organized religion, seems like tradition in a box. Nothing wrong with traditions though just not my spiritual thing. People did Sylvia do a good job maybe, maybe not didn't watch but lets not condemn all psychics out of hand condemnation serves no purpose SO love and light
Jeanne

Posted by: Jeanne at August 3, 2005 05:15 AM

What if I told anyone out there reading this now that I was standing in a field with my very religious friend when a bright flying circle appeared in the sky and sucked him up never to be heard from again. What would you say to me?I'd say you have a great WiFi connection.

But you are trying to make a point that psychics are legitimate because they sound no less silly than some religious or other popular paranormal concepts. Well, if you were speaking to a Fundamentalist or a UFO enthusiast, you might have a point, though the Fundamentalist would likely not accept it. But most other religious people take most of what you mention as fable and parable, not literally. As for myself, a deist with leaning of agnosticism, the argument you made is null: the claims all sound absurd. I'm a skeptic, and that means before I will accept something as fact and claim that I "know" it, I demand proof--not apocrypha, not hearsay, not isolated anecdotes. Instead, proof that the thing happens, and that it happens for the exact reasons claimed and could not have happened in any other way.

By the way I do know many psychics that have helped find lost or stolen children, that never accept a dime...Fine. But that's a belief, not "knowledge," unless you have scientific evidence that what you heard or saw was indeed the result of some psychic powers, and not human intelligence, intuition and/or random events isolated and exhibited outside the context of the x number of times nothing happened. The point of this blog entry is not that all psychics are frauds, but that people like Sylvia Browne certainly seem to be frauds. As for people who call themselves psychics and are genuine in speaking and intent, as far as I'm concerned the jury is still out on that one. I will not accept the idea of psychic abilities until I see proof, but I will also not dismiss the idea of psychic abilities until I see proof. So far I have not seen anything even resembling proof.

By the way did you know Medical Doctors have something like a 60 to 70 percent accuracy rate? And don't even ask about brokers.. So? I would like to see the figures on that claim, by the way—inaccurate how, measured how, etc. Nevertheless, to the best of my knowledge, no psychic has reached anywhere near that level of accuracy under scientifically controlled conditions. If you know differently, please point to the evidence; I’d be interested. But I believe that many and possibly all people who genuinely believe they are psychic are simply mistaken. One case (and I admit it is hearsay, but it serves as example) of a young man who studied psychic readings from a book he discovered, which professed to enable true psychic abilities, telling the reader how to psychicly read someone. He studied the book, and then tried it—and was amazed to find that the person he read said he was 100% correct! He continued on and did very well, believing earnestly in his psychic abilities.

At one point, a skeptic friend suggested he try something: the next time he does a reading, report to the client exactly the opposite of what he "read." If he read "healthy," say "ill." If he read that a family member died, report that a family member survived a health crisis. If he read the person was an optimist, tell them they were a pessimist. And so on. This person wanted to truthfully affirm his abilities, so he decided to do so, and carefully followed the concept as laid out, not trying to go too far and making it ludicrous and so "disprove" the challenge.

So he has a readee and he begins the session. As he goes on, the client gets this look of disbelief on their face, and the young man starts getting uncomfortable--they can tell how far off and completely wrong this reading is, he thinks. But he sticks to it. And at the end, the person he read just sits there in astonishment, and remarks: "That was the most incredibly accurate reading I have ever gotten!"

As I said, hearsay. But it demonstrates the concept about how "psychic" readings have problems in terms of calling them "accurate." The person being read almost always helps the reading with interpretation, working (as humans have the talent to do) to associate what is said with something in their lives. Case in point (not hearsay, I saw this on video): Carl Sagan once met with a class of college students, many who believed in horoscopes, many who did not. He told them that trained astrologers had drawn out highly specific readings for each one of them. The readings were passed out on pieces of paper, and each student read theirs privately. After going over the readings, the students were asked how accurate the readings were; in this case, almost all of the students reported that the readings were amazingly accurate.

Then the students were told to compare their readings with other students--and to their surprise, they found that they'd been had: all the readings were identical.

The point to this is that the readee does a great deal of work in finding "truth" in generalities. That's the way that the human mind works.

This can even happen in cases where psychics work with police. Now, if a psychic can regularly take a piece of evidence into their hands and report, "the body is buried 320 feet from the interstate 42 miles from Barstow, in a shallow grave under a walnut tree" that'll be quite amazing. If said psychic can demonstrate such accuracy 70% of the time, that'll be astonishing. But that's not what happens. Instead, generalities are given, which can apply to most situations, if the investigator is inclined to work with the reading and make the connections work. Sometimes a psychic may be highly intelligent and/or intuitive, and can give many clues with good accuracy in the same way that profilers can. This does not mean the person is psychic.

One cannot dismiss intuitiveness and knowledge. Cold readers use it dishonestly, but people who feel they are genuine can use it without even knowing. Intuition can feel a lot like psychic powers if you have good intuition. Intuition is little more than making associations at the unconscious level, drawing on the vast repertoire of knowledge of people that all of us possess. From the way a person dresses, you can make connections that might tell you what they do. Mannerisms and body language can telegraph a great amount of information about personality and emotional states that usually don't register at the conscious level. Good knowledge of people can discern common habits, common failings, common ways of dying and loving and feeling and reacting.

Additionally, people getting readings often give as much information than they receive. Readings I have seen are conversations, back-and-forth, which provide the reader (honest or otherwise) with a great many clues from which parts of readings may be derived, consciously or otherwise. A person not saying a single word, not giving a single fact or clue or any information during the reading will likely not get as accurate a reading.

Another part of the equation is the forgiving of misses. As I pointed out in the entry, a psychic gave a reading where most of the information was not confirmed and some was actually wrong, but King praised the psychic as being "100% correct." We dismiss the misses and focus on the hits. When a psychic gives clues that lead to the capture of a killer, that seems significant and is reported widely. But when a psychic can't contribute anything or is way off, that doesn't get reported.

Then there's the "alternate explanation" problem. When something happens that seems psychic, people jump to the conclusion that it is psychic--and do not run through all the possibilities to explain the situation, and so of course do not confirm whether or not they really happened. One psychic on Larry King told a story (hearsay, no proof that any of it happened) about a cactus. Apparently, two men were in the desert and one died. A TV psychic did a reading on the dead man's mother, and said that her son's friend who was with him when he died would bring her a gift, a cactus. Sure enough, some time later, he brought her a cactus. Proof of psychic ability! Well, not quite--there are alternate explanations which could very likely be true.

For example, the reading was public, and so word could have gotten back to the dead man's friend that he was supposed to bring her a cactus, and then for whatever reason, he decided to do so. Or perhaps the mother told him, directly or indirectly, and he said, "hey, yeah, I was thinking of doing just that" (truthfully or not), and so did. Or maybe it was simply that in this case, the gift of a cactus--representing the hallowed ground on which the woman's son died--was simply an intuitive and very reasonable guess. None of these require psychic abilities to be true, and since none were investigated, one cannot claim that one "knows" psychic powers were the explanation, however easy it may be to jump to that conclusion.

These phenomena--readee association, not recording the misses, intuition, and alternate explanations, can make something completely mundane and non-psychic appear to be amazingly psychic.

Again, I'm not saying that psychics or psychic powers don't exist; I am simply pointing out how we commonly mistake things for psychic when they are not. And these phenomena and others like them are exactly what the frauds take advantage of to fool people. But they are also what we commonly use to fool ourselves, however earnest we feel and however much we believe we are taking an "objective" approach.

The bottom line is, if something can be explained in other way, it isn't proven--until you can dismiss the other ways and leave nothing but your hypothesis--and that's what scientifically controlled tests are all about: making it impossible for anything else to explain the situation. And when psychics submit to these conditions (which they rarely do), their performance suddenly drops to levels that anyone could achieve through mundane talents. Excuses about "negativity" and "bad vibes" are just that--excuses.

Personally I think anyone who asks you for money on TV is going to that Motor vehicle line.That is a safe assumption in any situation where a person's goal is cash: verify and don't trust.
Finally why isn't the other side of the coin ever shown, ...You mean, why aren't psychic reading that were correct ever shown? Jeanne, I hate to tell you this, but that's about all that ever gets shown. I've heard psychics--including yourself--tell about hits, but I've never heard psychics listing their misses.
... I once did a reading Where the man asked did my father leave me anything That I haven't found yet. I told him I saw sports tickets (which he kept saying he would do because they never went to sporting events they preferred to watch them on TV this was something they had discussed even described what they looked like though truthfully I was not able to read the team name He then asked me where to find it I told him the room they were in and that appeared to be inside a desk draw. Now I had read for him over an hour and told him many things and passed the many tests people like to give you. Later his wife said to me he doesn't think your real, I said "Why? He said the tickets were in a short dresser draw not a desk. Swear true story! First, your story here is not clear in many respects (I'm sorry, but your writing is a bit fuzzy). Your sentence, "I told him I saw sports tickets (which he kept saying he would do because they never went to sporting events they preferred to watch them on TV this was something they had discussed even described what they looked like though truthfully I was not able to read the team name" is both a run-on sentence and is unclear in meaning. He kept saying he would do what? Buy sporting tickets? Because they never went to sporting events? Was there a typo? Very unclear.

But the gist of your story shows flaws: first of all, intuitiveness. Tickets to sports events were found in a drawer (I'll forgive you the inaccuracy of the type of drawer, but it should be noted). Now, if you asked me--a non-psychic--to look for sports tickets in a strange person's house, where would I look first? No doubt, I would head straight for a desk drawer. That's not psychic. That's intuitive knowledge. It's like predicting that cottage cheese would be found in a refrigerator or that you would find a TV in a living room.

The only part which could be claimed as psychic would be the prediction of sports tickets. And on this, I am unable to judge because I do not have access to the transcript of the conversation. For all I know, any number of verbal or even visual cues could have inspired this guess--a shirt with a sports team logo, the fact that men (often fathers and sons) commonly go to sporting events, or perhaps you heard him say they enjoyed sports and guessed tickets before he told you they never went to events but only watched TV. Depending on the whole hour of the reading and the contextual clues within, your prediction could be explained in many different ways without the need to ascribe them to psychic powers.

I also don't know the other numerous "hits" you claim, nor am I informed of what "misses" you may have experienced, or what the ratio was. Nor do I know the nature of the hits--were they things no one could have possibly guessed, were they things which anyone could have guessed, were they predictable via hints and clues the person's appearance, mannerisms and speech provided, were they little things like "you chew gum" which have a 50% chance of being hit-miss and you got 50% of them right? Without the specifics, there's no way I can judge the accuracy or inaccuracy of your claims. And this is assuming you are 100% honest and genuine. What you give me is not even close to real proof; if I believe it, then I am not believing facts, I am believing unsupported claims. And I am not calling you dishonest or a liar, what you describe could absolutely be not psychic and you could absolutely believe it is.

Such is the nature of people's acceptance of psychic abilities: not based in fact or evidence but in the vast area of uncertainty that is subjective experience.

But if you believe you are psychic, then visit this site and apply to take the million-dollar test. They will put you under scientifically controlled conditions. You will describe your psychic ability, and then together you and they will draw up mutually agreed-upon tests that will rule out all other possibilities. The tests will accurately count miss-to-hit ratios and account for probabilities for each guess (e.g., you get points for predicting correctly that a Muslim person eats bacon twice a week, but no points for predicting correctly that they avoid pork products).

If you are, as you claim, truly psychic, then you can claim a very public victory for the legitimacy of psychic reading, while you collect the million dollars and do a great deal more unpaid work because you'll have a wonderful nest egg. How can you lose?

Posted by: Luis at August 3, 2005 05:52 PM

Right or Wrong, who could ever be sure? Do you think that such a gift is not possible? If it is, and I were our "creator" it would be a gift that would be given to a very select few people. I don't believe that a normal or average someone has the mind capacity to fathom all of what God can do, therefore people like Sylvia bridge the gap between God and humankind.

Posted by: Anonymous at October 7, 2005 08:48 AM

^^^
Whackjob deluxe.

Fairytales can be fun ... but dangerous if taken literally.

Posted by: Patrick at February 7, 2006 03:00 AM

If it is what you cannot see, hear, taste, smell, or touch, and it exists, only the analytical mind will ever understand it.

Posted by: Charles at February 17, 2006 06:40 AM

If people take her advice to heart and pick up and move to another house, job etc. they likely weren't happy with that situation anyway. Think of it, if you're happy are you going to give something up becasue a psychic said so? I've had one tell me my marriage will fail. Will I up and get a divorce? No. I'll keep going and if she turns out to be right - it's egg on my face. Today people need to take responsibility for their own actions whether they were "guided" by a psychic or not.
Bottom line: Right or wrong, divinity or quackery, her advice should be taken with level headedness and, hey as an added bonus, if her message gives you peace, take it.

Posted by: Alicia at March 22, 2006 10:25 AM

Yeah i was just watching her on MOntel the other day and when she was reading the audience she screwed up twice. At first she was reading someone who wanted to know if they would ever find her husband, Browne told her no, and the reason is because he was abducted and ended up in water. The woman responded with no, my husband was a fire fighter and he went missing on 9/11 i just wanted to know if we would ever find his body. Browne continued to tell the woman her husband died in water. Then later she was asked by a different woman if her parents would ever be able to have her parents around her. Browne responded saying they are already around you they are always near you, to woman then told browne that she meant will her parents enter the country. Browne was like oh yes in around a year im seeing they need papers or something. (yeah duh immigration papers)

Posted by: Zach Morrison at March 24, 2006 12:29 PM

Just watched Montel today, and Sylvia was performing.
Some lady in the audience was asking Sylvia about the "spirits" in and around her house. Sylvia's reply was that she was living on property that was once an Indian village.
Excitedly, the audience member produced a picture/photo of her lawn which showed dark green grass rings,otherwise commonly know as "fairy rings"...a circular fungus that grows underground and causes a ring of darker green grass to grow at the outer edges. I see them every year on my own lawn, in different spots and locales each season.
Guess what Sylvia said they were...guesswhat?...she told the lady that those dark rings were circular paths where the spirits of Indian children were dancing in circles! of course, the audience was taken in completely, as was Montel.
Googled "dark rings in grass"...the first thing to come up on the first page was a link to Purdue University. It's only a fungus! here's the URL if interested>>>

>>> http://www.ppdl.purdue.edu/ppdl/expert/Fairy_Rings.html

Posted by: Mark Miller at April 4, 2006 08:07 AM

Yes, there are frauds, and i'm not ruling about any of the psychics that claim they really are and they are frauds because I don't want to point any fingers. It is up to nature to judge those who have done wrong, not us. Here is Sylvia's birth chart:

You may be able to associate her Jupiter Square Neptune with perhaps some type of ability to blindly manipulate her wanton customers.


http://www.astro.com/cgi/showgif.cgi?lang=e&gif=achart_ru4file0SAjIa-u1123555974.79826.16367.gif&res=100&va=

I mean, in my birth chart i have clear indication for intuiton, but i don't call myself psychic, because its quite a strong word.

Posted by: Jacquelle at August 10, 2006 08:14 AM