Here’s an article I wrote for the Union Newspaper:
I am sure many of you have heard about the Shawn Hornbeck case over the past week or so, but if you haven’t here is the scoop: About four years ago an eleven year old boy named Shawn Hornbeck was kidnapped. His parents and the authorities searched for him, and eventually gave up. A few weeks ago, they found him alive and well. There is a lot of interesting debate about why he didn’t leave sooner, since apparently he had many opportunities, but I am not interested in discussing the Stockholm syndrome or leaping on the blame-the-victim-bandwagon. No, who I want to talk about is a lying, ravenous crook named Sylvia Browne. Browne claims to be a psychic, garnering such skills as ESP, Clairvoyance, and the ability to chat with the deceased in her repertoire of deceit. Sylvia is loved by many, and she presumably rakes in a pretty penny. So, what does she have to do with any of this? She was dead wrong about Shawn Hornbeck. Shortly after his kidnapping, Shawn Hornbeck’s parents, obviously grief-stricken and desperate for answers, went to a taping of the Montel Williams show where Browne was scheduled to appear. The Hornbecks inquired about their son, and Browne (remember she is a psychic), confidently explained that he was “no longer with us,” and that his body was located in a field, or a meadow of some sort, between two oddly placed rocks. If that wasn’t bad enough, she felt compelled to describe Shawn’s abductor as dark Hispanic man with dreadlocks. In the real world, Shawn is alive, has a lip ring, and the man who abducted him was a fat white asshole with a patchy beard. Can Hispanic guys even grow dreadlocks? Some psychic.
This is, of course, not her first unforgivable blunder. For instance, a few years ago – shortly after she insisted upon a McCain vs. Kerry presidential race in ’04 – Browne assured her audience, and the news media, that all but one of the victims of a tragic Virginia mining accident were alive. That simply was not the case, and shortly after Brown made her statement of clairvoyance, it was reported that all the members of the mining crew had perished and had been dead for some time. Similarly, she once insisted on the Montel Williams show that a bereaved couple’s daughter had been shot. Unfortunately for Browne, she misread the couple’s question, assuming that their daughter was missing. She wasn’t, she was found dead in her bedroom with no apparent cause of death. If she’d been shot, it seems that the parents just might have noticed the bleeding hole in her skull. Browne proceeded to back pedal, insisting desperately that the child had been shot or struck in some way – perhaps during school sport. Nice try, Ms. Browne, trying to save your ass with vague language. Or, there was the time that she suggested to the grandmother of a missing child that her grandaughter, whose body was found later not far from her home, had been sold into “some sort of slavery-thing” in Japan. There are more. I suggest Youtube. Browne is usually wrong. When she is right, which isn’t very often, it can be attributed to pure chance.
People like Sylvia Browne, John Edwards (see South Park, “The Biggest Douche in the Universe.”), and, as far as I can tell, all alleged “psychics” and purveyors of the supernatural willing to take your money are tricksters and frauds. The rest are, in all likelyhood, deluded. They use techniques like cold reading, pre-acquired data, and vague language to fool people, and subsequently empty their pocket-books, usually during times of extreme emotional vulnerability. Some of these “psychics,” while they won’t admit that they are fakes, suggest that they do a service to people. They say that they help people get through periods of grief, but I can’t see how telling an old woman that her grand daughter has been sold into slavery would work to that end. I fail to see how spending 750 dollars to talk on the phone with Sylvia Browne for 20 minutes would help, either. Unless, of course, the goal is to help Sylvia Browne.