For about 15 years, I've been not-so-patiently waiting for the career of celebrity psychic Sylvia Browne to crash and burn, and I suspect that day may be upon us. Actually, if I had my druthers, I'd toss that rotten whore of the paranormal into a medieval torture dungeon where the only predictions she'd be able to make is which flesh-rotting pathogens are carried by the rats that persistently gnaw on her shackled legs.
So you can imagine my glee when I heard that Amanda Berry, the girl who'd been kidnapped 10 years ago—and was glibly predicted by Ms. Browne to be dead—was actually alive.
I remember her Amanda Berry prediction quite vividly. It was during the time when Sylvia—to whom I lovingly refer as Shrill-via—was a frequent guest on The Montel Williams Show. I remember seething at the TV every time she opened her wretched maw and told (read: lied to) people about the fate of their loved ones. And, man, do I remember her massive Montel flubs.
Like when she famously told the parents of missing Shawn Hornbeck that their son's killer was a tall, thin, dark-skinned Hispanic, only to find out later that Hornbeck was alive and his abductor was a short, fat cracker.
Like when she told a woman that her boyfriend drowned when, in fact, he was a fireman who died on 9/11, which is the opposite of drowning.
Like when she told a couple that their daughter had been shot and killed. Lordy, you should have seen Browne's lumpy mouth fall to the floor when the parents informed her that the daughter had mysteriously collapsed with no signs of injury or trauma.
Ah, but the whore of babble-on kept digging in deeper. When the mother, almost in tears, told Browne that "they found nothing in the autopsy," she replied, "I don't care. It looks like something hit her in the chest."
And it was on Montel that she told Amanda Berry's mother, matter-of-factly, as if she was a bored weatherman reporting on another balmy day in Southern California: "She's gone, honey." Ho hum.
I remember brimming with rage at that. It was so obvious she was a fake. Forget her 1992 conviction of investment fraud and grand larceny; she was clearly nothing more than a con artist using a universal tactic employed by con artists since the dawn of con.
It's called "cold reading," which is fishing for information while making the subject think you are providing information. Basically, you just rattle off a bunch of details to see what sticks, either by affirmative response or interpreting body language. You've seen this before, right?
"I'm having a vision of a big, white house [no response from subject], or maybe a light-blue house? [Subject shakes head no]. I'm definitely seeing a light colored house, maybe yellow? [Smile]. Yes, the house is yellow. I'm seeing a vision of an old man in a yellow hou—[nope]. I'm picking up a young man in a yellow hou—[nope]. I'm seeing a small boy in a yellow house [nod]—yes! It's a boy, a boy! He's such happy little boy in that yel—huh? He wasn't happy? Well, he should have been with a nice house like that, the little shit."
It's a sad fact of human nature—especially for those who are grieving and desperate for a connection—that we remember the hits and forget the misses. It's called the Barnum Effect, and Shrill-via, like all the other psychics out there, uses it maliciously to deceive the broken-hearted. Or as Browne herself once said when asked how to spot fake psychics, "You can always see when they start doing guessing games..."
That's true, Syl, but there's an even easier way to spot fake psychics. Just look in the phone book under "psychic."
Despite all the controversy surrounding the Berry revelation, Browne's legions still came to her defense. "Everyone makes mistakes. Even doctors, lawyers," wrote one fan on Browne's Facebook page.
Wow! I guess some people are begging to be deluded. For the record, if a lawyer or doctor made anywhere near the number of mistakes this bumbling bereavement leech has made, they'd be up to their clavicles in lawsuits. If you factor in all the TV appearances, the cold readings by phone, the presidential predictions and her horrifying fashion choices, Browne's made, literally, thousands of mistakes: For instance, she predicted Osama bin Laden would be found hiding in a cave—bzzzat! (That's the annoying game-show-buzzer sound for an incorrect answer).
She predicted Michael Jackson would be found guilty amid his 2005 molestation brouhaha—bzzzat!
She predicted that Bill Clinton was innocent of the Monica Lewinsky accusations—bzzzat!
She predicted aliens would arrive on Earth by 2010—zzzaywhat?
She predicted Obama would not win a second election—bzzzat!—then lied about it afterward, saying she predicted him to win—earning herself a bzzzat to the motherfucking shizzzat!
About her Berry blunder, Browne released this message to the public: "I have been more right than wrong. If ever there was a time to be grateful and relieved to be mistaken, this is that time."
Yeah, Syl, I'm sure you were "grateful and relieved" to learn that yet another of your countless mistakes would make national headlines. In any case, shouldn't a psychic be more than just "more right than wrong"? Shouldn't you be right damn near all of the time? Isn't that the point of being psychic? If you're not, then aren't you just guessing like the rest of us?
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Edwin Decker blogs at www.edwindecker.com. Follow him on Twitter @edwindecker or find him on Facebook.
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