Anti-Science

Sylvia Browne Snippet #1

I apologize for these irregular updates and my inability to participate in the rousing discussions going on in the comments section, but between the calendars shipping and all-day meetings at work, I’m posting whenever I get a free moment.

Here’s the first snippet from Sylvia Browne’s September 14 2006 show in Boston. When I post these, they won’t necessarily be in chronological order; it’s more determined by what I was able to pull from the recording (which is indecipherable at times) and what I found interesting. My comments in italics.

WOMAN, APPROXIMATELY 45 YEARS OLD: Hi, I lost my husband almost two years ago on the 21st of September and …

SYLVIA: (interrupting) Why is he holding his head? (This is a great opening tactic. “Holding his head” could refer to the way he died, such as by an embolism. Sylvia sees a woman who looks too young to be a widower, implying her husband died at a fairly early age. Head trauma might be a quick and easy hit – perhaps a car accident would fit. Or, “holding his head” could easily mean he suffered from headaches, migraines perhaps. Hell, maybe he was macrocephalic and had to carry around his oversized cranium and Sylvia scores the hit of the century. Let’s keep watching and find out!)

W: I don’t know . . . (Whoops!)

S: I dunno either, ’cause he’s holding his head. (Stick with it, maybe the mark will think of something. Remember, these people are here because they paid money to be here. They want Sylvia to succeed and nine times out of ten, they’ll bail her out when they can.)

W: …maybe he’s confused (nervous laughter)(she’s giving Sylvia a small out here, which is the best she can do for her.)

S: No he’s not confused because he’s made it. (I think she means to heaven. Sylvia refuses the out — it’s a pretty obvious one. If she jumped on every shaky out like that, she’d look even worse than she does. She’s going to take a small gamble and try to turn this into a better hit.)

W: Okay, um, what I’d like him to ask me (she moves on to get past the missed head bit) …what i’d like him to answer for me is my children have asked me to ask where he was when he had a conversation with them, about the birds and the bees. To prove he has actually made it here.

(Audience laughs, Sylvia pauses — very noticeable since she keeps a rapid-fire pace. It must happen every now and again, but it’s very rarely that someone must offer her a bit of a challenge.)

S: Don’t you love (she encourages the audience to laugh, keeping this as a frivolous request as opposed to a test that might catch her out. When she speaks again she is back to rapid-fire delivery, with confidence.) . . . one was in the bedroom and one was outside. (Locations kept vague for a reason.)

W: (confused) One was in the bedroom? And one was outside? And he had two conversations with them? (This question indicates Sylvia got it wrong — there was only one talk, with both of them.) Where outside? (Sounds like outside may have been a hit, or at least something close, hence the probing. Often psychics can find many answers in the questions they are asked.)

S: (harshly) I don’t know, he said outside, honey. (Blame the ghost for vagueness. Nice.)

W: He can’t give you anymore . . .

S: (harshly, again) He said there was a tree, and he was talking to them. (Sylvia’s impatient tone makes it clear that the woman is annoying her with petty and easy questions. More interesting is what Sylvia says here. Before she implied there were separate talks for each child, but she realized “outside” was closer to a hit than the bedroom, which just left the woman confused. Now she changes to say that the father was speaking to “them” outside, implying that was the one conversation. It’s subtle but effective — there’s a very good chance the woman will forget the bedroom miss and remember the outdoor. Also note the only added detail — a tree. A tree, outside? Amazing!)

W: A tree, and he was talking to them?

S: Yes.

W: Okay (begins to walk away)

S: Yes. (Decides to go for it one more time to salvage this disaster reading.) I’m telling you something was wrong with his head, because he keeps showing me his head, how did he die?

W: He had cancer. (Brain cancer?) He had, um, colon cancer. (Whoops! Could that be any further from the head? Foot cancer may have been worse, but not by much.)

S: (nodding, as though this is exactly in line with what she’s been saying.) And he said it went everywhere. (This tends to happen with cancer.)

W: (sadly) It did, it did, yeah . . . (note that she doesn’t say it spread to his head.)

S: Well apparently this is what bothered him the most. (Yeah, I’m sure the cancer in his COLON wasn’t much of a bother.)

W: Well it must have been at the very end when he couldn’t see was speechless (sorry, I misheard the first time) . . . (So she goes with it. Otherwise she has to make a very painful edit to her worldview while standing in front of an audience of hundreds of people.)

S: Yes. (To next person in line:) Yes . . .

+++

Here’s the audio (finally).

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

Related Articles

36 Comments

  1. It's interesting to see how easily psychics can gloss over their misses, or add a few words, change the meaning of an earlier word, and turn a miss into a partial hit.

    And the public seems to be oblivious to this editing and re-editing of earlier statements. I'm sure even skeptics don't notice until they listen to it again, or read a transcript.

  2. Not everyone is perfect my friend,

    It's natural for a psychic be unsuccessful when

    attempting to predict paranormal.

    Those that are in touch with their gifts are only conduits of

    that ability,Not Masters and no one Earth is,of anything!

    This is natural

    The reason why people try to make sense,or twist words,is because

    if there is an actual perception or insight,it WILL drive a person crazy to understand its meaning.This again is natural.Not a trick,(generally speaking)You can learn from mistakes..So since theirs no schools or boot camps for psychic,

    Is it possible;that most psychics only training,may be by throwing

    themselves out there,and making as much mistakes as possible.

    In order to learn to get it right?No charge of course!

    If you say you can,you can.

    but If you say you can't you're right!

    Take care my friend M.Dmon

  3. And the public seems to be oblivious to this editing and re-editing of earlier statements. I’m sure even skeptics don’t notice until they listen to it again, or read a transcript.

    Exactly. Normal human conversation comes with a lot of "Ums" and "Uhs," along with mistakes and corrections. (Try tape-recording a convo with friends and making a transcript. Chances are you'll sound like idiots when it's written out.) So when you're listening to a psychic talking in person, they can get away with re-editing past statements.

  4. Again..

    If you had/have a vision it's only natural to try and understand it

    and finding its meaning..Every makes mistakes,not learning from them

    is the biggest one to make..By not trying you will certainly learn nothing.

    How many times will I repeat this?

    Take care my friend M.Dmon

  5. It's not the case that psychics misinterpret visions. It's simply that they use feedback from the audience. Magicians do it all the time, as do comedians, none of whom claim to be psychic. Many do it far better than so called psychics.

  6. Okay,unless your psychic/clairvoyant

    you have education behind making that statement

    There are countless of visions and prophecies taking

    out of context today,religion/spiritualism included.

    These are facts,not opinion and I'm not amused.

    Take care M.Dmon

  7. I just watched a couple silvia browne clips on YouTube. It makes me so angry that the people come to her for some sort of connection to their lost loved ones, and she is so full of it. It is so easy even for the most rational people to have an irrational hope of communicating with their dead loved ones whether they believe that it is logically possible or not – you have to have a special sort of disregard for the feelings of others to exploit this so thoroughly.

  8. Mikal:

    "Sorry,it should read everyone makes mistakes

    especially me..So I try not to judge others"

    I also make mistakes. That's why I try to judge other people fairly and compassionately. Not to judge them at all would be an abnegation of my responsibility as a human being.

  9. Mikal if someone else has pointed this out already I'm sorry for repeating it. But…

    "You can learn from mistakes..So since theirs no schools or boot camps for psychic,"

    here's just a "few".

    http://www.hillsidemetaphysics.com http://www.seekup.com/psychic http://www.psychic-chat.org/join
    spiritualdove.com/spiritual_psychic_development.htm
    http://www.psyr.com http://www.consciouschoice.com http://www.shambles.net/pages/learning/Psychol/Psychic

    With all these available (over the internet even!) one has to be able to teach sylvia brown not to fuck with widows so she can make a buck. Such a sickening bitch…. even if she does beleive that she has some sort of power, which with her I doubt I think she's just a scam artist… HELL even if she does have some sort of power to take wild stabs or "warm up" as you say mikal, on a woman seeking such solace is inexcusable. To defend her is moraly absurd.

    Sorry. I did state first that I'm kind of an ass.

  10. If I were a less moral person, I think I could be quite good at using this "skill" to make stuff up about dead relatives. Fortunately, I'm not and find the whole display rather sickening.

    Mikal, I know you want to believe or at least want to keep doubt on the table as an option. I couldn't agree more. That's why I consider myself an open-minded skeptic. Some of the best skeptical investigators (Joe Nickell, and even Houdini) have called themselves such.

    The trouble is, until you eliminate the more practical possibilities, calling something "paranormal" is a no-no. There is nothing I'd like more than to find an example of a case that absolutely CANNOT be logically found to have a non-natural cause. I'd be quite intrigued as it would open up whole other avenues of study.

    Sadly, this has not yet happened. There have been no cases of psychics that have done better than random chance, no matter what the human error of confirmation bias may suggest. There have been no known cases of psychics succeeding in a way that would indicate anything other than cold reading, simple intution, plain logic, or lucky guessing. If there were, I would be quite pleased. But there aren't, and Sylvia Browne has one of the worst track records of any of them.

    I know that this will do no good, but please try to understand this skeptical position. I can definitely understand the desire to believe. Can you understand the desire to not be fooled into doing so?

  11. **"There have been no cases of psychics that have done better than random chance" in repeated trials without any evidence of cheating or having the tester accidentally give away answers, I should say. Those people certainly do better than chance.

  12. Okeydokey Mikal, assuming you're not a troll, let's roll with this.

    "It’s natural for a psychic be unsuccessful when

    attempting to predict paranormal."

    I never saw her claim to predict anything. She made a very specific claim, which is that she is talking to, or seeing, that woman's dead husband. Look at the very first thing she says: "why is he holding his head?" Very, very specific. NEXT!

    "Are psychic the only people who make mistakes or

    reinstate a misnomer.."

    No, but they seem to be the only people who never admit to making a mistake.

    "You can learn from mistakes..So since theirs no schools or boot camps for psychic”

    Ok, let's look at it this way. I love physics. I learn things about it every day. I've only been learning about it for a couple of years.

    I'm NOT a physicist. I make no claims to be a physicist. I don't pretend to be an authority on physics. When someone asks me a physics-related question, I qualify it with "I think", and "I'm pretty sure", and "I could very well be mistaken".

    Sylvia Browne, on the other hand, claims to be a psychic. She's been claiming to be a psychic for several years(if I had to guess based on her looks, I'd say 132 years). She pretends to be an authority on prediction, and speaking to the dead. When someone asks her a question, she presumes absolute authority and correctness. She goes on talk shows and claims, authoritatively, to speak to dead relatives of grieving family members, for money.

    I'll repeat this: She goes on talk shows and claims, authoritatively, to speak to dead relatives of GRIEVING FAMILY MEMBERS, FOR MONEY.

    She's either a lying, manipulative, greedy, soulless cunt, or she's a dumb, accident-prone, greedy, soulless cunt. There's not a lot of wiggle room here.

  13. My (lack of) God! That woman is hideous!

    I despise ad hominem attacks, but I have to say that Ms. Brown is one of the most frightening things I've ever seen!

    Not only is she mutton dressed (badly) as lamb, her voice is strident and lisping; THIS is a public speaker? Very disturbing to listen to– I mean, Truman Capote's voice was at least CUTE.

    And what's with the Nosferatu nails? Damn! I'll bet she could gut a deer with those fr*ggin' things!

    Dammit, Rebecca! Why did you have to let them link to a video of that foul harridan?

    If a person's appearance belies their personality, Sylvia's looks and soul are a perfect match.

  14. Oh, so you're accusing us of arrogance now? You're willfully ignoring all the documented evidence of psychics utterly failing to do what they claim, while you're accusing Rebecca of lying about Sylvia Browne visiting Boston — which an easy Google search proves that she did. And we're arrogant?

    We've been very polite, but you've acted in nothing but bad faith this whole time. I have no authority here, but I think it's about time you left.

  15. Hello Joshua,

    I did not call anyone arrogant I said I believe because of a lack of

    arrogance Take that anyway you wont,but If I wonted to make a swipe I would be perfectly clear.So I don't appreciate your indictment and attempt

    to remove one of the only open minded voices you've been hearing thus far

    I didn't accuse Rebbecca of anything If you must know the truth

    I think anyone carrying a tape recorder might have some excerpts

    worth hearing.I was in it for the music Honestly!

    Again you twisted my words and invented a few..

    You've been very polite??are you sure!Is that fact,or your opinion

    Take care M.Dmon

    PS I like it here,I would like to stay awhile if that's okay with everyone

  16. Lack of arrogance? is that the argument from ignorance then? The old I don't know how psychics might do what they do (cough::trickery:: couch) so no one can explain it and when someone does their being arrogant? Ok Mikal you're an idiot. Straight up idiot.

    oh and you called all of arrogant. You called anyone who trusts reality arrogant by saying that the only way you disbeive (and the reason you do belive) is because were arrogant and you arnt. Which has no founding.

  17. Oh one more thing about the no schools for psycics comment…

    Sylivia "Toad" Brown has a book, it's called "My Psychic Journey: How to be More Psychic"

    Christ on a biscquit if shes teaching people how to be more psycic shouldnt she then not need a school? Shouldnt she be one of those top psycics?

  18. What I find amazing is that these dead people have no memories of their life. They can never say a name, never remember a date, rarely even get their own death straight. Dying apparently does change a person.

    I know, I know – the next excuse (or maybe it's been given, though not stated this way) is that psychic communication is hard, and not clear. Of course, it is clear enough for Sylvia to know the one guy was holding his head. Or that the one guy who died on 9/11 was in water (Montel) or that one woman died of a gunshot wound (the one who died peacefully in bed in her home), or the miners who she predicted were alive…weren't (Coast to Coast).

    Obviously, it's the dead people having fun. They are lying to Sylvia, since …hmm, maybe it's a party game for them. In between them cavorting with their pets (but no lizards or insects, I understand), or celebrating the birth of baby jesus, well, there's not a lot to do. Say, am I the first to blame the dead for the failure of the psychics? If I am, I guess I'm a little surprised. Apologists blame everybody else for the failures – at least when they admit to a failure instead of explain it away.

    All that brought to mind another reason for wanting to believe psychic powers – people like Sylvia encourage the idea of immortality, and play on the fear of death that most people have (which is of survival value for people to have developed). If a psychic is shown to be a fraud, whether deliberate like Sylvia or not, like some of those Randi has tested, then that's one more fear that can't be soothed.

  19. It is possible that we might be at fault for turning her into a monsterous lying bullfrog creature monster with claws on her hands.

    She took years of "Hey you lying liar stop lying!" from skeptics.

    She was confronted with lots of money and adoring fans on one side and the fact that shes a total fraud and hellspwan monster that should be beaten with those things you use on rugs to get them clean.

    And then CRACK!

    Something inside her breaks. Unfortunatly the larger side of this wishbone was her demonic baby eating false hope psychotic monsterous canibal self.

  20. Well, please people, this place is usually a good place to discuss and learn things and I don't wish to see people insulting others.

    I myself find it particularly interesting to read Mikal's comment. I myself thing that Sylvia Brown is full of crap but, I'm not here to dismiss anybody's beliefs and wish to hear from Mikal's point of view. I think it can be quite enlightening to try to understand why some people fall for that kind of act and others not. I would be more curious to know where Mikal comes scientifically and culturally!

    Mikal, I won't take your "lack of arrogance" comment personnaly since I'm not the arrogant type but, I wish you would explain it more tho.

  21. Yeah I guess I was over the line with the "idiot" comment, I was a little heated and astounded by some of the response he had given… how about now that I've thought it over I simply believe that Mikal is not willing to come to any conclusion but that which he already has… which is strangely more close minded then what skeptics are accused of.

    I beleive on this last episode of the podcast a great statement was made that being open minded does not mean one does not weigh the evidence and come to a logical conclusion. While Mikal has come to a conclusion, I beleive he has done so while ignoring more then 99% of the evidence.

    Mikal, in the intrest of…. personaly discovery:

    Though I don't expect you to agree on the first part can you agree to these statements:

    1.) All credible sources have shown to a beyond reasonable degree that there is no psychic power.

    2.) And it has never ever been demonstrated that psychic powers exist.

    3.) With lack of such evidence your belief comes from what could be considered faith.

    If you beleive there is a credible source (multiple studies performed with multiple types of blinds) for such phenomenon please provide a link or a journal source.

  22. Mikal Dmon wrote:

    "I did not call anyone arrogant I said I believe because of a lack of

    arrogance Take that anyway you wont,but If I wonted to make a swipe I would be perfectly clear. So I don’t appreciate your indictment and attempt to remove one of the only open minded voices you’ve been hearing thus far"

    Oh geez, not that argument again :roll:

    You don't want us to be openminded, you want us to believe the same thing you do: that psychics are real. Fact is, we are open minded, and it's you who's close-minded here, and I'll explain why:

    Your claim to be openminded to the existence of psychic powers is misguided. No matter how openminded you are, if you seriously think Sylvia Browne is psychic, I'd say you've been too open-minded and your brain fell out. Nothing that woman does is even the least bit spectacular or baffling. You're being way too credulous.

    While psychics might be real, all those who've shown up in the media have turned out to be doing a suprisingly disappointing job. I may be open minded to the idea of real genuine psychic powers, but I've yet to see any claimed psychic that actually showed abilities that I can't explain. Apart maybe from a few very good stage magicians, and since they start out by admitting how everything they do on stage is a magic trick, they're obviously not psychics either.

    In other words, there is no phenomenon that needs to be explained, so why insist that a bunch lowlifes and douchebags taking advantage of emotionally vulnerable people must be psychic?

    I'd say it's wishfull thinking on your behalf.

Leave a Reply

Close