Skepticism

Another psychic rips off someone.

Once again, a psychic has bilked someone out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Miller has been charged with grand theft in an amount over $150,000, Gibbons said.

The charges allege that she obtained almost $450,000 from a San Jose woman between August 2004 and March 2005.

After reading the victim’s fortune, Miller told the victim that she and some of her family members were cursed and that she needed to pay money to have the evil cleansed, Gibbons said.

She also verbally threatened the victim, according to the charges.

The victim gave Miller about $350,000 in cash and another $95,000 in goods and services.

Ain’t she lovely? Inside and out.

Ugh.

In other news, Sylvia Browne still cavorts merrily around the country, charging hundreds of dollars per hour to tell people how they can relate better to their guardian angels and lying to parents about where their missing children are. The moral of the story: taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from one person is grand theft. Taking hundreds of millions of dollars from many people is perfectly okay.

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+.

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10 Comments

  1. The biggest thing that shocks me about Sylvia Browne is the absolute banality of the vast majority of the questions put to her. My stepmother happened to be watching Montel the other day, and it was one of far-too-many Sylvia Browne episodes. People would ask Sylvia things like "Does my mother look out for me?" or "Will I be successful in my career?" and then rave about her answers, which were no more detailed than "Yes, of course" and "Yes, you will."

    ANY competant human being capable of understanding the English language could have answered these questions and likely would do so in the SAME EXACT WAY. I have no idea where her reputation comes from, but the whole business is a fraud perpetrated against people who are, for the most part, EAGER to be fooled. It's mind-boggling.

  2. I don't think the number of people you are deceiving matters as much as the content of your message. Telling someone they are cursed or some other downer..that is punishable by law. Not telling someone something nice or where their children are…that would just be cruel and a grave injustice.

    I'm not that schooled in psychics but what does telling the present mean? Is that like saying it's hot out when it's 90+?

  3. However you are still deceiving people whether your message is nice or nasty.

    Also I am not sure I would agree that telling people where their children are is nice unless you actually KNOW where the children are. If you know then sure that is nice but if you are just making up guesses then that is pretty low. As bad as telling someone they are cursed in my opinion.

    I haven't heard the phrase "telling the present" so maybe someone else can help you there.

  4. I'm a little surprised that what she did is grounds for theft charges. Still, I want to see her convicted — it would be a beautiful precedent. Here's hoping that once Miller is in jail the DA will start busting all those grifters working the Original Sin / Heaven / Hell racket.

  5. This reminds me that I've been wanting to better understand the legal side of the psychic issue in general. All I can bring to mind is that I heard some states have laws against fortune telling, which may or may not be enforced. I'd guess that in this case it was theft because she took money for a service that she couldn't perform, but that raises interesting questions about how the court legally decided that. Did they have to agree first that what she claimed to do didn't exist at all, or what?

    I'm going to go Google this, but if anyone has a good resource about psychic-related laws, I'd love to hear about it. It seems like there'd have to be some law somewhere that Sylvia Browne is breaking, but maybe that's just wishful thinking. I agree, it's astonishing that she's still got a career. She's been publicly very wrong multiple times in recent memory, and yet people flock to every Montel taping and buy her books.

    And that cruise story that was linked at StopSylviaBrowne.com recently—if there really are Sylvia fans out there having experiences like those described in the article, and it's as common as it seems from reading other accounts on the site, how does she still have a loyal fanbase? I absolutely don't understand this. I get wanting to believe, but there are a lot of things that are easier to believe in than Sylvia Browne's unimpressive act.

    As a side note, for the whole run of Derren Brown's "Mind Control" on SciFi, I wondered if anyone could watch him and then still think Sylvia, et al, are for real. He's far more convincing at what he does than they are. I guess they'd just think Derren was a psychic masquerading as a magician, and that's another headache I don't want to even consider right now.

  6. Doorsaid:

    I guess they’d just think Derren was a psychic masquerading as a magician, and that’s another headache I don’t want to even consider right now.

    My nose started to bleed after I thought about that for a while. That can't be good.

    On a more serious note, it reminds me of the story Penn occasionally told on his radio show about how he and Teller used to do seances, maintaining that what they were doing was a trick. He said that, invariably, an audience member would come up to him after the show and say "Well, I know you have to SAY you aren't really communicating with the dead, but you and I know the REAL story"…as if Penn and Teller were simply PRETENDING to be faking it in order to allay suspicion. That's why, according to Penn, they stopped performing seances.

    …at least I THINK it was Penn. I may be mixing this up with someone else. This is why one shouldn't peruse and post to blogs when sleep deprived at 4:00 am…

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