Sylvia Browne on Montel Williams

This is my first (probably weak) pit rant.

I caught about 5 minutes of Sylvia Browne on Montel Williams this morning while getting ready for work. I was only able to watch for about one minute at a time because I get too embarrassed for the people asking the questions (I’m clearly biased).

The following excerpts are from memory and I welcome corrections.

A grieving daughter is shown in a profile clip describing how she lost her mother in an auto accident when she was 11, and how terribly she misses her. She suspects that the death was not an accident.

Sylvia Browne picks up that the daughter does not think the death is an accident and tells the daughter that she probably knows who the killer is. The daughter has a look come over her face like there is someone she suspects and now she has “proof”. This ought to make her life better.

Sylvia Browne then goes on to the next question from an audience member and just leaves the daughter hanging. Doesn’t dropping such a bombshell require some follow up? Surely the daughter would have had follow up questions.

Sylvia Browne seems to show disregard for the audience. She answers complex questions throwing out tidbits of “truth” in one or two sentences. She tends to talk more to Montel than to the audience member asking the question.

A mother says that her daughter died after the daughter’s engagement was broken off by her fiancee. The mother asks if her daugter died of a broken heart? Sylvia confirms that people can die of a broken heart and this is what happened to the daugther. Usually Sylvia’s utter bullshit at least gives (false) hope the grieving person. How is this supposed to help? The mother now “knows” her daughter died because she was in unbearable emotional pain. She will now blame the fiancee for her daugters death. If she harms the fiancee, will Sylvia be held legally responsible?

A sister relates a story of how her brother starting suffering frequent seizures which have caused brain damage.The brother no longer functions as an independent adult. She asks Sylvia to shed light on what happened. Sylvia asks the sister if she was aware that her brother was slipped a drug like Ectasy. The sister if visibly shaken by this information. So now the sister can be bitter that what happened to her brother was a criminal act, and not an inevitable occurrance.

It just makes me sick! Most of what she predicts could be easily verified over time. Montel could do a follow-up show and see how the predictions came out. I can’t beleive how he fauns all over Sylvia! He does half of the cold reading for her by constantly offering suggestions and possible reasons. Some of his shows may have some socially redeeming value, but why does he close down his mind when she is on (okay, probably money)? If he really has no doubts about her powers, why doesn’t he arrange a test (okay, probably money)?

I am sure everyone here is aware that James Randi has challenged Sylvia to test her powers and that she accepted this challenge on the Larry King show (another of her ass kissers). As of today it has been 191 days since she accepted. Of course she will never go through with this test.

I just hate her so much because of how she becomes rich of other people’s grief. At least she could wash her hair once in a while and not look like such an old hag!

I don’t know which I dislike more:
The Sylvia Brownes and John Edwards of the world scamming people with their nonsense, or

The people who let the Sylvia Brownes and John Edwards of the world get away with their nonsense.

Of course, we live in a world where Fox can run Celebrity Boxing and Gluttony Championships and there are people who will not only watch but actually look forward to this type of programming. Therefore it does not surprise me (sicken would be more appropriate) that some people are so easily parted from their money.

Sylvia Browne bugs me just about every time I have the misfortune of seeing her open her piehole, but it really cheeses me off when she starts giving out medical advice. It borders on the criminal, IMO.

Aside: does anyone know of a good book on cold reading? I have 13 Steps to Mentalism in my magic library, but I was wondering if any more recent texts were out there. I would love to work a demonstration debunking Browne and Edwards into my magic act.

Dr. J

I haven’t watched either of these shows. I do this for a reason. The reason is simple, I hate to watch gulable people given false hope. It’s just going to cause them more pain.


Who the hell cares about Sylvia Fucking Browne?!!

** DoctorJ**

Check out the Art of Cold Reading by James Randi if you have not already done so.

Giving medical advice when you are not qualified usually gets a person in big trouble quickly. I don’t know how she gets away with it.

** Fingolfin ** said:

Obviously I do. Thats why I started this thread. Do you have anything of value to add to this thread?

I could ignore these con-artists like Brown and Edwards as they do not affect me directly. But I feel they need to be challenged. Why? Because they are frauds and allowing corruption to exist encourges other corruption and brings down the level of society.

Also encouraging people to believe in irrational systems takes significant attention and resources away from legitimate research.

I am so glad I found this thread. I watched that show yesterday with my 11-year-old son. I don’t know how many times my son turned to me and said, “Anyone can say that, Mom.” Exactly. Now, the one you mentioned about that young lady whose brother was suffering from seizures: that one absolutely broke my heart. Sylvia Brown had the GALL to say that he would one day be okay. How can she say that? He has been suffering seizures from something that happened/he ingested three years ago! The look of joy on that young lady’s face absolutely broke my heart.

The whole show and others like it are a crock. They feed on gullible people. I commented out loud to my son how sad it is that people must be so desperate to go on national TV like that. And, yes, Montel does pander to her.

The whole thing made me ill.

They’re criminals and hucksters. Con-artists. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard, “Hey, if they can make money off of stupid people, more power to them!” I never, however, hear anyone say about muggers, “Hey, if they can take money from people weaker than them, more power to them!”

There’s two other things that bother me. First, they cowardly hide behind religion for their con-artistry. Their powers allegedly come from god, so attacking them means you’re attacking god. Secondly, they perpetuate not only blatant stupidity, but the pop-culture spiritualism that serves as religion in this country (the one that takes all the cute elements like angels and leaves out the stuff about treating your fellow man decently.)

It sickens me to see them so popular. It sickens me to see them trotted out as news. It sickens me to live in a country where people simply assume psychic ability has been established as a proven fact and that in any particular case it’s just a questions as to whether or not THIS individual is a “real psychic”. To me, it’s further evidence that we simply don’t bother to think anymore.

Whoah there Legomancer… perhaps you had better do a little research before you go around insulting religions so you know what you’re talking about. Now don’t get me wrong, people like Sylvia Brown who profit off of the media make me sick to my stomach as well, but you can’t allow one bad person to formulate your position on a variety of different religions.

I am in fact a Spiritualist which is an actual Religion that has been around for centuries. It is only becoming mainstream because of people like John Edwards. Who by the way, is a very powerful medium.

Just so you know, most Spiritualists can’t STAND Sylvia Brown. There are a lot of “posers” out there, it can be rather hard to find a truly talented medium.

One of the major laws in Spiritualism is treating your fellow man decently. It is one of the foundations of the entire religion. The Golden Rule (treat others as you would want to be treated) is fundemental to the religion.

Then there’s the fact that Spiritualists don’t go around starting wars, claiming that they are “better” than other religions, or take any percentage of their members salaries.

In the future, please be careful about who you insult and don’t let one bad apple form your opinion about an entire religious movement.

aaaaaaand THERE. That’s where you lost me completely. John Edward is exactly the same sham artist as Sylvia. He does the exact same cold reading stunt.

that’s what mediums DO. They give cold readings. They don’t spend a week in the bahamas with the person ahead of time. If you know everything about the person you’re giving a reading to, then how are they supposed to be convinced you know what you’re talking about?

There are good mediums and there are bad mediums. There are good doctors and there are bad doctors. There are good teachers and there are bad teachers. There are good preachers and bad preachers.

You can’t tell me that because there happens to be one bad and tainted medium out there that makes it okay to disregard all of the others. That’s pretty freakin’ close minded.

I thought the whole Mormon relgion was a crock so you know what I did? I talked to some missionaries. I attended a Mormon service. Then I made my decision. You really should take the time to learn about something before you insult and disregard it.

*Originally posted by lezlers *
that’s what mediums DO. They give cold readings. They don’t spend a week in the bahamas with the person ahead of time. If you know everything about the person you’re giving a reading to, then how are they supposed to be convinced you know what you’re talking about?

And thanks to this attitude, John Edwards and his ilk will continue to run their scams. The only thing that makes him a ‘good’ medium is that he was good enough a con man to get a syndicated show.

Pardon me while I go search for Atlantic in the Antarctic.

Yes, John Edwards is a good medium. He is a great cold-reader.

He mediates his audiences’ process of getting through and over their unresolved issues regarding departed loved-ones, by drawing out of themselves the answers they seek.

But he does not actually communicate with the “other side”. Either he lies… or he allows his PR team to lie about the true nature of what he is doing… for profit.

The religion of Spiritualism required ethics and honesty from its practitioners, last time I checked.

So he’s an unlicensed therapist? Is that legal?

I could have told you that

Switch the ‘or’ to an ‘and’.

Wouldn’t know, can’t say I really care. You’re free to believe in whatever you want until you start harming others. ‘Taking candy from a baby’ might not be illegal in these cases, doesn’t make it right.

In case my point is not getting across, Edwards and his ilk are showmen. Their only gifts are that of gab and deception. They find appropriate marks to run their con artistry on.

Maybe we have a different definition of “cold reading.” My understanding is that cold reading involves deliberate deception of ones audience to make them believe you are reading their minds or communicating with dead relatives. In other words, cold reading is a deliberately deceptive practice designed to convince mush-minded people that someone is doing the impossible. Are you actually a devotee of a religion based on deliberate deception of it’s followers?

When you refer to “good mediums and bad mediums,” I would point out that there is NO such thing as a medium, good, bad, tainted or not.



Lezlers said:

Hi lezlers:

Your post brings up many questions:

  1. Do you have any links on Spiritualists? I have not heard of this religion before. Does John Edwards claim to be a member?

  2. How do you tell the difference between a powerful medium and a fraud? I see the exact same techniques being used by Sylvia Brown and John Edwards. I can think of several tests which would convince me, but the mediums do not seem interested in proving their abilities.

  3. If John Edwards is using techniques of cold reading (which draws inferences, asks people for information which is then repeadted back, and makes calculated guesses designed to deceive one into believing that the reader knew things he shouldn’t have been able to know) shouldn’t this be investigated so he does not damage the credibility of the religion he claims to represent?

p.s. Your just kidding about believing John Edwards is a powerful medium right?

As a scholar of religious studies (graduate work and teaching), I would like to correct some of the stuff I have read here.

Spiritualism is not considered a religion - it is considered a practice, a form of non-official, non-organised religion, in the same way that a lot of new-age practices are non-official and non-organised. For an in-depth look at the difference between official/non-official, organised/non-organised, please consult Meredith B. McGuire’s “Religion: The social context”, now in its fifth edition (Wadsworth, 2002)

Spiritualism involves belief in various paranormal phenomena, notably communication with the dead or with other entities not currently humanly alive. Its origins as an ongoing American movement are usually traced to the alleged spirit communications received by Kate and Margaret Fox in 1848 at Hydesville, New York, and in fact have nothing to do with an “ancient” practices. It may share similarities with other religious traditions, but is certainly not an “ancient” one.

NOW… As for Sylvia… she’s a fake… and she’s dangerous. And so are most of these people who sell hope for a profit - and who make outlandish claims about their connection with the “other world” for 700 bucks an hour.

Sorry folks. It may be that she gives spiritualism a bad name. A lot of people do. Is she dangerous? Damned straight. Is she the only one? Nope. Are all spiritualists dangerous? No.

Should all “religions” (!) that generate money to create hope be eliminated? Well… If we eliminated “practice that generates money”, we’d wipe out many world religions, catholicism included (indulgences, anyone?)

Elly, still reeling from the pint of Guinness, apologizing for the lack of continuity in her post (you can all go screw yourselves.)

Ah… but since he does not “claim” to be doing therapy, a regulated/licensed profession, he gets away with it. OTOH, since there is no regulation of “mediumny” (whatever that would be) he also gets away with it as long as buried somewhere in the small print there’s a “for entertainment purposes” disclaimer.


That much is is pretty damn clear to anyone paying attention.

And anyone out there taking exception to someone being polite about addressing lezler’s defense of Edwards and Spiritualism can go tell it to the dead.

Spiritualism is indeed, an organized religion. There are churches around this country (I don’t know about other countries) The national headquarters are located in New York.

There is an official website, I would have to interrupt this post to double check the address, but try, or a yahoo search. If it is the official page, there will be a picture of a sunflower, that is the national headquarters symbol.

No. Spiritualists do not advocate mediumship for money, the only reason he has many Spiritualists’ support is because he is generating interest in mediumship which leads to Spritualism in many cases, the religion is dying out and as we also don’t advocate going door to door (i.e. Christians and Mormons) or harrassing people on the street, we’ll take what we can get. (I of course don’t speak for all Spiritualists)

In most cases, by how specific the reading is and how well they prove themselves, (for example, knowing and verifying specific things only shared by you and the person who has passed)

I think we got our wires crossed on the cold reading thing. My fault. When I say cold reading, I mean not knowing the person the medium is giving the reading to. Sorry about that.

John Edwards does not claim to be a Spiritualist, nor does he speak about the religion. When I said that he generates interest, I meant that when someone pursues mediumship to learn about it, they will then stumble across the Spiritualist religion.

You say tomAto I say tomato. Just because you don’t believe in something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, my egocentric fellow poster. They used to say the world was flat as well…

How do you know? I would write more to that comment but I feel that my answer above pretty much covers it. There’s a fine line between a healthy amount of skeptisism and a plain old closed mind.

sorry everyone, I gave the wrong link before. The actual link for the National Spiritualist Association of Churches is if you are looking for more info.