November 20th, 2013

Cue Cher’s Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves

“I try to get her out of my mind as much as possible, but the damage she does to unsuspecting people in crisis situations is just atrocious.” — Gary Dufresne, Browne’s former husband

Goodbye Sylvia Browne, an individual who elevated the art in con-artistry to a level of sophistication and grandeur comparable to Picasso or Rembrandt — if such extreme fraud existed in the world of fine art.

Just hearing the news of Browne’s death made me want to light up a pack of cigarettes and throw back a couple of highballs — such was my visceral association between her gravely, grating voice and my old ardor for nicotine and whiskey.

The pain and confusion generated by Browne, in the name of New Age nitwit-ishness, is a dark taint on the entire realm of ‘alternative’ spirituality. From a recent Huffington Post article:

Although Browne claimed to have a psychic success rate between 87-to-90 percent, a 2010 analysis of of 115 predictions she made on “The Montel Williams Show” by Skeptical Inquirer magazine put her success rate at zero.

In some cases, she charged a police department $400 for her services.

In 2002, Browne told the parents of missing 11-year-old Shawn Hornbeck on the Montel Williams Show that the child was dead and kidnapped by a dark-skinned man with dreadlocks.

Hornbeck was found alive in 2007 and his accused kidnapper, Michael Devlin, was Caucasian and short-haired. Hornbeck’s stepfather, Craig Akers, told Anderson Cooper that Browne offered to do a more extensive psychic reading off-camera for $700.

Browne’s parade of chicanery is a strict reminder to scrutinize and yes, even doubt, a lot of the foolishness that passes for modern day otherworldly succor: Foggy notions like The Secret and other ploys that appeal to the deluded and addled.

I’ll never forget the first time I watched this clip of Browne, as it originally aired on Montel Williams‘ talk show. My heart broke for the women asking, in earnest, the question regarding her incapacitated mother’s final words.

My compassion morphed into anger when the host and his cipher broke into careless mockery following the woman’s inquiry. The segment displayed the sort of harm and trauma that occurs when con-artistry and gullibility collide.

I’m sorry for the Browne family and their loss, but I am equally relieved for those in the larger human family who will no longer be susceptible to the wiles of fraud.

Finally, I’ll repeat the sentiment shared by the actress Bette Davis upon hearing the news that her longtime nemesis, Joan Crawford, had passed:

“I was taught to speak only good of the dead. Joan Crawford is dead. Good!”
 

BONUS LINK: Take a cruise with Sylvia Browne, the Titanic of psychic predictions run amok. (Thank you Tom Blunt).


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