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    A Psychic Got it Wrong. Who Knew?


    As if it wasn't enough this week that three young women held captive and terrorized by a madman were found alive after 10 long years, we now learn that in 2004, celebrated psychic Sylvia Browne made an appearance on celebrated sinceremeister Montel Williams' television show and told the mother of one of the captives that her daughter was dead.

    None of us can be sure that that pronouncement hastened Louwanna Miller's death a mere two years later, but there is no doubt that the poor woman's last years were marred by a belief that her daughter, her beloved daughter Amanda Berry, had been pronounced dead.

    There was no body, no evidence that it was so, but she sought out Sylvia Browne, hoping to come to terms with her daughter's fate, no matter what it was, and when Sylvia said, "She's not alive, honey," all doubt was gone. Her daughter was dead.

    Except she wasn't.

    Sylvia Browne, a woman who is paid in the six figures to perform her magic, has been wrong before.  It comes with the territory.  Psychics are not God, as Sylvia says.  Mistakes are made.  So sorry.

    But oh no you don't.  You don't get off that easy.  If you're going to carry the mantel of a psychic--a person making a grand living off of your claim of a mystical gift of second sight--you cannot be wrong.  Ever.

    And yet you, Sylvia Browne, are most often wrong.

    If you are Montel Williams, making a grand living off of your claim to be a sincere attendant to the miseries of poor unfortunates, you cannot partner with charlatans.  Ever.

    And yet you, Montel Williams, did just that.

    Sylvia Browne and Montel Williams

    I don't know why Louwanna Miller agreed to go on the Montel Williams show; why she became so convinced that Sylvia Browne had some inside information about her daughter's fate.  I've never had to go through the horror of losing my daughter.  I can't begin to understand the kind of desperation that led Ms. Miller down that path, but even more than that, I can't begin to understand how anybody can make the decision to deliberately feed off of undiluted, agonizing misery in order to make a name or a fortune.

    There are no excuses for what Sylvia Browne and Montel Williams have done, not just to Louwanna Miller, but to so many others over the years.  I have no delusions that either of them will suddenly see the light and resort to sackcloth and ashes as penance for their wrongs.  But how to keep people in such pain from being victimized ever again by Sylvia, Montel and their like?

    I don't know the answer.  But I do know where not to look for it.


    (Cross-posted at Ramona's Voices)


    Montel Williams profited from having Sylvia Browne on his show. He bears responsibility for making her more prominent. The same television stations that allowed Montel Williams to showcase Browne often brought you the local and national evening news. You are supposed to trust the station to be truthful, yet the stations broadcast Montel Williams. Rarely do the local news reporters felt the need to analyze the accuracy of Williams or Browne. The networks that promote the deception also bear responsibility for unleashing Sylvia Browne on the gullible and hurting.

    But how to keep people in such pain from being victimized ever again by Sylvia, Montel and their like?

    None of my business, I reckon. Louwanna Miller was a grown woman. If she wanted to see a psychic for whatever reason, I figure it's her choice. She wasn't coerced.  She wasn't defrauded...not any more than anyone who sees a psychic or reads a horoscope or goes to church is defrauded. She was a victim of her own foolishness, not of Sylvia Browne.

    There is a psychic shop (office? studio?) across the street from me. I've no idea how she stays in business in midtown Manhattan, but we've got one every few blocks. Heck, we've got more psychics than Starbucks. I'm sure people go to them for help with all sorts of desperate tragedies, and I'm sure the psychics make plenty of money by feeding them bullshit. Not as much money as Sylvia Browne of course. Their "victims" aren't on national TV either. But the principle is the same. Should we outlaw them? Throw eggs at their windows? Wave our disapproving fingers at them? Make them all apologize?


    This was meant for Ramona, ........ Are there not laws to protect our elderly parents who are adult, but they lack the mental ability or because of health issues, they are unable to see, they are being defrauded?  Dont we have cyber bullying laws to prevent attacks? "Your child is dead Mrs Miller" dead I say,  DEAD DEAD DEAD   The poor distraught mother, was seeking comfort, not hope shattering, bullying bullshite. Why couldnt the psychic heal the wound in the poor womans heart. Instead "shes DEAD Mrs Miller" now why dont you go away and grieve some more, until you cant take it any more and you join her".

    There no laws against bullshite. 

    Actually there are. There are numerous state and local laws against practitioners of "psychic arts." They are mostly unenforced unless large sums of money are involved.

    Interesting. I stand corrected. Illegal in NYC too, apparently.

    There was a major grand larceny case in NYC for "cleansing money" that finished up last week--article mentions that fortune telling alone is just a misdemeanor. I get a kick out of this part of the NYT article, identification with what many preachers do:

     Outside the courtroom, a man who declined to give his name but who said he was Ms. Miller’s husband said the woman had benefited from his wife’s help for more than a year before she was asked for money.

    “She is a victim of prejudice,” the man said of Ms. Miller. “My wife brought her to Jesus and changed this woman’s life. Her father was cured of cancer.”

    The New York Observer has a nice intro to their telling of the story, starting out as a given that fortune tellers are just a subset of a larger tribe:

    How do you know if your spiritual guru is leading you astray? Well, if she tells you that she needs at least two Rolexes and $600,000 in cash to ward off the devil, it may be a sign that she is not on the level.

    As all the online “how to recognize a fake guru or a false prophet” websites warn: it’s a bad sign when your guru exhibits greediness and accumulates expensive possessions, and it’s a really bad sign when your spiritual guru exhibits greediness towards your expensive possessions.

    But phony soothsayers and fake spiritual leaders have been preying on the bewildered, befuddled and wealthy since time immemorial,....

    and that the law doesn't play favorites here:

    “Larceny is larceny, no matter what form it takes—fraud by a spiritual advisor is no different than fraud committed by an attorney, an accountant, or any other person who gains an individual’s trust in order to steal from him or her,” District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. wrote in a release about the conviction.

    As all the online “how to recognize a fake guru or a false prophet” websites warn: it’s a bad sign when your guru exhibits greediness and accumulates expensive possessions

    Yeah, that's a good sign. Here's another. When a guru spends most of their time talking about superpowers, how he has them and how he can teach you how to get them in just 3 years he's probably a fake guru. Even if while he's talking about them he says they're not important. This reads like a "forget about the other gurus cause I'm the true guru you should be spending your money on "

    You can take anyone and teach them breathing practices and in less than three years they'll have lots of superpowers but without samadhi.

    Want to know more? I offer an academic level, intensive course called STAGES. This is the last week I'm accepting applications. Read the Stages course page on the site if you're interested. If not, that's okay, too, as there are tons of free materials on the website. I'm only looking for the brightest of the brightest anyway.

    (What a lucky coincidence I clicked this link today because its the last week and next week all the ads for his wonderful course will be gone.)

    All the Stuff You've Spent Years and Thousands of Dollars Trying to Find Out But No One Ever Told You " USD $800

    I will say that by the time you're done with this course, you will: Understand how various psychic abilities and supernormal powers come about, and will have the means to explain a tremendous variety of hitherto unexplained mystical, metaphysical or paranormal spiritual phenomena

    There is a catch, however, which is that not everyone can take this course.

    At any moment I only have a limited amount of time and therefore only a few students I can personally tutor on this extremely comprehensive material.

    Please click here to invite your friends to our website. If you invite 5 friends you will be sent the gift of another 179-page unpublished lesson on Samadhi cultivation which is found nowhere else and only available to Stages students.

    Bad sign #2: when your diabetic kundalini guru Swami Muktananda's mattress is turned, 3000 Snickers wrappers are found hidden thereunder...

    So does this mean that I may return to selling indulgences or not?

    None of your business?  That's an odd way of looking at it.  I guess you could say that about most of the stories that come our way but here on dag we tend to make them our business.

    I've never understood the appeal of psychics.  I've never understood why seemingly intelligent people go to them for anything other than entertainment.  In the case of a mother whose daughter is missing, I will cut her some slack.  She is, at least for the moment, not of her right mind and will search for answers everywhere. 

    Sylvia Browne and Montel Williams knew that and still chose to use her as a foil to draw an audience. That's pretty despicable. 

    I meant not anyone's business to protect her. Miller chose to see a psychic and chose to do it on national television. I do not doubt that she was extremely upset, but I question the diagnosis "not of her right mind," if by that you mean that strangers should act protect her from her own choices.

    Psychics exploit people's fears and anxieties. That's the profession. I suspect that most of them actually believe they have spiritual powers and that they help people. If you're a psychic who says, whoa, maybe I shouldn't do my thing with this person b/c she's too upset, you're not much of a psychic.

    One of my favorite TV series was (is per Netflix) Medium!

    I just love that show.

    Reality is another matter.

    I recall some guy named John Edward. That idiot would just translate ghost messages to members of the audience.

    Finally there was this strange woman who would tell you how your dead dog was doing. hahahaha


    Money is the answer to some of your questions.

    Hey, I tell you how your dead daughter or dead dog is doing and I can sell books and T-Shirts, I suppose?

    Houdini spent a good part of his life demonstrating how mediums were just frauds.

    People wish to believe in an after life and people make money exploiting this belief.

    Kind of like Pat Robertson.

    I think that people who 'have the gift' start believing in their own bullshite.


    The Amazing Randi still goes around bursting their bubbles but he's not nearly as well known, nor does he get rich from it.  For every believer there's a skeptic, I suppose, but the people who prey on the believers--no matter how deluded the believers would have to be--can't be seen as simply entertainers.  Even the willing find themselves victims of predators.  That doesn't make the predators any less evil.

    If this Nation had been devout Hebrew, these charlatans and their supporters would have been stoned to death; never again to prey upon the weak and uninformed..... Don't indulge the demons; who most likely enjoyed tormenting the grieving mother..... It reminds me of the ministers/churches who want money, to keep peoples loved ones, out of the fires of HELL....... LIARS preying upon peoples grief, because they are only out to get the money.  The poor mother probably didnt pay enough, to get good news.

    If you have been watching Mr Selfridge on Masterpiece Theater, they covered some of this psychic showmanship that went on in 1910 last Sunday.  It was in it's hayday then started by 2 young girls with a toe that clicked loudly under the table.  They would talk to the dead and the dead would click back.  Browne is no better then a clicking toe under a table. http://www.museumoftalkingboards.com/history.html

    I hated the movie "Ghost" because it perpetuated the LIE and promoted the seeking of Spirit mediums, who can be used by the demons; who enjoy nothing better, than messing with us humans.

    I hated the movie "Ghost" because it was full of bad acting and the story line was stupid.  I've never believed in demons--except maybe those I've created for myself.  The thing is, we're all looking for answers to life's little questions, but we tend not to trust our own selves to come up with them.

    When we were kids, a group of us tried an Ouiji Board, it freaked us out when it moved ever so smoothly acrrosss the baord as it spelled out a name,  not according to our will, but it's own. Just because you can't see them, doesnt mean, they arent present. For years some germs remained elusive to the eye. Ouiji Boards are dangerous tools of the unseen world. Be careful you don't get sucked into the Black Hole of demon domination, becoming their fleshly tools dupes. Have you never asked "what possessed" that individual, to act so heinously or so demonic?  

    Here is the history of Kate and Margret Fox the 2 sisters that started the Spiritualism and Medium Movement.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fox_sisters  It is pretty interesting.

    Interesting that even after they confessed their hoax, the spiritualist movement didn't die.  People are always looking outside themselves for solutions or satisfaction and there are plenty of folks willing to help them out--for a fee.

    I've never seen a million bucks, so it must not exist.

    People have scammed a million bucks so it must be all a hoax.

    Not everyone who experienced "spiritualism" paid for it. Not everyone involved in spiritualism has been discredited.

    But it's probably more complex than sitting at a table with a Ouija board. Otherwise we'd have a freeway built to the next dimension.

    Someone who had seen what seemed to be his father's ghost once said "There are more things in Heaven and Earth... than is dreamt of in your philosophy. "

    I knew you were gonna post this. I see a post about a tall, dark man in your future.

    "You're going on a trip"..... Never mind it may be years from now, but the fortune  teller was correct........ Much like Nostradamus; throw enough BS on the walls and some is bound to stick.

    I once had a long interview with a west village psychic who is, just based on her apartment a paper multimillionaire and based on her clientele (a lot of Wall Streeters) a liquid millionaire as well. She hit me with an amazing cold read.  Just stunning how much she was able to take from visual cues and how quickly she could extrapolate from what little I said.  She almost had me believing in psychics.  She definitely had skills.  I think for her clients she was cheaper than therapy and that through conversation she probably unlocked thoughts and ideas that did, in fact, translate into decent investments.

    I have some fragments of a blog with which I am tinkering about, in part, my experience reading tarot cards for friends.  I had started with some friend back toward the end of my college days bringing a tarot card deck to the bar a group of us were hanging out in. At first, the readings were merely a kind of parlor game, the kind of one played by liberal arts majors slumming it in a dive bar, who treated everything with a post-post-modern facetiousness (something about the laugh laughing at the laugh laughing).  

    But for a few of us, the readings turned into a sort of therapy session. It becomes impossible for it not to when one actually wants to take the comments seriously.  None of us would say that we actually believed the cards were a source of divination, or that it provided a way for the forces of whatever to answer an inquiry.

    Yet when the reader tells the inquirer that 2 of Swords is in the "conscious influence" spot of the spread, which suggests that the inquirer is primarily focused on or one's thoughts are being primarily influnced by blocked emotions and a sense of stalemate, the inquirer inevitably finds his or herself asking "is that true?"  Or "In what way is true, and not true?"

    A tarot reading between friends (even if some of them are majoring in clinical therapy of some sort) is not the same thing as therapy.  The therapeutic relationship is unique, in many ways it is one of the most unique of social relationships.  But for a brief moment, an individual contemplating the topic of "just what is it that is pre-occupying my consciousness (as well as the subconscious, the forces at work on one's self from the outside, etc)?" is pretty much the same regardless of whether that individual is in a therapy session or having a tarot reading.

    The possibility of positive consequences of such an act of reflection are there in both situations.  Usually the people I did readings for came away stating that situation(s) that were bothering them were more clear, both in clarity about the situation and clarity about the best way forward. 

    With that said, if one does enough readings, there are way too many times the interpretation of the cards come up damn near perfectly aligned with what the inquirer's actual situation, and any suggestions to make the best of the situation appear to be the best path (i.e. if one's therapist had made the suggestion, people would generally agree that the therapist had been right on the money).

    Moreover, doing readings for particular individual multiple times, the cards had an eerie way of giving each individual a consistent reading over time that reflected the individual's changing situation.

    So while no one would claim that he or she actually believed in the tarot cards, we all respected the cards. Which was a way of saying we weren't going to claim there were no unknown forces at work, forces that could help illuminate the way to getting closer to a good life.

    I've had a similar experience with tarot cards and other spiritual practices. I'm something of a skeptic and I try not to fall into confirmation bias but I think whenever one takes any practice seriously and practices with due diligence things start happening that just can't be logically explained.

    There's this bible passage: Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened unto you. Christians of course think it means if you seek Christ he will respond. But I think it doesn't matter in what way you knock, if the practice is taken seriously and sufficient time and energy is put into it, "spirit" or whatever will open the door in ways congruent with the path and practice you're working on in surprising ways.

    That being said I do think many, perhaps even most, of the people in the business are running a scam. I'm just not sure how you create laws that separate the scammers from those doing good work and helping people.

    The same problem exists with therapists, There are some quacks out there, some using proven methods, some using questionable experimental techniques, and some using pure crappie approaches. There is unfortunately more of a buyers beware in these fields.

    The point of my piece is that Sylvia Browne, a "psychic" who makes tons of money and has achieved a good amount of fame, told a terrified mother that her daughter was dead.  It turned out to be untrue. 

    There are degrees of responsibility for your actions, even among the believers of the paranormal, I would think.  When a psychic entertainer either takes herself so seriously she's willing to say out loud that a missing person is dead, or is willing to lie in front of the cameras, it's no longer just innocent amusement or a thrill up the spine.  It's craven quackery.

    I've had decent experiences with Tarot and I-Ching.  You imbue the objects with meaning and, voila, they become meaningful.  I don't know that there's anything wrong with this.  Props have their uses.

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