When Jon Ronson encountered Sylvia Browne »« Tiny Delaware

Sylvia Browne told her matter-of-factly

This is painful to read:

Amanda Berry is dead, psychic tells her mother on Montel Williams’ show (republished)

The picture is painful to look at, too – Berry’s mother Louwana Miller sitting on her daughter’s bed, which is bedecked with yellow ribbons. Well she did come back, but too late for Louwana Miller.

For 19 months, Louwana Miller refused to give up hope that her missing daughter might still be alive.

Not anymore.

Desperate for any clue as to Amanda Berry’s whereabouts, and tired of unanswered questions from authorities, Miller turned to a psychic on Montel Williams’ nationally syndicated television show.

The psychic said what the FBI, police and Miller hadn’t.

“She’s not alive, honey,” Sylvia Browne told her matter-of-factly. “Your daughter’s not the kind who wouldn’t call.”

Sylvia Browne says a lot of things, based on nothing whatever.

With those blunt words, Browne persuaded Miller to accept a grim probability that has become more likely with each passing day.

Miller went back to the West Side home where she had been keeping Amanda’s things in careful order and cleaned up. She gave away her daughter’s computer and took down her pictures. “I’m not even buying my baby a Christmas present this year,” she said.

Miller said she returned devastated from the show, taped this month in New York.

“I lost it,” she said.

Miller is dead, but Browne is not. I hope she’s having a good hard think right now.

Comments

  1. Cuttlefish says

    It will pretty much always be true that Sylvia is the second-to-worst part of any story she is part of. Like some sort of grief-leech, she preys on families that have had horrible things happen, and who are desperate for information. She lies about her ability to help them, convinces them that she is a reasonable place to go for help, and makes a living lying to them.

    And she is never the worst part of their lives, because someone has taken their child, or spouse, and abused or killed them. Sylvia will never be the worst thing that happened.

    But she’s got a hell of a streak going for second-to-worst.

  2. says

    I’m not sure if she is second-to-worst. If one of my children disappeared, I would find it difficult to come to terms with it, but if I later found out that someone I trusted to help me with my grief had outright lied to me that would be unbearable.

  3. says

    I was forgetting that she gets paid for it. Maybe I hope she has something more than a think. Maybe some pretty sharp remorse and guilt, too.

  4. Jean says

    Could she be prosecuted for fraud? She demonstrably asked for money for information she did not have and lied about it.

  5. says

    And you would think so. The maker of the fraudulent “bomb detectors” was convicted of fraud in the UK a couple of weeks ago. That could be a useful precedent…

  6. says

    I doubt SB is suffering any more remorse over this one than over any of her previous scams. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that she’s a sociopath. The only thing she’s maybe thinking about right now is whether there’s any damage control needed (A: Probably not. Her True Believers will just write it off as a rare failure.)

  7. Stacy says

    Just weighing in to say, I’m sure Browne’s a sociopath. She’s not capable of remorse.

    It’s disturbing, but I think we need to remember that people like that absolutely do exist.

  8. Eristae says

    And this is just another example of why it drives me up the wall when people go off about how, “Psychics may be saying things that aren’t true, but they’re just giving comfort!”

    Fucking no. This is unacceptable. People need to be operating under the truth, no matter how unsatisfying it may be because to do otherwise is to set yourself up for failure. It’s like driving with a blindfold on because moving fast scares you.. This woman should be prosecuted for fraud. Well, in addition to being charged with the gold-mining securities fraud.

  9. says

    Browne won’t even count this one as a failure.

    “Miller: So you don’t think I’ll ever get to see her again?

    Browne: Yeah, in heaven, on the other side.”

    Browne will quote this one exchange and claim she was right. She is an evil person, IMO.

  10. says

    Just continues to amaze me the ignorance of modern people and their continued belief in all things supernatural – be it ghosts or goblins or age old mysticism of religions of ANY kind..

  11. freemage says

    I get the impression that Sylvia gets paid by intermediaries. For instance, she gets paid by the Montel Williams show, not Miller, so she can’t be said to have defrauded Miller. In her contract with Williams, I’m sure there’s language present that shields her from a fraud claim (just like most psychics have a small-print line about “For Entertainment Purposes Only” on their advertising for shows and readings).

  12. says

    freemage, the standard legal definition of fraud, although it’s slightly different in different jurisdictions is along these lines:

    A false representation of a matter of fact—whether by words or by conduct, by false or misleading allegations, or by concealment of what should have been disclosed—that deceives and is intended to deceive another so that the individual will act upon it to her or his legal injury.

    Note that it has nothing to do with contracts, or indeed the perpetrator gaining anything from the fraud. There are various defences such as:

     

    [1] The alleged action did not take place

     

    [2] The misrepresentation of the matter of fact was believed to be true by the representer.

     

    [3] The situation was such that no one could reasonably rely on the representation. E.g. it was part of a game or a magic performance etc.

     

    [4] It is a “puff”. I.e. an exaggerated claim which was not intended to be taken seriously (e.g. “We make the best pizza in the county!”)

     

    Most “psychics” rely on defence [3] by claiming that the performance is for entertainment purposes only in the small print. However, if any steps are taken to conceal this claim or to make it unlikely that the victims will be aware of it then I can’t see why fraud should not have taken place.

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