Nov 20 2013

Didn’t see that one coming

In an interview with Larry King, Sylvia Browne, the world’s worst psychic, predicted when she would die.

KING: OK. Do you know when you’re going to die?

BROWNE: Yes. When I’m 88.

Woops, wrong again. Sylvia Browne has died at age 77.

Read Jon Ronson’s article on Browne. Oh, what the world is now missing…


Skip to comment form

  1. 1

    Yes but she won’t find out for another eleven years on account of her totally furked up spiritual GPS.

  2. 2

    “I’ve never wished a [person] dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.”

    –Clarence Darrow.

  3. 3

    I seem to remember seeing her on Larry King on September 3, 2001 blabbering about all kinds of superficial crap. If she was really psychic, she should have been working for the NSA to stop 9-11.

  4. 4

    In addition to Jon Ronson’s article, it is worth visiting Stop Sylvia Browne: http://www.stopsylvia.com/home/

    It may be a bit overloaded for a bit…

  5. 5
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Oh, what the world is now missing…

    Something significant happen??? Not her death, 100% guaranteed to happen sometime….

  6. 6
    chigau (違う)

    Has anyone told James Randi?

  7. 7
    Al Dente

    So her psyche was a little out of calibration. She did predict that she’d die and she fulfilled the prediction.

    Checkmate, skeptics.

  8. 8
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Gee, she missed out on buying life insurance with only a month to live…(Don’t mind me, I hear a lot of such commercials since the Redhead leaves her TV on 24/7/365.24 usually the Lifetime Movie Channel at night.)

  9. 9

    Hey! She knew it was an age with double numerals.

    That’s my impression of a true believer.

  10. 10

    KING: OK. Do you know when you’re going to die?

    BROWNE: Yes. When I’m 88.

    Sylvia Browne has died at age 77.


  11. 11
    Acolyte of Sagan

    Is her return imminent?
    I saw something on the TV recently about a British museum (can’t recall which, can’t be bothered to find out) that held the largest collection of Arthur Conan Doyle memorabilia in the world thanks to a legact of over 40,000 pieces. Anyway, the collection curator was telling about Doyles interest in psychics and seances, and that after he died a huge seance was arranged, with upwards of 800 people in attendance. He went on to say that an empty chair had been placed on the stage “for Doyle, if he came back”
    To which the interviewer asked “And did he?”

  12. 12

    She knew it would have two digits that were the same. She forgot to include that in her prediction. So it’s as good as direct hit, right? We can rescue it in post-production.

  13. 13
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Whoopsie-doodle, Syl!

  14. 14
    chigau (違う)

    The Pffft article is undergoing moment-by-moment transformations.
    It’s eerie.

  15. 15

    She may have “died” at age 77, but clearly she is destined to rise from the grave to walk the Earth for another 11 years.
    Sharpen up your stakes, people.

  16. 16

    Alternative interpretation—it is she who will lead the Zombie Apocalypse.

  17. 17

    700 dollars for 20 minutes. To parents with missing children. Remember that.

  18. 18

    Good riddance!

  19. 19
    Tom Foss

    My first impulse was to cringe at the inevitable skeptical tap-dancing and to wish her family condolences, since it’s hard for anyone to deal with the death of a loved one.

    Then I remembered Shawn Hornbeck, and the compassion Sylvia Browne was wont to show to grieving families. Dance away, skeptics. Dance away.

  20. 20

    I’m fortunate to have largely missed the Sylvia Browne phenomena. I first heard of her when Amanda Berry was found alive (rather than dead as she told her mother on LKL). And now this! 0 for 2…not bad for a psychic and I’ve known quite a few.

  21. 21
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Shouldn’t there be some theatrical handwringing about how horrible it is to be anything less than crushed at a horrible person’s death right about now?

  22. 22

    She’s actually 88 when measured in Planet Arglebargle years. She just forgot to reset her calendar when she came to Earth.

  23. 23
    CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain

    She may have “died” at age 77, but clearly she is destined to rise from the grave to walk the Earth for another 11 years.

    Is her return imminent?

    She already came back… invisibly.
    * Jehovah’s Witnesses visited my house today. Despite my specifically requesting to be put on their skip list, and despite one particular knocker remembering how long and spectacularly unsuccessful the sales pitch conversation was last time.

  24. 24

    Shouldn’t there be some theatrical handwringing about how horrible it is to be anything less than crushed at a horrible person’s death right about now?


    Yes, maybe if Sylvia died in peace at her home surrounded by friends and family, that peace and those friends were things which were, in part wrangled into existence by exploiting people who were often already victims, and certainly we don’t want to celebrate someone who’s life was extracted from the tears of the heartbroken, especially since she was in fact, celebrated and respected throughout her life despite repeated intrusions into other peoples misery, and maybe she did seem at times to have contempt for the people who believed her, but….

  25. 25

    Come on, didn’t you JUST this week chide Terry Firma for poking some mild fun about terrorists beheading one of their own?

  26. 26

    She’s in the water. :P

  27. 27
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    PZ’s criticism of TF stemmed from the latter displaying glee at the beheading.
    Show where PZ has done the same here.

    I wondered how long before someone would come along and make this insipid comparison. I would like to have been wrong. Sigh.

  28. 28


    “Show where PZ has done the same here.”

    “Didn’t see that one coming”

    Hmmmm . . .

  29. 29

    Glee at the beheading, yes. I can see some people interpreting the original post here as glee. The difference between the two posts, though, (whatever your suspicion of the feelings of folks around here) is quite unambiguous. This post does not call for the deaths of all psychics, whereas the post criticized certainly did call for the deaths of all who they considered terrorists. Something about boils needing to be lanced.

  30. 30
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Condolences to her friends and family.

    May no one step into her now vacant role of a heartless fraud with lots of publicity.

  31. 31

    Sylvia Browne’s Facebook page is still emblazoned with a promotional ad for her “Mystical Voyage” Caribbean cruise in March 2014. So there’s still time to book a reservation?

  32. 32
    chigau (違う)

    We mocked her fuck-ups while she lived.
    Are we to stop mocking her fuck-ups because she’s dead?

  33. 33
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    @30, Beatrice: Condolences to her friends and family. May no one step into her now vacant role of a heartless fraud with lots of publicity.

    Well-said, Beatrice, you’ve hit the perfect note to express my feelings about it. I’m not sad the world is short one fraudster, but I’m sympathetic to those who loved Ms. Browne and their grief and loss. Would that I could express myself so neatly in not-my-native language. Thanks.

  34. 34
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    I went the same route on my FB page. I imagine her family is grieving and it would be callous to bring extra grief to them at this time*. I feel bad for them, though I do not mourn her.

    *oh the irony…

  35. 35
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Merlin @29:
    Well said.
    Oh, and true.

  36. 36

    @30 Beatrice.

    That would be her son, Christopher Dufresne, who she claimed was the second best psychic in the world.

    I hated the evil she did when she was alive. Now that she no longer exists except as a corpse and a memory, there’s nothing left to hate.

    Except, to the extent her legacy lives on. Besides her son and their family business, there’s also the matter of the church she started, Novus Spiritus. If you make a donation of $250 or more, they’ll send you a letter for the IRS!

    How can anyone be married four times and still be believed when they claim to be a psychic?

  37. 37

    Come on, didn’t you JUST this week chide Terry Firma for poking some mild fun about terrorists beheading one of their own?

    What thread were you reading? The problem in that case wasn’t the “poking fun”, but the part where he explicitly called for murder/execution of certain people.

    Poking fun vs. “these people should be killed”. Not really the same thing at all, is it?

  38. 38

    We should always speak good about the dead….she’s dead, good.

  39. 39
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    My condolences to her friends and family, but I will not shed a tear at her passing.

  40. 40

    One thing I have noticed about psychics is that they never seem to predict anything useful.

  41. 41

    I usually try to quote Donne in these circumstances, but I’d be hard pressed to admit I’d been diminished by the washing away of this particular clod.

  42. 42

    Ding, dong the witch is dead.

    (someone had too)

  43. 43
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    @42: someone had to

    Yeah, what kind of thread would it be without a little casual misogyny? Thanks ever so much.

  44. 44

    I can’t believe she did this while my Twitter account is suspended. I’m pretty sure she did it on purpose. How am I supposed to have a proper field day about it with no Twitter access?

    It just goes to show that Twitter doesn’t care about human rights.

  45. 45
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    Monitor note:
    Please remember that gendered insults are not appropriate on Pharyngula:

    Your post will be edited if: You use bigoted slurs.

    The Rules

  46. 46
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Wait, she did get it (almost) right. She predicted she would die at age 88. She died at 77. Both numbers are double numbers. So she new that she would die at an age with a double number (55, 66, 77, 88, 99, 111) — c’mon, she got that much right, right? And the chances against that happening by coincidence are literally tens to one!

  47. 47
    Reginald Selkirk

    The linked report from a Cleveland station was pretty good; prominently featuring one of Browne’s biggest mistakes. usually the mass media is more unnecessarily respectful than that.

  48. 48
    Chie Satonaka

    Yeah, what kind of thread would it be without a little casual misogyny? Thanks ever so much.

    So much nicer commenting here than at Raw Story, where I was attacked by a swarm of brogressives for pointing out that Joe Rogan’s use of the phrase “weak ass bitches” to describe people who are against same sex marriage was misogynistic. I’ve never had so many downvotes and angry responses on that website, yikes.

  49. 49

    I haven’t read an obituary with this much pleasure since Jerry Falwell’s. And with a hat tip to Hitchens, it’s a pity there’s no Hell for Sylvia Browne to go to. Rot in shame parasite, and good riddence.

  50. 50

    But… but… 88 is a duplicate digit number and she died at 77 which is also a double digit number!!! So she WAS exactly right, just, you know, one digit off. /sarcasm

  51. 51

    “witch”, now? really?
    oh, yeah, right, because ‘gendered’ = ‘bigoted’.
    and, unlike Ms. Browne, ‘witch’ is obviously ‘gendered’.

    but hey, keep on monitorin’

  52. 52
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    Right, right, just the PC parade, no harm is or has been done to women by being called witches.

    Well, not important white women, anyway.

    Well, not this decade, anyway.

    But hey, bravely done, Chas, you keep tilting after those terrible social justice people and their bizarre newfangled ideas of how language might actually have an effect on people’s thinking.

  53. 53
    chigau (違う)

    Syliva Browne made her living doing things that could easily be described as witchcraft.

  54. 54
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    “Witch” is, in this context, used as an insult, yes? It’s also an insult so exclusively applied to women that there is no male equivalent. In fact, the word “wizard” is a compliment.

    So yeah, a gendered insult. See also: hag, crone.

  55. 55
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    chigau #52

    You’re right. If that was the sense used, my apologies to tsig.

  56. 56
    Rob Grigjanis

    I don’t remember anyone calling John Edward a witch (or a warlock for that matter). ‘Witch’ just comes a bit too easily to mind when a woman has to be insulted. See Thatcher, Margaret. More than a few ‘ding dongs’ there, IIRC. Totally unnecessary.

  57. 57

    She seemed to meat the definition:

    “Witchcraft (also called witchery or spellcraft) is the use of magical faculties, most commonly for religious, divinatory or medicinal purposes.[1] This may take many forms depending on cultural context.”


  58. 58


  59. 59

    As some people have pointed out, she died at a double (77)–doesn’t that mean she gets to guess again?

  60. 60
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall


    Thanks for clarifying, and again, my apologies for misreading your intent.

  61. 61

    I saw this nasty fraud on TV claiming to be in contact with an audience member’s dead loved one, doing the cold reading routine and yanking on their grief. Despicable.

    Nice way to make a living, speaking with the dead. Well, now you are dead, so let me speak with you!

    Oops! No point to that, is there? Oblivion for Sylvia Browne: The world is a better place without you. No psychic power needed.

  62. 62

    JohnnieCanuck @ 36:

    How can anyone be married four times and still be believed when they claim to be a psychic?

    Oh, don’t you worry, she had an out for that. You see, I asked this of my mother who loves Sylvia Browne (haven’t had the chance to tell her the news yet) and she said that that is a totally unfair criticism of Brown because Browne made it clear that her powers can only be used unselfishly to help others and she can’t use her amazing powers on her own life or predict her own future because it’s prohibited somehow. Hence the bad life choices and multiple marriages.

    Then I had to ask about that whole fraud thing, where she predicted some kind of gold or other precious metal/stone in some mine, got the money for mining it, and doled out the money people in her organization (especially relatives), never bothering to actually do what she was supposed to with the money. (If I’m remembering the jist of it right–I could be wrong about some of the details because I don’t care enough to go look it up again, it’s at the Stop Sylvia Browne website.) And didn’t they get convicted of that too? Well, she just huffed a bit and claimed it was clearly her co-conman ex-husband’s doing and she had nothing to do with it, and just lay off Sylvia, will you?

    Then she accused me of thinking Edgar Cayce was a fraud, because we all know that psychics are one homogenous mass and to disbelieve one is to call that person a fraud and to call one a fraud is to call them all frauds. Sure. I said I don’t believe Edgar Cayce had powers, really, but I do think he believed he had powers and I don’t believe he was just a charlatan cynically conning money out of vulnerable grieving people. He constantly worried about the source of his “voices” and worried that maybe the voices would give someone bad advice and hurt them. He did readings for free, asking only an optional donation, and when they realized that many people who could donate were not they consulted his “voice” to ask whether they should require donations from people they knew damn good and well could afford to pay, and the “voice” said not to and repeated some quote (the Bible?) about the rain falling on the just and unjust alike. (Although when I helped my mom look up the Cayce website from the Cayce Institute or some such organization, you couldn’t get squat without money (in fact, I think it was a subscription membership, to my mom’s disgust), so even a well-intentioned self-deluder can have his well-intentioned delusion capitalized upon by future opportunists.) Compare to Sylvia “$700 for a 25 minute or less phone call wherein she may or may not answer the question you actually asked because reasons. Spiritual reasons.”

    Do I think he had powers? Hell no! But I don’t think he was a deliberate fraud. I think he genuinely wanted to help people and he believed he had powers, regardless of whether or not he actually had them. Unlike Sylvia Browne, who was clearly a cold reader conning millions out of desperate people and clearly has no concerns other than amassing a huge fortune and trying to silence anyone who dares speak against her.

    Come on, she even refused to allow fansites about herself, from what I heard. I’m assuming that’s because she didn’t want a forum outside of her own control on which her many fans, from where she got her many dollars, would crowd and might hear something from her critics and become skeptical of her and slow the money train down. And later she had her daughter in law or some other relative create a pro-Sylvia website that was strictly policed, in response to the Stop Sylvia site. What kind of genuine psychic with genuine powers tries to silence critics like that, when they could easily silence them by giving them the damned evidence they’re asking for to begin with?

  63. 63

    Oh, what the world is now missing…

    Someone who does lots of correct psychic predictions.

    Of course, this lack has been around since whenever someone invented the concept …

Comments have been disabled.