First he tells a story of one of her exercises in lost child finding.
A six-year-old, Opal Jo Jennings, had a month earlier been snatched from her grandparents’ front yard in Texas while playing with her cousin. A man pulled up, grabbed her, threw her into his truck, hit her when she screamed and drove off. Her distraught grandmother went on Montel’s show and said, “This is too much for my family and me to handle. We want her back. I need to know where Opal is. I can’t stand this. I need your help, Sylvia. Where is Opal? Where is she?”
Sylvia said, “She’s not dead. But what bothers me – now I’ve never heard of this before – but she was taken and put into some kind of a slavery thing and taken into Japan. The place is Kukouro.”
“Kukouro?” Montel Williams asked, after a moment’s stunned silence.
“So she was taken and put on some kind of a boat or a plane and taken into white slavery,” Sylvia said.
Opal’s grandmother looked drained and confused. Opal’s body was eventually found buried in Fort Worth, Texas. She had, the pathologist concluded, been murdered the night she went missing. A local man – Richard Lee Franks – was convicted.
She doesn’t give interviews any more, apparently not wanting to answer journalists’ questions about such things.
So Jon Ronson decided to go on a cruise where she was a guest lecturer. He went to her first lecture.
The next woman walks to the microphone.
“I have a strained relationship with my daughter,” she begins. “And I want to know …”
“Your daughter is strange,” interrupts Sylvia.
Sylvia doesn’t pause. Other psychics will often reach around for some inner voice, but Sylvia answers the question instantly, in a low, smoky growl, sometimes before the person has even finished asking it.
“Your daughter is stubborn,” she says. “She’s selfish, narcissistic. Leave her alone.” The woman reluctantly nods. Tears roll down her cheeks.
“Don’t get too involved with her,” Sylvia says. “She’ll hurt you. Leave her alone. I don’t like her.”
“Thank you, Sylvia,” the woman says.
I want to yell out, “Don’t listen to her! Sylvia doesn’t know anything about your situation! She’s just saying the first thing that comes into her head!” But I don’t.
There are some situations where skepticism really is the one thing necessary.
Famous sceptics such as James Randi say Sylvia is not a silly, deluded person who believes herself to be psychic. They say she’s a callous fraud. She’s just a good cold reader.
Why isn’t that kind of thing prosecuted?