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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Psychic Detective Sylvia Browne's Last Case

     I don't believe in fortune tellers, soothsayers, spoon benders, people who communicate with the dead, and so-called psychic detectives. I find the mere pairing of the words "psychic" and "detective" offensive. If I were a chief of police, I would fire any detective caught conferring with one of these fakes. It should therefore not be a surprise that I was not a fan of psychic detective Sylvia Browne. (The 77-year-old author and media manipulator died in November 2013.)

     Browne grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1964 she moved to southern California where she set up shop as a psychic. Ten years later, perhaps in an effort to create the indicia of legitimacy, she founded the Nirvana Foundation for Psychic Research.

     During her career, Browne wrote 50 "nonfiction" books of which 22 appeared on The New York Times bestsellers list. While I have not read any of her books, I lament the trees that died for their existence. In my view, books by psychic detectives should placed in a genre called "untrue crime."

     Sylvia Browne achieved fame and fortune through her regular appearances on the TV shows "Unsolved Mysteries" and "Montel." Her television exposure also helped her promote her books.

     While the psychic detective offered her services in dozens of celebrated crimes, her predictions, in my opinion, never resulted directly in the solution of a murder or the location of a missing body. (In a missing persons/murder case a colleague of mine worked on, Browne told Montel Williams that the body was on the bottom of a small lake in Connecticut. The woman's remains were eventually found several hundred miles away.)

     One of Sylvia Browne's high-profile goofs involved the Cleveland kidnapping case featuring Amanda Berry. Browne told the victim's mother that her daughter was dead when in fact she was being held prisoner in Cleveland, Ohio by Ariel Castro.

     Psychic detectives would not exist if producers quit putting them on television. While it is doubtful any person smart enough to be a producer actually believes in psychics, a large segment of the TV-watching public consists of true believers. That's why psychic detectives are on TV. Moreover, if you're on the tube you're perceived as legit. Media exposure can be a phony stamp of approval.

     For millions of Americans living in a land of magical thinking, ghosts, Bigfoot, and UFOs, psychic detectives are perceived as real visionaries who can see and know things that ordinary people cannot. While psychic detectives give false hope, create investigative wild-goose-chases, and make TV hosts look foolish in the eyes of nonbelievers, I guess they are, in the scheme of things, relatively harmless. Nevertheless, I find them more than annoying because I can't stand fakes who sell more books than me.


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