With Sylvia Browne getting a huge backlash after her claim a decade ago that Amanda Berry was dead was disprove by Berry showing up alive, other “psychics” are trying like hell to distance themselves from her. Oh yeah, we knew she was a fraud, they claim, but we’re totally different.
But what makes Sylvia Browne’s haters so vitriolic isn’t that she’s occasionally wrong; it’s that she’s colossally wrong, about huge, important things like whether a mother should give up hope in the search for her missing daughter. This, say several psychics and mediums interviewed by The Daily Beast on Thursday, is what makes Browne’s work different from the garden variety mind-readers of the world, if not downright despicable.
Sloan Bella is another well-known psychic who has appeared on several national television shows throughout her 25-year career. Once, when she was first starting out, Bella met Browne on the NBC series The Other Side, she said. It didn’t take Bella long to figure out that Browne had “staged her reading,” she told The Daily Beast. Her son had worked through the crowd before the show began, gathering information she could use to appear more psychic.
“He asked everyone in the audience what they were there for. Someone’s mother died, and I noticed she repeated it verbatim,” Bella said. “I’ve not known her to use her gift. I’ve known her to script. I don’t know that she’s authentic in her gift at this point in her life. Maybe she’s trying to keep the money coming in, or something.”
Most psychics won’t come out and make the kinds of bold statements like “Your daughter is dead,” Bella added. “I would never say that to someone unless I knew it to be true.”Neither would Belinda Bentley, the L.A.-based psychic told The Daily Beast; not with that level of assuredness, anyway.
“What bothers me is the delivery,” Bentley said. “I like to leave room for doubt, that I’m not 100 percent. When Sylvia Browne gives her delivery, there’s 100 percent no doubt in her voice. No room for ‘maybe he or she is alive.’”
Browne’s wrongness did irreparable damage, said George Kresge, aka “The Amazing Kreskin.” Her prediction about Berry was an “abuse,” he told The Daily Beast, “of the image and the position they have. Her credibility as a psychic is zero, which I think is too high a level to give her.”
Kreskin calls himself a “mentalist” and claims to be able to do no more than read people’s thoughts — not speak to the dead, which he doesn’t believe is possible.
“If a person can communicate with the dead, why in all these years have none of those people simply contacted someone and asked them: ‘You were murdered? Who murdered you? A crime was committed in which you died? Give us the details.’ Wouldn’t it be a great gift of their powers to help solve a murder?”
Okay, this should be easy to test. In fact, all of these people can win a million dollars merely by submitting their “powers” to testing under proper observational conditions. They can prove to all the world that they’re entirely different from Browne. Hell, we don’t even need to get that formal with it. Let’s just have them do readings on random people while being videotaped, then we’ll take all the claims they made and add them up and see how often they were right. I bet it wouldn’t be more than 10% of the time in any sufficiently large sample.