Sylvia Browne, Rosemary Altea, etc.


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Dec 31, 1969
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Psychics: that's the subject of my rant for today. I have an itching to bitch about "psychics". Now, let me get my views on this thing out first. I don't believe that ANY of the people who have been publicized as psychics have any psychic powers. I'm not saying that psychic powers will/have never exist(ed), it would be foolish to denounce anything out of hand. However, I consider it extremely unlikely that there are any phenomenon that are the result of psychic powers.
Now, having said that, I'd like to introduce you to a few people who you will hate with a passion, if you don't go in for this kind of stuff.
Sylvia Browne is a psychic of some repute. She has been around for about thirty years, only really coming into the spotlight when she landed a weekly spot on the Montel Williams show, Psychic Wednesdays. She goes on and people ask her questions and she answers. Now, you may have heard something about this in the news around oh, say, January of this year. There was a big hubbub when Shawn Hornbeck was found alive. This was, primarily, a great thing because he had been missing for a long time and everybody thought him dead. Now, secondly, the reason they thought he was dead (minus the fact that, after two years missing, you are declared legally dead) was because Shawn Hornbeck's parents went on the Montel Williams show soon after his kidnapping. They were told that he is "no longer with us" and that his body would be found in the forest near their house, near some jagged rock formation. The police scoured the area and no body was found. Sylvia is usually never been called to task for her monumental errors. However, she has claimed an 87% success rate (how she got that number, aside from digging around in her ass, no one will ever know). She says that she can't be right all the time. In a recent interview, she was asked how she could have been so wrong, she just said that she must've gotten mixed up, crossed some wires and got one of the "other missing children" from the area, whose existence is nearly impossible to verify, given the ambiguity of the question and answer.
Now, you'd think I was just throwing rocks at a beehive because of a mix-up. No. She has been wrong CONTINUOUSLY. There was another BIG fuck-up, where a young girl named Opal Jo Jennings was kidnapped. Her grandmother promptly went on the Montel Williams show and begged Sylvia to tell her what had happened to her grand-daughter. Sylvia, with trepidation, stating that this was new to her, said that she had been sold into white slavery in Japan. Later, Opal's body was discovered some few miles from her home. She had been kidnapped and killed that very day.
Again, she claims her 87% success rate and that she has assisted in numerous recoveries of missing persons, in collaboration with the authorities. I would really love to be presented with ONE CASE, there has yet to be one on record, where her psychic powers have aided directly in the reclamation of a missing person.
I have not heard of one time where her predictions have been any more accurate than what one would expect from educated guesses. Every year, she would make predictions for the new year, even an auspicious list of predictions for the new millennium. However, in 2000, all of these lists were stricken from her web site. However, with the aid of the Wayback Machine, we can look at old archived pages of her guesses and see how wrong she was. In her 1996 predictions, she guessed about 12%. A lower score than could have been expected from just random guessing.
The problem I have with this kind of person is
1) They waste precious resources and man hours during the vital first days of a person's kidnapping. A psychic hears of a kidnapping and instantly offers their services. Thankfully, police rarely follow these leads. There have been incidences, as well, where she gives people renewed hope for lost children and it sends them on another long, expensive search to look for their children, finding nothing.
2) They are giving false hope to these families for a fucking buck. For families whose children have died, they spin up lies and give them hope, only to have that final realization be all the more devastating. For families whose children are alive, they kill their hopes of ever finding them and sometimes even make them give up the search. FUCK YOU, YOU CUNT... sorry, just had a sudden flash of irrepressible anger.

Now, this bitch is a REALLY shitty psychic. The only reason she's famous is cause she could bullshit up her own gnostic religion: the Church of the Novus Spiritus, which is bullshit for New Spirit. It has a few members, blah blah blah. It's a crazy gnostic cult that siphons money off in a way that Scientology could have a decent stroke to. Her shitty psychic predictions are as random as the spray of a shotgun. There is only direction, no accuracy. It's a wonder people still listen to her. It's slander, and legally reprehensible, to call someone a fraud or a quack. Let's just say the ducks have it right.

Moving on to other psychics.
These guys are all the same: Rosemary Altea, John Edward, James Van Praugh, etc, etc, etc.
Some of these more famous ones don't deal in missing persons or bullshit predictions. Many of them ply their "trade" by claiming that they can speak to the dead. Now, Penn Jillette on Bullshit! really sums up my anger pretty well:

"We have nothing but empathy for the people who are experiencing the loss and grief at the death of a loved one. That guy whose lost his mom... rips my heart out. I'm a momma's boy, whose mom died a couple years ago, and I'll never get over it and my dad died at around the same time and I was very close to both of them. I love them so much there's not a minute that goes by that I don't miss them. Houdini didn't really go nuts busting these mediums until he lost his mom. Once you felt that pure grief, seeing it exploited can take away your sense of humor. Once a loved one has died, all we have is our memories of them. There's nothing more precious to me than my memories of my mom and dad. We don't give a rat's ass about the money these bastards have taken from the grief-stricken. What we do care about, deeply, is the desecration of memories. These performance artists are, in a very real sense, mother-fuckers. That poor guy's grieving memories of his mother are now all fucked up by somebody else's images. All he will ever have left of his mom are memories and this pig has pissed on those for a buck and a little unearned fame. I'm sure these lame fucks tell themselves that they're easing the grief but skits for money can not replace loving memories. How low do you have to be to exploit someone's true grief to sell some bullshit book?"

This did ring true for me when I first heard it but never so much as after I lost someone close to me. I lost a friend in February who was like a second mom to me. My grief never surfaced fully and I went around numb, barely feeling it, for a while. Just the thought of someone else trying to invoke her name and her memory in some bullshit scam brings tears to my eyes and rips me apart, to say the least.
These psychics don't bring closure. They just make shit up and actually prevent closure. If there is no isolation, no feeling of the lack of their presence, then there can be no true healing. If I thought that I could go to a medium and talk to my friend again, I would be there every day telling her how much I love her. There's no real feeling of loss if you believe there is no true death.
There is true death. After they have passed beyond the veil, there is no coming back. "You don't heal a broken heart by pretending it's not broken."

Besides, these people are engaging in the number one sales technique that has allowed gypsies, carnies, and every good salesman ever to take people for their dollar. That's cold reading. They look at a person and make an educated guess on their appearance or reactions, maybe even throw something out there, and then wait for them to take the bait. They'll throw out a name or an initial and hope someone will volunteer the information. They'll have a knowing look on their face and ask "Who's Mary? I'm getting an M, Mary, Margaret?" "Oh, my sister's name was Margaret." Looking at the woman, they see she's pretty young so they ask "I'm getting that her death was untimely." This method works especially well in large audiences, cause of the larger odds of a larger group.
Basically they make a lot of guesses and hope that someone will volunteer.
This basically picks up on a basic human trait called the Barnum Effect: people want to be fooled.
Sometimes there are hot/warm readings, where they have done research on the person in advance or have a hidden mic before the show to pick up information. Sometimes, they'll even talk to people before the show and get info that they use later.

Mostly, there are a lot more misses than hits when they're guessing. But if they were really talking to the dead, why would they ever be close to wrong? Is there psychic interference? Can they not speak and can only communicate through mime?
On the shows, before the editing, there are huge misses and huge gaps that they edit down to look like direct hits on the first guess, when they took usually about three or four stumbling guesses to grab at something.
Now, if you haven't heard of this before, I wouldn't be surprised because there's a very complex non-disclosure agreement that people who go to the taping have to sign. Basically it bars them from talking to any media people about the events of the taping.

Mark Edward is an unusual case. He was a fake psychic and con artist who reformed himself and began to combat this bullshit. He saw how easy it was to manipulate how people viewed the world and thought. He has worked with people on figuring out the tactics that psychics use. He finds cold-reading, information-gathering, etc. in all of them.

These people are so full of shit and they take advantage of people's gullibility and grief by capitalizing on their fears and pain.
One-on-one readings, when unexpected, are shoddy and lack any accuracy at all. Many guesses, one or two hits, and they go away looking like fools.

Anyway, psychics are bullshit. Your thoughts?

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