Shame on you, Sylvia Browne, for telling Amanda Berry’s mother her daughter was dead.

May 7th, 2013 by Ben Goldacre in just a blog | 13 Comments »

The story of Amanda Berry’s rescue in Cleveland – after ten years in captivity – is extraordinary. In 2004, popular psychic Sylvia Brown told Amanda’s mother that her little girl was dead. Here is a contemporaneous account of that show.

Amanda Berry’s mother traveled to New York to tell her story to Psychic Sylvia Browne on the Montel Williams Show. The show was a shot at getting her daughter’s picture before the eyes of millions of Americans. “On April 21st 2003, 16-year-old Amanda Berry left her part-time job never to be seen again,” the show began. With that, TV viewers across America now know a girl from Cleveland is missing. But Amanda Berry’s mom wanted more than her daughter’s picture on national TV. She wants answers. “Can you tell me…Is she out there?” Berry’s mother Louwana Miller asked. “I hate when they’re in the water,” Browne said. “She’s not alive honey.” It was bad news from the world-renowned psychic. It’s what Miller didn’t want to hear. “So you don’t think I’ll ever see her again,” Miller said. “Yeah in Heaven on the other side,” Browne responded. “I’m sorry.” Montel took a commercial break and Amanda’s mom broke down.

It has been widely reported in the last 24 hours that Amanda Berry’s mother died in 2006 of a broken heart: certainly she must have endured appalling anguish over her last years. It would be nice if people like Sylvia Browne could deliver their stage entertainment with a bit more consideration. Until hell freezes over, we can at least draw attention to these horrible episodes.

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13 Responses

  1. digitrev said,

    May 7, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    Stuff like this drives me insane. Freaking scum-bag scam artists.

  2. bobledrew said,

    May 7, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    Sadly, it’s my prediction that Sylvia Browne and her ilk lost whatever sense of shame they once possessed long, long ago.

  3. Freud said,

    May 8, 2013 at 12:03 am

    A truly horrible, vile, evil woman. Some more reading for you:

  4. Nozzferrahhtoo said,

    May 8, 2013 at 7:30 am

    Unfortunately something like this will bring her more fame and success, not less. Sure there will be some temporary angry backlash but in the end people will laud praise on her as much as ever.

    A clear example of this is the story of Peter Popoff the charlatan faith healer (is there any other kind?). He was outed as receiving messages from his wife over radio which is how he received his “information from god”.

    He went bankrupt after this. However a recent resurgence sees him more popular and rich than ever. No amount of facts or truth, it seems, can over come the human desire to be fooled and ripped off.

  5. finbikkifin said,

    May 8, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    The depressing thing is that in a few years, if anyone brings it up, people’ll just remember “Oh, didn’t she make a prediction about that?” If told she was life-destroyingly wrong, they’ll just handwave it as just a little mistake but she was /basically/ right, and then get annoyed if you look up what actually happened.

    Why yes, I am speaking from experience!

  6. Jim-Bob said,

    May 10, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    I’m still waiting for the head-line ‘Psychic Wins Lottery’ before I will even give these nasty people my consideration.

  7. liquidcow said,

    May 13, 2013 at 7:24 am

    Sylvia Brown reminds me of the Village Idiot story. I don’t know if this is a widely known fable, but I was told it by my dad when I was quite young:

    A villager goes up to the village idiot and offers him a choice of a penny coin, or a two penny coin. The Idiot takes the penny coin. The villager finds this hilarious, and goes off to tell his friends. Not quite believing the stupidity of this, another villager does the same, and again, the Idiot takes the penny coin. Eventually more and more people go and see the Idiot, and are amazed to see him take the penny coin rather than the two penny coin. The Idiot, of course, ends up with far more money than if he’d just taken the ‘logical’ option of the two penny coin in the first place.

    Now, I’m not saying that Sylvia Browne is actually capable of being a true psychic and that she’s just deliberately being dreadful, but I think that part of her fame stems from a fascination at someone having the sheer gall to go out there and be so wrong so consistently, and yet still carry on what they’re doing as if it’s perfectly fine.

  8. xinmeier said,

    May 29, 2013 at 8:34 am

    Stuff like this drives me insane. Freaking scum-bag scam artists.

  9. Delster said,

    May 30, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    This is the same woman who said she would accept James Randi’s challenge on live TV and has been ducking it ever since.

  10. Joe Choi said,

    June 13, 2013 at 5:51 am

    That poor mother! What Sylvia Brown did not might not be illegal, but it was immoral.

  11. sharpsound said,

    June 16, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    What she did is illegal. Its called fraud. And she should be persecuted to the fullest extent of the law to stop tragedies like this happening again.

  12. BLANDCorporatio said,

    July 27, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    I must apologize for being late to the party. I only recently decided to come back to this blog, because of something unrelated (I heard claims that being fat while young makes weightloss later impossible/very difficult; said claims seemed suspicious). Anyway …

    Sylvia Browne should be ashamed for claiming to know something she actually didn’t. She should be ashamed of her profession, period.

    That said- Ben, if S.B. would have (correctly) guessed that Amanda was alive, would all have been dandy?

    Thing is (if any of those shows about real police cases are any indication), most of the time when someone goes missing, and they aren’t found within a few days, then when they do turn up, they are dead. Living with the uncertainty is torture for those left behind, even to the point that wishing something is found- even a corpse- is a blessing because it finally offers closure.

    So I’d interpret S.B.’s choice as an attempt to offer the mother that. Misguided, maybe. Abusing an authority falsely bestowed upon her, sure. But between having no info and telling the mother her daughter (who had been missing for a year at that time) is dead so the mother should grieve then move on, and having no info and telling the mother to keep living with her obvious distress, it’s clear to me which of the choices is less evil.

    So do fight battles against this superstition and outright fraud, but pick better arguments. This one’s misplaced.

  13. Obs said,

    August 2, 2013 at 2:05 am

    So BLAND, in your universe, the choice is between lying and lying? Sounds like your moral system could need some finetuning…