In 2004, Louwana Miller, mother to victim Amanda Berry, did just this. She received a reading from Sylvia Browne, a self-proclaimed celebrity psychic, on The Montel Williams Show. Browne did not have favorable news for Louwana Miller. After begging for information on her daughter’s whereabouts, she heard the worst thing a parent could possibly hear:
Miller: Can you tell me if they’ll ever find her? Is she out there?Two years later, at the age of only 43, Miller passed away, some say of a broken heart. Since the rescue of the women, Browne has come under intense scrutiny for her predictions and has been called a fraud on social media and in mainstream outlets (Browne's Facebook page has been closed as a result of the backlash). There is even a website called Stop Sylvia hell-bent on stopping Browne from making money off of grieving families.
Browne: She’s — see, I hate this when they’re in water. I just hate this. She’s not alive, honey. And I’ll tell you why, here we go again. Your daughter was not the type that would not have called you.
Miller: So you don’t think I’ll ever get to see her again?
Browne: Yeah, in heaven, on the other side.
After offering no apologies for her
For more than 50 years as a spiritual psychic and guide, when called upon to either help authorities with missing person cases or to help families with questions about their loved ones, I have been more right than wrong. If ever there was a time to be grateful and relieved for being mistaken, this is that time. Only God is right all the time. My heart goes out to Amanda Berry, her family, the other victims and their families. I wish you a peaceful recovery.Obviously, the psychic community is not pleased with Browne’s actions and how they reflect on them as a whole. In a statement to The Huffington Post, the Amazing Kreskin expressed that "any mentalist, psychic or medium who suggests someone is dead without physical evidence is on shaky ethical ground."
Kreskin also went on to say, "It's the height of irresponsibility and it indirectly aids the criminal because the people who believe the psychic may have less of a reason to continue to search for the victim."
The community of skeptics has also weighed in on this. Ben Radford has called Browne and other psychics who weigh in on criminal cases "grief vampires." D.J. Grothe, president of the James Randi Educational Foundation -- which works to disprove fraudulent paranormal claims -- called Browne "reprehensible" for disrupting criminal investigations and causing a "to lose hope."
Meanwhile, Sharon Hill of Doubtful News predicts this may be the end of Browne's career:
She is 76 and not in the best of health. Her heyday was in the Larry King and Montel Williams days. Both are gone and no one seems to want an unpopular psychic on their show. I sure hope her career is over. She’s done way WAY too much harm and made millions from it.It is also worth noting that Berry's family has not gone on the attack against Browne, and does stand by her.
And it is important to remember that Browne, regardless of your thoughts about her, is not a monster. We must not allow ourselves to become distracted by the relatively easy target of a "celebrity" that we forget to target outrage uniquely reserved for the individual(s) responsible for the atrocities, and for whom hell is too good.
Additionally, we must keep in mind that there is a story of hope that has emerged out of the horrors that Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight had to endure.
But make no mistake, the Browne situation has ignited a major conversation about the role of psychics in our culture, and it will likely not be resolved soon.
-Larissa Mrykalo, Aaron Sagers