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Dead Wrong, …Again

by Mark Edward, May 07 2013
Amanda Berry

Amanda Berry

Grief Vampire Sylvia Browne has once again proven herself to be the worst possible psychic medium in known history. Skeptics should be happy she is back in the news this time for her ”incorrectly predicting”(?) the outcome of the Amanda Berry disappearance. Chalk up another totally reprehensible miss to her worthless career.

Words cannot be used here at Skepticblog that could express my utter contempt for this bottom-feeding woman and her supporters. This time out she not only caused untold grief to family and community members, but also may have contributed to Amanda’s mother Louwana’s untimely death:

From:  http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2013/05/amanda_berrys_mother_louwana_m.html

“The case was featured on “American’s Most Wanted.” Louwana Miller appeared on Montel Williams’ nationally-syndicated talk show in November 2004. On the show, a psychic (read as Sylvia Browne)  told Miller that Amanda was probably dead.

“I still don’t want to believe it,” Louwana Miller said in an interview after the show. “I want to have hope but . . . what else is there?”

Louwana Miller: Amanda's Mother: Dead of a Broken Heart?

Louwana Miller: Amanda’s Mother: Dead of a Broken Heart?

Activist Art McKoy befriended Louwana Miller during her ordeal. He said he could tell that the stress and heartache were wearing her down. The visit with the psychic was the breaking point, he said.“From that point, Ms. Miller was never the same,” McKoy said. “I think she had given up.”

For those who say psychics like Browne, Edward et. al. somehow help or comfort those in need and repeat the phrase “What’s the harm?” there should be a real answer in what has taken place here. How much more can we stand without getting The Law involved in these sorts of horrible mind games? This is not comforting or entertainment – this is blatant criminality of the worst kind. Sylvia and her ilk make a very good living doing this day in and day out. How many other people have had their lives, hopes and dreams shattered by these predatory harpies?

Browne to Miller: “ She’s not alive, honey.”

The Hornbeck Family

The Hornbeck Family

In a related development: French television news program “Enquete exclusive – Voyants, mediums, mentalistes revelations sur leurs mysterieux pouvoirs’” which featured myself and CFI/IIG’s Jim Underdown, showcased through amazing interview footage the entire Shawn Hornbeck drama. If you are not already familiar with Browne’s mis-deeds in this matter – it’s too much to go into here. Let’s just say once again, Sylvia told Shawn’s parents on nationwide television he was dead when he was later found quite well and alive.

French program here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34Iji3aMAa0

Not only do the Hornbeck parents come forward and speak out about the emotional damage that ravenous bad-tempered shrew Browne inflicted on their lives, they also give a very negative shout out to that other slimeball James VanPraagh for doing the same sort of “comforting.”

Maureen Hancock

Maureen Hancock

In the “Enquete” program, “The Medium Next Door,” everybody’s darling Maureen Hancock also gets her fair share of explicit exposing when Jim and I reveal the latest trend in mediumship: using “hot reads” taken from credit card information to later reveal dramatic “hits” in a live audience performance. This isn’t a magic or mentalism show folks, this is a con pure and simple.

Later in another segment of the program, Hancock is also shown in her opulent home psychically picking out suspects and leading police (and another mother of a missing woman) on wild goose chases that lead everybody off the track. It is obvious Maureen is bluffing her way through the whole segment. Hancock has absolutely no track record anywhere for her claims as a successful “psychic detective” – other than her known background an “associate member” of the Licensed Private Detective Association of Massachusetts. What might that tell us about her ability to suss out information on people? So why isn’t this mis-use of private information a crime? Isn’t this tantamount to filing a false police report? Having the French television crew capturing her deceptions on camera in the presence of their own law enforcement officers should be extra embarrassing for the police involved. How do you feel about being seen internationally as dupes for this woman?

It is heartening to see Hornbeck’s parents speaking out so freely on the “Enquete’” special that has been seen by millions of French and European audiences, but where are the American counterparts in all this? There must be hundreds of stories and victim files on this sort of fraud. Why are we not seeing people stepping up who have been so abused by these media vultures?

As I have asked here at Skepticblog over and over: Isn’t this kind of money making enterprise. i.e. selling a product; (life and death information) under false pretenses (unproven psychic skills) against the law? Shouldn’t such conscious manipulators have to show in a court of law they can come up with the verified proof before they are allowed to waste time, money and manpower by continuing such outright deception?

I don’t understand how this goes on day after day without people so horribly burned by these cons seeking legal intervention or speaking up to the media. If they are so dispirited or too depressed to deal with coming forward themselves, well okay we have seen enough. Isn’t the justice system set up to protect those who cannot protect themselves? Are our law makers and police personnel really that inept and plain stupid? Sadly, (at least here in America) I think we all know the answer to that question.

In answer to those who object to my calling out or using all caps to say DO SOMETHING without any place to go to learn how and what to do, there are tons on vids, lectures and podcasts by myself on these subjects at my website www.themarkedward.com and here’s a great link:

http://www.skepticink.com/gps/2012/11/16/protesting-pseudoscience-a-how-to-guide/

And here’s a major working group for those of you who don’t want to leave the house and want to do something in your jammies:

http://guerrillaskepticismonwikipedia.blogspot.com/2013/05/gsow-rocks-internet-with-major-updates.html

I realise it may be way to soon to expect anyone to step forward an speak up against psychic mediums in the Amanda Berry case, and with Mom dead, …well who is to do the speaking up? It’s a double tragedy this time.

Give up Sylvia.

For whatever it’s worth: I’m calling out the family of Amanda Berry and Amanda Berry herself, along with her community, local media and law enforcement to DO SOMETHING about the rising tide of scum-bags like Sylvia Browne and the damage they inflict on everybody concerned in these fiascoes. Pretending to receive messages from beyond or deferring to any form of “psychic powers” concerning missing persons has to stop or at the very least be exposed as the terrible scam it is.  

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21 Responses to “Dead Wrong, …Again”

  1. Patrick says:

    And yet another post from Mark Edward that tells us to “DO SOMETHING” (in all-caps this time!) without even suggesting a course of action.

    Mark, the internet is not your personal army. You can’t just make blog posts that says “DO SOMETHING” and expect “SOMETHING” to happen. You have to, at the very least, make a case for how the issue at hand affects the reader (which I think you’ve done an excellent job of here), and you also have to suggest some specific course of action.

    Lets use the protest song “United Breaks Guitars” as an example. It’s catchy, It says what the problem is, and the chorus suggests actions the listener could take (fly with someone else or go by car).

    • RM says:

      He does very clearly state what that “something” should be. Amanda herself, and her parents, should get to the large-scale news media, social media, and widely reaching forms of communication like the Hornbeck Family has done, and denounce the false psychics and fraudulent moneymakers. To call them out for their nearly blatant crimes.
      I don’t see how you missed that, but that is very definitely the Call to Action here.

      • politicocoa says:

        RM, her mother’s dead, after she gave up hope after Browne’s BS. And Mark, Of course I agree that Browne’s a parasite feeding off vulnerable people’s misery and desperation, but your inability to understand why people get so desperate to consult these fraudsters, and your glib call to Amanda Berry and family to “take action” after just 24 hours of freedom when I’d applaud her for just taking one day at a time in trying to get some sort of normality back to normality, is the sort of thing that gives sceptics a bad name as cold unfeeling types who can rationalise anything and put it in a neat box. Yes, she should never work again, and ideally be jailed under whatever the US equivalent of the trade desscriptions act is (a UK law that bans anyone from selling something that isn’t what they claim it to be). But if you don’t understand why people consult them, put yourself in their place – desperate, perhaps not with your education benefits, and don’t expect them to be at the vanguard of your campaign.

      • Susan Gerbic says:

        I’m sure there are other things on her mind right at the moment. It may take years before she is able to speak about what happened to her.

        I just wish that if she manages to put out a press release, thanking everyone for the work they did, not giving up hope and so on. Wish she would say “BTW Fuck you Sylvia Browne for telling my mother to give up hope finding me” that would be awesome!

        That quote would go global and might be the end of the clawed one.

      • Mark Edward says:

        It’s way beyond simply being compassionate or understanding why people are desperate enough to consult these sub-human creatures posing as help right now.

        We already know why the bereaved go there. That’s not the issue for me anymore.

        I’m far from a cold unfeeling type. I’m sickened and more importantly – angry.

        Writing here is just one way of doing something when I see so much pain and misery being unleashed when a little action might really help in the long run.

        There’s nothing glib about my “call to arms” either. If victims like Amanda Berry took a second or two during an news interview to say something like, “How dare Sylvia Browne tell my mother I was dead and to stop looking for me,”(right now and not later when this story cools down)I’m positive it would sink Browne and a big bunch of her followers for good. Or a least put a big dent until Sylvia herself is pushing up daisies.

        Yep. This most definitely is “yet another” post in that direction.

        Patrick: I can’t spoon feed you if you aren’t imaginative or committed enough to think of something on your own. That’s cool. Activism may not be possible for you. But don’t put me down for trying to get people on board. I’ve seen skeptics in the streets. The books, podcasts, lectures and vids about “how to” are all out there to learn from if you have a mind to. Check my website for starter tools to get involved.

        Others like the people who joined me on the street in Las Vegas last year didn’t have a problem getting my message:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3YC0U2ZRWQ
        That’s just how some of us roll.

      • MichaelWH says:

        Wow! What a smug, self-righteous prick!

        “If victims like Amanda Berry *WHO ARE NOW TRYING TO PUT TOGETHER A LIFE ROBBED FROM THEM FOR A DECADE* would only condemn Sylvia Browne instead of focusing on, you know, their life, my activist hobby horse would be so much easier to ride!”

        It’s people like you, Mr. Edward, that have me avoid anybody and any organization that uses the term “activist” in describing themselves, even if I agree with their purported cause.

        Congratulations on losing another potential supporter.

        You dick.

  2. Susan Gerbic says:

    There are also many ways to “DO SOMETHING” and it all varies depending on your degree of skill and investment in this problem. Personally I lead a team of Wikipedia editors that makes sure we get these updates on her (and also the Amanda Berry) and all the other psychic pages. We need to get this message out to the world, not just to our skeptical choir. This is the GSoW team that anyone can join and support with an hour a week. Our work on Wikipedia reaches hundreds of thousands of readers each month.

    I also have a project called SkepticAction that you can follow on twitter or Facebook that is trying to ensure whenever someone goes to Browne (or other’s) pages they get a Red WoT warning. Over 72 million people use WoT so this is amazing outreach.

    Another great way to help out is to join Rbutr which has you add rebuttals to pages that are pro-psychic. (or actually any topic) Google Rbutr to find out more.

    Lots of other ways to be involved, write letters to your local news paper asking them to publish the link between Berry and Browne. Encourage the media that we want less reality shows and more science shows. We want Skepticism and Science choices, no more ice truckers. If we don’t tell them, they don’t know we want this.

    Sponsor a SkeptiCamp in your area, join a skeptic meetup or start one. Having like-minded thinkers to talk to and join with is amazing.

    Sponsor (with micro-payments) a podcast or video blog that encourages this kind of work.

    Write reviews on iTunes for your favorite podcasts.

    Years ago, Ramon who was a reader here at SkepticBlog wrote an amazing letter to his local ABC TV affiliate in Saint Louis (?) about a psychic that was listed on their website. His tongue-in-cheek letter asked them to encourage the psychic to take the Million dollar challenge and donate the winnings to the local elementary schools in the area. That letter along with Mark repeatedly calling up the TV station (with different personas) during their “ask an expert” segment and asking to talk to the psychic. They finally removed the woman from the website and I bet there will be no more added.

    Patrick, I’m really not picking on you specifically here (though it seems like it) You are asking a valid question. What are we supposed to do? The answer is never clear, like with Ramon, he just came up with the idea out of the blue. We are smart people, we need to think outside the box and see what you can come up with. Maybe it isn’t exactly going to relate to Browne and Berry, but maybe some other psychic, or maybe homeopathy, or troothers or something you feel passionate about.

    The idea is to just Do Something.

  3. Cambias says:

    If you want to Do Something, find someone with legal standing to sue her. Don’t just boldface at the Berry family: contact them. See if they are mad enough at Browne to bring legal action. If not them, what about other past victims? The current publicity might motivate someone who otherwise would let it go.

    Don’t make them spend money, though. See what the Skeptic community can do about funding a lawsuit or providing pro bono attorneys. Again, you’re the one who’s got connections: use them. See if Penn Jillette or Randi’s foundation can help.

    I’m not a lawyer, but I am a writer. I can kick in some money, I can kick in some time to write press releases. Anybody else?

    • Daniel says:

      It’s very hard to sue a psychic in the US anyway. First, any psychic that you could ever hope to collect any money from, like Mark Edward or Browne, in all likelihood makes you sign waivers and disclosure forms up the wazoo. Second, even if you could sue for something like fraud, your recovery in all likelihood would be limited to getting your money back for services that were actually not rendered. You can’t sue a psychic for consequential damages, such as emotional distress or even wrongful death as a result of suicide or something like that. The same way a Madoff victim can, theoretically anyway, sue him to get his money back, but not for health problems suffered as a result of losing all of your money.

      You could always pass criminal laws, but you get into dangerous territory of infringing on free speech, and difficulty in crafting a law that only covers what you want it to — millions of people make a living predicting the future in some form or another. Do you really want to lock up some small tarot card reader, most of whose clients do it for fun, or ban newspapers from publishing horoscopes under threat of criminal prosecution?

      The best thing to do is to keep fighting the good fight and educate people to the best one can about the methods of psychics and giving clear cut examples of them being dead wrong. Some people will never get it or not even want to get it. But such is life unfortunately.

      • Mark Edward says:

        I sincerely hope you meant John Edward and not Mark Edward in your first sentence…

      • Daniel says:

        Haha… maybe John Edward might sue you for using his last name. Or better yet, perhaps you can sue him to change his name to “John I Have No Psychic Abilities”.

    • Mark Edward says:

      I have been in touch with JREF. Waiting on that now. We can only hope that in the upcoming press conference, Amanda Berry finds a quick moment to stick it to Sylvia and mediums in general,giving this whole story a news worthy finale.

      If anyone out there reading this will be at that press conference or is in a position to get a comment or question to Berry, please do now. The longer this media circus goes on, the less chance people will pay attention when the next atrocious story comes along.

  4. tmac57 says:

    The story is starting to gain some traction:

    http://gma.yahoo.com/psychic-said-amanda-berry-dead-silent-berry-found-212849667–abc-news-topstories.html

    I was pleased to see that the comments were (mostly) condemning Browne’s actions.

  5. Mark Edward says:

    There is supposed to be a press conference today (May 8)with Amanda Berry. Let’s hope she’s not a woo and spills some shit on Sylvia. So far, everybody seems more focused on Charlie Ramsey and his McDonalds career.

  6. Mark Edward says:

    Patrick:

    Here you go.

    Spread the word, get busy and I promise not to use any more caps.

    http://www.skepticink.com/gps/2012/11/16/protesting-pseudoscience-a-how-to-guide/

  7. George DeMoura says:

    While the last person I would consult in a time of dire crisis would be a psychic, the desperate and heartbroken will cling to any flotsam in the sea of their despair. Most of these charlatans, however, are in the business of selling false hope, preying on the most vulnerable by telling them what they want, or tragically, need to hear. This sort of chicanery is heinous enough and should be exposed for the exploitative scam that it is. But telling a frightened and grieving parent “Hey your kid is dead meat,” is a vileness that could only be committed by an absolute psychopath, a creature living in an ethical void.
    Here’s hoping that Sylvia Browne and her ilk are publicly slaughtered in the media. I truly wish there were some realistic recourse to the law, but there isn’t. The preceding comment on entertainment and first amendment rights, etc. covered that point.
    My regret, being a cynic as much as a skeptic, is that in the end it will make little difference, whatever the outcome. People are more often than not willfully ignorant and will believe what they want to believe. Unfortunately what they choose to believe is rarely something so obvious as the truth.

  8. Susan Gerbic says:

    Doubt that Sylvia will be touring Ohio anytime soon. But we can help her end her tour. Do it while the iron is hot.

    http://skepticaction.blogspot.com/2013/05/sylvia-browne-tour-dates.html

  9. Mark Edward says:

    And This Just In:

    Fox News has issued a statement (apparently from Browne’e camp):

    “We’re told that Sherry Cole, Amanda Berry’s cousin, also reached out to Browne on Wednesday to offer support.

    “Our family in no way blames Sylvia. This doesn’t change anything. We still love her and believe in her,” Cole stated, according to Browne’s team.

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2013/05/09/celebrity-psychic-sylvia-browne-under-fire-for-telling-amanda-berrys-mom-was/#ixzz2SmnABskR

    Are you angry enough yet?
    Stupid America Has Spoken

  10. Dan Johnson says:

    Bad press and debate might actually benefit the fake psychics, in the same way that creationists want to endlessly debate their disproven and idiotic claims. A lawsuit by Ms. Berry or other relatives would be better to see, but the risk would be more than just losing. The lawsuit might be seen as vexatious, and benefit the charlatans financially. On the other hand, almost no judge would decide to hurt Ms. Berry. It would be great to see the fakes sued in civil court.

  11. Angelena says:

    I just wanted to share my experiences of contacting a psychic in the UK for research purposes. Because I am aware of their various techniques I didn’t give anything away. The guy told me I was offensive and rude and his terms said people had to be open and honest (!) otherwise the call would be terminated. He then told me to go away and reflect on my impertinence before cutting the call.
    Says it all really.