SkepticblogSkepticblog logo banner

top navigation:

Psychic Retirement Party?

by Mark Edward, Oct 24 2008

I just received an email touting Sylvia Browne’s “Farewell Tour,” with tickets from $65–85. The blurb on her website reads:

After decades of traveling to hundreds of cities around the world to meet new fans like you and share her wisdom and insights about past lives, spirit guides, future predictions, spirituality, and handling life’s biggest challenges — Sylvia has come to the end of this chapter in her life. Before she embarks on a new journey of reducing her traveling time, spending more personal time with her loved ones, and more quality time writing her books, Sylvia would like to invite you to join her on her 2008 Farewell Tour.

Could this be a harbinger of things to come? Has Sylvia finally made enough money and decided to cash in and quietly disappear? Has she had a change of heart? Did she wake up and look in the mirror one morning and finally see something honest and courageous staring out from under those bangs? Could there be a conscience buried under all that bull crap? I doubt that Sylvia has been losing much sleep, but without some research which I’m loathe to do, I wonder what exactly “farewell” in this case means? No more Larry King appearances? Since Randi has now “retired,” could we be seeing a pattern emerging? Will Geller be the next to step down? I’m skeptical of that whole “Farewell” line anyway, having lived through at least six tours hearing the same tag line by The Who that went on for years despite half the band dying off. This ploy always sells plenty of tickets. I wonder what’s really going on? Are we finally tired of all that shtick? Maybe we have reached a millennium where we just don’t believe anything anybody says anymore? Has Double-Speak become Numb-Speak?

Who will replace this diva of disgrace if she embarks on her new journey? And more to the point, who is going to step up and go after these low-life fat rat psychic weasels now? I hate beating a dead horse, but this one’s never had a proper thrashing unless you count Penn & Tellers take apart of Roesmary Altea that I was lucky enough to be a part of. Now THAT was a bit of reality television. There’s just nothing going on these days, and yet there a constant drum beat for CHANGE. Well, how and who is going to change the bombast of Oprah’s, Montells and other peddlers of psi-bull?

Not “The Mentalist” as far as I know. He’s a fictional cut-out and apparently not a likable fellow to watch. Therein lies the crux of the issue as far as I’m concerned. We need a sort of friendly (and dare I say “folksy?” ) type of person who can connect with the masses without too much anger or hubris, like an Andy Rooney of the paranormal to shake things up, laugh at and sanely put a humorous spin on the real world of the psychic. Right? Wrong? What happened? What’s to be done? Got a better idea? It really gives me the blues — I call it the Psychic Blues.
I’m interested in knowing if anyone really cares at all anymore. We still have John Edward somewhere out there with Van Praagh creeping around, but they remain unchallenged. I’m a bit bugged that nothing ever came of Larry King’s part in all this too. What can we do? I have been in the midst of the snake pit that is the psychic mess, and I think I know where most of the bodies are buried, but I can’t do it all myself. I still get hate mail for what little I have done.

We need a new way to set the record straight. Offering money in million dollar challenges obviously doesn’t work. What ideas do you have for how to inject CHANGE into the coming year? I think we can expect some new super-psychic to appear at any minute to don the mantle left behind by Browne, Geller and who knows who else. It’s just a matter of time before someone steps up to the plate and people like Larry King are waiting.
What will we give them? More relevant questions to ask? A sting? Better options besides strident skeptics? Here’s a big bunch of questions. Pick one and answer it.

Skeptically Yours,
Mark Edward

21 Responses to “Psychic Retirement Party?”

  1. Tressa says:

    How about an American “Carlos” trained and backed by the JREF and the Skeptologists?

  2. Mad Hussein LOLscientist, FCD says:

    Dear Sylvia will be back, even if she has to be reincarnated to do it.

    That’s my prophecy, and I’m sticking to it.

    p.s. we can has feedburner? I’m one of the crazy few who prefers to get my feeds via e-mail. Less messing with browser tabs and stuff. With e-mail I can just skim and delete, one after the other.

  3. Skepacabra says:

    Well I still think the Million Dollar Challenge is a good arguing point, one worth preserving even though I do understand why Randi is retiring it. Or least I understand why he outsourced the initialed tests to other skeptics and made it harder to reach the level where the JREF has to deal with them.

    Another useful tool I think is for more skeptics to follow the Robert Lancaster “Stop Sylvia Browne” model and create websites devoted to just one target in the world of woo woo. Obviously Randi’s been THE GUY when it comes to Uri Geller. Lancaster has dibs on Sylvia Browne. Mark Roberts is at least the go-to guy for debunking 9/11 conspiracy theories. Steve Novella’s got a great feud going with David Kirby. Orac’s constantly debating Jay Gordon in the comments section of Orac’s blog. Kylie Sturgess, another skeptic, and I have just started to address Jenny McCarthy’s claims. If every skeptical activist were in addition to promoting general skepticism focus on one particular target, I think it would at least be beneficial.

  4. Steve says:

    “Before she embarks on a new journey of reducing her traveling time…”

    I just wanted to highlight this clause from Browne’s site so we can savour its deliciously inappropriate metaphor a little more.

    But unfortunately it doesn’t like she’s starting a new chapter of publishing fewer books!

    On that topic, one of times I feel the most despair is when I stray into the Spirituality or Self-help (usually overlapping) sections in a bookshop. Perhaps one approach could be to somehow shame these shops, supposedly repositories of wisdom and truth, into reducing the representation of charlatans. Not that I know how!

  5. Jim Shaver says:

    But unfortunately it doesn’t [look] like she’s starting a new chapter of publishing fewer books!

    Good one, Steve! :D Hopefully, Sylvia doesn’t think she’s like the Eagles and can have as many farewell tours as she wants.

  6. Dave Dufour says:

    Could Sylvia be packing it in after the last couple of years in which she’s made some extremely embarrassing predictions? This way, she can avoid screwing up again on the Montel Williams show.

  7. Annie Morris says:

    Please bear in mind that this is my personal opinion only, but I think “The Mentalist” is a good (wait for it) medium (yech!) to push the skeptical message. Time and time again they deny psychics. I only hope that the producers stick to their guns and don’t let the woo get in, in any way shape or form.

    I find the character of Patrick Jane quite endearing, but that could just be me…

    The world needs more “stop……coms”, as I believe that the internet is one of the most powerful tools for educating average people.

    I don’t think that there will be another super psychic any time soon. They are far too easily exposed nowadays.

    Be strong!

  8. Freduardo says:

    I knew this was going to happen….!

  9. Jesse says:

    If she does indeed slow down, its probably because of of her major meal tickets isn’t around anymore. She won’t have the exposiure from Montel William’s show anymore.

  10. Chris Kavanagh says:

    I really enjoyed Derren Brown’s ‘Messiah’ which I think provided a good deal of ammo for those who would argue that the ‘powers’ demonstrated by pyschics/healers/mediums can’t be replicated. More of Derren’s shows and shows of that ilk certainly wouldn’t go amiss. Or maybe Derren could just raise his profile in America?

    Or the Skeptologists could just make it to the air and become a run away hit! ;)

  11. Yay! It’s finally over!

    No wait….she’s devoting more time to writing her books?


  12. JoAnne says:

    It isn’t a trend if someone who’s old enough to retire, retires. According to wikipedia, she’s 72 years old. Not everyone wants to or is even able to work into her seventies.

    Maybe some of the new psychics are in communities we don’t belong to.
    Just because we skeptics, mostly white (as the population is), mostly educated, mostly web-savvy, haven’t heard of the next big thing, doesn’t mean it’s not already out there, gaining popularity where we aren’t.

    One of the repositories of magical thinking is religion — if religion is getting stronger, that can take the place of out-and-out psychics. Especially the more woo-woo religious groups that see Satan lurking around every corner.

    It may not even matter if there’s a replacement for Sylvia Browne. I’m thinking that irrationality doesn’t have to have a head to live. Psychics in the media are becoming more amateur, following the examples of porn and reality TV.

    It’s cheap to hire a couple of presenters and have no-name people walking through houses that are supposedly “haunted.”

    Check out the city closest to you and see if there’s a haunted [cityname] tour.

    Check your local alternative rag and see how many ads for psychics are still listed.

  13. Skeptic in Mormon Land says:

    I think it takes someone with either zero moral barometer or recurrent psychotic episodes to flood the world with all the garbage that Sylvia has, and it almost causes physical pain to think someone may take her place in the constant mental de-evolution of society.

    If only we did have a spokesperson that was respected and admired and capable. If only we still had Carl Sagan.

  14. Chris R says:

    Too bad we can’t classify Sylvia’s books as fiction in libraries and bookstores.

  15. shonny says:

    Why not do it the proper red-neck way, – put the cow out of her misery for good? Euthanasia for a good cause!
    And make it into an ongoing trend for swindlers like her. They’d all leave the world a better place by their demise.

  16. Adam says:

    “Too bad we can’t classify Sylvia’s books as fiction in libraries and bookstores.”

    When i worked in a charity bookshop i saw LOTS of crappy psycic UFO, and ghost books (my “favourite” was Angel Therapy, which i actually saw someone reading the other day on the train) one of my jobs was to take old books down and put new ones up (since they where all donated if they didn’t sell in 2 weeks they where thrown out), and there was many times when i would throw out a Sylvia Browne book and feel an enourmous sense of wellbeing. Safe in the knowledge that they where all going to be turned into toilet paper (or whatever they do with old books, probably turn them into better books).

  17. TSpencer says:

    Why is SB retiring? If you look at how she treats her “followers” nowadays, I think she is flat-out getting sick of it. I wouldn’t start celebrating just yet, though. When one of them leaves, two more take their place. She’s been grooming her son to take her place, anyway.

    I read an article recently in either the Seattle Times or the Seattle PI that talked about people’s horrible first dates, and one person they interviewed claimed to be a psychic medium and she whined about how she can never get a second date because she freaks guys out when she spends the whole first date communicating messages from their departed loved ones. What a quack…

  18. [...] Psychic Retirement Party? [...]

  19. MarkA says:

    I see no hope for putting psychics out of business any time soon. People (not us, of course) *like* psychics. Even some members of the audience of Montel Williams probably has some doubt of her authenticity, but it is still fun to believe it can happen.

    The most productive way to combat wide-spread believe in woo will be to come up with an equally entertaining way to present skepticism. Not dry documentaries, but perhaps a mentalist who can do the Sylvia Browne schtick while making it clear that it is just carnival side-show illusion. Criss Angel is doing this very well, but we need someone on the daytime TV talk show circuit, too. I hope that the “Skeptologists” will be a positive step for the prime-time audience, too.

  20. One idea that would be helpful would be to push for legislation requiring psychics to have licenses. If they claim to have some sort of supernatural ability, good for them. They’ll have to be able to prove through an accepted form of testing that they are capable of that ability so as not to commit fraud. Then, any psychic working without a license giving readings would be violating the law.

  21. Having done a search for psychic mediums on Bing I came across your website, and am I thankful I did. I am impressed with the amount of info I have discovered here, and I am certain that this will be not merely helpful to me but to others also. I have appended you to my list of favorite blogs and will be back on a regular basic