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Sylvia Shakedown Pt. II

by Mark Edward, Jan 09 2010
Tyrone Power: Inspiration for a Fall

Tyrone Power: Inspiration for a Fall

By now whatever has hit that fan will have hit. It doesn’t matter to me whether or not you agree with what I did. The main thing to bear it mind was that I did SOMETHING.Those who may complain about the details, the ethics of fighting fire with fire or whether or not we have to take some sort of higher moral ground need to step aside and let FORCE ONEdo what it has to do.  Every day that goes by with the likes of  Browne, Coffey and whoever pitches the woo in your neighborhood is a day that denies bereaved people their right to have peace with their departed loved ones, sick or diseased people proper access to competent medical care and the personal freedoms to be able to decide for themselves what and how their own futures will play out.


Don’t get me wrong. I have little confidence that the rubes who lined up alongside me that night will ever care a whit about truth or what a person like Sylvia can do. They don’t care, take joy in dwelling on the misfortunes of others or are blissfully and willingly ignorant. I have pity on them all, but the head of the snake must be removed to have any lasting effect.

It was never my sole intention to try to save any of them from what they crave anymore than how I might vainly attempt to dissuade a drug addict or a alcoholic from destroying their life. I would like to make difference for them , but I’m not stupid enough to think standing up and calling Sylvia out as a fraud in the crowd that night would have made any difference at all. In fact, it’s my opinion that I would have been booed and abruptly removed like any of the countless other people who have tried in vain to call her out on her treachery in public. People make choices and they have to live with them.

No, I was going for something more dramatic and hopefully more effective. It was SYLVIA HERSELF whose bow I meant to send a warning shot across. She now knows that there will be people like myself standing in line with the other sheep no matter where she goes. If there is any doubt left in her mind that she is not safe to tread the boards unchallenged, last Tuesday night at the Universal Amphitheatre should have given her pause to consider. Hopefully, FORCE ONE has lighted a fuse in the hearts and minds of many other outraged citizens (skeptical or not) who previously might have thought they were helpless in the face of these monsters. The first prong of my two-pronged pitchfork was to get in her face.

A2COLNNCAQNBDA4CA90O2W6CA5XP9Q3CA9VAY0PCARJPMH9CAW4BORBCAR9W0JKCAMH7QMZCAR2FQF9CA4L6CX9CA4RYWIGCAT6S2ZUCA3FYYORCAGD1VBOCAODJIG8CA769PHQCA2P7JLJCAZCAKFBCANP4534I have always admired Tyrone Power’s supreme moment in “Nightmare Alley”(1948) when as mentalist The Great Stanton, he gets the entire audience in the palm of his hand by blurting out a rambling bunch of pre-planned “visions,” then crumples into an unconscious pile on the stage. I have tried this ruse a few times in seance situations and always found it a show stopper. When I have had the nerve to apply this technique, I will lie perfectly still until someone wonders aloud if I’m okay or attempts to rouse me by shaking me back into consciousness. This is albeit a shaky premise for the standard crowd, but in this instance at Universal; this was anything but a standard crowd and as any good skeptic knows, extraordinary claims require, …well you know, …extraordinary bullshit.

In the few minutes I had to cobble together my plan that night, I had to make a choice of my own: stay in the comfort zone and go home that night unfulfilled or go over the top and face the consequences. I chose the latter.

Tyrone Power Delivering One of the Greatest Cold Readings in History "Nightmare Alley" (1948)

Tyrone Power Delivering One of the Greatest Cold Readings in History "Nightmare Alley" (1948)

Most of the audience had been given red tickets as they entered which were to be used as a raffle. If your number was called, you were invited to come down to the stage and get in line for a reading. Since I arrived quite early on, I had not been given a number, but I figured… who would check the numbers anyway? If I just got up and came down to the stage, nobody was likely to look at my ticket. I was fully prepared to go up anyway.

As it turned out, three other people from a local skeptic group had been given tickets. When I told them during intermission what steps I had already taken and that I really wanted to shake up the audience, each kindly proffered their ticket. 

But wouldn’t you know it, …the last number Montel called out was indeed my number! Providence? Hmmmmmm. Maybe it was my spirit guide or something. I might not have been able to summon the courage I needed to get up if it hadn’t been a genuine  number, but when I looked down at the ticket in my hand, there it was. I knew I had to act. My number was up.

On the way down to the stage area and while I listened to the other questions, I determined that I would go into a trance of my own, playing on Sylvia’s own psychic shtick, acting as if the voices of the dead people I had memorized from my list were speaking through me to her. I wanted to tell her they were angry that she had put their parents and relatives through such pain. It worked beautifully, but by the time I had uttered the second name, Montel(who has obviously been hired to “moderate” Sylvia’s answers, prime her and keep her on track) began to interrupt as both of them quickly figured out what was going on. It would have been difficult to continue any other way and make any sort of dignified escape from the spotlight at that point.

Tyrone Power Getting Ready to Collapse in "Nightmare Alley" (1948)

Tyrone Power Getting Ready to Collapse in "Nightmare Alley" (1948)

So, staying in character; I pulled a “Tyrone” and slumped to the floor, making sure to take the microphone and stand with me for good measure. I stayed inert with eyes closed on the floor for several seconds waiting to hear what would happen. I was shocked when I heard no further comment from Sylvia about me or my condition and that she quickly went right on with the next person in line. That alone should have told any compassionate human beings who happened to be in the audience what an uncaring individual she is. I might have been dead for all she cared. Truth is, – she probably hoped by then that I was dead.

Soon I could hear one of her handlers tell the usher to call 911. I quickly surmised this ballgame would be a big mistake for me to continue. I wasn’t about to incur any ambulance bills, carry on my act to the hospital or fake anything any longer. I told the assembled throng that I was okay and shambled up the stairs accompanied by two Amphitheatre guards.

I was escorted to a back stage area, where the in-house first aid person showed up to check me out. She was a nice helpful young lady in her twenties who skillfully took my pulse and blood pressure. Both turned out to be normal. She was as puzzled as everybody else. I tried to tell her that I might have just lapsed into a light trance or not eaten enough that night, but when she began to take out triplicate paperwork that looked official, I knew the game was up. The guards had gone back to watching the show, so I spilled the beans to her. I told her I was a psychic investigator who was investigating the claims of Sylvia Browne and trying to get her to look like the fraud she is in front of the audience. She lightened up and was very interested in a non-official capacity. And now here’s the kicker as far as she was concerned:

After telling her in no uncertain terms that I was a skeptic and out to nail this phony medium, she asked me for a reading! Unbelievable! She actually said to me, “Will my husband get a good job soon.?  For me, this was one of the most surreal parts of the whole evening. This was a staff EMT person! She was trained in science and facts, yet she still thought I could give her some sort of advice even after I told her I was an outright fraud.

We are in deep trouble folks. If this sort of situation isn’t ripe for reality television, I don’t know what is.

You can’t write comedy like this.

For those wondering what the second prong of my two pronged attack was, it was my own way of trying to generate some curiosity in the same names I blurted out to the audience that night. I trusted (perhaps naively) that many people would want to know who exactly I was talking about. This part of the deal make take years to really make a difference, but it was worth a shot.

Before leaving for the show that night, I typed up four sqaures on a sheet of 8×11 copy paper with these names in bold 30pt. type:

Opal Jo Jennings

Terrence Farrell

Saga Mine

Holly Krewson

Lynda McClelland

No explanations were given, just those key words and names in bold black print. I then copied around 60 copies of this page, then cut them into quarters, giving me 240 tight little notes I could comfortably fit in my coat pocket.

I got to the Universal Amphitheatre early. In fact I was one of the first people there. Right away I went into the men’s restroom. Once I was sure I was alone and not seen, I took out my bundle from my pocket and put small piles of these “announcements” on every flat sink, urinal and toilet surface I could find. In a venue like the Universal Amphitheatre, this is considerable. The restrooms are large lounge areas that service dozens of people. After finishing my distribution of these mini-flyers, I went into the main room and waited for the place to fill up. The room only partially filled, leaving huge gaps of seating. I would say it was about a third full, and even this space was curtained off from the room’s full potential. As we got closer to showtime, I went back in to see if anyone had “cleaned-up” my little diversion. Everything was still there as I had left it.

Right after it was announced that there would be a fifteen minute intermission (to allow Sylvia’s son to do readings and her husband to sell cheap jewelry in the lobby) I went back to check on the restroom. It was still basically untouched. 

After everyone came back into the room, it was assured tha a goodly proportion of the male crowd had either seen these “prompts” or had them in their possession. I could have printed on them too, but decided that to do so would only be something easy for the believers to ignore or throw away in their righteous indignation.

With just the names, my hope was to engender curiosity. Or if the people reading them already knew what these key words represented, spur them on to anger or some display of dissension. Granted, it was only males I was allowed time enough to cover, but my feeling was that most of the women were died -in-wool- shut eyes (believers) and that men or husbands who may have been dragged to the show by their wives would be  more likely to share my angst.

At the end of the show as I was walking through the lobby, a guy came up and showed me one of the yellow notes and asked, “…What’s this all about?” I shrugged and replied that I didn’t know but that it was weird that those were the same names I kept hearing in my head. I suggested that he go home and Google them and see what comes up.  He then asked me to sign his paper. I scrawled my name and turned away, but not before he asked to shake my hand. Apparently, at least one person was already on my team. I’m still not sure what he thought. After all, I’m not a mindreader…

I can only hope several hundred other people might stop and think about what they heard. This is what I do. This is what YOU should be doing if you have the will to make a difference. Think up your own stratedgies, It needn’t be quite as confrontive or dramatic. But DO SOMETHING!

In a strange up-date to my previous post: As I mentioned earlier, one of Sylvia’s lines that was memorable to me was telling someone that “coins” would be a sign that their spirit guide was trying to reach them. Most of us find a coin or two in the street once in awhile and we don’t attach any particular significance to it. It just happens. I never thought much of it but to remind myself when this occurs that, “…a penny saved is a penny earned.”  Today when I came to work, I found a pile of pennies placed next to the bottom of a light pole outside. Of course, searching for deep meaning in this after my experience, I was momentarily struck by the oddness of this event. Here was a pile of coins – not just one or two. Was it a sign? I counted them out and there are 52 pennies. Could this be the Saga miners or some of the other dead entities trying to tell me they are with me? Weaker minds might think so.

AND THIS JUST IN:Through sources I am not at liberty to divulge, Sylvia’s own spirit guide Francine has contacted me in a dream (as well as posting as JREF’s Swift blog and here at skepticblog in the comments section) letting me know that afte  Sylvia’s December 29th performance, she is no longer interested in being involved in any capacity with Sylvia Browne. She has handed in her resignation vision to Sylvia after having reached her limit with Browne’s trashy behavior and has now offered to become my own spirit guide to help me in my FORCE ONE endeavors. Stay tuned for more thrills…

JREF Swiftblog and Sylvia Gets Punked Video at:


“And the crowd was stilled. One elderly man, wondering at the sudden silence, turned to the Child and asked him to repeat what he had said. Wide-eyed, the Child raised his voice and said once again, “Why the Emperor has no clothes. He’s naked!”

                                                                                    – The Emperor’s New Clothes



Keep Em’ Freaked…


French One-Sheet Poster for “Nightmare Alley” – Mandatory Viewing for any skeptical thinker! Available at

24 Responses to “Sylvia Shakedown Pt. II”

  1. stargazer9915 says:

    Hit her hard and hit her often. Keep up the good work Mr Edwards!

  2. Dwight says:

    What would happen if a hundreds skeptics showed up?
    That would be a site!

  3. AUJT says:

    Very nice touch with the mini fliers.

    “Unbelievable! She actually said to me, “Will my husband get a good job soon.?”

    Are you positive that she wasn’t joking? This sounds like something I might say just kidding. If I said JK every time that I was JK….

    Howsomever, I agree with you that we’re in deep trouble. IMHO the Bush administration created an environment conducive to unreality with W’s belief that “god” put him into office, the invasion of Iraq under false pretenses, the admin hiring Haliburton, Blackwater being hired as mercenaries of sorts and the list goes on. Point is that there is the general sense that BS, lying/making stuff up for what may be perceived as the common good or greater good is okie dokie fine and is being encouraged by much of the popular media. It needs to stop and I’m not terribly optimistic at this point.

    No, I don’t think all the BS started with the Bush admin but they certainly didn’t help and it seems that the proliferation of supernatural “reality” tv shows occurred within time frame of their influence.

    Mark, I applaud what you’re doing and if everyone that reads this does something *ANYTHING*, even if it’s only making yourself a bit smarter on the subject of these charlatans-remember that not one has ever found a missing person using supernatural abilities and I suspect that they’ve not using natural abilities- then perhaps our future will be a bit more of a rational one.

    • Trimegistus says:

      Thanks, AUJT, for making sure that anyone who voted for Bush knows they aren’t welcome in the skeptical community. Enjoy your little club, and do all you can to make sure it stays little.

      Yes, it’s all Bush’s fault. Liberals NEVER believe in paranormal nonsense. Scientology, “New Age” mysticism, “alternative medicine,” and the anti-nuclear hysteria of self-proclaimed “environmentalists” — those are PURE HARD SCIENCE, I guess.

      • AUJT says:


        Wow! You sure dug deep for that one. My observation had nothing to do with who may have voted for the junior Bush or their ideology and everything to do with the actions of the Bush administration and how it may have influenced certain portions of our society.

        Are you on the payroll of some charlatan psychic organization sent here to try and stir the pot?

        And to clarify for those who may have missed the context, there’s a difference between using deceit to expose fraud and using deceit to defraud.

  4. Brian says:

    I’m not sure that I would call Sylvia Browne the head of the snake. As long as there’s gobs of money to be made in the business, you can’t really stop people from getting into it. It feels to me that our culture needs to change first, either to become more skeptical, or to become more damning of taking advantage of people in such situations.

    Despite the above, I think your stunt was very much called for, and I do hope that you reminded her of the tangled web she’s made for herself.

  5. Nice job! I appreciate the aggressive tactics, but the story wasn’t clear to me from the video. You should recut it to get the good stuff quickly. I had to Google Farrell to follow the whole story. Not a ton of skeptics know the intimate details of just how bad she is.

    A good tactic to consider from NGOs that have done well with online videos is to make the short and end them with an ask. Have a frame at the beginning and end letting people they can read more here and at the Stop Sylvia Web site. Maybe even point them here:

    I think this has the potential to reach some people who might otherwise be taken in by her brand of woo.


  6. Vie says:

    “Every day that goes by with the likes of Browne, Coffey and whoever pitches the woo in your neighborhood is a day that denies bereaved people their right to have peace with their departed loved ones, sick or deceased people proper access to competent medical care and the personal freedoms to be able to decide for themselves what and how their own futures will play out.”

    Well… I don’t know how to break it to you… but when they choose to go see Sylvia Browne they are exercising their personal freedoms. Sylvia Browne and her ilk don’t stand outside with guns pointed to the heads of innocent bystanders forcing them into the audience. They’ve all chosen (and paid) to be there.

    Whether that’s right or wrong in our estimation is beside the point…

    They’ve exercised their right to decide what they want to do with their money, time, health, future, ect. and they have to be held at least a little responsible for that.

    While Sylvia may be selling snake oil… but people are buying it.
    As you so aptly pointed out to me, there are ample sight like
    StopSyliva that have information about her, and those can be accessed by anyone. It isn’t unreasonable to think these people should at least do some research before they plunk down upwards of $600 a pop.

    Hell, I research my insurance and it’s under $200. You acknowledged this, of course, by saying the following:

    “Don’t get me wrong. I have little confidence that the rubes who lined up alongside me that night will ever care a whit about truth or what a person like Sylvia can do. They don’t care, take joy in dwelling on the misfortunes of others or are blissfully and willingly ignorant. I have pity on them all, but the head of the snake must be removed to have any lasting effect.”

    If the people who believe in Sylvia are rubes, and you have no confidence you can change their minds, then who are you doing this for?

    Future rubes? Won’t future rubes just go find another guru?… (I hear Deepak Chopra is always willing to offer guidance…)? I’m having difficulty understanding your goal.

    Honestly, this entire stunt strikes me as histrionics, and I’m not sure that it’s necessarily preferable to Sylvia’s psychic talk. I see no evidence that such shenanigans (and that stunt can only really be captured by the word shenanigans) had any effect at all. I think all the woo woo master know you can’t be everywhere all the time, and it’s doubtful that Force One will have any longevity. Typically, such movements quickly collapse beneath their own weight.

    It also compromises any progress made by any critical thinking movement.

    If an ambassador for critical thinking (that’s you Mark) or the “skeptical community” as you guys insist on calling it (much to my horror) acts like a nut, it embarrasses everyone.

    I think this is a very poorly thought out scheme, more becoming of a sitcom hero than a skeptic.

    She does deserve it, but you’ve traded long term credibility for short term gratification.

    Honestly… I don’t know what else to say and I’m at a genuine loss for words. Have fun Mark!

    • Trausti says:

      So by your logic we should allow drug dealers to sell teenagers drugs. After all, the drug dealers don´t force them to buy drugs, the kids want them. Right?

      Wrong. Just be cause people fall for the scam doesn´t make it OK to scam people.

      As for Marks tactics, I´m not sure if I think they are effective or if i condone them. But at least he is DOING something to combat people exploiting grieving parents and stealing their money. Looking back a few months I cant say I did anything… well except for the odd forum bitching.

      What have YOU done?

      • oldebabe says:

        Yes, I second that. Having neither the skill nor the knowledge to be effective, all I can say is: Go, Mark.

  7. Timo Hietanen says:

    Good work. Although if in the future you do choose to include the URL in those notes, please put rather than stopsylviabrowne dot com, as the latter domain was unfortunately hijacked some time ago.

  8. AUJT says:


    I’m wondering if you see a correlation to what Mark is doing and what The Yes Men do? And do you feel that The Yes Men are harmful to their cause?

    • Max says:

      “Brüno meets Michael Moore”, bleh

      • AUJT says:


        You’ve seen the entire documentary The Yes Men Fix The World? Do you believe that The Yes Men are a harm to their cause? I don’t see the Bruno connection but that has nothing to do with the point so no need clearing that up for me.

      • Max says:

        I haven’t seen the documentary, but I know some of their pranks, which I don’t find favorable to their cause, but I can’t speak for others. I was also annoyed by “The truth” anti-smoking campaign, but it was somewhat effective.

      • AUJT says:

        “I haven’t seen the documentary, but I know some of their pranks, which I don’t find favorable to their cause”

        If nothing else they’ve served to uplift the spirits of the people of Bhopal, India (links below) who were victims of a gas leak from Union Carbide’s (now owned by Dow Chemical) pesticide plant. They championed misplaced Katrina victims in New Orleans and have helped make people aware of a number of injustices. I find what they do to be of value. You certainly don’t have to.

        As far as what Mark is doing goes, the more evidence that is available that shows Sylvia Brown et al is a charlatan the better IMHO. I can’t, in the least, see how that can be a bad thing. And anything that disrupts their process to any degree can only be a positive thing.

        “In the 2009 film The Yes Men Fix the World, the Yes Men travel to Bhopal to assess public opinion on their prank, and are surprised to find that the residents laud their efforts to bring responsibility to the corporate world.”

        The Times Of India 12-03-2009: “Abdul Jabbar Khan of the Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sangathan (BGPMUS) says that actually there is much more poisonous waste, which the company used to routinely bury in the premises since 1969. “There is no piped water supply. People still use contaminated groundwater daily,” he says. ”

  9. Sgerbic says:

    Possum Mark!

    I don’t think the man who at the end of the show asked about the yellow pieces of paper and shook your hand was on your side. I think he thought he had seen a “real” psychic just do his stuff at the mike and then faint. He probably went home and bragged that he shook the hand of the next up and coming psychic.

    What I hope is that these people who go home after a show of this type can’t wait to spill their wonder and excitement to waiting loved ones. (I’m talking about them telling what happened at the show) In the act of repeating the stories I hope that they see how superficial and bland the stories are. Imagine this interchange between people…

    Person A – “I just got back from seeing Sylvia Browne, I got to ask her a question, she told me my spirit guides name is Janet!!!!”

    Person B – “Yeah and what else?”

    Person A – “That was it, she just told me that.”

    Person B – “You paid $250 for some woman to tell you that? I could have told you that for free! What makes you think she actually KNOWS anything?”

    Okay, in my mind this is the kind of thing I hope happens. Like on the first season of Bullshit where Mark Edwards preformed. Rosemary had some poor man in tears, she had been telling him that she was in contact with the man’s mother. The man was soooo emotional smiling and snot coming out of his nose. The whole thing. But he contacted Penn & Teller afterward and wrote a letter saying that once he reflected on what Rosemary was saying he realized that she had told him nothing specific, and that once he started telling his wife what had happened he realized that he had been duped.


  10. Francine Raheim says:

    Dear Mark,

    Your efforts may not make a difference to all of those people. Robert Lancaster’s efforts may not, either. However it makes a difference to some. Plus you really REALLY pissed Sylvia off.

    The more disruption that is caused for her and the more her failures and inconsistencies are pointed out, the better. She no longer has the free advertising on Montel or Larry King and when the general public doesn’t see her on TV every week, they slowly start forgetting about her. Of course, she has die hard fans. She will always have them. But, some other people who may consider a reading or lecture with her might Google her. Well guess what? I’ve Googled her too. More negative sites come up than good.

    There is a reason for this. It took me a long time to wake up, but if I can then a lot more people can too.

    Sylvia looks at herself as untouchable and immune to following rules. She creates her own reality around her and lives foolishly in that world.

    Keep challenging her. She’s not that smart and responds to things like that because she gets angry. She doesn’t have the mental capacity for a real debate. She dismisses people who dare to present the truth or a slightly different viewpoint. Why do you think she didn’t bother to go on Anderson Cooper? Her only defense is saying that she’s never claimed to be 100% right. That’s because she knows she’s wrong but just won’t own up to it. She’s not intelligent enough to even try to present a case for herself. She just dismisses people like you as evil or a dark entity.

    Don’t be surprised that Sylvia didn’t bother to ask if you were o.k. Other people have had medical emergencies at her lectures (true medical emergencies) and she doesn’t care. She never acknowledges anyone that falls or has a heart attack or whatever.

    The only thing she says later is how fat, crippled, or old that person was and basically expresses her annoyance that someone took the spotlight off of her for even a few minutes while paramedics were working. Of course she doesn’t do this in front of the audience. Isn’t that nice that this is how she feels about people who spend hard earned money to go see her and take time to get there? Most of the people who believe in her and go see her are poor and some have handicaps- it’s hard for them to get the money for a ticket and for transportation and for babysitting. She doesn’t care about that.

    You don’t know how many people are overwhelmed with grief because they’ve lost someone close to them. She has the nerve to get impatient with them when they are at the microphone crying and asking her a question. All they want is some sort of validation to make sense of everything and to put their heart at ease. But she instead she gets rude and snaps at them because they are crying and looking for a clearer message than:

    Sylvia: “was he medium build, slightly heavy set, stunning smile, beautiful eyes, angular face”?

    Mourner: “yes, my son had beautiful green eyes”

    Sylvia: “he’s standing right behind you.”

    Audience: rejoices

    Mourner: “does he have a message for me”

    Sylvia: “that is the message! how would I know this, honey? I’m psychic”

    Audience: claps


    “thank you Sylvia”

    Remember- Sylvia can easily see the mother’s physical features and if she’s slightly overweight, chances are that her offspring might be too. If she has an angular face, or a round face, or whatever, her son probably does too. She presents details so they can easily be manipulated and changed based on the answer or reaction from the person. Besides, every person that has lost someone will agree that their loved one had beautiful eyes or a “terrific smile”. When you love someone, those are the things you remember.

    If that doesn’t work and Sylvia is completely off base because say, the woman adopted a Somalian and her description of the son was “fair complexion” (different example here from above). The woman will tell her that her son was adopted and black. Then Sylvia immediately will say, argumentatively “Yes, I know that’s not your son. But there IS a boy here that looks this way and he is coming as the messenger to say your son is ok.”

    Now, this can either turn into this woman’s spirit guide or her son’s, it can turn into someone her son used to hang out with, or someone they knew way back when. This indignant attitude makes her appear more right to her audience. Wowee, if Sylvia is really this sure about it, then it must be true! If she feels really pumped up and she wants to be validated by further clapping by the audience, she will throw in that “You didn’t give me a chance to finish. There is a white boy but he is the spokesperson. He’s showing me your son. Did your son have sparkling brown eyes and short hair?”

    Rejoicing. See, she changes everything to fit her own reality.

    Just like the question in your video when the guy asks about age and Sylvia twists the whole thing into making herself look right because she’s 73. Sylvia does the same thing when she says a deceased person is tall and the person disagrees. Sylvia says, “Well I’m 5’8″-everyone in my family is tall so tall to me means average to most.”

    I mentioned in JREF that Sylvia really believes in her own sick world that she is psychic. So I don’t want to sound like I’m contradicting myself by describing the cold reading methods above. I don’t understand it either. But Sylvia does not believe she is a fraud. She does not talk about it all being one big show- not ever. I can’t describe it any other way. She thinks she has God given powers and thinks that this is all coming from her. I don’t know if she’s that mentally challenged, or she’s schizophrenic or what. Unless she only keeps it to herself for all the many many years I’ve known her. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s her life. A reasonable person would say, “If she’s making this stuff up as she goes along, then she must therefore know she is lying to perpetuate her false psychic ability claims.” My answer is “I understand that. A rational person understands that. But she makes herself believe these things and spins it into her own reality”

    On another subject:
    Your spirit guide is Cassie. Her full name is Cassandra but we’ve become pretty good friends since the show.

    Your friend,


    • Sgerbic says:

      Francine, Do you have first hand knowledge that she was really pissed about the encounter with Mark? If so, what form did it take?

      I love your inside information by the way. And your writing style. Keep posting!


  11. Francine Raheim says:

    Dear Susan,

    Yes, she was mad! Mainly just in the form of complaining but she knew exactly who Mark was talking about and that’s why she ended up just dismissing him. Her thoughts are that if she doesn’t feed the fire, the audience won’t either. So once she saw that her arguing that Opal Jo Jennings and the lot were “Spirit Guides” or whatever she said they were, wasn’t going to work, she just tried to move on. The audience will always go along with her as a whole because after all, they are there to see her and will agree with her.

    The bad part is that she still doesn’t care all that much because she’s still collecting a paycheck at the end of the day. She gets aggravated that she’s challenged and she chalks it up to “dark entities” but deep down, it does bother her.

    If her shows keep going poorly, the word will get around and not many people will want to put money into organizing those shows. It costs alot of money to put them together plus pay her. She won’t put her own money into it! Her audience has already dramatically dropped in numbers, as seen by Mark’s video.

    I’d like to comment on the #7 comment above. I’m not sure what he means by RSL’s old domain being “hijacked”. If it means that someone took it over and you don’t know who it was, I can solve that easily for you. It was Sylvia’s people. They bought the domain name.


    P.S.- You are much nicer than the jerk Brattus.

  12. Brian M says:

    You should set up a website with a different URL for handing out with posters. At a conference center, people would likely assume the flyers are part of something else (perhaps a different, or previous gathering). If there is something tying it to sylvia, then they are more likely to pick it up. You should also have taped them, or otherwise scattered them, throughout the place. If people see them _everywhere_, even glimpses, they will start to be interested. Most people don’t go to those bathrooms, and even fewer take anything out of the bathrooms with them… But if they are everywhere, they get interested.

    Overall, I agree with what you were trying to do, and generally agree with the tactics (especially the fliers). I also think it could have been more clever, or planned out better, but it definitely wasn’t a failure if you even had 1 person asking for your signature. The 2 important things to take away from this post are that A: You did SOMETHING where most of us just sit here posting comments on a skeptic blog. And B: Learn from your experiences and hone your tactics. I’m sure you didn’t just jump in and become a great “psychic”; you had to work to hone that skill. I think this is something worth doing. And if you do this, and come out with good results, it will encourage others to follow suit using the same, or similar tactics. And besides, there are always new woo peddlers, so you can get it dead wrong (not in this case), and just try something different next time that may work better.

    I think that is the definition of guerilla skepticism. Keep up the good work. I will do my part locally, if I can find the opportunity. :)

    • Sgerbic says:

      Brian nice post. You got it.

      I think I remember Mark saying that he didn’t want to put the flyers on the seats at the theater as he didn’t want to be found out. The place was nearly empty, but not completely empty. They would have noticed someone going up and down the seats leaving papers.

      The sidewalk in front of the place was not city-owned so he could not hand out flyers outside the venue. The facility would have thrown anyone off the site as it was private property.

      Sometimes the options left when you cross them all off the list leave you with what is possible.

      I’m sure you can come up with a creative opportunity.


  13. Mark:

    I was gratified that you had apparently done some research on my site. Your tactics differ from mine, but that is largely due to our differing strengths. Watching your “shakedown,” I (perhaps egotistically) felt that it was yet another secondary effect of my site.


    Robert S. Lancaster

  14. “my feeling was that most of the women were died -in-wool- shut eyes (believers) and that men or husbands who may have been dragged to the show by their wives would be more likely to share my angst.”

    Hmm, could statements like this one offer a clue as to why there aren’t more outspoken woman skeptics?