When news that Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight had escaped their decade-long capture by Ariel Castro, who had kidnapped, abused and raped them, social media attention quickly turned to psychic Sylvia Browne.
Appearing on the then-running Montel Williams show, Browne told Amanda Berry's mother around nine years ago, "She's not alive, honey." Jouwana Miller, the mother, died in March 2006.
"Literally for decades now, I have been directing attention to the fact that Browne has been a continual, proven, failure. This is only the most recent example," wrote skeptic James Randi, who offers a $1 million challenge for psychics who can prove that they are accurate. Browne had agreed to Randi's million dollar challenge on the Larry King show in September 2001 but according to Randi's website, has not taken the challenge." Pointing out that there is no evidence to support the notion that Browne has successfully helped law enforcement with 115 cases, Randi continues, "Folks, I seriously suggest that each reader of this news write to or call your local newspaper editors, radio and TV stations, to express your concern at the dismay, sorrow, and grief that Browne creates. That way, we just might attract enough attention to this taloned fraud. Please consider spending a few moments on this, will you? News persons will react to their consumers' comments, believe me. Encourage them to publicize this latest Browne farce…You’ll be striking a blow for rationality and reason by doing this."
As of this date, Browne's website offers 30-minute "personal readings" by Sylvia Browne and her son, Chris Dufresne, who the site characterizes as the "best psychic readers in the world." Browne charges $850 for a half hour session and Dufrensne gets $500 for a half hour.
As CNN points out (see video embedded below), outrage over Ms. Browne's reading on Amanda Berry has spread beyond just the James Randi Educational Foundation. CNN also says that Browne had a little bit of her prediction right, seeming to accurately describe Ariel Castro, who kidnapped Amanda.
Sylvia Browne has issued a statement that appears on her website (the statement is not dated):
For nearly six decades, Sylvia Browne has dedicated her life to helping others as a spiritual psychic and guide. She has been called upon to assist individuals, families, and law enforcement agencies across the U.S. and Canada on hundreds of high profile criminal investigations. She has received numerous commendations for the positive impact her contributions have provided, resulting in important information and leads that have ultimately led to the closure of major investigations.
"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." – Sylvia Browne
Sherry Cole, Amanda Berry's cousin reached out to Sylvia this morning to let her know that she supports her, loves her, knows Sylvia never claims to be 100% right, but wanted to let her know that she was accurate in her description of the perpetrators at the time.
"Our family in no way blames Sylvia. This doesn't change anything. We still love her and believe in her." Sherry Cole