To the editor:
Imagine that a business person was making extraordinary, unproven claims about a service they sell, had prior convictions for investment fraud and grand theft, and also tended to sell their expensive, useless service to people who were suffering over deceased or missing loved ones.
Kelowna’s Community Theatre is about to welcome such a business person—Sylvia Browne. She calls herself a psychic and claims to be able to communicate with the dead and with angels. There is no reason to believe she is doing anything other than performing deceptive tricks. She has been convicted of investment fraud and grand theft. She charges $850 for a 20-30 minute phone reading, and many of her paying customers are grieving and desperate people.
For example, in late 2002, an 11-year-old boy, Shawn Hornbeck, was kidnapped in Missouri. Browne told his family that Shawn was dead and gave the police advice about where to look for his body—shifting the direction of the search, wasting valuable time and police manpower. Shawn was eventually found alive in 2007; his abductor had been keeping his victim hidden in his apartment. (Search YouTube for “Sylvia Browne CNN” to see the segment on CNN about this story.)
In March 1999, six-year-old Opal Jo Jennings was abducted from her grandparents’ home in Texas. Browne claimed on a US television show that Opal was still alive and had been sold into slavery and taken to Japan. However, in August 1999, Opal’s abductor was arrested and the medical examiners’ evidence indicates that the little girl had been killed by trauma to the head within a few hours of her abduction and her body was found just a few miles from where she had been abducted.
Just imagine for a moment that you were Shawn’s or Opal’s parent, grandparent or sibling. The pain that Sylvia Browne must have caused them is unforgivable.
For one example of Sylvia Browne failing to be psychic on national TV, search for “Sylvia Browne 9/11” on YouTube. Browne claims to know that a grieving woman’s deceased boyfriend is “in water,” which is why his body was never found. The boyfriend was a fire fighter who died in the 9/11 attack.
In 2003, she agreed live on the Larry King Show, to take part in a scientific test to prove her psychic powers. If the test were successful, and she were shown to be psychic, she would win $1 million prize money from the James Randi Educational Foundation. She has repeatedly avoided taking part in the test. Why would that be? Perhaps because she knows she will fail the test.
The Okanagan branch of the Centre for Inquiry will be protesting the presence of Sylvia Browne outside the Kelowna Community Theatre on the evening of March 26.
If anyone would like more information about Sylvia Browne or evidence regarding the cases I’ve mentioned, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.