Be not deceived: Psychics are in it for the cash, nothing more

Remember that moment last year when it was announced they had come up with a vaccine that blocks nicotine addiction? How about when the troops began returning home from Iraq?

The Jennifer Aniston wedding — that was something.

Not to mention the Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Lopez pregnancies, and the surprise defeat of Gov. Schwarzenegger in California.

What’s that? You have no memory of any of those events taking place in 2006?

I suppose that’s because they never happened — despite the psychic powers of Sylvia Browne, who last January predicted all those things and many more events that did not occur.

To be fair, Browne did foresee the Britney Spears divorce. Pretty impressive, seeing as how the rest of the world was sure Brit and K-Fed would last forever.

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After all, they seemed so grounded.

I see an embarrassment in your future

If you don’t know the name, Sylvia Browne (with the help of her spirit guide, “Francine”) is one of the most famous and successful psychics in the world. She appears on the Larry King and Montel Williams shows, and she has authored best-selling books such as Insight: Case Files from the Psychic World; Life on the Other Side: a Psychic’s Tour of the Afterlife; and Christmas in Heaven, in which Browne addresses questions such as “Are there presents and exchanging of gifts?” and “Do heavenly spirits decorate?” I kid you not.

To say Browne is confident is putting it mildly. Gesturing with her giant curved fingernails, she makes statements about the dead and the missing with such authority you could swear she actually sees these people — even as she’s spouting a load of crock.

There’s an infamous video on the Internet of Browne on Montel’s show, telling a weeping woman, “The reason you couldn’t find him is he’s in water.”

A look of utter confusion crosses the woman’s face. She explains her boyfriend was a firefighter who died on 9/11.

Browne looks right at the woman, says, “No, I keep seeing him in water,” and says the dead man is telling this to Browne. She wonders if he could have drowned while “trying to put the fire out,” and then coldly says, “It doesn’t matter anyway honey, because he’s still over there.”

Gee, thanks for those comforting, illuminating words.

He’s dead. Well . . . maybe not.

Browne was lambasted last week when the New York Daily News reported she had “told the family of missing Shawn Hornbeck he was dead shortly after the Missouri boy vanished — and later allegedly offered to help locate his body for $700 per half hour.”

Hornbeck is the boy who was found alive a week and a half ago.

This psychic setback comes about a year after a big Browne blunder on live radio. Browne was a guest on the “Coast to Coast” show and was asked about reports that a group of trapped coal miners in West Virginia was alive. She stated without hesitation that she knew they were fine.

A while later, the host received word that the initial reports had been incorrect, and that all but one of the miners was dead.

“I don’t think there’s anybody alive, maybe one,” said Browne, who went on to claim she never thought the miners were alive — even though she had said earlier on the same program that she knew they WERE alive.

Ooh, sometimes those psychic powers can really give you the chills!

Can you guess which finger I’m holding up?

Psychics, mediums, fortune tellers, whatever you want to call them — they’re just good enough at what they do to stay in business.

And I don’t know what they do. Maybe it’s the ability to do cold readings, merged with common sense, sprinkled with a dose of con job and marinated in a sauce of B.S.

I know you can visit a local psychic and he or she likely will come up with at least a few startlingly accurate reads on your personal life or your history. I know some psychics have actually helped authorities crack missing persons and murder cases. I know there are smart, well-educated people who swear they’ve had incredible experiences with psychics.

I also know that if you ask a psychic why he doesn’t buy a winning lottery ticket, he’ll tell you, “It doesn’t work that way,” whatever that means. I know a lot of mediums claim to talk to God and to spirits, but I’m still waiting for concrete evidence that God or your Uncle Morty has actually responded.

You want to get a reading or visit a psychic, I think that’s harmless stuff. But when I see the likes of Sylvia Browne on TV, confidently telling people she’s in contact with their dead loved ones or informing parents that their missing kid is dead, I wish a giant Spiritual Hand would appear from the sky and knock her out of her chair.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
Chicago Sun-Times, USA
Jan. 22, 2007 Opinion
Richard Roeper

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This post was last updated: Jan. 23, 2007