Sylvia Browne was born in Kansas City, Missouri, USA, on 19 October 1936. She claims that her psychic powers became known at age three when she correctly announced her grandfather's death and predicted her sister's birth1.
She began her professional psychic career in 1973 and went on to become one of the most well-known psychics in America. In 1988 she was declared bankrupt, and in 1992 she was convicted of investment fraud and grand larceny2.
Sylvia continues to enjoy much support and media exposure, including appearances on high-profile television shows such as the Montel Williams Show and Larry King Live.
During a Larry King Live episode on March 6 2001, Sylvia agreed to take the "One Million Dollar Challenge" offered by the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF)3. Apparently she later changed her mind and has since avoided any attempts to set up a test date. Her initial reason for not taking the challenge was that she did not believe the million dollars existed. When the JREF Foundation produced proof, sylvia refused to accept any further correspondence on the matter4. Note that the test conditions must be agreed to by both parties, and are open to public scrutiny, so there are no grounds to dispute the test itself.
Sylvia Browne's most notorious media moment came in January 2005 during a live appearance on George Noory’s syndicated radio show Coast to Coast. This was the morning that the West Virginia mining disaster story was developing, and twelve miners were mistakenly reported to have been found alive (they had in fact already died). Sylvia Browne declared that she knew the miners would be found alive.
Noory: "...would [you] have felt if — because they heard no sound — that this was a very gloomy moment — and that they might have all died?"
Browne: "No. I knew they were going to be found."
Tragically, the correct report came through shortly thereafter and confirmed the deaths. Sylvia responded:
Browne: "I didn’t believe that they were alive."
Noory: "What’s that, the miners?"
Browne: "Yeah, I didn’t think — and see, I’ve been on the show with you, but I don’t think there’s any that are going to make it."
Noory: "They say there are 12 gone. I think we threw you a curveball, we were telling you after the fact."
Browne: "Yeah, no, I did believe that they were gone."
Sylvia Browne has been shown to be wrong on many other occasions as well, including the time she confidently told James Randi that he needed to see a doctor because he had a heart problem, specifically in his left ventricle. James sought medical advice which revealed no such problem. This is very relevant to Sylvia's work because she makes many medical "diagnoses" upon which her clients make vital healthcare decisions.
At this point in time there is no substantial evidence that Sylvia Brown has any validity as a psychic. There is recorded evidence that she lies and changes her story to fit the developing facts. Her best chance of restoring her reputation would of course be to take the JREF test, but whether she does remains to be seen.
Sylvia Browne's website: www.sylvia.org
(1) Source: www.sylvia.org/home/about.cfm
(2) Source: www.nndb.com/people/297/000026219/
(3) Full transcript of the interview: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0305/16/lkl.00.html. For more information about the test see www.randi.org
(4) Source: /www.quackwatch.org/11Ind/browne.html