So-called "psychic" and Grief Vampire Sylvia Browne died in San Jose, CA on November 20, at the age of 77. I thought she was a reprehensible person, willing to tell any lie, no matter how emotionally disturbing, to get money from a sucker. In fact, she seemed to think that truth is "whatever Sylvia says." There was no need for her "facts" to correspond to the real world. If Sylvia said it, that made it true.
Bob Steiner and I founded the Bay Area Skeptics in 1982, one of the earliest local skeptics groups, and for quite a while the most active. We felt that our location in the Bay Area conferred a special advantage, as the most famous of WooMeisters were right in our area. Targ and Puthoff were still at SRI in Menlo Park, and we did what we could to challenge their claims about Uri Geller's supposed Magic Powers. Sylvia (then) Brown's home and "Foundation" was then almost right in my neighborhood, in Saratoga. (Brown became "Browne" when she divorced her husband.) At that time I was living in west San Jose, near the Westgate shopping center, and Saratoga Avenue. According to a story in the Huffington Post, Saratoga has the third-most expensive housing in the U.S., with an average home listing price over $1,582,000. (When Sylvia complains in a letter linked below about not being really rich because she lives on Johnson Avenue, she is calling attention to the fact that she is not in the highest-priced zip code in Saratoga. So her house might be worth "only" a million or so today.)
In the 1980s, Sylvia was well-known locally, but not yet nationally, primarily because of her regular appearances on local TV stations to "prognosticate." Viewers ate it up, no matter how bad her record, or how stupid her statements. So naturally we went after her in every way we could, challenging her claims.
We wrote letters challenging her to test her supposed "powers," and she replied that she was far too elevated to be tested by the likes of us. She also had some rather colorful things to say about us. Apparently she had never run across a skeptics' group before. I have scanned these challenges, letters, and other papers relating to Sylvia Brown, and placed them on my historical page on debunker.com. The direct link is here. Rather than describing their contents here, I invite you to read for yourself this unique collection of Sylvia silliness. She was making stuff up then, and continued to do so right up until the end.
|A welcoming committee for Sylvia Brown'e Las Vegas gig, assembling at The Amazing Meeting 2012, |
South Point Hotel (at the horse's ass). Note Randi on the left, Susan Gerbic with arms extended on the right.