Syliva Browne was a psychic with a long history, a spotty track record and a massive bibliography. She operated prolifically as a psychic on radio and television, as well as founded her own spiritual religion.
Sylvia Browne was born in 1936 under the name Sylvia Celeste Shoemaker in Kansas City, Missouri. Her parents raised her largely as a Catholic, though her personal views quickly grew to include many spiritual, non-denominational beliefs.
As Sylvia tells it, she first developed her psychic powers at the young age of three. She turned to her grandmother for assistance, a woman who herself was a psychic medium. As she developed her powers, she assisted family and friends with predictions about their future.
Life And Death
At the age of 28, Sylvia moved to California and decided to help people on a larger scale. Her private readings grew to be incredibly popular, and in 1974, ten years after her arrival in California, she founded the Nirvana Foundation for Psychic Research.
It was under this organization, later renamed the Sylvia Brown Corporation, that she performed her readings worldwide. Throughout her life, Sylvia married four times, having two sons through her first marriage and no other children with her other husbands.
Sylvia died on Wednesday, November 20th 2013. She had been hospitalized in the San Jose Good Samaritan hospital, and was 77 years old. Her company and her psychic abilities continue in the form of her son, Chris Dufresne, who continues to bring the family dynasty into the future.
Chris Dufrensen was considered by his family to be psychic at birth, with abilities that rival his mother. Today, he continues to offer readings with his own unique twist, psychically diving into a subject and pulling out their “chart” or life path laid down by God.
Sylvia's Psychic Readings
Sylvia's unique belief system merges many aspects of Christianity and other world religions. Over time, her delving into hypnosis and trance led her to the belief that God and Reincarnation are the keys to understanding life and the future.
In terms of reincarnation, Sylvia believed that the key to her readings was a sort of hypnotic regression into the lives of the people her clients were before they became who they are. Uniquely, she never attempted to push her views on another, often saying that each person can take what they want from her readings and leave the rest behind.
About God, Sylvia's inclusion of Catholic beliefs from her upbringing is also included, as reincarnation and the path of each person through life is part of His plan. Again, like reincarnation, she allows her clients to maintain their own beliefs. As she says, it does not matter if her clients believe in God, for God will believe in them.
Over time, Sylvia's practice evolved. She began with minor readings for friends and family, until her move to California. She expanded to personal readings for a fee, both for groups and for individuals. She often performed readings over the phone, enabling her to reach clients around the world who could not travel to be with her in person.
Sylvia Browne was also frequently a guest speaker for radio and television programs, as well as giving her own presentations in virtually any location. She was an occasional guest on Larry King Live and The Montel Williams Show. She often spoke on Coast to Coast AM as well. In the 90s and early 00s, Browne hosted her own radio show, where she sparred with skeptics and performed readings for her audience.
From 1990 onwards, Sylvia Browne decided that her interviews and public presentations were not leaving the appropriate legacy, and that she had so much more to say. She began writing and publishing books. Her first book was published in 1990, titled Adventures of a Psychic. It was co-written by Antoinette May. Her next book, co-written by Lindsay Harrison, was The Other Side and Back: A Psychic's Guide to Our World and Beyond.
With Harrison and alone, Sylvia wrote 45 books, including several with her son Chris Dufresne. Her most recent and final publication was Past Lives of the Rich and Famous.
Part religion, part community outreach organization, Sylvia founded the Society of Novus Spiritus — the New Spirit — in 1986. This religious philosophy is heavily based upon the Christian Gnostic theology. It is dedicated to following the teachings of Jesus Christ without discarding the beliefs of Buddhist, Islamic and Hindu worshipers. The organization's stated goals are to spread aid and shelter to those in need while establishing a spiritual community that loves God without the penalty of sin and condemnation.
Her Reputation and Controversy
Sylvia Browne's time as a high-profile psychic was not without controversy. Anyone making as many predictions as she did over four decades of activity is bound to make a few incorrect predictions. In her case, Sylvia's predictions were often a matter of national or international fame, and as such, her incorrect predictions were a public matter. Among her most famous false predictions were:
- The 2002 disappearance of Shawn Hornbeck. Sylvia Brown predicted his death, but he was found alive five years later, kidnapped by a man who did not match the description of Browne's prediction
- The 2004 kidnapping of Amanda Berry, who Browne predicted was dead. She was found alive nine years later, though Amanda's mother did not live to see it
- The case of Holly Krewson, who Browne predicted as alive and working in Hollywood. Sylvia made her predictions in 2002, and in 2006 a body found in 1996 was identified as Krewson
- In 2006, the Sago mine in West Virginia collapsed, and Browne predicted the miners would be found. They were found — dead — and Browne amended her statement to refer to their bodies
- Perhaps the most tragic of all of Sylvia Browne's predictions was that of her own death. On Larry King, Sylvia predicted that she would live until the age of 88. When she died in 2013, she was 77, eleven years short of her prediction.
Sylvia Browne and James Randi
James Randi, noted skeptic and leader of the James Randi Educational Foundation, has a standing challenge to people claiming paranormal or supernatural abilities. If they can demonstrate them with scientific proof, Randi will give them a prize of one million dollars. Browne accepted the challenge, but due to complications in communication, never appeared to actually demonstrate her abilities.
Now that she has passed, the world will never know how she would have performed in the face of Randi's scrutiny.