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Self-described psychic and medium Sylvia Browne passed away inside a Northern California hospital this afternoon. She was just seventy-seven. At this point, her family is being very vague about the details surrounding her passing, but for a woman who made her living speaking in loose generalities and impossible to narrow down clichés, the mystery surrounding the disease she was fighting actually seems about right.
According to Browne’s personal website, she was born in Kansas City in 1936. Her grandmother was a self-described psychic and medium, and she quickly ushered the little girl into the family business. In 1964, she moved to California and started giving people “spiritual advice” full time. A decade later, she founded the Nirvana Foundation for Psychic Research, and in the time since, she gave thousands of readings, consulted on hundreds of police investigations and made numerous television appearances, during which she took advantage of confused and grieving people who desperately wanted answers.
Married four times, Browne had two children named Christopher and Paul. She wrote dozens of books, many of which landed on the New York Times Bestsellers List, and she was heavily involved with religious causes, even starting her own church in 1986. Added together with an upbringing that exposed her to both Jewish and Episcopalian beliefs, the combination produced a unique mix of downhome, new age and pseudoscience beliefs, which went over very well with many television viewers. As such, she was a frequent guest on a ton of different television programs, though many of those appearances led to Browne dispensing advice that was later proven grossely inaccurate or fighting with noted skeptic James Randi over her refusal to test her so-called psychic abilities in a laboratory setting.
Mediums existed long before Browne, and the profession will continue for the rest of time. There are simply too many people ready to believe in anything to think those peddling answers will ever go hungry, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth all of our time to continually remind people that no one can communicate with the dead. Great minds like Harry Houdini and Penn Jillette have dedicated their lives to exposing paranormal charlatans, and on television, Thomas Jane of The Mentalist follows much that same quest too.
Pop Blend’s sincerest thoughts go out to Brown’s family and friends but most certainly not to the larger world which is a better, more honest place without her in it. There are better ways to help the emotionally troubled, the worried and the sick than to pass off unsubstantiated guesses about their families and their futures as fact.