Er, dead. According to Randi yesterday, millionaire “psychic” Sylvia Browne appeared on the "Coast to Coast" radio show Tuesday proclaiming the miners trapped in West Virginia would be found alive. That was just after the news broke they had been found alive and just before the news they were actually dead. She could almost be working for PsiTech with this degree of accuracy.
Browne’s performance wouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone familiar with her usual lame cold-reading act. First, the (erroneous) news came in that twelve of the thirteen miners had been found alive, and so Browne, not to miss a trick, claimed she’d always known that they would be found alive. Standard practice. Later, after it became clear that these earlier reports were wrong and only one was alive, Browne seamlessly changed her story to "Yes, I just don't see anyone alive there – well maybe one." What a sleaze.
Fox News has a transcript of sorts:
Browne: "No. I knew they were going to be found. I hate people that say something after the fact. It’s just like I knew when the pope was dead. Thank God I was on Montel’s show. I said, according to the time, it was 9-something and whatever Rome time was. And I said he was gone, and he was."
But the situation was fluid, something Browne — ahem! — obviously didn’t sense despite her claims of being able to speak to the dead, among other things. She couldn’t have imagined that within a short time, the entire story of the miners would change completely — and make her look very foolish indeed.
Noory soon announced that there were new reports that all but one of the miners was dead.
Browne — who was still in the studio taking questions from listeners — had to say something. Now she was just riffing: "I don’t think there’s anybody alive, maybe one. How crazy for them to report that they were alive when they weren’t!" Then she added: "I just don’t think they are alive." She cleared her throat, and there was a deafening pause.
Noory went to a commercial.
All the slimy cold-reading tricks are there, but for once clearly exposed for the fakery they are. Usually the mistaken guesses are turned into “hits” by the believers who’ll find some way for the cold reader’s blunders to be correct. But even if they don’t, the experienced cold reader can usually bluff it out. You can see here how Browne hardly missed a beat as the news came in that the people had actually died – but this time even she couldn’t pull it off.
Of course, it won’t stop her or her fans. The credulous will still believe she is psychic. And Noory will have her on again.
One more thing: don’t expect John McCain to run against John Kerry in the next presidential campaign – apparently Sylvia predicted that too so it’s a fair bet it’ll never happen.
“Cough cough, you can’t prove air, cough.”