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January 15, 2007


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Really good post. I agree completely. I don't understand how people are willing to place their hope, and money in people that think they have some sort of super power.


There really comes a point when some responsibility has to devolve onto the true believers to pay attention to the failures of their heroes' predictions and respond accordingly. I wonder if we've reached the point where some people will gasp in awe at a so-called psychic's mere prediction without even caring whether it comes true or not.

So Shawn "is no longer with us" - well, he wasn't! And now he is! Hey, maybe Sylvia really can talk to spirits...

Oh no, hang on, it's all just vague guesses.

You misunderstand, guys. Sylvia was spot-on.

At eleven years old, Shawn probably wasn't yet into the adolescent growth spurt. So he wasn't much longer than when he was abducted. See? "No longer with us." Geddit?

"Dark-skinned man." Perhaps he had a suntan, or he was wearing camo facepaint when he abducted Shawn?

"A wooded area". Were there no wooden houses, lumber yards, DIY stores? You can't prove there weren't!

Given time, I'm sure St. Sylvia will be able to show why she was right on the money.

And I'm equally sure Montel will just gloss over the whole thing.

The real key to this case was a teenage boy who kept rational and was able to give police a good description of that white truck. Reality wins.

Another great post, as usual. My hatred of cold-reading performance artist dipshits is only surpassed by those who knowingly embolden them, like Montel and Larry King. And maybe Deepak Chopra...I hate that guy.

Like the above post says, however, there does come a point where people really do have to start paying attention and learning that these douchebags are fake. Then they can use the "psychics", knowing they're not real, and enjoy it...like WWE.

Great post. Now that Randi's changing the focus and scope of the Million Dollar Challenge, van Praagh may just get his wish, the Tom Selleck-looking bastard...

Actually James Van Praagh’s description of:

"a person who worked in a railroad car plant was involved and the body might be concealed in a railway car" wasn't to far off from the truth. The apartment in Kirkwood, MO where the boy was found is in walking distance to an amtrack train station. I grew up by Kirkwood, MO and thought it was interesting when i read James Van Praagh's comments. Not saying he's the real deal, probally just a good guess.

A good vague guess.
Like always the PETWHAC (Richard Dawkins anachronism for Population of Events That Would Have Appeared Coincidental) hits.

Like Skeptico’s psychic predictions for 2007, James describes obvious predictions, vague ones, and a few off the wall. (and I don't see many of so-called obvious hit...)


How was what Van Praagh said not far off from the truth? He makes two claims, both are wrong. Thats a 100% failure rate. What kind of definition of 'not far from the truth' are you using exactly?

Let's be clear here. The kidnapper didn't work for the railroad, and there was no body to be found in a railroad car. Van Praagh was about as far from the truth as you can get with his guess. He doesn't say anything about being within 'walking distance' of a train station.

People who are willing to stretch what a psychic says to such elastic levels to find a hit are doing as much to give these liars, cheats and frauds credibility as the morons who claim to have tested them successfully, and their gullible supporters and sycophants.

Re PETWHAC, Porto, I think you mean "acronym" rather than "anachronism"! ;)

So David, you think that the police should have searched every railcar and every home of every rail worker? Then when they found nothing, they should have searched every home withing walking distance of a rail station?

Then they would have found Hornbeck. And that would have proven Van Praagh correct?


How many other things can Sylvia Browne be wrong about. I think she has probably screwed up alot of people by telling them complete CRAP!!!

Excellent article. It's terrible to think it's taken a horible child kidnapping to expose these two charlatans, but I'm so glad this has come out. Have a look at:

"Forget Your Day-Job. Become a Psychic!"


If only it were so simple, PD. I imagine this isn't going to stop Montel from allowing Sylvia to give innocent people false hope and needless distres.

I think he's as culpable as she.

Heard the Hornbeck family will be getting on Oprah. Hopefully, they'll mention Sylvia and other psychics scamming them.

But I imagine that'll be edited out if it happens.

I doubt they'll even notice that SYlvia is a scammer if they are so insensitive to their children's needs as to take them on Oprah ever, let alone after an ordeal like this one. Clearly these people should have been sterilized at birth.

I agree asking Sylvia Brown was a bad Idea but they were so despreat they went to anyone. It was just a mistake. But having an interveiw with Oprah isn't bad. If Shawn didn' want to do it I don't think he would have. The media would proly be in their front lawn if they didn't go on oprah. Only because people want to know. They just wanted to get them off their backs so they could start therapy. Better sooner than later.

David, you are impressed that a psychic "saw" something to do with a railway station? Why? This country is crisscrossed by railways. I guarantee that in Missouri, you can't throw a rock without hitting a track. When the psychics can give us names of kidnappers and killers, I'll be impressed.

Sylvia brown is a jerk. If I saw that she said that I was dead I would be upset. She needs to stop guessing and get a real job!!! GOSH

The danger in what these "psychics" spew forth is that, in many cases, it would convince people to quit looking for the kids. Thankfully, the Akers did not quit, did not give up -- even though most of us in the community would not have taken a 50 cent bet that he would ever come home.

I can't begin to count the number of times I've seen Shawn's picture. His parents made certain that each anniversary of his disappearance was marked by a news story, including his photograph. His picture is still all over benches in Missouri. They never gave up, and made certain none of us ever forgot about him.

Thank God Mitchell Hults is a real, live, observant kid and not a voodoo "psychic." He is a hero to two boys, their families and our entire community.

im just so glad shawn and ben were found alive and not hurt....Sylvia is a stupid liar i dont like her

Susan, just a small nit pick but, well I'm like that.

Why should we thank god? Surely its enough to thank the observant kid. If god has anything to do with it, we should be asking why he allowed a boy to be kidnapped for 4 years, for his family to go through hell, and for cowards liars and cheats like Browne to profit from it, and then allow a second boy to be kidnapped.

Why doesn't God strike Sylvia dead with a thunderbolt? According to the Bible,this sort of thing used to go on all the time in the days of Moses, Jeremiah and Jacob.

How come we never see it happening today?

I just don`t get it. the kid talked to police a few times while devlin was not around. Was this kid an idiot? he knew all he had to say to a cop was I`m shawn. It would have ended the whole thing. Hey I`m just stating what everyone else can`t say. At some point it became the kids fault and I don`t care what the professionals have to say this kid was a idiot!

Forget the psychics, look at what is happening _now_....

Look at all the magical reasoning that is being invoked to explain why Shawn did not call for help or attempt to escape.

Look at the pressure to provide testimony of what people around him now want to believe.

He is assumed to have been sexually abused.

He is assumed to have been "held by chains of terror".

What if he wasn't?

He had friends his age, and a girlfriend. He was routinely out and about with his friends. His friends stayed over with him sometimes. He was not afraid to use the police to report his bike stolen, or take a lift home after curfew. He was aware that his family were looking for him from the posters he saw.

What if Shawn did want to go home? Would he be allowed to say so?

If he were not mistreated, would he be allowed to say so?

If there was no sex involved will the accused be acquitted of all sex charges?

If the accused wanted an adopted son ,not sex, will we hear the truth? (A reclusive single man has negligible chance of lawful adoption, and the accused was adopted himself.)

I have no access to the evidence in the case, so I cannot know what the truth is...BUT nor can I rely upon the proceedings as they are unfolding.

The whole truth may/may-not fit everybody's preferred beliefs.

Will justice both be_done, and be_seen to be done?

Legitimate questions, and I don't think the answers will come out until the trial.

For now, I'm content to deal with one individual I'm pretty confident has a black heart: Sylvia Browne.

I think it's a little insensitive to assume this youngster was an idiot; we have no idea what's going on.

I would love to know why the kidnapper was so confident that Shawn wouldn't try to get home somehow--why the kidnapper let him have so much freedom.

I have no trouble believing that Shawn was not only there against his will, but also that he was not an idiot. I'm just very curious how that evil man knew how to keep somebody a prisoner with sheer child psychology.

Has Sylvia made any comment other than "Goodie, I was wrong"?

The arguement that the accused was perhaps a nice guy who simply "adopted" Shawn doesn't really pan out when you consider that the reason Shawn was found was that this guy had now abducted another young boy - and appears pretty obvious that this second child was not there of his own will! We have to look at everything involved in this case to get a truer picture - not just Shawn's behavior. There was something else going on behind the scenes that we may never know about - but to blame a kid that was taken at age 11 is just crazy.

i just read shawn's story in the news paper, and i just had to come look him up online. It's so horrible that there are men like this, i've gone threw something horrible in my life too, but not nearly as bad as shawn. I'm his age, 15 and i just hope he gets threw this.

Amen! Kudos to you, Skeptico, for this post! How does one look the parent of an abducted child in the eyes and decide that it's okay to prey on their desperation for answers and go ahead with what one knows to be nothing more than some shit one made up before the show to perform the absurd farce of a "reading"? Most of us know she is lying. She knows she is lying. How can she bring herself to do it to people so undeserving of such appalling abuse? It goes beyond ignominy. Such abuse should be made illegal so that we could punish people like our psychic friend. Harshly. She must have an antisocial disorder of some kind that allows her to cross those lines the rest of us wouldn't even think of going near -- she's deficient somehow. Her ethical/moral compass is -- well, it's probably up her fat ass... lost to the ages in that infinite dark chasm... Something is wrong with her if she can treat other human beings so poorly. Sure, she's harmless most of the time. Her preposterous "sessions" are even mildly amusing when some witless guest or audience member is ensnared in her not-very-cunningly-designed web of vague guesses, barely-believable lies, and assertions which cannot be proved or disproved. But those rare, mildly amusing moments are the only positive contribution she's made in her career as an entertainer. Which doesn't say much for her talent. Just talented enough to dupe the dumb and occasionally the desperate. The bulk of her act is not even interesting enough to keep watching when it randomly finds it's way to my TV. I’d estimate it at about 5% mildly amusing and 70% too boring to watch. And the other 25%? Well, that revolting remainder of it -- such as feeding BS to Shawn Hornbeck's parents when they were down and in need and seeking help -- is just vile, abhorrent, despicable, irresponsible, contemptible, miserable, perverted, repellant, wretched, horrid, sickening, sleazy, depraved, atrocious, reprehensible, execrable, and evil. Preying on the desperate, weary, emotionally exhausted parents of an abducted child who was very probably abused and harmed and in all statistical likelihood (at that point in time) dead. Most of us would want to help and comfort such distressed people, to do whatever we could to help them in whatever way possible. But that loathsome bitch looked at them (directly in their sad eyes), and saw in them nothing more than an opportunity to make a quick buck and get some more exposure on the dubious public platform of Montel Williams. Abusing people in the most repugnant ways to further her marginal career as an entertainer... What a sick, twisted fuck she is. I think we should all get together and banish her from the planet.

I don't know how Sylvia can sleep at night. She is eccentric and it's obvious she is only in this for her own personal gain. How could you tell someone their child is dead and sleep at night, KNOWING that you made it up?! This woman has some serious narcissitic issues and anyone who watches her is just encouraging her. Montel has to be the biggest contributor to her fame and I should hope he makes a decision quickly to throw the fake off the show!

The hurt that this family must have experienced being told that their child was dead is wrong. They should be able to sue that psychic for the additional mental stress caused by her false claim.

You make some good points but it's not really fair for everyone to criticize the parents for going to psychics for help. After your child has been missing for so long, you tend to get rather desperate.

Further proof that Sylvia Browne is a total joke:



And the news special about this particular fraud: http://emuse.ebaumsworld.com/watch/10854

Enjoy. =)

I don't criticize the parents. Desperation tends to cloud a person's judgment, and no one's perfect. The people who truly deserve the thrashing are those who take advantage of our moments of weakness.

Sylvia Browne is nothing more than a two bit gypsy. She does nothing more then write outlandish works of fiction. If anyone with half a brain watches her on Montel they know she consistantly contridicts herself. She is does not have "the gift." She should be ashamed and embarassed by her generic cold readings and hurtful hunches. Is it any wonder why with all the predictions she has made over the many years of peddling her books on Montel that they have Never done a follow up show with Sylvia's correct predictions?? I truely believe she is of gypsy blood though.

i like shawn he is very cute and brave too. he gave us message that we shoud face all promblems by bieng brave well all i can say about him is that he is so cooooolllllllll and he rooooxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Psychics are entities in of themselves,without anyone to answer to. So they can lie, and say it must have been a blackout. They can bite thier expensive nails and make it seem like thier so powerful and can see through muddy waters. Its all smoke and mirrors. She smokes a lil reefer and gets a newspaper, do background checks, pay family members to give her information on her victims, and she reflects that back to naive believers. Please, Please, Please don't pay people money (psychics) to read you, when you probably have the same gift. It's called dreaming

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