27 February 2024

Unveiling the Mysteries: The Skeptical Biography of Sylvia Browne

By Jon Donnis

Sylvia Browne, a name often synonymous with the realm of psychic phenomena, gained both fame and notoriety throughout her lifetime. Born Sylvia Celeste Shoemaker on October 19, 1936, in Kansas City, Missouri, she rose to prominence as a self-proclaimed psychic medium, author, and television personality. However, behind the veil of mystique and purported psychic abilities lies a controversial figure whose career was marked by skepticism, criticism, and numerous instances of being exposed for her fraudulent practices.

Browne's journey into the world of psychic phenomena began in her early childhood, allegedly experiencing visions and prophetic dreams. She claimed to have inherited her psychic gifts from her maternal grandmother, who she asserted was also gifted with psychic abilities. Despite lacking any formal education or training in psychology or parapsychology, Browne embarked on a career as a professional psychic in her late twenties.

Throughout her career, Browne amassed a significant following, bolstered by appearances on popular television shows such as "The Montel Williams Show" and "Larry King Live." Her seemingly accurate predictions and purported ability to communicate with the deceased endeared her to many believers, who sought her guidance and insight into the mysteries of life and death.

However, Browne's rise to prominence was accompanied by a barrage of skepticism and criticism from skeptics, scientists, and rationalists who questioned the validity of her claims. One of the most prominent skeptics of Browne's purported abilities was James Randi, a renowned magician and skeptic who offered a cash prize of $1 million to anyone who could demonstrate genuine psychic powers under controlled scientific conditions. Despite Browne's initial interest in Randi's challenge, she ultimately failed to participate in the tests, citing various reasons, including health concerns and the negative energy surrounding the challenge.


Moreover, Browne's credibility took a significant hit when several of her high-profile predictions turned out to be false or inaccurate. One of the most notable examples occurred in 2002 when Browne appeared on "The Montel Williams Show" and informed the parents of missing teenager Shawn Hornbeck that their son was dead and his body could be found near two large jagged rocks. 

The following is the transcript of the exchange between Craig Akers (Shawn's stepfather) and Pam Akers (Shawn's mother) and Sylvia Browne:

CRAIG AKERS: Can you tell how far from the area he was taken?

SYLVIA BROWNE: Maybe about 20 miles.

CRAIG: And he's still within a 20-mile radius even now?

BROWNE: He's still within a 20-mile radius of -- let's say, here's where you are, 20-mile radius, but it's really southwest of where you are.

CRAIG: Southwest.

BROWNE: So whatever is southwest, because it looks like this is -- here we go again with the wooded, with the -- you know, the wooded areas. So southwest of you.

PAM AKERS: Is there any landmarks around?

BROWNE: Yeah. Strange enough, there are two jagged boulders, which look really misplaced. Because everything is trees, and then all of a sudden, you've got these stupid boulders sitting there.

MONTEL WILLIAMS: And he could be found near there?

BROWNE: He's near the boulders.

PAM: Is he still with us?

BROWNE: No.

CRAIG: Do you see the bicycle anywhere?

BROWNE: I think the -- see, here's what's strange. I think the--the--the bicycle is in another state in a dump.

However, Shawn Hornbeck was found alive more than four years later, and Browne's prediction was proven unequivocally false.

For more watch The Survival Story of Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby. By Savannah Brymer.


Another instance that tarnished Browne's reputation occurred in 2004 when she incorrectly predicted the outcome of the presidential election, forecasting that John Kerry would win against incumbent President George W. Bush. Browne's erroneous prediction further fueled skepticism about her purported psychic abilities and raised questions about the reliability of her insights.

Furthermore, Browne faced allegations of exploitation and unethical behavior, particularly concerning her lucrative business ventures, including psychic readings, books, seminars, and merchandise. Critics accused Browne of preying on vulnerable individuals seeking solace and guidance, often charging exorbitant fees for her services and offering vague or generic predictions.

In addition to her failed predictions and allegations of exploitation, Browne's credibility suffered further blows when several of her past clients and associates came forward with allegations of deception and fraud. In 1992, she was sued by a former client who alleged that Browne had falsely claimed to communicate with her dead father and charged exorbitant fees for her services. Although Browne denied the allegations and the case was eventually settled out of court, it underscored concerns about the ethical practices within the psychic industry.

Despite facing numerous controversies and being exposed on multiple occasions, Browne remained defiant in defending her purported psychic abilities. She dismissed skeptics' criticisms as baseless and attributed her inaccuracies to the inherent uncertainties of psychic phenomena. Browne maintained a loyal following of believers who continued to seek her guidance and validation, seemingly unaffected by the mounting evidence against her.

However, Sylvia Browne's legacy remains deeply polarizing, with supporters hailing her as a gifted psychic and spiritual healer, while skeptics regard her as a charlatan and opportunist. Her career serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of uncritical belief and the exploitation of vulnerable individuals in the pursuit of profit and fame. Ultimately, Sylvia Browne's life and career are shrouded in controversy and skepticism, leaving behind a complex and contentious legacy that continues to divide opinions long after her passing in 2013.

13 February 2024

Life Uncovered featuring fake psychic Chris Riley - Ben Zand investigates. FULL EPISODE

Ben Zand, known for his investigative approach and keen skepticism, takes on the enigmatic "psychic to the stars," Chris Riley. With a massive waiting list and a reputation for providing thousands of readings annually, Riley offers guidance on various facets of his clients' lives, including health, relationships, and glimpses into their past and future. Zand, renowned for his critical eye and journalistic integrity, sets out to test the claims of this social media sensation, delving into the intricacies of psychic phenomena and separating fact from fiction.

24 December 2023

ARTICLE: A look at the history of Psychic and Mediums


By Jon Donnis
Throughout history, the allure of the mystical and the supernatural has captivated human imagination. From the famed oracles of ancient Greece to the modern-day psychics who claim to communicate with the spirit world, the history of psychic and mediumship claims is a tapestry woven with threads of skepticism. In this exploration, we'll journey through time, examining the dubious nature of these claims and questioning the legitimacy of those who profess to possess otherworldly abilities.

Ancient Oracles:

The Oracle of Delphi, situated at the Temple of Apollo, was a renowned center for divination in ancient Greece. Supposedly endowed with the ability to communicate with the gods, the oracle provided cryptic messages that were open to interpretation. Revered by the ancient Greeks as the most powerful oracle, this sacred site held immense influence over political, military, and personal decisions, shaping the course of history through cryptic messages uttered by the Pythia, the priestess of Apollo.

The Oracle of Delphi was part of the larger sanctuary dedicated to Apollo, a god associated with prophecy, healing, and music. Pilgrims from across the Greek world flocked to Delphi seeking answers to pressing questions about their future, decisions, or conflicts. The sanctuary, with its impressive architecture and stunning views, provided a sacred space where mortals could commune with the divine.

Medieval Mystics and Renaissance Charlatans:

Moving through the centuries, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance saw a proliferation of mystics and seers who claimed to possess supernatural insight. Many of these individuals were, in fact, opportunistic charlatans preying on the fears and uncertainties of their time.


The Rise of Spiritualism:

The 19th century witnessed the emergence of spiritualism, a movement centered around the belief in communication with the spirits of the deceased. Mediums held séances, claiming to channel spirits and deliver messages from beyond the grave. While some believers were genuinely convinced of the authenticity of these mediums, skeptics argued that the phenomena observed during séances could be explained by natural factors such as the power of suggestion, suggestibility, and even outright fraud.

Twentieth Century and Beyond:

As we progress into the 20th century and beyond, psychic phenomena have found a new home in popular culture. Television shows, books, and movies perpetuate the mystique surrounding psychics and mediums. However, skeptics continue to question the validity of these claims, pointing to the lack of scientific evidence supporting the existence of supernatural abilities. Many purported psychics have been exposed as frauds, casting a shadow of doubt over the entire industry.

The Scientific Skepticism:

One of the primary criticisms from skeptics is the absence of empirical evidence to substantiate psychic and mediumship claims. Despite numerous investigations, controlled experiments, and challenges, no conclusive scientific proof has emerged to support the existence of supernatural abilities. Skeptics argue that if these phenomena were genuine, they should be replicable under controlled conditions, yet time and again, such conditions reveal the limitations of psychic claims.

Conclusion:

The history of psychic and mediumship claims is rife with instances of skepticism, fraud, and exploitation. From the oracles of ancient Greece to the modern-day psychics who grace our screens, the allure of the mysterious persists. While believers find solace in the idea of a connection with the supernatural, skeptics maintain a critical eye, urging a demand for evidence and scientific scrutiny. As we navigate the murky waters of psychic phenomena, the skeptical viewpoint serves as a reminder that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Until such evidence is presented, the veil of mystery surrounding psychic and mediumship claims remains intact.

31 October 2023

Most Haunted: The Stage Show - at the Aylesbury Theatre - October 2023 - The Reviews are in!

For those of you unaware, the Most Haunted team have launched a Stage Show! You can hear the crackling of knees as people rush to their landlines to ring up the ticket office.

Unfortunately the show at the Aylesbury Theatre has finished, and as sad as that is, we do have access to the official reviews of the show! Not from the critics, but from the loyal fanbase who turned out in their tens to support Most Haunted and enjoy this new experience.

Lets take a look at the verified reviews direct from the Aylesbury Theatre website. (Feel free to check the site out for yourself, although I suspect they will have the reviews deleted at some point.)


3.0 star rating Mags from London, England

MOSTLY CLIPS FROM TV SERIES

Was OK but was surprised that Karl was very smutty from word go, bit cringy to be honest...think they were trying to inject humour into it but maybe it doesn't need this sort of humour... lots of clips from TV series. Yvette good host and clearly enjoys it.


2.0 star rating Amanda from Stoke-on-Trent

MOST HAUNTED STAGE SHOW

Very disappointing. Most of the show is spent watching clips of previous Most Haunted Shows!


2.0 star rating Lew from Lancashire, England

UNDERWHELMING

I saw this last night and I agree, too many clips and not enough investigating. They needed to use more equipment and do more hands on. Use all the equipment and show through it how investigation can bring things forward then the scary bit people were craving for can "come forward" Clips I'd seen and I didn't need to see so many again. The first half was, dare I say boring!!!! It needed more. Use a spirit box, motion sensors, voice recorder, and motion detector that shows bodily lines on screen. This needs revamping otherwise I can see people not believing. Less clips more investigation.


Ok I know those reviews are not great, but that is just page 1 of the reviews, surely page 2 will be full of great reviews.


2.0 star rating Lil from London, England

SEXIST & HOMOPHOBIC COMMENTS RUINED SHOW!

Show was on the whole entertaining and fun. Cast were great except Karl who kept making really gross innuendos & also put on an effeminate voice when talking to the audience? Felt really awkward and uncomfortable as an audience member but you could tell Karl thought he was hilarious.


2.0 star rating Maria from London, England

HILARIOUSLY BAD

I mean, I went being utterly cynical and hoping to rip the piss out of this and I wasnt disappointed in that regard. The highlight was Carl's really laddish/smutty humour (how much had he had ???) and the low point was the endless clips from the show- come on you cant promise a live show then just show old episodes?? there was a live seance right at the end but there needed to be way more actual hands on stuff with the audience. Of course its all performance, so make it more of a performance! Dont pretend its anything other than a comedic satire of paranormal investigating,


2.0 star rating Jay from London, England

MOST HAUNTED THE STAGE SHOW

Disappointing overall, yes lots of old clips, although didn’t mind too much about that and Yvette holds things together well. The live investigation went nowhere however. Most jarring though we’re the antics of an unfunny Karl, who for some reason thinks it’s a good idea to rev up the smut level repeatedly and insult the audience. Yvette mock tells him off for this, but really should have a serious word! Large parts of the audience where I was sitting were clearly annoyed by him.Oh dear,maybe someone once told him he was funny and he believed them!!


2.0 star rating Tone from London, England

MOST HAUNTED LIVE

Well, Ive always enjoyed most haunted (not a believer but enjoy it still) and looked forward to the show for a bit of fun. However anything enjoyable was ruined by Karl. Smutty, crass and unfunny, including acting camp when talking to the audience. Yvette was very proffesional. Yes , there are clips but it was for me a but if fun. Karl needs to turn it down a bit or not be in it.


1.0 star rating Anon from London, England

SADLY A NIGHT OF WATCHING CLIPS I COULD HAVE WATCHED IN YOUTUBE

This had promise, but sadly we just watched numerous. Lips we could have watched in YouTube. And then was subjected to Karl’s very smutty and somewhat inappropriate inuendos and homophobic mockery.


1.0 star rating Ball from Cornwall, England

DISAPPOINTING

Basically watched a load of clips, smutty language from cast member, overall rather boring. Certainly did not deliver on what they are advertising.


1.0 star rating Dave from London, England

ABSOLUTE RUBBISH

Save your money. An absolute rubbish show. Basically watching clips from the past and thats it


Erm.. what about page 3???


1.0 star rating Claire from London, England

CRASS AND LEWD

When Carl thought it was appropriate to talk about "pulling out" of an audience participants mother the scene was set from the off. He was a pillock most of the night. Yvette did her best to hold it together, but we missed Derek, Richard, Cath. There was so much more they could have done, even with just the replays. You will have so much fun just getting a bunch of mates round, a few glasses and MH on TV. You don't need to go to the live show I'm afraid


1.0 star rating Anonymous from London, England

MOST HAUNTED

Very disappointed by tonight’s performance. Lots of unnecessary smutty comments including a downright rude comment, directed at an audience member made just minutes in to the show. Lots of ‘highlight’ clips, with repetitive narration from the cast. So much scope for better content & I have left with a very low opinion of Karl.


1.0 star rating ANON from London, England

AWKWARD!

I enjoyed the show and didn’t even mind watching old clips back as I hadn’t seen all of the tv show episodes. Karl (the presenters) behaviour was very offensive throughout. It was clear he was very drunk (slurring words etc!?) from the beginning. Crass, sexual innuendo jokes directed towards audience members totally ruined the night and so unnecessary.


1.0 star rating James Welsby from London, England

THE SCARY PART IS THAT I CAN'T GET A REFUND

I came to the show as an excited believer but it made me leave as a cold skeptic. I agree with the reviews, meagre, tedious content: essential a selection of YouTube clips. Think bare bones vs any fresh meat or, bone-chilling information. I really was hoping for more audience interaction and genuine frights vs death by PowerPoint. The first half felt like an eternity, the 'ghost hunt' had the most potential, but kept cutting away whenever something interesting 'happened.' Yvette was a consumate professional and kept the defibrillator on the corpse of the evening. I wish I could say the same about Karl. Karl’s language and ‘humour’ was vulgar, obscene, ranging from sexist to homophobic. Karl's lack of respect for the spirits, I can only imagine Karl enjoyed a few of these himself before the show, and the contempt for audience participants in the seance section, e.g. asking one lady, 'do you not know your own name?' was the final nail in the coffin. With Halloween approaching, I hope this is one show that gets exorcised. 1 star.


1.0 star rating Mr Roberts from London, England

CASH GRAB, POOR AND CRUDE

Nothing but clips edited together that make no sense, this was 70% of the show while an arrogant, crude and homophobic Karl lounged around on stage talking about the clips and thought he was funny. Some audience members went off to find nothing and the ouija board was a joke too. An obvious family cash grab as most cast are related!


1.0 star rating Embarrassed from London, England

POOR SHOW

Most Haunted was the show that opened up the Paranormal. Sadly it has not progressed over the years. The show was reliant on old clips. Karl was rude, but he thought he was funny. It was an embarrassment. Stop flogging a dead horse.


1.0 star rating Ash from Manchester

MOST AWFUL

It’s a few hours of my life that I’ll never get back. Mostly old clips of the programme which wouldn’t have been so bad but they were edited really badly so it was minutes of chaos and screaming. Karl was like an embarrassing old sleazy uncle that hardly gets invited to family get togethers when there’s young girls or gay relatives. He clearly has no filter but doesn’t care in fact he probably finds the negative reviews hilarious. The so called seance was laughable and the behind the scenes night vision section seemed pointless. They could have done this so well but did it so badly. They asked the audience if they are a believer? Yes I am but definitely not in them. We left early but tried not to catch the eye of Karl who spent what time he could amongst the audience being rude, homophobic and crass. I’ll stick with uncanny and leave most haunted in the past where it belongs



So there you have it, the reviews for the Stage Show are pretty damn clear.

Did you go to any of the shows? If you did feel free to leave a comment below with your experience, good or bad, but please be detailed.

Screengrab of some of the reviews below. And archives HERE and HERE


13 October 2023

Correcting Yvette Fieldings latest revisionist history over Most Haunted

 


By Jon Donnis

It is 2023 and for some reason I am still having to correct stories put out there about Derek Acorah and Most Haunted.

Yvette Fielding is currently on a Podcast tour as she tries to promote an upcoming Most Haunted Tour thing, and they have some big venues lined up, so are desperate to sell tickets.

I will address some of the claims Yvette made on the "Celebrity Catch Up: Life After That Thing I Did." Podcast.(No, I never heard of it either, guessing it is a show for washed up celebs, past their prime, desperate for any attention.), which are also being "picked up" by some tabloids. (These are paid for, placed articles in the papers, trust me, no reporter gives a damn about what a 90s Blue Peter presenter is saying on a podcast that no one listens too.)

"It used to really upset me. I mean, when we found out that Derek was a fake, I think I cried the first time because I had told him things about my deceased relatives and he told me things back," Yvette Fielding.

First quote I want to respond to, Yvette Fielding KNEW Derek wasn't a genuine medium from the very first episode, if not before, they hired him because he was charismatic and entertaining, and probably the biggest name on the growing psychic circuit at the time, he had TV experience under his belt. But the idea she "found out" he was fake, years after him being on the show is a nonsense. Especially when you consider on this very website we were exposing him week in week out. HE GOT POSSESSED BY A CHIMP IN THE FIRST EVER EPISODE!


"And also, being on camera and him, you know, going into these alleged possessions and becoming very threatening to me and the team members to the point where he'd actually hurt us and we just thought that, 'Nah, there's something going on,' this is so bad, so that was upsetting." Yvette Fielding.

Ok, this is a very specific claim and one I had never heard of before. In all the years of Most Haunted I never heard anyone say that Derek Acorah hurt them. I have heard about other cast members doing things, which I wont say here and now, but never Derek.

So I decided to find out, and who better to ask than a person who was there on nearly every shoot. Derek's wife Gwen.

I asked Gwen straight, was there ever any complaint or report about Derek hurting someone in mid performance. She replied as follows.

"I was at more or less every filming and there was never a complaint.  The possession stuff was welcomed and embraced because it pleased the audience and therefore pleased Living TV which in turn swelled the Antix coffers." Gwen Acorah.

I then decided to ask Gwen if Derek had ever been physically hurt by a member of the crew, her reply is as follows.

"The only person ever physically hurt was actually Derek when Stuart (during a live seance) threw a tumbler at Derek which resulted in him having a cut hand. It actually went out for all to see (I think Berry Pomeroy?).  Stuart claimed that a spirit had made him do it." Gwen Acorah.

On the Podcast Yvette also addressed the fact that OFCOM had ruled that the show was "For Entertainment Purposes Only" and that it was obviously "Not a serious investigation".

She said.

"Then the Ofcom ruling came in, they watched the show and, because of Derek and the fakery, they watched the show and they said, 'No, we've decided that is for entertainment purposes only.' That was absolutely soul-destroying for us because it is real, it's a real investigation, we don't make it as a television show." Yvette Fielding.

I need to make a few things clear here. When the show started it was myself and various members of the BadPsychics family that sent in many complaints to OFCOM regarding MH, our aim was for them to either label the show as Entertainment Only, or to have it taken off the air, as clearly the show was faked.

OFCOM replied to us, that it was OBVIOUS that the show was not a serious investigation, and that it was clearly for Entertainment Purposes Only. Not long after that, such disclaimers had to go up regarding pretty much anything that involved the "occult".One of the reasons was actually do to with the show that Most Haunted copied, the BBC Parody show Ghost Watch. Which although labeled as satire, a lot of people thought was real. People watching had various mental breakdowns, I think someone killed themself, and basically the BBC got into a ton of trouble, and replays of the show were banned for a long time.

OFCOM labeled the show as not real, because the show was not real. Yes Derek was a part of that, as he was the star, but the show was clearly filled with trained actors and performers. Jason Karl in series 1 was an actor employed to play the part of a parapsychologist, ironically he was the best one they ever had on the show. The same with Ciaran O'Keeffe, regardless of his real life PhD, he was employed to play a part. Yvette Fielding, also a trained actress.

Keep in mind that we were exposing the entire show as faked, not just Derek. We showed many times from our "Most Haunted Mole" videos, what was really going on. Yvette is clearly rewriting history here.

For example I released the "Mary Loves Dick" video. This was a pre-record that they actually aired in a fake night vision filter on the live show. I got hold of the original tape that included what went on after they had "cut" the scene.

Another thing that needs to be addressed is the false notion that Derek Acorah was fired from Most Haunted after the "Kreed Kafer" thing. This is simply not true.

"We tell people everything is real, then it turns out he was a fake, so he had to go." Yvette Fielding.

As I have repeatedly stated on here, Derek was NEVER fired, his contract was up and he was leaving regardless. And luckily for me Gwen Acorah just 24 hours ago wrote about that on her social media, confirming everything I have said for years.

Here is what she wrote.

"I would like Antix to cast their minds back to a date in October 2004 when a meeting was requested in Manchester by Derek’s then agent, Stuart Hobday, at the Antix offices.  

In attendance were Derek, Stuart, Karl, Yvette, Richard Wolffe and Clare Hollywood (both of Living TV).

The purpose of the meeting was for Derek to tender his resignation from the programme Most Haunted.  Derek was feeling the strain of being involved in the programme and no longer wanted to continue being part of it.  

An agreement was reached whereby Derek would complete one more series of the programme (Series 6) and 2 or 3 more lives, the last one being Halloween 2005.  

A further arrangement was made that a member of Livingtv staff would be present at every filming to give Derek peace of mind that he would not be mistreated nor undermined. Those four people were Richard Wolffe, Claire Hollywood, Steve Jones and another lady who worked closely with the Living TV production team. 

Richard Wolffe also promised to create a programme specifically for Derek and this is how Derek Acorah’s Ghost towns came about.  

Filming commenced but by the time Spring 2005 came around Derek was on his knees with stress and at Sinai House he walked out of make up and away from the programme for the last time.  

Claire Hollywood was in attendance and he told her that he was finished, that he’d do the last live at Halloween but that was it. 

Gordon Smith was brought in to complete a short series 7 to make up the shortfall of series 6 programme numbers." Gwen Acorah.

Now what Gwen doesn't mention here is that the Mirror Article with the Kreed Kafer thing was released the day before (or the same day) that the Most Haunted Live was to air. The Mirror article, by the way, which had stolen a LOT of material from this very website, without crediting me.

The article was ONLY supposed to expose Derek, Karl and Ciaran had worked with the journalist to give him the story. But the journalist wanted a bigger story so used information from BadPsychics to pad it up. (I was in contact with him at the time, unbeknownst to Ciaran and Karl).

Living TV producers were beyond furious, as Karl had basically flushed the entire show and format down the toilet just as a way to try to bury Derek as he was leaving, remember as Gwen mentions Living TV had a new show lined up for Derek. The hilarious Ghost Towns.

Living TV bosses made it clear that if Derek didn't want to go on MHL he didn't have to. Keep in mind that Living TV were also concerned that Derek would sue them for breach of contract etc. If Derek did not appear on the live show, Most Haunted was finished, that would have been the end of the show.

Amazingly Derek decided he WOULD do the show. And literally stand face to face with people who had just stabbed in in the back and tried to ruin his post MH career. By doing that he literally saved Most Haunted from being cancelled for good.

The irony being that Derek saved Most Haunted, after they nearly self destructed.

That is the truth. Now please don't waste your money going to any Most Haunted show.