Sylvia Browne was a high-profile psychic who claimed to have the ability to predict the future and contact the dead. She was a frequent guest on TV shows such as Montel Williams, Larry King Live, and Unsolved Mysteries. She made most of her multi-million dollar fortune from her 40 published books and from customers who were willing to pay $700 for a 30 minute phone consultation.
Browne, who claimed to help police solve crimes, is also known for her rather famous gaffes, such as telling the mother of Ohio kidnapping victim Amanda Berry that her daughter was dead. Berry was found alive last spring. Browne also predicted that 2002 kidnapping victim Shawn Hornbeck was dead even though he was eventually found alive. As this blog explains, her crime-solving record was far from sterling.
According to her official biography, posted on the website of a Gnostic Christian organization she founded called the Society of Novus Spiritus (New Spirit), she was born Sylvia Shoemaker on October 19, 1936 and grew up in Kansas City, MO. Her psychic abilities were said to have manifested at the age of three years.
She told CNN’s Larry King in 2000 that it was a “very scary thing” to realize as a child that she could tell if someone was going to die.
“The only thing, I think, that saved my sanity was that there are so many — well, we can track our lineage back to 300 years — of psychics,” Browne said, according to a CNN report.
Her biography states that she earned a graduate degree in English and taught in a Catholic school for 18 years. She also trained as a hypnotist and “trance medium.”
At first, she shared her “gifts” only with friends and family, but eventually gained a reputation for accuracy. In 1964, she moved to California and within 10 years founded the Nirvana Foundation for Psychic Research. This non-profit was dedicated to “helping thousands of people gain control of their lives, live more happily, understand the meaning of life and to find God in their unique way,” her website states.
She later founded the Society of Novus Spiritus in 1986 ” to promote a community of people who are dedicated to living a spiritual life based on its Gnostic Christian philosophy.”
Her website claims that Browne’s certainty in the existence of reincarnation remained a central theme in her philosophy and she believed it held “the key to understanding life.”
Browne is survived by her husband, Michael Ulery, and two sons from a previous marriage, Christopher and Paul Dufresne. She also has three grandchildren and a sister, Sharon Bortolussi.