On Friday, Larry King Live had James Randi and alleged psychic Rosemary Altea on the show to discuss famous psychic Sylvia Browne’s false prediction that Shawn Hornbeck was dead. Hornbeck is the kid who went missing in 2002 who was recently found again. His parents asked Browne to help them find their child and she told them he was dead. She also gave a wildly inaccurate description of the person who kidnapped him and apparently led the police on a wild goose chase to recover his dead body. Here’s the transcript of the show (scroll way down).
True to form, the “psychic” on the show was evasive and refused to allow any testing of her claims to being a psychic. Most annoyingly, she kept referring to the “gift” of psychic powers and how some people use it “irresponsibly.” And then she dodged repeatedly the question of whether she would submit to his million dollar challenge to prove her psychic powers. I’ll post some of the transcript below the fold.
ALTEA: Yes, it’s terrible. And I want to make something clear here. I am not here to debunk Sylvia Browne. I do not know Sylvia Browne. I don’t know what her gift is like. We all make mistakes.
Having said that, we all know also that there are in every profession, there are people who state that they are much more qualified than in fact they are. We get a quack doctor. That doesn’t mean that the whole medical profession should be condemned for one quack doctor.
Basically what I’m saying is people do make mistakes. That’s the first thing. Second thing is, there are many, many people out there who have incredible and beautiful gift — and it is a gift.
L. KING: Sure.
ALTEA: It is a very rare gift. And we have that gift and we treat it with respect.
RANDI: Where are these people? That’s my question. See the James Randi Educational Foundation offers a million dollar prize …
ALTEA: Here we go again, James.
RANDI: Yes, we do go again.
ALTEA: We have been there, we have been this route you and I.
RANDI: Rosemary, we have been there repeatedly, that is very true.
ALTEA: We have.
RANDI: But why won’t you take the prize? Simple answer, please.
ALTEA: We discussed this on the LARRY KING show the last time. You come up with a real plan and don’t believe there’s $1 million. I don’t want to get …
RANDI: Hold on. That’s the first objection. That’s the one everybody makes.
ALTEA: One second.
L. KING: One at a time.
RANDI: There is no $1 million.
ALTEA: One second.
RANDI: Now there is a million dollars. It is with Goldman Sachs in a special account awardable only for this particular purpose. So don’t give me that.
ALTEA: OK. I’m not go into this discussion. We had this out before, James. My interests and my concern here is that people don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. There is an incredible and rare gift. It does not matter to me, James, whether you believe it or you don’t …
RANDI: It’s not whether I believe it, it’s whether or not it is so.
ALTEA: If you will let me talk now, please. There are millions of people around the world who have had incredible evidence, and I think, Larry, the key is that, you know, I’m educating people all the time . In my first book I was talking about we have to be skeptical. People have to be skeptical.
ALTEA: What is happening when somebody goes on a show, they lost a child. The child has gone missing. And they ask somebody, a total stranger. She may be a celebrity but she’s a total stranger to them, what happened to my son? Why are we buying into this kind of thing without evidence?
Sounds good, but then why does she refuse to provide that evidence? If she really has this “gift” then by all means show the evidence, take the challenge and show, under proper observational techniques, that the gift is real. If she did so, she would not only win a million dollars, she would help “educate”, as she says she wants to do, millions of people on the validity of psychic powers. It would be an enormous boon to the notion that this gift exists to actually provide that evidence, and while she says people should demand evidence she refuses to provide it as anything other than uncheckable anecdotes.
Then they played a clip of Sylvia Browne on the Larry King show from earlier, explaining her “gift”:
BROWNE: I just happen to be born with it.
L. KING: Why you?
BROWNE: I don’t know. It’s the same thing …
L. KING: when you get this channeling, what do you mean by channeling?
BROWNE: Channeling means I am like an open tube. What goes on with Sylvia is entirely different of what I get. I mean, Sylvia can have her own problems. But there’s a side of me which is like a tube in which it just comes through.
L. KING: you see things about people?
BROWNE: I’m with the rest of them, I’m much more into the whole idea of God’s goodness and the survival of the soul after death.
Apparently, her tube was blocked when it came to the Hornbeck case. And then it gets even better. They played a clip of Shawn’s parents talking about how Sylvia Browne said she could tell them for – for a sizable fee:
L. KING: We are back with James Randi and Rosemary Altea. Shawn’s mom and dad, Pam and Craig Akers, who appeared on this show talked with CNN’s Anderson Cooper earlier this month about Sylvia Browne. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Is it true she also offered to help for $700?
CRAIG AKERS, SHAWN HORNBECK’S PARENTS: Yes, we were told if he wanted to talk with her additionally, that we could at her normal standard fee.
COOPER: And that’s $700 an hour?
C. AKERS: I believe that’s what it was.
Browne’s business manager denies that, but tell me which one has the incentive to lie, Browne or this kid’s parents:
L. KING: Sylvia Browne’s business manager send us the following, “Sylvia has never charged a fee to any law enforcement person, agency or any individual for her work on a missing person’s case and has worked on hundreds of such cases over the years and only when asked by law enforcement with positive results. Sylvia is overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude to God that Shawn was found alive and well and grateful to all those responsible for finding him.”
Sylvia has also posted a message on her Web site if you want to go to that, sylvia.org about this matter.
James, who do you believe on this question of a fee?
RANDI: I don’t know. It’s pretty hard to say. Because Sylvia does get $700 over the telephone. She gets this kind of money to do a reading for people that lasts about 20 minutes. I have got several of them on tape and one of them went up on my Web site today, as a matter of fact.
That’s a lot of money, Larry. That’s the kind of money that anyone who want to make. But does she produce anything for it? Does she deliver anything? Remember, she agreed on this show many years ago to take the million dollar challenge. Then she said she could not find me. She does not know how to use a telephone book? What seems to be the problem here?
And after that when she found out how she could reach me she didn’t reach me and has not been in touch with me since. Why?
Then he asked Rosemary how she did it. And this is classic:
L. KING: What do you see?
ALTEA: What I see, the first thing that I do is I make a communication. I make a connection with somebody in the spirit world. That someone needs to be a member — a family member of the person I’m giving a consultation to. Then once I begin to talk to that person, I’m asking that person to give me information, to give me evidence.
I mean, I’m seeing this person and I’m hearing this person and I’m asking them, please give me information, usually it’s information that I couldn’t possibly know. I will give you the briefest example, a lady yesterday called and I described her home that was on a man made lake. I described the house in detail. Even to the roofline the new terrace and plantings. Now … L. KING: And who was telling you that?
ALTEA: Who was telling me that? Her mother was telling me that. So basically what I’m doing here, as I’m laying the groundwork. I’m laying the groundwork to show this person, the person I’m giving the consultation to, I’m laying the ground work to show her that I am actually really talking to someone in the spirit world who knows them very, very world. Can i just say one more thing, Larry?
L. KING: Quickly, yeah.
ALTEA: I don’t know whether Sylvia Browne has a 15 or 20-minute consult, but I will tell you no one in their right mind, no medium would ever give a 15 to 20-minute consultation and expect to produce anything. You cannot. You cannot – you can do a two-minute something on the telephone as I have done on your show many times. But when you are giving a consultation and you’re talking to people in the spirit world, you have to give that person at least 50 minutes to an hour. You cannot do it in less than that.
Really? Why? If you’re actually in contact with someone in the “spirit world” who can give you this information, why can’t it be done in 15 or 20 minutes, why would it require 50 minutes or an hour? She says you cannot do it in less than that, but why on earth not? It doesn’t take an hour for someone in the “spirit world” to tell them about someone’s house, or give them information. This is just completely irrational nonsense.
Then there’s this amusing exchange:
CALLER: My question is, I have seen Sylvia Browne many times and I tried calling her phone number to make an appointment. And it is true, she does charge $700 for a half-hour. My question is, if this is a gift from God, which so many psychics claim it is, why do they charge so much?
L. KING: James?
RANDI: Well, first of all, people have to make a living, Larry, we understand that and they should charge for their services. But only charge for the services if you actually produce something. If there are results, yes, it’s worth $700 for a reading — if it has results.
But Sylvia has so many dissatisfied customers, I have got a cupboard full of tapes sent by Sylvia to the customers who paid the $700 and they say in so many words she was wrong, wrong, wrong all the way down the line.
L. KING: Rosemary?
ALTEA: I agree. I totally – actually I’m amazed. I’m agreeing with Randi. If you don’t get it right, if you can’t produce, then you absolutely should not charge. And if I feel – and I begin all of my consultations by saying to somebody, if I confuse you in any way, if you are confused, please tell me. I do not want you getting off this phone wondering who on earth you have been doing. Tell me if you think I’m wrong. Tell me if you’re confused.
L. KING: We should …
L. KING: I said it should also be mentioned that Shawn Hornbeck’s parents continued the search, continued looking for him and continued the quest. They did not just accept the fact that he was gone.
ALTEA: Thank goodness.
RANDI: And Larry, she sent the police to all kinds of places, too, and the police wasted their good time where they could have found the kid and could have done something useful. The police wasted their time.
ALTEA: I’m not sure about that, Larry. Because I think the law enforcement has got a little bit more common sense than to listen to things that they are really not sure about. Unless …
RANDI: They listen to psychics …
ALTEA: Unless a spiritual medium is giving evidence and that is the thing, giving evidence. And I think it’s worth saying here, Larry, and this may sound a little harsh, what I’m going to say, but I think it’s worth saying here people have to be more responsible. You can not go giving your power away to people like me. People see me on a TV show, they see Sylvia Browne on a TV show and they think they know us but they do not know us. We are strangers to them. And you do not go believing it just because we say so.
Wait until we give you that evidence. Wait until we can show you that we really are talking to people who are your family who have passed. Don’t give the power away.
RANDI: Rosemary, will you take the test?
ALTEA: I’m not even going there, James. We did this before.
RANDI: Why not go there? It’s a million dollars, Rosemary. Anyone can use a million dollars. Why won’t you take the test?
ALTEA: I recall when Larry asked you where the million dollars was before you could not produce it.
RANDI: I cannot produce it because it was with Goldman Sachs. It’s invested.
ALTEA: I will tell you something, James, this program is not about you. This program is about people being duped. It’s about …
RANDI: That’s right.
ALTEA: You’re right. But this program is not about you.
RANDI: It’s about people being duped by people like you.
ALTEA: This is about people being duped, and this is about a very rare and a very special gift that has to be defended.
RANDI: Prove it. Prove it and get $1 million. Come on, Rosemary, will you take the test? Yes or no? It’s a simple question.
ALTEA: You cannot say that because one person makes a mistake, everybody pays.
RANDI: I did not say that.
They never stop dodging.