When I saw the title, The Truth About Psychics: What's Real, What's Not, and How to Tell the Difference by Sylvia Browne with Lindsay Harrison, I had to read it. I am not a believer in psychics or the paranormal, but I do find psychics to be entertaining and a source of amusement whenever they appear on talk shows. Browne is one of the most recognizable psychics around today, and while I don't believe that she is clairvoyant, clairaudient or capable of any other extrasensory perception, I am nonetheless interested in finding out what makes her tick and what knowledge she can impart to help us weed out the phonies, fraudsters and scam artists. Oh the irony.
The irony is that her book itself is a deception. It is not what its title makes it out to be. Of the book's 257 pages, only fourteen pages are devoted to exposing fortune tellers' tricks. This information is buried at the very end of the book. Up until then, Browne writes about the world's major religions and discusses many paranormal phenomena, the pioneers in parapsychology, past lives, astrology, the Other Side (the realm we inhabit after death) and her own spirit guide named Francine. None of this, up until page 221, has anything to do with exposing the truth about psychics. While I learned about how Browne grew up as a psychic child (there is no doubt in my mind that she effectively recreated her entire life story to suit her psychic self, no different from the Dear Leader Kim Jong Il whose biography was completely recreated in order to suit the purpose of the Workers' Party of Korea) I still learned nothing about how to expose carnival crystal ball-gazers as frauds. I was hoping that the pot would call the kettle black for the entire length of the book, giving me a rollicking read. Instead I had to wade through all this paranormal babble until chapter ten, "How It's Done: the Frauds".
Browne reveals the modus operandi of a "cold reading", wherein a psychic attempts to reveal how much she or he knows about you by getting you to reveal as much of yourself as you can through body language. She claims that all curses and spirit possessions are bogus:
"No other spirit but your own can ever inhabit your body without your permission. It's an impossibility. Period."
She comes down hard on those who claim to be able to have the powers to lift curses. The only thing that will be lifted is money from your wallet, Browne says. So good on her for dumping on those particular scam artists.
The Truth About Psychics is not the book its cover makes it out to be, so I do not recommend it. For the truth about psychics, there are plenty of skeptics' exposés around.