Sylvia Browne — full-time psychic, part-time facilitator of nightmares, and cornerstone of The Montel Williams Show — is very much caught up on the wrong side of a story gripping the nation with a heartbreaking work of staggeringly bad fortune-telling. In 2004, the professional (and very well-paid) psychic told the mother of one of the women kidnapped in Cleveland that her daughter was dead. Louwana Miller believed the talk-show psycic, and now she'll never know that her daughter, Amanda Berry, was found alive Monday night: Berry's mother died two years after Browne foretold the future incorrectly... again.
Much of the kidnapping case remains at turns uplifting and depressing — the discovery of the long-lost women quickly turned to reports of basement sex slavery, the heroic neighbor became an Internet hero for all the wrong reasons — but this is perhaps the coldest sideshow of a cold case come alive. The Cleveland Plain Dealer republished its article about Louwana Miller's visit to The Montel Williams Show in 2004 — Berry had gone missing in April 2003 — and her search for answers about her daughter. Here's the key excerpt:
"She’s not alive, honey," Sylvia Browne told her matter-of-factly. "Your daughter’s not the kind who wouldn’t call."
That is Browne being absolutely wrong. And Fox Cleveland has a little bit more:
"So do you think I’ll ever see her again?" Miller asked.
"Yeah, in Heaven on the other side," was Browne’s answer.
That is, indeed, pretty cold. But that matter-of-fact style is one of the reasons Browne was so popular on TV and beyond. Even more infuriating: The Plain-Dealer reported at the time that Miller really trusted what Browne was saying:
Miller said she believes "98 percent" in Browne.
"Please don’t misunderstand me. I still don’t want to believe it. I want to have hope but, after a year and a half, what else is there?" Miller said. "It seems like the God-honest truth. My daughter would always call home."
Miller died in 2006. And according to a book written by investigative journalist James Renner, she died thinking her daughter was dead, even as Amanda remained officially vanished, and not officially dead at all.