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11/17/2006 Good Grief, Sylvia Browne

by Ross Blocher

On November 17, 2006, Sylvia Browne came to the Hollywood Palladium on her "If You Could See What I See" Tour. The infamous "psychic" had this summary on her website:

Our life on Earth is our path to God. In this all-new lecture, Sylvia expands on the meaning of non-religious spirituality, and shares with us what her guides Francine and Raheim have told her about the nature of God and the meaning of life. Regardless of the spiritual path that we follow, Sylvia believes that our ultimate quest is to find our own God-center.

By sharing several of her most intimate and entertaining stories from her own life's journey, Sylvia will show you how to turn your daily life into a path towards God.
Don't miss this opportunity to see world-renowned psychic Sylvia Browne live in person to enjoy the insights, candor and wit that only Sylvia can offer!!!
It is Sylvia's mission in life to share with you the esoteric teachings that her guides have given to her. As Sylvia says:

To learn is spiritual, because knowledge destroys ignorance, prejudice, and greed.

As always, audience members will be selected for live readings from a completely random drawing of wrist band numbers. This is your opportunity for a personal psychic reading from Sylvia.

The Hollywood venue was sold out (ticket prices were $35, $50 and $75) in an auditorium capable of seating 3,500 people. With the event taking place a mere two miles away from CFI West, the Independent Investigation Group headquarters, there was no way IIG could pass up the opportunity to share some information about Sylvia Browne.

Jerry Buchanan and Ross Blocher, who participated in the protest.

In the days leading up to the event, IIG members sent emails back and forth, composing and editing a "cheat sheet" for event attendees to discern Sylvia's cold reading techniques. The difficulty lay in finding a balance between two distinct approaches: the hard-line tact that might turn people away ("Sylvia has no connection with the non-existent spiritual world; here's how she does her tricks"), and a subtle approach that is more likely to be read ("Here's how to tell a good psychic from a bad psychic").

The final cheat sheet was finished within hours of the event (it can be seen here, and about 450 copies were made at CFI West. Two IIG members, Jerry Buchanan and I, took the half-sheet flyers to distribute at the Hollywood Palladium.

The flier handed out to attendees of the event.

The event was to begin at 7:00 PM, and Jerry and I arrived at about 5:50 thinking there would be plenty of time before a line started building up. Instead, we found that people were already being led into the auditorium, which was located about 100 feet in from the sidewalk next to one of the ubiquitous Hollywood paid parking lots. We walked up near the entrance and begin handing out our brightly colored green, orange and blue flyers. I was saying something along the lines of, "Here, this is for the event tonight," or "This is about the event." Immediately we were set upon by two women; one with a dark dress and a shock of dark, curly hair, and the other a tall blonde in a suit. They were clearly coordinators of the event, and they did not appreciate our presence. The woman in the dark dress was in my face, and both Jerry and I were being told that we had to leave and that we were being deceptive. Jerry was busy trying to get specifics about who owned the public parking lot, and I was inquiring as to how I might better phrase my greeting in order to be less deceptive as I handed out flyers. "I certainly don't want to be deceptive. Do you want to know why we're here?" "Oh, I know why you're here," she replied, angrily clutching a green handout she hadn't read yet.

A tall, formidable security guard came and told us that we would have to relocate to the sidewalk, and we began to walk out of the parking lot. Jerry was still asking questions, more than the security guard wanted to answer, and the guard made an attempt to take the papers out of Jerry's hands. Jerry protested loudly and held on to the flyers. By this point we were on opposite sides of the entrance gate to the facility, and the curly haired woman was still right next to me. "You're making it sound like you have something to do with the event, and you don't!"

"Okay, would it be better if I just said, 'here's some information.'?"

"You're being deceptive!"

"What would you like me to say?"

"You have to say, 'I have absolutely nothing to do with this'!"

"I'm sorry, but I don't have to say anything."

Meanwhile, the security guard was trying to make Jerry stand clearly out of the way of the parking lot entrance. The guard yelled over to me, "Tell your friend to stand like you are, out of the way of the entrance." I responded that I had no control over my friend.

The blonde woman stood in the middle and asked Jerry and me if we wanted them to call the police. We emphatically agreed that would be a good idea, and she angrily walked back toward the building. I offered a promise to the woman in the dark dress that I would not tell people I was affiliated with the event, and she brusquely left, presumably to call the police. At one point the guard radioed to someone, "Have the police been called?" An unintelligible response crackled back. He seemed satisfied by the response. The security guard then returned to his earlier post, and Jerry and I remained on either side of the parking lot entrance. Four middle-aged blonde women had come to witness the altercation, and they stood by, arms crossed, on the other side of the fence from me. "You're deceivers," one of them said. "Certainly not," I replied. "Would you like to read a copy of what we're handing out?" They declined.

There was a steady stream of people coming in through the gate, especially from my side, and I quickly worked up a greeting that became my staple for the rest of the evening: "Hello, here's some information if you're interested," I held the flyer close to my body, and before someone took it I would add, "We're not affiliated with the event…" I was careful to make eye contact, "But we hope you have a good night." One of the four women behind the gate heard me saying, "We're not affiliated with the event" and yelled out, "Good boy!" She and the others returned to the theater.
Jerry later told me that he was not so verbose. He was handing the flyers to people and saying, "You might want to read this," or "This is about the event tonight," as he had made no promises to say otherwise.

Whether the police were called, we don't know, but none ever showed up. The next hour and a half went a lot more smoothly. Responses were varied. The majority of people had their eyebrows up as I handed them "some information," looked slightly concerned as I denied affiliation with the event, and then smiled and said "Thank you" as I wished them a good night. A smaller percentage almost grabbed the paper and then thought better of it or said "No thanks", and others (especially those talking on cell phones) ignored me completely. Only a few people stopped to stand next to me and actually read what the paper said. "What is this about?" they would ask. I took the delicate tact and said, "Ah, this is how to tell a bad psychic from a good psychic. You can watch Sylvia tonight to see if she does any of these things." Of course, by that criterion, there is no such thing as a good psychic.

I was surprised that no one, having glanced at the paper, discarded it on the ground or came back to throw it in my face or shout epithets. Only one was handed back, and that was by a guy who had picked one up from Jerry, realized that it was for an event he wasn't even attending, and gave it back to me. A few people who were just walking by were curious as to who this Sylvia Browne person was, and we gave them handouts, too.

One of our primary roles of the evening was directing traffic. The lot quickly became full, and the streets were clogged with people trying to get information as to where they should park. The parking lot attendants ignored these people completely, unless it was someone on a VIP list, so Jerry and I took to telling people they could find parking up the street and to the left. We wished each of them good luck, and they seemed to appreciate someone paying attention to them.

About fifteen minutes before 7:00 PM, a black limousine arrived with darkened windows. This was clearly Sylvia, as the curly-haired woman personally ran over to make sure the limo encountered no problems.

About ten minutes after 7:00, Jerry and I switched places, and we continued to hand out flyers for another twenty minutes. People were still coming in (and trying to find parking) half an hour after the event had begun, but we were nearly out of flyers and had to get back to IIG. I finished the night with 16 left, and I don't think Jerry had many more.

Overall, I'd say our minor protest was a great success. Perhaps some people enjoyed the dose of skepticism we administered, and maybe even began to question Sylvia's methods. We look forward to hearing what feedback we receive, both positive and negative. Hopefully Sylvia looked out into a sea of people dotted with brightly colored handouts. If so, I'm sure she already knew what they said. She is a "psychic", after all.

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