A look at the claims, predictions and behavior of a media "psychic".

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Interview: Gary and Ree Dufresne

One of Browne's ex-husbands speaks out about her.

Ree and Gary Dufresne.

Ree and Gary Dufresne.

Background

In my research into Sylvia Browne and her many claims, I was fortunate enough to contact Gary Dufresne, who was married to Browne from April of 1959 until some time in 1972.

During that first phone call, Mr. Dufresne and I spoke for more than an hour, part of which was spent with me explaining this web site, and my purpose in contacting him. The rest of the call was spent discussing Sylvia Browne and their son, Christopher Dufresne. At the end of that call, he wished me luck with my endeavor, and I did not anticipate hearing from him again.

Some weeks later, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a call from Mr. Dufresne. He told me that he had read the New York Daily News account of Browne having told the parents of Shawn Hornbeck that he (Shawn) was dead, when of course he had later turned up alive and well. Mr. Dufresne told me that after reading that article, he regretted having stayed silent about Browne all these years, and that he would help me in any way that he could.

Mr. Dufresne - and his lovely wife of thirty years, Ree Dufresne - graciously allowed me into their home to conduct an interview on February 10 2007. I heard many interesting things about Sylvia Browne and Christopher Dufresne during that interview, and have compiled a few of them into this article.

(It should be noted that Mr. Dufresne is not the husband with whom Browne was charged with grand larceny and fraud. That was Dal Brown, Sylvia's subsequent husband.)

The Interview

With the Dufresnes seated on a couch in their living room, I asked them a series of questions while my video camera taped the proceedings. It should be obvious from these clips that I am neither a professional interviewer nor professional videographer.

After some preliminaries, in which they stated their names and agreed that they were not being paid or reimbursed in any way for their participation, the questions started.

Many of my questions were ones they could not answer other than through hearsay. Others, such as the ones below, they answered from direct, first-hand knowledge.

Here are a few highlights of that interview (all emphasis mine):

Reason for Participating

(Click here to view video of this segment. 3.8MB)

Lancaster: Um, what is your reason for participating in this interview?

Dufresne: Well, I'm tired... After this last incident with the boys in Missouri [Shawn Hornbeck and William Owenby -RSL], I realized that silence wasn't the way to go and that sort of thing, and when you contacted me, I decided.. I thought about it, and after a while I answered a few questions for you, and umm, I called you back and I told you "Hey, whatever I can do to help you, I will do." It's difficult to get involved with her, I try to get her out of my mind as much as possible, but the evil that she spews out there, and the damage she does to people - unsuspecting people that are in crisis situations - is just atrocious.

Sylvia Browne's Abilities

After asking whether Dufresne believes in Sylvia Browne's "psychic powers" (he does not), I asked some questions relating to her book "Adventures of a Psychic," a biography of sorts, in which she writes about her marriage to Dufresne.

(Click here to view video of this segment. 5.0MB)

Lancaster: In the book she talks about you knowing about her psychic powers while you were dating?

Dufresne: That is absolutely ridiculous.

Lancaster: And it also talks about umm, her giving "trance readings" um, for the guys - you know, your friends - at the house?

Dufresne: We can elaborate on that one, that's... that has a certain degree of truth to it. There wasn't "trance readings," they were a card...

Mrs. Dufresne: [overlapping] Tarot. Tarot cards.

Dufresne: [overlapping] ... tarot. Tarot cards were popular at that time, and when we would have parties - I was with the staff of the fire department at that time - she would do these readings for people who wanted to hear it. And there were a few guys, and certainly their wives, and you know, and... that brings a good point out that I think that sums up a lot of Sylvia. One night after one of these parties when she was particularly putting out all the garbage that she does - just like her readings now, right off the top of her head this stuff comes, no thought, no thought of anything else. Umm, I said to her as we were washing dishes and she was wiping or whatever, I said "Sylvia, how can you tell people this kind of stuff? You know it's not true, and some of these people actually are probably going to believe that." And she said - and I won't put it exactly the word that she said but she said - but "Screw 'em. Anybody who believes this stuff oughtta be taken." And that pretty much sums up Sylvia's philosophy about the psychic stuff. And it's carried over, you know, into her, quote, uh... fraudulent career.

Sylvia Browne's Education

One thing about Browne which I have always found to be suspect is her claim to have a Master's Degree in English Literature. She does not speak as I would expect someone with such a degree to speak, but that proves nothing. However, it also seems suspicious to me that in all of the times I have seen or read this claim, she never states when or at what university this degree was supposedly earned, which of course makes it difficult to prove or disprove.

So, does she have such a degree? I decided Gary Dufresne might have some insight into the question.

(Click here to view video of this segment. 6.0MB)

Lancaster: Um, in her books, and on her web site, Sylvia claims to have earned a Master's Degree in English Literature. What do you know of her educational background?

Dufresne: I know that when I first met her she was in, I think a freshman in college in Kansas City Missouri. We were married shortly after that - probably five, six months after that period of time. She never went to college while I was there. She couldn't get a job in the public school system in California because she did not have a teaching credential and she did not have a degree on anything. Um, so up to that point she had probably, at the very... very best, one year of education in higher learning. Um, in California out here, when we were married, she uh, she worked the Catholic school system because they didn't require a degree like the state did. Um, she went to the University of Notre Dame in Belmont for night school for periods of time - that gave her a license to play around apparently and all that, now looking back on it, but anyhow... There's no way that Sylvia could possibly have any kind of degree. She can't have a four year degree. She can't have a two year degree! It just... it doesn't fit. None of it would fit.

Lancaster: In, in the book Adventures of a Psychic, she, she says that she enrolled - while you were married - that she enrolled in the English Literature Master's program at San Francisco University. Do you know anything about that?

Dufresne: That is a fraudulent lie!

Mrs. Dufresne: Absolutely not.

Dufresne: That's absolutely ridiculous.

Lancaster: Was, was she... did she attend a university in San Francisco at all to your knowledge?

Dufresne: No.

Mrs. Dufresne: No. USF is a Jesuit college in San Francisco, and she did not attend USF.

Dufresne: She's saying this while we were married?

Lancaster: Yes.

Dufresne: She can't even remember where she DID go to night school!

Here is the quote I mentioned, from Adventures of a Psychic (emphasis mine):

Page 82 (paperback edition)

"...The Shoemakers [Sylvia's parents - RSL] moved out of Sylvia and Gary's home only when the two families purchased a duplex and settled down side by side.

But there had been one reprieve for Sylvia. On one evening every week she escaped into another world. Sylvia had enrolled in the English Literature master's program at San Francisco University. As challenging as undergraduate college life had been for the young girl, the woman was even more stimulated by graduate work."

So, in the book she mentions being in the Master's Degree program at San Francisco University during her marriage to Dufresne, and yet, to his knowledge, she never even got a bachelor's degree.

Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that there does not appear to be a university by that name. There are a few with similar-sounding names (University of San Francisco, San Francisco State University, University of California at San Francisco), but no San Francisco University that I can find, other than a high school by that name.

I suppose it is possible that she got the name of her own university wrong in her own biography, or that the university's name has changed in the years since then. And it would certainly have been possible for her to earn a degree in the years after she and Gary Dufresne divorced. But she claims in the book to have been earning it during the marriage. Combine this with Gary Dufresne's insistence that she attended no such university during their marriage, and it certainly casts doubt on the claim.

Some may ask "Why even ask? It has nothing to do with whether or not she is really psychic." This is true. But if this claim - which she makes over and over again in many of her books - is not true, then it certainly shows that she would not hesitate to tell a flat-out lie to all of her fans. And if she would lie about this, what else would she lie about?

If Browne or any of her supporters want to let me know where and when she earned her Master's Degree, I will gladly update this article with that information, after confirming it.

NOTE: Browne did subsequently provide a college transcript. What did it show? Please see follow-up article, Sylvia Browne's College Transcript.

About Christopher Dufresne

I asked Gary about his and Sylvia's son Christopher Dufresne, who also claims to be psychic, working at Sylvia Browne Corp., charging $450 for 20-30 minute phone readings.

(Click here to view video of this segment. 3.8MB)

Lancaster: Okay well what, what is... what is your opinion then of Christopher Dufresne's psychic powers?

Dufresne: Well, I feel the same way. Chris has, you know, has no powers whatsoever. Umm, for a period of time there, Christopher was into bodybuilding and that sort of thing and he was just huge. Huge, huge, huge. And umm, we were down at World's Gym I think he worked out at in San Jose once, and we were down there.. And I worked out with him, and in fact I was pretty amazed at how big and powerful the man was.

And we were talking, and we were in the locker room, and he sat down there, and he said basically, he was talking to me about the fact that he hates what he does, but you know, the money's good, and his mother pushes it, and actually, what else is he going to do? And um, but he did state that he really disliked what he was doing.

But he also stated, and again, this just backs up what I said about the dishwashing incident together. He said that she told him that "Hey, what do you care about these people? You're never going to talk to 'em again. Tell 'em what they want to hear and move on. Collect the money and move on."

Analysis

While there was no "smoking gun" found during the interview, it was certainly full of interesting insights into both Sylvia Browne and Christopher Dufresne, as well as other members of the family.

How trustworthy was the information? After all, a person's ex-spouse may not be the most objective source of information about them. As for myself, I found both Ree and Gary to be very believable. Gary in particular seemed like someone who felt he had held his silence for too long, and was glad to finally "let it all out."

Were they telling the truth? I believe that they were.

Perhaps Sylvia Browne or Christopher Dufresne will come forth with proof otherwise.

If they do, I will gladly examine it and place it on this web site.

Conclusion

I would like to thank Gary and Ree Dufresne for inviting me into their home, and for being forthcoming with all of the information they shared with me.

I hope that I will be able to put that information to good use, and make the Dufresne's honesty worth any problems they have as a result of having come forward.

Related Links

Clicking on any of these links will load a separate browser window for viewing the linked page.

StopSylviaBrowne.com is not responsible for the content of any of these linked pages.

  • Adventures of a Psychic - Book mentioned above, on Amazon.com. The contents of the book are searchable, so the quotes from the book above can be seen.
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