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9/11 Fireman: Reading on the Montel Williams Show

Sylvia Browne tells a woman that her boyfriend died in a way which seems to conflict with the facts.

Sylvia and the woman

Sylvia and the woman (see Update below).

Background

The Montel Williams Show is an American daytime talk show which frequently features Sylvia Browne as a guest.

On some of these shows, members of the studio audience are allowed to stand and ask Ms. Browne questions.

One such episode of the show was broadcast on May 24th, 2006 (episode title: "Sylvia Browne Explains the Unanswered"), in which a woman asked Browne about her deceased boyfriend, and was visibly upset when Browne's answer did not make sense to her.

As discussed elsewhere on this site, I believe that what Sylvia Browne does is indistinguishable from "cold reading," a method used by mentalists, magicians and others to create the false illusion of psychic powers. The way she handles this woman's statements is very much in keeping with cold reading techniques.

The Reading

What follows is a complete transcript of that segment of the show, interspersed with my comments. Browne and Williams are seated on stage, and the woman is standing in the audience holding a microphone.

(See Related Links to view a YouTube video of the segment.)

Woman: I lost my boyfriend tragically, um... a few years ago. (choking back tears) They never found him, and I've had such a hard time since. Every day.

(Sylvia) Browne: The reason why you didn't find him is 'cause he's in water. And, find him in water...

The woman looks stunned at this, for reasons which will become apparent in a moment.

First though, an observation on Browne's statement: If a body has not been found after "a few years," chances are, it will never be found. When presented with a situation like this, a cold reader can make up any answer he or she wishes, usually with little fear of contradiction.

Usually. But not always.

Browne: (to Montel) it's like the girl that's missing in Aruba. (to woman) You can't find somebody...

Woman: (interrupting) Well, it was... September eleventh. There was no... He was a fireman, but... there was no...

(The woman's New York accent, combined with the fact that the show tapes in New York City, would seem to indicate that the woman's boyfriend was one of the New York firemen who died at the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001.)

If Browne is cold-reading (as I believe she is), she has just made a major blunder, and needs to decide how to recover. Apparently, she decides to run with it, insisting that she is correct.

Browne: Well no, you see, I keep seeing him in water.

(The woman shakes her head, visibly upset. There is a pause.)

Browne: Is there any way he could have drowned in water, someway?

Woman: (shakes her head) They never found a piece of him. Nothing.

(Montel) Williams: (to Sylvia) From 9/11.

There is another pause at this point. Even Montel Williams, who normally backs Browne up when her "readings" go astray, seems to be at a loss to accept this one as correct.

Browne: 'Cause he's... he says he couldn't breathe and he was filled with water.

By now saying "he was filled with water" (past tense), Browne has opened up more interpretations than her earlier, more specific statement, "he is in water" (present tense). A cold reader might make such a change, hoping for interpretations which would be considered a "hit."

But neither Williams nor the woman seem to buy it, and there is another long pause.

(Another pause.)

Williams: Hmm.

(The woman sits down. Montel points to another person in the audience, apparently trying to move on.)

Browne: Well, if they were trying to put the fire out, Montel...

Williams: They couldn't... you know... uh... yeah.

There is another uncomfortable pause here. Apparently, Browne decides to not push the "in water" idea any more, but tries to wrap it up on a somewhat positive note.

Browne: No, they won't find him, but honey that's okay, because it doesn't matter if they find him or not, he's still over there.

(Another pause.)

Williams: (indicating another woman in the audience): Yes ma'am.

At this point, a woman's voice can be faintly heard saying "Okay, thank you." It is difficult to tell if it is the woman who just sat down, or the one to whom Montel just pointed.

Conclusion

So, could a fireman who died at the World Trade Center on 9/11 be "in water", more than four years later? Could he have drowned on 9/11?

I have read a fair amount of material on 9/11, and have never heard of anyone - fireman or civilian - drowning at the World Trade Center that day.

If anyone reading this can send me legitimate news references of people drowning that day, I will add that information to this article.

As it stands, in my opinion, this is yet another example of a cold reading which went badly - for the cold reader.

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.

  • Cold Reading - Definition in the Skeptic's Dictionary.
  • www.montelshow.com - Official web site of the Montel Williams Show.
  • www.transcripts.tv - Site where transcripts & DVDs of the Montel Show (including, as of this writing, the one referenced in this article) may be purchased.

Links to video of the reading removed. See Update below for explanation.

Update: December 20th, 2006

I was contacted today by the woman being "read" by Browne in the segment of the Montel Williams Show discussed in this article.

Here, with her permission, are excerpts from the email I received from her:

...it has been brought to my attention that there are numerous video clips on you tube.com RE: my horrendous experience face to face with Sylvia Browne... and the more I read... I found this site.

I am the woman in the segment who lost my boyfriend; a FDNY Firefighter in the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001. I am appalled and embarrassed that the Montel Show would even dare to air such BS... let alone constantly have it repeated on air. Then, friends have been quite apprehensive about telling me this embarrassing encounter is on you tube. I have e-mailed all of the contacts (I hope) in trying to show decency and respect for my lost love.

...

I am a believer in this psychic world.... to an extent. When you lose someone as close as I did... you reach out for it all. I truly believe there ARE gifted people who are connected spiritually. Unfortunately, Sylvia Browne is not one. And what is even more unfortunate... it continues to air on National TV, You tube, and your site. I know you are trying to show what a fraud she is... but it is at our expense.

...

I have been sick over this from that taping. I wrote the Montel Show that very next day asking them to not include that part in the show.

...

I am asking you with all my heart to please remove this from your site. It is extremely painful to know it exists...and more so to know people are watching it everyday.

...

After verifying to my satisfaction that she is indeed the woman in the clip, I removed her image from this article, as well as links to the video clip, out of respect for her loss, and her fiancée’s sacrifice.

If anyone reading this has a copy of the video up on the web, I would ask you to consider taking it down as well.

I feel that it is important to show Sylvia Browne for what she is, but to do so at the expense of this woman and her feelings seems too much like what I am accusing Browne of doing: taking advantage of the grieving.

My thanks to this woman for agreeing to my keeping the transcript of the segment here on the site.

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