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

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Does Sylvia Browne Smoke?

She says she does not. Others say differently. And - does it matter?

Photo of Sylvia Browne at her desk, circa 1988 (note ashtray).

Photo of Sylvia Browne at her desk, circa 1988 (note ashtray).

Background

A couple of months ago, I heard Sylvia Browne state on the Montel Williams show that she did not smoke, and that she simply has a "naturally husky voice."

This surprised me, as I had always assumed she smoked, since her voice sounds like that of a life-long heavy smoker.

Does it matter? I personally do not care whether she smokes or not, but if she does, why would she claim that she doesn't? Why lie about something she has no need to lie about? I put it in the back of my mind to keep an eye out for evidence about this one way or the other.

This article looks at some of what I have found on the subject.

The Claim

I have not been able to find a transcript of the Montel episode where I heard her make the claim, but have found her saying the same thing in two other places:

Newspaper Article, Buffalo News

Source Citation: Kwiatkowski, Jane. "JUST ASKING.(LIFESTYLES)."
The Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY)
(Nov 28, 2002)
C1. New York State Newspapers.

Byline: JANE KWIATKOWSKI - News Staff Reporter

Psychic Sylvia Browne is in the communications business, no doubt about it. At age 66, she is working her way around the world, leading cruises along the Nile, forging friendships with the dead.

At 7 p.m. Dec. 5, Browne brings her show to the Buffalo Convention Center, where last year, she attracted more than 2,500 people. One never knows who will creep onto Browne's stage.

Recently, from her offices in San Jose, Calif., she called The News to talk.

Kwiatkowski: A distinctive voice you have.

Browne: My whole family has it, and we don't drink, we don't smoke. We have sort of this smoky voice. They used to call it a whiskey voice. My grandson has it, too.

"We don't smoke," not "I have never smoked." And yet the implication is strong that nobody in her family, including Browne herself, has ever smoked.

"Secrets & Mysteries of the World"

In Browne's 2005 book Secrets & Mysteries of the World, in the chapter titled "Demons" (pages 72-73, hardbound edition), she implies that she never smoked even more strongly (emphasis mine):

To show you how smart I am (keep in mind, I've never claimed to be psychic about myself), I didn't realize until much later that my last husband was strangling me with his pressure. After the divorce, my doctor found a tumor in my throat (benign, thank God) that was wound around my vocal cords. Since I don't smoke and have always had a husky voice, as have all the women in my family, I wasn't concerned about my throat, but the doctor found the growth in a routine exam.

She says "I don't smoke," rather than "I've never smoked."

But she also says that her voice is "naturally" the way it is, and she seemed to think she had no cause to worry about her throat.

Again, it seems clear to me that she is trying in both of these instances to give the impression that she has never smoked.

The Evidence

Here is the evidence I have found on the subject, in chronological order of the years discussed.

1959-1972 - The Dufresne Interview
Ree and Gary Dufresne

Ree and Gary Dufresne

My first chance to look into this was during my February 10 2007 interview of Gary Dufresne. Dufresne was married to Browne from 1959 through 1972, so I figured he would at least know whether she had smoked back then.

During the course of that interview, I asked the following:

(Click here to watch video)

Lancaster: Okay, I've gotta ask this one. How much does she smoke?

Ree Dufresne: Oh God, a lot.

Gary Dufresne: She used to smoke a lot when we were married, and she smoked forever and a day, umm, but like I said, I haven't been in contact with her for a long time. And see that when I last... She used to smoke as much as I did, and I smoked two packs of cigarettes a day, when umm, you know that's been almost thirty years ago that I stopped. But I... I have no idea how much she would smoke now.

So, it would seem that Browne had a two-pack a day habit during her thirteen-year marriage to Dufresne.

What about after that?

1988 - West Magazine
Cover of July 31 1988 edition of West magazine

Cover of July 31 1988 edition of West magazine

The cover story of the July 31 1988 edition of West magazine (an insert into the San Jose Mercury News) was a multi-page story profiling local celebrity Sylvia Brown (she had not yet added the "e" to her last name).

Excerpt from article.

Excerpt from article.

At one point in the article (page 9), Browne is telling the reporter a story of how she helped her son Paul find two missing dogs. We read the following (emphasis mine):

...And I said 'Turn left.' We turned left, and there were the dogs. So I found them. And I know Almaden Valley like I know Podunk, Arkansas.

She sat back in the chair, quietly smoking a cigarette, thinking about finding the dogs.

The article also contained a photograph of Brown at her desk in her office. On the back corner of the desk, by Brown's right elbow, is a large ashtray (see image at top of this article).

So, Brown(e) was smoking back in 1988.

What about after that?

1980s - 1990s

A correspondent to this site who wishes to remain nameless, is someone who attended many trance sessions and Novus Spiritus functions in the 1980s and early 1990s, and when asked about the subject, said the following:

She did smoke openly back in the 1980s, and she must have quit smoking sometime in the early 1990s because I was still in Campbell when she quit. At the time she quit, I just assumed she had quit because she was having the plastic surgeries done at that time.

The correspondent did not know whether or not Browne had been successful at the attempt to quit.

In her 1990 book My Guide, My Self written with Antoinette May (later republished as Adventures of a Psychic), the following is found on page 211 (emphasis mine):

Sylvia is certain, too, that the weight problems she has suffered from for many years are the result of "carrying" others in her effort to protect them. Smoking, an addiction she has conquered, represents to her a subconscious desire to hold evil at bay - a modern-day replacement for the bonfires of old.

So, did she stop smoking around 1990?

2005-2006 - Ex-Novus Spiritus Members

Another former Novus Spiritus member told me that he/she helped at several Browne speaking engagements in 2005-2006, and had this to say on the subject:

I have personally never seen her smoke, but when I worked the lectures with her, her personal assistant, [name], said that "she claims she doesn't smoke, but smokes like a freight train in the hotel room".

Nowadays, with venues being non-smoking anywhere inside, it would be hard for her to sneak out and smoke (since she uses the wheelchair), and I know that she can't smoke in the dressing rooms (unless she sneaks into the bathroom).

Still another ex-Novus member, who worked some of Browne's lectures in 2006 said the following:

I asked [Browne's assistant] just last year [2006] if Sylvia still smoked and he said that she’s a heavy smoker – that she chain smokes in the hotel room and the cloud is so thick he has to go outside for fresh air.

So, whether or not she stopped smoking in the early 1990s, she is reportedly back to smoking heavily as recently as 2005 and 2006.

Analysis

So, does she smoke?

I think the first-hand evidence is pretty clear that she did for decades, at least from the 1950s through the 1990s. And the second-hand accounts I've read and heard seem to indicate that she still smoked heavily as late as 2006.

Secrets & Mysteries of the World, the book in which she stated "I don't smoke," was published in 2005. It's difficult to say when it was written.

Conceivably it was written during some brief period of time when Browne was not smoking, in which case the statement "I don't smoke" wouldn't be an out-and-out lie. But even if that is the case, she is at least being disingenuous, strongly implying that she had never smoked.

Conclusion

So apparently, Browne smokes, smokes heavily, and has done so for decades of her life. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has heard her speak.

But - does it matter? Who cares?

In the grand scheme of things, compared with all of the other things I believe Browne does - pretending to be psychic, callously manipulating people in vulnerable positions for her own profit, etc. - lying about whether she smokes or not is not that important.

So why have I written an article about it?

Because it is part of a pattern of what appears to be almost habitual deception on her part. Over the years, I think Browne has come to believe that she can say and write anything she wants, without fear of anyone pointing out the inconsistencies, the exaggerations, the contradictions and the lies, both large and small.

Those days are over.

My thanks to the current and former members of Browne's church who contributed to this article.

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