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

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Novus Spiritus: "These Freaks Only Come Out at Night"

A ten-year veteran of Novus Spiritus shares some first-hand experiences.

Sylvia Browne posing in 2006 with members of the then-existing Delaware Novus Spiritus church.

Sylvia Browne posing in 2006 with members of the then-existing Novus Spiritus church of Delaware.

Background

Several days ago I received an email from an ex-member of Sylvia Browne's church of Novus Spiritus who wanted to come forward with an account of his first-hand experience with Browne and some of her staff and ministers who work in her office.

The email had an attached Word document containing a long report of these experiences. I replied, asking for clarification on a few points. We exchanged a few more emails, and the account below is the result.

The Report

Here with the author's permission is the report, with a few of my comments added. I have broken it down into sections, but it is one continuous account.

Mr. Lancaster,

I am writing you this letter in response to your article titled "Their Blatant Disdain of Others", and want to relate my experiences with Sylvia Browne and her staff members.

I had followed the teachings of Sylvia Browne since 1997, starting as a Study Group Coordinator, have been working at Sylvia Browne / Hay House lectures around the country since 2004, and was a Novitiate with Novus Spiritus until I left the organization in the Spring of 2007.

In September of 2006 I traveled from Indiana to Delaware to assist the Novus Spiritus Delaware church in working the Sylvia Browne lectures in Philadelphia and Boston . Since Novus Spiritus no longer participated in the Hay House lectures, they allowed the minister of the Delaware church to set up a table at the lectures and sell the Journey of the Soul Books, along with other items that Hay House was not selling at their table, thus being a fund raiser for the church.

Note: The "Journey of the Soul" books referred to are not Browne's three-book series of that name available at bookstores. It is the eight-volume set of spiral-bound computer printouts which Novus Spiritus "study groups" use, which is not available in stores.

Philadelphia Lecture - September 12, 2006
Members of the Delaware church manning a table at a Sylvia Browne lecture in Philadelphia.

Members of the Delaware church manning a table at a Sylvia Browne lecture in Philadelphia.

On the day of the Philadelphia lecture, myself, Rev. Nancy Williams, and two other volunteers from the Delaware church went to the Philadelphia Convention Center and set up the table for the Delaware Church . Once the doors opened, a total of around 45 members of the Delaware church who had purchased tickets to attend the lecture volunteered to help at the Hay House table, as well as the Delaware church table.

When we arrived, Rev. Williams spoke with Nancy Levin, who directed and ran the Hay House lecture for Sylvia Browne, and told her that she had a gift for Sylvia from her Delaware church, and asked that she give it to Sylvia for her. The gift included an angel pin specially made for Sylvia called the "Angelia Pin", a photo album of the Delaware church, as well as a card.

Later Nancy from Hay House came up to the table and informed us that she had spoken with Sylvia and arranged for the church members to go back stage after the lecture to give Sylvia the gifts. Sylvia's assistant Ben later spoke with us about taking everyone backstage to meet Sylvia.

After the lecture, and after the book signing, the members of the church who were able to stay were taken to a dressing room backstage by Hay House staff to wait for Sylvia. I waited outside the room in the hallway, and when Sylvia finished her book signing she got into her wheelchair and was being pushed down the hallway by her son Paul.

Paul Dufresne is Browne's oldest, and a member of the board of directors of the Society of Novus Spiritus.

As Sylvia approached me, Nancy from Hay House stopped her and told her that members of the Delaware church were in the dressing room waiting to present her with a gift. Sylvia became irate that she was stopped, and was very irritated that Nancy and Ben had arranged this, throwing herself up out of the wheelchair and saying "Let's get this over with".

Once Sylvia entered the short hallway into the dressing room she put on her "public face" and the members of the church rose and applauded as she turned the corner into the room. I remained in the hallway with Sylvia's son Paul and her assistant Ben, watching as Sylvia was presented with her card and gifts.

The entire time I was standing there, both Paul and Ben kept making comments about how "these freaks only come out at night", and they kept repeating that phrase as the church members were fawning over Sylvia. At one point I turned to Ben and told him that saying that about these church members was not very nice, especially since they had stayed so late to give these things to Sylvia, and both he and Paul kept repeating how "freaks come out at night."

I did not hear what happened in the dressing room, but much later, Rev. Williams wrote this about it:

"When I told her we had some gifts for her and attempted to hand her the box with the angel pin, she pushed the box back toward me and said something about how she'd look at it when she got back to her room. I started to open the photo album and she closed it and walked over to the chair for the picture. So she totally ignored the gifts we had brought for her and that really bothered me. I felt bad for the members who were there and afterward said something to them to excuse her behavior by saying she was very tired and needed to get to her hotel."

Before Sylvia left the dressing room, she agreed to have her picture taken with the church members. I offered to take the picture so everyone could be included, and used the camera of one of the members to take a total of 2 pictures.

Close-up of Sylvia Browne from group photo.

Close-up of Sylvia Browne from group photo..

As can be seen in the picture, Sylvia was not too happy about the picture, especially since the camera had shut itself off before I could take the first picture, causing me to have the member come back up to turn the camera back on.

As Sylvia got up to leave the room, the church members again clapped, and Sylvia's son Paul again remarked about all of these freaks coming out to see Sylvia. I then walked out into the hallway with Ben, Paul, Nancy Levin and Sylvia, and Sylvia threw herself into the wheelchair and said "Get me the hell out of here" as she threw the bag of gifts to Ben.

Boston Lecture - September 14, 2006
Table setup before Boston lecture.

Table setup before Boston lecture.

The next morning we left Delaware to drive to Boston to again work that lecture, and I did not mention what had happened to Rev. Williams until after we ate dinner in Boston . Once we returned to the hotel room Rev. Williams called Prelate Michael McClellan, finally reaching him at his house.

Prelate McClellan called Rev. Williams back, then called my cell phone so all 3 of us would be on the line, and after explaining to him what Paul, Ben and Sylvia said, and how they acted, he then laughed, stating that we finally saw "the real Sylvia" and said, "welcome to the club" as "you're now officially one of us."

Prelate McClellan went into great detail about how Sylvia mistreats her staff, and those who are close to her, and stated that we had now entered that circle that really knows the real Sylvia. Then Rev. McClellan began telling us how he had previously quit Novus, but returned because he was "in this for the mission, not for Sylvia," and those like Paul and Ben are "not in it for spiritual reasons".

After almost 2 hours on this 3 way call, Rev. McClellan convinced Rev. Williams and myself to not walk away from Novus, to go ahead and work the lecture in Boston, and to remember why we were doing this in the first place, saying "this isn't about Sylvia, this is for Mother Azna."

"Azna" and "Om" are the mother and father god in Novus Spiritus teachings.

The next afternoon we set up at the Convention Center in Boston, and once the lecture started Rev. Williams and I were coming back into the convention center, going up the escalator when we ran into Ben going down the escalator. Ben turned around and ran back up the escalator, and then began to apologize, saying they were "making fun of people in the book signing line, not the church members". He began spilling information about Sylvia, Paul and Chris [Dufresne], and told us of his personal experiences of how Sylvia treats everyone while on the road. He told us to watch "The Devil Wears Prada", and explained how Sylvia is exactly like the character Meryl Streep plays. He then told us personal information about his experiences with Sylvia on the road, including one of him "having to run out and buy her a new nightgown", and how at times he has to "leave the room for fresh air because Sylvia is such a heavy smoker", even though he himself smokes. He even told us that he only travels with Sylvia, and puts up with her, because it pays more than anything else he can do.

Later during the lecture, when Sylvia was speaking, she stopped and told everyone that we were there, how grateful she was for us traveling to the lectures, and asking everyone to come back and thank us. This had never happened before at a lecture, and was evident to us that Prelate McClellan had called Sylvia to fill her in on the details of our conversation the night before. She even sent Ben out with a $100 bill to give to us, telling us to buy ourselves dinner, which had never happened previously. It raises the question, was Sylvia attempting to buy our silence?

Atlantic City Lecture - October 14, 2006
Setting up for Atlantic City.

Setting up for Atlantic City.

In October of 2006, we were invited to set up a table at the Atlantic City , NJ lecture of Sylvia Browne and John Edward to sell the Journey of the Soul books and other items as a fund raiser for the Delaware church. Hay House was not setting up to sell Sylvia's products as the lecture was sponsored by John Edward's people.

A few weeks prior to the lecture, Prelate Michael McClellan contacted Rev. Williams and asked if she would be willing to also sell Sylvia's over the counter products as well, stating that Sylvia only wanted the exposure of her books and the Delaware church could keep any profits from the sales. This was agreed upon, and Novus sent the books out with the understanding that Rev. Williams would return any unsold books, along with a check for the cost of the books sold, to Novus in Campbell. So again I traveled to Delaware, and Rev. Williams, myself and 2 volunteers traveled to Atlantic City and set up the table to sell Sylvia's products. Only this time, we had unrestricted access to every part of the convention center.

After Sylvia arrived, Rev. Williams and I were standing outside speaking with Sylvia's limousine driver, who was an Asian female. She told us of her experiences as a driver, including being shot one time, and told us how she got lost coming into Atlantic City, going to the wrong convention center.

Later that evening, Rev. Williams and myself were invited back to Sylvia's dressing room while John Edward was on stage. When we entered, it was just Sylvia, her son Paul, Rev. Williams and myself, and after some small talk Sylvia told us how she was at this lecture only because John Edward could not sell out a venue, his people begged her to come speak, and how they originally had wanted both her and John on stage at the same time, but she refused to be on stage with anyone.

We mentioned that we had been out back talking with her limo driver, and how she had related all of the things that had happened to her while driving, including being shot, and Sylvia said "I wanted to shoot her myself because she was a stupid bitch who couldn't find the right convention center". Then she and her son Paul both began making fun of the driver, making references to her "no speak English" since she was Asian with an accent, and repeating that she was too stupid to drive. At one point, Sylvia stated that the driver "probably couldn't find her way around because her eyes were too squinty."

During the intermission, Sylvia sent her assistant Ben up to the sales table to take the money made so far, and when Rev. Williams questioned this change in the arrangements, Ben just told her that Sylvia wanted the money. (As of this date, it has been 10 months since that lecture and Novus nor Sylvia have sent Rev. Williams and the Delaware church one cent of the profits promised to the Delaware church). Ben then told us of "going through airports with suitcases full of cash after lectures", referring to the money collected at lectures for the Novus Spiritus bracelets sold.

Later during the question and answer section of the lecture, I walked back stage with Rev. Williams to give the rest of the money collected from the sales table to Ben. I then stayed back stage with Paul and Ben to speak with Sylvia after the lecture, for a close friend of mine who was fighting cancer asked me to ask her one question for him (her answer was wrong, dead wrong). Sylvia had called too many numbers, and Paul remarked that "all of these stupid people all ask the same damned question", and that it was going to take forever to get through everyone.

"Calling numbers" refers to Browne's practice at lectures of drawing numbers corresponding with audience members' tickets to determine those who will get to ask Browne a question.

These experiences with Sylvia and her staff, especially with the information Prelate Michael McClellan and later Cardinal Darren English provided via the phone, really opened my eyes to the type of people Sylvia and her staff members are. They demean her followers, make fun of those who support them, and see people as nothing more than a necessary way to make money.

After Novus

Since breaking away from Novus and Sylvia, I have had several telephone calls from Sylvia Browne, calls where she tried to intimidate me into being quiet and to "stop passing on information to Robert Lancaster and people posting on the Randi forum." Sylvia also told me to tell the former Bishop of the Canadian Church of Novus Spiritus, Ian Wilson, that she "knew where he was", and to pass on to Lancaster that she was "working with the FBI, private investigators, and District Attorneys concerning information that was coming out about her." She then attempted to get me back into her confidence by asking me to notify her as soon as I knew of anything that was going to be posted on either the stopsylviabrowne or randi websites.

I see these calls, and the calls made to others who are or were involved with Novus, as a desperate means to attempt to maintain control by Sylvia Browne, and is yet another example where Sylvia Browne shows total disdain for those who have supported her, and of her use of intimidation to try to silence those who may speak out against her. Could this be why so many ex-ministers and ex-Novus Spiritus members have not come forward?

I hope that by sharing this, and by making my name and experience publicly known, those who have had similar experiences will get the courage to come forward, and that those who think that they know Sylvia will realize that there is the public Sylvia, and then there is the real Sylvia that very few are allowed to see.

Rev. Robert A. Samuels
The Gnostic Church of God of Indiana

Analysis

If this report is accurate - and I have the word of two people who say they were present at the time that it is - then it certainly paints a picture of Browne and her organization which is, to say the least, highly unpleasant.

Although Browne's expression in the photo does not seem overtly angry to me, her body language is certainly stiff and clenched, but that could be a number of things besides anger: Perhaps she was in pain, or overly tired. However, Rev. Samuels and another person present at the time have assured me that Browne's annoyance was quite obvious, and from Rev. Williams' quoted description of Browne's behavior, it certainly sounds as though Browne was not happy.

Paul and Ben's reported remarks from outside the dressing room, and Ben's feeble excuse later (that they had been making fun of the Browne fans getting their books signed rather than the Delaware group - as though that was somehow better?) show a smug contempt for Browne's followers. For Paul Dufresne to behave that way does not speak well of him nor of the Novus board, of which he is a member. I have to wonder: does Browne herself speak this way of her followers when they are not around?

If Browne's reported racist remarks about the limo driver are any indication, I think that Paul, Ben, and perhaps others in Browne's employ, may simply be taking their cue from her on how to treat others, including her fans, when they are not around.

NOTE (added Dec 14 2007): The Rev. Nancy Williams has confirmed much of this account towards the end of a letter published in the article Novus Spiritus: Delaware Breaks Away (Part 2).

Conclusion

Although this account says nothing about Browne's "psychic abilities" or lack thereof, I think it speaks volumes about how both she and her staff view and treat those who look up to her. It certainly reinforces the image of Browne and her staff which was described by an ex-minister of Novus in the article "Email: Their Blatant Disdain for Others".

My thanks to Robert Samuels for coming forward. Although many ex-Novus ministers and congregants have told me their stories and helped me with my research, Rev. Samuels is the first to request that his name to be attached to an article.

I thank him for that, and sincerely hope that his example will be followed by others.

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