Friday, January 19, 2007
Psychic told parents that son was dead
Of the many horrors Shawn Hornbeck's parents and loved ones faced during the four years their son was missing, some news they received early on -- just four months into the ordeal -- perhaps was the cruelest ... perhaps.

They had looked everywhere for Shawn. There were no fresh leads, no rumors, no trails to follow. His parents were beyond desperate when they went on Montel Williams' syndicated television program, where they were brought together with renowned psychic Sylvia Browne. The following is the transcript of the exchange between Craig Akers (Shawn's stepfather) and Pam Akers (Shawn's mother) and the psychic Sylvia Browne:

CRAIG AKERS: Can you tell how far from the area he was taken?

SYLVIA BROWNE: Maybe about 20 miles.

CRAIG: And he's still within a 20-mile radius even now?

BROWNE: He's still within a 20-mile radius of -- let's say, here's where you are, 20-mile radius, but it's really southwest of where you are.

CRAIG: Southwest.

BROWNE: So whatever is southwest, because it looks like this is -- here we go again with the wooded, with the -- you know, the wooded areas. So southwest of you.

PAM AKERS: Is there any landmarks around?

BROWNE: Yeah. Strange enough, there are two jagged boulders, which look really misplaced. Because everything is trees, and then all of a sudden, you've got these stupid boulders sitting there.

MONTEL WILLIAMS: And he could be found near there?

BROWNE: He's near the boulders.

PAM: Is he still with us?


CRAIG: Do you see the bicycle anywhere?

BROWNE: I think the -- see, here's what's strange. I think the--the--the bicycle is in another state in a dump.

In other words, Sylvia Browne was telling his parents the worst possible news -- that Shawn was dead, and that his body was in a rocky, forested area within 20 miles of their home. For the next three weeks, the search reportedly focused on finding Shawn's body in that prescribed area.

Of course, they failed to find the body because last week -- four years after he went missing -- Shawn Hornbeck turned up very much alive.

We wanted to talk to Sylvia Browne about her responsibilities and about delivering that kind of information to a desperate and vulnerable family, but she chose not to speak with us in person. In a written statement, her publicist said, "She cannot possibly be 100 percent correct in each and every one of her predictions. She has, during a career of over 50 years, helped literally tens of thousands of people."

All this is a lot to think about, especially if you are family desperate to find your missing child. What do you think? It's something Anderson will discuss with a number of experts on tonight's show.
Posted By David Doss, "360" Executive Producer: 6:23 PM ET
I think psychics are frauds and I would never consult one. They do more harm than good.
Posted By Anonymous Charlotte D, Stockton CA : 6:41 PM ET
Psychics can be entertaining to listen to, but that's as far as it goes. It is by no means a scientifically accurate means of predictability, and it should not be used to deliver such crucial reports.
Posted By Anonymous Kathleen, London ON. : 6:44 PM ET
She is a nut for sure but what I think is worse is: Shawn Hornbeck has been home for barely 7 days. The poor boy has been paraded around the country by his media hungry parents to be on Oprah, and Larry King and a bunch of other shows. I can't imagine how shallow they must be. It seems the natural thing to do would be to stay home with your son and hold him tight and take care of him so he feels safe but they want to throw his humiliating experience on prime time for all of us to hear about again and again. Are they after money? The raising awareness excuse they give could have been handled by an issued statemenet like the other little boy's parents did. On the website they have they ask for a pay pal donation! What's next... a book deal, a movie? What a disgrace. That poor kid.
Posted By Anonymous Shelley, Pensacola, Florida : 6:59 PM ET
Posted By Anonymous CHERI,MADVILLE,KY : 6:59 PM ET
As a working intuitive reader (psychic)who has shared hundreds of readings to people over the years, I find it NOT surprising when a high profile psychic
is not quite 100% accurate you post a story and even have a television segment. How about researching many other psychics who have assisted individuals, families, and police departments in a positive light.
Posted By Anonymous Rhonda Mesa, Arizona : 6:59 PM ET
All those supposed psychic powers that people claim to have is just pure nonsense. How can you trust one person about the past, present, or futuer? Evidence is evidence and clearly psychic powers do not classify under evidence.
Posted By Anonymous Shruti Bala, Glendale, AZ : 7:02 PM ET
Could it be that Sylvia was seeing the other missing boy whom they have not been able to find yet and who looked so much like Shawn?
Posted By Anonymous Nancy Dargle, Forest, VA : 7:08 PM ET
I know Sylvia Browne and other psychic's have helped in solving many police searches. I think if my child were missing and there were no leads I would look to a psychic as well. It's heart breaking to think that Shawn's parents thought he was dead on her advise, and a shame that so much time was wasted looking in the wrong place, but Sylvia Browne is not at fault in my opinion. She told them what she thought she saw and they chose to believe it. Thank God he was found alive. Blessing should be counted and others with missing children should have renewed hope, it's not a time to place blame.
Posted By Anonymous Marie Larson, Martinsburg WV : 7:09 PM ET
My heart goes out to the Hornbeck family and I am so happy for the return of Shawn.

I can't imagine the agony they must have suffered during the past four years. To be told that your son is dead is the worst news parents hear.

I have always believed that many psychics have the ability to see things that others cannot. After reading this story about the Hornbecks and Sylvia Brown, I have definitely reconsidered my belief is psychics.

If Sylvia Brown, one of the most
famous psychics in the country can be so completely wrong, then who can we believe? Why should we even bother with psychics?
Posted By Anonymous Katie Prusko, Scranton, Pennsylvania : 7:15 PM ET
This goes to prove that if you guess and speculate and throw out enough random comments that something your say will be right.

I see a name that start with a J or M pretty much sums up 40% of the population and the other 60% will know someone with a J or M.

Hey, I'm having a vision right now, did anyone who posts here have a grandparent or parent who's passed? They're telling me to tell you they're okay and they're happy.

Forward all checks of thanks to 360 so they can forward them to me. ;)
Posted By Anonymous Em, Toronto, Ontario, Canada : 7:16 PM ET
If Sylvia Browne has "helped literally tens of thousands of people" then imagine the devastation Shawn Hornbeckļæ½s family must have felt upon hearing that their son was presumed dead. Sylvia Browne should be ashamed of herself. No one has the right to do this to a family, psychic or not.
Posted By Anonymous Audrey, Vancouver, B.C. : 7:17 PM ET
I wonder how good it is to give people that kind of information. There has to be some accountability attached to passing out crucial infomation that concerns the life or death or death of a loved one. There was teenaged girl, Amanda Berry, that dissapeared in our area about 4 years ago. Her mother was very active with the community in keeping her story out there in the media and looking for her daughter. In her search for answers her mother also went on Montel and was also told by $ylvia Brown that her daughter was dead. Did she lose all hope then? Probably. Within a year or so her mother (who was only in her late forties) passed away after a short illness. I think the toll of thinking that her daughter was truly dead contributed to stress that brought on the illness. Most people who knew her think she died of a broken heart. I think that you should always have hope. $ylvia Brown professes many things about God and faith in her endless string of books. Why wouldn't she be the first to tell parents to have faith in GOD? What if her daughter turns up now? A tragedy all the way around (except for $ylvia). happens now.
Posted By Anonymous Robin Hillbery - North Olmsted, Ohio : 7:20 PM ET
She is a bunch of hocus pocus baloney and I am being nice.
Posted By Anonymous scott mobile alabama : 7:21 PM ET
There is absolutely no scientific basis to psychic prediction. "She cannot possibly be 100 percent correct in each and every one of her predictions" -- just what percentage of her SPECIFIC and DOCUMENTED predictions HAVE been correct? "She has, during a career of over 50 years, helped literally tens of thousands of people" -- well, that's true if you believe that providing false hope is a way of helping people. For quite some time, the James Randi Educational Foundation has continuously offered a $1 million prize to anyone who can demonstrate psychic talents. Suffice it to say, the James Randi Educational Foundation is NOT $1 million poorer. I wonder if a clever attorney could devise a lawsuit to successfully sue Ms. Browne or another dishonest or self-deluded individual whose "predictions" inflict emotional pain and cause the waste of valuable resources.
Posted By Anonymous Doug, Minneapolis, MN : 7:22 PM ET
Psychics are the work of the devil.They deceive people.The bible warns to beware of seers.I believe we should heed that advice.I realize people will use every avenue available to them to help find a missing loved one.But this is not the way.I could make predictions myself and probably be correct 50% of the time.
Posted By Anonymous Jennifer Thrash - Ruston,La. : 7:23 PM ET
I would like her to prove even ONE case that she has solved!
Posted By Anonymous Carol, Portland, Oregon : 7:25 PM ET
My ex girlfriend went on one of her stupid cruises. She spoke to some of her inner circle and they even admitted it's all fake. How can this woman bilk people out of countless millions and sleep well. I can't believe she has a legit business and that some agency hasn't stepped in to put a stop to her BS. I guess for people at their wit's end, predators like her will shed some light. Sad.
Posted By Anonymous scott nosenko, chicago : 7:25 PM ET
When will people realize that these psychics simply prey upon the misery of people.

They have no real ability. With them it's a very sophisticated game of twenty questions.

I wonder how accurate Ms. Browne would be if she were unable to see or ask any questions of her subject?

I'm guessing, as with Shawn Hornbeck, she be wrong a great percentage of the time.
Posted By Anonymous Bob; Pittsburgh, PA : 7:27 PM ET
I don't think anyone can even come close to understanding what it is like to have a child missing unless you walk in their shoes....I may have gone to a psychic too.

But in reality, Sylvia Brown is about entertainment.

I really believe Sylvia Brown just says what the "desperate and vulnerable family" wants to hear. She knew the odds were in her favor when she made the statement. I mean, what were the odds that Shawn would have been found and returned to his parents? She knows the statistics. Thank God she was very, very wrong!

Psychics use "smoke and mirrors" with words as well as psychological manipulation and misinformation. It is disturbing that some individuals prey on broken hearts.

But in the back of my mind, I wonder if there are quiet individuals who have perceptions or profiling gifts when it comes to crimes. I bet they don't have million dollar book deals or talk shows.

They are called police officers.
Posted By Anonymous Sharon D., Indianapolis, IN : 7:27 PM ET
We Christians should never seek help from someone who has a familiar spirit. Psychics and the like get their information from evil spirits and they try to crush Christians by taking away hope and making them believe lies.
Posted By Anonymous Curtis, Chicago IL : 7:30 PM ET
I have been following the disappearance of Shawn Hornbeck since he was taken. I know my prayers were answered last Friday when Shawn was found with Ben. I believe that some good did come from Ben's kidnapping and that is:

1. Shawn being brought home to his family.
2. That the accused is not out on the streets to harm any more children.

If I had a missing child I don't know if I would use a psychic. I can understand using one when you are at the end of leads and needing some fresh clues. I have seen reports where psychics have been instrumental in helping solve mysteries and for those who they do help, Thank God they were right.

For Shawn's family I am thankful that Sylvia was wrong.

If Shawn was to read this I would want him to remember to take everything that's being said and the judgmental attitudes of some people with a grain of salt. You did what you had to do to survive and I am so proud of your being strong enough to survive something so horrible. I can't imagine what you went through.
Posted By Anonymous Amy, Heyburn Idaho : 7:31 PM ET
HOW CRUEL.... I always was skeptical of people who claim to be psychic. I can only imagine how those parents felt at hearing their son was in a "wooded area, within a 20 mile radius and southwest of where you are." I am soooo glad she (Browne) was proved wrong. Hey, of course she didn't reply in person, she's probably embarrassed that she's been found out. Mr. Cooper if you really want answers from her, perhaps, you can find her in the woods, within a 20 mile radius southwest of where YOU are.
Posted By Anonymous Deb Valdez Pueblo, CO : 7:33 PM ET
I think that Ms. Browne was on the right track. Shawn's original bike might have been destroyed & dumped. He was seen at the apt.(according to news reports) that he was held hostage, riding a bike, but was it his orginal bike?? She references to boulders (which could be rock formation in the area)big or small. Let us assume, the youngster was abducted & then taken b/4 to the apt. to a rural area. If we think about this, why would a very trained abductor in his thinking would not take an abductee to a rural site at first to deviate any connection to original abduction. Only Shawn has the answer. God Bless Him & Family. Let them live their lives without any interruptions.
Posted By Anonymous Marilyn Vetter, Wharton, N.J. : 7:33 PM ET

Throw in a little logic, demographic knowledge and a keen ability to prey on desperate and extremely volnerable parents, and most of us could come out with a 50/50 chance of deceiving most anyone" who needs a crystal ball?
how sad"

Maritza, San Jose Ca
Posted By Anonymous Maritza Munoz San Jose, Ca : 8:14 PM ET
If she had helped "tens of thousands of people," then surely she would be able to give substantial proof of her powers. Even exact science isn't always so accurate, but the fact that she speaks only in vague terms makes me doubt her more than anything else.
Posted By Anonymous Martha, Portland, OR : 8:25 PM ET
Why is it that I can't help but think that Pat Robertson has a better track record on predictions? This is exploitation at it finest.
Posted By Anonymous Jolene, St. Joseph, MI : 8:27 PM ET
Something is not right with this story. I wrote b/4. Never heard about I belive (ben) was the other youth that was abducted. Where is his story of his ordeal?? His parents are maybe protecting him from his verbal ordeal. If he comes foward, maybe there will be a more substantual case.
Posted By Anonymous Marilyn Vetter, Wharton, N.J. : 8:34 PM ET
I agree with several of the previous comments. Sylvia, along with other psychics, make extremely general comments (such as 'name that starts with a J or M') and also follow the vocal and physical clues the person they are talking to gives. It is sad to me that so many people use psychics as fact or even a possible hope. Deuteronomy 18:10-12 states, "There should not be found in you...anyone who consults a spirit medium or professional foreteller of events or anyone who inquires of the dead. For everybody doing these things is something detestable to God..." Thank you, David Doss / AC360 for addressing this issue.
Posted By Anonymous Rae, Columbus, OH : 8:49 PM ET
Well, she was 100% at something--being WRONG in this case.
Posted By Anonymous Barb Kozlowski, Phoenix AZ : 9:03 PM ET
Ok Anderson, it worked, you got me riled up. I don't like to participate in these silly rant fests, but the teaser for your show implied that you are shocked that a psychic was wrong. I was not surprised to find out that the psychic was Sylvia Browne and this all happened on Montel. I actually have a certain respect for Montel, but crap like Sylvia Browne keeps people watching. I'm glad another poster referred to herself as an "intuitive reader" -- which is much more accurate a job description than "psychic." These people play percentages like Em in Toronto points out. Sylvia is very good at her job, but there's no such thing as magic. She usually makes people feel better, but, as we have seen here, she's just making educated guesses that can be wrong. I am going to resist responding to the christian-devil-blah-blah-blah crap that other posters are relying on --- it's all the same magic to me.
Posted By Anonymous Tim - Pittsburgh, PA : 9:39 PM ET
There are many prophets in the Bible, and a great deal of prophesy. And not all of those prophesies are easy to understand. We are so quick to judge, and the judgements are not always correct. Unless one has been in the place where these parents were, one cannot possibly know or understand. They sought her out and asked the questions. I cannot discount what she said based on what CNN has posted here. Was Shawn southwest of them when kidnapped or where he was held? And these trees and boulders may indeed be somewhere near the place of kidnapping or the apartment. CNN should investigate before posting this - without knowing more facts, one cannot pass judgement. Looks to me like CNN is passing judgement as well by posting this prior to going out there and looking for boulders.
Posted By Anonymous Anna, Worthington IN : 9:41 PM ET
Brown was also wrong about the miners the died in West Virgina a few years back, she was on Art Bell's Am radio show and when the first incorrect media reports stating that the miners were safe were released, she said she always knew they were alive. Of course she had to backpedle quickly thereafter when it was revealed that in fact only 1 miner survived.

She is a cruel and brutal person, no doubt, though no worse than John Edward and James van Pragh and any other physic preying on the desperate.
Posted By Anonymous Gary, Englewood, NJ : 9:45 PM ET
Hi David,
I guess a crystal ball only shows us a show. Only facts are the reality, and if people don't have concrete facts, then I think that all their speculation is just plain useless. Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 9:53 PM ET
Tell Sylvia to send me the winning lottery numbers, then maybe I could believe some of her garbage.

Shame on Sylvia Browne, who, in my opinion, and thousands of others' opinions, is a total fake! I think we all know why she declined to be interviewed. She doesn't need her "psychic abilities" to know that she would plainly show people--- while being questioned-- that she was/is a fool.
Posted By Anonymous Alleen Mapes, Rome City, IN : 10:19 PM ET
Thank you Anderson Cooper! Finally a show with the guts to take these frauds on.

What these "psychics" do is cruel and fraudulent. Telling a women her daughter is being sexually abused when its not true. Telling parents their child is dead when its not true.

If these people have the "abilities" to see the future then apply for the James Randi Educational Foundation million dollar prize.
Posted By Anonymous Mick, Port Jefferson, New York : 11:22 PM ET
Name one case that Sylvia has solved. Just one.

Sylvia Browne was on Larry King Live on CNN on September 3, 2001. Eight days before 9/11. And not one word of warning.

No psychic anywhere predicted 9/11 or the Pacific tsunami. Not one. That's all you need to know about psychics and their accuracy.

They predict, wrongly, earthquakes and other disasters.

Their accuracy at predicting anything is as good as yours or mine. Which is to say, they are guessing and cold reading.
Posted By Anonymous Luke T., Porland Oregon : 11:23 PM ET
Psychics are good at one thing. They are well versed in crime statistics. They will frequently say that a body will be found in a "wooded area, near water" because they know that the vast majority of victims bodies are dumped there. She knows that the vast majority of child abductions end in the death of the child. She is simply using the most common statistics to "predict" the wehreabouts of the victim's body. I remember a murder case here in Illinois where several people were murdered at a fast food restaurant. Many psychics claimed the killer would be found within 2 weeks. They were all wrong. Several years after the murders, one of the alledged killers was turned in by his girlfriend. I stopped watching Montel Williams a long time ago becuase Sylvia Browne was on there so often.
Posted By Anonymous Terry Wisland, Vernon Hills, IL : 11:27 PM ET
These "psychics" are nothing more that fortune tellers who prey on idiots who beleive their crap. My ex wife spent hundreds of dollars on these fakes, and it ultimately cost me my home and a 19 year marraige. If they are so great, have them fing Bin Laden.
Posted By Anonymous James Rand, Pine Bluff Arkansas : 5:51 AM ET
My hubby always tells me I am wasting my time watching Sylvia Browne, but honestly I have not been that amazed by her abilities (or lack of), the only amazing thing to me is that Montel keeps giving up precious and quality viewing time to her nonsense, he needs to get back to being the diverse, compassionate, and fearless talk host that he used to be before his endless stint with Miss Brown.
Posted By Anonymous Ms. Hambert Rome, GA : 5:56 AM ET
I cannot imagine how wonderful the Hornback family feels to have Shawn back again. Thank God their prayers have been answered & I pray other victims & their families be reunited because of this sicko who took Shawn & Ben.
I don't think the few individuals such as Sylvia Browne are 100% correct all of the time - and I believe the market is saturated w/ phoney psychic's.
It took me many years to come to believe this, but it has been proven over & over by police depts. and Dr's that Sylvia has been a great help to. I have seen shows where she DID predict what happened & where - later there has been shows w/ police who worked on her leads & found the persons.
Personally, I would go to Sylvia for anything & I am sure she feels terrible for any mistakes she has made.
Just thank God that Shawn & Ben were found & I hope that they can be happy & have a long, peaceful life ahead of them.
Posted By Anonymous Sue Wood. Redondo Beach, CA : 6:57 AM ET
Personally, I've always believed Sylvia Brown to be a fake. The only place I've ever seen her in action is on Montel's show, and every time, I could never fathom why he would have her on. Her answers are too vague, too generalized, she is unsure of herself and comes across as cold and fake. She is very transparent and it amazes me that she is able to fool anyone. Regarding her answers to Shawn's family, I found her answers to be completely irresponsible and cruel. I believe Sylvia needs to step up, offer at least the minimum of an apology to the family and revisit her own motives and abilities and then take the responsible and moral road.
Posted By Anonymous Jacqui Odell, Daleville, AL : 7:00 AM ET
I do believe that there are gifted people that can foretell the future but I also believe it happens when it is revealed to them..not on demand as Sylvia did with this family. If she was not sure or didn't really know, she shouldn't have made statements to that effect. I guess that could have possibly jeopardized her $700 1/2 hour sessions if she didn't have an answer..
Posted By Anonymous Esther Rhodes, Harrisburg Pa. : 7:56 AM ET
I applaud Sylvia for putting herself out there and using her great gift to assist families all over the world. As with everything in life, nothing is 100% and I'm sure that she is joyous about this boys return. Bless you Sylvia!!
Posted By Anonymous Paula, Rochester Hills, MI : 8:21 AM ET
If there is one thing that forces all of us to live out our day-to-day lives, its hope. We hope that tomorrow will come. We hope that we'll see our loved ones tomorrow or the next day.

What Sylvia Browne had done was rob Shawn's parents of their faith and of their hope. No one should permitted to take that from anyone.

To say that Ms. Browne should be ashamed of herself would be a vast understatement.
Posted By Anonymous Melissa Fortuna, Sparta, N.J. : 8:26 AM ET
I don't care for psychic in general. Maybe some are right. I know some friends who go see one and drink every word they pour on their lap. I don't want to know what's going to happen,takes the fun out of living it.
As for Sylvia Brown, I saw her a few times, but I was more interested by the look on people's faces in the audience. Almost transfix. Sad.
If my child was missing, maybe I would try anything. But if someone told me my child was dead, I would only believe it if I saw it with my own eyes.
Anyway, the story should be more focus on making sure that justice will be served.

Joanne R.
Laval Quebec
Posted By Anonymous Joanne R.Laval Quebec : 8:31 AM ET
Let's put this into perpective...the parents sought the opion of Sylvia Browne, she did not seek them. The parents should have know going in, the nature of pychics. Especially those pychics who do it for such ridiculously large sums of $$ like Browne. Although it is dispicable, I don't think Sylvia Browne did anything wrong. Hey, it's how she makes money. Why don't we see the so-called pychics doing this stuff for FREE?
Anyway, thanks be to God that those boys are indeed alive and safe.
Posted By Anonymous Kim, East Brunswick, NJ : 8:48 AM ET
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