Jon Ronson on America's most controversial psychic Sylvia Browne | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited
By the exceptional Jon Ronson.
It is Tuesday evening and I am on a luxury Mediterranean cruise ship called the Westerdam. I'm in the audience in the Vista lounge. A grouchy woman is sitting on a beige and golden throne on the stage. She's complaining about builders and dispensing dietary advice. Her name is Sylvia Browne and for years I've wanted to interview her. She's America's most controversial psychic. She's become famous for telling the parents of missing children what happened to their kids. Distraught parents go to her during her weekly appearance on The Montel Williams Show on CBS television. Montel is like Oprah. Sylvia tells them, "Your child is dead" or "Your child was sold into slavery in Japan."
She really did once say that, in 1999. A six-year-old, Opal Jo Jennings, had a month earlier been snatched from her grandparents' front yard in Texas while playing with her cousin. A man pulled up, grabbed her, threw her into his truck, hit her when she screamed and drove off. Her distraught grandmother went on Montel's show and said, "This is too much for my family and me to handle. We want her back. I need to know where Opal is. I can't stand this. I need your help, Sylvia. Where is Opal? Where is she?"
Sylvia said, "She's not dead. But what bothers me - now I've never heard of this before - but she was taken and put into some kind of a slavery thing and taken into Japan. The place is Kukouro."