in my humble opinion

Back to the future

Posted 6/10/20

Do any of us know what lies ahead? Is it really possible to predict the future? Some say “yes,” but me? Well, I can’t even tell you what I’ll have for dinner tonight, much …

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in my humble opinion

Back to the future


Do any of us know what lies ahead? Is it really possible to predict the future? Some say “yes,” but me? Well, I can’t even tell you what I’ll have for dinner tonight, much less practice prognostication. That said, I’ve always been fascinated with psychics, mediums and things that go bump in the night. I’ve even met a few folks over the years who have challenged me with what appears to be a psychic ability not easily explained. Much as I would like to simply pooh-pooh others’ alleged power to gaze into a crystal ball and accurately foretell events yet to transpire, one thing is clear (to me), and William Shakespeare’s Hamlet said it best: “There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Heady stuff, Billy-Boy. Heady stuff.

Enter Sylvia Celeste Browne, an American author who claimed to be a medium (one who purportedly mediates communication between spirits of the dead and living beings) with psychic abilities. Browne might be best known for appearing regularly on ‘90s television talk shows (i.e. Montel Williams and Larry King Live) where she often made predictions that would, or would not, come to fruition.

 According to Wikipedia, “Browne was frequently discredited and faced criticism for making pronouncements that were later found to be false. Despite considerable negative publicity, she maintained a large following until her death in 2013.”

Frankly, I never cared for her. She seemed cocky, haughty and (IMHO) exuded a “holier than thou” attitude that turned me off and left me cold. Truth be told, I wasn’t crazy about Montel, either… On the flip side, Browne had legions of fans who gobbled up her books for breakfast and, at last count, she had “co-written” more than 35 of them with titles like “Contacting Your Spirit Guide,” “Visits From The Afterlife” and “Prophesy: What The Future Holds.” I’ve read none of them, but in the wake of the world’s current pandemic state, Browne has resurfaced and her many, many books are flying off the shelves.  I wonder, firstly, which one of her many, many husbands (I counted four) are raking in the cash and, secondly, ponder whether Sylvia might have been on to something after all. I mean, even the best of them (whether I like ‘em or not) can’t be 100 percent accurate all of the time, right?

Either way, the reason for Sylvia’s resurgence in popularity appears on page 312 of her 2008 tome titled “End of Days: Predictions and Prophesies About the End of the World”.

 “In around 2020 a severe pneumonia-like illness will spread throughout the globe,” Browne’s now-eerie prediction states, “attacking the lungs and the bronchial tubes and resisting all known treatments.”

Presently, I feel safe in predicting that you know where I’m going with this.

As the world awoke to the COVID-19 virus spreading like wildfire “throughout the globe,” those haunting words re-emerged, and Sylvia Browne became 2020’s “it girl” for a hot minute. Of course, being a top-notch investigative reporter (cue laugh track), the first thing I did was check the veracity of Browne’s quote, since it was originally attributed to others, including old-timey psychic Nostradamus and pop-culture’s Homer Simpson—but Sylvia won the day with minimal research. A quick fact-check on Snopes revealed that Browne absolutely said those words and (apparently) “co-author” Lindsay Harrison wrote them down for her.

My Snopes Question: “Did self-described psychic Sylvia Browne predict COVID-19?

My Snopes Answer: “Lobbing vague claims about likely events does not a prediction make.”

Look here, I’ve already admitted that I’m unsure about psychics in general, actively disliked Sylvia Browne’s television talk-show persona and have been known to waffle about the topic as a whole, but what Snopes declares are “vague claims” and “likely” pandemic scenarios seem pretty spot-on to me.

My Internet Question: “What is COVID-19?”

My Internet Answer: “COVID-19 is an illness that can spread from person-to-person. Patients [across the globe] have had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. There is no known treatment at this time.” According to, the current death toll has surpassed 350,000.

Look, I’m not saying that Sylvia Browne was able to predict the future, but I’m not saying that she couldn’t either. And she did say “in around 2020” way back in 2008. Coincidence? Maybe. That’s why they call it “waffling.”

Presently, we are seeing restrictions ease a bit here in the Upper Delaware River region as inch by inch, minute by minute, the world takes a collective breath; the numbers hold steady and our fears begin to diminish. As for me? I’m still completely freaked out. On the few occasions that I have ventured out into the world, the landscape of masked faces and empty streets has sent me scurrying home. The only predictions (based on state regulations, rather than my spirit guide) that I’m willing to make are about when my dog might get a bath and where she might get a haircut. And even that is kind of fuzzy.

In search of a silver lining, I find myself turning once again, to Sylvia, even though I’ve yet to be won over altogether.

“Almost more baffling than the illness itself,” her 2008 prediction concludes, “will be the fact that [the severe pneumonia-like illness] will suddenly vanish as quickly as it has arrived, attack again 10 years later,” (say it ain’t so, Sylvia!), “and then disappear completely.” Let’s hope that, as was often the case, she was both right and wrong—that in the future, it never comes back.


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