If I were the betting type, I'd wager that the question asked most of professional psychics is not "When am I going to die" or "When is Tom Selleck going to leave his wife for me," but "If you can see the future, why aren't you in Vegas right now?"
One would clearly be tempted to ask this of Sylvia Browne, who -- despite being one of the most recognized psychics in the world -- has experienced rough patch after rough patch in her life. Before finding love in her 70s, she had a string of bad relationships and legal trouble that threatened to take her down, emotionally and financially. Her new memoir, "Psychic: My Life in Two Worlds,"
doesn't gloss over any of it, but takes a hard look at her private and public life as a professional psychic.
We spoke to Sylvia about her experiences speaking with angels, helping police solve unsolved murders, and finally finding love; and why, despite having the gift of sight, she literally couldn't see it coming.
Lemondrop: The book is subtitled "My Life in Two Worlds." So, you mean the world of the living, and the dead?
Sylvia Browne: Well, the world of reality, and the world of the paranormal.
What was it like growing up as a kid who could see ghosts?
Well, I was very fortunate. I had a grandmother who was psychic, and her mother was psychic. We go back 300 years. It wasn't nearly as much of a shock. My mother was a working psychic in Kansas City.
Yes, but the whole seeing-dead-people thing tends to make you a little different. It couldn't have been easy.
I have to tell you -- I was educated in Catholic schools and they were very kind and accepting to me. They just thought I had a gift. I guess they figured that if my head didn't spin around and I didn't spit out green pea soup that I was all right.
Well, you're a strong believer in afterlife and in God.
Absolutely.When was your first psychic experience?
When I was 5. The first experience was that I knew that both of my great-grandmothers were going to die -- and in two weeks, they were dead. It wasn't a great way to be introduced to it, by the way.
In your book, you talk a lot about your experiences with helping ghosts pass on, but also about angels. Where do they fit into this afterlife scenario?
Ghosts are people who haven't passed over to the other side. But you don't see that. That's such a small amount of people who don't know how or don't want to go through that tunnel to heaven. But there's so much. Of course, then I believe in angels, and past lives, and I believe that everyone has a spirit guide that you can be in touch with.
So, how do you get in touch with them if you're not innately psychic?
What you do, every night, or in the mornings -- find a special time for yourself and lie down, and just kind of relax yourself all over. Take yourself to a seashore. Put your feet in the sand, put your back against the palm tree. Feel the sun on your face, and the wind on your hair. And then just ask your guide, "Come out of the shadows and talk to me." If you do this, for a week to 10 days, I promise you, you'll begin to see your spirit guide and your angels.
You've been married four times, and I know you've said repeatedly that you can't look into your own future. But you're a good friend of Larry King's, who's currently on his seventh wife. Have you ever thought of saying, "Larry, don't do it!"
No, no. I would never volunteer anything, unless somebody asked me. I don't butt into people's lives like that. But if I saw that you were going to get into an accident, you'd better believe that I'd tell you.
Well, Larry probably doesn't need it. I saw you on his show once, and you said he had four angels protecting him.
Well, you have five.
I thought they were supposed to protect good people.
You're not a bad person. A bad person wouldn't give a damn about that. Manson doesn't give a damn about this stuff. You're not Manson!
Well, on Manson ... the book goes into a lot of your work with the police in solving murders. Do you encounter a lot of skepticism from them?
Well, I also work with doctors [to help diagnose illness]. But no, they're open-minded. Because I'll tell them, I don't want any PR on this, I'm not doing it for personal gain. It's even dangerous. In some of my work with them, I ended up helping breaking up a drug ring. I have children, and grandchildren -- I don't want these people finding me. I don't charge them, and I make them promise that they won't go to the press with anything from me. But what happens two weeks ago? I saw on "Dateline" that I helped solve the murder of this girl. I couldn't believe it.
But why not? Nobody else has your profile or track record.
Because I don't want to have my name in lights. I'm talking about it and doing this for God.
How do you know if somebody is doing this for the right reasons and is legit? One of my co-workers mentioned that there's a woman who she's seen --
Well, no, she isn't real.
She specifically isn't real? Wow. Well, good to know. But what about just in general? How can you tell who's psychic and who isn't?
Well, the only way you tell is what they say to you and what comes out when you ask. They can promise you a lot of things, but unless you ask them for facts ...
You've had a lot of rough spots in your life. Have you ever gotten frustrated by not being able to control your own fate?
Well, I think that I met the love of my life in my '70s as a gift from God. I'd had so many bad marriages, I think God wanted me to finish up my life with a good one ... I can't look into my own future. If I could, I'd win the lottery.
Can you get any hints though? Like, do you have a good feeling about your book?
Oh, no, no. I don't know. I had to learn, like you do. If you lose your purse, I'll find it for you. If I lose mine, it's gone. Otherwise I would never learn anything. It's like I say: Surgeons can't operate on themselves.
OK, outside of you, things are really terrible in the news right now, with the economy and the oil spill and everything else. Can you give us any good news about the upcoming future?
I keep telling people to quit watching bad news when it's like this, because it's depressing. The good news is that I do think the economy is going to recover, unemployment is going to get better. It's a slow process, but by the end of the year we'll have seen a tremendous amount of recovery.
Ever wish that you weren't psychic?
No, never. But, of course, it's hard, because nobody goes to a psychic when they're happy.
Do you ever debate telling people when they're like that, "Your boyfriend is not going to come back," or "You're not going to get better"?
I've had to tell people that their mother was going to die. I don't pull any punches. I won't go through this whole thing of saying, "Do you want to know?" I'm going to be straight with you.
Really. OK. Am I going to die alone?
No. You get a boyfriend. But your problem is that you have to actually put yourself out there more. You don't do that. But you'll get a dark-haired, blue-eyed person in January. And don't eat a lot of dairy.
Ha ha, yeah, I have a bit of a lactose thing going on that tends to drive off the fellas. Alas. But aside from that, what do you really want people to take away from "Psychic"?
Well, about me, I'm as human as they are, and that we all experience the same things. I don't want a pedestal or a bunch of groupies, and I don't think I'm better than other people. That's cult crap. About [the psychic realm], I want people to know that you'll find happiness in the afterlife, even if you've waited your whole life for it. You don't carry the bad things after you. Something good always happens. You just go on.
Sylvia Browne is the author of 22 New York Times bestselling books. She's served as a psychic to celebrities, police investigators and the public. She's played herself on "The Young and The Restless" way before James Franco made it cool. Her book, "Psychic: My Life in Two Worlds," is available from Harper Collins.