Who he? You may be asking. Robert Lancaster is the mastermind behind two great sites:
Stop Sylvia Browne!
“StopKaz” and “Stop Sylvia Browne“. If you read any sceptical sites, particularly the James Randi Educational Foundation site, you will know about him. Read on and you will discover why the second reference looks like that.
A note on Robert Lancaster: his first site, Stop Kaz, was created to expose the fraudulent activities of one Dr. Kaz deMille-Jacobsen. To quote the site:
Back in June of 2004, I was visiting my mother at her house, when she started talking about “Dr. Kaz,” a woman who had recently spoken at her church.
My mother was obviously quite impressed with this woman, but the more she told me about “Kaz’s” story, the less believable I found it.
It was quite a story, full of this woman’s supposed connections to celebrity, wealth, a heroic struggle and escape from the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, miraculous recovery from injury and disease, all leading to a current humble life of poverty, and spreading a Christian message.
Even before I heard some of the wilder parts of the story, I found it extremely hard to believe. But amazingly (to me), my mother – and evidently her minister and much of her church’s congregation – believed this woman!
Her story was so newsworthy, I felt that if it were true, I would definitely have heard about it on the radio, seen it on the TV news, or read about it on the web somewhere. Wouldn’t I?
Researching “Kaz” on the web, I found frustratingly little out there about her. Finding this to be a huge “red flag,” I continued digging at her claims, and cataloguing the holes and inconsistencies in her story.
This led me to the conclusion that little (if any) of “Kaz’s” story was true. And if I was correct in that conclusion , then she was making money off of the pain, suffering and death of those people who were in the World Trade Center towers on September 11th, 2001.
When I shared my research with my mother, and subsequently with members of her church, one thing struck me: a few of these people, while accepting “Kaz’s” story, had experienced nagging feelings of doubt, and had gone to the web to search for more information about her. When those people found so little information about her there, they didn’t know how to pursue it any further, and just gave up, accepting her story.
Hearing that, I decided to create a web site from all of my findings and questions, so that people searching the web for information on “Kaz” in the future would find it.
It seems that Kaz is still doing the rounds. He then created the excellent “Stop Sylvia Browne” site, which is where I first came across him. To explain more about the site, let us once again quote Robert Lancaster:
Over the years, Sylvia Browne has been the focus of a number of skeptical pages on the web, but I don’t think that there has ever before been one site which focused solely on her. The goal of this site is to fill that void by providing a central place where she, her track record and all of her claims are examined and analyzed.
Although I will be approaching the subject from a skeptical viewpoint (the name of the site should show that), I will try to do so in as fair and factual a manner as possible.
Where I state a fact, I will try to back it up with references. Where I state an opinion, I will try to clearly label it as such.
Is she a well-intentioned spiritual leader, with actual psychic powers? Is she a fraud, making money by callously manipulating and using the bereaved? Or is she something else entirely?
This site will attempt to answer these questions.
Recently, and sadly, Robert Lancaster suffered a stroke which put him in hospital and off the web. His wife has kindly been updating the sceptical community with his progress and I am happy to say that he appears to be healing. I wish him all the best and hope he is back on his feet and can continue with the sites.
Unfortunately while he was recovering in hospital his domain http://www.stopsylviabrowne.com lapsed and expired. Obviously renewing a domain name was nowhere on the Lancaster’s radar and so someone else snapped it up. This person appears to be very pro-woo and so the site will not be put to the use it was originally opened for. This is not necessarily illegal, though it is morally questionable. However, it does mean that the site had to be moved to it’s new home.
The sceptical community is not taking this lying down! The original site was well known and the media knew it was able to make contact with Robert Lancaster through it, so we are helping to publicise the new site in a few ways. Where we linked to http://www.stopsylviabrowne.com, we are now linking to Stop Sylvia Browne – making sure that the word “Stop” is not in the hyperlink. This will hopefully drop the old keywords and raise the 2 new ones: “Sylvia” and “Browne”. I will let this post from Skeptical Software Tools list the rest of the methods.
To follow news on the progress of Robert Lancaster, read this thread on the JREF forums.
Again, I wish him a speedy recovery and all the very best to his family.