The Start Of Modern Spiritualism Fox Sisters EDIT 4/3/09

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The Start Of Modern Spiritualism Fox Sisters EDIT 4/3/09

Post by Admin on Wed Jul 16, 2008 3:27 am

Time to add this story to the site as it is so crucial in the History of Spiritualism

The Fox Cottage at Hydesville in 1955 before it burned down.
I will use an interesting variation of the story which I have found as it comes from NSAC sources

A Brief History of the Fox Family
From March 31,1848, through the First Public Demonstrations in Mid-November 1849
by Rev. Del Lauderback, California
Note: A version of this article first appeared in the July 2000 edition of The National Spiritualist-Summit, the official publication of the National Spiritualist Association of Churches in the United States.
(Admin note, enjoy this version but be aware that the actual facts as recorded between 1848-1851 by witnesses are substantially different but strongly evidential. This account draws heavily upon the rather more romantic reminisences of Anne Leah who embellished history even decreasing her age) As Spiritualists, we should all be familiar with the beginning of Modern Spiritualism on March 31, 1848. On this date, contact with the spirit of the murdered peddler Charles Rosna was established through the mediumship of the Fox family women, particularly Catherine Fox who was then 11 years old. This most special event was followed on November 14, 1849, with the first public demonstration of spirit contact through the mediumship of Margaretta Fox, 15, and Anne Leah Fox Fish, about 20. (FACT Anne Leah was actually born about 1815 and 34 at the time, the ages of the girls in this account are also incorrect relying as they do upon Anne Leahs recording of it) This first public demonstration held in Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New York, released a tidal wave of mediumship that engulfed the fledgling United States in spirit contact from 1850 through the turn of the century.
We may not be familiar with what happened to the Fox family after March 31,1848. Why did more than one and one-half years pass before they gave the first public demonstration of spirit contact on November 14, 1849? What happened to the family as a consequence of these two events? This report touches some of the events of that most eventful one and one-half years in this family's life. Bear in mind, the manifestations were many, varied, and almost continuous during this time. One can only stand in awe of the courage of Mrs. Fox and her three young daughters. How would we have handled what they were given to go through?
The history of our movement is wondrously inspiring, filled with spiritual beauty, with wisdom shared with us by those long advanced in the next dimension. Our history has recorded many who gave their lives on earth to the service of those advanced souls on the spirit side and to the service of Spiritualism. The beautiful light that guided this movement for the first two decades, that opened the door, broke the trail, and served as a brilliant beacon for all who followed came through Catherine, Margaretta, and Anne Leah Fox.
The child Catherine, her adolescent sister Margaretta, and sister Anne Leah who was barely a young woman did not seek this task. It was thrust upon them by higher powers in the spirit realm. Benjamin Franklin told Anne Leah many years later that out of millions then on the earth, only the Fox sisters had the unique blend of physical, mental, and spiritual qualities necessary to produce the phenomena needed to effectively begin this new dispensation.
When it was discovered by Katie(FACT again the records produced at the time show it was Margaretta who started, with no reference to Mr Splitfoot and the Mother who first established they were communicating with a spirit, once again this version is relying upon Anne Leah not the records created at the time) that an intelligence was the source of the many different noises disturbing them in their Hydesville, New York, cottage, neighbors were called in to witness and verify the marvelous event. Within hours, hundreds thronged the cabin. Many tested the spirits. Numerous investigating committees were formed.
Digging began in the cellar the next day to find the body of the murdered peddler. The girls' brother David Fox was one of the diggers. At about three feet in depth, the diggers hit water. After three days the digging was abandoned as pumpmg and bailing the water was to no avail. Yet people continued to come to the cabin, alone and in groups. The Fox family was overwhelmed by the attention, much of it negative. Mrs. Fox was deeply disturbed by the notoriety.
A few weeks later, David Fox asked his mother, father, and two youngest sisters to leave the circus atmosphere of the cabin and move in with him. They also hoped that they would leave the almost continuous manifestations behind them in the "haunted" cabin. After they moved, people continued coming to the cabin. Manifestations apparently continued in the Hydesville cottage without the presence of the Fox family. However, the manifestations also continued unabated around the family at David Fox's house, much to their chagrin.
Anne Leah Fox Fish learned of the manifestations over a month later when a friend brought a printer to her who was preparing a pamphlet that detailed the events surrounding March 31, 1848. Leah had been married at age 14 to a man named Fish who deserted her soon after. Marriage at age 13 or 14 was not an uncommon practice at this time. Girls and women at this time rarely had any say in who or when they married. After reading this pamphlet that described how communication had been established through her family with the spirit of Charles Rosna, Leah left almost immediately for Hydesville with her daughter. When she failed to find her family at the Hydesville cottage, she went on to her brother David's house.
On arriving at David's house, Leah tells us she found her mother "completely broken down by events." Manifestations continued and the family did not know what to do about it. One day soon after that, a block of wood from the home Mr. Fox was building came sailing through a window in the room Leah was occupying. Written on the wood block was the message: "One of your family will die. She will be happy with the angels. Do not mourn for her." Leah knew there was no one near the house who could have thrown the block of wood. And she assumed that the "she" that the message referred to was her mother who was distraught over all that was going on around them.
They had received word from friends that they might be set on by a mob. One afternoon a tired horseman rode onto their place to warn them a mob was on its way. David Fox had been supplied with shot and gunpowder by friends for such an eventuality. The Fox men, boys, and hired men prepared piled stone defenses in the backyard. Mrs. Fox gathered them together in the house at dusk and together they prayed for protection. Someone began calling the alphabet, and the spirit raps spelled out, "You will not be harmed. God will protect you." As the family stood talking, one of the packages of gunpowder flew from the top of a bureau and hit Katie. Then a package of shot hit Leah on the shoulder. With this, David took the loaded guns and fired them off, then threw the powder and shot into the peppermint patch and said, "I will not raise a hand against them. If God has sent this upon us for the good of mankind, He is able to protect us. I will trust him."
They could hear shouts and snatches of song coming from the approaching mob. As wagons were entering the dooryard, a woman jumped through the kitchen window "hoops and all." David told her she could just as easily have come in through the front door, then threw open all the doors and told the mob they were welcome to enter and inspect the house "If you will do so respectfully." The leader, on seeing whose home they were about to invade, exclaimed, "My God! Dave Fox! Is that you they have said so much about? We'll go home and dress ourselves and come another time." Then they quietly turned and left.
Through calling the alphabet, the family learned that those in the spirit world responsible for the rapping wanted them to return to the Hydesville cottage near the end of July 1848 in order to resume digging for the body of the murdered peddler. Though this request continued to be made, David Fox steadfastly refused to carry it out. Spirit went so far as to spell out the names of those they wished to have help with the digging and the day the digging should resume.
The family did invite them even though David continued to refuse to participate right up to the night before they were to resume. That night, David's house was filled with the sounds of crockery breaking, weights being dragged across the floors, wood being planed, bored, and sawed, groans, and so on. Spirit rapped, "Go forth and do your duty and good will come of it."
David relented and joined in the digging the next day. They dug in the cabin cellar until around noon, when they found charcoal, traces of lime, some reddish-brown hair, and teeth. They continued until almost dark, then all stayed at David's home that night. The next morning as they traveled in wagons to the cottage, they rounded a hill and saw vehicles of many descriptions heading toward the cottage from all directions.
At the cabin, the women formed a circle around it to keep the crowd back while the men dug. "Great God! Here are pieces of a broken bowl," cried one of the diggers. On the night of March 31 - April 1, 1848, through the questioning by the many assembled in the cottage, the spirit of Charles Rosna had revealed that Mr. Bell had placed a bowl beside his neck to catch the blood when his throat was cut.
Then were found what were later identified as an ankle bone, some wrist bones, and part of a skull. The crowd had by this time forced its way into the cellar and had become somewhat unruly. Friends of Mr. Bell were among them. Some in the crowd reached over the women who had formed a circle around the digging men and dropped sticks and stones and spat on those digging.
The men dug until they hit a hollow-sounding board. They first drilled through with a brace and bit, but after drilling through the wood, the brace dropped in up to its handle. They then drilled with drill bits attached to long sticks. These dropped through to a depth of about a foot before stopping. Someone in the crowd hollered, "Drag out the women!" Another, "Don't drag out the women. Drag out the men." No one followed through. (Really folks contemporary records show a very different version to events much less exciting)
Growing darkness stopped the work for the day. They somehow assembled outside. The diggers, their wives, and families were allowed to pass through the crowd without a disrespectful word being said to them. Looking back on the event later, Leah said she could not explain how this was managed. After arriving at David's house, spirit rapped in response to the alphabet, "Dear faithful friends, your work here is done. God will reward you." They returned no more to dig. I find no record that any of the Fox family returned to the Hydesville cottage again.
Anne Leah apparently returned to Rochester, New York, shortly after this, taking Katie (Catherine) with her. The family agreed that the manifestations seemed strongest in Katie's presence and hoped to eliminate them by removing her. On the canal boat returning to Rochester, the rapping frequently manifested to the extent that Leah tried to keep Katie, herself, and her daughter separate from friends who were with them. After Anne Leah and Katie left, the manifestations continued at David Fox's home as well.
Arriving home in Rochester, manifestations began almost immediately and continued day after day. Noises like the explosions of artillery pieces being fired on the roof or next to the house were heard. Doors opened and shut loudly. Furniture in the room below would be moved about. They could hear loud applause from a large audience as though some performance were going on in the room next to them. As they tried to sleep at night, the sounds of people walking up and down the stairs were heard. After a few weeks of this, Leah wrote her mother to tell her what they were going through.
Leah concluded that a crime must have been committed in her house, as had been the case in the Hydesville cottage, and she looked for another place to live. She moved into a new third floor flat adjacent to an identical flat in a two-family duplex. Mrs. Fox arrived the next day in response to Leah's letter, bringing Margaretta with her. That night, their beds were violently shaken, then lifted to the ceiling with their occupants, then let down with a bang. Reassuring hands patted them. They heard loud whispering, groaning, scuffling, and giggling.
Mrs. Fox and the girls were beside themselves. On subsequent nights they slept with their mattresses on the floor. Then came murder scenes of many descriptions being acted out. Death struggles were played out. Carpet balls that Leah had stored were removed and thrown at them. One night after explosions in the roof, Katie saw a man lying across the foot of her bed which the others also saw. He was gurgling and groaning and appeared near death. Then Katie received a loud slap and fell, apparently lifeless. The others thought she was dead. A mirror held under her nose showed no indication of life. They could find no pulse in her body.
They were ready to call someone in when Katie groaned. She responded to their questions only by pressing their hands. In this way they learned she had witnessed the murder of Charles Rosna. Remember, Katie was an 11-year-old child. After this, she wept for a long time, then became quiet and recited a poem of some 20 or 30 verses while still in trance. When recalling this event years later, Leah could remember only the last line of each verse which was, "To be with Christ is better far."
After this incident sounds were heard at all hours of the day and night. The table would be agitated while they ate. Apples, potatoes, and turnips they had stored in the basement would be thrown at them as they tried to sleep on the third floor. They heard sawing, planing, boring, screws being driven, hollow objects that they later learned were coffins being dragged about the floor, and many other manifestations. They prayed it would stop.
They now seldom slept at one time and left lights on day and night to ward off some "frightful disturbance." Only their neighbor in the adjacent flat knew of the manifestations they were constantly undergoing. They kept their window shades drawn and doors and windows closed.
They finally enlisted the help of their Quaker friends Amy and Issac Post who became convinced of the genuineness of the manifestations after the manifestations began occurring in their own home. The Posts became a great source of spiritual strength and guidance to the Fox family and pillars of strength to the new movement of Spiritualism, which was soon to sweep across the United States. Many, many Quakers came with them into the new movement. One evening the "death knell" began sounding on the base keys of Leah's closed and locked piano and continued until after 1:00 a.m. The Posts came by for a visit while this was going on and fetched the Bushes to witness the manifestation. A little after 1:00 a.m., Stephan, the husband of Maria Fox, an older sister of Katie, Margaretta, and Anne Leah, arrived with the news that David's little girl, Ella, was very ill. Mrs. Fox left with him around 4.00 a.m., taking Margaretta with her. Ella was alive when they arrived but passed the next day. Leah recalled the inscription on the block of wood that had been thrown through the window of David's home that spring. Part 2 Follows


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Re: The Start Of Modern Spiritualism Fox Sisters EDIT 4/3/09

Post by Admin on Wed Jul 16, 2008 3:30 am

Part 2.

Mrs. Fox and Maggie returned to Rochester about two weeks later. During their absence, their neighbor in the adjacent duplex, Mrs. Vick, passed to spirit. The new tenants were disturbed by all the racket, accused them of being ventriloquists, and threatened to have them arrested if the racket didn't stop. Leah said the spirits "took the call" and intensified the noise. Sounds at the peak of the roof between the two flats sounding like artillery pieces being fired went on through the night. Furniture on the second floor was moved all over the place, and books were thrown about. The girls and their mother didn't know what to do.
They were discussing the problem with Issac Post. Mr. Post asked them if they ever called the alphabet as was done in the Hydesville cottage. Leah answered that they had not thought of calling the alphabet since returning to Rochester. When they had asked questions of the spirits they were ones that could be answered "Yes" or "No." Leah immediately asked aloud, "Do you have something you want to say to us?"A tremendous rapping responded instantly and Leah began calling the alphabet.
Spirit rapped, "Dear friends, you must proclaim these truths to the world. This is the dawning of a new era and you must not try to conceal it any longer. When you do your duty, God will protect you and good spirits will watch over you." In response to Leah's next question, they spelled out that they would ask for the alphabet to be called by rapping five times quickly in succession. Three girls and their mother were being asked to make public that which they strongly felt would bring scorn, ridicule, and perhaps worse to their doorstep. This was a time when women were not allowed to even speak in public, for they were considered vastly inferior to men. They had to do their husbands' bidding in all matters without question. This was a time when no one knew of mediumship or spirit contact, when a deeply ingrained Calvinist theology viewed any such contact as the work of the devil and most certainly a guarantee of eternal torment in hell. Such a public undertaking of course seemed to them impossibly difficult and they refused.
That evening, spirit manifested in the neighbor's flat to such an extent that the next morning he gathered his church brethren, went to the landlord, and had the Fox family evicted. Leah's friends helped them move to a house on Troup Street. This was around September 1, 1849, over a year after the manifestation in the Hydesville cottage that led to communication with the spirit of Charles Rosna.
Rappings in the new home were closer and more concentrated. The girls' grandfather, Jacob Smith, rapped that they should share these manifestations with their friends, that this was a new dispensation that they would, in time, understand. They did share the message with their friends. Together they decided to start sitting around a table together. The word of the manifestations had spread by this time. Isaac Post's store was beset with people who wanted to talk to spirit.
Leah said the family regarded all this as a great misfortune that had befallen them. They continued to pray to be free of it. Mr. E. W Capron was introduced to them. They decided to send Katie, who was 12 years old by this time, home with him and his wife in an attempt to stop the manifestations. There were none for a couple of days, then they were back stronger than ever. Spirit constantly repeated to them that they "had a mission to perform" and to "make ready for the work." Mrs. Fox refused to yield. Spirit told them, "You have been chosen to convince the skeptical of the great truth of immortality." They constantly argued against it. "Go forth and do your duty," was spelled out to them. Shortly after, on coming into the kitchen in the morning, they found the outlines of four coffins drawn on the floor. They washed them away. The next morning they found four coffins drawn on the kitchen ceiling. Next they appeared on the dining room floor. Then the next day on the dining room floor, drawn very realistically, were four coffins with soft, pink linings. At the end of each coffin was a metal plate containing one of the names of the three girls and their mother. Under the coffins was written the message, "If you do not go forth and do your duty, you will soon be laid in your coffins." They showed these to their friends. By this time, Mr. Fox had finished the house he had been building for two years on David's land, and he wanted the family to come there. Spirit rapped that they should remain in Rochester. (No contemporary evidence for this exists the Fox house was never finished)
The manifestations then ceased. At first, the girls and their mother were all joyful at being free of the constant disturbance. But as the days passed, they began to miss the contact with those on the other side, then to wish that it would return but there was silence. Mr. Capron and Mr. Willets came to visit after the manifestations had been gone for 12 days. The family explained what was happening. Mr. Capron said, "Well, maybe they will rap for me." Immediately the rapping resumed and all welcomed it. Again the request was made to go public. Mr. Capron said ridicule would be heaped on all concerned. Spirit responded, "Your victory will be so much the greater." Capron and Willets expressed concern for the risk they were taking with their families. Spirit told them to start first by holding a meeting at each friend's house. They did and the meetings were successful. Spirit then instructed them to invite 16 specific prominent citizens of Rochester to the Post's home. Leah said the list of these people was lost. The only name she remembered of those invited was that of the great abolitionist, newspaper editor, and lecturer Fredric Douglas. At the gathering in the Post's home, groups separated so they could determine that the raps were not being made by people hidden anywhere in the house. Spirit told them the gathering was to prove that they could rap loud enough to be heard in a public hall and directed them to engage Corinthian Hall, the largest public hall in Rochester, New York, for a public demonstration.
Notices were published and the first public demonstration of contact with the spirit world was held in Corinthian Hall. Leah Fox Fish and Margaretta Fox sat on the stage along with other of their friends and supporters. Communication was made through the raps. At the conclusion of the meeting, a committee was selected from the audience to examine the girls and their manifestations and report back to the meeting scheduled for the following evening.
The committee took the girls first to another hall, then to a private home. Their hands and feet were held. Raps manifested all over the rooms they were in with no evidence of movement from the girls. At the next meeting, the committee reported favorably for the girls that no evidence of fraud could be detected. The audience appeared surprised. They had been expecting exposure.
Another committee was selected from the audience. They held their meeting in the business office of one of the committee members. The raps manifested all over the room as before. A doctor had been engaged by the committee who examined the girls while the rapping was taking place. No evidence of movement could be found.
At the third successive public meeting, this committee reported favorably for the girls. The crowd in the hall started to get unruly and some comments threatening violence were directed at the committee. Another committee was chosen. One man said he would forfeit a new hat if he couldn't detect fraud. He was immediately placed on the investigating committee. Another said he would throw himself over Genesee Falls if he could not "fathom the fraud" and he too, I believe, was placed on the committee.
The next day the committee met at the appointed place and selected three ladies to first physically examine the girls. The ladies had the girls strip, be examined, then redress in clothing supplied by the examining committee. They returned to the rest of the committee who instructed the spirits to rap. Silence. They waited. Still no manifestations. The committee felt they had exposed "the fraud" and told the girls to go home. Leah refused, saying they would stay and "see it through." As it was near lunch time, the committee ordered lunch to be brought in.
A sumptuous lunch was served on a large, wooden table, with the committee and the girls sitting around it. Margaretta (15 years old) was bathed in tears. Leah said she had to struggle so with her emotions that she could not taste the food. The committee was laughing and joking at their expense when there was a loud, creaking sound as one end of the table raised, then the other end. Finally the entire dining table laden with food was lifted over all their heads. (this only appears from Anne Leah and not mentioned by any witness at the time)
There was astonishment. Waiters fled in every direction. The women came to the girls and one-by-one hugged them and apologized for what they had put them through. The men said the girls had gained a victory and that they would stand with them. The table, having returned to the floor, was cleared and the girls were asked to stand on feather pillows on the table. The skirts that had been supplied by the committee were tied tightly around their ankles. Raps manifested on the table, the walls, and floor of the room. The committee wrote a testimony to that effect.
Before they left the committee, word came that, if the committee reported favorably, they would all be mobbed. The girls returned home. Their friends didn't want them to go to Corinthian Hall that evening but said they would go and stand with them if they did go. The raps called for the alphabet and spelled, "Go! God will go with you. You will not be harmed." Amy Post wanted them to see it through. Margaretta refused. Leah said she would go if Amy did. As they were leaving, 15-year-old Margaretta joined them, telling them they would all probably be killed. When they arrived at the hall, they learned a container of warm tar had been placed in a closet near the stairway. The investigating committee bravely presented their favorable report. The rowdy element became a "howling mob." The leader of this element gave his prearranged signal to assault the stage. As this signal was given, a large man jumped onto the stage and sat between Leah and Margaretta. Leah tried to run him off as she thought he was one of the attackers. He informed her that he was the Rochester chief of police and that the men in the front row were his men. He called out to the leader of the rowdy element, a man named Bissell, that he would be the first arrested if anything happened to the girls. Another man who had come to Leah's home as an investigator called out to them not to be afraid, that he had 50 good men with him to protect them. Bissell's rowdies had been throwing torpedos, explosive devices about the size of a golf ball that explode on impact like large firecrackers. Then the proprietor of Corinthian placed himself between the stage and those advancing toward it.
In Leah's account of this final public demonstration in Corinthian Hall, recalling the night some 30 years later, she reported that the mob then turned and left. In another account, it was reported that a voice rang out, "You will be protected," and the hall filled with a crescendo of raps causing the crowd to quietly file out.
With the conclusion of these meetings of the first public demonstrations, and the reporting of them far and wide, Spiritualism spread like wildfire through the United States in the territory above the Mason-Dixon Line.
Mediums, nearly all women and mostly adolescent girls, came forward with the support of families. For some of them, their mediumship had already begun manifesting but families had held this knowledge fearing ridicule, misunderstanding, and worse. For others, their mediumship blossomed as Spiritualism spread, or as they attended public demonstrations of mediumship. They were nearly all trance mediums. Many other phases of mediumship manifested in the following years.
While we date the advent of Modern Spiritualism with that first communication established between Katie Fox, a child of 11 years, and the spirit of Charles Rosna on March 31, 1848, Spiritualism as a movement began with the first public demonstrations in Corinthian Hall on November 14, 1849.




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Re: The Start Of Modern Spiritualism Fox Sisters EDIT 4/3/09

Post by Admin on Wed Jul 16, 2008 5:31 am

Hi All,

I posted this version as much because it is a pretty good read but also because it has some variations from other accounts I have read. Indeed Lis has an immaculately researched version also from contemporary records including those of the direct recollections of the Mother. Hopefully Lis will find time to post for us a version of a talk she gave upon the tragic lives of the sisters.

In terms of the major variation it is that the Mother's own statement that, after the first day when communication occured the Sisters' were relocated to David Fox's house and did not return. The second variation to the normal story is that the pedlar is normally found by children playing in the deserted "Spooks House".

The photograph is of the cottage after it had been moved to Lily Dale and before it was destroyed by fire.

There is a viewing area at the original site where the cellar can be seen pictures are below. These pictures came from an excellent article written by Robert Egby, editor of the now closed Parapsychic Journal the article was called In the Footsteps of the Fox Sisters

The article was here http://go2.wordpress.com/?id=725X1342&site=digitalseance.wordpress.com&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.angelfire.com%2Fnj%2Fwriteups%2FHydesville.html&sref=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com.au%2Fsearch%3Fsourceid%3Dnavclient%26ie%3DUTF-8%26rlz%3D1T4GGLR_enAU348AU348%26q%3Din%2Bthe%2Bfootsteps%2Bof%2Bthe%2Bfox%2Bsisters%2Brobert%2Begby

I remind you all that march this year marked our 160th Birthday as a movement.










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Re: The Start Of Modern Spiritualism Fox Sisters EDIT 4/3/09

Post by Admin on Tue Dec 02, 2008 1:03 am

Hi All,

I thought I would follow up some more on this because over time the myths and legends surrounding teh start of Modern Spiritualism have outweighed the reality of what occured. What seems clear is that at some time in the late 1850's a more embellished story of the early days appears. At the same time the ages of Maggie and Kathy change from those given by the Mother to EE Lewis on around the 21st April 1848 and as shown twice in the 1850 USA census. Unfortunately Leahs age changes rapodly and often throughout censuses in her life and we are forced to look at these records which suprising ly would have been hard to find at the time the dates were changing. The key amendemnts to the early reality come from Leah Fox's and get recorded in Robert Dale Owen's book "Footfall's...", suddenly the ages given in the original EE Lewis rcord change and Mr Splitfoot appears in the record. Unfortunately this becomes critical because as time passes the original material became harder to find and researchers relied more on this and Leah Fox Underhil's 1885 book "The Missing Link in Spiritualism" . [i]It is also from the time of Footfalls that the legend of Mr Splitfoot as the entity asked to follow me by Kate who then establishes it is a Spirit communicating replaces the facts, recorded at the time of the events that it was Margaretta who started the counting and the Mother who established it was a Spirit.[/i]
The embellishments and changes are relatively harmless given the very nature of the live's the Fox Sisters lived with a variety of relationships and experiences they do however cut into the accuracy required for Spiritualism's truth. [i]Indeed the story is much much more romantic and items such as the levitating table at the Corinthian Hall Investigation add a glamour which the more gritty reality may lack. However, the contemporary records are quite sufficient to tell a fascinating tale which stands intact in its own right.[/i]
We are today very lucky in that we have acces to so many of the early documents, such as EE Lewis's pamphlet Capron and Barrons 1850 pamphlet etc. We also have access to many newspaper and periodical archives of the time which help develop an accurate impression of what occured. It is now probably time to recreate an accurate story in th same way as we have had to do over the UK Seven Principles.

The version I recoreded at the start of this thread is fascinating but in fact is based on many of the later "facts" and may have been a different narrative if written on teh basis of teh conemporary documents of the time.

I will try and pull this together or ask Lis to after her work on the Riddle of the Dates for the excellent Psypioneer.

Cheers

Jim


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Re: The Start Of Modern Spiritualism Fox Sisters EDIT 4/3/09

Post by Admin on Tue Dec 02, 2008 1:03 am

Putnam's Monthly Magazine, January 1853

During the summer and autumn of 1849, it began to be whispered about that communications from the spirits of the departed had been and were being received in the city of Rochester, N.Y. - the alleged mediums being three sisters, Mrs. Ann Leah Fish, and Misses Margaret and Catherine Fox, the two latter then some fifteen and thirteen years old. At length, on the 14th of Nov., 1849, in accordance, as was said, with directions from "the spirits," a public lecture on the origin and character of the alleged "Spiritual Manifestations" was given in Corinthian Hall, Rochester, at which the mediums were present. Manifestations were had, and a Committee was chosen from the audience to report upon their nature and origin at an adjourned meeting the next evening. That Committee in due time reported that they had made such investigations as they thought proper in the presence of the mediums, at a place with which these persons were previously unacquainted, and where they could have made no preparations for juggle or deception - that the answers given by the alleged spirits to their questions were partly correct, and partly otherwise that the mediums had apparently given every facility for the investigation; but that the Committee had utterly failed to discover how the mysterious sounds or raps were produced, or what was their cause or origin.

The adjourned public meeting, after some discussion selected another Committee, consisting of five well-known and respected citizens, including three of social and political eminence, who made a further investigation in another place, with substantially the same results. Thereupon a third Committee was appointed, who appointed a subcommittee of ladies, who took the mediums into a private room of a hotel to which they were strangers, disrobed and searched them, to be certain that no machinery or fixtures were concealed beneath their dresses whereby the mysterious sounds were produced. The mediums were then made to stand on pillows, with handkerchiefs tied tightly around their ankles; but all in vain. The raps were repeated, and intelligent answers to unpremeditated questions were thereby given. A physician had previously applied a stethoscope to the breasts of the mediums in order to be sure that the sounds were not made by ventriloquism. He reported that no movement of their lungs or chests was perceptible when the sounds were heard. At the first trial of standing the mediums on glass, no sounds were perceived; but the experiment was repeated, and the raps were heard as usual. At one of the meetings for investigation, the Committee excluded all persons but themselves and the mediums, in order to preclude the chance of collusion by unsuspected outsiders. At one meeting members of the Committee wrote their questions privately, so that the mediums could not know (by any ordinary means) what was their purport; and yet the replies to them (by raps) were said to have been given correctly. So with regard to mental questions. On these points, however, no reports were made by either Committee as such. Their formal scrutiny was limited to the single point of detecting the trick or juggle in which the raps were presumed to originate; and on this point their reports were unanimous, that every facility for investigation was proffered them, and that no cheat could be detected.

Thus far, and so long as the "Manifestations" were confined to the Fox family, the evident presumption necessarily was that the mediums were exceedingly clever impostors. Their story imported that the rappings had been first heard in their humble rural dwelling at the little hamlet of Hydesville, township of Arcadia, Wayne County, N. Y., some two years before, and while that dwelling was occupied by another family - that they ceased after a while and were not heard again until March, 1848, (the family of Mr. John D. Fox having occupied the house since the preceding December) - that they very naturally excited alarm and terror in Mr. F.s family, and induced them (on the evening of the 31st of March), first to call in their neighbors to counsel and encourage them in the presence of these unaccountable noises, and that the first indication of intelligence in the sounds was given them a few days before, in consequence of the youngest daughter, (then twelve years old) attempting to imitate the mysterious rapping by snapping her fingers, when the raps immediately repeated the number of distinct sounds made by her, and proceeded to rap five, six, or any number of times, as requested; then to tell the age of any person present by giving a rap for each year, if desired, etc., etc., until a very tolerable telegraphic communication with the invisible cause of these perturbations was established, - that the noise followed the greater portion of the family on their removal to Rochester, and that the telegraph was gradually improved by the employment of the alphabet: the medium or someone else present, calling over the letters in succession until a rap indicated that the right one had been reached, when said letter was jotted down, and the alphabet called again, and so on until the rap ceased, when the letters already set down were divided into words, and the sentence thus obtained received as a communication from "behind the curtain," etc., etc. All this, though apparently straightforward, and corroborated by neighborhood testimony, would hardly have attracted attention outside of a narrow circle, or been regarded by any considerable number as other than the specious web of falsehood wherein the preconceived imposture had enveloped itself.

But the "Manifestations" were not long confined to the Fox family. They were soon heard of in different towns of Western New York; then in Western Ohio; then in Providence, R.I., and various parts of New England; and in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, St. Louis, etc., and recent letters speak of them as quite extensively witnessed in California; while late advices chronicle their outbreak in Hull, England. If this Spiritualism be a sheer delusion, it is one of so singular a character, of such extensive prevalence, and producing consequences so serious, that it demands the most earnest scrutiny and thorough exposition.
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