The Fox Sisters Putnam's Magazine, Jan 1853

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The Fox Sisters Putnam's Magazine, Jan 1853

Post by Admin on Wed Dec 31, 2008 3:42 am

Interesting early piece note that there is no Mr Splifoot although the ages in the reports are a little tangled

"Putnam's Monthly Magazine, January 1853
The Fox Sisters
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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