Psychic News article

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Psychic News article

Post by zerdini on Tue Nov 17, 2009 5:49 pm

Congratulations on your excellent article on the 160th anniversary of the first public demonstration of mediumship in this week's Psychic News.

Well done, Jim.

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Re: Psychic News article

Post by Lis on Tue Nov 17, 2009 10:36 pm

Hi Zerdini,
Thanks for bringing our article to the attention of the members. For those who do not subscribe to Psychic News I have posted the article below.

Lis

THE BEGINNING REMEMBERED – 160 YEARS ON
At seventy-cents a head, four hundred people filled Corinthian Hall, Rochester city’s new and largest public meeting house on November 14, 1849. They came, some out of curiosity, many to jeer, others in support, to witness the mysterious noises manifested through the mediumship of Margaretta Fox and her older sister Ann Leah.

This public demonstration of spirit communication, accompanied by an address describing the history and nature of the manifestations, would have a major impact on the formation and growth of the Spiritualist movement. Though less well remembered today than the story of the ‘rappings’ that took place in the Fox cottage in Hydesville in March, 1848, this meeting, and the investigations that resulted from it, played a significant role in bringing Spiritualism to the attention of the world.

Importantly, the approach taken in investigating the phenomena, and those thought responsible for producing it, followed procedural forms which all could accept. These ‘tests’ were able to provide conclusive proof of Spirit contact, based on independent investigation and evaluation, thus guaranteeing that the mediumship under inspection was genuine. For many years afterward a similar approach would be taken when assessing the veracity of mediums.

In November 1850, Rev Samuel Britain gave an address at the Stuyvesant Institute, in New York City, entitled The first lecture explanatory of the spiritual philosophy, and especially of the marvelous circumstances which heralded in the spiritual dispensation of the nineteenth century. He was inspired by the investigations in Rochester, and referred to “the solution which we have been privileged to receive to all our spiritual problems in the famous ‘Rochester Knockings,’ or first spiritual telegraph, worked through the instrumentality of the renowned Fox Sisters ....”

Britain made clear that from the first reporting of the phenomena he had “been a persistent and careful observer,” and “conversed with those who were present at the Corinthian Hall investigations two years ago” learning from “the most indisputable testimony that the Fox Sisters have been tested, and their truth, and honesty proved, by every conceivable means.”

In the first edition of The Two Worlds published November 18, 1887, Emma Hardinge Britten described Samuel Britain’s address “as the inaugural work of the spiritual rostrum” which made it eminently fitting to occupy the same position in the opening number of her weekly periodical.

On reading this first public lecture on the subject of Modern Spiritualism one is struck by the fact that Rev. Britain frequently refers to the Rochester event as occurring two years earlier which gives the impression the meeting in Corinthian Hall took place in 1848 rather than 1849. Further confusing the issue, is that E.W. Capron, who delivered the address in Rochester, also specified 1848 as the year of the meeting in his 1855 book Modern Spiritualism its Facts and Fanaticisms. The much later publication, The Missing Link in Spiritualism (1885), by Ann Leah Fox Underhill also uses this date, while the January 1941 edition of The Rochester History Magazine, in an article headed Early Almanacs of Rochester again puts forward 1848 as the correct date. Indeed, in 2008 in Rochester, an exhibition was held to commemorate the event based on the 1848 date.

There is, however, more substantive evidence to support 1849 as the correct year. Importantly, the same edition of The Rochester History Magazine notes that the Corinthian Hall opened on June 28th 1849. If this is the case, the first public meeting with the Fox sisters could not have been held there a year earlier. In addition, in the appendix of Modern Spiritualism its Facts and Fanaticisms, Capron reproduces various letters, reports, newspaper articles and the original advertisements of the meeting which all confirm it occurred in 1849.

Further evidence comes in an earlier book, Explanation and History of the Mysterious Communion with Spirit by Capron and H. D. Barron, published in early 1850. In the chapter headed The Public Investigation at Corinthian Hall in the City of Rochester a full account is provided “of the public investigations which were gone into … in the month of November, 1849.”

This work is useful also for making clear that the youngest sister, Catherine Fox took no part in the demonstration at Corinthian Hall, in part because she was considered to young to do so, and at the time, was residing with Capron’s family in Auburn, New York State.

To understand what happened in Rochester, it is better to place reliance on records contemporary with that time, such as newspaper articles and Capron and Barron’s 1850 publication, which was rushed into print just two months after the meeting took place.

There is evidence that in subsequent books and reports a number of aspects of what occurred have become distorted or embellished. Indeed, Anne Leah’s book The Missing Link in Spiritualism is a good example of this, as it contains descriptions of events not present in that recorded at the time.

Her version of the investigations at Corinthian Hall introduces what appears to be an unnecessary elaboration designed to give a more glamorous touch to the affair. Ann Leah suggests that after the investigations of the third day, she and Maggie were invited to stay and eat dinner, however, “they taunted us in every way,” and claimed “my young sister Maggie was by my side, bathed in tears … (while she) was struggling with a choking emotion … The party were joking and funning at our expense, when, suddenly the great table began to tremble, and raised first one end and then the other, with loud creaking sounds, like a ship straggling in a heavy gale, until it was finally suspended above our heads.”

This table ‘levitating’ episode, subsequently so widely reported by later writers who have based their description of events on Ann Leah’s book in all probability never happened. Certainly there is no mention of such an occurrence in Capron and Barron’s comprehensive 1850 record of events.
In reality, the original description of what occurred over the three days following the original demonstration on the night of November 14, 1849, provides a much more graphic and reliable version of events.

Each day the girls were examined by different committees, each comprised of the ablest and most reliable citizens of Rochester, intent upon establishing that the communication was not real. On the third day, an extra committee of women was formed so that the Fox sisters could be stripped and studied by them. Each night they had to go to the hall and face an angry mob with only one interest, to discover how they were creating the phenomena and attack them for their fraud.

That a meeting was ever held was the direct result of a request from the Spirits communicating with the Fox sisters. Capron and Barron record that in a séance they attended, the sitters were told “You all have a duty to perform. We want you to make this matter more public." The group initially resisted Spirit’s demand, aware that the reality of spirit communication was disbelieved by the general public, and sure they would face ridicule and insult. Apparently the Spirits replied, “That will be so much the better - your triumph will be the greater."

The Spirits assured them that the rapping noises would be loud enough to be heard throughout the hall. In Modern Spiritualism, E. W. Capron makes clear the instructions given by Spirit and notes that even the venue was chosen by Spirit, and Margaretta and Ann Leah were told to go and hire Corinthian Hall. Capron was nominated by Spirit to deliver the lecture and George Willets was designated the business man. A list of other people that Spirit wanted to attend to support the sisters was also provided. The instructions included booking the Hall for several meetings and that at each meeting a committee of five people should be appointed from the audience to investigate the matter and report back at the following meeting.

The proposed demonstration was advertised widely in the Rochester newspapers; the first notice of the meetings commenced with the words “Wonderful Phenomena at Corinthian Hall, on Wednesday evening, Nov 14. The citizens of Rochester will have the opportunity of hearing a full explanation of the nature and history of the ‘mysterious noises’ .... and they have promised to give the public an actual demonstration of the sounds.”

To describe what happened at the meetings and subsequent investigations Capron and Barron turn to a report published in the New York Weekly Tribune of Dec. 8th, 1849. This was actually written by Capron and George Willets, who may not, at first, appear to be unbiased observers. Surprisingly, the newspaper published the lengthy report in its entirety. Indeed, on reading through the comprehensive report it is clear they presented it in a factual manner, including lengthy records of the findings of each committee.

The newspaper article describes the first night in the following way “Accordingly on the evening of November 14, a lecture was delivered in Corinthian Hall in the City of Rochester, and a full history of the rise and progress of these manifestations given. During the relation of these facts the sounds were distinctly heard by the persons in the Hall.”

The eminent people chosen to make up the first committee were listed by name as were those on subsequent committees. The report of the second evening included a description of the detailed steps the committee of investigators took, and that they chose to investigate using places unknown to the Fox sisters. Their report ended with, “The ladies seemed to give every opportunity to the Committee to investigate the cause fully, and would submit to a thorough investigation by a committee of ladies if desired. They all agreed that the sounds were heard, but they entirely failed to discover any means by which it could be done.”

This was not the answer most of the audience wished to hear. On the second evening a further 5 people were selected from the audience. Their report showed that once again they chose the location where the investigation would be conducted so that the Fox sisters would not gain any advantage. The noises proceeded with no obvious source. In this instance a Doctor was present and he checked their lungs with a stethoscope to establish that was not the cause the noises. This committee also ruled out ventriloquism and machinery.

A further committee of 5 was then chosen who selected a sub-committee of ladies to join the investigation. The ladies took the mediums to another room, disrobing them and searching them thoroughly, before conducting a number of tests, and finally certifying the results saying: “When they were standing on pillows with a handkerchief tied around the bottom of their dresses, tight to the ankles we all heard the rapping on the wall and floor distinctly. Signed, Mrs. Stone, Mrs. J. Gates, Miss M. P. Lawrence.”

On each day all of the committee members indicated their unanimous agreement with the reports presented. Even after three days of intensive investigation no evidence had been found to prove fraud. Indeed quite the contrary, most of the questions asked of the Spirits had been answered appropriately although Margaretta and Ann Leah knew nothing of the subjects involved. The detailed review of that days evidence confirmed that “a number of questions were asked [of Spirit] which, when answered, were generally correct”.

The committees chosen represented the most reliable people in the city. In their book Capron and Barron point out that “We doubt if any citizen of Monroe County would refuse to submit to the justness of his cause even were he tried for life or limb, to such men as those who composed the committees”. Clearly these eminent people had made their judgment that there was no fraud and the noises must be accepted in their own right.
Yet even this did not satisfy the crowd. On the last night a large group of troublemakers took matters into their own hands, abusing the committees, throwing “torpedoes” (fire crackers), and creating a threat to the mediums and their friends. Thanks to the presence of the police they were able to safely vacate the premises.

Thus the first demonstration and investigation into Spiritualism ended in triumph for the mediums despite the rejection by the mob. We can only look back and admire the bravery of these pioneers who accepted the words they received from Sprit and acted wholeheartedly to fulfill the task they were given.

To actively promote the event, get the largest possible audience, and then enter the hall to face hostility, was the act of brave people trusting entirely in the promises they had received from Spirit. For Margaretta and Anne Leah to submit to the tests they were subjected to continuously over three days, by people who had no belief that what they were doing was other than cheating, must have created intense pressure upon their stamina and nerves. It is almost impossible to comprehend this today when we are now in an era where mediums seem totally unwilling to accept controlled investigations, even though none of them would be either as hostile, or as intrusive, as those the Fox sisters then faced.
Lis & Jim Warwood
November 2009

Lis
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Re: Psychic News article

Post by Admin on Wed Nov 18, 2009 12:00 pm

By the way the article was a joint production between Lis and I
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Re: Psychic News article

Post by zerdini on Wed Nov 18, 2009 12:08 pm

Admin wrote:By the way the article was a joint production between Lis and I

Congratulations to you both then. Laughing The PN article stated it was by Jim Warwood - however, "behind every great man there's a great woman".

No offence intended.

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Re: Psychic News article

Post by Admin on Wed Nov 18, 2009 12:10 pm

behind me is a very great woman Z
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Re: Psychic News article

Post by zerdini on Wed Nov 18, 2009 1:25 pm

Admin wrote:behind me is a very great woman Z

No argument about that Jim. Wink

zerdini


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Re: Psychic News article

Post by Admin on Thu Nov 19, 2009 10:47 pm

Hmm you all have access to the article that should have been sent to PN....

However in error you have the article I had originally finished before Lis added to it and adjusted it. So the one in PN is miy original due to my incompetence so the weaknesses in structure and grammar which may remain after PN editing are all mine

Gee I am embarassed Embarassed
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Re: Psychic News article

Post by Bill on Fri Nov 20, 2009 10:40 am

Jim, what are you like? lol

Good article nevertheless.

Bill

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Re: Psychic News article

Post by lyfsagerny on Thu Nov 26, 2009 12:41 am

Does anyone have any comments about the confession of fraud made by Margaret Fox herself? This is from an article about Arthur Conan Doyle written by Donald E. Simanek:

"Suspicions that the seance-room phenomena were fraudulent were reinforced when Margaret Fox confessed to deception. On October 21, 1888, Margaret appeared before an audience of 2000 to demonstrate how she had fraudulently produced the spirit raps. In her stocking feet, on a small pine platform six inches above the floor, Margaret produced raps audible throughout the theater by cracking her toe-joints! Doctors from the audience came on stage to verify the source of the sound."
The link is at http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/doyle.htm

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Re: Psychic News article

Post by Admin on Thu Nov 26, 2009 12:57 am

Long answer to that one, of course at the time she and Katie were furious with sister Leah. She went on to recant that "confession" and of course the so called facts are totally at odds with the 3 seperate committee's of inspection.

This was a sad period in the lives of these two ladies, especially given their sever problems with alchohol. Its probably a story that needs retelling removing the romanticism and being totally objective. I think that only the die hards who already thought Spiritualism was fraud were influenced by this event. By then there were so many other mediums who had been tested.


Indeed it is interesting to notice that after the first few years the Fox sister became peripheral to the development of Spiritualism. Maggie gave up for a fair time during her relationship with Elisha Kane and it appears that she only was only working occasionally until after his death.

Little is heard of Katie whilst she was at school being educated. When she returned it was as a private Medium to a Dr Livermore in 1861 who conducted 388 test Seances with her. At the end of this he paid for her to go to the UK where she met and married H D Jencken staying there until his death in 1881. During this time she managed to avoid her alchohol problems but they were to return after 1881

There is more about this on the History of Spiritualism thread, 1888 Death Blow to Spiritualism
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Re: Psychic News article

Post by lyfsagerny on Thu Nov 26, 2009 1:43 am

Thanks for the information Jim. You're very knowledgeable on this subject. Much appreciated.

lyfsagerny


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Re: Psychic News article

Post by Admin on Thu Nov 26, 2009 3:31 am

Thanks its taken a while but to be as involved, as I am, in running a Spiritualist centre, working as a platform Medium, talking and facilitating development groups it seemed kind of important that I knew what I was talking about. At the same time I also felt that it was important to ensure that the information was accurate.
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Re: Psychic News article

Post by iceblue on Thu Nov 26, 2009 9:07 am

Admin wrote:Thanks its taken a while but to be as involved, as I am, in running a Spiritualist centre, working as a platform Medium, talking and facilitating development groups it seemed kind of important that I knew what I was talking about. At the same time I also felt that it was important to ensure that the information was accurate.

A foundation is always needed to build upon.Duncan

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Re: Psychic News article

Post by lyfsagerny on Thu Nov 26, 2009 1:31 pm

That's why I joined this forum. It's a wonderful opportunity to learn from those who are dedicated to this extremely important subject. Thanks to all of you who contribute your knowledge, experience, and intellect to all who are seeking truth.

lyfsagerny


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