The Emergence of Spiritualism

Through the ages Spiritualism has been looked down upon as mere pseudoscience, scoffed at by critics, and altogether dismissed as fakery.  All the rage in Europe it did not come into vogue until 1848, not through the intervention of some great illusionist like Houdini but in a small house in Hydesville, New York.  The perpetrators of the great scheme called spiritualism were the Fox Sisters, Maggie (15) and Katie (12) who began simply enough by talking to the dead.  On March 31, 1848 father John, mother Margaret and the two girls, after many nights of thumping and rapping on the walls discovered that they could communicate with the dead.  We can assume that it was mere fancy that caused the girls to discover if they themselves clapped that the rapping answered back.  And soon enough they had discovered that by simply rapping for yes and no and by calling out the letters of the alphabet they began to talk with the dead.  It was soon discovered that the spirit causing all the raucous at night was a peddler who was murdered and supposedly buried under the floor of the Fox home.  Soon, upon inspection, some teeth and bones for found in the cellar and the daughter’s were soon on the road to being famous.

Their sister Leah noticing the great enterprise in what her sister’s could do began taking the girls on séances and performing their spirit communication all over the country.  Soon everyone would know who the Fox sisters were.  In time as Spiritualism faded into just another fad it and the girls were repeatedly touted as frauds and their act chicanery and soon fell into alcoholism.  Eventually, this took a toll on both sisters and they split up. Investigations into the Spiritualist phenomenon started turning up fraudulence and once again the finger pointed back toward the Fox sisters.  Was everything they did true or was it all an act?  In 1884 a commission into the validity of Spiritualism brought Maggie back into the light and upon repeated tests, that she failed, she admitted that what they did was a fraud.  By the simple cracking of their toes they were able to answer their own questions and thus make it appear as though some otherworldly force was doing it.  Proponents of Spiritualism never bought the denouncement and eventually Maggie recanted.  All of this was a little too late since now Spiritualism was tarnished.  If what they were doing was real why did she say it was all a fraud?  Was it all a simple trick that started a religion?

In 1904 the old Fox homestead revealed it’s sorted past when the body of a man was discovered behind a crumbling wall in the cellar.  With the facts never really being validated we can only guess what happened one evening in 1848 when two girls began to talk to the dead.

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