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The Fox Sisters and the Spiritualism Movement

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Trent
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« on: January 19, 2008, 03:25:25 pm »

The Fox Sisters


and the


Spiritualism Movement


Margaretta and Kate Fox

The Spiritualism movement began with what Allen Kardec termed typtology. Typtology is a mode of spirit communication in which spirits lift and tilt a table during a seance to produce rapping sounds. In organized seances, a number of people would sit around a table, hold hands, concentrate, and ask questions of the spirits. The spirits would then answer their questions through a series of raps, or knocks, similar to someone knocking on a door. In order to question the spirits, sometimes a simple yes or no would be indicated by a prescribed number of knocks. In another method, called alphabetical typtology, letters of the alphabet were recited and when the letter that the spirit wanted to draw attention to was called, a rap could be heard; thus spelling out words, sentences, and so on. Using this method, it was possible to hold lengthy, detailed conversations with the mysterious entities responsible for spirit-rapping.

The first recorded spirit-rapping began in America in 1848 with the playful efforts of Margaretta and Kate Fox to communicate with the spirits of the dead. Much to their astonishment, they succeeded in establishing a ghostly dialogue with the spirit of Charles Haynes. Using rapping noises as its means of communication, Hayne's spirit conveyed the message that he had been killed and buried in the basement of their home. When bones were found in their basement, what had begun as innocent fun became a sensation. From these humble beginnings, what came to be known as the Spiritualism movement took root and grew to international proportions. As a result of their spiritualistic activities, the Fox sisters were condemned and lived in constant danger. They were attacked by religious fanatics in their community, and besieged by angry mobs several times. They were also exploited, and eventually betrayed by their own sister, Leah, who was said to have been the beneficiary of most of the donations collected from those who came to the Fox sisters for spiritual counseling.

As the spiritualism movement got underway in America and Europe, the strange but well-documented manifestations of spirit communication such as spirit-rapping and seance channeling were regarded as weird and unexplainable events. The great majority of Americans and Europeans viewed it as nothing more than a bizarre form of entertainment. For those who took the spirit communications seriously, however, it quickly became apparent that something more was happening. Many of the messages received from the spirits were discovered to be quite accurate. In addition to the messages, other phenomena were being witnessed and verified by many of the most credible individuals in American and European society. By 1854, spirit-directed paranormal phenomenon had reached the level of an intradimensional invasion. Leading spiritualists in the United States decided that it was time to undertake an official investigation. The erudite and well-respected spiritualists petitioned Congress to appoint a scientific commission to investigate the perplexing paranormal phenomenon that had been witnessed by so many people.

The petition entitled 'A Memorial' described the phenomenon produced by the spirits in great detail. The object of the investigation was described in the petition as: 1) an occult force, exhibited in sliding, raising, arresting, holding, suspending, and otherwise disturbing, numerous ponderable bodies, apparently in direct opposition to the acknowledged laws of matter, and altogether transcending the accredited powers of the human mind; 2) lights of various forms and colors, and of different degrees of intensity, which appear in dark rooms, where no substances exist, which are liable to develop a chemical action or phosphorescent illumination, and in the absence of all the means and instruments whereby electricity is generated or combustion produced; 3) sounds which are extremely frequent in their occurrence, widely diversified in their character, and more or less significant in their import; and 4) how the functions of the human body and mind are often and strangely influenced in what appear to be certain abnormal states of the system, and by causes which are neither adequately defined nor understood.

This document was delivered by the former governor of Wisconsin, Nathaniel Tallmadge, to Senator James Shields to be presented before Congress. Much to the consternation of the petitioners, Shields scorned the spiritualists by saying, "the prevalence of this delusion at this age of the world, among any considerable portion of our citizens, must originate, in my opinion, in a defective system of education, or in a partial derangement of the mental faculties, produced by a diseased condition of the physical organization. I cannot, therefore, believe that it prevails to the extent indicated in this petition." Responding to Shield's criticism, Eliab Capron, a chronicler of the spiritualism movement, wrote, "It is not probable that any of the Memorialists expected more favorable treatment than they received. The carpenters and fishermen of this world are the ones to investigate new truths, and make senates and crowns believe and respect them. It is in vain to look for the reception or respect of new truths by men in high places." The widely documented and verified invasion of the spirits described above never received a plausible explanation and is still regarded as a mystery.

In the fifty years that elapsed between the publication of Kardec's books and the incorporation of the Union, the spiritualism movement declined in the United States and Europe. Numerous scandals undermined the credibility of some of its foremost proponents. By 1888, both of the Fox sisters confessed that they were cheats. In fact, both sisters had developed serious drinking problems over the years. At the behest of her sister Leah, Kate Fox's children were taken from her by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and placed in foster care. This act led to a great deal of bitterness and anger against Leah by both Margaretta and Kate. Feeling exploited and betrayed by their sister Leah, who had collected and spent the great majority of the money paid to them...Margaretta and Kate appeared publicly at the New York Academy of Music. Margaretta confessed that she had made all the rapping noises that fostered the movement by means of a double-jointed big toe. Kate remained silent and would neither confirm nor deny the confession of her sister. It was later learned that a reporter had offered $1,500 to them if they would confess and give him an exclusive on the story. Desperate for money and liquor, the sisters apparently agreed, and then proceeded to drink their earnings away. Margaretta recanted her confession in writing shortly before she died in 1895. Kate never recanted, and died shortly afterwards. Both sisters were buried in pauper's graves.


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« Last Edit: January 19, 2008, 03:27:00 pm by Trent » Report Spam   Logged

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Bianca
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« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2009, 02:17:17 pm »











SPIRITUALISM AND SPIRITISM


http://atlantisonline.smfforfree2.com/index.php/topic,2144.0.html
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Trent
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« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2009, 11:06:58 pm »

I wonder how many people here have ever heard of the Fox Sisters and what they did to draw attention to themselves?
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« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2009, 12:56:59 am »



The Fox Sisters. From left to right: Margaret, Kate, and Leah
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« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2009, 12:57:16 am »

The Fox sisters were three women from New York who played an important role in the creation of Spiritualism, the religious movement. The three sisters were Kate Fox (1837–1892), Leah Fox (1814–1890) and Margaret Fox (also called Maggie) (1833–1893).
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« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2009, 12:57:45 am »

Hydesville events

In 1848, the two younger sisters – Kate and Margaret – were living in a house in Hydesville, New York with their parents. Hydesville was a hamlet which no longer exists but was part of the township of Arcadia in Wayne County.[1] The house had some prior reputation for being haunted, but it wasn't until late March that the family began to be frightened by unexplained sounds that at times sounded like knocking, and at other times like the moving of furniture.

In 1888, Margaret told her story of the origins of the mysterious "rappings"[2]:

    "When we went to bed at night we used to tie an apple to a string and move the string up and down, causing the apple to bump on the floor, or we would drop the apple on the floor, making a strange noise every time it would rebound. Mother listened to this for a time. She would not understand it and did not suspect us as being capable of a trick because we were so young."

During the night of March 31, Kate challenged the invisible noise-maker, presumed to be a "spirit", to repeat the snaps of her fingers. "It" did.[3] "It" was asked to rap out the ages of the girls. "It" did.[4] The neighbours were called in, and over the course of the next few days a type of code was developed where raps could signify yes or no in response to a question, or be used to indicate a letter of the alphabet.[5]
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Sandra
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« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2009, 12:58:12 am »

The girls initially addressed the spirit as "Mr. Splitfoot" which is a nickname for the Devil. Later, the alleged "entity" creating the sounds claimed to be the spirit of a peddler named Charles B. Rosma,[6] who had been murdered five years earlier and buried in the cellar. Doyle claims the neighbors dug up the cellar and found a few pieces of bone, but it wasn't until 1904 that a skeleton was found, buried in the cellar wall. No missing person named Charles B. Rosma was ever identified.[7]

Margaret Fox, in her later years noted:

    "They [the neighbors] were convinced that some one had been murdered in the house. They asked the spirits through us about it and we would rap one for the spirit answer 'yes,' not three as we did afterwards. The murder they concluded must have been committed in the house. They went over the whole surrounding country trying to get the names of people who had formerly lived in the house. Finally they found a man by the name of Bell, and they said that this poor innocent man had committed a murder in the house and that the noises had come from the spirit of the murdered person. Poor Bell was shunned and looked upon by the whole community as a murderer."[8]
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« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2009, 12:58:32 am »

Emergence as mediums

Kate and Margaret were sent away to nearby Rochester during the excitement — Kate to the house of her sister Leah, and Margaret to the home of her brother David — and it was found that the rappings followed them.[9] Amy and Isaac Post, a radical Quaker couple and long-standing friends of the Fox family, invited the girls into their Rochester home. Immediately convinced of the genuineness of the phenomena, they helped to spread the word among their radical Quaker friends, who became the early core of Spiritualists. In this way appeared the association between Spiritualism and radical political causes, such as abolition, temperance, and equal rights for women.[10]

The Fox girls became famous and their public séances in New York in 1850 attracted notable people including William Cullen Bryant, George Bancroft, James Fenimore Cooper, Nathaniel Parker Willis, Horace Greeley, Sojourner Truth and William Lloyd Garrison.[11] They also attracted imitators, or perhaps encouraged people who previously had hidden their gifts. At any rate, during the following few years, hundreds of persons would claim the ability to communicate with spirits. Both Kate and Margaret became well-known mediums, giving séances for hundreds of "investigators," as persons interested in these phenomena liked to call themselves. Many of these early séances were entirely frivolous, where sitters sought insight into "the state of railway stocks or the issue of love affairs,"[12] but the religious significance of communication with the deceased soon became apparent. Horace Greeley, the prominent publisher and politician, became a kind of protector for the girls, enabling their movement in higher social circles. But the lack of parental supervision was pernicious, as both of the young girls began to drink wine.[13]
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« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2009, 12:58:52 am »

Mature lives

Leah, on the death of her first husband, married a successful Wall Street banker. Margaret met Elisha Kane, the Arctic explorer, in 1852. Kane was convinced that Margaret and Kate were engaged in fraud, under the direction of their sister Leah, and he sought to break Margaret from the milieu. The two married, and Margaret converted to the Roman Catholic faith, but Kane died in 1857, and Margaret eventually returned to her activities as a medium.[14] In 1876 she joined her sister Kate, who was living in England.

Kate traveled to England in 1871, the trip paid for by a wealthy New York banker, so that she would not be compelled to accept payment for her services as a medium. The trip was apparently considered missionary work, since Kate sat only for prominent persons, who would let their names be printed as witnesses to a séance. In 1872, Kate married H.D. Jencken, a London barrister, legal scholar, and enthusiastic Spiritualist. Jencken died in 1881, leaving Kate with two sons.[15]

Kate Fox was considered to be a powerful medium, capable of producing not only raps, but "spirit lights, direct writing, and the appearance of materialized hands," as well as the movement of objects at a distance.[16] She was one of three mediums examined by William Crookes, the prominent scientist, between 1871 and 1874, who said of her ability to produce raps:
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« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2009, 12:59:08 am »

"These sounds are noticed with almost every medium... but for power and certainty I have met with no one who at all approached Miss Kate Fox. For several months I enjoyed almost unlimited opportunity of testing the various phenomena occurring in the presence of this lady, and I especially examined the phenomena of these sounds. With mediums, generally it is necessary to sit for a formal séance before anything is heard; but in the case of Miss Fox it seems only necessary for her to place her hand on any substance for loud thuds to be heard in it, like a triple pulsation, sometimes loud enough to be heard several rooms off. In this manner I have heard them in a living tree - on a sheet of glass - on a stretched iron wire - on a stretched membrane - a tambourine - on the roof of a cab - and on the floor of a theatre. Moreover, actual contact is not always necessary; I have had these sounds proceeding from the floor, walls, etc., when the medium's hands and feet were held - when she was standing on a chair-when she was suspended in a swing from the ceiling- when she was enclosed in a wire cage - and when she had fallen fainting on a sofa. I have heard them on a glass harmonicon - I have felt them on my own shoulder and under my own hands. I have heard them on a sheet of paper, held between the fingers by a piece of thread passed through one corner. With a full knowledge of the numerous theories which have been started, chiefly in America, to explain these sounds, I have tested them in every way that I could devise, until there has been no escape from the conviction that they were true objective occurrences not produced by trickery or mechanical means."[17]
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Sandra
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« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2009, 12:59:27 am »

Later Years

Over the years, sisters Kate and Margaret had developed serious drinking problems. Around 1888 they became embroiled in a quarrel with their sister Leah and other leading Spiritualists, who were concerned that Kate was drinking too much to care properly for her children. At the same time, Margaret, contemplating a return to the Roman Catholic faith, became convinced that her powers were diabolical.

Eager to harm Leah as much as possible, the two sisters traveled to New York City, where a reporter offered $1,500 if they would "expose" their methods and give him an exclusive on the story. Margaret appeared publicly at the New York Academy of Music on October 21, 1888, with Kate present.[18] Before an audience of 2,000, Margaret demonstrated how she could produce – at will – raps audible throughout the theater. Doctors from the audience came on stage to verify that the cracking of her toe joints was the source of the sound.[19]
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« Reply #11 on: October 14, 2009, 12:59:47 am »

Confession

Margaret told her story of the origins of the mysterious "rappings" in a signed confession given to the press and published in New York World, October 21, 1888.[20] In it, she explained the Hydesville Events.

She also expanded on her career as a medium after leaving the homestead to begin her Spiritualist travels with her older sister, Mrs. Underhill:

    "Mrs. Underhill, my eldest sister, took Katie and me to Rochester. There it was that we discovered a new way to make the raps. My sister Katie was the first to observe that by swishing her fingers she could produce certain noises with her knuckles and joints, and that the same effect could be made with the toes. Finding that we could make raps with our feet - first with one foot and then with both - we practiced until we could do this easily when the room was dark. Like most perplexing things when made clear, it is astonishing how easily it is done. The rapping are simply the result of a perfect control of the muscles of the leg below the knee, which govern the tendons of the foot and allow action of the toe and ankle bones that is not commonly known. Such perfect control is only possible when the child is taken at an early age and carefully and continually taught to practice the muscles, which grow stiffer in later years. ... This, then, is the simple explanation of the whole method of the knocks and raps."[21]
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« Reply #12 on: October 14, 2009, 01:00:04 am »

She also notes:

    "A great many people when they hear the rapping imagine at once that the spirits are touching them. It is a very common delusion. Some very wealthy people came to see me some years ago when I lived in Forty-second Street and I did some rappings for them. I made the spirit rap on the chair and one of the ladies cried out: "I feel the spirit tapping me on the shoulder." Of course that was pure imagination."[22]

The cracking of joints was the theory skeptics most favored to explain the rappings, a theory dating back to 1851.[23] Spiritualists familiar with the wide range of raps produced by the sisters, as well as the fact that raps could emanate from any part of a room, were not much impressed by the fact that raps could emanate from Margaret's toe. Much more damaging was the realization that Margaret could produce raps at will, when the raps were supposedly produced by spirits. But Spiritualists such as Arthur Conan Doyle were soon able to accept that, up to a point, the medium's own will could influence the preternatural phenomena of the séance.[24]
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« Reply #13 on: October 14, 2009, 01:00:42 am »

Harry Houdini, a man who devoted a large part of his life to debunking Spiritualist claims, provides this insight:

    "As to the delusion of sound. Sound waves are deflected just as light waves are reflected by the intervention of a proper medium and under certain conditions it is a difficult thing to locate their source. Stuart Cumberland told me that an interesting test to prove the inability of a blindfolded person to trace sound to its source. It is exceedingly simple; merely clicking two coins over the head of the blindfolded person." [25]
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« Reply #14 on: October 14, 2009, 01:00:56 am »

Tragic end

Margaret recanted her confession in writing in November, 1889, about a year after her toe-cracking exhibition. Kate's first letters back to London after Margaret's exhibition express shock and dismay at her sister's attack on Spiritualism, but she did not publicly take issue with Margaret. [26] Within five years, both sisters died in poverty, shunned by former friends, and were buried in pauper's graves.
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