History shows that March the 31st 1848 is when Modern Spiritualism started. It was with the Hydesville Rappings, which were the first phenomenon and the beginning of the Fox Sisters’ careers.
The Fox family moved into a house in Hydesville, NY which is where the rappings first started. The people in the town claimed a Spirit haunted the house.
The Michael Weekman family, who owned the house in Hydesville prior to the John Fox family, claimed the family had run into “strange and unnerving incidents”. One evening while the Weekman’s were still living there, Michael Weekman reported strange knockings/rappings on his front door. Every time he answered the door, no one was there.
Weekman even resorted to going outside and looking around every corner of his house. Each time the phenomena started, he could feel the door move, as if someone was actually knocking on the door. Weeks later there was an incident with the Weekman’s eight-year-old daughter. The child had just gone to sleep for the night, and she told could feel someone or something running their hand over her sheets. When the hand touched her face it was cold. She was so struck with terror that she could not call out to her parents. After this occurrence, the young child refused to go into the bedroom after dark. The Weekman family had experienced enough strange incidences and moved out of the house.
The Fox family, well known in their community, moved into the old Weekman house. It was only weeks later that the rappings that the Weekman family had heard, were keeping the Fox family up at night. On the night of March 31, 1848 the rappings were more relentless than any other night. Mrs. Fox had checked every window and door to make sure they were locked tight and threatened Margaretta and Kate to stay quiet and not encourage the rapping’s. One of the young girls sat up in her bed and snapped her fingers and said, “Here, Mr. Splitfoot, do as I do! Then the same child raised her hand to silently communicate with Mr. Splitfoot. Every time the young girl made a different form of silent communication, the rapper gave the correct response. She told her Mother that it can see as well as hear!”
Kate and Margaretta’s brother thought that the rappings could be decoded by using the alphabet. A neighbour claimed that the man was murdered by a man with the name of Charles B. Rosna. The body was supposedly buried in the cellar of the house. Being the curious people they were, they looked in the cellar hoping to find the body. Nothing confirmed was found, but the family claimed that there were fragments of bone under the dirt floor. A local doctor had also claimed that there was hair and a fragment of a human skull found.
The Fox house was a spectacle for the whole town. They were flooded every night with visitors from the community and even from neighbouring communities to hear the mysterious rappings.
As any good Methodist family would do, they called in the Clergymen to help them with this problem. It was decided that the children should be sent away to Rochester to live with their older sister, Leah.
This was probably to prevent the Spirits from making contact with the girls. Unfortunately, moving to Rochester did not stop the Spirits from contacting the girls. The occurrences of the rappings became more frequent.
It was customary to have the citizens gather at Leah’s house to hear the revelations of Margaretta’s “rapping telegraph”. Many people came to hear the “rapping telegraph,” and it did not take Leah long to realize that she could profit from Margaretta’s gift. Leah had decided to arrange an exhibit of Margaretta’s talent in Corinthian Hall. To see the wonders of Margaretta that most had seen for free, now cost money. Admission to the meeting was a dollar. Many critics went hoping to see a fraud, but they were disappointed. No one could explain the mysterious rappings. Even the committee that was formed by leading citizens, could not explain the rappings. The citizens kept making committees to make sense out of the rappings. One account said that one of the committees that were appointed to study the girls, saw a heavy dinning table rise high above their heads. During the last meeting in Corinthian Hall, the third committee could not explain what was making the rapping sounds. The audience became infuriated, and Margaretta and Leah had to be escorted home.
Margaretta and Katherine were also known for creating séance rooms. Usually these rooms were in parlours of hotels, and they charged the public a dollar to see. They also had private sittings, but for only people who could afford it. These public séances attracted many different kinds of people, even celebrities. Horace Greeley was one of their original supporters. He was a writer for the Tribune, and always wrote complementary things toward Margaretta and Kate. He also frequently invited them in to his home, and even paid for some of their schooling. In 1850 Kate and Margaretta also demonstrated their talents to another Tribune writer, Dr. Rufus W. Griswold. He became one of their biggest critics
The girls also attracted even more well-known and respected individuals. Margaretta’s séances attracted: James Fennimore Cooper, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and William Cullen Bryant. Kate received the highest Medium status when Mary Todd Lincoln attended a private sitting. Mrs. Lincoln was trying to connect with the deceased President.
As the rappings got to be old news, a new form of communication was discovered. The sisters, Kate especially, adopted mirror writing. This was faster than the rappings on long messages, and was not as exhausting. Through this new form of communication, Spirits like James C. Calhoun and Benjamin Franklin were contacting the sisters.
Thirty-eight years later a confession slipped passed the mother of Spiritualism. October 21, 1888 was the confession of Margaretta Fox. She exposed her fraud as she gave a lecture at the New York’s Academy of Music. The rappings that had begun in Hydesville were being preformed by “snapping the joint of her big toe” Corinthian Hall was so big, that it helped out acoustically, and made the illusion that the rappings were coming from different parts of the building. If Margaretta had confessed her fraud a couple of years earlier, Spiritualism could have failed in its early stages.
Soon after Margaretta’s confession of fraud, Kate confessed that the rappings were also a fraud. Leah bitterly resented her sisters for making the confessions. Not only did she humiliate her, but it also cut off her source of money. Though the confessions spread like fire, most of the groups that followed them were quick to step in and accuse Churches and newspapers to falsely confess. Margaretta and Kate realized the deeply rooted movement they had caused. Even when they confessed that the rappings were shams, the effects were not enduring. This realization caused them to withdraw their confession and once more held séances.
This is a mirror writing done by Kate Fox. This communication was claimed to be with Ben Franklin.
The Hydesville Cottage was destroyed by fire in September 21, 1955. The Peddler’s pack can be seen at the Lily Dale Camp, New York.