The Fox Sisters - Part 1
The rappings and strange noises seemed to be completely mysterious in nature. It was especially unnerving to Mrs. Fox, who had moved into the little house in Hydesville, New York with her previously estranged husband and three children only weeks prior – it was the winter of 1848.
The rappings continued, with more frequency. First at night, then, spilling over into the waking hours, from the floor, the walls, the furniture – or anywhere the Fox girls happened to be.
14 year old Margaret and her sister, 11 year old Kate began to engage in a discourse...with the dead.
One night in March, Kate called out “Here Mr. Splitfoot, do as I do,” and knocked a number of times on the floor. Mr. Splitfoot obliged by responding with the same number of raps. It wasn’t long before the Fox’s had devised a method of communication with the “spirits.” And soon, a horrible story was revealed – that of a salesman who was murdered by having his throat cut with a knife then, buried in the cellar of the house.
Neighbors were invited in, people fishing at the nearby creek and all of them heard the same series of questions and answers. Many more came throughout the night, for word spread fast in the little town.
Mrs Fox composed an affidavit recounting the story of the rappings, saying: ” I am not a believer in haunted houses or supernatural appearances. I am very sorry that there has been so much excitement about it. It has been a great deal of trouble to us. It was our misfortune to live here at this time; but I am will and anxious that the truth should be known, and that a true statement be made. I cannot account for these noises; all that I know is that they have been heard repeatedly, as I have stated. I have heard this rapping again this morning, April 4th. My children also hear it.”
Mr. and Mrs Fox were frightened. They and the people who witnessed these rappings and exchanges were all convinced the Fox girls possessed an incredible power – they were also convinced there was a ghost in their house. So, Margaret and Kate were sent to live with their older sister, Leah, a 33 year old single mother who lived in Rochester, New York. Leah had just read The Divine Principles Of Nature – a book wherein the author claimed the dead were in daily contact with the living and predicted that someday the truth would be known to us through a living demonstration. Leah had just found her “living demonstration.”
Under Leah’s management, Margaret and Kate were soon in high demand to conduct séances. Once guests arrived they would seat themselves around a table, recite a prayer, sing a bit then, either Margaret or Kate would fall into a trance.
On November 14th, Rochester’s largest Hall, seating 400, was rented out. The local paper, the Daily Democrat, reported that those in attendance were in the best possible humor, ready to be entertained and watch Fox sisters be exposed for perpetrating a fraud. This was not the case and, in fact, the paper later reported that the “ghost” was indeed there.
There was some who refused to let it go and demanded an investigation. In result, Over the next few nights at the live demonstrations, the girls were subjected to being placed on glass, on pillows, their feet placed in shackles and probed by a subcommittee of ladies to search their bodies for concealed machinery. Of course, nothing even remotely suspicious was ever discovered. On the final night of performances a barrel of hot tar that had been hidden was discovered and removed, the non- believers lit fireworks inside and attempted to storm the stage – the Foxes were taken to safety by the police.
All this publicity ensured that theaters showcasing the Fox sisters were sold out. They began receiving invitations from some of New York’s most illustrious citizens to hold these – “conversations through the veil” for them. The girls were bone fide celebrities – there was even Fox Sisters merchandise! People would wait in line for hours for a chance to see these two young mediums. For a chance to hear something, anything from a loved one who had left them behind.