Fox sisters were mediums, each in her own right, they are generally
and, we believe, more appropriately connected to the events which
took place on the evening of March 31, 1848. The events
which took place with the Fox family in Hydesville, New York, are
generally considered to have initiated the Modern Spiritualist Movement.
We shall look at the reasons for this a little later on; but first,
let us look at the characters involved and the events which took
place on that fateful evening of March 31, 1848.
was a small hamlet about 20 miles from Rochester, New York. On December
11, 1847, John Fox, along with his wife Margaret and their two daughters,
Kate and Margaretta, moved into the house in question. The house
had a reputation of being "haunted"; there were several instances
recorded of raps, taps, and other noises. In fact, the prior tenant,
Michael Weakman, moved out of the house because of the inexplicable
around the middle of March, 1848, the Fox family began to be disturbed
by the strange sounds and activities. The children were so alarmed
at what was happening that they refused to sleep apart and were
taken into the bedroom of their parents. The sounds were so loud,
that the beds themselves often shook. Every possible opportunity
was made to ascertain the source of the sounds, but to no avail.
Finally, on March 31st, Kate Fox made history. She challenged the
mysterious unseen power to repeat the snaps of her fingers.
To offer a
more personal sense for what actually took place during this evening,
we are presenting the content of a signed affidavit written by Mrs.
Fox on April 4, 1848. As you read this, see if you can envision
mentally what transpired:
night of the first disturbance we all got up, lighted a candle and
searched the entire house, the noises continuing during the time,
and being heard near the same place. Although not very loud, it
produced a jar of the bedsteads and chairs that could be felt when
we were in bed. It was a tremendous motion, more than a sudden jar.
We could feel the jar when standing on the floor. It continued on
this night until we slept. I did not sleep until about twelve o'clock.
On March 30th we were disturbed all night. The noises were heard
in all parts of the house. My husband stationed himself outside
of the door while I stood inside, and the knocks came on the door
between us. We heard footsteps in the pantry, and walking downstairs;
we could not rest, and I then concluded that the house must be haunted
by some unhappy restless spirit. I had often heard of such things,
but had never witnessed anything of the kind that I could not account
night, March 31st, 1848, we concluded to go to bed early and not
permit ourselves to be disturbed by the noises, but try and get
a night's rest. My husband was here on all occasions, heard the
noises, and helped search. It was very early when we went to bed
on this night; hardly dark. I had been so broken of my rest I was
almost sick. My husband had not gone to bed when we first heard
the noises on this evening. I had just lain down. It commenced as
usual. I knew it from all other noises I had ever heard before.
The children, who slept in the other bed in the room, heard the
rapping, and tried to make similar sounds by snapping their fingers.
child, Cathie, said: 'Mr. Splitfoot, do as I do,' clapping her hands.
The sound instantly followed her with the same number of raps. When
she stopped, the sound ceased for a short time. Then Margaretta
said, in sport, 'Now, do just as I do. Count one, two, three, four,'
striking one hand against the other at the same time; and the raps
came as before. She was afraid to repeat them. Then Cathie said
in her childish simplicity, 'Oh, mother, I know what it is. Tomorrow
is April-fool day, and it's somebody trying to fool us.'
thought I could put a test that no one in the place could answer.
I asked the noise to rap my different children's ages, successively.
Instantly, each one of my children's ages was given correctly, pausing
between them sufficiently long to individualize them until the seventh,
at which a longer pause was made, and then three more emphatic raps
were given, corresponding to the age of the little one that died,
which was my youngest child.
asked: 'Is this a human being that answers my questions so correctly?'
There was no rap. I asked: 'Is it a spirit? If it is, make two raps.'
Two sounds were given as soon as the request was made. I then said:
'If it was an injured spirit, make two raps,' which were instantly
made, causing the house to tremble. I asked: 'Were you injured in
this house?' The answer was given as before. 'Is the person living
that injured you?' Answered by raps in the same manner. I ascertained
by the same method that it was a man, aged thirty-one years, that
he had been murdered in this house, and his remains were buried
in the cellar; that his family consisted of a wife and five children,
two sons and three daughters, all living at the time of his death,
but that his wife had since died. I asked: 'Will you continue to
rap if I call my neighbors that they may hear it too?' The raps
were loud in the affirmative.
went and called in Mrs. Redfield, our nearest neighbor. She is a
very candid woman. The girls were sitting up in bed clinging to
each other and trembling with terror. I think I was as calm as I
am now. Mrs. Redfield came immediately (this was about half-past
seven), thinking she would have a laugh at the children. But when
she saw them pale with fright, and nearly speechless, she was amazed,
and believed there was something more serious than she had supposed.
I asked a few questions for her, and was answered as before. He
told her age exactly. She then called her husband, and the same
questions were asked and answered.
Redfield called in Mr. Duesler and wife, and several others. Mr.
Duesler then called in Mr. and Mrs. Hyde, also Mr. and Mrs. Jewell.
Mr. Duesler asked many questions, and received answers. I then named
all the neighbors I could think of, and asked if any of them had
injured him, and received no answer. Mr. Duesler then asked questions
and received answers. He asked: 'Were you murdered?' Raps affirmative.
'Can your murderer be brought to justice?' No sound. 'Can he be
punished by the law?' No answer. He then said: 'If your murderer
cannot be punished by the law, manifest it by raps,' and the raps
were made clearly and distinctly. In the same way, Mr. Duesler ascertained
that he was murdered in the east bedroom about five years ago and
that the murder was committed by a Mr. _______ on a Tuesday night
at twelve o'clock; that he was murdered by having his throat cut
with a butcher knife; that the body was taken down to the cellar;
that it was not buried until the next night; that it was taken through
the buttery, down the stairway, and that it was buried ten feet
below the surface of the ground. It was also ascertained that he
was murdered for his money, by raps affirmative.
was it - one hundred?' No rap. 'Was it two hundred?' etc., and when
he mentioned five hundred the raps replied in the affirmative.
in who were fishing in the creek, and all heard the same questions
and answers. Many remained in the house all night. I and my children
left the house. My husband remained in the house with Mr. Redfield
all night. On the next Saturday the house was filled to overflowing.
There were no sounds heard during the day, but they commenced again
in the evening. It was said that there were over three hundred persons
present at the time. On Sunday morning the noises were heard throughout
the day by all who came to the house.
night, April 1st, they commenced digging in the cellar; they dug
until they came to water, and then gave it up. The noise was not
heard on Sunday evening nor during the night. Stephen B. Smith and
wife (my daughter Marie), and my son David S. Fox and wife, slept
in the room this night.
nothing since that time until yesterday. In the forenoon of yesterday
there were several questions answered in the usual way by rapping.
I have heard the noises several times today.
"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 willing and anxious that the truth should
be known, and that a true statement should 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 (Tuesday)
morning, April 4. My children also heard it.
that the foregoing statement has been read to me, and that the same
is true; and that I should be willing to take my oath that it is
so, if necessary."
MARGARET FOX, April 11, 1848.
inquiry, it was ascertained that the spirit's name was Charles B.
Rosna and that he had been a peddler who stayed at the house five
years prior to these incidents.
could not be resumed until the summer months, at which time, at
a depth of about five feet, a plank was found, deeper below charcoal
and lime, and finally hair and bones. But it was not until 56 years
later that a further discovery was made which proved beyond all
doubt that someone had actually been buried in the cellar of the
statement appeared in the Boston Journal (a non-Spiritualist
paper) on November 23, 1904:
N.Y., Nov. 22nd, 1904: The skeleton of the man supposed to have
caused the rappings first heard by the Fox sisters in 1848 has
been found in the walls of the house occupied by the sisters,
and clears them from the only shadow of doubt held concerning
their sincerity in the discovery of spirit communication.
Fox sisters declared they learned to communicate with the spirit
of a man, and that he told them he had been murdered and buried
in the cellar. Repeated excavations failed to locate the body
and thus give proof positive of their story.
discovery was made by school-children playing in the cellar of
the building in Hydesville known as the "Spook House," where the
Fox sisters heard the wonderful rappings. William H. Hyde, a reputable
citizen of Clyde, who owns the house, made an investigation and
found an almost entire human skeleton between the earth and crumbling
cellar walls, undoubtedly that of the wandering peddler who, it
was claimed, was murdered in the east room of the house, and whose
body was hidden in the cellar.
Hyde has notified relatives of the Fox sisters, and the notice
of the discovery will be sent to the National Order of Spiritualists,
many of whom remember having made pilgrimage to the "Spook House,"
as it is commonly called. The finding of the bones practically
corroborates the sworn statement made by Margaret Fox, April 11,
the events which transpired with the Fox family on the evening of
March 31, 1848. Yet, this is just the beginning of the story. Let
us now look briefly at what happened after these incidents took
It is reported
that Mrs. Fox's hair turned white because of these occurrences.
Kate had to move to her brother's house in Auburn, New York, while
Margaret took refuge at her sister Leah's house in Rochester. Raps
broke out at both places, indicating that it was the young girls
who were supplying the necessary, vital energy for Spirit to manifest
as it did. The raps were particularly violent in Leah's house.
disturbances continued in Leah's house until a friend named Isaac
Post remembered that the girls' brother, David, had once conversed
with the Hydesville spirits using the alphabet. As an experiment,
they tried this method again with the following results:
Friends, you must proclaim this truth to the world. This is the
dawning of a new era; you must not try to conceal it any longer.
When you do your duty God will protect you and good spirits will
watch over you."
time onward, the communications poured forth and the manifestations
were orderly and nonviolent in nature. The successful relaying of
the above message apparently released the frustration and urgency
on the part of Spirit, thereby allowing more orderly and cohesive
communication. Imagine, if you can, the sense of release you would
feel if, after trying so very hard to convey a message to someone
without success, you were suddenly able to do so. This is exactly
what Spirit experienced during this period.
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