Fox sisters

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The Fox Sisters

Sisters Catherine (18381892), Leah (18141890) and Margaretta (18361893) Fox are generally seen as the creators of Spiritualism. They were daughters of David and Margaret Fox, and residents of Hydesville, New York. After the house they lived in was the scene of unexplained rappings, Kate and Margaretta conducted various channeling sessions. At first communicating with a peddler who was allegedly murdered and buried beneath the house, and a skeleton later found in the basement seemed to confirm this.

The Fox girls were instant celebrities. They demonstrated their communication with the spirit by using taps and knocks, automatic writing, and later even voice communication, as the spirit took control of one of the girls.

Soon others, now known as mediums, imitated this and began communicating with the dead, charging for their services, or accepting donations. Seances were conducted in dark or semi-dark rooms with participants seated around a table. Sometimes the table would lean and tilt, participants (sitters) might feel a cold breeze on their faces, fresh flowers (even out of season) sometimes materialized out of thin air and appeared upon the table. Musical instruments played mysteriously. The medium sometimes spoke, under control of a spirit, relaying meassages from the dear departed. Other methods of spirit communication included writing on sealed slates (similar to the Ouija board), impressing images onto photographic plates which had been kept in sealed enclosures, and painted images which gradually appeared upon previously blank canvas.

Skeptics suspected this was nothing but clever deception and fraud. Nonetheless, belief in the ability to communicate with the dead grew rapidly, becoming an organized religion called Spiritualism. Spiritualism flourished well into the 20th century, and still exists today.

Over the years, sisters Kate and Margaretta had developed serious drinking problems. 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 on October 21, 1888. Margaretta demonstrated before an audience of 2000 how she had fraudulently produced the spirit raps. In her stocking feet, on a small pine platform six inches above the floor, Margaretta produced raps audible throughout the theater by cracking her toe-joints! Doctors from the audience came on stage to verify the source of the sound.

Still, many Spiritualists simply did not believe her, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the fictional Sherlock Holmes among them.

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.

While rarely mentioned, the Fox sisters are a likely influence on the work of Allan Kardec.eo:Fratinoj FOX


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