All of the Things We Would’ve Told You

Moving through October with the museum closed has been hard. With the exception of last December, which was pure chaos to be honest, this has been the first big programming event that we have missed due to the fire. After three years of big Octobers, 2016 has been rough to deal with.

I thought, however, that I would share a taste of the creepy knowledge we usually bring to you in October.

One of my favorite stories regarding nineteenth-century spiritualism is that of the Fox sisters, Leah, Kate, and Maggie. Kate (11) and Maggie (14) lived with their parents in a farmhouse in Hydesville, New York. In 1848 they made a bit of a commotion when they showed neighbors that they could communicate with a spirit in their home through a series of knocks, or spirit rappings as they came to be called.

fox-sisters-home

The Hydesville, NY home of the Fox Sisters. Image Courtesy of Smithsonianmag.com

The daughters were then sent on to live with their older sister, Leah, in Rochester but by then several community leaders had learned of the talents of the sisters and wanted to see more. They even presented their ability in front of a crowd of 400 at a rented hall. Once word got out others wished to see the sisters and they traveled to New York City and held seances, attended by prominent individuals such as Horace Greeley, James Fenimore Cooper, and William Lloyd Garrison. After this they took their shows to different cities before marriages pulled them apart.

fox-sisters

The Fox Sisters (from left to right) Leah, Kate, and Maggie. Image courtesy of Smithsonianmag.com

In 1888 Maggie publicly stated that they had been faking the spirit communications, much to the dismay of many followers and members of the larger Spiritualist movement. One year later Maggie recanted her confession, but the movement no longer wished to associate themselves with her.  The sisters all passed and that’s how their story ends.

The Fox sisters helped to push the popularity of nineteenth-century Spiritualism in an age when religious reform movements, questions about the validity of religion and truth of the Bible, and the Civil War caused many to question their own faith and what would happen to them upon their passing. Although they were just a few girls in a sea of many proclaimed mediums, psychics, and spiritualists, their story has been fascinating Americans for decades.

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