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"Believing in Community"

Belfast Spiritualist Church

"Believing in Community"

Margaretta known as Maggie (1836 - 93), Kate (1838 - 92) and Leah (1814 - 90) Fox, the daughters of John and Margaret Fox played an significant role in the formation of the religious movement known as Modern Spiritualism.

In Hydesville, Rochester 1848 ( March 31st) living an a house rented by their parents, "Spook House" a house that already was renowned for being haunted, the entire family began to witness strange sounds such as that of knocking, or furniture being dragged across the floor.

The noises were so loud that the children abandoned their bedrooms and slept in their parents bedroom. It is recorded that the previous tenant a Mr Michael Weakman had moved due to "unsettling and inexplicable disturbances".

After continuously hearing these unexplained noises the eldest of the two younger sisters, Leah had left home, Kate challenged the
invisible noisemaking entity to repeat the number of times she snapped her fingers. The numbers were tapped out for all to hear, upon which Kate asked that it rap out the ages of the girls, and again the number of raps were heard by all and deemed correct.

Over the next few days and with the help of neighbours who are reported to have also heard similar occurrences a code of sorts was developed enabling the entity to select the letters of the alphabet, and a yes or no answer.

The entity claimed to be that of a pedlar named Charles B. Rosma, who claimed to be the victim of a murder whose' remains were
buried in the cellar of the house. The neighbours having witnessed events, and hearing the entity's claims, decided to dig up the cellar floor. Their search revealed little more than a few pieces of bone, of undetermined origin at the time. A search for a missing person by the name of Charles Rosma has yet to produce a result, however in 1904 , 56 years after the initial claim, a male skeleton was found encased in a cellar wall, and again no identity has been matched to the skeleton.

The following article was published in the Boston Journal on 23-11-1904:

Rochester, 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.

"The 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.

"The 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.

Mr. 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, 1848."

News of the "rappings" and other eventful communications began to spread and both sisters were professed to have mediumistic capabilities. The result of which was that by 1849 both sisters had started to give public performances such was the public interest with both sisters becoming somewhat famous to an extent.

As with most phenomenon of this type the sisters were again and again routinely exposed by sceptics as fakes and tricksters with
claims made that the raps and taps were made by the sisters themselves by "cracking" various joints on their bodies such as knees and ankles. The scepticism was to such an extent where a committee of women checked both sisters undergarments, and the sisters were "trussed up" in chairs ensuring that they could not move, yet the phenomenon was still apparent to all in attendance. No fraud of any sort was detected by these notable persons and most were forced to admit that the events were inexplicable to them.

Illustrated is the examination of the Fox Sisters by Dr. Austin Flint (1851)

The sisters had the support of celebrities including P.T. Barnum, William Cullen Bryant, James Fennimore Cooper and newspaper editor Horace Greeley. H Greeley had sadly lost his son and was investigating the possibilities of the dead might be able to communicate with the living.

It has been stated that Mrs. Fox's hair turned white because of the happenings and that 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. Occurrences of tapping broke out in both houses, concluding that the young girls were supplying the necessary, vital energy for Spirit to manifest as it did.

The raps were particularly violent in Leah's house. The violent 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:

"Dear 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."

From that 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.

Thanks to

Author : Michelle Nicholl