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Monday, August 19, 2013

Why was New York State so Weird in the 19th Century?

And just like that, America was haunted. When exactly the apparitions began appearing no one could say for sure. It was the middle of the 19th century — maybe 1848? This was the year that the young Fox sisters, Maggie and Kate, began communicating with the ghost of a murdered man who had been buried in the cellar of their new house in Hydesville, New York. The girls listened to his frantic rappings beneath the floorboards and created a Morse code of sorts to parse the meaning. Their mother called in the neighbors to witness her daughters’ supernatural powers and the neighbors’ excited whispers stretched to surrounding towns. They particularly excited Amy and Isaac Post, a progressive Quaker couple who were friends of the Fox family. The Posts relocated Kate and Maggie to their home in Rochester and soon the girls were performing séances for the Posts’ reformist friends. Strangely, the rappings followed them all the way there. The Rochester rappings became known all over the country, talked about by William Cullen Bryant and P.T. Barnum and Mary Todd Lincoln. The Fox sisters — now famous mediums — had started a movement. They were just 12 and 15 years old.


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