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Observations placeholder

Fox sisters - As described in Spiritism a Study Historical, Critical and Experimental - Dr. Paul Gibier [1887]



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

As described in Spiritism (Western Fakirism) Study Historical, Critical and Experimental - Dr. Paul Gibier [1887]

In December 1847, according to an American author[1], a family of German origin, the Fox family - whose original name (Voss) had been Americanized - settled in a village called Hydesville. This village is located in Wayne County, Arcadia district in North America[2].

The Fox family consisted of the father and mother, John Fox and Mrs. Fox and three daughters.

If spiritualism becomes (as it claims to be) the religion of the future, the names of the two youngest Fox ladies will be famous in history. One, Margaret, was fifteen years old; the other, Kate, was only twelve.

The members of the Fox family belonged to the Methodist Episcopal Church of which they were, says Ms. Hardinge, "specimen members and incapable of being harmed by any suspicion of fraud or duplicity".

A few days after they moved into their new home in Hydesville, strange and increasingly intense events occurred in the house.

We will point out once again that we are only a simple narrator.

We heard, says Ms. Emma Hardinge, blows to the walls, floor and adjoining rooms, etc. Sometimes, when the family was gathered for the evening meal, there was a loud noise in the children's bedroom; everyone rushed to grasp the cause of the noise; although doors and windows were tightly closed, no one was found, but the furniture lay down, upside down or piled up in a jumble! These pieces of furniture, even in the presence of the family, were shaken by an oscillating movement, as if they had been thrown on the waves. This fact occurred mainly for the children's bed. The Fox saw their furniture moving as if it was animated by a special life; you could hear walking on the floor. The young girls felt invisible hands strolling on them; these hands were most often cold. Sometimes the children felt like a big dog was rubbing against their bed.

Often, during the night, Mr John Fox would get up with Mrs Fox and, followed by the little Miss Fox, would go around his cottage, trying to surprise the mischievous neighbours who, according to his belief, were the authors of the disturbances brought about in his nights by these unusual and unpleasant jokers.

As we have already guessed, no sign could be found indicating the coming of a human being.

Finally, in February 1848, life had become unbearable in the house inhabited by the Fox family, nights went by without sleep, and the days themselves were not without trouble. All through March the same sounds were heard with variations in intensity, but on March 31, 1848, they were even louder than usual. For the hundredth time, Mr. John Fox and Mrs. Fox searched for the source of these noises, but now a new and completely unexpected fact is revealed: they could hear sounds that obviously imitated, as if by mockery, those produced by the doors and windows that were opened and closed! As a result, there was enough to make you lose your mind.

The youngest of the children, little Kate Fox, seeing that these noises were not causing her any harm, had finally familiarized herself with them, and as, quite naturally, they were attributed to the devil, little Fox, no doubt feeling pure conscience, had come to joke about their author, whom she called Mr. Forked-Foot. One evening, she snapped her fingers a number of times and said to the invisible noisy man, "Do as I do, Mr. Forked-Foot." And instantly the same noise was repeated in a similar and repeated manner. The child made a few more movements with her finger and thumb, but gently and, to her great surprise, she was struck with a number of blows equal to the number of movements she had made silently. "Mother! she cried, be careful! He sees as well as he hears!"

Mrs. Fox, as amazed as her child, said to the mysterious companion, "Count to ten," and ten blows were struck. Several questions were asked and answered quite rightly. To the question: "Are you a man?" nothing was answered, but several clear and fast blows were heard when asked: "Are you a spirit?"

With the consent of the invisible visitor, the neighbors were called and much of the night was spent having the same experiences, with the same results.

This is the origin, the starting point of spiritualism "the first communication", - says Mr. Eugène Nus," in a book that we will have the opportunity to discuss more than once, - written by a twelve-year-old child on this phenomenon that was about to invade America and Europe, denied by science, exploited by charlatans, ridiculed by newspapers, anathematized by religions, condemned by justice, having against it all the official world, but for him this force more powerful than any other: the attractiveness of marvels[3]".

Thus ...... these noises were produced by an invisible agent, and .....this invisible agent was a spiritual one. It was not long, and as if the foundations of spiritualism had to be established at the same time, within a few days the mediumship and the means of communication between this material world and the spiritual world were discovered by means of the spiritual telegraph, that is, by rappings or blows struck indicating the letters of the alphabet.

The discovery of mediumnity resulted from the fact that the exercises of the spirits were most often performed in the presence of the Fox ladies and especially through the youngest one: Miss Kate Fox.

The modern spiritualists will probably find that we tell with a less respectful tone than they would like this short history of the beginnings of their faith, but that they do not forget that we do not yet share the beliefs that they hold so dear. We tell the facts we find recorded impartially, without comment, just as we will explain without discussion those we have observed, taking great care, however, to indicate in detail the precautions, equally disrespectful, with which we have encompassed each of our experimentations, as it was our duty to do so.

Let's go back to the history of the Fox family. According to Mrs. Hardinge, it was found that, thanks to certain magnetic forces, some individuals possessed the power of mediums that was denied to ordinary mortals and that this power, or better still this special force, differed extremely from one individual to another, and that it was very sensitive to the various moral emotions that make it vary in intensity among the same individual.

 ............ the Catholic priests, judging themselves to be the strongest, came with confidence and great reinforcement of the aspergillum, to exorcise the spirits and the capricious tables. But the possessed pedestal tables made chorus and answered amen to the prayers of the exorcists. The effect was nil: the blessed water of the Middle Ages had become stale!..........................

The Fox family, who did not want to submit and considered themselves responsible for the mission of spreading knowledge of these phenomena, was driven out of the Methodist Episcopal Church…………………

 ...........in Rochester, whose population, bigoted as in all the cities of America, is divided into a crowd of sects, they were persecutions of another kind and, this time, due to the wickedness of the living. The crowd moved against the Fox sisters; the sisters offered to give public proof of the phenomena in front of the people of Rochester gathered in the city's largest auditorium in Corynthian hall.

The first spiritualist conference was greeted by crows and whistles; nevertheless, after one of those ….anarchist public meetings ….., a commission was appointed. After the most careful examination, against the general expectation, against its own expectation, the commission concluded that the phenomena announced were real.

Unsatisfied, the citizens of Rochester elected a second commission that was (may we be forgiven for the expression) even stiffer than the previous one. The mediums, i.e. the Fox damsels, were searched and even undressed by female commissioners: second report even more favourable than the previous one.

The indignation of the people of Rochester was at its height and, without hesitation, a third commission was appointed, whose members were chosen from among the most incredulous and mocking.

The investigations were even more outrageous for the poor young misses, but with a low voice, the commission was forced to proclaim that Rochester was in the wrong.

The exasperation of the crowd was indescribable, there was talk of lynching the psychics and commissioners and, when the commission's report was read on the stage of Corynthian Hall, the Fox family, their friends and the commissioners only owed their salvation, according to Ms. Hardinge, to the intervention of a Quaker, named George Willets, who, because of the peaceful nature of the religion he professed, had a very special authority in these dramatic circumstances. Quaker George Willets proudly stood on the top of the stage, in front of the crowd that was about to overrun him and "said that the troop of ruffians who wanted to lynch the young girls would only do so by passing over his dead body!"


But from the day the discussion reached the heights of a scientific debate, it was another matter and it can be said that in no time North America was overwhelmed by the floods of spiritualism.

First, Judge Edmonds published a book on research[1] he had undertaken with the idea of demonstrating the falsity of spiritualist phenomena. The final result was diametrically opposed to the one the author had originally proposed.

Then the scientist Mapes, professor of chemistry at the University, after "having disdainfully rejected these things", was obliged to agree "that they have nothing in common with chance, deceit or illusion".

It was again Dr. Hare (Robert), a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who published a book that had a considerable impact[2]. Mr. Robert Hare conducted the series of highly ingenious experiments, demonstrating that in the absence of any effective pressure, by the mere application of a medium's fingers, the instrument with which he was experimenting showed an increase in weight by several pounds

[1] Edmonds. - The Amer. spiritualism. - Der Americanische spiritualismus. German translations Leipzig, 1873.
[2] Robert Hare. — Experimental investigation of the spirit manifestations. Philadelphie, 1856.



[1] Emma Hardinge. - History of American modem spiritualism.
[2] State of New York.
[3] Eugène Nus, - Things from the Other World, 3rd ed. Paris, Dentu.

The source of the experience

Fox sisters

Concepts, symbols and science items




Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Being a child