History of Modern Spiritualism
In this section of our website you can find out all about the origins of 'Modern Spiritualism' through universal philosophy and spiritualistic phenomena in the 19th Century, along with information about some of the early pioneers. Also take a look back to the earliest communication with the Spirit World documented through the ages, in consideration that Spirit communication is at the heart and source of every Religion. Also read about the role of Emmanuel Swedenborg in the 18th Century and his influence into the 19th Century and the birth of Modern Spiritualism and its philosophy.
The Fox Sisters
The birth of Modern Spiritualism...
WHAT TOOK PLACE AT HYDESVILLE?
Most Spiritualists are familiar with the story of the occurrences at Hydesville on March 31st 1848. However, some of these claims have veered away from the original records, partly because the original report on the Hydesville phenomena by Mr E. E. Lewis, who obtained twenty-two signed statements from witnesses in April 1848, soon became extremely rare – and partly because the story was changed from its original reports by Lewis and other early historians like Eliab Capron, with later unsubstantiated verbal reports added to it by Robert Dale Owen eleven years or so later.
Owen appears to have also introduced the name Charles B. Rosma into the story. Ten years later Emma Hardinge (Britten) wrote her “Modern American Spiritualism”, published in 1870. She quoted from Owen’s book, “Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World”, published in 1860, and we appear to have the first introduction of the peddler’s name, Charles B. Rosna (“n”!). It would appear that this is possibly a spelling or publisher’s error; it would be doubtful that Emma Hardinge would bring in another name for the peddler without some explanation for contradicting Owen’s Rosma while quoting him.
Later the eldest Fox sister, Ann Leah Underhill, published “The Missing Link in Modern Spiritualism” in 1885. In the opening chapter she republishes some of the sworn statements recorded and published by Mr E. E. Lewis in April 1848. However, she failed to tell her readers that she had in fact changed some of these statements; these changes would be reflected in later works by others.
Research also shows that according to some later reports by the two younger Fox sisters (and also hinted at in some of the original material) the eldest Fox sister, then known as Leah Fish, had a daughter called Elizabeth (also known as Lizzie), who was at that time staying with her grandparents, where she was present and participated in the unfolding Hydesville events.
What actually occurred on the night of 31st March 1848?
Mr and Mrs Fox had two young daughters living with them, Catherine and Margaretta; they are not actually named in the original reports. In later life they would claim there was a third girl present – their niece Elizabeth. It is also often stated that a code was adopted by the two young sisters and that the peddler’s name, Charles B. Rosna, was revealed. An alphabet code was established on March 31st and would be later used by the Fox sisters in Rochester. The code was actually established by Mr William Duesler, a former resident of the house. However, no name was given at this time except the letter “C”, followed by the initial of the communicator’s surname, “B”.
Published below is the full text of the original Hydesville report made by Mr E. E. Lewis in April 1848; it is not always realised that the phenomena were not just active on March 31st but continued for some days. Although the reader will find this somewhat repetitive, unlike most reports it has remarkable testimonial consistency – without contradiction. The report builds up to a remarkable and unique testament of spirit communication. It is this crude two-way communication which involved so many individuals, questioners and witnesses that would establish the foundation of Modern Spiritualism. This report gives a concise overview of what actually was recorded and took place, by those who were present and participated in the spirit communications.
Readers who are interested in a detailed summary of research into the Hydesville story, for example the various peddlers’ names given earlier and different from those mentioned above, and other claims, etc., please contact the curator.