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Margaret and Kate Fox
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    Margaret Fox (1833-1893)
    Kate Fox (1837-1892)
    Lived in Hydesville, New York
    Claimed to make contact with spirits that communicated by making rapping noises (1848)
    Held many public seances
    Credited with playing a key role in popularizing spiritualism in 19th century America
    They started by bumping an apple on a string against the floor to mimic ghostly footsteps to frighten their mother.
    They later produced the rapping noises by cracking the joints in their toes.
    They claimed to be communicating with the spirit of Charles B. Rosma, a peddler who had been murdered and buried in the cellar.
    Margaret noted that their neighbors 'went over the whole surrounding country trying to get the names of people who had formerly lived in the house. Finally they found a man by the name of Bell, and they said that this poor innocent man had committed a murder in the house... Poor Bell was shunned and looked upon by the whole community as a murderer.'
    As skeptic Charles Page noted, the 'spirit' rappings inevitably originated beneath the girls' long dresses.
    Margaret confessed to a hoax and gave a public demonstration of her ability to produce the raps at will (1888).
    She later recanted her confession and returned to spiritualism.
    Both sisters became heavy drinkers.
    Both sisters died in poverty and were buried in paupers' graves.
    Their pranks might have stayed a local curiosity but their older sister Leah appointed herself as their manager and insisted that they give public demonstrations.
    They attracted several famous followers, including Horace Greeley, William Lloyd Garrison and James Fenimore Cooper.
    After a couple of years in the limelight, they were pushed from center stage as new mediums with more spectacular effects (such as moving furniture or materializing ectoplasm) emerged.
    They had to both come up with a persuasive line of bs and crack their toes, which is one more talent than, say, John Edward uses.

Credit: C. Fishel

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