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The Fox Sisters by Ariel Barnes

Updated: Nov 14, 2022

The Fox Sisters by Ariel Barnes

There is a contradiction between historical reality and accepted fact. Everyone says that modern mediumship started with the famous Fox sisters in the USA in the nineteenth century and yet Marc Start Medium teaches that Scottish Spiritualism is so strong because of its Celtic origins. However, let’s simply accept, for this article, that modern spiritualism started with the Fox Sisters.

The story of The Fox sisters starts out with what we would call a normal visit from a spirit. However, when The Fox sisters had visitors, the story of the family took a more dramatic turn. Maggie and Kate, the two sisters, both had mediumistic powers. The news of these communications with spirit quickly spread. The Fox sisters were both giving public demonstrations by the year 1849. The Fox sisters Leah, Kate, Margaretta became famous very quickly as people heard of them and wanted to communicate with the spirits of dead.

The entrance to Hydesvile Memorial Park
Hydesville Memorial Park Sign

At the time they lived in Hydesvile New York State. This has become a bit of a tourist attraction and is maintained by donations from American Spiritualist Churches. Marc himself has visited the site many times and describes it as “one of the most tranquil places to meditate in the world.” Marc also once attended a speech n Edinburg at the Portobello Spiritualist Church given by Maggie Fox heir living descendant.

Hydesvile Fox memorial hut
Th foundations to the home of the Fox Sisters

The sisters continued to appear at a variety of venues after their initial rise to stardom in public and Spiritualist churches. After this, their sister Leah joined them. She had been abandoned by her husband and was living in poverty before her sisters discovered their talent for communicating with spirit. There was extreme publicity around them and even though people hailed them as frauds and others as sensations. Regardless of this, people flocked to see them in massive numbers, all of them gladly paying for the privilege to speak with them.

They toured many cities and became hugely popular. Their seances became very elaborate. There would be objects moving about, spirits appearing, and tables levitating. Soon after, people started to discover their own spiritual powers and mediums and seances became popular. P.T. Barnum was a celebrity that really loved the sisters. Horace Greeley provided places for the girls to stay at his mansion. Greeley was grieving the death of his son, so the possibility that the dead might be still accessible to the living was of great interest to him. Greeley even offered to pay for the girl's education and while Leah accepted his offer for Kate, she refused to allow Maggie (the more talented of the two mediums) to leave what had become the family business. Several committees and forums were created to test the powers of the sisters. They were often called fakes and it was claimed they produced their phenomena in a variety of ways ranging from the toe, knee, and ankle cracking to ventriloquism to assorted mechanical devices.

Because of the scrutiny put on them, the girls were forced to undergo several tests to prove they were not frauds. Most of the tests involved posing questions to the spirits and while the replies were often inconsistent, they were accurate enough to make an impression. One test involved the girls being bound tightly about the ankles so that they could not move their feet. Even trussed up, they still managed to produce eerie rapping sounds. A women's committee also checked the girl's undergarments to ensure that nothing was hidden to produce the sounds. They found nothing and despite the hostility shown to the sisters by the committees, most were forced to admit that they were able to detect no fraud.

The entrace stone at Hydesvile announcing this as the location for the birth of the Spiritualist movement
The Birthplace of Modern Spiritualism

By 1885, Spiritualism was on the decline, and investigations of fraud began to increase. This year brought tragedy to both Fox sisters. Maggie was called before a commission in New York to prove her skills, a test that she failed miserably. Kate saw the death of her husband from a stroke, then returned to New York where, in early 1888, she was arrested for drunkenness and idleness and welfare workers took custody of her sons. Maggie, who had remained close with Kate, was unable to get the boys herself but she did manage to get them into the custody of an uncle in England.

In 1888, Maggie made the infamous appearance when she denounced Spiritualism as a total sham. She was suicidal at this point due to the weight of everything she was enduring. "I have seen so much miserable deception," she reportedly said. "That is why I am willing to state that Spiritualism is a fraud of the worst description." Sitting in a box overlooking the stage, Kate silently affirmed her sister's confession.

The Fox Sisters n a portrait.
The Fox Sisters together.

Kate didn’t speak at the public appearance but later stated that she did not agree with her sister. She continued to perform as a medium. In 1891, Margaret would retract her confession. A lot of people have said that the confession was a sham. They continue to believe that Maggie and Kate only abandoned the movement to spite their sister Leah, whom they had grown to hate. Leah had since married a wealthy and respectable businessman and using the fortune that had been gained for her by her sisters, she had turned her back on Maggie and Kate a long time before because she considered her an embarrassment.

Kate later drank herself to death in July 1892 at the age of only 56. Her body was discovered by one of her sons. Margaret passed away in March 1893, at age 59, in a friend’s home in Brooklyn. At the time of her death, she was completely penniless. comes into play. Marc’s simple rule is that subject to the size of the audience everyone should get a reading. As he himself says, “better to give fifty people a short message than five people a long message.” Perhaps if the sisters had used this technique, they would not have allowed their true mental mediumship to be tainted?

Ariel Barnes

Ariel is a Medium trained by Marc Stuart Medium and is based in Northwest Georgia USA.


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