A Force for Education in “”Modern Spiritualism””
The Reverend Thomas Grimshaw, Courtesy of the Morris Pratt Institute
Thomas Grimshaw was a high-ranking official of the National Spiritualist Association (NSA) and apparently lectured widely on the subject. He proposed the creation of a Bureau of Education in the NSA, which occurred at the 30th annual convention in about 1922. The Morris Pratt Institute in Milwaukee, Wisconsin had previously been established as the location of the NSA educational entity. Thomas authored 26 lessons of “The General Course” (“History, Science, Philosophy and Religion of Modern Spiritualism) and 30 lessons of “The Advanced Course” (“Spiritualism, Philosophy, Mediumship and Comparative Religion”). He also served as the Superintendent of the Bureau of Education at the Morris Pratt Institute and was apparently the third principal of the Institute.
Thomas Grimshaw was born in Darwen, Lancashire in 1867 and immigrated to America in 1889. Apparently he became involved with spiritualism shortly after arriving and served in several churches before receiving his education position at the Morris Pratt Institute. He was apparently first elected Trustee of the Spiritualist church in St Louis, Missouri, in 1903. According to an obituary in the “National Spiritualist”, he had a wife and at least one child, a son. Thomas died on January 1, 1938 at Long Beach, California.
Thanks go to staff at the Morris Pratt Institute in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for providing a photo of Thomas Grimshaw as well as much additional information on his role in the spiritualism movement.
Encyclopedia Britannica Online provides the following information on Spiritualism:
in religion, the belief, or practices based upon the belief, that departed souls hold intercourse with mortals, usually through a medium by means of physical phenomena or during abnormal mental states, such as trances.
The important terms in spiritualism are defined in the following ways. “Spirit” is the essential part of man. After the death of the body the spirit lives on. The “spirit world” is the world of disembodied spirits. A “medium” is a person on earth who is sensitive to vibrations from the spirit world and is able to convey messages between that world and this one and to produce other spiritualist phenomena. A “control” is a disembodied spirit who gives messages to a medium who in turn gives them to men and women on Earth. A “séance” is a meeting (usually small) around a medium to seek messages from the spirits. “Telepathy” is the communication of ideas through other than physical means. “Clairvoyance” is the power of seeing through means other than the physical eye. “Clairaudience” is the power of hearing through means other than the physical ear. “Levitation” is the lifting of an object by other than the physical means. “Materialization” is the appearance of a spirit in matter. Apport” is the production of objects without physical means or the passing of objects through objects (e.g., walls) which have no openings.
An important later development of spiritualism has been in the direction of “spirit healing.” Unorthodox healings have in the past been associated with sacred places and religious rites, and medical science is inclined to attribute all such healings to the normal process of suggestion working under favourable conditions. But it is also claimed that there is a genuine power of paranormal healing found in certain persons, and from the spiritualist point of view these healers are regarded as mediums who acts as agents of spirit doctors. Healings are claimed for a variety of conditions, some of which are regarded as incurable by orthodox medicine.
The attempt to communicate with discarnate spirits seems to be one of the forms that religion may take in human societies and to be widely distributed in space and time. Practices very like those of a modern spiritualistic séance have been reported in various parts of the world, as, for example, Haiti and among the North American Indians, and there is no reason for supposing that these are of recent origin. The record of a materialization séance of long ago is preserved in the account in the Old Testament of Saul’s visit to the witch, or medium, of Endor, in the course of which a materialization appeared that was regarded by the king as the prophet Samuel (I Sam. 28:7-19). Certain mediumistic phenomena were reported in the witch trials of the Middle Ages, particularly the appearance of spirits in quasi-material form and the obtaining of knowledge through spirits. It may be supposed that many of those persecuted for the practice of witchcraft were what would now be called mediumsalthough their mediumship was coloured by the fact that it was organized in a forbidden cult, and the spirits with which communication was established were regarded as devils. Some mediumistic phenomena were also found among those regarded in the Middle Ages as possessed by devils; e.g., speaking in languages unknown to the speaker and levitation or partial levitation.
Although spiritualistic practices seem to be widespread, they were virtually unknown in modern civilized society until March 1848, when odd happenings were reported at the house of a farmer named Fox in a small town in New York state. Previous occupants of the house had been disturbed by unexplained raps at night. After a severe disturbance by raps during Mr. Fox’s tenancy, his youngest daughter, Kate, was said to have successfully challenged the supposed spirit to repeat the number of times she flipped her fingers. Once communication had apparently been established a code was agreed upon by which the raps given could answer questions, and the spirit was said to have identified himself as a man who had been murdered in the house.
The practice of having sittings for communication with spirits spread rapidly from that time. Kate Fox (afterward Mrs. Fox-Jencken) and one of her sisters gave much of their later lives to acting as mediums in the United States and in England. Many other mediums gave similar sittings, and the movement became widespread. The attempt to communicate with spirits by table turning became a popular pastime in Victorian drawing rooms.
Much of this activity was motivated by mere curiosity and the fascination of the supernatural, but it also had a more serious intention. Many inquirers wished to convince themselves as to human survival of bodily death; others suffered from the loss of loved relatives and friends and found consolation in the belief that they were able to communicate with them; others wanted information about the future life. To promote these serious ends, spiritualist associations or churches were formed.
The rise of this new cult was not allowed to take place without opposition. There was not only verbal condemnation with accusations of fraud but also mob violence. This was, no doubt, partly a popular reaction to a novel system of ideas and practices that were suspected of being based on either fraud or evil. The suspicion of evil was perhaps strengthened by a conjectured relationship to the discarded system of witchcraft. Although individual spiritualists were often members (or even ministers) of Christian churches, the general tendency of the established religious bodies was to suspect the movement and its claim to a new revelation that would either supplement or replace the Christian revelation. The spiritualist practices seemed also to some religious bodies to be a part of the forbidden activity of necromancy. A decree of the Holy Office of the Roman Catholic church in 1898 condemned spiritistic practices, although permitting legitimate scientific investigation of mediumistic phenomena.
For those who had lost their faith in traditional Christianity, there was offered a new religion based not on an ancient tradition but on fact that could be observed by anyone. For those to whom materialistic ways of thinking had closed the possibility of a life after death, there was offered a new hope of immortality. To those suffering from grief after the death of their loved ones, there was offered the possibility of communicating with them. There were strong emotional involvements in both the rejection and the acceptance of spiritualism that have made difficult an impartial appraisal of the evidence.
“spiritualism” Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service. <<http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?eu=70964>> [Accessed June 7, 2003].
The following biography is from “They” Paved the Way,- Spiritualism’s Pioneers4, page 34. Thanks to the Morris Pratt Institute for providing this information.
Born: November 17, 1868 – Lancashire, England
Transition: Jan. 1, 1938 – New Year’s Day
at Long Beach, California
As a young man of twenty, he became very interested in Spiritualism and it was not long until he demonstrated both mental and physical mediumship.
In 1890, Grimshaw immigrated to the United States and immediately began to serve Spiritualist Churches, For many years, he devoted his time and effort to churches in St. Louis, Missouri; Chicago, Illinois; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Detroit, Michigan. He was a learned speaker and knew his religion well.
He was a delegate to the First Convention of the National Spiritualist Association in 1893. Until the time of his passing, he ·attended all conventions except one.
At the 1922 Convention, he suggested that the young aspirants in Spiritualism had no opportunity to adequately prepare for leadership roles in the religion. It was quickly realized that Rev. Grimshaw was correct and Dr. Warne, President of the N.S.A., immediately appointed Rev. Grimshaw as the Superintendent of the Bureau of Education of the Morris Pratt Institute. He and the Honorable Mark A. Barwise were instrumental in preparing the first Correspondence Course that was eventually sent out to interested students. In 1924, he became the third principal of the Morris Pratt Institute.
Thomas Grimshaw had another major accomplishment to his credit, namely, the formation of the National Spiritualist Teachers’ Club. Dr. Victoria Barnes, a past Superintendent of the Bureau of Education of NSA, expressed her appreciation of his achievement by saying:
“I want to again bring your attention to the name of Rev. Thomas Grimshaw because he also inaugurated the Teachers’ Club. He saw the need for such a group of people within our movement He had observed the work of the untrained, the unsupervised teachers and teaching and as a result of that he saw this great vacancy in the movement; a vacancy that no attempt had been made to obliterate or to fill, and so to him, again we give credit for the birth of this wonderful group that we have today.”
Information on Thomas Grimshaw from the NSAC Spiritualist Manual5 may be found as follows:
“Quotations”, p. 161:
Spirutualist teacher and lecturer; for many years Trustee and Vice-President of the N.S.A. (now NSAC):
“Modern Spiritualism is pre-eminently an educational movement. We have abandoned the idea of being saved vicariously through the merits and suffering of others.
“Nature has implanted within us Infinite Possibilities, and launching us out on the great sea of life, figuratively speaking, says: ‘Go out into the world. Make something out of yourself! Ours is the privilege either of death as meeting death as bankrupt souls, mental and spiritual paupers, or as souls, rich in mental and spiritual attainments. Which shall it be?”
“Spiritualism is a religion that consists of doing good and acting honestly toward one another; a religion, not of forms and ceremonies, nor of long prayers and longer faces, but religion of kindness, justice and good works; a religion that will make life brighter and more livable, and will bring back smiles to the lips and happiness to the souls of all who understand and live up to its highest teachings.”
“Appendix”, p 233:
St Louis, Missouri: Elected Trustee at the 11th Convention, Washington, District of Columbia, 1903. Served through the 15th Convention, Washington, District of Columbia, 1907. Elected Trustee at the 16th Convention, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1908. Served through the 25th Convention, New York, New York, 1917. Elected at the 28th Convention, Columbus, Ohio, 1920. Served until appointed Vice-President January 1925. Elected Vice-President at the 33rd Convention, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1925. Served until passing to spirit January 1, 1938, age seventy-one.
Thanks again go to the Morris Pratt Institute for providing this information.
The website of the Morris Pratt Institute, a major center for Spiritualism located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, describes Thomas role as a proponent of education in the Spiritualist movement:
….at the Ninth Annual convention of the National Spiritualist Association held in Washington, D.C., Morris and Zulema Pratt presented a letter to the N.S.A. offering them the properties in Whitewater, Wisconsin to be utilized “for educational purposes along the lines of the Moses Hull and A.J. Weaver Training School with such alteration in systems of teaching and curriculum as educators may think it wise to make.” However, the N.S.A. was only eight years in being and felt the financial burden of school would be too much for them at the time.
Morris Pratt’s dream did not end there. On November 2, 1901, he filed a petition for incorporation which resulted in the Morris Pratt Institute becoming a corporation on December 11, 1901. The school was to be managed by nine trustees, two of which were to be members of the National Spiritualist Association and one was to be the President of the Wisconsin State Spiritualist Association. It was Morris Pratt’s desire that the trustworthy, dedicated Moses Hull be the President.
The subjects to be taught at the school were Science, Mathematics, and Language. Special courses were Oratory, Voice and Physical Culture, English and Rhetoric, Bible Exegetics, Higher Criticism, Logic and Parliamentary Law, Comparative Theology and Psychic Culture. The principles of the school were:
a. “Maintenance of the individuality of each student,
b. perfect freedom of thought and expression so long as unkind personalities were avoided, highest authority,
c. reason and experience accepted as the highest authority,
d. no discrimination because of one’s ideas,
e. all narrow and sectarian ruts carefully avoided, and
f. the desired aim to make all students thinkers.”
However, Morris Pratt passed to spirit on December 2, 1902 before his dream became an operational reality. Thus, Moses Hull followed Pratt’s plans and opened the school on September 29, 1903. Professor A.J. Weaver was the first Principal, Moses Hull was the president and teacher of Homelectics; Florence Johnson (previously F. Jahnke), a teacher of Oratory and Mattie Hull in charge of the Psychic Department.
Along with the Morris Pratt Institute’s interest in education, Thomas Grimshaw proposed that a Bureau of Education be established in the N.S.A. At the Thirtieth Annual convention such a bureau was created. Thomas Grimshaw was appointed as Superintendent with the Honorable Mark A. Barwise as his Assistant. Mr. Grimshaw immediately appointed a committee to cooperate with this new bureau and draft a correspondence course on Spiritualism.
The result was “The General Course,” consisting of twenty-six lessons in the “History, Philosophy and Religion of Modern Spiritualism” and later the “Advanced Course” consisting of thirty lessons dealing with “Spiritualism, Philosophy, Mediumship and Comparative Religion” prepared by Thomas Grimshaw (who became the President of Morris Pratt Institute). The passing of Barwise in 1937, left the task of combining the two courses into one “General Course” to Rev. Grimshaw. A new Advanced Course would now also be needed. Shortly after completing the “General Course,” Grimshaw also passed to the Spirit World. Thus, the task was left to the new Superintendent of the Bureau of Education, Dr. Victoria Barnes. She immediately took on the task and shortly thereafter announced the completion of “Advanced Course 2”.
During the years of the depression, the school suffered from endowment losses. Many of the students from the Institute were unable to find jobs in Whitewater. The school closed for three years. In 1935, it reopened but was closed a short time thereafter. In 1946, the temple was sold, a new Morris Pratt Institute building constructed in Wauwatosa, a suburb of Milwaukee. On April 24, 1977, after a complete face-lifting both inside and out, the Morris Pratt Institute building was rededicated to the cause of Education in Spiritualism.
The identical covers of the first two lessons of “The General Course” are shown below. They are not dated but were probably written by Thomas around 1922 when the Bureau of Education was created in the NSA
Covers of pamphlets containing Lessons 1 and 2 of “The General Course”.
The text of Lesson 1 is provided below.
EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE BIRTH OF MODERN SPIRITUALISM
The purpose of these courses of study is to aid the student in his search for knowledge. Teachers may suggest, point out the way, make it easier, but no one can learn for another.
This Course and the Advanced Course to follow are destined to prepare the student to pass the final examinations before the Official Board of the National Spiritualist Association, for the degree of N.S.T. (National Spiritualist Teacher). The Bureau does not promise the degree. We have no authority to do so. That power lies in the hands of the Official Board of the N.S.A. only. If the student masters these courses, and conscientiously does the supplemental reading suggested, we are confident he will be fit to meet the test required.
THE WAY TO STUDY
We would advise students to read carefully typewritten lesson once each day for five days. Read it slowly and allow the ideas to sink in. Stop at the end of each paragraph, and ask yourself the question, do I understand its meaning? If not, read it over again until you do. It is no use to read unless you can grasp the meaning of the writer.
Read and re-read the weeks lesson until you have mastered it. Do not hurry through. Learn to digest it. It is that which sticks in the mind that counts.
March 31, 1848 is a red letter day in the calendar of the Spiritualist, for it marks the birthday of the movement which has brought so much joy and gladness to every heart. No intelligent Spiritualist thinks for one moment that Spiritualism originated in some miraculous way, on that particular day; that it had no antecedents, that there were no marked events leading up to it. In fact, communication between spirits and mortals has been an important factor in every system of religion which has either blessed or plagued humanity.
Draper in his “Conflicts of Science and Religion” says, “That the spirits of the dead revisit the living, has been in all ages, and in all European countries a fixed belief, not confined to rustics, but participated in by the intelligent. If human testimony can be of any value, there is a body of testimony reaching from the remotest ages to the present time, as extensive and unimpeached as can be found in support of anything whatever, that these shades of the dead do return.”
This belief has not been confined to European countries. Boscowen, the noted Archaeologist, says, “In dreams and visions the primitive Akkadians no doubt saw, as they declared, the shadowy forms of departed human beings. “He further adds, “Inscriptions as early as 3800 B.C. on tablets show their belief in ghosts and a worship of ancestral spirits.”
The voluminous religious literature of India abound in communications with gods, devas and pitris or departed human spirits.
In Ancient Egypt, spirit communication was the very foundation of the national religion. Three thousand years ago, these ancient people had such a real belief in a life after death that they repaid each other money to be repaid in currency of the next world.
The great teachers of China, such as Lao-tse and Confucius, claimed to hold converse with departed spirits. The worship of ancestors is common in China to this day.
Turning to Ancient Greece, Thales thought that the Universe was peopled with daimons who were the spiritual guides of human beings, and the invisible witnesses of all their thoughts and actions.
Epimenides, the contempory of Solon, frequently received divine revelations from the spiritual heavens.
Zeno, declared that guardian spirits inspired his speech.
Socrates was constantly aided by his daimon guide, with whom he conversed, and whose advice he was proud to receive and acknowledge.
Homer, describes the spirit of Patrolus as appearing to Achilles and adjuring him to bestow the last funeral rites upon the body of his friend, so that he might commence his spiritual advancement.
Plutarch, informs us that those people who aspired to be brought into sympathetic communion with the higher intelligences of the shadow land, were expected to renounce the follies of this world, practice self denial, and bring the lower functions and faculties of their nature into complete subjection to the spiritual.
Pythagoras, was one of the most astonishing psychics and mediums of antiquity.
Plato tells us that there are daimons, the souls of those who have died. Each human being has a particular spirit with him to be his tutelary and guiding genius during mortal life.
The Hebrew and Christian Scriptures are full of records of the intervention of the Lord, or angels of the Lord in human affairs. In the lst Corinthians, l2th Chapter, St Paul enumerates such spiritual gifts as prophesy, descerning (sic) spirits and speaking in tongues, etc.
The Roman Catholic Church has and does affirm that within the pale of the church, the same inspiration and miracles which produced the Gospels and Epistles continue. It is only when they occur outside of the church that they are denounced as works of the Devil and Evil Spirits.
Almost every boy and girl has read the fascinating story of Joan of Arc, a poor French girl, who, under the guidance of angelic voices, led the armies of France to victory. It is true that Joan was burnt, at the stake as a witch, but since then she has been elevated to sainthood.
THE WITCHCRAFT EPIDEMIC
We must pass briefly over the witchcraft epidemic of the Middle Ages, by merely referring to those terrible times which is clear evidence of phenomena analogous to the spiritual phenomena of our day. Unfortunately the ignorance and superstition of that age, coupled with the cruel edict ascribed to Jehovah, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” caused hundreds of thousands of innocent, sensitive women to be burned at the stake. What terrible, terrible atrocities have be on perpetuated by blind ignorant men in the name of religion.
Passing over to the latter part of the 16th century we find a man, who may, in spite of his narrow sectarian spirit may be classed as a forerunner of the New Dispensation. I refer to Emanuel Swedenborg, the Swedish Seer, who was born in Stockholm on the 29th day of January 1688. Little is recorded of the childhood days of Swedenborg, but we learn that in his twenty-second year he graduated from the University of Upsal, with the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. After several years of travel abroad, he returned to Sweden and was appointed as Assessor, by the King. He devoted his leisure time to writing works of a scientific character. The biography of Swedenborg is really susceptable (sic) to division into two parts. Until he was fifty-seven years of age, he was a practical scientific thinker and writer, but from that time forth, his work was of such a character as to earn for him the title of a Seer. In his “Miscellaneous Writings” we read, “I have been called to a holy office by the Lord himself, who most graciously manifested himself to me, his servant, in the year 174_ when he opened my sight to a view of the spiritual world and granted me the privilege of conversing with spirits and angels, which I enjoy to this day.
In the preface of his work entitled “Arcania Celestia” he writes: “Of the Lord’s Divine mercy it has been granted me now for several years, to be constantly and uninterruptedly in company with spirits and angels, hearing them converse with each other, and conversing with them.
Hence, it has been permitted me to hear and see stupendous things in the other life which has never before come to the knowledge of any man, nor entered into his imagination. I have been instructed concerning different kinds of spirits and the state of souls after death; concerning hell, or the lamentable state of the unfaithful; concerning heaven, or the most happy state of the faithful; and particularly concerning the doctrines or faith which is acknowledged throughout heaven.
Swedenborg claimed to be under the special protection of the Lord. In his “Miscellaneous Works” he says, “Spirits narrate things wholly false, and lie. When spirits begin to speak to man, care should be taken not to believe them, for most everything they say is made up by them, and they lie; so if we permited (sic) them to relate what heaven is, and how things are in heaven, they would tell so many falsehoods, and with such strong assertion, that man would be astonished; wherefore it was not permitted me when spirits were speaking to have any belief in what they stated. They love to feign. Whatever may be the topic spoken of, they think they know it, and if man listens and believs (sic), they insist, and in various ways deceive and seduce.
This latter statement would naturally lead the reader to conclude that communication with spirits was an experience to be shunned as one would shun the plague; but if you will take pains to read carefully, you will find that Swedenborg did the very things he warns others not to do. Shortly after the Prince of Prussia, brother of the Queen of Sweden had passed away, she perceived Swedenborg at court and asked him if he had seen her brother. He answered, “No” Whereupon she replied, “If you should see him remember me to him.” In saying this she did but jest. Eight days afterwards Swedenborg again came to court, so early that the Queen had not yet left her apartment. He did not wait for her to come out, but entered directly into her apartment and whispered into her ear. The Queen was struck with astonishment and was taken ill.
She did not recover for some time. After she came to herself, she said to those about her, “There is only God and my brother who can know what he just told me.” She owned that they had spoken to her of her last correspondence with the Prince, the subject of which was known to themselves alone.
Count de Montville, ambassador from Holland to Stockholm, passed away. A shopkeeper presented a claim against the estate for goods, a bill which the widow remembered had been paid. Since she could find no receipt for the money among the Count’s papers, she was advised to visit Swedenborg, who was spoken of as being able to communicate with departed souls at pleasure. Swedenborg yielded to her solicitations and a few days later informed the widow that he had seen her husband, who assured him that he had settled the bill on a day which he specified, while he was reading a certain article in Bayle’s Dictionary, and that he used the receipt to mark the place where he had left off. Sure enough, in that book at the page designated the shopkeepers receipt was found.
Cases similar to this might be multiplied many times, I advise the student to read Swenborgs (sic) Miscellaneous Work. All unconsciously Swedenborg was being used to break the shackles of superstition. He, no doubt, sincerely believed that he was especially favored by the Lord in having these experiences, and that it would be a bad thing for the people in general to have them. Nevertheless, he was instrumental in giving to the world the first natural conception of life after death.
After Swedenborg’s death, in 1772, it was natural that in spite of the attempts of his followers to maintain his uniqueness, there should be others with similar experiences. We hear, for instance, of a Mrs. Lindquist being entranced by her deceased infant and other spirits, who gave accounts of their state, and expounded Scripture. Later, Anton Mesmer, a Viennese doctor, who settled in Paris arose and created a great sensation in 1778 boy his magnetic cures. Mesmer played a very important part in helping to establish the naturalness of spirit manifestations. Many of his mesmerized subjects manifested the possession of psychic powers, and not infrequently were taken out of the hands of the operator, and controlled presumedly (sic) by spirits. The disciples of Mesmer, Marquis de Puysegan, Deleuze, and others extended the inquiry and succeeded in inducing in their subjects a wider range of mental phenomena, which included clairvoyance. Interest in the subject of mesmerism, animal magnetism, and Electro-Biology continued down to the dawn of the New Dispensation.
In 1758 the Shakers, followers of Mother Ann Lee of Manchester, England, had visions, prophesies, etc. After bitter persecution in England these people received a revelation to emigrate to America. Here communities were formed, and these strange people frequently enjoyed spirit manifestations of a marked character. Seven years before the Hydesville rappings, the Shaker prophets predicted the rise and progress of Modern Spiritualism, precisely as it occurred.
ANDREW JACKSON DAVIS
The great central figure, the man who may be rightly called John the Baptist of Modern Spiritualism, was Andrew Jackson Davis, the son of a poor shoe-maker. Without education and his schooling limited to a period of five months, his spiritual faculties were opened, his mind quickened to super- normal activity, and through him was given to the world a cyclopedia of knowledge.
Davis was born in Blooming Grove, Orange County, N.Y. August 11,1826. When he was 17 years of age, a Mr. Grimes delivered a series of lectures in the town of Ploughkeepsie (sic) on Animal Magnetism. In the course of his experiments, he tried to mesmerize young Davis, but without results. Later a Mr. William. Levingston, a tailor by trade, became interested in the subject of magnetism and proposed to Davis that he allow him to try to mesmerize him. He consented, and the experiment proved a startling success. Under mesmeric influence, the boy revealed clairvoyant power to a remarkable degree.
March 7,1844 Davis entered into the superior condition without the aid of a mortal hypnotist, and from that time h1s work took on a new aspect. He began to lecture under some divine afflatus or spirit control. Presently the
inspirers announced that they proposed to deliver a series of lectures through his organism. The lectures, 157 in all, are embraced in a volume entitled, “Nature’s Divine Revelations.” These lectures were reported by a Dr S.S. Lyons, and occupied some fifteen months in their delivery. Many men of prominence such as, Dr George Bush, Edgar Allan Foe, and Mark Goodwin heard parts of them and were astonished with their profundity. Dr. Bush a Professor of Hebrew and Oriental Literature writing in the 3W York Tribune, said, “I can solemnly affirm that I have heard Davis correctly quote the Hebrew language in his lectures and display a knowledge of geology which would have been astonishing in a person of his age, even if he had devoted years to he study. He has discussed, with the most signal ability, the profoundest questions of Historical and Biblical Archaeology, of Mythology, of the Origin and Affinity of Language, and the Progress of Civilization among the different nations of the globe, which would do honor to any scholar, even if in reaching them, he had the advantage of access to all the libraries in Christendom. Indeed, if he had acquired all the information he gives forth in these lectures, not in two years since he lift the shoe-makers bench, but in his whole life, no prodigy of intellect of which the world has ever heard would be for a moment compared to him, yet not a single volume has he ever read.”
Theodore Parker, speaking of “Natures Divine Revelations”, classed it as the most marvelous thing in Literature.
Space will not permit me to add more of the wondrous work and teachings of Davis. He wrote and published in some twenty-seven volumes, and the marvel to me is that Spiritualists are so indifferent to this great library of knowledge.
On the 31st of March 1848 Davis dotted down in his Diary these words: “About daylight this morning a warm breathing passed over my face, suddenly waking me from a profound slumber, and I heard a voice, tender and yet particularly strong saying, “Brother the good work has begun – behold a living demonstration is born.” Shortly afterwards he leaned of the communication established at Hydesville.
The books recommended for supplemental reading can be ordered through the Bureau headquarters.
A transcription of Lesson 2 is as follows:
THE FOX FAMILY AND THE HYDESVILLE RAPPINGS.
The story that is to form the basis of this lesson has been told and retold many times, and the only excuse I have for repeating it is, that our work would not be complete without some reference to an event or series of events, which played such an important part in the inaugeration (sic) of the movement which it is our privilege to represent.
The scene of our story is laid in a small frame cottage, located in the little village of Hydesville, Wayne County, New York. The family so prominently identified with the strange happenings consisted of Mr John D. Fox, his good wife Margaret, and their two daughters. The two girls Margaret and Catherine were respectively 9 and 11 years of age. A third daughter Leah, and a son David, did not live in Hydesville at the time of these strange happenings.
From a pamphlet entitled. “Report of the Mysterious Noises at Hydesville”, we learn that some disturbances had affected the inhabitants before the Fox family came to reside there. Nothing of the kind was noticed however, until the tenancy of a Mr and Mrs _____ who, according to the statement of Luvretia Pulver (a servant girl), occupied the house for a short time during the winter of 1843-1844. Miss Pulver, in her deposition states that one afternoon a pedlar (sic) called at the house. Later in the day Mrs _____ told the girl that she could not keep her any longer and that she would take home to Lock Berlin.
After a lapse of three days Mrs _____ sent for the girl to return; from that time forth they began to hear knockings in the bedroom. About a week after the visit of the pedlar (sic), Lucretia having accasion (sic) to go into the cellar, stumbled and fell into some soft soil. She screamed and called for assistance. Mrs. _____ came. She sought to dissipate the girl’s fears by saying that the soft soil must be due to rat holes. This family moved soon afterwards.
Later’ the place was accupied (sic) by a Mr. Michael Weekman who reports that one evening his family was disturbed by some rapping on the front door, but when he opened it, no one was there. The Fox family moved into the house in December 1847 and in the following month of February the noises had become so distinct and continuous that their rest was disturbed night after night. At length the noises became so incessant and distressing that Mrs Fox communicated the matter to her son, David who resided about three miles distant. He listened to her story with incredulity and declared it all imagination. On Friday evening March 31, 1848 the family had retired somewhat earlier than usual, they were completely worn out by the loss of sleep caused by the disturbances. The noises began again, Katie snapping her fingers, called out “Here “Here Mr. Splitfoot, do as I do!” The effect was instantaneous. The invisible rapper responded by imitating the number of her movements. She then made a given number of motions with her thumb and finger in the air, but without noise, and her astonishment and childish delight was redoubled to find that it could see as well as hear, for a corresponding number of knocks were immediately given to her noiseless motions. “Look mother” she cried, “It can see as well as hear.” What an announcement in those few simple words! “It can see as well as hear.”
Addressing the invisible rapper, Mrs Fox said, “Count ten.” The rapper obeyed. “How old is my daughter Margaret?” then Kate?” Both questions were distinctly and correctly answered. Then the question was put, “Are you a man that knocks?” There was no response, but, “Are you a spirit?” elicited firm and distinct responsive knocks. To the question, whether it would knock if they called in the neighbors, an affirmative answer was given.
When the neighbors gathered the information was elicited that the invisible rapper was the spirit of a peddler, Charles Rosna, who was well known in the neighborhood, but who had disappeared about the time Lucretia Pulver testified he had visited the cottage. He, the spirit, claimed that he had been murdered and his body hidden in the cellar. David Fox and others started digging in the cellar with the idea of corroborating the statement of the rapper, but owing to the low ground upon which the cottage was built, they were baffled by the influx of water, at a depth of three feet. The following summer, however, when the. ground was dry, digging was again undertaken and they found a plank, a bowl, bits of crockery, quicklime, some human hair, bones declared by a surgeon to have been human, and a portion of a human skull.
In the year 1904 the east wall of the cellar caved in, revealing a double wall, and in the space between these two walls, the skeleton of a man was found and a tin pack, such as was used by peddlers in those days, thus corroborating in every particular the story received through the rappings in 1848.
The Fox family did not immediately quit the scene of these mysterious hauntings, but remained to witness still more startling phenomena. The furniture was frequently moved about, the girls were often clasped by cold clammy hands; doors were opened and closed with violence, their beds were shaken so thay (sic) were compelled to camp out; their bed clothes dragged from off them, and the very house made to rock, night after night they were appalled to hear a sound like a death struggle; as if a helpless body was being dragged accross (sic) the room and down the cellar stairs.
It was observed that the manifestations were strongest when the two girls were present. As the house was continually thronged with curious spectators, and the time, comfort and peace of the family disturbed, Katie was sent to reside with her elder sister, Mrs Leah Fish at Rochester; but the manifestations continued, in spite of the absence of one of the girls. In the course of time, Mrs Fox decided to move to Rochester Mr and Mrs Fox who were devout Methodists, had striven in vain to banish the tormenting power, they had prayed with all the fervor of true Methodists, but alas to no avail.
The ministers took a hand and tried to lay the ghost by lecturing and persecuting the victims. The persecution became so bitter that Mrs Fox’s hair turned white in a single week.
Mrs Leah Fish, the eldest sister, who was a music teacher, lost her patronage, in spite of the fact that she had nothing to do with the rappings, and up to this time did not know that she also was a medium.
The first public meeting distinctively in the interest of Modern Spiritualism was held in Corinthian Hall, the largest of Auburn, was selected to deliver the address. Mr George Willetts and Mr Isaac Post attended the business arrangements. Mrs Amy Post and a few other ladies, with Rev A.H. Jarvis, Mr N. Draper, Lyman Granger and other well known citizens agreed to accompany the mediums, Margaret and Catherine Fox, upon the platform where the spirits had promised to produce the raps. This meeting took place November 14, 1849. The address was given by by Capron and commanded strict attention. The striking points of the address were emphasized by loud raps. A committee of reputable citizens were appointed to investigate the phenomena privately, and to submit a report of their findings to a meeting to be held the following evening. That evening they submitted the following report: “That without the knowledge of the persons in whose presence the manifestations occurred, the committee selected the hall of the Sons of Temperance, for the investigation. The sounds were heard distinctly on the floor near where the two girls stood, a part of the committee heard the rappings on the wall behind them. A number of questions were asked which were answered not altogether rightly nor altogether wrongly. In the afternoon, they went to the house of a private citizen. While there they heard the sounds on the outside of the front door, after they had entered and then on the door of a closet. By placing the hand upon the door one felt a sensible jar when the rapping was heard. One of the committee placed one hand upon the feet of the girls the other hand on the floor, and although the feet were not moved there was a sensible jar on the floor. The girls gave every opportunity to the committee to investigate the cause fully, and were willing to submit to a thorough investigation by a committee of ladies if necessary. They all agreed, that the sounds were heard, but they utterly failed to discover any means by which it could be done.”
After some discussion, the audience wishing to find the mediums guilty of fraud, rejected the report, and appointed another committee. This committee later reported as follows: “The second investigation was conducted, to avoid all possibility of deception, at the office of Counsellor Whittlesey. The girls were placed in various positions, together and separate, and sounds were heard on the walls, doors, chairs, table in fact everywhere. Dr Lanworthy tested the possibility of ventriloquism being employed, by the use of the stethoscope. Thorough investigation showed the sounds to be produced neither by ventriloquism, nor by machinery, though what the agent was they were unable to determine.”
It would be impossible to describe the indignation that was manifest at this second failure. Another, and later a fourth committee was appointed but their reports were all the same. No other explanation could be found.
Here we briefly recorded the happenings associated with the introduction into this world of the mightiest movement for the religious emancipation of mankind. The movement grew with startling rapidity, circles were formed everywhere; and numerous mediums developed various phases of phenomena. Columns were devoted by the public press to reports of seances, and criticism. The press, in fact, became a marvelous medium for the spread of the glad tidings, that the so-called dead could return.
In this lesson, we have merely sought to give an outline of the happenings at Hydesville and Rochester in those early days.
Numerous phamplets (sic) and books have been written recording those happenings, but unfortunately most of them are out of print. Mr. E.W. Capron wrote an excellent account of these happenings. Mrs Leah Fox Enderhilll left us the “Missing Link in Modern Spiritualism.” (out of print) Emma Hardinge (Britten) gives an excellent account in her, “Modern American Spiritualism.” (out of print) Mrs Cadwallader has published an excellent little book entitled Hydesville in History.” You ought to have it on your book shelf for reference purposes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has also given us a fine account in his “History of Spiritualism.”
According to material provided by staff at the Morris Pratt Institute, Thomas Grimshaw also prepared the NSAC Declaration of Principles, which are shown below, with annotations on their adoption.
1. We believe in Infinite Intelligence.
2. We believe that the phenomena of Nature, both physical and spiritual, are the expression of Infinite Intelligence.
3. We affirm that a correct understanding of such expression and living in accordance therewith, constitute true religion.
4. We affirm that the existence and personal identity of the individual continue after the change called death.
5. We affirm that communication with the so-called dead is a fact, scientifically proven by the phenomena of Spiritualism.
6. We believe that the highest morality is contained in the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
7. We affirm the moral responsibility of individuals, and that we make our own happiness or unhappiness as we obey or disobey Natures physical and spiritual laws.
8. We affirm that the doorway to reformation is never closed against any soul here or hereafter.
9. We affirm that the precepts of Prophecy and Healing are Divine attributes proven through Mediumship.
Principles 1-6 adopted in Chicago, Illinois, 1899
Principles 7-8 adopted in Rochester, New York, 1909
Principle 9 adopted in St. Louis, Missouri, 1944
Principle 9 revised in Oklahoma City, 1983
Principle 9 revised in Westfield, New Jersey, 1998
Principle 8 revised in Rochester, New York, 2001
Principle 6 revised in Ronkonkorma, New York, 2004
The Gale Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology1 describes the Morris Pratt Institute as shown below. Note the description of the role of Thomas Grimshaw in the last sentence.
The Morris Pratt Institute is the primary educational facility serving the National Spiritualist Association of Churches. It dates to the 1890s when popular Spiritualist minister/lecturer Moses Hull envisioned a training school to pass along the teachings of Spiritualism to a new generation, many of the first generation of Spiritualist leaders having already passed from the scene. He opened such a school in Ohio soon after the founding of the National Spiritualist Association (NSA) in 1893, but it survived only a few years. In 1901, Morris Pratt offered the mansion he had constructed at Whitewater, Wisconsin, to the NSA as a place to house a training school like the one Hull had begun. The large mansion seemed ideal; it had one room that could seat 400 people. However, the still-youthful NSA declined the offer, unable to see itself clear financially to manage the property. Pratt went ahead and incorporated the Morris Pratt Institute but died the following year before a school could be organized. Moses Hull picked up the vision in 1903 and organized the new school with himself, his wife and his daughter as the faculty. A few years later, the NSA organized a Bureau of Education. Through the person of Thomas Grimshaw, who succeeded Hull as president of the institute, the two organizations cooperated in the preparation of a course of study consisting of two parts: a general course on the “History, Philosophy, and Religion of Modern Spiritualism,” and an advanced course on “Spiritualism, Philosophy, Mediumship, and comparative Religion,” the latter completed by Victoria Barnes following Grimshaw’s death.
The Morris Pratt Institute has a Facebook page with a number of photos of the current facility at 11,811 W Watertown Plank Road in Milwaukee. One of the pictures is shown below.
A photo of the previous building of the Morris Pratt Institute, apparently in Whitewater, Wisconsin, is also included on the Facebook page and is shown below.
Thomas was interviewed in 1925 by a correspondent of the United Press when the NSA was holding its annual convention in Wisconsin. The interview was published in the October 21, 1925 edition of “The Sheboygen (Wisconsin) Press2” A copy of the article is shown below.
Copy of article describing United Press interview of Thomas Grimshaw in 1925. Note that the upper and lower portions of the article overlap somewhat for completeness.
Thomas Grimshaw’s origins in Darwen, Lancashire are described in the following 1927 entry in the “Who’s Who of Occultism”3.
GRIMSHAW, Thomas. Born Darwin, Lancashire, England, Nov. 17, 1867, came to America, 1889. Trance Lecturer. Vice-Pres. Nat’l Spiritualist Assn., Supt. Bureau of Education, Nat’l Spiritualists Assn. Principal of the Morris Pratt Institute, Whitewater, Wis.-Morris Pratt Institute, Whitewater. Wis., U.S.A.
The entry also shows that Thomas immigrated to America in 1889.
Mr. Doyle, well-known author of detective stories starring Sherlock Holmes, was a dedicated Spiritualist (he also believed in fairies). A brief biography from Encyclopedia Britannica Online, shown below, describes his Spiritualist beliefs.
Conan Doyle, Sir Arthur
born May 22, 1859 , Edinburgh, Scotland
died July 7, 1930 , Crowborough, Sussex, England
in full Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle Scottish writer best known for his creation of the detective Sherlock Holmes one of the most vivid and enduring characters in English fiction.
Conan Doyle, the second of Charles Altamont and Mary Foley Doyle’s 10 children, began seven years of Jesuit education in Lancashire, England, in 1868. After an additional year of schooling in Feldkirch, Austria, Conan Doyle returned to Edinburgh. Through the influence of Dr. Bryan Charles Waller, his mother’s lodger, he prepared for entry into the University of Edinburgh’s Medical School. He received his Bachelor of Medicine and Master of Surgery qualifications from Edinburgh in 1881 and an M.D. in 1885, upon completing his thesis, “An Essay upon the Vasomotor Changes in Tabes Dorsalis.”
While a medical student, Conan Doyle was deeply impressed by the skill of his professor, Dr. Joseph Bell, in observing the most minute detail regarding a patient’s condition. This master of diagnostic deduction became the model for Conan Doyle’s literary creation, Sherlock Holmes, who first appeared in “A Study in Scarlet” in Beeton’s Christmas Annual of 1887. Other aspects of Conan Doyle’s medical education and experiences appear in his semiautobiographical novels, The Firm of Girdlestone (1890) and The Stark Munro Letters (1895), and in the collection of medical short stories Round the Red Lamp (1894). His creation of the logical, cold, calculating Holmes, the “world’s first and only consulting detective,” sharply contrasted with the paranormal beliefs Conan Doyle addressed in a short novel of this period, The Mystery of Cloomber (1889). Conan Doyle’s early interest in both scientifically supportable evidence and certain paranormal phenomena exemplified the complex diametrically opposing beliefs he struggled with throughout his life.
Although public clamour prompted him to continue writing Sherlock Holmes adventures through 1926, Conan Doyle claimed the success of Holmes overshadowed the merit he believed his other historical fiction deserved, most notably his tale of 14th-century chivalry, The White Company (1891), its companion piece, Sir Nigel (1906), and his adventures of the Napoleonic war hero Brigadier Gerard and the 19th-century skeptical scientist Professor George Edward Challenger.
When his passions ran high, Conan Doyle also turned to nonfiction. His subjects include military writings, The Great Boer War (1900) and The British Campaign in France and Flanders, 6 vol. (1916-20), the Belgian atrocities in the Congo in The Crime of the Congo (1909), as well as his involvement in the actual criminal cases of George Edalji and Oscar Slater.
Conan Doyle married Louisa Hawkins in 1885, and together they had two children, Mary and Kingsley. A year after Louisa’s death in 1906, he married Jean Leckie and with her had three children, Denis, Adrian, and Jean. Conan Doyle was knighted in 1902 for his work with a field hospital in Bloemfontein, South Africa, and other services during the South African (Boer) War.
Conan Doyle himself viewed his most important efforts to be his campaign in support of spiritualism, the religion and psychic research subject based upon the belief that spirits of the departed continued to exist in the hereafter and can be contacted by those still living on earth. He donated the majority of his literary efforts and profits later in his life to this campaign, beginning with The New Revelation (1918) and The Vital Message (1919). He later chronicled his travels in supporting the spiritualist cause in The Wanderings of a Spiritualist (1921), Our American Adventure (1923), Our Second American Adventure (1924), and Our African Winter (1929). He discussed other spiritualist issues in his Case for Spirit Photography (1922), Pheneas Speaks (1927), and a two-volume The History of Spiritualism (1926). Conan Doyle became the world’s most renowned proponent of spiritualism, but he faced considerable opposition for his conviction from the magician Harry Houdini and in a 1920 debate with the humanist Joseph McCabe. Even spiritualists joined in criticizing Conan Doyle’s article “The Evidence for Fairies,” published in The Strand Magazine in 1921, and his subsequent book The Coming of the Fairies (1922), in which he voiced support for the claim that two young girls, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, had photographed actual fairies that they had seen in the Yorkshire village of Cottingley.
Conan Doyle died in Windlesham, his home in Crowborough, Sussex, and at his funeral, his family and members of the spiritualist community celebrated rather than mourned the occasion of his passing beyond the veil. On July 13, 1930, thousands of people filled London’s Royal Albert Hall for a séance during which Estelle Roberts, the spiritualist medium, claimed to have contacted Sir Arthur.
Conan Doyle detailed what he valued most in life in his autobiography, Memories and Adventures (1924), and the importance that books held for him in Through the Magic Door (1907).
“Conan Doyle, Sir Arthur” Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service. <<http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?eu=31616>> [Accessed June 8, 2003].
Spiritualism is more than just a quaint artifact of the 19th century but is apparently quite active in the 21st century. The websites for the National Spiritualist Association of Churches and the Morris Pratt Institute, whose website addresses are shown below, provide a great deal of information on the principles, beliefs, history, activities and other aspects of the Spiritualist movement.
The website of the First Spiritual Temple in Brookline, Massachusetts provides additional information on the origins of the Spiritualist movement as shown below:
The Hydesville Events, March 31, 1848
By Rev. Simeon Stefanidakis
The events which took place with the Fox family in Hydesville, New York, are generally considered to have initiated the Modern Spiritualist Movement. We shall look at the reasons for this a little later on; but first, let us look at the characters involved and the events which took place on that fateful evening of March 31, 1848.
Hydesville was a small hamlet about 20 miles from Rochester, New York. On December 11, 1847, John Fox, along with his wife Margaret and their two daughters, Kate and Margaretta, moved into the house in question. The house had a reputation of being “haunted”; there were several instances recorded of raps, taps, and other noises. In fact, the prior tenant, Michael Weakman, moved out of the house because of the inexplicable disturbances.
Beginning at around the middle of March, 1848, the Fox family began to be disturbed by the strange sounds and activities. The children were so alarmed at what was happening that they refused to sleep apart and were taken into the bedroom of their parents. The sounds were so loud, that the beds themselves often shook. Every possible opportunity was made to ascertain the source of the sounds, but to no avail. Finally, on March 31st, Kate Fox made history. She challenged the mysterious unseen power to repeat the snaps of her fingers.
To offer a more personal sense for what actually took place during this evening, we are presenting the content of a signed affidavit written by Mrs. Fox on April 4, 1848. As you read this, see if you can envision mentally what transpired:
“On the night of the first disturbance we all got up, lighted a candle and searched the entire house, the noises continuing during the time, and being heard near the same place. Although not very loud, it produced a jar of the bedsteads and chairs that could be felt when we were in bed. It was a tremendous motion, more than a sudden jar. We could feel the jar when standing on the floor. It continued on this night until we slept. I did not sleep until about . On March 30th we were disturbed all night. The noises were heard in all parts of the house. My husband stationed himself outside of the door while I stood inside, and the knocks came on the door between us. We heard footsteps in the pantry, and walking downstairs; we could not rest, and I then concluded that the house must be haunted by some unhappy restless spirit. I had often heard of such things, but had never witnessed anything of the kind that I could not account for before.
On Friday night, March 31st, 1848, we concluded to go to bed early and not permit ourselves to be disturbed by the noises, but try and get a night’s rest. My husband was here on all occasions, heard the noises, and helped search. It was very early when we went to bed on this night; hardly dark. I had been so broken of my rest I was almost sick. My husband had not gone to bed when we first heard the noises on this evening. I had just lain down. It commenced as usual. I knew it from all other noises I had ever heard before. The children, who slept in the other bed in the room, heard the rapping, and tried to make similar sounds by snapping their fingers.
“My youngest child, Cathie, said: ‘Mr. Splitfoot, do as I do,’ clapping her hands. The sound instantly followed her with the same number of raps. When she stopped, the sound ceased for a short time. Then Margaretta said, in sport, ‘Now, do just as I do. Count one, two, three, four,’ striking one hand against the other at the same time; and the raps came as before. She was afraid to repeat them. Then Cathie said in her childish simplicity, ‘Oh, mother, I know what it is. Tomorrow is April-fool day, and it’s somebody trying to fool us.’
“I then thought I could put a test that no one in the place could answer. I asked the noise to rap my different children’s ages, successively. Instantly, each one of my children’s ages was given correctly, pausing between them sufficiently long to individualize them until the seventh, at which a longer pause was made, and then three more emphatic raps were given, corresponding to the age of the little one that died, which was my youngest child.
“I then asked: ‘Is this a human being that answers my questions so correctly?’ There was no rap. I asked: ‘Is it a spirit? If it is, make two raps.’ Two sounds were given as soon as the request was made. I then said: ‘If it was an injured spirit, make two raps,’ which were instantly made, causing the house to tremble. I asked: ‘Were you injured in this house?’ The answer was given as before. ‘Is the person living that injured you?’ Answered by raps in the same manner. I ascertained by the same method that it was a man, aged thirty-one years, that he had been murdered in this house, and his remains were buried in the cellar; that his family consisted of a wife and five children, two sons and three daughters, all living at the time of his death, but that his wife had since died. I asked: ‘Will you continue to rap if I call my neighbors that they may hear it too?’ The raps were loud in the affirmative.
“My husband went and called in Mrs. Redfield, our nearest neighbor. She is a very candid woman. The girls were sitting up in bed clinging to each other and trembling with terror. I think I was as calm as I am now. Mrs. Redfield came immediately (this was about half-past seven), thinking she would have a laugh at the children. But when she saw them pale with fright, and nearly speechless, she was amazed, and believed there was something more serious than she had supposed. I asked a few questions for her, and was answered as before. He told her age exactly. She then called her husband, and the same questions were asked and answered.
“Then Mr. Redfield called in Mr. Duesler and wife, and several others. Mr. Duesler then called in Mr. and Mrs. Hyde, also Mr. and Mrs. Jewell. Mr. Duesler asked many questions, and received answers. I then named all the neighbors I could think of, and asked if any of them had injured him, and received no answer. Mr. Duesler then asked questions and received answers. He asked: ‘Were you murdered?’ Raps affirmative. ‘Can your murderer be brought to justice?’ No sound. ‘Can he be punished by the law?’ No answer. He then said: ‘If your murderer cannot be punished by the law, manifest it by raps,’ and the raps were made clearly and distinctly. In the same way, Mr. Duesler ascertained that he was murdered in the east bedroom about five years ago and that the murder was committed by a Mr. _______ on a Tuesday night at twelve o’clock; that he was murdered by having his throat cut with a butcher knife; that the body was taken down to the cellar; that it was not buried until the next night; that it was taken through the buttery, down the stairway, and that it was buried ten feet below the surface of the ground. It was also ascertained that he was murdered for his money, by raps affirmative.
“‘How much was it – one hundred?’ No rap. ‘Was it two hundred?’ etc., and when he mentioned five hundred the raps replied in the affirmative.
“Many called in who were fishing in the creek, and all heard the same questions and answers. Many remained in the house all night. I and my children left the house. My husband remained in the house with Mr. Redfield all night. On the next Saturday the house was filled to overflowing. There were no sounds heard during the day, but they commenced again in the evening. It was said that there were over three hundred persons present at the time. On Sunday morning the noises were heard throughout the day by all who came to the house.
“On Saturday night, April 1st, they commenced digging in the cellar; they dug until they came to water, and then gave it up. The noise was not heard on Sunday evening nor during the night. Stephen B. Smith and wife (my daughter Marie), and my son David S. Fox and wife, slept in the room this night.
“I heard nothing since that time until yesterday. In the forenoon of yesterday there were several questions answered in the usual way by rapping. I have heard the noises several times today.
“I am not a believer in haunted houses or supernatural appearances. I am very sorry that there has been so much excitement about it. It has been a great deal of trouble to us. It was our misfortune to live here at this time; but I am willing and anxious that the truth should be known, and that a true statement should be made. I cannot account for these noises; all that I know is that they have been heard repeatedly, as I have stated. I have heard this rapping again this (Tuesday) morning, April 4. My children also heard it.
“I certify that the foregoing statement has been read to me, and that the same is true; and that I should be willing to take my oath that it is so, if necessary.”
(Signed) MARGARET FOX, April 11, 1848.
Upon further inquiry, it was ascertained that the spirit’s name was Charles B. Rosna and that he had been a peddler who stayed at the house five years prior to these incidents.
The digging could not be resumed until the summer months, at which time, at a depth of about five feet, a plank was found, deeper below charcoal and lime, and finally hair and bones. But it was not until 56 years later that a further discovery was made which proved beyond all doubt that someone had actually been buried in the cellar of the Fox household.
The following statement appeared in the Boston Journal (a non-Spiritualist paper) on November 23, 1904:
“Rochester, N.Y., Nov. 22nd, 1904: The skeleton of the man supposed to have caused the rappings first heard by the Fox sisters in 1848 has been found in the walls of the house occupied by the sisters, and clears them from the only shadow of doubt held concerning their sincerity in the discovery of spirit communication.
“The Fox sisters declared they learned to communicate with the spirit of a man, and that he told them he had been murdered and buried in the cellar. Repeated excavations failed to locate the body and thus give proof positive of their story.
“The discovery was made by school-children playing in the cellar of the building in Hydesville known as the “Spook House,” where the Fox sisters heard the wonderful rappings. William H. Hyde, a reputable citizen of Clyde, who owns the house, made an investigation and found an almost entire human skeleton between the earth and crumbling cellar walls, undoubtedly that of the wandering peddler who, it was claimed, was murdered in the east room of the house, and whose body was hidden in the cellar.
“Mr. Hyde has notified relatives of the Fox sisters, and the notice of the discovery will be sent to the National Order of Spiritualists, many of whom remember having made pilgrimage to the “Spook House,” as it is commonly called. The finding of the bones practically corroborates the sworn statement made by Margaret Fox, April 11, 1848.”
These were the events which transpired with the Fox family on the evening of March 31, 1848. Yet, this is just the beginning of the story. Let us now look briefly at what happened after these incidents took place.
It is reported that Mrs. Fox’s hair turned white because of these occurrences. Kate had to move to her brother’s house in Auburn, New York, while Margaret took refuge at her sister Leah’s house in Rochester. Raps broke out at both places, indicating that it was the young girls who were supplying the necessary, vital energy for spirit to manifest as it did. The raps were particularly violent in Leah’s house.
The violent disturbances continued in Leah’s house until a friend named Isaac Post remembered that the girls’ brother, David, had once conversed with the Hydesville spirits using the alphabet. As an experiment, they tried this method again with the following results:
“Dear Friends, you must proclaim this truth to the world. This is the dawning of a new era; you must not try to conceal it any longer. When you do your duty God will protect you and good spirits will watch over you.”
From that time onward, the communications poured forth and the manifestations were orderly and nonviolent in nature. The successful relaying of the above message apparently released the frustration and urgency on the part of spirit, thereby allowing more orderly and cohesive communication. Imagine, if you can, the sense of release you would feel if, after trying so very hard to convey a message to someone without success, you were suddenly able to do so. This is exactly what spirit experienced during this period.
After Hydesville: A Movement Is Born
By Rev. Simeon Stefanidakis
The ball was now set rolling and the messages continued. On November 14, 1849, the first meeting of a small group of Spiritualists was held in the Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New York. The excitement over the revelation grew and public investigation was demanded. Committee after committee was formed to try and prove that the phenomena were fraudulent. Public opinion was not at all in sympathy with the events, and at one point the Fox sisters were nearly lynched. Nevertheless, the movement known as Modern Spiritualism kept on growing.
Others discovered that they, too, had mediumistic abilities, and mediums began springing up here and there; spirit’s message moved on. Public meetings were soon held, attracting much interest as well as curiosity. On June 4, 1850, the message of Spiritualism was brought to New York City. Horace Greeley, then editor of the New York Tribune, showed great interest in the phenomena and established a committee to investigate, with an open mind, the events. He subsequently reported in the New York Tribune:
“We devoted what time we could spare from our duties out of three days to this subject, and it would be the basest cowardice not to say that we are convinced beyond a doubt of their perfect integrity and good faith in the premises. Whatever may be the origin or cause of the ‘rappings’, the ladies in whose presence they occur do not make them. We tested this thoroughly and to our entire satisfaction.”
Why did the events which took place in Hydesville, as well as those which followed, have such an impact?
To answer this question, we have to compare these communications with those which took place through the instruments of Emanuel Swedenborg and Andrew Jackson Davis.
In looking at both of these prophets of the new revelation of Spiritualism, we can see clearly that they were used to bring forth a very important message from Spirit: survival of death. This was done specifically through the vehicles of teaching, philosophy, and revelation. The work of these two great men was, indeed, marvelous and very much need; however, something vital was missing: the communication was generally one way. At that time, people could not tangibly relate to the messages coming from spirit. You must remember that communication with the spirits was very much a cultural and theological shock to the people of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; consequently, it was very difficult for them to accept something of this nature without having some form of direct involvement.
In contrast, the communications which took place in Hydesville were by no means as philosophical or as educational as were those given through Swedenborg and Davis. Here was a man who had been murdered, trying to communicate to a family who did not understand what was happening and may very well not even have cared. But a very vital element was added in these simple messages: the communications were two-way in nature. People played an important role in these communications. Spirit out of the body spoke to spirits in the body, and vice versa.
Therefore, through the Hydesville events, two facts were established:
Spirit communication can be a two-way experience.
Spirit communication can be used not only to teach, inspire, and give us philosophical revelation; it can also be used to assist us in our daily lives and to prove, or demonstrate, that there is personal and conscious survival of death.
So, the events which transpired on March 31, 1848, clearly represent the first stone used to build the temple of Spiritualism upon the firm foundation previously laid down by Emanuel Swedenborg and Andrew Jackson Davis.
The Fox sisters are depicted on several websites; the best images found to date are shown below.
Kate, Margaret and Leah Fox
The Hydesville cottage, where the alleged spiritual events took place in 1848, is shown below. According to one website (http://www.prairieghosts.com/foxsisters.html), the cottage was subsequently moved to the Spiritualist community of Lily Dale in New York. The bones of the “murdered peddler” were displayed there for years.
The Hydesville Cottage.
Hydesville is in western New York, about 20 miles from Rochester and not far from Auburn as shown below (upper image). It is also located near the community of Newark (lower image).
Location of Hydesville in Western New York (red star)
1Melton, I. Gordon, 2001, Morris Pratt Institute, in Organization Overview, Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology: Detroit, MI, Gale Group, v 2, 5th ed, p. 1055.
2Helfert, J.E., 1925, “Explaining Spiritualism in Exclusive Interview with a United Press Representative”, in Sheboygen (Wisconsin) Press, October 21, 1925, p. 2, col. 1 and 2.
3Hartmann, William C., 1927, Who’s Who in Occultism, New Thought, Psychism and Spiritualism (A Biography, Directory and Bibliography Combined): Jamaica, NY, The Occult Press.
4Awtry-Smith, Marilyn Joan, date unknown, “They” Paved the Way – Spiritualism’s Pioneers, (publication information being researched).
5National Spiritualist Association of Churches, 1991, N.S.A.C. Spiritualist Manual. NSAC, 233 pp.
Webpage posted July 2003. Updated August 2004 with “Additional Information”, photos and maps. Updated August 2013 with webpage reorganization and addition of information on Thomas Grimshaw’s origin in Darwin, Lancashire as well as photos of the Pratt Institute. Updated September 2013 with addition of photo and other information provided by staff at the Morris Pratt Institute.