The Sisters Who Spoke to Spirits
After an encounter in their bedroom, two women found fame helping nineteenth-century mourners speak to their dead. The religion they inspired lives on to this day.
Illustrations by Aimee Bee Brooks
“Rap, rap, rap! Rap, rap, rap! Rap, rap, rap! Lov’d ones are rapping to-night. Heaven seems not far away; Death’s sweeping river is bright, Soft is the sheen of its spray.”
—Emma Rood Tuttle, “Spirit Rappings,” c.1880
“THERE IS NO DEATH. THERE ARE NO DEAD.”
— Engraving on a stone Spiritualists erected in 1927 on the site of the Fox family home
The vibrant, pretty Fox sisters played in this western New York forest until their mother called them in for dinner. In their simple dresses, coats, and long dark braids, they ran through weeds and stomped in ice puddles. Clever Maggie, fourteen, and ethereal Kate, eleven, lived in a land of magic, sprites, and the devil, known in these parts as Mr. Splitfoot. Whether romping among the trees or going about their chores, they kept each other entertained with stories and songs. And when they lay down to sleep at night, it was side by side.
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