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Sensing the Fox sisters 

Rochester-area Mediums helped spark America's

Mediums, rare

With apologies to Marshall McLuhan, sometimes the Medium really is the message. By relaying messages from the spirit realm, the ability of a Medium to communicate with spirits can provide proof that there is life after physical death. The most famous of the early modern Mediums were the Fox sisters, who in the mid-19th century lived in Hydesville, 30 miles outside of Rochester. Alternately proclaimed as gifted and as charlatans, the Fox sisters' mediumistic demonstrations helped to foster the growth of Spiritualism in America.

Maggie and Kate Fox began to display the ability to communicate with spirits in their early teens. Communicating by deciphering the knockings of spirits, the girls were told, for example, that there had been a murder of a peddler in their house and that his body was buried in the cellar. At that time, in the mid-1800s, no evidence of the crime was found. It was not until 1904 that a body was found hidden behind a crumbling wall in the basement.

The Foxes' older sister Leah took charge of promoting their careers. Despite numerous claims that trickery was involved, and the ultimately recanted confession by Maggie that the rappings were created by cracking their toes, their accuracy was enough to reportedly impress such luminaries as William Cullen Bryant, James Fenimore Cooper, George Ripley, Horace Greeley and others.

The stress of constantly being required to prove their abilities became too much and both sisters eventually took to alcohol. Kate died of acute alcoholism on July 2, 1892 and Maggie died on March 8, 1893, at ages 56 and 59 respectively. No evidence exists of their spirits ever making an effort to communicate with a living Medium. (But would you, if you had been treated so shabbily during life?)

Mediums abound in Rochester, ready to help you receive messages from spirit. Check in the Yellow Pages under Psychics/Mediums.

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