Category: New York

The Fake Ghost Who Started a Real Religion

Kathleen Rice Adams header

Once upon a time in a farmhouse in Hydesville, New York, there lived two sisters who loved to scare family and friends with their vivid imaginations. One day in late March 1848, the girls told a neighbor about spooky happenings in their bedroom. Eager to disprove the girls’ claims that the ghost of a murdered traveling salesman inhabited their home — a tale with which they’d already terrified their mother — the neighbor accompanied fourteen-year-old Maggie Fox and her eleven-year-old sister Kate into their bedroom … where the neighbor, too, was dutifully terrified by the apparently sentient wall-rapping in response to the girls’ questions.

The old fox cottageThus began a religion known as Modern Spiritualism, which is still practiced today.

After having their worst fears seemingly confirmed, the Fox family abandoned the farmhouse, sending Maggie and Kate to live with their older sister, Leah Fox Fish, in Rochester, New York. That may not have been the wisest decision. Rochester was a hotbed of religious activity. Mormonism and the movement that later became Seventh Day Adventism both saw their genesis in the Rochester area.

Upon hearing the tale of the murdered salesman and the unearthly sounds, a group of Rochester residents examined the Fox homestead and found strands of hair and bits of bone in the basement. At a subsequent community meeting, the girls were put to the test: Could they communicate with the dead in Rochester, too?

fox-sisters

The Fox sisters: Left to right: Leah (1814–90), Kate (1838–92), and Maggie (1836–93)

The girls proved they could by summoning raps on the floor. In addition, Leah seemed to communicate with one community leader’s deceased daughter. All three Foxes were escorted into a private room after the demonstration, where they disrobed and were examined for any hints of duplicity. None were found.

Word of the sisters’ uncommon abilities reached Andrew Jackson Davis, later to become known as “John the Baptist of Modern Spiritualism.” Davis claimed to have received a Divine message on the very day the Fox sisters first channeled spirits on the family farm. In response to the dreary Calvinist teachings of the day, people could not wait to adopt a new spiritualism that taught each individual was the master of his own salvation. The spirits of those who had passed on were there to guide them to their ultimate fate, as they, in turn, would guide those who came after them.

The Fox Sisters embarked on a tour of New England and the Midwest, demonstrating their abilities to notables including newspaperman Horace Greeley, author James Fennimore Cooper, and abolitionist William Cullen Bryant. Many accused the girls of perpetrating a hoax, but a growing number of people, convinced by the knocking and apparent communication with dead relatives, embraced the Spiritualist movement.

In 1857, Maggie married explorer Elisha Kent Kane, a man thirteen years her senior who, though he reportedly loved her to distraction, insisted she was a fraud. He died an untimely death shortly after the wedding. Maggie began drinking heavily and abandoned Spiritualism to honor his memory. Kate married a devout Spiritualist leader and continued to develop her skills as a medium, including the use of blank cards upon which messages from the Beyond seemed to appear magically. Among the hazy apparitions she allegedly summoned was Benjamin Franklin’s.

tablelev

The Fox sisters demonstrate their ability to levitate a table (1850).

By the end of the Civil War, more than two million believers had converted to Spiritualism; by 1880, adherents grew to more than eight million.

In 1888, Maggie received $1,500 to tell her story in front of a large audience at the New York Academy of Music. By then doing her best to live a life of sobriety, Maggie confessed to the hoax that started the mass hysteria.

“My sister Katie and myself were very young children when this horrible deception began,” the New York World reported. “At night when we went to bed, we used to tie an apple on a string and move the string up and down, causing the apple to bump on the floor, or we would drop the apple on the floor, making a strange noise every time it would rebound.”

The sisters soon discovered they could manipulate their knuckles, toes, and other joints to make a variety of unusual sounds. Maggie demonstrated by removing her shoe, placing her foot on a small stool, and producing “rapping” noises

“A great many people when they hear the rapping imagine at once that the spirits are touching them,” Maggie said. “It is a very common delusion. Some very wealthy people came to see me some years ago when I lived in Forty-second Street, and I did some rappings for them. I made the spirit rap on the chair and one of the ladies cried out: ‘I feel the spirit tapping me on the shoulder.’ Of course that was pure imagination.”

Spiritualists quickly split on the matter, one camp saying Maggie was a true medium who had been consumed by spirits intent on deceiving humanity, and the other claiming she had sold out her religion because, as a poor widow, she needed the money.

Fox1

The Fox sisters conduct a seance in New York (ca. 1855)

Leah, a popular medium in New York City, disowned her younger sister. Kate hit the bottle with increasing frequency and enthusiasm. The sisters never reconciled, even after Maggie recanted her confession a scant year after she embarrassed the family.

Leah, embittered by her sister’s betrayal, died in 1890. Kate died two years later while on a drinking binge. Maggie followed eight months later, in March 1893. Later that year, the diverse Spiritualist groups came together to found the National Spiritualist Association, the forerunner of the National Spiritualist Association of Churches, which exists today.

Postscript: In 1904, a group of children discovered what appeared to be a skeleton among the ruins of the abandoned and crumbling Fox homestead. A doctor who examined the bones estimated they had been in the basement for about fifty years. Although the find lent some credence to the Fox sisters’ tale about the murdered salesman, the media and society at large continued to scoff at Spiritualists.

Five years later, another doctor examined the bones and pronounced them a clear attempt to defraud. The alleged skeleton was composed of bits and pieces from several bodies, including those belonging to chickens and other animals.

The Fox homestead burned to the ground in September 1955. A marker now stands on the spot where Modern Spiritualism was born:

Upon this site stood the Hydesville Cottage
The home of the Fox Sisters
Through whose mediumship communication
with the Spirit World was established
March 31, 1848
THERE IS NO DEATH
THERE ARE NO DEAD

 

The dearly departed who refuse to depart cause problems for the hero and heroine in “Family Tradition,” one of two related stories that compose Robbing Banks, Stealing Hearts. The book releases Friday, but it’s available for pre-order now at Amazon.com.

 

RBSH_3D_200x300_shadowEveryone should have career at which they excel. At failing to commit crimes, nobody is better than Laredo and Tombstone Hawkins. Maybe they can bumble their way into love.

The Worst Outlaw in the West
Laredo Hawkins has one ambition: to redeem his family’s honor by pulling the first successful bank robbery in the Hawkins clan’s long, disappointing history. Spinster Prudence Barrett is desperate to save her family’s bank from her brother’s reckless investments. A chance encounter between the dime-novel bandit and the old maid may set the pair on a path to infamy…if either can find a map.

Family Tradition
Haunted by his kin’s tradition of spectacular failure, bank robber Tombstone Hawkins is honor-bound to prove his family tree produced at least one bad apple. When carnival fortuneteller Pansy Gilchrist tries to help, she accidentally summons a pair of dishonest-to-goodness ghosts. Getting into the spirit of a crime is one thing…but how do you get the spirits out?

Have you ever encountered a ghost? Tell us about it in the comments! I’ll give an E-BOOK of Robbing Banks, Stealing Hearts to one of today’s commenters.

 

New York, New York!

Linda2015In July I went to New York City for the very first time and discovered lots of history that I never knew about. I went for the Romance Writers of America conference but I crammed in some sightseeing as well.

Times Square at NightsmBut first, here’s a picture out of my hotel room on the 26th floor. I had a wonderful view of Times Square at night. I looked directly out at the New Year’s Eve ball drop. Just an amazing view.

 

On Saturday before I flew home Sunday, I booked a walking tour of the financial district, never knowing that I’d learn so much. I met my guide early that morning in front of the NY Stock Exchange.  It was nice to see the building where transactions were made that could make a poor man rich or vice versa. *sigh* I still came home poor. I found out the stock exchange began under a tree between two men on the same site where it is today. Others heard and it became the spot to go if you wished to buy or trade. Over time, they built the financial institution that is there today.

NY Stock Exchangesm

Just a short distance from there I stood in awe before the building where George Washington took his first oath of office as president of the United States. I never knew that happened in New York City. A really nice statue of him in front.

George Washingtonsm

 

I visited Trinity Church from 1697 and saw the grave of the man whose picture is on our $10 bill—Alexander Hamilton. For those who don’t know, he was killed during a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr. The scoundrel! Robert Fulton, the father of the steam engine, is buried next to Hamilton. Because the church was one of the few undamaged places in the area after the twin towers went down on 9/11, that’s where they set up a triage and brought the injured and dying.

Trinity Churchsm

 

Next we walked past a building which was the site of the first act of terrorism in America. The event happened in 1920. Someone parked a wagon in front of the JP Morgan bank on Wall Street and detonated its load of explosives. It killed 38 people and wounded hundreds. They never caught the man. The building’s scars from the projectiles were left as a reminder of the incident.

JP Morgan Banksm

 

Farther toward New York Harbor, we passed Bowling Green Park. It seems a tall statue of King George III once stood there. It seems in 1776 patriots marched down the street and tore the statue down. Then they made bullets from it and used them to defeat the British army. It was quite a story.

 

Statue of LibertysmFrom there I visited the 9/11 memorial. I got very emotional, remembering how I watched the planes hit the towers on that dreadful morning and witnessed the horror. I found it remarkable how everyone spoke in hushed voices and no one used their cell phones. I felt as though I stood on hallowed ground for surely it was bought with the lives of everyone who died. It was the one place I vowed to see before I left for my trip and I was glad I did.

 

The other must-see place was Liberty Island. I had to see Lady Liberty. She was truly awe-inspiring. On the ferry ride over, I was struck with something I’d never considered. There were so many different nationalities on the ferry all speaking in various languages, but when we got about halfway there they all crowded the rail and a chorus of ooh’s and ahhs went up along with pointing. At that moment, I realized that Lady Liberty doesn’t belong to just the United States. She belongs to the whole world. To everyone who thirsts for freedom and a better life. My fellow passengers were as overcome with emotion as I was. It was enlightenment for me.

 

Have you ever experienced a deeper emotion than you thought you would when you visited somewhere?

“It’s All About the Horses!” by Susan Anne Mason

SusanAnneMasonThank you so much, Karen, for inviting me to be here today! I must say I feel like the city cousin at a barn dance, because although my upcoming release, Irish Meadows, is a historical romance, it is not western-themed, nor does it involve cowboys!

The one commonality it does have is that the story takes place on a horse farm. Irish Meadows is the name of my fictional farm in Long Island, New York, where the O’Leary family raise, train, and board thoroughbreds. I wanted the O’Learys to be fairly affluent, yet not as wealthy as some of their Long Island neighbors. I also needed to put Irish Meadows in financial jeopardy to drive the main conflict of the story.

As I was researching horse racing in the 1911 time period, I discovered an interesting fact: that horse racing had been banned in the state of New York at this time. This played perfectly into my conflict!

James O’Leary becomes very worried because some of his clients are pulling their horses out of his stables. This anxiety increases James’ deep-seated motivation to find rich husbands for his two eldest daughters— he wants to secure their place in society and make sure they never revert back to his parents’ time of poverty.

My heroine, Brianna O’Leary, has grown up at Irish Meadows, and her love of horses made her into a bit of a IrishMeadowsbackcover2tomboy when she was younger. Now that she is about to turn 18, her father has restricted her riding time in the hopes that she will become more feminine and hopefully attract a suitable husband. Naturally Brianna does not like this turn of events one bit!

My hero, Gilbert Whelan, has been raised by the O’Leary family as their ward and as a pseudo-sibling of the O’Leary children. Horses are his passion, and his main goal is to one day start his own breeding farm. (His other secret passion is Brianna O’Leary!) When James asks Gil to court the banker’s daughter in order to assure the business loan he needs, Gil goes against his better judgment and agrees to help save Irish Meadows. After all, he can’t sit back and let the O’Learys lose their home and business, can he?

Some of my favorite scenes in the book revolve around the horses and the stables – namely Brianna’s wild ride on a prize stallion (which goes terribly awry), and the birth of a foal anticipated to be a champion (but who ends up a huge disappointment and another blow for the ranch.)

So although there are no cowboys in my story, I hope all you horse lovers out there will pick up a copy of my book and fall in love with Irish Meadows and the O’Leary family!

Irish Meadows releases with Bethany House Publishing on July 7, 2015. Ebook releases June 30th.Irish-Meadows-662x1024

Blurb: Brianna and Colleen O’Leary know their Irish immigrant father expects them to marry well. Recently he’s put even more pressure on them, insinuating that the very future of their Long Island horse farm, Irish Meadows, depends on their ability to land prosperous husbands. Both girls, however, have different visions for their futures.

Brianna, the quiet sister with a quick mind, dreams of attending college. Vivacious Colleen, meanwhile, is happy to marry—as long as her father’s choice meets her exacting standards of the perfect man. When former stable hand Gilbert Whelan returns from business school and distant family member Rylan Montgomery stops in on his way to the seminary in Boston, the two men quickly complicate everyone’s plans.

As financial ruin looms ever closer, James O’Leary grows more desperate. It will take every ounce of courage for both sisters to avoid becoming pawns in their father’s schemes and follow their hearts. Yet even if they do, will they inevitably find their dreams too distant to reach?

Susan is giving away a print Advance Reading Copy! Leave a comment to enter the drawing!

Author Bio:
Susan Anne Mason describes her writing style as “romance sprinkled with faith.” She particularly enjoys exploring the themes of forgiveness and redemption in her stories. Irish Meadows is her first historical novel and won the Fiction from the Heartland contest sponsored by the Mid-American Romance Author chapter of RWA. Susan lives outside of Toronto, Ontario, with her husband, two children, and two cats. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA). Learn more about Susan and her books at www.susanannemason.com.

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