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Rochester Rappings

Rochester Rappings

The outbreak of rappings that occurred in Hydesville, near Rochester, New York, in 1848, and which became popularly known as the "Rochester Rappings," was of peculiar importance, not because of its intrinsic superiority to any other poltergeist disturbance, but because it inaugurated the movement of modern Spiritualism.

Hydesville is a small village in Arcadia, Wayne County, New York, and there, in 1848, lived John D. Fox with his wife and two young daughters, Margaretta, aged fifteen, and Kate, aged twelve. Their house was a small wooden structure previously tenanted by Michael Weekman, who afterward claimed that he had frequently been disturbed by knockings and other strange sounds in the Hydesville house.

Toward the end of March 1848, the Fox family was disturbed by mysterious rappings, and on the evening of the 31st, they went to bed early, hoping to get some undisturbed sleep. But the rappings broke out even more vigorously than they had on previous occasions, and Mrs. Fox, much alarmed and excited when the raps manifested signs of intelligence, decided to call in her neighbors to witness the phenomenon.

The neighbors heard the raps distinctly and it was decided to try to communicate with the unseen forces. Questions were asked by the "sitters" of this informal séanceif the answer was in the affirmative, raps were heard, if in the negative, there was silence. By this means the knocker indicated that he was a ghost, the spirit of a peddler who had been murdered for his money by a former resident of the house.

The raps also answered correctly other questions relating to the ages of those present and other particulars concerning persons who lived in the neighborhood. In the few days immediately following, hundreds of people made their way to Hydesville to witness the marvel.

Fox's married son, David, who lived about two miles from his father's house, recorded a statement to the effect that the Fox family, following the directions of the raps, which indicated that the peddler was buried in the cellar, had begun to dig early in April, but were stopped by water.

Later, however, hair, bones, and teeth were found in the cellar. Vague rumors were afloat that a peddler had visited the village one winter, had been seen in the kitchen of the house afterward inhabited by the Foxes, and had mysteriously disappeared without fulfilling his promise to the villagers to return the next day. There was not a scrap of real evidence, whether for the murder or for the existence of the peddler, particulars of whose life were furnished by the raps.

Soon after these happenings, Kate Fox went to Auburn, and Margaretta to Rochester, New York, where her married sister Leah lived, and at both places outbreaks of rappings subsequently occurred. New mediums sprang up, circles were formed, and soon Spiritualism started.


Brown, Slater. The Heyday of Spiritualism. New York: Hawthorne Books, 1970.

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