Wednesday, April 9, 2014

by Elizabeth Ludwig 

From left: Margaret, Kate, and Leah Fox
Recently, I ran across some interesting information while researching for a series I hope to write next year. The article pertained to three sisters, Leah, Maggie, and Kate Fox. While they appear from the photo at right to be innocent enough, these three women are often credited with inspiring the Spiritualist Movement that swept across America in the late 19th century. 

What is the Spiritualist Movement, you ask? Well, so did I, and here is what I found. 

Spiritualism was an ideology (some would call it a religion) based on the belief that living people could communicate with departed souls. Spiritualists sought to make contact with the dead, usually through the assistance of a medium, a person believed to have the supernatural ability to contact spirits directly. Some mediums worked while in a trancelike state, and some—like the Fox sisters—claimed to be the catalyst for various paranormal physical phenomena, such as moving of objects or the manifestation of sounds through which the spirits announced their presence. These manifestations became known as “rappings,” and the Fox sisters, who were among the first to perform such events, became renowned for their ability to communicate with the dead. 

But how did all of this start? 

History tells us that the three sisters lived an innocuous enough life. They were born in New York and lived in a small house near Hydesville with their mother and father. Though the house where they lived was rumored to be haunted, it wasn’t until the girls were a little older that mysterious things began to happen and sounds heard. 

“We used to tie an apple to a string and move the string up and down, causing the apple to bump on the floor,” middle sister, Margaret, was said to have reported. “Mother did not suspect us as being capable of a trick because we were so young.” 

Spiritualist Church circa 1941
The confession, however, came after years of deception and fraud. What began as a trick to frighten their mother blossomed into a movement that persuaded many to believe in disembodied spirits. By 1888, the movement had grown so large that even Margaret’s confession was not enough to stop it. Spiritualist churches sprang up around the country. Later, the movement’s sinister reach would spread worldwide. 

Elizabeth ludwig is the the award-winning author of the popular Edge of Freedom series from Bethany House Publishers. She is an accomplished speaker and teacher, often attending conferences and seminars where she lectures on editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. Along with her husband and children, she makes her home in the great state of Texas. To learn more, visit


  1. I seem to remember at least one of the George MacDonald books touching on this subject.

  2. Really? I'll have to look him up. Thank you!

  3. David Elginbrod (The Tutor's First Love) is the specific novel I am thinking of, I believe. Though Donal Grant (aka The Shepherd's Castle) might have, too. But if you google George MacDonald and spiritualism, you'll get all sorts of information.


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