two thousand twenty
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By: Stephanie L. Knarr

Spiritualism –a belief that spirits of the dead communicate with the living.

Tomorrow will mark the 162nd Anniversary of the Birthplace of Modern Spititualism. On March 31, 1848, the spirit of a peddler known as Charles B. Rosna found a way to effectively rap amid the walls of the Fox residence in Hydesville. With syncopated taps, he spoke to the young girls of the house, Katie and Maggie Fox.
The little cottage located on the corners of Hydesville and Parker Roads was owned by Dr. Artemus Hyde and occupied by John and Margaret Fox and their children at the time of the sensation. According to the peddler spirit, James Bell, who through a series of taps and shakes was named as his murderer, earlier occupied the little cottage.

Spectators came from near and afar to see the unseen. No one could believe that such a blasphemous encounter was happening in this small Christian hamlet. Some onlookers reveled in the phenomena and took their turn to speak with Katie and Maggie and the potential chance of reuniting with their loved ones.

The Fox Sisters moved from the little hamlet to live life in big cities like Chicago, New York and London doing séances for thousands of people, including Mary Lincoln, the wife to President Abraham Lincoln. Their older sister, Leah, ended up joining them in their ventures as they traveled across the globe proving their existence and attempting to dispel rumors of “the great hoax”.

Spiritualism became a new religious movement and to this day has had over eight million followers. During the 1880’s, people who were able to communicate with the dead were called mediums and were mostly women. This enhanced the current radical movements of the time like abolition and women’s suffrage. Though this phenomenon was popular throughout the world by upper-class citizens, the movement itself began to die due to the public outcry claiming fraud. However, despite some, an organized religion was formed and a spiritualist camp was established in Lily Dale, NY just south of Jamestown.

The fraud claim became a plausible accusation, as the Fox Sisters themselves both denounced later that what they were performing was in fact hocus-pocus. Others still stand for the cause and claim that Maggie Fox recanted due to severe pressure and Katie Fox recanted her story as she was a pauper and was able to sell the story for $1,000. Katie and Maggie and Leah all died in the 1880’s as paupers, but left behind many believers.

To everyone’s later surprise however their tale continued to unfold.

In the early 1900’s, some children were playing in the then vacant cottage that jarred loose some fieldstone of the foundation. As the fieldstone crumbled in, a skeleton and a trunk appeared. At last, physical proof that spirits really exist! The peddler’s remains and his trunk were found. It appeared that the peddler’s body was placed in between the outside wall of the foundation and a built up wall on the inside of the cellar. Once again, the sensation was inflamed with renewed passion and believers flooded to the Hydesville site. The Wayne County Sheriff’s Department took the skeletal remains away and the peddler’s trunk ended up in the Museum in Lilydale, which is still on display today.

In 1916, a spiritualist by the name of Bartlett, purchased the run-down cottage and moved it to Lily Dale. Unfortunately, in 1955, the cottage caught fire and burned down. Today, there is a memorial stone before it and where the cottage once stood is now a meditation garden.

The work of the Fox Sisters did not go unappreciated. In fact, as the residents in Hydesville know, a man by the name of John Drummond moved here from Canada to continue the work of the infamous celebration of life after death. John, known to be an eccentric man, scoured the county in search of time period barns. He purchased the barns and removed the wood, one piece at a time and relocated it to the empty corner lot. Board by board, John rebuilt the cottage with only slight changes, on the original foundation. John Drummond’s intentions were to eventually build a local spiritualist organization. John opened his home and allowed tours of the cottage. At the door, you would receive a pamphlet of the eerie Hydesville story along with excerpts of news clippings announcing that the peddler had been found.

In 1983, the replica of the Fox Cottage once again caught fire. A spark from a wood burning stove caught a pile of timber and ignited. The house was left with smoke and water damage once the fire department announced that the fire was out. John Drummond went to live with his neighbors, Ro and Jan Strassburger and remained there until his death.

In November 1991, the Strassburger’s had a controlled burn of the damaged structure of the replica cottage. They claimed that people were trespassing on the property and getting hurt inside the charred remains. They state it was clearly done for liability purposes. Some local residents say that they fought the issue of a controlled burn solely because they did not want the evil spirits floating over their homes costumed by black rolling smoke.

And here we are today, at the brink of the celebration of 162 years of modern spiritualism. The tiny cottage that could not withstand multiple occasions of heat and flames will always remain a hot topic for local residents, historians and believers alike. "There is no death, there are no dead"

A small celebrational ceremony will be held at the site in the Fox Sisters Memorial beginning at 5:00 p.m. tomorrow.


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11 Comments to "Spiritualists Celebrate 162 Years of Modern Spiritualism"

  1. Anonymous Said,

    this is great, well written and we are spiritualists ourselves!

    Posted on Tue Mar 30, 09:45:00 PM EDT

  2. Videomark Said,

    I remember taking a field trip (bike ride) with kids from Lincoln Park when I was working there one summer while I was going to college. I remember how fascinated the kids were with Fox Sister house. It's to bad that we lost this unique Wayne County history.

    Posted on Tue Mar 30, 11:08:00 PM EDT

  3. Anonymous Said,

    Booooo. Scooby dooby doo we got some mysteries for you know. Please!! History founded in fraud.

    Posted on Wed Mar 31, 10:40:00 AM EDT

  4. Rev. Marilyn J. Awtry, NST Said,

    I greatly appreciate your remembrance of the Fox family, the founders of Modern Spiritualism. However some points I would like to make/qestion:
    a. There has been investigation and at present it is contended that the name of the peddlar was other than Rosna. The results of facts remain to be seen.
    b. Leah traveled with her sisters in the states but did not go abroad. Infact, once married to Underhill participated only by seances at her home in NYC
    c. The recantation of the two young sisters has been documented and preserved. After the recantation they both went back to lecturing and giving messages and private consultations as well.
    d. The trunk and the Bible remains questioned. The trunk was not mentioned from l848 until the l900's so the question is when did it come into play. It is said it was in the house in Lily Dale but that house burned to the ground (1955) with nothing saved. So the question remains on the Bible (names in the Bible are not the Fox Family) and trunk.
    e. Previously news papers reported the Fire Department did do a controlled burn but the Strassburgers' were not given credit for trying to protect the community and requesting it, so thanks for that point.
    f. While Spiritualism has been recorded in the millions in the l800's, it is sad that around the world today it is estimated at less than 200,000; but remember the numbers have no way of really being tallied so input comes from various organizations.
    Again, thank you so much for remembering the Fox Sisters and Hydesville - 162 years later. If you can verify correctness or other data in regard to the points I make, I would appreciate receiving them. My only goal is facts and truths.
    P.S. I have visited the cemetery and the tomb stone of Maggie & Katie are about unreadable. I feel this a disgrace. I would that a fund be created to have the stone recarved or replaced. I have recently verified with the cemetery it can be done.
    Rev. Marilyn J. Awtry, NST

    Posted on Wed Mar 31, 02:03:00 PM EDT

  5. Anonymous Said,

    Rev. Awtry -
    The trunk and bible on are display in Lilydale, NY. I have seen them both and have pictures of them both. The trunk was found with the peddler at the time of his remains being taken from the site. The chain of possession to Lily Dale I am unsure of as the Wayne County Sheriff's Dept. has very few records left. The trunk was in the house in Lilydale when it burnt and when you see the trunk you will see that it's charred. The sign that was on the house is also burnt and the bible is intact and on display.

    As for the peddler's name, I have never seen it as anything other than Charles B. Rosna and would be interested in seeing any information relative to that point.

    My email is slk1692@gmail.com.

    I hope this information is helpful to you.

    Posted on Wed Mar 31, 02:21:00 PM EDT

  6. Robert Egby Said,

    Spiritualism, in various forms, has an ancient and divine history. If Spirit Communication with its training in clairvoyance and mediumship had been taught to all mainline priests, there's a good chance that Universal Catholic Church would not be fighting global scandal from clerics molesting and raping young children. Who would do that being aware they were being watched from the Other Side?

    Posted on Wed Mar 31, 03:32:00 PM EDT

  7. Anonymous Said,

    I agree Mr. Egby but, The Catholic church has always been about power and money. Religion comes from within. Anything organized is a form of manipulation of those that need moral leadership and simple can not deal with all the possiblilites after death. I would dare say that most Catholics are Catholic out of tradition. The brain washing starts early with great childhood song like the bible told me so. Like this is a real text book...ignorance is bliss.

    Open your minds spirtuality is a lifetime personal quest and no one really knows till the lights go out.

    I use to play with a ouija board in my teen years placed on peoples grave but, then I had moment of clarity. The window went over the words made by parker brothers.

    Posted on Wed Mar 31, 04:12:00 PM EDT

  8. Anonymous Said,

    I agree with you Number 7 on most of what you said. It applies to most organized belief systems. However, Ouija Boards are not what Spiritualism is about and should not be used without real understanding. The Spiritualist church I know and love does not preach dogma. It just helps and supports each person in their quest to find their own truth.

    I was fortunate enough to be present at the Hydesville site 10 years ago for a ceremony commemorating the NSAC acquisition of the property. I have not been back to see what improvements the church has made but someday I will get there.

    The Fox sisters recanted because of public pressure - much like the Catholic Church forced Galileo to recant that darned heliocentric theory. If the whole world said you were wrong, wouldn't you?

    Posted on Wed Mar 31, 06:24:00 PM EDT

  9. Seth C. Burgess Said,

    Here is a link to news updates about the Fox Property on the NSAC website in its quest to develop the "Hydesville Memorial Park:


    The NSAC photos from the 2004 Convention showing the Fox Property are also pretty interesting, including the excavation of the foundation of the original Fox Sisters cottage. Here is the link to the photos:


    Posted on Wed Mar 31, 11:04:00 PM EDT

  10. Anonymous Said,

    Check out the Spiritualist Room at the Newark-Arcadia Museum, 120 High Street, across from Newark Public Library. (open Saturdays 1-3)
    There are numerous photos and books on the subject.

    Posted on Fri Apr 02, 07:03:00 AM EDT

  11. Anonymous Said,

    I have a million dollar challenge for spiritualists. Check out this man and his offer. Just copy from this page to your search engine and paste. Loved it


    Posted on Wed Apr 21, 09:41:00 AM EDT


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