Who were Early Mediums?
First SPIRITUALIST MEDIUMS
The first SPIRITUALIST MEDIUMS were Margaretta and Kate Fox, aged 14 and 11 respectively, who made what has been claimed as the first direct communication with the spirit world at their parents’ homestead Hydesville, New York on the night of 31 March 1848. For some weeks previous to this date the Fox family had been troubled by inexplicable rapping noises coming from all parts of the house, until on the evening in question Kate Fox challenged the unseen instigator of the sounds to repeat the snapping of her fingers. This being instantly responded to, Mrs Fox began to direct questions to the supposed spirit in such a way that they could be answered either by a rap, signifying `Yes’, a silence for ‘No% or for more complex replies, a rap in answer to particular letters as the alphabet was called cover. In this manner the spirit was identified as one Charles B. Rosma, a pedlar who had been allegedly murdered in the house some five years earlier and whose body was said to be buried beneath the floor of the cellar. The following day the Fox family and their neighbours dug up the cellar and found fragments of bone and human hair; the remainder of the skeleton was not recovered until 56 years later, when it was found behind the cellar wall.
In April 1850 Kate and Margaretta Fox were placed under contract by the great American showman Phineas T. Barnum and became the first professional mediums, giving public seances at Barnum’s Hotel and Barnum’s Museum, as well as private sitting at the homes of rich and eminent persons. The sisters continued their career for the next 30 years, during which time both became incurable alcoholics. Margaretta confessed in 1888 that the whole business of the raps had been artificially contrived and actually gave a demonstration of how she could make loud cracking noises with the bones of her foot. She later retracted this statement, claiming she had been paid to make it by enemies of the spiritualist movement.
The first medium to practise in Britain was Mrs W.R. Hayden, the wife of a Boston newspaper proprietor, who arrived in London in October 1852, and took up residence at 22 Queen Anne Street, Cavendish Square. Her first seance was held with Lady Combermere, Maj. Cotton, and Mr Henry Thompson of York. Mrs Hayden evoked widespread interest by her psychic powers, as for instance when she was able to tell Mr Galla, the African explorer, the names of ‘persons and places in Africa which nobody but himself knew’. Seances rapidly became a fashionable diversion and during the years 1853-54 invitations to ‘Tea and Table Rapping’ enjoyed a considerable vogue among the more forward-looking inhabitants of suburbia.