Scientific American on the Fox Sisters

I’m afraid you haven’t got long to peruse it, but there’s all sorts of great stuff in the Scientific American archive, available from 1845 – 1909 for free until the end of the month. Here’s a snippet from 1848 (Vol.5, 8th Dec, transcribed below) on the infamous Fox Sisters (though not naming them). It’s more cynical than sceptical, but you have to love the Victorian turn of phrase, and they do have a point about the lack of falsifiable information that mediums produce:

‘There has been quite an excitement in Rochester, N.Y., about mysterious sounds heard by visitors in the presence of three bespirited young ladies. Committees of ladies and gentlemen  have been appointed to try and find out the cause,  but all  in vain.  The  ladies’committee divested the  be-spirited damsels of their clothing to find out whether that something or  other,  we suppose, was not concealed underneath,  but the  sounds were heard just  as well. They were placed on feather beds  and all  sorts  of  non-electric conductors, but the sounds were heard just the same – thus proving,  no doubt, that there is no relationship between spirits and magnetic current. The sounds reported to be heard, are certain raps on the floor or wall, and these raps have been formed into a kind of alphabet,  to repeat certain names, &c. (queer, this, very). We perceive by the names of some of the gentlemen on the committees, that they are men of high standing in Rochester, and some we know personally. It will all turn out to be a piece of nonsense,  because the raps and all that has been done, is stuff – nothing sensible or of utility. All ghost stories are made up of just such miserable fiddle-faddle – and we all know that the swallowing of pins, mounting the air on broomsticks, &c., constitute the amount of witch learning.’

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