Talking to the Dead
Kate and Maggie Fox and the Rise of SpiritualismBook - 2004
March 1848. Mysterious knocks are heard in a little house in rural New York, throwing the community into turmoil. Are the children who live there -- Kate and Maggie Fox, sisters aged eleven and fourteen -- making the raps to trick their parents? Or are the girls mediums for otherworldly messages? From a battery of strange sounds and the excitement they create, modern Spiritualism is born.
Talking to the Dead: Kate and Maggie Fox and the Rise of Spiritualism follows the remarkable story of the Fox sisters, who were catapulted to fame after word spread that they communicated with spirits. Within a few years, tens of thousands of Americans were flocking to seances. An international movement developed. Yet forty years after those first knocks, the sisters shocked the country by denying that they had ever been in contact with the dead. Shortly after, in another stunning reversal, they changed their story again and reaffirmed their faith in the spirit world. Were the Fox sisters con artists who had taken a childhood prank too far? Or were they really in touch with "voices from beyond"?
In this riveting biography, Barbara Weisberg traces not only the lives of Kate, Maggie, and their family -- including the girls' shrewd and charismatic sister, Leah -- but also the social, religious, economic, and political forces that helped shape the Spiritualist movement. A vivid, compelling overview of a remarkable period in U.S. history, Talking to the Dead provokes questions about belief systems, the power of celebrity, the wish to reconcile faith and science, and the timeless quest for knowledge about life after death.