December 2011 Time Capsule

December 2011 Time Capsule

The Spiritualist movement, in one woman's own words.

Summoning the Spirits

On the night of the first disturbance we all got up, lighted a candle and searched the entire house, the noises continuing during the time, and being heard near the same place. Although not very loud, it produced a jar of the bedsteads and chairs that could be felt when we were in bed. It was a tremendous motion, more than a sudden jar. We could feel the jar when standing on the floor. It continued on this night until we slept. I did not sleep until about twelve o’clock. On March 30th we were disturbed all night. The noises were heard in all parts of the house. My husband stationed himself outside of the door while I stood inside, and the knocks came on the door between us. We heard footsteps in the pantry, and walking downstairs; we could not rest, and I then concluded that the house must be haunted by some unhappy restless spirit. I had often heard of such things, but had never witnessed anything of the kind that I could not account for before.

The roots of Spiritualism in the United States trace back to sisters Margaretta, Kate and Leah Fox, whose mother, Margaret, made this April 11, 1848, account of the famous “Hydesville Rappings” (later revealed to be a hoax). Although Spiritualism didn’t begin as a religion, it evolved into one, and it involved more than just parlor games with Ouija boards and séances. Spiritualism spread throughout the country in the mid-1800s, mostly in the Northeast and Midwest and among the middle and upper classes. By 1855, Spiritualism had 2 million followers. Famous Spiritualists include Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Horace Greely and Arthur Conan Doyle. Spiritualism continues to thrive in America, the largest organization being the National Spiritualist Association of Churches of the United States of America.

Could you have a Spiritualist in your family history? Quakers and members of the Universalist church tended to gravitate toward Spiritualism, as did women from all faiths. Both Christians and non-Christians became Spiritualists.
As with any religion, historical records for Spiritualist churches might still exist. Some places to check for records are the American Antiquarian Society and the Library of Congress, both of which have large collections of Spiritualist materials. Also look into Spiritualist communities and camps such as the Lily Dale camp in Chautauqua County, NY, the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp in Volusia County, Fla., and the New England Spiritualist Camp Meeting Association in Lake Pleasant, Mass. You can google these locations and Spiritualism for more information.

From the December 2011 issue of Family Tree Magazine

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