The World’s First Recorded Seance
Kate and Margaret Fox were pretty odd sisters. While other siblings of the 1840s were off running through cornfields or playing hopscotch (or whatever girls of the 1800s did), Kate and Maggie were hanging out with ghosts. In fact, the Fox sisters play an important part in the history of spiritualism, as they’re recognized as conducting the first ever séance officially recorded in text.
By 1848, in the small town of Hydesville, New York, Kate and Margaret had created a code—a simple system of table raps which they used to communicate with the dead. Eventually, the pair started inviting friends over to witness the phenomenon. One particular séance was attended by family friends John and Susanna Moodie who had expressed an interest in the spiritualism reported by the girls. Kate Fox started the séance by asking the spirit if it minded speaking with the Moodies. After instructing the spirit to rap three times for a yes, the spirit did indeed rap three times. Susanna Moodie recorded her experience in a letter and so this reciprocated rap sound is the first-ever recorded “successful” communication with a spirit. The next test involved Kate Fox going through a list of friends, alive and dead, which she had asked Susanna Moodie to compile. Kate Fox asked the spirit to knock three times for a living friend and five for a dead one. The ghost got all knocks correct.
In summing up the séance, Susanna Moodie was clearly conflicted about what she had experienced: “I do not believe that the raps are produced by spirits that have been of this world,” she said. “But I cannot believe that [Kate Fox], with her pure spiritual face is capable of deceiving.”