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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/741

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.

 

APRIL. 1889.


 

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SPIRITUALISM.
By JOSEPH JASTROW.

IN 1848, from the town of Hydeville, New York, came the somewhat startling discovery that certain knockings, the source of which had mystified the household of one of its residents, seemed to be intelligently guided and ready to appear at call. Communication was established by agreeing that one rap should mean "no," and three raps "yes"; to which was afterward added the device of calling off the alphabet and noting at which letters the raps occurred; in this way the rapper revealed himself as the spirit of a murdered peddler. Within five years the news of this simple and childish invention had called into existence thousands of spirit-circles, had developed wonderful "mediums," through whose special gifts the manifestations were ascribed, had amassed a vast store of strange testimony, and the movement had become an epidemic; and this, too, in spite of the fact that, in 1851, the peculiar double raps occurring in the presence of these Fox sisters[1]

  1. Since this article was written, Margaret Fox (now Mrs. Kane) and Katie Fox (now Mrs. Jencken) have publicly confessed that the raps to which they as children gave rise were produced by dislocations of the toes. They have publicly shown the method of their production, and seem earnestly desirous of retarding the growth of the movement to which they so unintentionally gave rise. They plead for our mercy, on the ground that the movement was started when they were too young to appreciate what was being done, and that, when they realized the fraud and the encouragement they were receiving, it was too late or too difficult to retract. It is a pity that this confession comes so late, and the more so, that it has been made under such sensational surroundings. Had the confession been placed in the hands of a respectable scientific body, such as the Soybert commission, a more lasting service to mankind would have resulted. But none the less is it proper to derive from this confession a valuable lesson for intending investigators, and a characteristic proof of the moral taint in which the germs of this growth were laid and have developed.