Victorian Spiritualism’s Skeptics Get Vocal
While Maggie and Kate Fox made a nice living as mediums, doubt was spreading about the movement. In 1888, Maggie Fox, one of the original spiritualist mediums, admitted that her, and her sisters, abilities were a hoax. She appeared onstage, with her sister in the audience, and demonstrated how the sounds of knocking and rapping came from her ability to loudly crack her toe joints on demand. To punctuate her point, she shouted, “Spiritualism is a fraud from beginning to end!” People occasionally recognized the spirit in photographs as people alive and well. Even self-proclaimed mediums like William Stainton Moses, after examining six hundred spirit photographs, scoffed that there are people who “would recognize a sheet and a broom as their dear departed.” Moses may have been a spiritualist, but he (allegedly) couldn’t abide fraud.