Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ep. 191 - Spiritualism and the Eddy Brothers' House

Moment in Oddity - Madame Tussaud Originally Used the Dead to Make Her Waxworks
(Suggested by: Angie Reynoso Akbarzad)

Marie Tussaud was a wax artist who has become famous for her waxwork museums. She began her work during the late 18th century and was asked to make death masks of King Louie XVI and Marie Antoinette after they were beheaded during the French Revolution. She complied to prove her loyalty to the French Revolution. The Princesse de Lamballe was the superintendent of Marie Antoinette's household. Marie thought of her as a kind person, so she was upset to hear that she had been horribly abused and murdered during the Revolution. And to her true horror, the murderers brought her severed head to Marie and forced her to make a wax cast of it. Having to hold her friend's head in her lap as she made the mold had to have been horrible. Then there was radical journalist Marat, who was murdered in his bathtub. The police escorted Marie to the scene of the crime and she had to take a mold of his still warm head. Marie would visit the cemeteries where bodies of historically significant people were starting to pile up to see if she could find more heads to mold to help her make money. She expanded into making dioramas of notorious criminals and their gruesome crime scenes. Tussaud added real artifacts to her displays as well. She decided to take her creations on the road in 1802 and she traveled throughout Britain. She finally ended up at London’s Baker Street in 1835. Her museum there was called the "Chamber of Horrors." Today, there are 24 museums on four continents. Most waxworks are made from the living, but the idea that Madame Tussaud's original waxworks began with using the dead and beheaded, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Two Boeing 747s Collide In Canary Islands

In the month of March, on the 27th day, in 1977, the worst accident in the history of civil aviation occurred as two Boeing 747 jets collided on the ground in the Canary Islands, resulting in 570 deaths. The accident happened at the Los Rodeos Airport on the island of Tenerife. One jet belonged to KLM and the other to Pan Am. Not only is the crash unique in being the worst, but one has to wonder how two jumbo jets hit each other at a small airport in such a devastating way that nearly all passengers on both jets were killed. Neither plane was supposed to be at this airport, but the airport they were destined for had suffered a terrorist bombing. Both jets waited at Los Rodeos to be cleared to land at Las Palmas. They were cleared and KLM was told to take off first. But the pilot, who was a top 747 instructor, decided to refuel first. During that time, a freak blanket of fog enveloped the airport. Planes would have to make a back-taxi departure as well because of congestion at the small airport. The Pan Am pilots missed their turnoff from the runway, just as the KLM was ready to taxi. KLM received route clearance, which they mistook for takeoff clearance. They began their taxi without permission and the Pan Am flight and control tower both said things to get the KLM jet to stop, but their messages overlapped and were not heard properly. The Pan Am saw the KLM jet when it was 2000 feet away heading at them nose first. The pilot tries to pull the 747 off the runway, but it is too late. The KLM tries to pull up, but its undercarriage and engines slice the midsection of the Pan Am and a series of explosions follow. Sixty-one people survived including the five people in the Pan Am cockpit. The series of blunders and miscommunication killed 570.

Spiritualism and The Eddy Brothers' House (Suggested by: Mariessa Dobrick)

Psychic phenomenon and interaction with the spiritual world date back to the beginnings of humankind. Humans have used various means to facilitate this communication. During the Victorian era, the practice of Spiritualism began and grew in popularity. Many people are credited with growing the beliefs and interest in the afterlife. The Fox Sisters from New York are a couple of those people. The sisters would eventually claim to be frauds, but there was another pair of siblings who are much harder to discredit that were popular a couple decades after the Fox Sisters. Those siblings were the Eddy Brothers of Vermont. Not only were they practitioners of Spiritualism, but their home was host to countless spirits and apparitions.Some of whom still seem to remain today. Join us as we explore the history of Spiritualism and discuss the lives of the Eddy Brothers and the hauntings at the Eddy Brother House with listener Mariessa Dobrick!

Consulting oracles or seers or medicine men seem to be a part of all early cultures from the Greeks to the Romans to the Druids. Ancestor worship was a key part of religious practices in ancient China, revealing that people believed that the spirits of their loved ones continue on after death. It would be in the 18th century that a scientist named Emmanuel Swedenborg would begin writing about philosophy from spiritual teachers. He was considered one of the greatest European minds and many thought he had been chosen to bring enlightenment to the masses as a seer. The religion of Swendenborgianism grew up around his writings and claims to be a part of the Christian church. (It had been considered a cult at one time, but many of its modern day tenets do align with Christian beliefs.)

The practice and beliefs around modern spiritualism have their beginnings in the Victorian era in the 1840s. Andrew Jackson Davis would claim to be a clairvoyant who was in contact with the spirit of Swedenborg. In was in March of 1844 that Davis had a life-changing experience and his first contact with the spirit world when he entered a trance-like state while in Poughkeepsie, New York. When he pulled out of the trance the next morning, he was forty miles from Poughkeepsie and had no idea how he got where he was. The only thing he recalled was being in contact with both Swedenborg and a Greek physician named Galen. This started him on his career of lecturing and writing about contacting the spirit world and many considered him the “John the Baptist of Spiritualism” and his writings became the foundation for American Spiritualism.

Three years after Davis had his first trance experience, the Hydesville Rappings occurred. This phenomenon is named for the city where it happened, Hydesville, New York. The Fox family had moved into a two-room cottage in the city in March of 1848. The family had two daughters, Margaretta and Catherine who were known as Maggie and Kate, and shortly after they moved into the cottage the two girls claimed to hear knocking on the walls. The two sisters quickly figured out that a spirit was trying to communicate with them. Neighbors and other family members witnessed the rappings, both hearing and feeling them. They investigated to see if they could figure out what was causing the noise, but nothing was found. The girls decided to name the entity Mr. Splitfoot. At first, Mr. Splitfoot communicated in very simple ways, like one rap for yes, two raps for no. The Fox sisters' older brother David, developed an alphabet to make the communication more in depth.

This alphabet system was basically like using an audible ouija board. David would call out the letters one at a time until a rap on the wall would signal the correct letter. Through this process, the family learned that Mr. Splitfoot was a Jewish peddler named Charles B. Rosna. He had been traveling door to door selling his wares and when he got to this particular house, the previous owner who was named Mr. Bell, had robbed and murdered him and then buried Rosna in the cellar. He said he was earthbound because his family that included a wife and five children, did not know where he was or what had happened to him. Digging in the cellar revealed teeth, some bone fragments and a tin box that Rosna had carried. That was according to a Spiritualist site I found. But I also found a story that the bones were found in 1904 in a crumbling cement wall by kids playing in the Fox's old residence.

Much publicity surrounded this event and many people started coming to the cottage, overwhelming the family. They moved to Rochester and apparently, Rosna came with them and he continued to rap on the walls and communicate with the Fox Sisters. People from all around came to witness the communication for themselves. A public demonstration was arranged at the Corinthian Hall, the city’s largest assembly. Before this was allowed to happen, a committee formed that really wanted to debunk the whole talking to a ghost thing. They insisted on investigating the sisters. They hoped to prove that they were cracking their joints somehow to imitate the knocking sounds. The Fox Sisters passed the tests and the committee announced that they were authentic, the real deal.

Horace Greeley was founder and editor of the New York Tribune, but for us, he is better known as the namesake for Greeley, Colorado. He was a part of the growth of Modern Spiritualism as not only someone who believed in mediumship, but he wrote about all of the events surrounding the Fox Sisters. He sent a reporter to Rochester for the demonstration. The reporter was amazed and this convinced Greeley to bring the Fox Sisters to New York where scientists could exam them further. Greeley said of the girls, “I am convinced that the sounds and manifestations were not produced by Mrs. Fox or her daughters, nor by any human being connected with them.” He put the demonstrations of the girls on stage at a theater off Broadway. They were a sensation. This is what really got spiritualism out to the masses and people were soon trying their hand at seances and contacting spirits. This was especially popular with the middle and upper classes. House parlors soon became the center of seances.

It should be noted that in 1888, the girls admitted it was a hoax they perpetuated by cracking the knuckles of their toes and that it had started as an attempt to just scare their mother that got way out of hand. But then how do we explain people finding a body on the property? I found an interesting article in the Evening Star from October 1888 in which the author maintains that the recantation of the girls could not affect Spiritualism. But in another article from 1890 in the Salt Lake Herald, I found that the history of the house seems to have a haunting. There was someone who lived in the house before the Foxes, but after Mr. Bell. Mike Weekman, described as a poor ignorant laborer, had trouble with mysterious rappings on all the walls of the house. It got to the point where the family could not sleep at night and they soon abandoned the house. And even more interesting point I found in this article was a part about Spiritualism starting long before the girls with trance channeling happening in a Shaker church in 1843 in New York at New Lebanon and Watervliet. The members struck with these trances delivered long discourses from "eminent men of bygone ages."

Another key figure in the movement was Emma Hardinge Britten. She was born in London in 1823. She got involved in the theater and traveled with a company to New York in 1856. When there, she met a medium named Ada Hoyt who converted her to Spiritualism. Britten mastered automatic writing, psychometry (which is reading objects by feeling them), prophecy and healing. Robert Dale Owen was an American statesman who communicated with Britten after he died and he gave her the first four of the seven original principles of Spiritualism. British spiritualists still adhere to these principles, while the American Association has drafted its own set of principles. Britten was one of the most zealous spiritualists in history and she took her message around the world.

Another adherant and pioneer to Spiritualism in America was a very unlikely person, a Chief Justice of the New York State Supreme Court. Judge John W. Edmonds wrote the book "Spiritualism" in 1853 detailing his investigations of mediums. He had witnessed hundreds of manifestations. His book outraged the churches and politicians and they, along with the press, forced the Judge to resign the bench and return to private practice. Despite the negative response of much of the public, many high profile people were embracing this new spiritual science. The Lincolns used mediums and participated in seances, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a true believer as were Elizabeth Barrett Browning, William Cullen Bryant, Thomas Carlyle, Emily Dickinson, Sir William Crookes, Edgar Allen Poe, Alfred Russell Wallace, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Queen Victoria, and W. B. Yeats.

Harry Houdini had been traveling the country and actively proving psychics and mediums to be frauds. He would show how many mediums pulled off their demonstrations with his expertise in illusion. He became friends with Conan Doyle and on a trip to America, Doyle offered Houdini a reading from his wife in regards to Houdini's dead mother. Mrs. Doyle presented the result in a letter, which read, “Oh, my darling thank God, thank God, at last I am through. I’ve tried, oh so often. Now I am happy. Why, of course, I want to talk to my boy, my own, beloved boy. Friends, thank you, thank you, with all my heart for this. You have answered the cry of my heart and of his. God bless him a thousand fold, for all his life for me - never had a mother such a son. Tell him not to grieve soon he will get all the evidence he is anxious for. I want him to know that I have bridged the gulf, which is what I wanted, oh so much. Now I can be in peace.”

Houdini would believe none of it. The letter was in English and Houdini's mother did not know the language. Mrs. Doyle drew a cross at the top of the page, but the Houdini family was Jewish. The experience happened on Houdini's mother's birthday, but she made no mention of the special date. The friendship with Doyle ended. While Spiritualism was popular through the Victorian era, the 1920s would see a movement against mediums. There was even an anti-fortunetelling bill introduced into Congress in 1926. It was meant to outlaw any kind of psychic activity for money. Houdini testified before a congressional sub-committee in favor of the bill. The bill failed because of the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom.

Doyle became friends with another American named Arthur Augustus Ford. This man was from Georgia and he was able to channel spirits while in a trance. He traveled to Great Britain in 1927 to meet with Doyle who said of Ford, "One of the most amazing things I have ever seen in forty-one years of psychic experience was the demonstration by Arthur Ford.'' Ford claimed that he could channel Houdini who had died in 1926 from a blow to the stomach. Houdini's wife Beatrice was notified and see agreed to meet with Ford. What Ford didn't know was that she and Houdini had arranged a secret word they would share with each other if either was able to communicate from the spirit world after they died. Ford and Beatrice had 10 sessions. Apparently, the code word was given during these sessions. Beatrice said,  “Regardless of any statement made to the contrary, I wish to declare that the message, in its entirety and in the agreed-upon sequence given to me by Arthur Ford, is the correct code prearranged between Mr. Houdini and myself.” The press reported that the code was not given correctly. It's hard to know the truth, since Beatrice held seances for ten years on the anniversary of his death and it was said that Houdini never came through.

Practitioners of Spiritualism have consistently declined through the years. Great Britain has remained the hub of Spiritualism. The first Spiritualist Church was established in the British Isles in 1853 by David Richmond at Keighley in Yorkshire. In 1855, the first Spiritualist newspaper in Britain, The Yorkshire Spiritual Telegraph, was published. Spiritualist societies and churches popped up throughout the country throughout the 1870s. Today, there are more spiritualist churches, publications, mediums and colleges in Britain than anywhere in the world, combined. Its showplace is the Arthur Findlay College at Stansted Hall in Essex, which is run by the largest spiritualist association, the Spiritualists National Union.

That's the nuts and bolts of Spiritualism, which on the surface doesn't seem all that creepy or spooky. Spirit photography really took off during the Victorian era as well as the expulsion of ectoplasm from the mouths of mediums, but this was all proven to be false with double exposures causing the eerie photos and most ectoplasm was cheesecloth or gauze that a medium had stuffed into the back of their throat. (I found an article from 1883 detailing a man in California suing a medium after he seized upon the material and found it to be gauze and the mediums henchmen beat the crap out of him.) Table tipping, in which a table floated beneath the tips of the fingers of the participants were found to be rigged and knocking sounds were caused by devices hidden in clothing. But can we say without a doubt that all of these seances were just elaborate displays of trickery? We can't imagine that people would continually host parlor tricks in their homes. And despite being skeptical, we do believe in an afterlife and the ability to communicate across the veil. As we wonder with the use of the ouija board, who were these people talking to and what was being channeled? Was it all a fraud? The story of the Eddy Brothers in Vermont seems to give some legitimacy to the claims of Spiritualism.

William and Horatio Eddy were born to Zephaniah Eddy and his wife Julia Maccombs in Vermont. There was talk that the family had ties to the Salem Witch Trials, on the side of the witches through Mary Bradbury. The Eddy family was said to have psychic abilities. The family lived on a small farm in Chittenden, Vermont today known as the Eddy Brothers' House. The town is the largest in the state by size, but not by population. It is named for Thomas Chittenden, one of the Green Mountain Boys. This was a militia that resisted New York's attempt to control the territory and was headed by Ethan Allen in the late 1700s. The brothers started having psychic experiences from a young age, claiming to see and speak with ghosts. Their father would beat them for this, as though he was beating the evil out of them. (Mariessa shares with us more about these beatings and how their father sold them to a traveling show.)

After their father passed away, the boys continued to live with their mother and they reconstructed their farm into an inn known as The Green Tavern. The boys built a cabinet that they called the Seance Cabinet and it was inside this that William would channel spirits. Seances were held at the inn on a regular basis in the 1870s and were the main reason for people to stay there. All manifestations occurred from ectoplasm to communicating to spirit guides to something that made the Eddy Brothers unique in the seance world. Full-bodied apparitions would appear during their seances. The manifestations were so powerful that Spiritualists began calling Chittenden the "Spirit Capital of the Universe". But not everyone was convinced.

Henry Steel Olcott was a successful attorney when he read about the exploits of the Eddy Brothers in a copy of the Spiritualist newspaper, the Banner of Light. Before becoming a lawyer, Olcutt had studied agricultural science, founded a school for agriculture students, been the farm editor for Horace Greeley’s newspaper, the New York Tribune and been a special investigator for the Union Army during the Civil War. He was one of the investigators on a three-person panel looking into Lincoln's assassination. Olcott studied law and became a wealthy lawyer after the war. He decided he wanted to check out what these Eddy Brothers were up to and his main goal was to prove them frauds.

An outdoor seance was held on Olcott’s first day at the Eddy Brothers' House. A group of ten people gathered in a ravine at night in front of a cave. The location was known to locals as "Honto’s Cave" because a Native American spirit was known to appear there. Horatio was the medium  and he sat on a stool under the cave's arch. He was covered over with tree branches. A large Native American man emerged from the cave as Horatio rested beneath the branches. Horatio began to speak with the spirit when suddenly another large Native American appeared on top of the cave. The participants cried out as more spirits appeared. There was a female on a ledge and William White, the late editor of a Spiritualist newspaper. Ten spirits in all appeared before they vanished all together. Olcott investigated the cave with a man he had brought with him. They found no footprints and could not see a way that anyone could slip in and out of the cave without being seen.

Olcott was not easily fooled and he wanted to attend a seance in the house where he felt he could control the environment more easily. A large circle room was used for the seances and he examined everything, taking measurements and looking for secret doors or false panels. He found nothing. He brought in engineers and carpenters to look over everything and see if they could find anything strange. The experts found nothing out of the ordinary. Olcott was convinced after this that the walls and floors were solid. He stayed on for many weeks.participating in seances. People would sit on benches and watch as spirit after spirit would appear from the Seance Cabinet. Some nights there would be as many as 20 or 30 apparitions. Some would be solid, others transparent. Some were very tall and others quite small. All races and forms of clothing would make appearances.

Olcott was befuddled. He had examined everything thoroughly. The cabinet was only big enough for one person and that would be the medium. Where were these people coming from? In all, Olcott witnessed 400 spirits during the weeks he was at the Eddy Brothers' House. He continued to investigate, but in the end he concluded that the brothers were incapable both physically and financially of pulling off an elaborate fraud. The brothers were themselves practically illiterate having very little formal schooling. Olcott disliked his stay. He didn't care for the food or the brothers, but he did believe they were mediums. This lends a little more credence to that belief as one would think he would not lie for people he didn't like. He wrote a book about his experiences called "People From Other Worlds." (We share some excerpts.)

What is interesting is that a magician named Chung Ling Soo exposed one of the Eddy Brothers' tricks as a fraud and psychical researcher Hereward Carrington claimed the brothers were using sleight of hand that was so simple it was farcical. The trick involved Horatio and two members from the audience. All three would get behind a curtain. Horatio would have one person grab his arm and he would grab the arm of the other participant. Horatio was in the middle. After this, a musical instrument would dance above their heads and tap the three on the head. Then a hand would come through the curtain and write a message. The idea was to convince people that a spirit was moving the instrument and writing since Horatio had one arm being held and was holding someone with the other hand. But apparently, the magician claimed that a fake hand was being used that was made from a piece of heavy sheet lead to hold onto the participant. It was heavy enough to convince the person they were being held. Horatio would then have a hand free to perpetuate the trick.

Eventually, the brothers moved away from each other. Horatio died in 1922 and William in 1932. He had refused to participate in Spiritualism after he left his brother and remained a recluse. They took whatever secrets they may have had to their graves. But their spirits seem to remain at their former home.

There are reports of hauntings at the house, but no one is able to investigate the private property. During the rise of Spiritualism and seances, were there spirits being contacted? Was it all fraud? Did the Eddy Brothers have psychic powers? Were spirits manifested at the Eddy Brother House? That is for you to decide!

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