In March of 1848, Kate and Margaret Fox were just children, about ten or twelve years old. They had recently moved into an old cottage with their parents near Hydesville, New York that had a mysterious history. Previous tenants had stayed only briefly, leaving due to strange sounds and occurrences that just couldn’t be explained. It made them uncomfortable, they said. When the Fox family moved into the home in November of 1847, they too began to experience the strange happenings that had been reported. But the Fox girls didn’t scare so easily, and with the help of their mother, began to consider the possibility that these noises were not only coming from “the other side,” but perhaps they could communicate with the mysterious entity as well. They soon devised a code that they used to ask questions, which the spirit would answer with a certain number of knocks. “Yes” and “no” questions were fired away, and the family discovered that they were certainly not the only one residing in the cottage.
The answers to the girls’ questions were startling, and revealed that the knocks were coming from Charles B. Rosna, a man who had disappeared some years before. Rosna had been a peddler in the area up until about five years prior to the Fox girls’ strange experience. At that point, however, he had simply disappeared, and no one could remember seeing him anymore. It wasn’t until the young Fox sister’s fearlessness in attempting spiritual communication that people finally were able to get some answers to their questions about Rosna’s disappearance. The ghost’s knocks revealed not only his identity, but also that he had been murdered by a previous tenant and buried in the cottage’s cellar. His spirit could not rest, and Rosna, it seemed, wanted his body discovered and buried properly.
What the poor murdered man got was so much more, though. His bones weren’t unearthed from the cellar for another fifty years, but in the meantime, his ghostly communication with the Fox sisters began a religious movement that would continue into the 21st century. Though the founding of Spiritualism is usually credited to the Fox sisters, their story cannot be told without mentioning Rosna’s crucial role. He will always be considered one of history’s most notorious spirits.