These lovely ladies are the Fox sisters, Leah, Maggie, and Katherine. Together they represent the beginning of the American Spiritualism movement. In 1848 while living in Hydesville, New York the girls reported hearing strange knocking sounds in their room during the night. Eventually, the knocking began to be heard throughout the house at which time Katherine (age 12) would challenge or communicate with the “spirits” by repeating the number of knocks. Neighbors were invited to the home to witness this phenomena and a system of asking the spirit’s questions was developed. The Fox Sisters career as mediums was born.
When Katherine and Maggie were sent to stay with relatives in Rochester, the mysterious knocking spirits followed them. The girls soon became celebrities, popular with members of high society and greatly sought after by those seeking a chance to communicate with the spirit world. The sisters parlayed their local fame into a career, touring music halls and even travelling overseas. They were embraced by celebrities including P.T. Barnum, Horace Greeley, and James Fenimore Cooper.
However, the Fox sisters were questioned and many attempts were made to expose them as skeptics. These attempts to discredit them often involved older men performing hands on physical examinations of the girls bodies to look for evidence of abnormal bone formations. A possible explanation often included that the girls were snapping their toe bones to produce the rapping sounds.
In 1888, Maggie Fox denounced Spiritualism, confessing that everything had been a sham. She would then recant her denouncement but it was too late, the damage had been done.