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updated: 10/16/2012 4:11 PM

History Speaks Lecture Series looks at American Spiritualism

Naper Settlement's History Speaks Lecture Series looks at American Spiritualism

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  • Rebecca Tullock portrays Maggie Fox, one of the founders of American Spiritualism, on Oct. 21 at Naper Settlement.

      Rebecca Tullock portrays Maggie Fox, one of the founders of American Spiritualism, on Oct. 21 at Naper Settlement.
    Photo courtesy of Rebecca Tulloch

  • Rebecca Tulloch, right, will conduct a seance that she promises will be more fun than scary during her program at Naper Settlement.

      Rebecca Tulloch, right, will conduct a seance that she promises will be more fun than scary during her program at Naper Settlement.
    Photo courtesy of Rebecca Tulloch

 
 

Maggie Fox was a teenager living in western New York when she helped start the American Spiritualism movement in 1848. She and her younger sister, Kate, produced rappings that they said were the spirits of the dead communicating with the living.

The girls became famous for their seances and drew the attention of well-known people.

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Rebecca Tulloch of Wayne-based Prairie Star Productions portrays Maggie Fox as she was after the Civil War in a History Speaks Lecture Series program at 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21, in Century Memorial Chapel at Naper Settlement, 523 S. Webster St., Naperville.

Spiritualism -- the belief that spirits of the dead have the ability and inclination to communicate with the living -- started before the Civil War, but the more than 600,000 casualties suffered during the conflict added to the movement, Tulloch said.

"So many young people had died during the Civil War," she said. "People wanted to believe and make contact with their loved ones. If the Civil War had not taken place, it might not have gotten as big as it did,"

One of the most famous Spiritualism seekers, Mary Todd Lincoln, held seances in the White House after her son, Willie, died and Abraham Lincoln is believed to have attended at least one, Tulloch said.

Tulloch will discuss methods used by mediums to facilitate communication with the spirits, methods that included automatic writing and table turning.

"The Fox sisters pretty much communicated with rapping," Tulloch said.

Maggie Fox made a confession late in her life that she produced rappings by cracking her toes, but recanted the confession one year later. Tulloch said Maggie may have confessed to get back at her older sister, Leah, who had steered her younger sisters into making a business of their alleged ability to communicate with spirits.

"It's hard to know why she did it," Tulloch said. "That (confession) doesn't explain how they were able to be so accurate in the information they gave to loved ones."

As part of the program, Tulloch will conduct a seance in which ghosts from the Civil War make their presence known to the audience.

"It's nothing scary. This one is more fun," she said. "I do have a little surprise."

Tulloch tells a couple Civil War ghost stories of the period. One of them involves Major Henry Rathbone, who with his fiancee, Clara Harris, was seated with President and Mrs. Lincoln in Ford Theatre the night Lincoln was shot. Rathbone attempted to stop Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth, from escaping and was seriously wounded.

Tulloch said people who see her program find it informative.

"A lot of people are curious," she said. "Most people are happy they came because they learned something."

Other History Speaks Lecture series programs include:

• "FDR and Lincoln Together: America in Crisis," with Max Daniels portraying Lincoln and R.J. Lindsey portraying Franklin Roosevelt, at 4 p.m. Nov. 11.

• "The Christmas Tree Ship." Author Rochelle Pennington commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Great Lakes ship's mysterious disappearance at 4 p.m. Dec. 16.

• "Oh the Humanity -- The Hindenburg Disaster" at 4 p.m. Jan. 13. Actor Terry Lynch portrays reporter Herb Morrison, who was sent to Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey to cover the first anniversary of the transatlantic passenger service and instead witnessed one of the great disasters of the 20th century.

• "Voices of the Past," an indoor/outdoor program on northern Illinois in the period leading up to the Civil War, is presented at 2 p.m. Feb. 10. Museum educators interact with townspeople who offer differing views on the issue of slavery that was splitting the nation.

• "Daisy's Girls: Camping with Juliette Gordon Low" celebrates the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts with Betsy Means portraying the organization's founder at 4 p.m. March 10.

• "Civil War Diarist Mary Chestnut," presented in first-person by Leslie Goddard, portrays the thoughts of a woman who witnessed firsthand many key events in the South during the Civil War at 4 p.m. April 14.

• "The WASP -- World War II Women's Air Force Service Pilots" is presented by pilot Rebecca Tulloch at 4 p.m. May 5.

• "John Philip Sousa: The Leader of the Band" is portrayed by actor Terry Lynch at 4 p.m. June 9.

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