The account comes from an 1858 letter by author Susanna Moodie reprinted in Letters of a Lifetime. Moodie was an English author of children's books in her early life, but is now best-remembered for her accounts as a settler in Ontario, Canada, after she, her husband, and her daughter emigrated there from London in 1832. She wrote variously about her experiences as a colonial settler in the rougher wilds of Douro township (which she termed "the bush") and later Belleville (which she termed "the clearing") in her books Roughing it in the Bush and Life in the Clearings Versus the Bush, respectively.
|Susanna Moodie, circa 1860.|
Moodie was cold to the embrace of Spiritualism. She had likely first come to know of it through newspaper accounts in New York, but also read Judge Edmond's 1853 tome Spiritualism with interest, and Hare's Experimental Investigation of Spirit Manifestations with somewhat less vigor, noting "he [Hare] reasons well, but ignores the truth of Revelation, in doing which, he is aiming a deadly blow at the subject he so ably defends." The texts failed to convince her, and, as she reminded Bentley, she was "not only a skeptic, but a scorner." And Moodie had no less a personage than Kate Fox to personally woo her to the cause. The famous Fox family, until their move to Hydesville, New York, in the late 1840s, lived in Belleville (Moodie's "clearing"), and the eldest sister, Elizabeth Osterhout, remained in the area in a nearby village, where Kate--as well as her mother and sister Maggie--visited in 1854 and 1855, and during which time Susanna was received by the medium for sittings on more than one occasion.
|The Bellville home in which Moodie's spirit communications on her husband's "Spiritoscope" took place.|
|Brooding Kate Fox, of whom Moodie said was "certainly a witch,|
for you cannot help looking into the dreamy depths of those sweet
violet eyes till you feel magnetized by them."
|A Hare Spiritoscope, after which Moodie's device is named, though his sliding|
board with brass dowels for rollers and an index for pointing to a table-bound
alphabet bears no resemblance to any of Hare's devices.
"My husband had contrived a very ingenious sort of Spiritoscope, a board running upon two smooth brass rods with an index that pointed to the alphabet in order to save the trouble of calling over the alphabet. I had always refused to put my hands upon this board, which would move for people under the influence and spell out letter by letter messages and names. But being alone, I placed my hands upon the board, and asked, 'Was it a spirit that lifted my hand?' and the board rolled forward and spelt out 'Yes.'"
Moodie's account goes on to detail the messages she received, she believed from the spirit of her old friend Thomas Harrall. The communications continued "for many nights after," and she often found herself so entranced in the sessions that her husband, who began to take transcripts of her sessions, "had to employ the reverse passes in mesmerism in order to break the spell."
|Moodie among her family, her white-bearded husband John--inventor |
of the Moodie Spiritoscope--at right.