The New York Grimpendium: Monuments to the Fox Sisters

My new book, The New York Grimpendium, comes out October 1 [UPDATE: Available now]. Like its predecessor The New England Grimpendium, it covers my experiences traveling to hundreds of death-related locations and artifacts in the region. Below is one of a series of photo essays from sites in the book that I’ll be posting over the next few weeks. If you live in or like New York, the book is for you. If you’re a bit morbid, the book is also for you, even if you’ve never been to the Empire State. After all, death is a punch line we all get.

September 23, 2012 — You never know how the most trivial decisions you make will influence the course of your life. For the Fox Sisters, it was an innocent little prank played on their parents when they were 11 and 15 that vaulted them to a lifetime of international fame as alleged mouthpieces for the dead. Of course, judging by the number of monuments to the trio (their older sister joined them later), a lot of people are going to disagree with that skeptical characterization of these 19th century mediums touted as the mothers of spiritualism. To the believers, I think you and I can agree on two things, though. First, that the story of the Fox Sisters is a fascinating one. Second, that whether or not spirits of the dead exist and want to talk to us flesh bags, the Fox Sisters certainly existed. Here's the evidence:

The location in the spiritualist community of Lily Dale
where the original Fox family cottage was transplanted
and then burned down 40 years later.

Model of the cabin in the nearby
Lily Dale Museum.
Artifacts rescued from the rubble,
also in the Lily Dale Museum.

The foundation of the original cabin site
in Hydesville has been dug up and preserved.

Monument near where they lived in
Rochester, and where their fame took off.


Brooklyn grave of the older sister, Leah.
Pauper's grave of Kate and Margaret,
elsewhere in Brooklyn.

Read all about my visit to the Fox Sisters' monuments in The New York Grimpendium, which is on sale now: