Hydesville, New York – about a three hour drive out of Manhattan – is in an area of the country known as the ‘Burned Over District’. It got this unusual nickname because of the many religious revivals that swept the land in the 19th century, when the ‘fires of the spirit’ burned the soil as well as the soul of the people. In 1848 Hydesville also became the birthplace of modern Spiritualism. In March of that year, the Fox family were disturbed by strange noises they heard in their farmhouse. Weird ‘knockings’ and ‘raps’ seem to come from nowhere – at least when they looked for a source of the unusual sounds, none could be found. Two sisters, Kate and Margaretta Fox, took to calling the noises – or whoever was making them – ‘Mr. Splitfoot’, and one day they made an odd discovery. Just for fun, Kate called out ‘Mr. Splitfoot, do as I do.’ She then snapped her fingers. Immediately a snapping sound came in reply. Kate tried it again, and Margaretta did too, clapping her hands and getting a clap in response. Soon their mother joined in, and asked ‘Mr. Splitfoot’ to tap out the ages of her children. ‘He’ did, and even added the age of a child who had died young. Mrs. Fox was stunned and said that if ‘he’ was spirit, to ‘rap’ twice. Two loud booms rattled the walls. Soon neighbours came to hear the sounds and after many ‘conversations’, it came out that the ‘spirit’ was that of a man who had been murdered in the house before the Foxes lived there. Although the previous owner indignantly protested his innocence, subsequent excavations revealed some human bones and hair, buried in quicklime in the cellar. ‘Mr. Splitfoot,’ it seemed was real, and the age of Spiritualism had started. Soon mediums, turning tables, ectoplasmic hands and floating tambourines flooded séances on both sides of the Atlantic, and calling up the dearly departed became a kind of family pastime.