Ghosted: The Eddy Family’s Questionable Claims to Occult Powers in Nineteenth Century Vermont

You’re traveling to another dimension, north of Rutland, Vermont, to a place not only of sight and sound but of mind, on a journey to what was the epicenter of paranormal activity in 1870s America.  Your destination does not appear on any map, but about five miles off Route 7 in the Town of Chittenden there’s a signpost for the High Life Ski Club, formerly the farmstead of the Eddy family. You’ve arrived at “Spirit Vale,” a wondrous realm whose ethereal residents, if they existed at all, benefited from the active suspension of disbelief by mortals holding hands with strangers in a dimly lit room. Call it “the twilight zone.”

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The 1870 census lists the human population of Chittenden, Vermont, as 802 souls including brothers William and Horatio Eddy, their sister Mary, and numerous other close relatives. From 1873 through 1875 the psychic population of the Eddy farmhouse was augmented by a plethora of “materialized spirits” such as “Honto” (a Native American maiden), “The Witch of the Mountain,” even Lord Byron, the famous poet who died in 1824. Guests attending a séance stood a good chance of also seeing the shades of departed loved ones, and many testified to exactly that.

Ghosted: The Eddy Family’s Questionable Claims to Occult Powers in Nineteenth Century Vermont

“Evil Most Disastrous”: The Agony and Ecstasy of Absinthe

There is a peculiar religious sect in Paris and they worship absinthe. Their shrines are the boulevard cafes; their prayer books the muddy green liquid that cages mental rats within their brains and makes monsters of men who once paid their bills and wore clean cuffs.

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“Wormwood”—as described in the New Testament’s Book of Revelation—was a fallen star, heralded by an angel:

10 And the third angel sounded the trumpet: and a great star fell from heaven, burning as it were a torch: and it fell on the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters:

11 And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood: and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.

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Wormwood is also the most contentious ingredient in absinthe, the verdant spirit that was the bane and muse of writers and artists such as Baudelaire, Byron, Poe, Hemingway, Picasso, Joyce, van Gogh…this is the A-list, no first names required. The drinking of absinthe has been identified historically with bohemian decadence and mental health issues which led to its prohibition early in the twentieth century in France, Switzerland and other countries including the United States.

“Evil Most Disastrous”: The Agony and Ecstasy of Absinthe

Spanish Influenza of 1918, Part 3: The Waves Continue, Jan. to Dec. 1919

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As seen in Part 2 of this series, U.S. newspaper coverage of the Spanish Influenza ended 1918 on a relatively positive note. On New Year’ Eve the San Jose Mercury News reported:

The conditions for San Jose and adjoining territory seem to be on a direct road to improvement as far as influenza is concerned….At all the local hospitals, the conditions were reported as better, nearly all those ill were doing nicely and the percentage of new cases had dropped to a very small number.

The next day, January 1, 1919, the same paper’s headline was “Influenza epidemic Takes Turn for Worse….38 Cases Reported.” Dr. James Bullitt, San Jose’s health officer warned “last night that a great deal of precaution must be observed in homes where cases of the disease exist….that the number of pneumonia cases developing each day is on the increase…”

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Spanish Influenza of 1918, Part 3: The Waves Continue, Jan. to Dec. 1919

New 1-Minute Video about ‘Origins of Modern Science and Technology’

Support learning and research across STEM and humanities disciplines with this unique family of digital collections. Each is comprised of primary source documents from around the world, collected and translated by the Central Intelligence Agency. Researchers will find journal articles, government publications, newspapers, magazines, and transcribed television and radio broadcasts that illuminate the origins of today’s most relevant scientific fields.

Learn more in 60 seconds:

 


For more information about Origins of Modern Science and Technology, please contact Readex.

New 1-Minute Video about ‘Origins of Modern Science and Technology’

‘Guaranteed to blow a body-snatcher over the highest church steeple’: Coffin Torpedoes and Other 19th-Century Burial Devices

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During the Second Industrial Revolution, Americans were introduced to an array of life-changing products—from the automobile to the lightbulb to the telephone. But 19th-century inventors also designed products with “a post-mortem relation to the needs of mankind.”

Several of these “inventions for the tomb” were highlighted in an 1896 issue of the St. Louis Republic.

The “coffin torpedo” is the latest patented device in the line of burial appliances. It is introduced into the casket before the latter is closed, the arrangement being of such that any attempt to force the receptacle open will release a spring, strike a percussion cap and set off the bomb. This means almost sure death to the unsuspecting grave robber, whose industry the invention in question is designed to discourage.

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In addition to describing devices to prevent grave robbery, the article explains the latest inventions designed to indicate the buried isn’t dead yet.

‘Guaranteed to blow a body-snatcher over the highest church steeple’: Coffin Torpedoes and Other 19th-Century Burial Devices

Fugitive science, antislavery politics, and women in the flash press: Readex Report (April 2020)

In this issue: Turn-of-the-century black intellectuals challenge a dark pseudo-science; the contentious politics of antislavery in early 20th-century newspapers; and the flash press reveals ordinary and outrageous lives of urban women.


Archives of Freedom: Fugitive Science in Antebellum Black Newspapers

Britt Rusert, Associate Professor, University of Massachusetts Amherst

fugitive science.jpgFugitive Science: Empiricism and Freedom in Early African American Culture (NYU Press, 2017) traces a forgotten history of black resistance to the ascendency of racial science in the nineteenth century. Beginning in the late eighteenth century, naturalists, medical doctors, comparative anatomists, and a variety of gentleman scientists became increasingly interested in the construction of human taxonomies that justified regimes of settler colonialism and enslavement in the Americas. Enslaved and indigenous people were easy targets for human experiments because of their capture and confinement within spaces like the plantation, the slave ship, and later, the reservation. > Full Story

Reverend Peter Thomas Stanford Pushes Back: The Politics of Antislavery in the Early Twentieth-Century Press

Fugitive science, antislavery politics, and women in the flash press: Readex Report (April 2020)

Spanish Influenza of 1918, Part 2: The Rapid Spread of the Epidemic in the United States, Oct. to Dec. 1918

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While the Boston area reeled under the burden of the epidemic, the influenza outbreak was spreading rapidly. On the same date, October 21, 1918, the Belleville News Democrat called the Illinois city of Mascoutah “the Center of Influenza Epidemic in St. Clair County with Three Hundred Cases…” and the Aberdeen Daily News announced “Influenza Epidemic Checked in Boston.” The article in the Aberdeen newspaper continued:

Normal conditions were resumed in this city today when places of public assembly were allowed to reopen by health officials. The places had been closed for nearly three weeks because of the epidemic of influenza which caused nearly 1,000 deaths here.

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Meanwhile, the article in the Belleville paper declared:

Influenza has invaded Mascoutah and today it is reported that there are about 300 cases in the city. Three deaths have already been reported and many more of those afflicted with the disease are said to be seriously ill. New cases are reported hourly.

The Illinois city had begun to establish some prophylactic measures.

Spanish Influenza of 1918, Part 2: The Rapid Spread of the Epidemic in the United States, Oct. to Dec. 1918

‘Women Who Wheel’: How the Bicycle Craze of the 1890s Helped to Expand Women’s Freedom

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In the late 19th century women began participating in the bicycle craze which men had enjoyed for two decades. This craze did not last long, but for women it was exciting and liberating. It was mostly affluent society women who defied the naysayers and avidly took to the streets on wheels. By 1889 American newspapers were spreading considerable ink on this latest trend.

In January 1889 the New York Tribune reported on a six-day bicycle race in Madison Square Garden for women only. The competition promised

…an exhibition of woman’s endurance that will rival the female walking matches that took place in certain cities seven or eight years ago….Fifteen women will start in the race and a dozen of the required number have already signed contracts to appear. The women will race eight hours a day instead of twenty-four.

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Two years later in 1891 the Cleveland Plain Dealer ran an illustrated article on the “astonishing recent growth of the bicycle habit,” noting particularly that women were flocking to participate. Reporter John Heaton wrote:

‘Women Who Wheel’: How the Bicycle Craze of the 1890s Helped to Expand Women’s Freedom

Spanish Influenza of 1918, Part 1: The First Six Weeks of Epidemic in the United States, Sept. to Oct. 1918

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The Spanish Flu, which swept the globe for more than two years and killed as many as 100,000,000, was misnamed. The origins of the 1918 pandemic have been debated, but it is generally accepted that the disease was prevalent among the troops from Germany, France, and Great Britain fighting World War I. Because of the war, the press was censored in those countries. Spain was neutral and the press was not censored. Hence, the early reports of the spread of infection suggested that Spain was the vector. It was not.

Whatever the source, Boston was the first location in the United States to experience an outbreak, probably because of the troop ships and merchant marine vessels returning from Europe. In 1918, between September 10 and October 21, the disease grew exponentially and spread throughout the U.S. as seen in this national news coverage.

On September 10, 1918, the Fort Wayne Sentinel announced in a headline: Epidemic of Influenza Among Sailors in Boston.

Nearly 100 sailors of the merchant marine suffering from influenza, who have been stationed aboard training vessels in Boston harbor, were removed for treatment today to tents pitched on the summit of Corey hill…

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The next day the Pawtucket Times reported that

Spanish Influenza of 1918, Part 1: The First Six Weeks of Epidemic in the United States, Sept. to Oct. 1918

Hetty Green, “Financial Amazon” of the Gilded Age

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At the southern edge of the picturesque village of Bellows Falls, Vermont, stands a modern TD Bank building. Erected on the site of the former home of Hetty Green, it’s a fitting tribute to the richest woman investor of her day who owned banks, railroads, mines and much else besides. When Mrs. Green passed away in 1916 at the age of 81 she left to her children Edward and Sylvia an estate worth upwards of $100 million dollars. Adjusted for inflation that would be about $2.4 billion dollars in 2020. That’s serious money for the “financial Amazon” who took money very seriously, which engendered grudging respect and fear from the “sharks of Wall Street.”

Mrs. Green, the financial Amazon who has proved herself a match for the schemers and sharks of Wall Street, who occasionally engineers mysterious movements there, who has several times put the bears to rout in corners on Reading, in which her clutch on the throats of unfortunate shorts was none the less strong because it was that of a woman’s jeweled hand, was really the cause, it has always been held, of the failure of John J. Cisco’s Sons, the bankers, last year.

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Hetty Green, “Financial Amazon” of the Gilded Age

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