In Defense of Spiritualism
Joseph Peace Hazard was a witness to the rise and fall of Spiritualism, from the advent of "rapping seances" by the Fox Sisters in 1848 through the publication of the Seybert Commission's report in 1887 and the Fox Sisters' public disavowal of Spiritualism in 1888. Hazard never lost his belief in Spiritualism, and discredited the mediums who came forward to explain and demonstrate how they produced the "spiritual" phenomena at their seances.
Spiritualism and Fraud
In this letter, Hazard defends his belief in Spiritualism, and remarks on the "detrimental" effect of the presence of skeptics at seances:
"In regard to the subject of Spiritualism, and that of Spiritual Mediumship, and the frauds that are said to be committed on part of Spiritual Mediums, of which you speak in your letter, I may say I have habitually attended Spiritual seances at home, not only, but in every quarter of the Globe; but having arrived within a week of my 85th year, I now rarely have opportunity of doing so. I presume, however, the character of the Spiritual Mediums of today, remains to be about the same as I knew it, from the days of Miss Kate Fox, to the year 1888.
"In regard to the Truthfulness of Spiritual Mediums today - that is questioned by many persons, I leave them to judge for themselves, of course.
"I may say - however - I have never felt any apprehension of fraud at any of the thousands of Spiritual seances I have attended, excepting in one case, I apprehended there may have been an attempt on part of a Medium to do so, though I had, during a long time, regarding as being not only an excellent Medium, but also a highly upright and conscientious woman, in regard to her conduct, at 'all times and seasons.'
"I think there is a passage in Holy Writ says, 'That which ye seek, that shall ye find.'
"I believe experienced Spiritualists are generally aware that, in case a person is present at a 'Spiritual Seance', who believes the presiding 'Medium' thereof, is a pretender, the effect of the presence of this skeptic will be such, that the purpose of this will be not only be detrimental, but quite likely to entirely defeat the purpose of this Seance."
Discrediting the Fox Sisters
In this letter, Hazard alludes to the Fox Sisters's disavowal of Spiritualism, which he describes as "treason":
"I wrote a note to you yesterday, in which I intended to add, as follows, 'The Fox Girls', who - in their old age - have disavowed Spiritualism - (at least, one of them) and now declare all of their "Manifestations" as Spiritual Mediums were mere Frauds on their part; thus indicating a degree of depravity that is not only incredible, but - to myself - inconceivable.
"It has been said they have become intemperate. If this is the case, may not this apparent treason be easily accounted for - and without incurring the degree of criminality they have been charged with.
"Furthermore, inasmuch as these were the first instances of our new Era of "Spiritualism", may not this fact imply a peculiarly intense degree of the description of sensitiveness that is incident to 'Spiritual Mediumship.'
"It has occurred to me that inasmuch as The Mediumship of these 'Fox Sisters' first manifested itself in the same vicinity in which 'Divining Rods' were used for finding water - that is also a Spiritual Manifestation - this vicinage may be in a peculiarly high degree adapted to development of 'Spiritual Mediumship'."
Skepticism and Professional Jealousy
In this letter to fellow Spiritualist Luther Colby (see also: Hazard-Colby Correspondence), Hazard remarks on the rejection of Spiritualism by churches and medical professionals:
"Let me here ask if I am mistaken in supposing that Ministers of Christian Churches - as a rule - believe in the reality of Spiritual Manifestations of today, though most of them are opposed to them, and much for the same reason that the Medical Faculty abhor 'Spiritual Healing Mediums' who disastrously compete with their own system of treatment."