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Rapping; Raps

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

In the chronicle Rudolph of Fulda, dated 858 CE, there is described a spirit rapping of the type experienced by the Fox Family in Hydesville in 1848. Elder C. Blinn, in Spiritualism Among the Shakers, describes rappings in an influx of spirit manifestations with the Shakers between 1837 and 1844. Rappings or tappings were also heard as early as 1661 in the case of the Drummer of Tedworth; these were sharp and loud taps on furniture and on the walls. The phenomena of raps on walls, windows, roofs, and furniture are usually accompanied by other poltergeist occurrences, though not in every instance. Such rappings are sometimes sharp but just as often heard as dull thumps or as loud bangs.

The case of the infamous “Cock Lane Ghost” in Smithfield, London, in 1762–1764, involved rappings like those at the Fox Cottage, that were used to spell out messages involving an accusation of murder. In the case of the Cock Lane ghost, however, it eventually came to light that the sounds were produced by Elizabeth Parsons, the twelve-year-old daughter of a parish clerk named Parsons. She faked the noises at the instigation of her father in order to persecute a stockbroker named Kent, to whom Parsons owed money. Eventually, after investigation by such notables as Dr. Samuel Johnson and the Bishop of Salisbury, Parsons was taken to trial, found guilty, and sent to prison. However, the interesting point in the case was that the rappings—fraudulent though they were—were used as a means of communicating with the supposed spirit in order to get information (in this case leading to a false charge of murder). Such an exchange was not to be known again until 1848 and the “conversations” between the Fox Sisters and Charles B. Rosna, the murdered peddler. The rappings in the Fox Cottage at Hydesville helped launch the Modern Spiritualist movement and such rappings play a part in many séances today.


Fodor, Nandor: Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. London: Arthurs Press, 1933
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen: The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. New York: Facts On File, 1992
Grant, Douglas: The Cock Lane Ghost. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1965