Rosna, Charles B.

Rosna, Charles B. (c. 1812–1843)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Charles B. Rosna was the murdered peddler whose body was buried in the basement of the Hydesville, New York, cottage where the Fox Family lived. It was his spirit that made contact with the Fox Family on March 31, 1848 and, through a “conversation” of spoken questions and rappings indicating answers, gave the details concerning his death. He had been killed about five years prior, by having his throat cut with a butcher knife. The residents of the cottage at the time were a couple named Bell.

John Bell and his wife had a maid named Lucretia Pulver. One day a peddler called at the house and the Bells invited him in. They gave their maid the evening off and when she returned the following morning she was told the peddler had left. But in fact the Bells had murdered him for what money he had—reportedly as much as five hundred dollars—and had bricked-up his body in the basement wall. His spirit thereafter haunted the cottage, driving out the next residents, a young couple named Michael and Hannah Weekman. The Foxes moved in on December 11, 1847.

According to Lucretia Pulver, Charles Rosna “carried a trunk—and a basket, I think, with vials of essence in it. He wore a black frock coat and light colored pants.” She also said that on occasions afterward Mrs. Bell showed her some silver thimbles that she claimed she had got from the peddler.

When Rosna was describing his murder to the many people gathered in the Fox cottage in 1848, he claimed that his body was buried in the cellar. A number of the villagers, led by William Duesler and David Fox (the Fox’s son), descended to the basement and began to dig. At a depth of three feet they hit water and had to stop. Some months later, in July, 1848, David Fox and Stephen Smith again dug and again hit water. But they also found smashed bits of pottery, bone fragments, and strands of hair. The bones and hair were claimed by skeptics to be from animals, so the discovery was inconclusive. It was not until 1904, when some school children were playing around the old Hydesville house, that the real evidence was discovered. As the children roamed the dark cellar, a wall crumbled and fell. Behind it was discovered a skeleton. The Boston Journal reported (November 23, 1904) that a doctor was consulted and he estimated that the bones were approximately fifty years old. It is said that a peddler’s tin box was also discovered. This is now on view at the Lily Dale Museum.

Sources:

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: The History of Spiritualism. New York: Doran, 1926
Weisberg, Barbara: Talking With the Dead. HarperSanFrancisco, 2004
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