Monthly Archives: June 2022

Videogames and Pain

Allie Brosh’s more medically useful pain scale.
From Hyperbole and a Half.

(Originally published on March 1, 2021, at the sunsetted GlitterCollective blog.)

I didn’t think very hard about how I used videogames as analgesia for all sorts of pain until I was literally using them for analgesia for a diagnosed acute physical pain issue. Recently, I started thinking about how I’ve used videogames to help handle emotional pain as well, because I have been longing for a videogame I could fall into for the entirety of the pandemic.

Content warnings for: brief discussion of broken bone (with medical illustration), nongraphic mentions of animal deaths (very general), and discussions of grief, workplace bullying, abuse, gaslighting, and mental illness.

The Busted Arm Chronicles

Physical pain first.

One day, about 10 years ago, I left work feeling pretty good. It was a chilly rainy day in early November, but even that didn’t deflate my mood. At the time, I felt I was doing well in a relatively new job and I was heading home for the day. However, as I walked down the stairs into the subway, my boot hit a patch of what was either leaked rainwater or spilled soda, or possibly both, and my feet went out from under me. I managed to catch myself on my elbow, but something popped and was very wrong.

Long story short, I had broken my upper arm in a way that is most frequently seen in equestrians who catch themselves on their elbows when they fall off their horses. Something something lateral shear on a point at which five muscles meet the bone.

Fractures of the greater tuberosity of the humerus. Busted shoulder. Mine was undisplaced. (From

Despite starting physical therapy early and making sure that I didn’t keep the arm in a sling or otherwise immobilized, by Christmas, my shoulder was “freezing” (ie, locking up due to inflammation, with much reduced range of motion). If you’ve never experienced a frozen shoulder, it can be excruciating, with inflammation and swelling enclosing nerves and giving white-hot electric jolts of pain through the entire arm and hand at any movement.

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive synovitis. (From

I drove to visit family for the holidays with my wife and brought my reusable ice packs. This was… barely enough. I had already spent 2 months sleeping exclusively on my left side. Now I was having trouble doing that, because I had to balance precariously or risk jostling my arm in the wrong way — somehow it was even more painful to move my arm than it had been in the days immediately after the break. Fortunately, in the second house we stayed in, they had game consoles, and the person who owned the game consoles was, contrary to most of their behavior, amenable to my using them.

I was introduced to Halo Wars there, and a few other strategy games I don’t remember as well. I found myself roaming their house in the middle of the night, unable to sleep for the pain. An ice pack, a handful of ibuprofen, and an hour of Halo Wars, however, usually allowed me to go back to bed for a couple hours. When we left to go home, I was loaned the game, and I played it some at home as the pain accelerated.

The game that really saved me at home, though, was Plants Vs. Zombies.

Gardening was never really my thing before.

Through January and February of that year, I developed a ritual: I would take a handful of ibuprofen and go to sleep at the same time as my wife. After about 4 hours of sleep, the ibuprofen would wear off. I would take more ibuprofen, but it would take 30-60 minutes to kick in, so instead of tossing and turning, I would sneak out of the room and go downstairs, where I’d lay on the couch in the dark, ice my shoulder, and play PvZ on the TV until I fell asleep again. My wife would wake me in the morning.

I developed a fondness for the bowling minigames and for watering my plant collection. I maxxed out our gold. I played through the whole game again from scratch.

This was my ritual until I realized how much ibuprofen I was taking and got both some short-term non-NSAID pain meds and a steroid shot in my shoulder. The first time I slept through the night after getting both of those, I cried in the morning at how much better I felt. But I honestly wouldn’t have made it through without PvZ.

Grief Counseling By Dungeoncrawl

Screenshot from Moria videogame (from Mobygames).

My wife and I have been extremely lucky in our cats. When we first got together, we sustained the extended loss of her cat, which was terrible. But then we acquired, over a bit of time, a trio of cats around the same age, and they were quite healthy and happy through our time in our first New England apartment and then moving into our house. Around age 9 or so, though, the youngest cat of the 3 developed diabetes so brittle we never actually got her stable, just kept her comfortable. And after 2 or 3 years of giving twice-daily insulin to a semi-feral cat, she suddenly decompensated in a way that made our decision clear and very fast.

We were left in freefall by the surprising emptiness of our house. Our other two much more human-focused cats were still there, loving on us and grieving in their own ways. Our other, much younger cat who had insisted we take her in from the outdoor life foisted upon her by being dumped by her previous owners was also very comforting. But what would help provide analgesia (or, as we referred to it, “brain-smoothing”) for this particular pain?

Turned out we had Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance for the Playstation 2 on the shelf. Most of our previous gaming together had been sharing a controller for JRPGs, so I went out and got a second controller. And then we curled up on the couch together under heated blankets (we had just experienced Snowtober 2011, and our power had been out for >40 hours), our cats gathered on or around us, and played through it. Not for the look of the game, which, compared to JRPGs, was fugly. Not for the plot, which was absolutely pastede on yay. But just for the working together and pixel-smashing and ridiculous chatter and talking back to the wooden NPCs. We didn’t want something we cared about. We just wanted distraction. We got it in the form of the ranger and the dwarf who periodically hopped around the dungeon waiting for their hit points to regenerate.

Baldur’s Gate 2: Dark Alliance: Browns on browns with some brown grays.
(From Mobygames)

It worked really well. When we finished the game, we were still processing, but we had been able to work our way through the worst of the pain together.

When we lost a second cat, our beautiful little neurotic gayboy, a little more than a year later, I braved the holiday crowds to pick up Champions of Norrath from the bargain bin at Gamestop. This game was even less visually appealing and somehow possessed even less plot, but it fit the holes in our minds and emotions pretty much perfectly. Given the cat involved, in seemed appropriate that we won that game with my cleric chasing the Big Bad around a pole and spanking him with a magic hammer spell until he fell over. (Yes, that cat loved to be spanked. Gently.)

Four years later, we lost the third cat of our first cohort, even more devastating than the previous two. She had been the first cat who was ours and had been with us for 20 years. She was full of personality and intelligence and loved us as fiercely as we loved her. We knew it was coming — the other two had gone much more quickly — and before her last vet appointment, I went to Gamestop and asked for a local co-op dungeon game. The only decent thing on the market right then was Diablo 3, so I bought a used copy and a second controller for our Xbox. After the vet left that day, we walked downtown to have mediocre comfort food at a local restaurant, then came back and booted up the Xbox. The plot was awful, but the graphics were tolerable (if still US-fugly) and the gameplay was exactly what we needed. And it was marginally longer than the other 2 games, which was also needed. I think when we finished we might have even immediately started another game with new characters, though we let that game drop after a few sessions.

Diablo 3: Flatter story, slightly less brown. (from Diablowiki)

Our current Elder Statescat also has a long-term terminal condition, and I honestly don’t know what we’ll do when we lose her. I haven’t heard of any other couch co-op dungeon games coming out recently, and we’re a bit behind on consoles right now (we have an Xbox 360 and a PS3, as well as a PS2). Recommendations are welcome.

Trauma and Association

I have been through a few toxic workplaces in my career, often tied to a singular poisonous bully who contaminates the entire environment. My usual resort has been sheer resigned bullheadedness at work and videogames at home.

The most recent (and, arguably, most intense) round of workplace bullying in 2017 had the fastest onset I’d ever seen — the whole workplace was blighted in under 2 weeks. It was heavily targeted at me and one other person as I was shifted into a new role to replace someone who had been let go. The targeting snowballed from pressure to perform according to the bully’s expectations (rather than my manager’s, who was fine with my performance) to full-on aggressive attempts to get me fired as well as shit-talking me behind my back to pull others to the bully’s side in pure junior high school tactics.

I wasn’t good at dealing with this in junior high. I’m no better at it now. I have a very well-established Inner Doggo who reacts to getting kicked with, “bUt WhY dO? aM gOoD bOi. MuSt Be BeTtEr BoI.” And so I keep working through it and getting more and more anxious and neurotic, getting less and less sleep, because of course abusers constantly move the goalposts. You can bend over backwards and meet their demands, only to have them gaslight you and tell you they never made those demands, they made these demands that you absolutely have not met.

I have a very well-established Inner Doggo who reacts to getting kicked with, bUt WhY dO? aM gOoD bOi. MuSt Be BeTtEr BoI.

While I was undergoing abuse that intensified daily, I coped at night by playing games on my phone to try to quiet both the latest whirlwind of trying to figure out a strategy to survive the next day and the anxious whining Inner Doggo chewing on itself in a corner. I fell into a trio of games:

  • Candy Crush Soda Saga
  • Two Dots
  • Dots & Co

Because of the limited lives, of course, I got to be masterful about rotating through them to catch lives as they refilled. This was a bit of a problem when I was trying to get to sleep, which could take 2-3 hours, but they’d usually refilled by the time I woke up at 4 am in a panic and needed to soothe myself back to sleep in time for a meaningful nap before my 6:30 am alarm. I would also sometimes hide in the bathroom at work for 15-20 minutes, playing quietly and trying to pull myself together after a particularly brutal meeting (because the primary bully was a woman, I made use of bathrooms on different floors of the building outside the office; the basement bathroom was my favorite because no one used it).

It was difficult enough when the job was endless meetings in butt-hating chairs. I didn’t mind it when it was interesting.
But it really didn’t need the bully.
Photo by Adrien Olichon on Unsplash

The nightmare kept on escalating, and I kept spending more and more time sunk into phone games, until one day in August everything exploded and I was free. I had new problems to deal with — ramping up my consulting business fast and hard and then somehow being productive as everything fell to pieces inside, but I had family and friends around me for support.

One thing I discovered quickly was that I no longer needed the phone games nearly as much because wonder of wonders I was sleeping through the night, so all 3 games were semi-retired. (Well, Dots & Co was pretty much permanently retired because I’d maxxed out the levels and the company hasn’t put out any new expansions.) I was swamped with trying to pull my life together and job hunting, so it ended up being months before I tried any of them again.

When I did, I discovered I could no longer play Candy Crush: when I did, I could feel everything rush back: all the fear and dread and anxiety, draped over with black-and-white memories. It was a burning-cold time machine burrowed into the base of my skull. I closed the game mid-level. I haven’t reopened it, and should probably just delete it from my phone, because I’m not inclined to walk back into that time again.

This didn’t happen as intensely with Two Dots or Dots & Co, but both games have a weird sort of emotional flatness for me. I can play them, but there’s no dopamine hits from the levels. Possibly they’re more associated with dissociative states. What I can play are features/game types in Two Dots that weren’t present in 2017. Still, the interface feels oppressive now and I can’t play it for very long.

I love how my brain works most of the time, and I love learning to understand more about how it works. State-dependent memory has been one of the best things I’ve learned about lately, and I think it absolutely applies in this case. It refers to the fact that the state one is in at a given time — whether that’s depressed or anxious or something else — determines which memories are easiest to recall. It’s why when one is depressed, it’s hard to remember times when one wasn’t depressed, but easy to remember other times one was depressed. In this case, games — the colors and actions and sounds and muscle memories — are portals into other times that I played them. Just the same way that I get nostalgic goosebump-raising ecstatic joy from playing old games with happy like Final Fantasy 7, certain phone games are now permanently associated with traumatic times in my life.

I have moved on to other phone games, such as for managing anxiety in the global pandemic. I expect that once we have reached the After Times, I’ll have to reexamine how I feel playing those games. Will I ever get Candy Crush back? I might try, if I cared enough, but there are so many other match-3 games out there with less horrific (or differently-horrific) imagery buried in their backgrounds. Sometimes a tool that one uses really hard will break. It’s fine to get a new one.

The Phelps Mansion Haunting

(Originally published on February 19, 2020, at the sunsetted GlitterCollective blog.)

The Phelps Mansion Haunting in Stratford, Connecticut, is a case of poltergeist activity that has intrigued me for decades, in part because of the bizarreness of the activity. It is remarkable for the extraordinary nature of the haunting: at the heart of it were multiple creepy religious life-sized dioramas built in remarkably little time out of household materials and the family’s clothing.

It’s also been covered by many different ghost sites and books about haunted New England, so I’m going to synthesize what I’ve found and add in a bit of historical research of my own. Let’s start with a discussion of the “hero” of the tale, Reverend Eliakim Phelps.

A Short History of the Reverend Eliakim Phelps 

The Phelps family has been knocking around New England for quite some time. William Phelps, the original immigrant, arrived in 1630 on the Mary and John. He helped found Dorchester, MA, and Windsor, CT. His son, Nathaniel Phelps, was one of the first settlers of Northampton, MA; Nathaniel’s son William and grandson William remained there.

William Jr’s son Eliakim Phelps was born 1709 in Northampton; he moved to Belchertown in 1731 or 1732 (the town was first settled in 1731) and died in 1777. His first wife, Elizabeth Rust of Northampton, died in 1752, age 40, and by her he had 6 children. He then married Elizabeth Davis of Springfield, and had, as his second son, Eliakim (who died in 1824), who had 6 children: Abner, Daniel, William, Eliakim, Asenath, and Diana. (I think Asenath is a cool name!)

Phelps family tree

It is this last Eliakim, son of Eliakim, who stars in our story.

Some highlights from his life:

  • Eliakim was born March 20, 1790, in Belchertown, MA.
  • In 1814, he graduated from Union College in Schenectady, NY. 
  • In 1816, he married Sarah Adams (b. 1791) in Wilbraham, MA.
  • In 1818, he “settled in the ministry in West Brookfield” and was the 5th pastor of the West Brookfield Congregational church. (This is worth noting as most sources identify him as a Presbyterian minister.)
  • In 1826, he resigned his ministry to become (briefly) principal of the Female Classical Seminary (founded in 1825 and no longer in operation by 1853, though I can’t find when it closed exactly) in West Brookfield, MA. 
  • In the aftermath of leaving the Seminary, he “afterwards settled at Geneva, NY, and [was] dismissed from there.” It was apparently a Presbyterian church, indicating that he had engaged in some of the crossover between Congregationalists and Presbyterians. No clue about the dismissal!
  • In 1835, he was elected Secretary of the American Educational Society, and the family moved to Philadelphia.
  • In 1840, he and his family were living in Moyamensing, Pennsylvania (now part of south Philadelphia). 
  • In 1844, he received an honorary degree from Delaware College. 
  • In November 1845, his wife Sarah was carried off by fever, leaving Eliakim a widower with 3 more-or-less adult children (1 of the 4 children died young).
  • In 1846, he remarried to a young widow, Sarah B Kennedy Nicholson (b. 1814, only 6 years older than his oldest surviving child)), and took in her 3 children by her previous husband: Ann, Henry, and Hannah Nicholson.
  • In 1848, he purchased a house in Stratford, CT, and moved his family there.
  • In 1858, his second wife Sarah died in Philadelphia of uterine cancer.
  • In 1860, Eliakim and his young teen son Sidney were living in what appeared to be a boarding house in Woodstock, CT.
  • In 1880, Eliakim was living with his son Henry Martyn Phelps in Weehawken, NJ.
  • Eliakim died on December 29, 1880, age 90, in Weehawken..

Our story also features Eliakim’s second wife Sarah and her 3 children by her first marriage (Anna, Henry/Harry, and Hannah), as well as their toddler son Sidney.

Now that we understand some of the major players, let’s talk about another major piece of this story: the house.

The House

The mansion was built in 1826: a 3-story Greek Revival home at 1738 Elm Street, Stratford, CT. It was built by General Matthias Nicoll (1758-1830) for his daughter Eliza Hopkins Nicoll (1786-1851) and son-in-law Captain George Robert Dowdall (1782-1829). The center hallway of the home was apparently designed by Eliza for George, and was meant to be reminiscent of the main deck of his clipper ship: 12′ wide and 70′ long, with twin staircases leading to the second floor. The house had 4 Doric columns across the front, and the interior was elegantly appointed with chandeliers, carved paneling, and molded plaster work.

Rendering of Phelps Mansion, from Lippincott’s Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, Vol. XXIV, 1878, p. 34.

Some sources say that Phelps purchased the mansion from Captain Dowdall, while other sources say that he bought it after the deaths of both Dowdalls — gives different information though: Captain. Dowdall was long dead (died in 1829), and Eliza was clearly in her sunset years (died in 1851), so Phelps likely purchased the house from Eliza, who then moved to Otisville, NY, likely to live with a family member until she died.

The Phelps family owned the house until 1859, when Rev Phelps sold it to Moses Beach, founder of The New York Sun. The home was later inherited by his son Alfred, who was a long-time editor of The Scientific American and ran a private school from the home called the Stratford Institute. In the 1940s, the mansion was covered into a nursing home, the Restmore Convalescent Home, and was bought by Alliance Medical Inns in the 1960s. Financial issues prevented the plans the company had for it, and it boarded up and abandoned the house by 1970. Vandals caused considerable damage to the building, and it was demolished in 1972, by some accounts, and in 1974 by others.

From the house to the greater environment, let’s discuss what was going on in the world at this time.

Historical Context

Many Spiritualists point to 1848, when the Fox Sisters of Hydesville, NY, had their first momentous night of communicating with spirits, as the beginning of Spiritualism. Basically, the home of the Fox family began to be troubled by noises, shaking, and persistent knocking sounds. When the 2 younger girls fled their bedroom one night in apparent terror, they began asking the “spirits” to respond to their counting with knocking, and the spirits accommodated. So began their long and storied careers as mediums, communicating with spirits such as “Mr. Splitfoot” and others. The Fox Sisters moved to Rochester, and newspapers of the time (specifically, the New York Herald and New York Tribune, that I could find) referred to them as the Rochester Ladies as of 1850. Maggie confessed that their work had all been a hoax in 1888. But while the confession destroyed their careers, it did not stop Spiritualism from continuing to grow.

David Chapin, in his book Exploring Other Worlds: Margaret Fox, Elisha Kent Kane, and the Antebellum Culture of Curiosity, notes:

Sporadic reporting at this time mentioned rappings that were occurring in a variety of locations outside the [Fox] sisters’ influence. In the home of the Reverend Eliakim Phelps in Stratford, Connecticut, that March, witnesses heard raps and saw objects hurled through the air in the presence of an eleven-year-old boy. These “spirits” seem to have had more malevolent intentions than those at Rochester. Objects often struck witnesses and caused damage, leading the Reverend Phelps to conclude that “wicked spirits” were at work, and that “their communications are wholly worthless” and “devices of Satan.” Other rappings were heard in Newark, New Jersey, while strange, unexplained movement of objects was reported in both Richmond, Virginia, and the West Indies. Clearly the sisters’ hoax was taking on a life of its own.

Eliakim was known to be fascinated by Spiritualism, as well as mesmerism, and this interest carried through much of his family. At least one of his children (Austin) went on to also become Congregationalist clergy, and Austin’s daughter became a prolific feminist writer, producing nearly 60 volumes of prose and poetry in her life, including Biblical romances, antivivisectionist works… and 3 Spiritualist novels. So I think there’s plenty of evidence for the effects of Spiritualism on the Phelps family.

We have the players and the stage — what was the play?

The Haunting

On March 4, 1850, an old friend of Eliakim’s came calling on him at Elm Street, and after dinner and conversation, they apparently decided to try a seance. They apparently heard “intermittent, disorganized rappings” but nothing else. (Citro, 28)

On Sunday, March 10, 1850, the family returned from church to find all the doors standing open and the family’s belongings were strewn across the floor. In one bedroom, chillingly, Mrs. Phelps’ nightgown was laid out on a bed, sleeves crossed over the chest in imitation of a corpse and stockings at the bottom. Nothing appeared to be stolen — his gold watch and the family silver were in view and undisturbed — so they straightened the house and Eliakim sent the family back to church for afternoon services. Meanwhile, he lurked in the upstairs of the house, waiting for the burglars to return. He heard nothing, and then crept downstairs and saw that the dining room was filled with eleven women, some kneeling, some standing, some holding Bibles, and all completely still: all of them seemed focused on a tiny demonic figure suspended by a cord in the center of the room. 

The figures were made by stuffing rags and other materials into the family’s clothing.

According to Joseph A Citro’s book, Passing Strange:

An account of the event published in the New Haven Journal said, “From this time on the rooms were closely watched, and the figures appeared every few days when no human being could have entered the room. They were constructed and arranged, I am convinced, by no visible power. The clothing from the figures were made was somehow gathered from all parts of the house, in spite of a strict watch. In all about 30 figures were constructed during the haunt.”

Other events occurred during the next 6 months, such as objects moving through the air, family members being carried or pinched and slapped by invisible forces, windows breaking (some 71 windows broke, which seems like an appalling amount of money for repairs if it was a hoax), food appearing and being flung at family members, and loud rappings, knockings, and cries. In one incident, an umbrella leaped into the air and flew some 25 feet away, and smaller objects would fly from locations without any visible force to fling them.

At one point shortly after the haunting began, Mrs. Phelps begged her husband to find someone to help, so he enjoined his friend Rev John Mitchell to investigate. Mitchell decided that it must be the children having a prank, so he locked them away in the house. However, the disturbances continued, and he witnessed moving objects, among other activities, such as seeing objects appear and drop out of the air, and this convinced him that it could not be a hoax or prank.

Investigators, spiritualists, and journalists began to turn up at the house to document and attempt to prove/disprove the events. No witnesses or investigators were ever able to determine a human perpetrator of the events. These included Eliakim’s son Austin and Eliakim’s brother Abner, both of whom were sober, well-thought-of professional men in the Boston environs who were none too pleased about the family notoriety and had every reason to debunk the haunting. They heard pounding on the front door that they could not ascertain the source of, despite waiting on either side of it — the pounding occurred on the door between them, with no visible source. One night, the pounding had moved to Anna’s door, and according to Citro:

Again they took their positions on both sides of Anna’s door. The pounding continued. It came, Austin wrote, “… on the door between us. Said I, ‘Doctor, the knocking is outside of the door.’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘it is on the inside.’

“The young lady was in bed, covered up and out of reach of the door. We examined the panel and found dents where it had been struck.” (Citro, 26)

Anna, the 17-year-old, was pinched and slapped, generally in view of the family, bruises and welts appearing on her arms and face. Henry, the 12-year-old, got the worst of it, apparently: he was pelted by stones while driving with his stepfather, he was carried across a room by something invisible and dropped on the floor, was thrown into a cistern of water, and several times vanished, once found in a hay mound unconscious, once found outside, tied up and suspended from a tree, and once found stuffed into the shelf of a closet with a rope around his neck.

Eliakim had apparently made attempts to communicate with the spirits perpetrating these events early on, but shut those attempts down because the communications had been so blasphemous and offensive. No transcripts were published, so we only have his word for it, and the word of his friend Mitchell, who also attempted communication. The entities apparently occasionally left Bibles open to significant passages, scrawled symbols on walls, and then, in a dramatic turn, began dropping written messages on the family, generally signed “by Sam Slick, Beelzebub, or H.P. Devil. One that fluttered into existence at Mrs. Phelp’s tea party said, ‘Sir Sambo’s compliments and begs the laddyes to accept as a token of esteem.'” (Citro, 29).

Eventually, however, he was worn down and agreed to another seance. The spirit this time claimed to be a soul in hell, requested pumpkin pie and a glass of gin, and then claimed to have been a law clerk who’d done work for Mrs. Phelps and committed fraud. Eliakim decided that this communication — despite discovering that fraud had been committed via a trip to the Philadelphia law firm in question — was worthless and bad. 


Eliakim moved the family to Philadelphia for the winter of 1850-1851, and returned in the spring of 1851, where they were no longer disturbed. According to some accounts, they stayed in the house until 1859, when Phelps sold it to Moses Beach, though they were clearly in Philadelphia in October 1858 when Mrs. Phelps died — possibly Eliakim had taken her to Philadelphia for treatment.

Apparently, there were no other reports of supernatural occurrences until it was a nursing home, at which time some staff reported strange noises and other odd occurrences,. Inevitably, Ed and Lorraine Warren investigated the house.

Supernatural theories for the Phelps haunting range from spirits raised by Eliakim’s seance to the two eldest stepchildren, Anna and Henry, being conduits for paranormal energies, to there being a ghost involved, either a murdered peddler or a woman murdered for being a witch. The non-supernatural theories tend to focus on Henry as the prankster, or on Anna and Henry as teaming up for the hoax. If the latter, perhaps Anna did not return with the family in 1851 — I have found evidence for possibly multiple marriages for her, and she might’ve decided to get away from the family by getting hitched while in Philadelphia, which would have left Henry without his partner-in-crime. Henry, for his part, went to sea, married, and had 2 children. He died in Philadelphia at age 32 of valvular disease of the heart. Of the third child I can find no trace.

Sidney, the child of Eliakim and Sarah, who notably does not appear to figure in any of the stories, married and had one child, and seems to have also died fairly young, around 46, in Philadelphia.

While many of the newspaper articles of 1850 that I’ve managed to find seem to dismiss the entire event out of hand as at least as much of a hoax as they assumed the Fox Sisters to be perpetrating, there do seem to be considerable numbers of investigators who failed to find human sources for the activities. Was the mansion haunted? If not, how were the remarkable tableaus created and how were objects flown through the air in front of witnesses? That no one who subsequently owned the mansion found secret panels or doors, or other automation of deception buried in the walls suggests that at the very least, Rev Phelps was not himself necessarily involved, and may have been an inadvertent dupe of the entire adventure.