Conjuring the Spirits in LeRoy
by Lynne Belluscio
In 1848, a small pamphlet was published in LeRoy, written by Lucy Ann Seymour, a teacher at Ingham Collegiate Institute. Lucy relates a most curious event that happened in 1842. It seems that the ladies at Ingham were experimenting with supernatural experiences through hypnosis. A quick search indicates that the introduction of hypnosis, also known as animal magnetism, was introduced by Franz Mesmer in Germany in the late 1700s. His theories remained popular through the 1850s (and thus the term “mesmerized”). Perhaps it was knowledge about Mesmer’s experiments, that led the Ingham sisters to participate in a rather unusual event.
The story at Ingham centers around a Miss Belvidere Stillson of Rochester who was living at Ingham as a “parlor boarder.” (whatever that means). The dates are important, because this is before Emily married Phineas Staunton and before they were living in the Ingham Cottage, so it must have been in the old Ingham building on the corner of Trigon Park – the former site of the high school. Lucy Seymour gave this account: “The event was . . .