Bangs Sisters,May Bangs,Elizabeth Snow Bangs,Mary Bangs,Lizzie Snow Bangs,Lizzie Bangs,Lizzie Snow Bangs,

 Mediums Bangs Sisters.     USA.

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 Bangs Sisters Mediums

May Bangs Medium,          Lizzie Bangs Medium


[Mary] May  E Bangs (left) [Lizzie] Elizabeth Snow Bangs (right) ca.1900

Chicago, Illinois. USA

Stevens Sanborn Jones, “An Evening with the Bangs Children,” Religio-Philosophical Journal, August 3, 1872

Ministers of the Gospel denounce Spiritualism, send forth the venom of their souls to beat back the pulsating tide that it is grandly raising, and sweat profusely these hot summer Sundays, in expatiating on the divine beauty of the Lamb, the efficacy of Hell-torment, and the restoring qualities of the “atoning blood,” which is more potent, they claim, in curing sin, and relieving villainy of its effects, than Dr. Foster’s vermifuge is in relieving a child of worms---but if either are efficacious, they certainly have a mission.  But we think the vermifuge has more saving qualities than all the blood of bullocks, rams, or the distinguished Son of God, and in case of a sick child, we should administer it instead of indulging in prayer, reading the Bible, or the Pilgrim’s Progress.

The Bangs Family.

Now, while ministers are praying, old men and women shouting glory to God, clapping their hands and stamping their feet, we, a free thinker and Spiritualist, switched off and attended a seance at 227 South Morgan Street, at the house of Mr. Bangs, where old men and women, little innocent girls and boys, and negroes long since passed to the Spirit life, return and show their hands, write messages, cause a chair to dance to the tune of Old John Brown, or any other tune, and who evidently commenced existence in the other world just where they left off here.

Freaks of the Spirits. Spirits enjoy fun, they laugh there as they did here!  No doubt that one who has been accustomed to dancing the “Highland Fling,” or any “fancy jig” here, will equally as much delight to do the same there, until he steps on a higher plane, and the philosopher here will philosophize there; the mechanic here will take especial delights in mechanical pursuits there; in fact, dying don’t change the nature of any one---don’t convert a sinner to a saint, or a silly, unsophisticated nincompoop into a wise man.  But spirits return---they did at the residence of Mr. Bangs, and took the Piano, which was badly out of order, all apart, and when that arduous task was accomplished, a Spirit with long flowing beard and stately tread, remarked with a clear, distinct voice: “I must go and get the instruments necessary to tune it.”  And off he went---where he did not say---whether to a piano manufacturer in the Summer-land, or to his own private work-shop or manufacturing establishment in the parlour, or not.  But he did his work well. 

Soon after, however, a Lamp Chimney, sitting on the piano, burst, and a fragment of glass flying therefrom, sought a secluded place somewhere---nobody knew where---and nobody could find it, until that venerable Spirit returned again, and took it from the piano, where it was beyond the reach of mortal eyes. At times the denizens of the Spirit-World, delighting to manifest their strength, or to experiment---who cares which---will cause the cabinet and piano to exchange places.  They are situated in different parts of a large room, and the cabinet is too heavy for one man to lift; but these Spirits will cause the piano to walk one way and the cabinet the other, until they gracefully occupy each others’ accustomed place.  This they do just for the “fun of the thing,” or to convince “ye skeptics” that the soul liveth. 

Just think of it---a large piano, taking an evening promenade, passing along with a sort of “Grecian Bend,” that would honour a Broadway belle.  But you may say “Impossible!”  A thousand fools said that when Morse declared that he could convey news with the speed of thought, and as the fools are not yet all dead yet, we expect the same obsolete, defunct word will come forth with a sort of nasal twang from many lips, and will die off in echoes as solemn as the hoot of an owl, or the braying of an ass.  But we pass along.  We have other things to mention: other incidents to narrate, therefore can’t moralize much on the skeptical nature of man; but parenthetically would remark, that man is a microcosm of the universe, and that as all things are concentrated in him, so shall all things be subject to him. When we took our seat at the table, with two young girls, and one little boy, we were much amused at the readiness with which the Spirits used the pencil.  It is true the messages would only contain a single sentence or a single word, but they were expressive, and that’s enough.  The little girl placed the slate under the table---the pencil is heard to move---then tick, tick, tick, announced the close of the message.  The slate is removed, and on it in a plain, bold hand, we find the name Martha. The handwriting and name were recognized as that of the deceased wife of Thomas W. Miles, contractor and builder, of Laporte, Indiana.  He and his little child were present, a bright-eyed, sweet little girl, six years of age, and strange to say, she could distinguish the handwriting of her mother from that of others which appeared on the slate at the same time.  This was really a convincing test, a burst of sunlight into the heart of Mr. Miles, and his soul went forth lovingly toward his spirit wife.  We felt him interiorly---knew he loved her; and as he talked of her, the little child’s eyes glistened with tears, showing that she felt the loving presence of her angel mother. 

Such communion is sweet, holy, noble!  A single name, “Martha,” written by a loved companion, sends forth into the soul a glorious halo of light, that makes one purer---better.  But that single name was all he could get.  Nineteen others were present in Spirit, anxious to send a message of love to some dear one in earth-life; a disturbance of the requisite conditions, however, soon prevented others from communicating.  Then that Mysterious Chair commenced to dance.  Have one game foot, we considered ourself something of a dancer, but that chair could dance faster, keep better time, take more difficult steps, and appear more gracefully, than we ever thought of doing.  It danced well---whether it was a religious dance or otherwise we did not ask, nor did we inquire whether it was taking steps in accordance with the tenets of a church---we were too intent on watching its motions, as it oscillated to and fro, with no earthly being touching it. A hundred years ago, had that piece of furniture commenced dancing on Sunday, contrary to the Blue Laws of Connecticut, it would have been tried, condemned, and executed.  That chair may congratulate itself that it lives in this enlightened nineteenth century, when kissing your wife on Sunday is regarded as no offense against high Heaven, and when that step known as the “Highland Fling” can be taken by any one---unless he flings himself in the way of somebody else---and still be respected. Yes, that chair is highly favoured.  It lives in Chicago---and could Father Moody see it dancing on Sunday, he would have it arrested for violating the Sabbath law. 

The Cabinet Seance was especially interesting.  One little boy and one bright-eyed girl were securely tied with ropes, rendering it impossible for them to extricate themselves without assistance.  Large hands were exhibited at the aperture of the cabinet, and one was extended far enough to thrum the guitar strings.  This was startling---especially so.  And then a partially-developed face appeared at the aperture, and we heard the name, “Bennie,” distinctly lisped.  It must be remembered that these Mediums are young children.  There is not a particle of deception in their nature.  Their hearts are free from guile, and in all their actions they exhibit the innocence of their nature.  No one would accuse them of deception.  But the most Mysterious part of the seance remains to be told. 

 At the conclusion of the manifestations around the table, the following was written on the slate: “We want you to go into the cabinet again.”  They did so, and then the Spirit stated: “Do as you did the other time, or nothing can be accomplished.”  After some little delay, the directions, as previously given, were complied with.  When conducting this experiment, it was proposed by the Spirits to exhibit at the aperture, the hand of a Negro, and in order to accomplish this feat two tumblers of water would be required in the cabinet, containing some gold.  We hesitated in furnishing our quantum of gold.  This was a new exercise!  We were skeptical---somewhat nervous, and could not conjecture the result.  What could be the object?  We knew that the Spirit negro who proposed to show his brawny hand, if like the other sons of Africa, loved gold, and we were fearful that he had his covetous eye on a six-feet gold chain that was dangling about our neck, and we didn’t know but he had some process whereby he could translate it to the Spirit-world, and use it himself.  Finally we reluctantly put it into the tumbler, never expecting to see it again on this mundane sphere, but in that we were happily disappointed. 

When all was ready, the cabinet doors were closed for twenty minutes, at the expiration of which time the Mediums step in, and at once a large black hand was presented, together with two white ones.  These remained for several seconds at a time, and taken together, the three presented a really strange appearance. What part the gold acted in this important experiment, we are unable to say.  Undoubtedly the skillful chemist who had charge of the seance could tell, if the proper conditions for doing so were made.

One of the little bright-eyed Mediums, the youngest girl, then brought us the Spirit Kitten. We took it in our lap, we stroked its back, we caressed it (we have no babies), we felt of its back, its limbs; examined it carefully.  It was composed of flesh and bones.  The little girl told us in explanation that it was brought there by the Spirits, but still belonged to the earth-sphere, and in her innocent, child-like style, rehearsed to us, how the Spirits would take it to a tub of water, wash it, and play with it, and how she fixed a nice place for it to sleep, and how she played with it, and how she liked it, and finally told us, when it had kittens she would give us one. This was a pleasant evening to us. 

Who can visit this family, united so closely by the silken chords of affection, all of which are attuned in the most perfect harmony, without feeling that their time has been well employed?  Mr. Bangs is one of nature’s noblemen, and aided by his devoted wife, through the mediumship of their children, they are enabled to convince the skeptic of the reality of a future life, and sow broadcast the seeds of Spiritualism.  But unfortunately, we left before the most important manifestation occurred. 

The following, however, from Bro. Barter, explains, that “at a late hour, as the party was about to retire, several hats were found to be missing.  A search was instituted, and on going into a small bed-room off the front parlor, Mr. Miles was addressed in an audible voice by his deceased wife, who desired that he and his little daughter should remain all night, in order that she might communicate important intelligence, and also materialize sufficiently to show him her face and be recognized.  While in this dark room, his hat was taken forcibly from his hand, rolled up into a ball, and surrounded by a bright light.  It was carried directly through the window, with the blinds closed and curtain down, and disappeared.  He was then informed that unless he complied with the request of his wife to remain, his hat would not be returned for a long time.  Saturday morning, on returning to the house, Mr. Miles’ hat, together with that of his daughter and others, were discovered in the center of a straw bed in one of the adjoining rooms.  Every person in the dark bed-room heard Spirit voices distinctly, and saw Spirit lights, one a white light in the shape of a heart, moving upon the window curtain.”


John Curtis Bundy, “A. B. Richmond’s ‘Dear Friends’ Again Exposed,” Religio-Philosophical Journal, June 13, 1891

An infuriated woman in undress and flourishing a big revolver, another woman still more scantily clothed who but a moment before had been personating the materialized spirit of the wife and mother of two visitors, now quivering with fright and rage, and an old dotard flourishing another revolver in defense of these women, made up a tableau never to be forgotten by those who witnessed the latest expose of the notorious Bangs sisters on Thursday night of last week. Mr. C. V. Peckham, a well-known and reputable business man of Chicago, lost his wife a few weeks ago. 

While suffering deep anguish over his loss, he was approached by an acquaintance who assured him that he could again see his beloved wife in materialized form if he would visit one Mrs. Jennie Moore.  Longing for some evidence that his dear one still lived, he visited Mrs. Moore.  At first he was deceived, but after a few visits he discovered the deception.  Still hoping there was a reality in the assertions of his acquaintance he was induced to visit Lizzie Bangs, taking his daughter with him.  There his wife again appeared, and his daughter was so overcome she fainted.  After further experience he had grave doubts about the bona fide nature of this show, too; and took measures to test it. 

On the night of the expose, he repaired to the quarters of Lizzie Bangs, after arranging to have several friends present, also his son.  The show proceeded in the usual way until the alleged spirit Mrs. Peckham, appeared.  While addressing her son in loving terms, Mr. Peckham, senior, drew near and with a sudden spring embraced the Spirit.  Scream after scream rent the air, and unutterable confusion ensued.  Instead of Spirit Mrs. Peckham, the voluptuous form and features of May Bangs stood unmasked. The better to deceive the public, Lizzie, it is reported, has pretended to be still on bad terms with her sister May and that she would not allow her on the premises.  Hence the profound astonishment of Mrs. Voorhees and others when May was disclosed personating the Spirit. 

The “conditions” had seemed fraud-proof to these silly dupes.  Mrs. Voorhees was a swift witness for A[lmon] B[ruce] Richmond in his lame effort to sustain his wonderful hanging slate test at Cassadaga, when these same Bangs women were the Mediums, but in this instance she unreservedly pronounced the show a fraud, and left the house in tears.  An oldish man commonly known as Judge Polley, a lawyer, an attendant of the Upton Park Congregational church and conspicuous in local circles, apparently held Lizzie in high esteem, and was present at the seance.  He showed such an intimate acquaintance with the premises and with the Medium as to excite unfavorable comment on the part of the exposers.  This Judge Polley is of course much opposed to the bill which we caused to be introduced into the legislature. 

One Frank Powell, of the Illinois Type Foundry, a widower and devoted friend of Lizzie Bangs, was one of the committee which appeared before the House Judiciary Committee at Springfield to oppose the enactment of the law.  He bore with him to General Thomas a letter from this same Judge Polley asking the senator to assist the bearer in defeating the bill.  The impertinence and audacity of the letter aroused the ire of Senator Thomas, who expressed his mind very freely to the representative of the Bangs gang. May Bangs has been giving materializing seances of late in Michigan and Indiana, it is said, assisted by Harry DeWolf, a son of Mrs. Sara A. DeWolf---who was also one of the committee appointed to go to Springfield by the indignation meeting of frauds and their friends in this city.  May slipped back to Chicago on the day of the evening on which Lizzie was to exhibit, in order to personate Mrs. Peckham.  It is alleged that Harry DeWolf was also one of the confederates on the same evening. Up to date the Bangs sisters have not made any public statement. 

Remembering the injunction of their particularly “dear friend” the Hon. A. B. Richmond, in the Cassadaga case, “Do not make any written statement to any one until I send you one to sign,” they are quite likely anxiously awaiting that very honorable and able gentleman’s “written statement” of this case.  Which he is quite as able to give as in the first instance. Is it any wonder our bill meets with the opposition of Frank Powell, “Judge” Polley, Mrs. S. A. DeWolf, the Bangs sisters, and the inconsequential squad composed of Peter Funk editors, senile men and silly women? 

 Is it astonishing that these deeply pious people cry aloud that their religious privileges are abridged by the proposed law? 

Is it surprising that they hold a mass meeting and threaten the editor of The Journal with personal violence? 

No indeed, they are all consistent in their indignation, protests and threats.  They should now forthwith organize; elect the Hon. A. B. Richmond bishop; ordain the Bangs sisters and DeWolfs as “ministers of the Gospel,” and make deacons out of “Judge” Polley and Frank Powell;---they already have an “organ.”  Then they will be better able to resist the threatened subversion of the inalienable rights so eloquently portrayed by Representative Ramsay in his speech against our bill.


W. Usborne Moore, Glimpses of the Next State (The Education of an Agnostic). London: Watts & Co., 1911.

Test Sittings with the Bangs Sisters.

When I was at Detroit, Michigan, I thought a few days would not be ill spent if I ran over to Chicago and asked the Bangs Sisters to give me some test-sittings.  I arrived by appointment, at their house, 1759 Adams Street West, at 10 a.m., on January 28, 1911, the door being opened by Mrs. Bangs, the mother.  As usual, neither sister was ready, and I was left to my own devices for an hour, during which time I made a careful re-examination of the seance-room, and found it precisely the same as I left in March, 1909. 

 Mrs. Bangs was called in, and helped me to measure the room; the table was thoroughly examined underneath, and May Bangs’s drawer taken out.  In this I found nothing more incriminating than five dirty pocket-handkerchiefs, a pencil or two, and a small pad. About 11 a.m. I was able to collect the Bangs and explain the object of my visit.  I said: “Certain Medium-hunters in this country, and a first-rate conjurer in England [Hereward Carrington] (who is quite sincere in believing you to be conjurers like himself), have spread reports about you very much to your detriment.  One of the Americans I mention has written an article in an English magazine, saying that in June, 1909, you cheated him, quoting extensively from another person, who also says you deceived him some years ago.  I do not suppose that either of these persons had the courage to send you a copy of their charges.  You know me, and are quite aware that I have entered this room having full confidence in the genuineness of what I saw with you in 1909.  You are psychics, and must know my state of mind at the present moment.  I ask you to give me a complete test for both a picture and a letter.  Let me upset your usual conditions, and direct the proceedings myself.  Refuse me, and I think none the worse of you, for I have tested you before; but the fact that you have refused me will be reported in my accounts of this visit to America.” To this Lizzie Bangs replied: “Mr. Moore, we trust you, and will submit to your wishes; but we warn you that the very knowledge of what the man has said in the English magazine will upset conditions to such an extent that I doubt if you will be successful.  The man you mention was never in this house.  We know his description, and should sense hostility if anybody came in that way. [. . .]” I then proceeded to seal the two sashes of the one window in the room with five labels, each eight inches long.

 In the course of examination of this window, I found a peculiarity about it that I had forgotten when addressing the London Spiritualist Alliance on December 8, which effectually shatters the theories of “substitution” of a prepared picture.  May Bangs then took me out to the bottom of the small garden, and up into a loft, where I found forty-one canvases in a pile.  I selected two at random, followed her back to the house, where she left me in the seance-room alone, and marked my canvases “Next” and “Furthest,” adding my initials and the date.  I then called for the psychics, and put the canvases on the table, near the window, face to face, the word “Next” being plainly visible to all.  The blind was drawn down to a level with the top of the canvases, and curtains hung up at the sides; the three doors were thrown open; Lizzie Bangs took her seat on the east side of the table, and pinched the canvases together with her left hand; May Bangs sat where the sitter is usually placed, in front of the canvases; and I occupied the place on the west side of the table where May Bangs usually sits, and pinched the canvases together with my right hand.  The window has a southern aspect. We sat from 11.15 to 12.20 without much change happening to the canvases, nothing but a few waves of light colours sweeping over them.  The messages, however, were encouraging from the guides.  One said, “Go on sitting in this way when you come back.” 

The sisters went down to dinner.  I remained with the canvases, and something was brought to me to eat. I ought to mention that May Bangs, the more volatile of the two sisters, was specially disturbed.  She could not remain in her seat, but frequently rose from it and walked about the house, both in the morning and the afternoon, often exclaiming: “I feel these strange conditions cannot be right.  I ought to be sitting where you are.”  I became exasperated with her perpetual restlessness in the afternoon, and complained to her sister.  Lizzie said: “Well, if you can keep my sister in her seat, I tell you candidly, I cannot.” 1.45 p.m.  Assembled. 

The first thing that happened was a strange, creamy appearance over the inside of the “Next” canvas.  It is difficult to describe.  It looked something like streams and blots of light cream forming itself into faces, one of which I immediately recognised as that of [Moore’s Spirit-guide] Iola’s father.  Once a perpendicular, dark shade, four inches broad, appeared on my side of the canvas, close to its edge.  This remained for twenty-five minutes, and disappeared.  Once we thought the picture was beginning to form, but this appearance faded away. Both psychics, independently, saw my guide, and described her posing for her picture.  Lizzie Bangs described her clairvoyant vision when May was out of the room, and afterwards May told me what she saw, without collusion with her sister. 

I had arranged with my guide, in Detroit (by direct voice), how the picture was to be, and it was thus the sisters described her.  Eventually the picture itself proved the correctness of the clairvoyance of both sisters.  [. . .] At 2.50 came the message: “You are too intent.  The magnetism is used up for the day.  Come tomorrow.” Q.: “Is it necessary to leave the canvases here?” A.: “It would be better, but it would not satisfy your test.” I accordingly packed up the canvases, and took them off to my hotel, three miles off, where they were locked up.

The second day, Sunday, January 29, 1911, I arrived with my two canvases a little before 4 p.m., and we assembled for the seance at 4.15.  I put the canvases up as before, and asked Lizzie Bangs to pinch them together on her side, while I did the same on mine.  May Bangs sat opposite the canvases, in the visitor’s chair, as on the previous occasion.  The doors were thrown open, and sealings of the window examined.  Soon after the canvases were set up, the “Next” began mottling on the inside, as it did the day before.  This time, not only did the face of my guide’s father appear for a short time, but that of my father.  May Bangs, as before, left her seat several times and moved about the house.  She appeared to be absolutely unable to sit still. About 5 p.m. we were told that we were “too intent,” and that we were to get up from our chairs and move about the house to “change vibrations.”  I did not leave the room, and never lost sight of the canvases; between 5.5 and 5.55 p.m. I smoked a cigar, sitting at first in the visitor’s chair, two and a half feet from the canvases.  Lizzie Bangs came to her seat about 5.20, and I resumed mine, both of us pinching the canvases.  At about 5.45 May Bangs was sent for to take her proper seat, and I took the visitor’s seat.  Even then she could not keep still. Some of the delay was owing to a blunder of mine. 

It had been arranged at Detroit that Iola was to put round her neck a chain with locket, and that I was to put my watch on the table close to the canvases, in order that the invisible artists might extract the gold from it.  This I had done the previous day; but to-day, at 5.30, it suddenly occurred to me that I had forgotten about my watch.  I then put it down on the table. The changed in the canvas first showed by a rose-tinted light at the bottom, after the faces had appeared on the white mottling.  About 5.15 p.m. a black patch appeared right in the middle of the canvas, and increased in size and darkness.  This is the opposite to what usually happens in the precipitations under ordinary circumstances---the dark shade begins at the edges of the canvas.  Lizzie Bangs and I watched this black shade growing till 6 p.m., when it was dark outside, and we were told to light the room up.  To my dismay, the canvas appeared blank. 

We asked: “Shall we light the globe?”  (A “wandering lead.”) Answer: “Not yet.” A few minutes later the message came to “hang the globe behind the canvases.”  I did this myself.  We were soon, all three, in our places.  I was told to take up my watch with one hand, and pinch the canvases with the other.  At 6.5 the picture began.  The face and form were finished, as they are now, by 6.20; but there was a smudge on the neck, and the top of the canvas was very badly rubbed.  The background was unfinished.  I remarked on this.  The message came: “Cover the picture, put out the lights, and come back later.”  We covered the picture, put out the lights, and all went downstairs to tea, after I had examined my labels on the window-sashes.  In an hour we returned, switched on the lights, uncovered the picture, and found the defects entirely removed; the background was evidently improved, but not finished.  I was told to take away the picture, and the background would be finished in the hotel, or on the passage home; it would be “mottled.”  I departed with both canvases under my arm.  The next time I saw the picture was in London, on March 9, and found that the background was mottled. A graphophone played while the sitting was going on.  Mrs. Bangs and two dogs strayed in and out of the room.  On both days everything was of the most casual description.  The messages came sometimes by impression through one of the sisters, but more often by taps on a slate.  I obtained good evidence that all these messages were true communications from the “other side.”

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