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Bangs Sisters

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The Bangs Sisters, Mary "May" E. Bangs and Elizabeth "Lizzie" Snow Bangs, were mediums from Chicago, who made a career out of painting the dead or "Spirit Portraits," without ever have met the fallen.


Elizabeth was born around 1860 to mother Meroe and father Edward Bangs while they were living in Atchison, Kansas. They moved to Chicago in 1861, and Mary was born there in 1864. Their mother was a medium herself, and soon got her four children (sons Edward and W.B.) into the act.

By the early 1870s the Bangs family were performing seances as described in the August 3rd, 1872, Religio-Philosophical Journal article by Steven Sanborn Jones called, "An Evening with the Bangs Children". People would pay to be entertained at the Bangs home. Messages from the dead would appear on slabs of slate as chairs and furniture would move about the room. The children were tied up in a cabinet, then a guitar inside would strum and hands would wave from within. For the finale, Mary would bring forward a shaved cat that was said to be a "spirit cat" from the afterworld. In the summer of 1881, May and her mother were arrested for "doing business without a license", but this was dismissed because they claimed to be evangelists, and such charges could not be brought against ministers.


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