The Bangs: Hearts Free from Guile

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 séance 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


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 parlor, 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 honor 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


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 favored.  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 Séance

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


part of the séance 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


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 séance 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.”


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