The Bangs Precipitate Portraits on Paper

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 séance-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 séance-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 séance 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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