Tag Archives: spirit wedding

A Wealthy Widow Weds a Ghost: 1894







The Bangs Sisters, May and Lizzie, Continue to Startle the Peaceful Residents of a Massachusetts Town—

The Spirit Bridegroom.

Onset, Mass., Special to Inter-Ocean.

May Bangs, one of the Bangs sisters, materializing mediums and slate writers of Chicago, now at Onset Bay, declares positively and without any provisos that a person in flesh and blood in this life could be married to a materialized spirit. She declares that a woman from the west, a woman of wealth, had been married to her spirit lover in the very room in which she sat.

Charming May Bangs and her sister, the great spiritualists, who, when at home, reside in Chicago, have lately startled the natives of Onset, Mass., This statement means more than might appear on the surface when it is added that the little town is almost wholly made up of spiritualists. Thither the Bangs sisters hied themselves some weeks ago to take part in the summer assembly of the eastern societies. They made their headquarters at Happy Home cottage, where they were daily visited by pilgrims in search of friends and relatives long since in the “other world.” Among those visitors was a rich widow from the far west, who wanted to see her lover, how had been a captain in the United States army. The captain, who came from Maryland, died on the eve of his marriage to the rich widow. For a year she has worn widow’s weeds and longed for even a visit from the spirit of her departed lover. Miss Bangs informed her that she could not only produce the captain’s spirit, but that the marriage ceremony that had been cut off by death would be performed in Happy Home cottage. A few days ago an item was given out for publication to the effect that the ceremony had been effectually performed some days before. In speaking of it, May Bangs said:

“I materialized the form,” she said, “and the lover came out of the cabinet attired in the uniform of an army officer. The premises had been previously examined to prove that there was no mortal about. The materialized spirit asked that the curtains be drawn for a while to shut off the front parlor. The bride wanted him to put on her slippers and he did.

“Only a faint light shone through the room where the minister and others were waiting. He kissed her numerous times. The bride was in a new wedding dress. Then the materialized spirit lover requested that the marriage ceremony be performed and the request was granted. He placed a ring on her finger. They were together a long time that evening.” The reporter who investigated the spiritual marriage had heard from other sources of such a matrimonial event and from two different persons he had heard that the woman in the case was from the west, that she was wealthy, well-educated and a woman of refinement. She is said to be a firm believer in spiritualism and has long know the Bangs sisters, Lizzie and May. She is about 35, short in stature, plump in form and dresses elegantly. Another account of the wedding from the lips of one who claims to have possession of facts, is this:

“On the night of Aug. 8, which was Wednesday, everything was ready for this strange ceremony, and the wedding party, consisting of about half a dozen persons, was within the walls of ‘Happy Home’ cottage, which is but a few rods distant from the grove where all the big spiritualistic meetings are held. Miss ___, who was to be married to one who had passed away, had purchased flowers and with her own hands had decorated the rooms. Curtains covered the windows just as at a séance. A single dim light was burning in the parlor, just a candle in a box, the tiny flame being subdued by blue glass.

“Lizzie Bangs and the minister were to be seen in this room next to the street, surrounded by the floral display of ferns and lilies. A cheese cloth had been hung across the double doorway which led into the cabinet-room behind.

“May Bangs came tripping down the stairs and entered the dark little apartment where the spirits first made their appearance. She was followed by the bride, who took a seat in the cabinet-room and awaited the appearance of the sprit who was to become her husband. May Bangs materialized the form of a late captain of the army, who in life hailed from Maryland.

“An ordained minister then went through the marriage service, and at the close declared the couple to be husband and wife. When the minister, who is a woman, at present in Vermont, finished, she was heard to say that she hoped it was really a materialized spirit that was married, for if it was a man in earth life he was married sure enough.”

It is rumored that when the Bangs sisters start for Chicago on Monday two young men will go with them. one of these young men, who struck Onset with only $2 in his pocket, has been spending money lavishly of late.

“I’ve stuck a snap,” he said to a reporter. “I am going to Chicago with May Bangs, but I’m going to get $20 in my fist before I start, or I don’t go. I’ve had a promise of $15 and week and my board bill. Have you heard of the spirit marriage? It took place all right. The spirit groom was George—Capt. George__. They wanted me to put on a uniform and represent the groom, but I was out with May once, and Miss__ bobbed up suddenly and May had to introduce me to her, so the girl knew who I was.”

The strange marriage has been the talk of Onset for some time, but as most of those there are deep-dyed spiritualists they think it nothing unusual.


New York, Aug. 26. [This case] The Onset Bay spook wedding recalls with a difference the famous marriage in the family of the late George D. Carroll, once of Dempsey & Carroll, stationers, who wasted much of his substance on a medium named Fanny Stryker. Carroll has lost a young son, and, though the medium never materialized the youth for him, she did act as priestess in a “spirit marriage” between the boy and “Bright Eyes,” a ghost with no family name. Elaborately engraved invitations for the ceremony were sent out and the priestess officiated in white uncut velvet. The elder Carroll died recently in comparative poverty and the medium buried him.

Dallas [TX] Morning News 9 September 1894: p. 5 and The Fort Wayne [IN] Sentinel 10 September 1894: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Such “spirit marriages” were a regrettable and venal feature of Victorian spiritualism; they usually ended in tears, lawsuits, or an asylum. Lawyers would have difficulty in untangling the legal status of the young man who played the dead Captain George, although the lady parson, wittingly or unwittingly, seems to have voiced an obvious truth. There was still the question of who signed the wedding licence and, in the United States, unlike France and China, marriages between the living and the dead are not sanctioned.

That person wearing orange blossoms over at the Haunted Ohio blog has written about a gentleman who married his late sweetheart in Cincinnati and a rather stingy bridegroom who foolishly thought that he could save on household expenses by marrying a spirit bride.


Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.



“You May Now Kiss the Ghost:” A Haunted Justice of the Peace: 1887

Day of the Dead Bride and Groom

Day of the Dead Bride and Groom


Two People Return from the Spirit World and Are Properly Married by a Justice of the Peace.

New York correspondence Cincinnati Enquirer: How remarkably the evidences of the existence of a spiritual sphere about us accumulate! Still they come, these spectral messengers, to teach us that there are more truths under the sun than science takes cognizance of. Here is another:

The village of Farmingdale, Queen’s County, Long Island, is a suburb of the rapidly growing city of Brooklyn. Its people are of the most conservative nature, mostly descendants from old Puritan fathers, who came here before the Revolution and Presbyterians almost to a man. All are very much excited at present over the occurrence of a remarkable spiritual manifestation that came to light without the presence in their midst of a medium. Three days ago the Enquirer correspondent received a letter from his aunt who lives in the village mentioned, requesting him to come down and hear the remarkable story. On arriving in Farmingdale the following is the story which he heard, and which is authenticated by the persons before whose eyes the strange event occurred:

John J. Powel, Esq., is civil magistrate for the village, or rather he is Justice of the Peace. He is a member in high standing of the church, and every way reliable. He is married and has several grown children. He lives in a large, old-fashioned house, surrounded by tall spruce and elm trees, with a high stone wall around the lawn. Last week, one night, he had retired to bed and got into a doze. Mrs. Powel was sleeping soundly. There was no light in the room, but the moon, half way up the sky, was sending a broad beam of ghostly light into the east window. Everything was as still as a country town usually is, but a slight moaning wind that tossed about the leafy spruce tree boughs. Suddenly Mr. Powel


From his doze. He had heard a door open. What could it be that had made the noise? He thought of thieves and quickly arose, and was pulling on his clothing when he heard a light tread of feet to his door. He stopped breathing in his anxiety for he thought he was about to be robbed. On came the tread to his door, which was quickly thrown wide open, and in an instant almost was closed again. Did any one enter? Mr. Powel asked himself, for he could see no one; but the doubt was soon settled in the affirmative. Something, at least, did enter, for he still heard the light tread of footsteps on the carpet approaching him, but could see nothing. Did his eyes belie him, or did he see two feet, without body, approaching? His hair, he says, bristled up and his spine  verily crept—a nameless horror seized him. Ghosts, thought he; is it possible that there are such things? Suddenly the tread passed into the broad moonbeam from the window. Now was the marvel revealed! The greenish moonlight lit up the outlines of two persons—shadows that were perfectly transparent, and seemed to reveal a ghostly gleam only on their outlines. A man and a woman—both young, both handsome—and as their spectral forms became more strongly materialized on passing out of the moonlight, Mr. Powel though he could recognize both their faces. Soon he was sure of it, and in a moment more they both confronted him, no longer looking like ghosts, however, and no one seeing them then would have believed that they were not entirely human; in fact, dwellers upon earth. In spite of what he had already seen, Mr. Powel began to think he was being played a trick upon, but on looking again, after rubbing his eyes, he saw that they could not be human, as both, to his certain knowledge, had been dead nearly a year. This only increased his horror, but he gathered strength to speak to them, which somehow he remembered was the proper thing to do on such an occasion.

“What—do—you want?” stammered he.


Was the answer, which the more greatly horrified the Squire.

“Married!” he echoed.

“Yes, married, and quickly, in the most binding form known to the law. We haven’t any time to lose, either.”

“But you must have at least one witness.” Said the squire, hoping he had found a good idea.

“Well, then, take Mrs. Powel,” said the would-be ghostly bridegroom; not waiting of the Squire to do so, he approached the bed and shook Mrs. Powel’s arm quite sharply. She at once awoke and on seeing such a strange sight, gave a piercing shriek. “Be still,” said the ghost. “You will not be hurt; you are needed for a few minutes.” By this time she had awakened and was looking at her husband. He returned her gaze as he says “without flinching,” and simply said, “My dear, those people want to be married, and you are needed as a witness.”

“What! Katie Baylis and John Van Sise here, and want to be married? La! I thought they had died more than a year ago!” Well, however, they are here now, and I’m going to hitch them as soon as I can dead or alive,” said the Squire growing desperate. “Shall I light the lamp?” “No, no!” said the ghosts, “for you can not see us if you do; but proceed at once with the marriage.” Squire Powel told the ghosts to join hands and stand before him. Then he proceeded with the usual formula until it came to “Until death do us part,” which was left out as unnecessary. Then the groom produced a blank marriage certificate, which all present signed, and which the bride put into her bosom.

“Is that all there is to it?” said the groom.

“Yes,” answered the Squire. “except the magistrate usually kisses the bride,” added he, forgetting the ghostly character of the contracting parties, and remembering, perhaps, occasions in which he had availed himself of this privilege. “Then the bride must be kissed,” said the groom. “This at once brought the Squire to his senses and made his hair raise again.


He echoed. The bride stepped forward at this, evidently thinking it an invitation. She brought her face to his, and with a desperate endeavor he gave her a proper kiss. As his lips met hers, he says, a terrible coldness seemed poured into him. He felt as though he was dying, but almost at once recovered himself. “Is there anything else?” asked the groom. “Nothing,” answered the Squire faintly. “And now I suppose you would both like to know what this is for. There is no reason why you should not. You already know the story of our guilty intercourse while we were alive on earth, and that it resulted in our deaths. We are now in the spirit world, which is far more like the earth than is usually supposed, only we have greater privileges and powers, but the man who does not marry while on earth cannot marry in the spirit form, and must live apart from  all the married, who inhabit a higher sphere and will in the end inherit greater powers than the unmarried, but I can’t explain this, as it is not to be revealed. However, when we died, we left a son, born to shame, and without our marriage, which you have solemnized, to be a bastard forever. As we are now, for the time being, in material form, we are able to contract marriage by the laws of mortals, and this marriage will be recorded as perfectly lawful by the Almighty.”

By the time he had finished this long speech he had perceptibly grown less material, and in a few minutes both bride and groom had faded away.

Such is the story which Mrs. Powel told on the next day, and her husband confirmed it in every particular.

The story of the lives of John Van Sise and Katie Baylis is quite romantic. John Van Sise was the son of a poor farmer in the neighborhood. Katie was the daughter of a well-to-do country gentleman, a retired merchant. They fell in love. Their parents were dead against their marriage, and it was the old story that followed. Love was too strong for parents or any other bonds. They met constantly. At last Katie gave birth to an illegitimate child, still alive. She died in child-birth. John died soon after of what was called by the neighbors hasty consumption, but his friends knew it was of a broken heart.

How strange Fate works!

Daily Inter Ocean [Chicago, IL] 28 December 1887: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The ghostly groom expresses some unusual theories about the post-mortem world, probably derived from the Theosophists or Spiritualists, although Matthew 22:30 tells us “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” The situation raises an interesting legal point: did the marriage of the two ghosts “in material form” legitimise their little son?


Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


Girl Weds A Ghost: 1900

"She always has the table laid for two and chats as though talking to someone in the vacant chair across the table."

“She always has the table laid for two and chats as though talking to someone in the vacant chair across the table.”



Bride Keeps House—Midnight Cemetery in Graveyard Shocks Village Gossips

Witchita, Kan., Oct. 10 Bessie Brown, of Cameron, Okla., is married to a ghost. Furthermore, she and her spectral husband are living together in a five-room cottage. The wedding took place one week ago, and the bride and groom moved at once into their new house, which Miss Brown had furnished with her own money. They are as happy as any young married couple could be, and persons who pass the house can hear them talking and laughing just as if they were both in human form.

This is the strangest romance ever known. Bessie Brown, of wealthy parents, high social standing, and possessed of many natural charms that make her one of the most beautiful girls in Oklahoma, married the ghost of the man she loved. She is not demented. Her mind has been tested, her brain has been examined by specialists, and her actions have been watched carefully, but no trace of insanity can be discovered. Therefore her parents agree that she must be wedded to an apparition, something which she imagines she can see and know, but which no other human being can recognize. This is what her father says about his daughter’s queer actions:

“Bessie had been brooding continually over the death of John Allen, to whom she was engaged to be married when he was killed. We tried to console her in her grief, but she wanted us to leave her alone. We feared she would lose her mind if she did not stop grieving so intensely. I had a doctor visit her several times and he said her mind was all right, but that she was failing in health on account of constant worry. That was a year ago. About six weeks ago Bessie brightened up so much that we feared she was under the influence of some drug. Then one day she made the statement that she had seen the ghost of Mr. Allen, and that hereafter she would not be sorrowful any more, for she was going to marry the ghost. She said she had given her promise to her sweetheart that if ever he died she would marry his ghost, and that now, since his spirit had appeared to her, she must keep her promise.

“Mrs. Brown and I feared the poor girl had lost her mind surely by this time, so we sent to Dallas for a specialist to make another examination of her brain. He pronounced her mental condition perfectly normal, and said that she was not under the influence of any drug. He said her case was a strange one, and that she must surely see the ghost she talked about so much. I asked her to introduce me to the ghost, and she said I could not see it, but that it was with her always. She talked reasonably about it. She seemed to know that we thought her insane because of her strange declarations, but insisted that she was actually going to marry the specter. She called upon our minister and asked him to perform the ceremony. He tried to persuade her that it was sinful that she should marry a mere apparition, but she insisted.

“The minister went with Bessie last week into the graveyard where her lover was buried and at midnight the ceremony was performed which united her to the ghost of the man whom she had promised to marry two years ago, but who was killed in a railroad wreck just a few weeks previous to the wedding. I believe after close study of the girl’s actions that she truly thinks she is wedded to the ghost, and that the apparition appears to her as naturally as if the spirit were still in the body. We are trying to do everything we can to make her forget her ghost, but it seems as if we are going to fail.”

Before the graveyard wedding Miss Brown rented a cottage and furnished it for two. She is now living in it with her ghost husband. She can be seen sitting on the back porch conversing with an invisible companion, and often walks along the street talking aloud to some person whom no one else can see. The town people are much excited over the matter. They all know Miss Brown to be a Christian young woman, and one who would not deceive any one for the world. Most of them actually believe she is married to the ghost of her dead lover.

Jackson [MI] Citizen Patriot 10 October 1900: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil would give much to know the sequel to this story–did the young lady ever look across that table and suddenly realize that the chair was empty? Did she ever fall in love with an earthly man and, if so, how would one get a divorce from a spirit husband?

This is an excerpt from The Ghost Wore Black: Ghastly Tales from the Past, by Chris Woodyard, the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.