Hollis, Mary J. (Mrs. Hollis-Billing)
(1837– )
American direct voice and materialization medium of the
nineteenth century, controlled by spirit guides ‘‘James Nolan’’
and ‘‘Skiwaukee’’ (a Native American). In 1874 and 1880 she
visited England, where she demonstrated slate writing, the
script frequently said to be produced by a materialized hand in
full view. Hollis was born April 24, 1837, in Jeffersonville, Indiana,
into a wealthy family. She was an exemplary member of
the Episcopal Church until she began to see and talk with spirits.
During the years 1871 to 1873 N. B. Wolfe of Chicago made
exhaustive investigations into her phenomena. The account is
included in his Startling Facts in Modern Spiritualism (1873). According
to Wolfe, Hollis’s direct voice mediumship was well developed.
As many as 30 or 40 spirits were said to have come in
a single sitting. They spoke only in the dark, but they could sing
along with the sitters. Sometimes the sitters were given the
Freemasonry challenge. Objects frequently moved. Sometimes
the medium was levitated to the ceiling and left a pencil mark
there. One of her manifesting spirits was fond of making dolls
and rosettes from the material provided for this purpose, and
the sewing was done accurately in the dark.
Hollis produced materialized forms from a cabinet without
going into trance. Phantom hands quickly appeared. As a test
the medium’s right hand was blackened with cork. The spirit
hand was clean. The faces were often flat, and the sitters looked
at them through opera glasses. On one occasion six heads
materialized simultaneously. Famous people were claimed to
have manifested at the Hollis séances, including Napoleon and
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Hollis, Mary J. (Mrs. Hollis-Billing)
Empress Josephine, who wore a jeweled crown and strings of