Ellie Connelly was the only child of Irish immigrants Samus and Brigid Connelly. She began reading and writing at a young age, being taught by her father, who managed a print shop in New Jersey. By the age of 6, she was corresponding regularly with her paternal grandmother and namesake, Maura, who still resided in Ireland.
Ellie's first paranormal experience happened when she was eleven years old. That year, Ellie's mother contracted tuberculosis and sent Ellie to visit with her father's older brother Everett Connelly, a professor at New York University, to avoid infecting her as well. Samus remained in New Jersey to care for her, but to no avail. Within the year, Brigid succumbed to the disease, and Samus was likewise infected. He perished some months later. On the occasion of each of their deaths, and before she could have been notified, Ellie noted to her uncle Everett that she had been visited in the night by her parents. These 'angelic visits' sparked an interest in the spiritual beliefs in the day, and Ellie surrounded herself with writings and works of an occult and paranormal nature.
Ellie began purposefully seeking out ghostly apparitions and metaphysical phenomena, detailing her explorations in a series of articles for various newspapers and journals. Before she had reached the young age of seventeen, Ellie found herself a celebrated authority on these matters, and her presence was enjoyed in salons and mansions throughout New England.