Feast of the Vampires: 1892




At Their Initial “Death Watch” They Partake of Hair-Curdling Viands

They are a Non-Superstitious Crowd.

New York, May 4. “Skeleton Fodder,” “Vampires’ Wings, Breaded,” and “Headstone Croquettes” are a few of the delightful articles on the menu spread at the initial death watch of the Vampires in Mazzetti’s, and a crowd of black-robed waiters stood ready to bring you “graveyard cough drops” or “fried souls” if you preferred them.

Over the head of Chief Ghoul John M. Turner hung a huge bat, holding in his claws a human skull, the sign of the organization, and Electrocutionist Fred Bennett had the outfit fixed up with colored glass eyes, into which he occasionally threw an electric current with startling effect. Back of the emblem hung a gigantic horn, fitted with an electrical attachment, which made it emit a frightful groan whenever anybody arose to speak. In front of the Chief Ghoul was a loving cup filled with “vampires’ blood,” in which an electric light glowed fitfully. Every bottle of wine had a vampire blood label pasted on it, and whenever a toast was drunk the Vampires applauded by moving their arms slowly up and down to their sides like wings.

But with all this grewsomeness the “death watch” was a great success, and the pale dawn saw 100 men vowing to be Vampires to the end.

The Vampires is a brand new organization started early in April by Mr. Turner and a dozen other non-superstitious theatrical people. It is a secret society and its motto is, “Unity, Affinity, Fidelity;” but it has no other purpose than good fellowship and mutual aid and encouragement.

It is simply an organization in which if a Vampire goes “broke” every other Vampire will “chip in” and help him out.

Its officers are: Chief Ghoul, J.M. Turner; Vice Ghoul, H.H. Levy; Recording Angel, Dr. I.E. Nasher; Body Snatcher, James B. Radcliffe; Coffin Nailer, Schnitz Edwards; Imp of Darkness, Charles Strohmenger, Jr.; Dirge Chanter, Signor Carlos Serrano; Bone Polisher, Fred Bohlman; Electrocutionist, Fred Bennett, and Sexton, Charles Angus.

It has a Cross Bones band, composed entirely of orchestra leaders, including William Johnson of the New York Park theatre, W. Lloyd Bowron of the Fourteeneth Street, Charles Mollenhauer of the Bijou and E.C. Gohl of the Windsor Theater, and it has a Monument Quartette made up of forcibly-retired comic opera singers. Among the other full-fledge vampires are T. Edward Reed, Thomas Jackson, Philip Smalley, the Tipaldi brothers, Thomas McQueen and Manager Price of the Lee Avenue Academy. Among the guests who are clamoring for a perch in Roost No. 1 are President Hotchkiss of the Thirteen Club, John Waller, Frank Dupree, E.A. Pratt, “Dick” Gorman, Harry Fisher, H.F. Seymour, Treasurer Rice of the Standard Theater, James Dixon, Cecil Kingston, Albert Henschel and Albert Hart.

After the viands had been dissected the loving cup was passed around, and while one vampire drank his four score fellow flapped their “wings” and sang their “Shriek,” which begins:

By gravestone cold and white

We spread our wings at night:

Over the mounds we love to dance

And wake a corpse right out of his trance.

His trance, trance, trace.

Anybody was welcome to get up for a speech, but as the trump horn drowned every word he said the feasters go along very comfortably.

It is proposed to hold these death watches once a month from now on until the supply of New York hotels is exhausted.

State [Columbia, SC] 7 May 1892: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: In post-Civil-War America there was a flowering of whimsical fraternal organisations: the Military Order of the Serpent (also known as “The Snaix”), The Concatenated Order of Hoo-Hoo, Odd Fellows, and The Ancient Mystic Order of Bagmen of Bagdad. Britain boasts one of the oldest of these groups: The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, founded in 1822. They all provided a convenient excuse to get together and “raise hell” in rather puerile ways, as we note in the account above.

“The Vampires,” seem to have been an organisation of much the same ilk as The Thirteen Club. One would expect these sorts of hi-jinks in the Parisian death-cafes, Café du mort/Café du neant, where the “decadent”—or, more often the tourists, wishing to be thought daring—sipped absinthe and watched weird shows of the living turning to corpses, then to skeletons, and back, rather like a skeletal strip-tease.

A Café Neant, 1900

A Café Neant, 1900

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.


The Jack-o-Lantern at War: 1918




Jack o’ Lantern, high elf of Hallowe’en, is to be transformed by order of the food administration.

The merry twinkle of Jack o’ Lantern’s wide open eyes will be a trifle subdued this year. The gleam must come from a non-smoking candle with a regulated flame instead of the old flaring lights that made Jack a winking, blinking elf.

Big Mouth Barred.

And instead of the great, generous mouth, with its jagged teeth, that made the kiddies shiver with glee, the 1918 Jack o’ Lantern will smile properly from a neat buttonhole of a mouth.

It’s all because every pumpkin, whether it falls into the Jack o’ Lantern class or not, must eventually form “makings” for golden brown pies for the boys over there or for the home folks.

After your Jack o’ Lantern, with small, careful cutouts for features, has spent his little hour on the window sill, remove the candle, cut him into little bits, then boil him.

Here’s Sugarless Pie.

Now you are ready to make a pie.

And here, according to the food administration, is the proper sugarless way to proceed:

“With the mashed and strained pumpkin mix one-half cup of sorghum, one teaspoonful of cinnamon, two cups of milk, one-half teaspoonful each of ginger and salt and two eggs. Next make a wheatless crust of 1 1-2 cupfuls of rye flour, one-half cupful of barley or corn flour, water to make a dough, one-fourth to one-half cupful of fat and one-half teaspoonful salt.”

“Have fun with your pumpkins,” said Herbert Hoover, “but eat them afterward.”

Grand Forks [ND] Daily Herald 31 October 1918: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mr Herbert Hoover was, of course, later the President of the United States. At the time of this writing, he was head of the U.S. Food Administration, which administered food reserves, particularly for the troops and their allies overseas. There was rationing at home, hence the omission of sugar and wheat. “Meatless Mondays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays,” were two programmes for voluntary participation in rationing.

Mrs Daffodil might add that Mr Hoover sounds a bit of a spoil-sport. If the pumpkins were to be turned into pie, why could not the eyes and mouths be cut to regulation size and the scraps saved to be boiled?  Where is the Hallowe’en menace in a “neat buttonhole of a mouth?” “Small” and “Careful” are not adjectives associated with the holiday.  And why the fussy specifications about the  jack-o-lantern’s candle?   Requiring “a non-smoking candle with a regulated flame” smacks of an officious government interfering in the private pleasures of its citizens. It is this sort of thing that breeds Bolsheviks.

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.



Aunt Barbara’s Ghost Story: 1870s



By Gerda M. Calmady-Hamlyn

MASSINGTON Rectory, near B—–, in Devonshire, was occupied at the time of which I speak by my uncle, the Rev. James Shepheard—”Uncle Jamie,” as we his younger relatives, to whom he was devoted, always called him. And I, Barbara Sinclair, being, I believe, a special favourite, frequently stayed with him there for weeks upon end, acting more or less as his housekeeper and as hostess to his guests. Uncle Jamie loved to see young and lively people about the place, and he allowed me to ask any friend I chose to keep me company, in case life in the country should seem dull.

Now there was one fact about the big rambling comfortable old house (kept in apple-pie order as it was, too, by some excellent elderly servants who had served their bachelor master for more years than he or they could count) that invariably puzzled and made me very curious; namely, that what was known as the “east wing” of the house, containing larger and better furnished bedrooms than any other part, was never by any chance used when we had guests. They always slept in the smaller, low-ceiled, narrow-gabled apartments in the centre or west wing.

Many and many a time have I entreated Mary, our trusty middle-aged housemaid (who knew all the “ins and outs “of the place) to enlighten me upon the matter. But she always shook her head and changed the conversation—never vouchsafed me any direct explanation or reply. Yet there was one lovely big bedroom, full of real antique rosewood furniture—draped in quaint patterned delicate chintz, and with such a view over the lake from its wide windows—that I often longed to see in constant use. My uncle knew of no story connected with the house, and neither he nor I believed in such nonsense as ghosts or “hauntings.” So we ascribed Mary’s obstinate determination to prevent anybody spending a night in the east wing to some silly superstition or fad on her part—founded, perhaps, on tales she had heard in the village!

In the November of 187—(a stormy, rain-swept, dismal month I remember it was, too!) I received a letter from two very great friends of mine—Hester and Connie Brackenford— who had lived abroad for some years with their parents, and now wrote to say they were returning to England, and of course I wrote and begged them both to come and stay with me at Massington. They accepted, and I then went off for a last decisive battle with obstinate old Mary. I would stand no more of her nonsense! My friends, being sisters, should occupy together the large sunny “ chintz ” bedroom in the east wing, which should be made even brighter and more attractive than it already was by the addition of flowers, books, and a cosy fire burning in the wide old-fashioned fireplace directly opposite the bed. I would brook no contradiction; possibly too Mary herself was tired of arguing the question by this time. “Very well, Miss,” she answered in an acid voice, and a mysterious expression, half-fearful, half-triumphant, flitted, across her withered sharp-featured face; while I swept back to the drawing-room elated at what seemed to me a very easy victory!

Just before five o’clock (when my guests were almost due) I thought I would run up to the east wing for a final inspection to see that everything was in perfect order for them. Up the wide front staircase I sped, along a narrow gallery, and under an alcove that led to a second and wider gallery, with yet another stairway beyond, and as I entered this hitherto unused part of the Rectory, I saw to my surprise (for the appearance was a very sudden and unexpected one) a tall female figure (very much it seemed to me, the height and build of our housemaid Mary) hurrying along in the direction of the further staircase and a few hundred yards ahead of me.

“Mary, is that you?” I called. But the figure made no answer.

“Mary, do come here; I want to speak to you.” But it never turned its head or uttered a word.

“Mary is still sulky, I suppose, because I insist on using the chintz room for our visitors! ” I said to myself, as I turned away and ran downstairs to the front hall, where at the end of the first flight I again came face to face with the recalcitrant and most-mysterious Mary, appearing now in quite a different direction, through a doorway leading from the kitchens in the centre of the house carrying two cans of hot water in her hands and some clean towels over one arm.

“Why, Mary,” I exclaimed, “I saw you only a few minutes ago in the east wing, and called to you. You were hurrying along the further passage and refused either to hear or to answer me!”

“You never spoke to me, Miss,” she replied with her sardonic little smile. “I haven’t been in the east wing at all this afternoon. I’ve been helping cook bake cakes in the kitchen, as it’s Elizabeth’s afternoon out, and I’m going upstairs now, for the first time since luncheon, with hot water for the young ladies’ room.”

I felt certain that Mary was telling me an untruth, and for some quite unknown and unusual reason. But I could not stay to argue with her; for, at that very moment, a carriage drove up to the door and Connie and Hester stepped out of it.

I must pass over our first memorable evening together; spent in laughing, chatting, playing chess for a short time with genial Uncle Jamie, making plans for the future, and listening to my friends’ adventures while abroad; till, soon after ten o’clock, Connie, the delicate sister, complained that she was tired. And I (bidding them “on no account to hurry” in the morning) escorted my guests to their quarters in the cosy spacious luxuriousness of the east wing, afterwards returning to my own small rooms on the other side of the house.

Next morning I was down betimes. Uncle Jamie appeared, read prayers, had his breakfast, and was off to a round of work in the parish. Still, no Connie or Hester appeared; and I told Mary to sound the gong again. It was half-past nine, and I was feeling a trifle vexed and worried!—when the dining room door at last stealthily opened, and the elder of the two sisters—Hester—stole nervously into the room, looking so white and weary and distraught—”exactly as though she had seen a ghost!” I said to myself.

She scarcely returned my morning greeting. “Connie will be down presently; she isn’t feeling very well this morning,” was all she said, as she slipped into her place at the breakfast-table, and began fumbling at her letters. “Oh, and by the way, Barbara” (she paused, and it seemed as though she dared not look me in the face), “I’m afraid we must leave you today, we ought never to have come. Aunt Maria wants us to go to her! ”

And then Hester’s gentle voice faltered; her blue eyes filled with tears. I knew that she was telling me a lie—and for some reason so strange and inexplicable that I could not pretend to fathom it.

“Leave me to-day? you must be mad! Hester? ” I exclaimed. “What is the matter, dear? aren’t Connie and you happy here? Of course, I know you are going to your Aunt Maria’s, but not for three weeks or more. You promised to pay me a nice long visit first. I can’t understand this sudden alteration.”

The poor child burst into a flood of wild hysterical weeping. It seemed as though her nerves had sustained some fearful shock. “Barbara, we daren’t—we simply could not pass another night in that dreadful, dreadful room! We should go raving mad if we did. You don’t know what we have seen, what we have suffered. As it is, poor Connie has lain unconscious half the night through, and is only just now coming round—–!” The rest of her sentence was lost in a burst of wild tumultuous sobbing.

“Connie unconscious, what can it all mean?” I exclaimed. “Let me go to her at once!” And in five seconds I was out of the room and in my uncle’s little parish surgery, hunting for brandy and other restoratives. Then, up the wide front- staircase, with Hester at my heels, under the alcove and along the passage leading to the east wing, we found poor Connie lying on a sofa, still half unconscious and moaning pitifully.

“Don’t let her come near me—don’t, don’t,” she muttered, waving away with trembling nervous hands some malign presence that she appeared to believe was threatening her.

It was not from her, but from Hester sometime after both girls had left me, that I learnt all they had endured that fatal night. I use the word “fatal” advisedly, though at the time I saw no connection between their terribly sudden deaths and the vigil I had unwittingly forced upon them. Both my poor friends died within the ensuing year. Connie was on her way to India to be married; the ship she sailed in was wrecked; and, though most of the crew and passengers ultimately got safe to land, she, alas, was not among the number! Hester was out riding in the following September, when her pony suddenly shied and threw her. It is supposed she struck her head against a hidden rock or tree trunk, for she was picked up unconscious, and died within a few hours.

The following is Hester’s account of her own and her sister’s experience:—

“We were lying very cosily and comfortably in bed, about an hour after you, Barbara, had left us—not actually asleep, you know, but more than a trifle drowsy—watching the flicker of the firelight on the walls and the shadows that it threw into dark distant comers, when, suddenly and very, very slowly, our door began to open inch by inch (although we never saw the handle move, and Connie felt certain she had turned the key in the lock before getting into bed), and a tall gaunt grey-clad figure, in shape like a woman, slithered across the floor with a swift and subtle motion that fairly made one’s flesh creep, while we lay trembling with horror (wondering furiously, wildly, who our midnight visitor could be), pulled aside the curtains that hung round our bed, and stood there looking down upon us with oh! such dreadful eyes! Barbara, as long as I live I shall never forget them! They were the eyes of a fiend, of an unimaginably wicked malignant soul, set in a spectral uncanny face. For just a few brief seconds as far as I can tell (but they really seemed years to me!) she stood there glaring down upon us, as though she would willingly seize us both and carry us away into hell. Then she turned and glided out of the room as silently as she had entered.

“Connie, poor child, at first sight of the terrible apparition gave one mad scream of terror that I thought must have aroused the entire house—then she fainted dead away, and I could do nothing to rouse her. When I tried to set foot in the long dark passage down which that baleful shadow had already passed, something seemed to paralyse my every movement, turning my heart’s blood to ice. Nobody answered my feeble cries for help, and I did not know in what direction your own room might be; so, shivering with fear and with Connie in a half-dead state in the bed beside me, I lay and waited for the morning.”

At the time (continued Aunt Barbara) I did not believe a single word of my friend’s story, and Fate decreed I was never to see her again. Not for some years, and till after Uncle James’ death, did I piece together the sinister legend that hung around Massington Rectory. Incumbent after incumbent was appointed to the living, and each in turn speedily made some excuse for leaving it again. One said the house was unhealthily situated and affected his health; another pleaded his family was too large and his income too small for the upkeep of such an expensive house and gardens. The Bishop alternately persuaded and expostulated, but all to no avail! there was talk of building a new rectory, only no funds were available. At length it passed to a distant connection of my own, with a well-off wife, iron nerves, and a love of “digging and delving” into old bygone legends, village tales, and genealogies. He it was who told me the story, bit by bit, as he could make it out.

About one hundred years previous to the incidents narrated in this story, the living had been held by an exceedingly wicked Rector, whose scandalously evil and immoral life made him a veritable “disgrace to his cloth” and notorious for miles round. He had married (and solely for her money) a wife who was several years his senior—a wealthy Scotch woman— and the ill-assorted pair led a “cat-and-dog” life, further complicated by the presence at the Rectory of a pretty and brazen young maid-servant, about whose relations with the Rector the ugliest rumours spread abroad. Quite suddenly the unhappy lady—mistress of the house—disappeared, and was never seen or heard of again! She had gone to pay a visit to her relations in Scotland, so her shameless husband explained and affirmed. Tongues were wagged, and heads shaken over the mysterious occurrence, but nothing was ever found out. Perhaps she had separated from him of her own free will, the misery and degradation of her marriage being common talk. Who could tell? And there were very few police in country districts, no telegrams, and hardly any newspapers in those long ago days. Later on, the wicked Rector himself died; and his companion in sin, the maid, took herself away from the parish. Then, little by little, there was built up a tale of the Rectory being inexplicably haunted by a tall gaunt woman with a terrible sinister glare in her eyes, who glided along passages and into certain bedrooms of the house. And (herein was the crux of the story) whoever she encountered, and looked full in the face, died within the year!

I myself never went back to the place till long after I was married. Then I stayed with the distant relatives aforesaid, and was very ill while there. Coming to my senses after several days’ unconsciousness, I found that the nurse in attendance had had me moved away from my cosy former quarters on the west side of the house to the “haunted bedroom ” (of all places) in that dire east wing! She declared it was more airy and pleasant for a patient; all my expostulations and entreaties to be moved back again to the west wing proved worse than useless. My agonized pleadings were treated solely as the ravings of a brain weakened by long illness. And for three long weeks I lay, trembling and helpless, fearful through each hour of the day and night lest I should glance up and see my door slowly and mysteriously slide open; that terrible ghostly female figure appear! and I receive my death sentence in the glare of those evil eyes! But still, to my relief she did not come. Till one dull grey Sunday afternoon when I was almost convalescent, that which I had prayed to be delivered from really seemed about to happen to me.

Nurse was seated by the window reading or writing letters; myself lying peacefully and happily in bed, thankful that the worst of my illness was over and I soon to be about again, when my very blood froze in my veins, as I saw my door-handle begin to turn; my door to slide ajar, thrust open by a spectral hand, a woman’s grey-clad dreadful figure enter and move swiftly towards the bed! But (thanks be to Heaven!) she did not draw the curtains or attempt to look at me.

She just sat down by the bed-side, in the chair that Nurse habitually used; I screamed loud enough to bring the household flocking to my couch; Nurse rushed to see what was amiss with me; but the figure disappeared from view without her noticing it. I was ill with brain-fever for a good many weeks afterwards, and neither doctors nor nurses were ever able to explain the cause of my relapse.

In due time my cousin chose to make some alterations in the Rectory, and even in the dire east wing itself; and in pulling down one of the walls of that very same “chintz ” room wherein I and my two poor friends had gone through such a vigil of fear and suffering, the workmen came across an opening in the wall covered with lath and plaster; and inside that a little winding stairway, leading to an apparently unguessed-at chamber, a large attic high up under the roof. The door of this room was likewise blocked, and must have been so for many, many years judging by the dust heaped around and the cobwebs across it. Bursting it open, nothing appeared but in one far comer a rope, old and frayed, hanging from the ceiling, and beneath it a heap of tattered rags and some decaying bones and a skull. The doctor who afterwards examined the remains declared them to be those of a female; but whether of the wicked Rector’s ill-used, and probably murdered wife, I am not prepared to say!

[Though the names given in this story are fictitious, I have received the fullest details from the people concerned. The ghost was seen many times by different people, and the narrative may be regarded as absolutely authentic. The rectory was subsequently burnt down under circumstances of a mysterious kind, and a factory was built on the site.—Ed.]

The Occult Review July 1916: p. 31-37

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil hopes that her modern readers will not find the discursiveness of the nineteenth-century ghost story too tiresome. They often occur in a country rectory (which raises a great many questions about the clergymen of the Church of England) and always end so satisfyingly, with mysterious bones found in sealed-up rooms; a technique Mrs Daffodil has always wanted to try.

Mrs Daffodil thinks it was very unkind of the narrator to “not believe a single word” of her unhappy friend’s story. Even if one put the horrifying vision down to hallucination induced by fatigue or doing oneself too well with cakes at tea, the young ladies’ terror was real and required sympathy and a stiff brandy.

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.


The Head-Dress Party: 1904-1927

"Snow-Queen" wig and crown, c. 1950. A theatrical costume. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O106041/theatre-costume-kirsta-george/

“Snow-Queen” wig and crown, c. 1950. A theatrical costume. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O106041/theatre-costume-kirsta-george/


For a head-dress party ask each guest to dress the hair in some fancy way. The men dress in Washington, Jefferson and other wigs noted in history, while the ladies fix their locks according to noted beauties, queens, and others. Strings of pearls, tiaras, and jewels make a beautiful display. Conventional evening dress is worn in most instances, save where a ruff or frill is added to heighten the effect of the headgear. A prize is offered for the best head-dress. The minuet makes a pretty dance to finish the evening. Novel Suggestions for Social Occasions, Paul Pierce, 1907

Hallowe’en was not the only occasion for a head-dress party.


Christmas wouldn’t seem real without parties, would it? One of the jolliest you can possibly give is the Fancy Headdress Party, and if you can persuade mother to help with it, you and your guests are sure to have a wonderful time.

In one corner of each invitation card yon might paint a little cocked hat; this will give your guests some idea of the kind of party it is to be.

On the great day you must have ready lots of sheets of different coloured crepe paper —be sure to get the non-inflammable variety; then there won’t be so much danger of your setting yourselves alight if you venture too near the Christmas tree candles.

You’ll also need several pairs of old blunt-pointed scissors (one pair between two children), a few little jars of paste, and lots and lots of ordinary pins.

When all the guests are assembled, you must pair them off; give every couple a supply of papers, and explain that each child must make a head-dress for his or her partner. Allow about a quarter of an hour, or a little longer, for the competition; when time is up, ring a bell as a sign that everyone must stop work.

All the head-dresses must be kept on during tea—you’ve no idea how jolly everyone will look, wearing some gay and absurd head-dress. It will make a splendid start to the party, and is a very good way of getting shy children to know each other.

1907 fancy-dress head-dresses The Evening Star [Washington, DC] 19 January 1907: p. 4

1907 fancy-dress head-dresses: Princess, Man’s Hat, Turkish, Automobile Girl, Spanish Girl The Evening Star [Washington, DC] 19 January 1907: p. 4

After tea, comes the judging; and perhaps daddy or uncle will help you with this. There will be one prize for the most original head-dress, and another for the one which best suits its wearer, and finally, a prize to be won by the child who guesses correctly what most of the head-dresses are supposed to represent. Papers and pencils will be needed for this last competition. And now for a few ideas for the headdresses. One of the easiest and most effective would be that of a Rajah. For this, two lengths of coloured paper, say emerald green and red or orange, should be loosely twisted together and wound round the head, with the ends tucked in and secured with pins; a fringed “feather” ornament could be stuck on to the front as a finishing touch. Another good idea would be to make one like an Egyptian lady wears—with woven bands round the head, and great discs of contrasting hued paper to go over the ears. “Jewels” can be cut out of different coloured paper and pasted on with very good effect. A Dutch cap of white paper would look very pretty, while a chef’s cap or a dunce’s cocked hat, might be made by the younger children.

A mediaeval lady’s cone-shaped headdress, with long hanging ends, will be easy to manage; so will big flower hats such as poppies, sun-flowers, dahlias and roses.

In fact, it is surprising how much you can do with coloured paper once you start—and you will probably find that the child who says: “Oh, I’m sure I couldn’t make anything,” will be the one to fashion the best head-dress of all! Just try one of these parties, and see. Auckland Star, 24 December 1927: p. 3


One imagines that this windmill hat–part of a “Moulin Rouge” fancy-dress costume–would be ideal for a head-dress party. http://europeanafashion.eu/record/a/f520eae436196aa36b5e9082511918262ecd5435d2bbb911f7d1dbb3aec6c14e


Society Women in Ordinary Ball Costumes, But Wearing Novel Makeup of Hair.

London, Feb. 13. Altogether the feature of the week was the amusing and picturesque headdress party given by Mr. and Lady Fedorovna Stuart, at 18 Portman square, the sine qua non of which was that all the guests had to wear fancy headgear, an exception being made only in the case of the Duke and Duchess of Connaught.

Undoubtedly the most becoming and most effective costume was that worn by the hostess herself. With a beautifully made white muslin dress and a blue sash she wore a high hat of white muslin and lace, trimmed with an edging of lace around the brim. Her hair was beautifully coiffured and powdered with gray.

Mrs. George Cornwallis West caused great amusement when she arrived. She had donned a blond wig like that worn by Marguerite with long plaits, which completely changed her appearance. Her husband was completely disguised under a coal black wig and mustache.

Mrs. George Keppel’s headdress was very novel. It was a wig of the Louis XVI period, made in the palest green blue, with one long curl falling down the neck. In this novel wig was fastened a large blue and silver bat, with electric eyes. Her dress was of white satin, trimmed with white lilies, cherries and lace.

Mrs. John Mendies looked pretty in an enormous white mob cap, trimmed with a great bow of cherry colored ribbons

Mme. Von Andre looked handsome, but one missed her beautiful hair under a fair wig of the period when hair was dressed high with great combs at the back. Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 14 February 1904: p. 12


A Students’ Association had a very successful party, carrying out an idea that is especially good for a lawn party. Each guest had to wear a headdress belonging to some special century, or country, or suggestive of some idea or joke. The headdresses were supposed to be made by the wearers at small cost; prizes were given for the most artistic, the most effective, the most ingenious and the most comical.

The prize for the most artistic headdress went to a high, white medieval cap made of cheesecloth and stiff muslin worn in England in the time of Edward I. The most effective headdress was an enormous white ox-eye daisy made of paper; the most ingenious was a cat’s head that fitted like a mask all over the head, and was made of stiff muslin covered with gray packing paper and painted; the most comical was a caricature of the prevailing fashion of the time, worn by a tall, red-haired young man. The Book of Games and Parties for All Occasions, Theresa Hunt Wolcott, 1920

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Head-dress parties are frequently described as “amusing.” Perhaps she is too severe, but to Mrs Daffodil, they seem tailor-made for those too parsimonious to hire fancy dress for the evening or too indolent to chose a costume from the stock of original eighteenth-century garments kept in the box-room for family amateur theatricals. “A failure of imagination” about sums it up. Still, Mrs Daffodil realises that it is not an ideal world and there are times when an office Hallowe’en party demands, not a full super-hero costume, but merely a funny hat.

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.


Feline Entertainments: 1885, 1905

Cat at the tea-table, c. 1911

Cat at the tea-table, c. 1911

Cat Parties the Latest.

Cat parties are the latest entertainments. Recently a young girl, the happy possessor of a fine Maltese cat, invited a number of her friends to bring their pet cats to 5 o’clock tea, each cat to have a ribbon about its neck corresponding to that worn by its mistress. At the appointed hour the cats made their appearance in charge of their respective owners. After the feline introductions had taken place, some of which were the reverse of friendly, games were introduced and soft balls, toy mice and other objects dear to pussy’s heart were provided.

These pastimes, however, I grieve to say, were sometimes marred by a vigorous slap when two strangers came in collision and once the belligerent pussies had to be separated by friends. When tea was announced, a table furnished with saucers of milk and small cages, and with cushioned stools, was disclosed. The floral decorations consisted of catnip, lavender, grasses and bright flowers. The cats placed on their respective stools, and attended by their mistresses partook of the good things set before them. Their behavior was quite correct. With their forepaw on the table they lapped the milk with becoming propriety.

When all were satisfied, there was a comical sight. Each pussy began making her toilet, and the face-washing was decorous in the extreme. After leaving the table, a sprig of catnip was given each kitty, and the feline happiness was complete. These sprigs were tossed in the air, caught, and lovingly caressed. As each kitty departed, it was presented with its ball or toy mouse as a memento of the party.

Bismarck [ND] Tribune 20 October 1885: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: If cats were being celebrated in 1885; there was a resurgence of the feline entertainment in 1905. A birthday party was meticulously planned for “Alice Roosevelt,” a black Angora, by Mrs. J.C. Hitchcock of New Castle, Pennsylvania, her owner, if Angora cats may be said to be owned.


A “Coming-out” Event for Mrs. Hitchcock’s Angora.

Sharon, Pa., February 26. Invitations have been issued by Mrs. J.C. Hitchcock, of New Castle, for a fashionable feline party in honor of the third anniversary of her black Angora cat, Alice, named for President Roosevelt’s daughter. The party is to be held at her beautiful residence within a few days.

The novelty of the affair has stirred New Castle society, and it promises to be largely attended by the best and wealthiest people of the tin-plate city down the valley. New Castle society leaders are proud of their high-bred cats and dogs and Mrs. Hitchcock is no exception. She conceived the idea of giving the party, which is to be the “coming out” event of her pretty Angora cat. The invitations read:
“Mrs. Hitchcock desires your presence at a party to be given in honour of the third birthday of her cat Alice. You are requested to bring your best felines.

Only high-bred and well-behaved cats are to be admitted, and prizes will be awarded to the handsomest. A dainty luncheon for the friends of Alice will be prepared by caterers.

Acceptances have been received from nearly every one to whom an invitation was sent.

Baltimore [MD] American 27 February 1905: p. 8

One is a little unsure about the propriety of a “coming-out” party for a black Angora. Debutantes are required to wear white gowns and wool, no matter how fine, is rarely on the approved list of textiles. And how did “Alice Roosevelt” acquire her name—did Mrs Hitchcock catch her smoking? Sadly, the party had to be confined to the family circle as Mrs Hitchcock fell ill.  Neighborhood gossips—perhaps those who were not invited to the lavish gathering—spread rumours that, had the invitations not been rescinded, the guest of honour would have dined alone. They claimed that most invitations had been declined by the local nibs, who treated the party as a joke. The cat in the illustration at the head of his post seems be taking the entertainment very seriously indeed.

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.


“Mother lived without the Parish; she’ll be buried without the Parish:” 1842

The Potters Field

The Potters Field

It was a fine summer Sabbath evening in June, and we were knocking about among the tombstones as usual, making our observations upon life and character, when our attention was arrested by a plain coffin, borne upon the shoulders of four men in black, and followed by eight chief mourners, all in decent but humble suits of sables. The chief mourners were eight children—four boys and four girls: or, to speak more correctly, three boys and three girls, with two little ‘ toddles,’ mere infants, straggling in the rear. The eldest boy and girl might have been about fifteen and fourteen years respectively; the next, twelve and eleven; the third pair between seven and eight; the youngest, as we have said, between infancy and childhood. The eyes of all spectators were upon the bereaved ones as they stood around the grave, yawning to receive their only parent and provider; and few were the dry eyes of those that behold the melancholy group— the eldest boy looking fierce and manlike, the rest weeping bitterly, save the youngest pair, looking wonderingly around, as if marvelling what all the ceremony might mean.

“Cutting funeral, that, sir;” observed a little pursy man in black who stood near us; “werry cutting funeral, indeed,” repeated the little man, blowing his nose violently.

“Who are they?” we enquired, not without anticipating something like the little domestic history we were favoured with by the nose-blowing little man in black.

“Horphans, sir—every one on ’em horphans; that’s their mother as is a bein’ buried, sir.”


“Yes, sir; she was a ‘spectable woman—highly ‘spectable, indeed— werry wirtuous, poor woman, sir—paid rates and taxes in the parish for twenty year. I ought to know it; for I’m one of the overseers—I am.”

“I should like to hear something of the family.”

“Should you, sir? Well, you shall hear; but it’s a melancholy story— wery melancholy, indeed. You must know, sir, there wasn‘t a more decenter couple in this parish than Thomas Mason and his wife, Jane; they were well to do, and doing well; every body respected them, for they paid their way and was civil to their customers. Well, Thomas fell in a decline, sir, and died; but he didn’t die soon enough— for his sickness wasted all their substance, and the business was neglected, so the family fell into poverty: but the poor widow struggled on, and the exertions she made to maintain them little ones was really the wonder of the neighbourhood. ‘Mr Smith,’ says she to me, when I offered some relief, ‘I won’t trouble this world long, and parish money shall never cross my palm; but when I’m gone, you won’t see my desolate orphans want a morsel of bread.‘ So, poor woman, she was right; for she soon sickened, and was bed-ridden for thirteen months; and them children, as you see a standin’ ’round their mother‘s grave, worked themselves to an oil to keep her from the hospital–much more the workus. The girls worked all day; and boys and girls sat up all night, turn and turn about, with their poor mother–she was sorely afflicted, poor woman. Well, sir; when she died at last, our vicar went and offered his assistance, and told the children, of course, the parish would bury their mother ; but that there hobstinate boy, him that’s a givin’ his orders, wouldn’t hear of it, and blowed up the vicar for mentioning such a thing. So the vicar comes to me, and says be, Mr Smith, these here young Mason’s is the oddest babies as ever I see, for they’ve sold their bed and all their things to bury their mother; let‘s make up a purse for them, and there’s my sovereign to begin with. Says I, sir, never mind, I‘ll bring them right; and the parish shall bury the poor woman, so that’ll be so much saved: and with that I goes off to Poppin’s court, and into the fust floor; there was the poor woman dead, and the room stripped of all the furniture and things. Says that there youth, ‘ Mr Smith,‘ says he, ‘ I’d be wery glad to see you another time, but we’re in great grief for our mother bein’ dead, and we hope you‘ll excuse us not askin’ you to sit down.’ Lord love you, sir, there wasn’t the sign of a chair or a table in the room, nothing but the corpse, and a bit of a plank. Says I, ‘my boy, I’m sorry for your grief, but I hope you won’t have any objection to let the parish manage your poor mother’s funeral.’ With that, sir, the boy flares up like any think, whips up a poker, and swears if he catches the parish a-comin‘ to touch his mother, he’ll brain the lot of ’em: ‘Mother lived without the parish,’ says he, ‘died without the parish, and she’ll be buried without the parish!’ With that he opens the door, and shews me down stairs as if he was a suckin’ markis: that‘s the story on ’em, sir; and they’re a riggler hindependent lot as ever I see. God help them, poor things!”

And with this the little man blew his nose once more, as the group of motherless children, reformed in their sad order of procession, and with streaming eyes, and many repeated last looks at their mother‘s grave, departed to their naked home.

Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 52, 1842

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Just as going to the “work-house” or, in the United States, the “poor farm,” was a disgrace—the last humiliation of the desperate— being on the parish dole was seen as a mark of shame. A “pauper’s funeral” was considered equally degrading: the coffin, if there was one, was of the cheapest wood, nothing more than a coarse shroud was provided, and burial was in the Potters Field where one would lie cheek-by-jowl with the stranger, the unchristened, and the immoral. Shuddering at the prospect, many persons went into debt to pay for a respectable funeral.

If anyone could have used financial assistance, it would have been the bereaved Mrs Mason and her brood of eight, but her pride would not allow it. One hopes that Mrs Mason’s children saw happier days and, when they had families of their own, purchased extensive life-insurance coverage to protect their loved ones from a similar, sad fate.

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.


A Mysterious Visitant: 1897


The following remarkable occurrence, an absolute fact, is related by a lady visiting friends in Hartford, as it was told her by her cousin in Meerut, North-Western India. It took place in the house of the narrator. Of its absolute accuracy there can be no question. The two sisters in India are connected with families of repute and with officers in the British Army in India. We give the story as the lady here related it. She is a devout member of the Episcopal Church, and is incapable of misrepresenting in the slightest particular.

Her cousin, in whose house the occurrence took place, was seated at a lighted table engaged in reading, when, thinking it about time to retire, and happening to lift her eyes from her book, she was astonished to see seated in a chair before her, and between herself and the door to the bathroom, a man, a stranger to her, who calmly regarded her. It was too great a surprise for her to speak and demand who was thus intruding upon her privacy, and what was wanted. She remained for a moment in silent astonishment.

Then it gradually dawned upon her that the figure was probably not that of a person of real flesh and blood, but a visitor from the unseen world of life. She remembered having once, as a child, seen a similar figure, under circumstances which seemed to preclude the idea that it was any person still in the body, and, in later years, in revolving those circumstances, she had remembered how the apparition had after a little while faded away into invisibility. Concluding that this new visitor also was not a person of flesh and blood, she sat silently gazing at the silent object, while the intruder, whoever or whatever he was, sat also in silence steadily regarding her. Just how long this state of things lasted, the lady did not accurately know, but it was probably not very long, when the mysterious stranger began to vanish into a thinner and thinner personal presence, until in a moment or two he had vanished quite away.

It was the lady’s hour for her evening bath, but she thought she would first let out her two pet dogs from their confinement in another room. They came, barking furiously, and running directly toward the bathroom. There through the open door the lady was horrified to see on the floor a monstrous cobra— the snake whose bite is certain and speedy death. Springing forward to save her dogs, she quickly shut the door, but not so instantaneously as to prevent her seeing the reptile turning and escaping down through a hole in the floor, where the drain pipes of bath-tub and wash-bowl went, a hole which had been carelessly left larger than was necessary.

If she had gone directly to the bathroom, as she would have done but for the intervention of her mysterious visitant, her life would undoubtedly have been sacrificed in the act.— From the ‘Hartford Times.’

Light 20 March 1897: p. 135

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A salutary lesson to all of us about the importance of finishing those little jobs of plumbing about the house. When this piece was read at tea in the servants’ hall, Mr Pinch, the Hall plumber, much moved, declared that he would give notice if any dashed reptile could make its way into the Hall through an unfilled gap in his plumbing.  Of course cobras are scarce in Kent, but it is the thought that counts and we applauded his diligence.

One does wonder who the stranger was—perhaps a previous tenant of the house, found, swollen, and blackened in his bath one evening and come to save the lady from a similar terrible fate? Mrs Daffodil also marvels at the sang-froid of the lady, who sat gazing at the ghostly intruder as he began to vanish.

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.