Category Archives: Animals

Hearse Horses: 1860-1911

 

Miniature model of a hearse and horses, c. 1865-75 http://www.musee-mccord.qc.ca/en/collection/artifacts/M990.674.1

It is the week-end of the Royal Windsor Horse-show and Mrs Daffodil has been persuaded by a box of really excellent chocolate cremes to allow Chris Woodyard, the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, to post a guest article on the theme of “hearse horses,” a class which Mrs Daffodil can confidently assert will not be on the programme at Windsor. In view of Prince Phillip’s impending retirement, a Hearse Four-in-Hand event might be seen as lacking in tact.

But enough persiflage. Chris Woodyard is champing at the bit….

Hearse and plumed hearse horses, 1870

In the United States, until the advent of the automobile hearse, hearse horses were a cherished commodity, well-known and sometimes beloved by the communities they served. The acquisition of a new pair of hearse horses was, like the purchase of a new hearse, an important event—something to be puffed in the papers. A smart team of plumed hearse horses was a selling point for any undertaker.

As late as 1911, E.F. Parks, an undertaker in Bryan, Texas, announced the arrival of “our fine team of hearse horses” rhapsodizing: “They are simply beautiful. White with a touch of red about the ears, back and hip. They are full brothers 5 and 6 years old.” Undertaker Parks even ran a contest for several weeks in the local newspaper to name the horses, selecting “Prince” and “Pilot” as the winning names. The Bryan [TX] Eagle 16 March 1911: p. 1

Mexican hearse with six netted horses. 1884

Articles about the acquisition of hearse horses often stressed the animals’ training (which seems to have been primarily about gait and speed), yet there were hundreds of accounts in contemporary newspapers of hearse horses running away or colliding with trees, trains, or telegraph poles, often with grave consequences.

FUNERAL HORROR FRIGHTENED HORSES

The Corpse of a Man Pulled After the Demolished Hearse in a Runaway

Rochester, N.Y., Feb. 24. A ghastly accident occurred at the double funeral of Mr. and Mrs. John Hackett, held near Lyons yesterday afternoon that has deeply shocked that community.

While the first hearse, drawn by a spirited team of blacks, was passing through a deep snow drift the horses became frightened, and, unseating the driver, ran away. The hearse containing the coffin and the remains of Mr. Hackett tipped over and the casket was demolished, throwing out the corpse, which, becoming entangled in the wrecked hearse, was dragged a considerable distance over the bare road and through deep snow drifts. When the terrified team finally broke loose from the wrecked vehicle and its ghastly occupant, the corpse was so badly mangled as to be almost unrecognizable. A driver was sent to look up another casket, which was procured several hours later, after which the funeral procession proceeded to the cemetery, where both bodies were interred in one grave. Tucson [AZ] Daily Citizen 24 February 1902: p. 4

One undertaker, when he discovered that the hearse horse he had trained could not keep to the required solemn gait, made the best of a bad job and released the horse to a racing career:

There is a son of Del Sur in California that they call “The Los Angeles Del Sur Wonder,” but known, for short, as the “hearse horse.” He was bred by an undertaker, and used for a while hauling the hearse. He was found to be rather faster than was needed to keep at the head of the procession, and being trained, trotted a 2.20 gait and paced in 2.18. Otago Witness, 28 April 1892: p. 27

 

White child’s hearse with driver outside Neil Regan Funeral Home, Scranton, PA c. 1900 http://en.wikipedia.org

An essential part of funeral pageantry, black horses were used for many adult funerals; white horses—or sometimes white ponies—drew the white hearse of the maiden, the child, or the infant. White horses were also used at state funerals:

Last of the Lincoln Hearse Horses.

A local celebrity recently died after a kind, useful life of thirty-eight years, says the Indianapolis Journal. His name was Jesse, and the one act which entitled him to mention was participation in the funeral cortege of the martyred Lincoln. He was the last of the six white horses which drew the hearse containing the honored body along the streets of Indianapolis. His mate in the proud but sorrowful lead of the team died eight years ago. The McCook [NE] Tribune 3 July 1891: p. 8

Since they were so much in the public eye, certain traits made for the most desirable hearse horses. In the United States, this was a suggested standard:

A more popular hearse-horse is coal-black with no white markings, and he must also have a long, flowing tail. Occasionally they are accepted when slightly marked with white, which is less objectionable on the hind feet than in the face or on the front feet….A hearse requires a horse from 15-3 to 16-1 hands high and weighing 1200 to 1250 pounds. Quarterly Report of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture, Volume 21, 1909 p. 490 and 512

In England, a matched set of black Drenthe horses from Hanover were employed at royal funerals. For the fashionable society funeral, black Belgian stallions were the ne plus ultra. Some of the cheaper imported stallions lacked the all-important tail-weepers and were provided with false tails:

A queer English custom is that of decorating the black hearse horses with long false black tails. They attract no more notice on a street in Liverpool than do the black nets used in this country to cover the horses. Pierre [SD] Weekly Free Press 16 November 1905: p. 1

The use of nets, as seen in several of the illustrations, seem to have been confined to the Americas. If draped, a European funeral horse would wear a blanket, as we see in these pictures of Russian and Roumanian hearse horses.

Russian hearse with elaborately draped horses, First World War http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205250983

Draped Roumanian hearse horses c. 1920

Rich in detail is this account of the “Black Brigade” of funeral horses in London. I’m particularly amused by the horses being named for current celebrities. It is also fascinating that an influenza epidemic put pressure on the supply of desirable hearse horses.

A sample of the Black Brigade

THE BLACK BRIGADE

A good many of the coal horses are blacks and dark bays, and by some people they are known as ‘the black brigade ‘; but the real black brigade of London’s trade are the horses used for funerals. This funeral business is a strange one in many respects, but, just as the jobmaster is in the background of the every-day working world, so the jobmaster is at the back of the burying world. The ‘funeral furnisher’ is equal to all emergencies on account of the facilities he possesses for hiring to an almost unlimited extent, so long as the death rate is normal. The [funeral] wholesale men, the ‘black masters,’ are always ready to cope with a rate of twenty per thousand —London’s normal is seventeen—but when it rises above that, as it did in the influenza time, the pressure is so great that the ‘blacks’ have to get help from the ‘coloured,’ and the ‘horse of pleasure’ becomes familiar with the cemetery roads.

A hundred years ago there was but one black master in London. He owned all the horses; and there are wonderful stories of the funerals in those days when railways were unknown. The burying of a duke or even a country squire, in the family vault, was then a serious matter, for the body had to be taken the whole distance by road, and the horses were sometimes away for a week or more, and were often worked in relays, much on the same plan as the coach-horses, only that rapid progress through the towns and villages was impossible, for the same reason that no living undertaker dare trot with a tradesman within the limits of the district in which the deceased happens to have been known and respected….

Hearse with Plumes, John Henry Walker, 1850-85 http://www.musee-mccord.qc.ca/en/collection/artifacts/M930.50.7.409

Altogether there are about 700 of these black horses in London. They are all Flemish, and come to us from the flats of Holland and Belgium by way of Rotterdam and Harwich. They are the youngest horses we import, for they reach us when they are rising three years old, and take a year or so before they get into full swing; in fact, they begin work as what we may call the ‘half-timers’ of the London horse-world. When young they cost rather under than over a hundred guineas a pair, but sometimes they get astray among the carriage folk, who pay for them, by mistake of course, about double the money. In about a year or more, when they have got over their sea-sickness and other ailments, and have been trained and acclimatised, they fetch 65£. each; if they do not turn out quite good enough for first-class -work they are cleared out to the second-class men at about twenty-five guineas; if they go to the repository they average 10£; if they go to the knacker’s they average thirty-five shillings, and they generally go there after six years’ work. Most of them are stallions, for Flemish geldings go shabby and brown. They are cheaper now than they were a year or two back, for the ubiquitous American took to buying them in their native land for importation to the States, and thereby sent up the price; but the law of supply and demand came in to check the rise, and some enterprising individual actually took to importing black horses here from the States, and so spoilt the corner.

Three-horse hearse, c. 1895-1898 http://www.historymuseum.ca/collections/artifact/140018/?q=deueil&page_num=2&item_num=2&media_irn=5249990 Canadian Museum of Civilization digitized historical negatives

Here, in the East Road, are about eighty genuine Flemings, housed in capital stables, well built, lofty, light, and well ventilated, all on the ground floor. Over every horse is his name, every horse being named from the celebrity, ancient or modern, most talked about at the time of his purchase, a system which has a somewhat comical side when the horses come to be worked together. Some curious traits of character are revealed among these celebrities as we pay our call at their several stalls. General Booth [founder of the Salvation Army], for instance, is ‘most amiable, and will work with any horse in the stud’; all the Salvationists ‘are doing well,’ except [George Scott] Railton, ‘who is showing too much blood and fire. Last week he had a plume put on his head for the first time, and that upset him.’ [Journalist W.T.]Stead, according to his keeper, is ‘a good horse, a capital horse—showy perhaps, but some people like the showy; he does a lot of work, and fancies he does more than he does. We are trying him with General Booth, but he will soon tire him out, as he has done others. He wouldn’t work with [biologist Thomas Henry] Huxley at any price!’ Curiously enough, Huxley ‘will not work with [physicist John] Tyndall, but gets on capitally with Dr. [philanthropist Thomas John] Barnardo.’ Tyndall, on the other hand, goes well with Dickens,’ but has a decided aversion to Henry Ward Beecher. [Liberal statesman John] Morley works ‘comfortably’ with [Conservative politician & PM Arthur] Balfour, but [Liberal statesman William Vernon] Harcourt and [Irish political leader Michael] Davitt ‘won’t do as a pair anyhow.’ An ideal team seems to consist of [political activist and atheist Charles] Bradlaugh, John Knox, Dr. [Alfred] Adler, and Cardinal [Henry Edward] Manning. But the practice of naming horses after church and chapel dignitaries is being dropped owing to a superstition of the stable. ‘All the horses,’ the horsekeeper says, ‘named after that kind of person go wrong somehow!’ And so we leave Canon [Frederic] Farrar, and Canon [Henry] Liddon, and Dr.[William Morley] Punshon, and John Wesley and other lesser lights, to glance at the empty stalls of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, now ‘out on a job,’ and meet in turn with [celebrity quack doctor] Sequah and [Louis] Pasteur, [hypnotist Franz Anton] Mesmer and [Electrohomeopathy inventor Cesare] Mattei. Then we find ourselves amid a bewildering mixture of poets, politicians, artists, actors, and musicians.

‘Why don’t you sort them out into stables, and have a poet stable, an artist stable, and so on?’

‘They never would stand quiet. The poets would never agree; and as to the politicians—well, you know what politicians are, and these namesakes of theirs are as like them as two peas!’ And so the horses after they are named have to be changed about until they find fit companions, and then everything goes harmoniously. The stud is worked in sections of four; every man has four horses which he looks after and drives; under him being another man, who drives when the horses go out in pairs instead of in the team.

One would think these horses were big, black retriever dogs, to judge by the liking and understanding which spring up between them and their masters. It is astonishing what a lovable, intelligent animal a horse is when he finds he is understood. According to popular report these Flemish stallions are the most vicious and ill-tempered of brutes; but those who keep them and know them are of the very opposite opinion….

There is an old joke about the costermonger’s donkey who looked so miserable because he had been standing for a week between two hearse horses, and had not got over the depression. The reply to this is that the depression is mutual. The ‘black family’ has always to be alone; if a coloured horse is stood in one of the stalls, the rest of the horses in the stable will at once become miserable and fretful. The experiment has been tried over and over again, and always with the same result; and thus it has come – about that in the black master’s yards, the coloured horses used for ordinary draught work are always in a stable by themselves.

1880 hearse

The funeral horse hardly needs description. The breed has been the same for centuries. He stands about sixteen hands, and weighs between 12 and 13 cwt. The weight behind him is not excessive, for the car does not weigh over 17 cwt., and even with a lead coffin he has the lightest load of any of our draught horses. The worst roads he travels are the hilly ones to Highgate, Finchley, and Norwood. These he knows well and does not appreciate. In a few months he gets to recognise all the cemetery roads ‘like a book,’ and after he is out of the bye streets he wants practically no driving, as he goes by himself, taking all the proper corners and making all the proper pauses. This knowledge of the road has its inconveniences, as it is often difficult to get him past the familiar corner when he is out at exercise. But of late he has had exercise enough at work, and during the influenza epidemic was doing his three and four trips a day, and the funerals had to take place not to suit the convenience of the relatives, but the available horse-power of the undertaker. Six days a week he works, for after a long agitation there are now no London funerals on Sundays, except perhaps those of the Jews, for which the horses have their day’s rest in the week.

To feed such a horse costs perhaps two shillings a day—-it is a trifle under that, over the 700—and his food differs from that of any other London horse. In his native Flanders he is fed a good deal upon slops, soups, mashes, and so forth; and as a Scotsman does best on his oatmeal, so the funeral horse, to keep in condition, must have the rye-bread of his youth. Rye-bread, oats, and hay form his mixture, with perhaps a little clover, but not much, for it would not do to heat him, and beans and such things are absolutely forbidden. Every Saturday he has a mash like other horses, but unlike them his mash consists, not of bran alone, but of bran and linseed in equal quantities. What the linseed is for we know not; it may be, as a Life Guardsman suggested to us, to make his hair glossy, that beautiful silky hair which is at once his pride and the reason of his special employment, and the sign of his delicate, sensitive constitution.

The Horse-world of London, William John Gordon, 1893, pp 139-147

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We find equally telling detail in this section from an article on unusual professions. Painting over inconvenient white portions of a funeral horse was widely practiced. An 1875 article tells of undertakers “not stinting with paint or black lead.” A lady observer in 1912 wrote about “dyed horses” in Paris funeral processions.

Vista of funeral horses, man painting out a white fetlock.

The last curious industry deals with funeral horses. Mr. Robert Roe, of Kennington Park Road, has imported these stately animals for upwards of twenty-five years. It seems they come from Friesland and Zeeland, and cost from £40 to £70. There must be about nine hundred funeral horses in London. The average undertaker, however, keeps neither horses nor coaches, but hires these from people like Seaward, of Islington. Mr. Seaward keeps a hundred funeral horses, so that a visit to his stables is an interesting experience.

“It is dangerous,” said one of my informants, “to leave a pair of these black stallions outside public-houses, when returning from a funeral; for these animals fight with great ferocity.” Once, at a very small funeral, the coachman lent a hand with the coffin; but, in his absence, the horses ran amuck among the tombstones, which went down like ninepins in all directions.

A white spot takes a large sum off the value of a funeral horse. In the photo one of Mr. Seaward’s men is painting a horse’s white fetlock with a mixture of lampblack and oil. A white star on the forehead may be covered by the animal’s own foretop.

On the right-hand side in the photo. will be seen hanging a horse’s tail. This is sent to the country with a “composite” horse— a Dutch black, not used for the best funeral work, owing to his lack of tail. He is sold to a country jobmaster, with a separate flowing tail, bought in Holland for a shilling or two. In the daytime, the “composite” horse conducts funerals, the tail fastened on with a strap; but at night he discards it, and gaily takes people to and from the theatres.

Worn-out funeral horses, one is horrified to learn, are shipped back to Holland and Belgium, where they are eaten.

The Strand Magazine, Vol. 13, 1897: p. 202

At least, that was the practice in England; Belgian horses were prized in their native country for their tender meat. In the United States, a hearse horse often retired to green pastures, after a long and useful career. This clever hearse horse had a well-deserved tribute paid to him on his retirement.

KEPT UNDERTAKERS BUSY

Horse Always Stopped at Houses Where Crape Hung on Door.

From the New York Press.

Having reached such a degree of zealousness in behalf of his owner’s business interests that he would stop in front of any house on the front of which symbols of mourning were displayed, Dan, for twenty years a faithful horse for Thomas M. O’Brien, an undertaker of Bayonne, N.J., has been retired on a pension. The undertaker made arrangements with a farmer in Orange county to take good care of Dan for the rest of his life, and to give him decent burial when he dies. Dan was shipped away yesterday. Twice when on the way to the railroad station the horse balked, and it was noticed that each time he balked it was in front of a house with crape hanging on the door. It was not until the driver whispered in Dan’s ear that his boss already had the jobs that the intelligent animal consented to move on.

Dan knows the way to and from every cemetery within 20 miles of Bayonne. Some persons even assert that he knows most of the family plots in those cemeteries. More than once the horse placed O’Brien in an exceedingly embarrassing position by stopping with a hearse in front of houses on which mourning was displayed regardless of whether O’Brien had been retained to have charge of the burial.

One of the stipulations entered into between O’Brien and the Orange county farmer is that Dan must not be compelled to do any work. He must have good oats and timothy hay in winter and, added to that, all the grass he can eat in spring, summer, and fall.

“He’s earned his retirement by twenty years of faithful work,” O’Brien said. “If he were a man instead of a horse, he would have been a partner long before this. He was simply indefatigable in hunting for new business.” The Washington [DC] Post 17 January 1909: p. M10

Shrouded horses with hearse, 1858, advertising Undertakers Massey & Yung, San Francisco

The hearse horse might also serve as an equine memento mori as in this elegiac New England article:

THE OLD HEARSE HORSE

Among the long-standing fixtures of our day are the Hearse-man, the venerable Robert Bell, and his scarcely less venerable old Black Horse, which will be twenty years old next months. For fourteen years the same man and the same horse have been in attendance at almost every funeral that has taken place in our city. For nearly two thousand times have they borne to their resting places the old and the young—the rich and the poor, the learned and the unlettered. There can be seen scarcely a more grave sight than these funereal accompaniments. The old horse though lively and active on other occasions, knows the moment a corpse is put into the hearse, and he will scarcely mind the admonition of a whip to change his speed from walking. His master is growing infirm and the horse is nearly blind—a premonition that all must ere long return to the dust. Portsmouth [NH] Journal of Literature and Politics 12 May 1860: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil is sure that we are all very grateful to the subfusc author for being so relentlessly informative and are pleased to have learned something new to-day about this department of the Victorian funeral industry.

Mrs Daffodil has noticed an unlikely resemblance between the plume-adorned hearse-horses with their dark burdens and beplumed circus horses drawing brilliantly carved and coloured circus wagons at a stately pace. One idly wonders if an aged circus horse ever retired to a career as a hearse-horse or if a black horse of too cheerful a disposition might run away with the circus.

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or 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.

 

The Jockey Wore Crape: 1870

THE DREAM HORSE

(By “Old Ballaratian” in Melbourne “Argus”)

There are more things in heaven and on earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. ..

The present being the second time the Melbourne Cup has been postponed on account of abnormally heavy rain storms, it is not inappropriate to recall the first occasion, upon which it was “held up” for exactly the same reason and also because it is associated with what is probably the most remarkable incident in the annals of horse racing and which is now a tradition of the Australian Turf.

The story which has been often told in an incomplete mangled way, is worth repeating in correct form. Sometime about the middle of September in the year 1870, a party of eight gentlemen were gathered together one evening after dinner in the private parlour of the well-known Balarat hostel “Craig’s Hotel” then presided over by the late veteran sportsman and popular host, Mr Walter Craig. The conversation turned upon racing and the approaching Melbourne Cup, whereupon Mr Craig related to the company a strange dream, which was afterwards to be looked upon in the light of a startling prophecy. Mr Craig said: “1 dreamt I saw a horse ridden by a jockey wearing my colours, but with crape on his left sleeve, come in first in the Melbourne Cup.”

“Billy” Slack, one of the biggest double event “bookies” of his day, who was one of the party, good-naturedly offered to bet Mr Craig £1000 to eight, drinks that a horse named Croydon would not win the forthcoming A.J.C. Metropolitan and that his dream would not come true. The bet was taken and the drinks were consumed in advance.

One morning shortly afterwards Mr Craig remarked to a member of his family: “Nimblefoot will win the Melbourne Cup, but I shall not live to see it.” And that, very night he died.

Croydon won the “Metro;” Nimblefoot won the Melbourne Cup by a short head and the jockey, young Day, wore a crape band upon his left sleeve, out of respect to the late owner of the winner Nimblefoot.

Great was the regret in Ballarat that poor Walter Craig did not live to see his horse triumph. Of course, as Mr Craig had died in the meantime, all bets were off, but an act that will ever redound to the honor of “Billy” Slack the bookmaker, was that he paid in full the late Walter Craig’s widow £1000.

Grey River Argus 25 November 1916: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: To-morrow is the day of the American horse-racing contest, The Kentucky Derby, so a supernatural racing story seems to be in order. Mrs Daffodil has written upon another prophetic horse-racing dream in “Dreaming a Derby Winner,”  while that hearse-loving person over at Haunted Ohio has reported on “Hunches and Hearses at the Racetrack.”

 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 New York Girl and the Dog-Catchers: 1890

(c) Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

A New York Girl’s Nerve

From the New York Sun.

A black French poodle was trotting down Fifth avenue on a breezy, bright afternoon with a fine, straight young woman. The dog seemed proud of his mistress and the girl was proud of her dog. While all was peaceful and danger seemed nowhere nigh, a rickety and creaky covered wagon, drawn by a pitiable wreck of a horse, and having on its seat two repulsive young men, came around a corner. One of the young toughs leaped to the ground and made a quick plunge for the dog, catching it by the hind leg and whirling it above his head in a circle, running as he did so toward the rear of his wagon. Quicker than it takes to say so the young woman was in front of the young tough, with one hand clutching his coat collar and the other holding the muzzle of a silver-mounted smelling bottle to his face.

“You drop my dog or I’ll shoot you,” said the girl.

The young fellow peered out of his small eyes into the determined face before him, and as he attempted to shake the girl’s hand from his collar, said: “Aw, wot yer given me, any way? Don’t yer see we’re der dog catchers, an’ you ain’t got no right ter have yer purp out without a muzzle? Der dog goes along wid us, see?”

The girl’s face took on a fiercer and still more ominous look. The dog, still in the grasp of the man, was twisting to get away and yelping with pain.

“If you do not drop my dog this instant,” said the girl, “I will fire. Do you hear me?”

The catcher dropped the dog. By this time people were coming up to see the disturbance. The young woman put the bogus weapon into the small chatelaine bag that she wore, blew a small silver whistle, and, accompanied by her joyous dog, pursued her morning walk serenely and with stately grace.

The Anaconda Standard 29 October 1890: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Just as Boston girls were labeled intellectuals and Philadelphia girls had a reputation as the souls of propriety, New York girls were said to be able to take care of themselves. Given the “mean streets,” they might walk—dodging scores of mashers, cads, and cat-callers—this was obviously a necessity. Hat-pins and stout parasols could be deployed in an emergency. This young lady showed a particularly inventive flair in using her smelling-salts bottle as a weapon. One of the Hall footmen, who is fond of thrillers at the cinema, reports that he has seen a lip-stick case used in an identical manner in a spy picture. Without the poodle, of course.

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 Pets’ Christmas: 1901-1915

PETS HAVE HIGH JINKS

Lamb Chops, Carrots, and Bottle Flies hang on Christmas Tree.

Chicago. On the Christmas tree hung four luscious lamb chops.

Near the top were eight fine, big blue bottle flies, each impaled deftly on a pin thrust through red tissue paper.

Two luscious carrots dangled by red ribbons, knotted into holly, from a lower branch.

Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Crane fluttered about like flustered mamma and excited dad at a daughter’s coming-out party.

The tree was lighted; Mrs. Crane’s four chameleons executed deep courtesies; Dick, who was the guest of honor, barked a tiny squeak of appreciation, and the pets’ Christmas tree party was on.

Dick, be it known, is the Belgian griffon owned by Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Grossmith. Vernon Castle, a brother of Mrs. Grossmith, solemnly baptized the dog a year ago, and has been Dick’s patron, so that these social affairs are somewhat boresome to him.

But Mrs. Crane’s chameleons’ party was not boresome. The chameleons feasted off the flies caught by café busboys at $1 per catch. Dick engaged the lamb chops in deadly encounter, and two mere rabbits, called in at the last minute by the resourceful Mrs. Crane when she received the regrets of George Arliss’ English bulldog, served their turn as “social fillers,” and munched the carrots. The Washington [DC] Post 29 December 1915: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has previously written on entertainments for favoured felines. With the approach of the winter festivals, naturally every dog must have his holiday.  Recently at the shops, Mrs Daffodil observed a department lavishly furnished with toys and gifts for pets, as well as special wrapping papers, decorations, costumes, and greeting cards designed with Our Furry Friends in mind.  One would imagine that our households were stocked with nothing but royal Corgis.

Mrs Daffodil is in favour of kindness to our animal companions, but draws the line at purchasing blue-bottle flies at premium prices. A saucer of sugar-water in the stables would produce as many choice specimens as desired. But perhaps these were pedigreed chameleons requiring a special diet.

Some other examples of celebrating with pets:

CHRISTMAS TREE FOR PET DOGS.

It was Laden With All Possible Canine Delicacies.

Baltimore, Dec. 26. A Christmas tree laden with sausages, ham bones, juicy chicken and other delicacies that would appeal to the taste of a dog was the novel holiday feature for the benefit of pet dogs on the estate of Miss Nannie Sloan, a well-known member of society. Miss Sloan has a beautiful country residence at Fairlee, near Lutherville, with O.B. Magrader, the manager of the place.

The tree was decorated with the usual trimmings, and the three pets, a greyhound, a fox terrier, and a pug, were taken to the room where the tree had been prepared and in a little while they were having the time of their lives. The dogs jumped after the various delicacies, much to the amusement of the spectators, and the event was voted a success. Wilkes-Barre [PA] Times 26 December 1906: p. 5

One imagines the tree did not long remain upright. The Queen of Servia’s dogs were more disciplined;

CHRISTMAS FOR DOGS

The Queen of Servia has a Christmas tree for her dogs. On it are placed those delicacies dearest to the canine heart. The animals are trained to take off these dainty morsels in an orderly manner, and at the Christmas ceremony itself the Queen and her friends attend to witness the proceedings. The Enquirer [Cincinnati OH] 22 December 1901: p. 2

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 Snake Garter: 1897

This was sold as a bracelet, but one wonders if it was a garter. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/397161260861916692/

This was sold as a bracelet, but one wonders if it was a garter. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/397161260861916692/

THE SNAKE GARTER

Strange Fad Adopted by the Society Girls of New York

Snake-lovers are becoming constantly more numerous among women who are at leisure to have fads. The newest manifestation of the strange fancy for serpents is the snake garter, which recently made its first appearance in Paris, and which was sketched for the New York World immediately upon its arrival in this country. A counterpart of this not altogether attractive ornament was first made to gratify the whim of a well-known society woman in Paris. Accident disclosed its possession to one of her friends, who was so delighted with it that the secret of the caprice was soon an open one.

Snake garters were many in Paris the next week. The garter is usually made of gold fibers, cleverly knit together so that the whole is made perfectly flexible. It is long enough to coil twice around the leg just below the knee, and is sufficiently elastic to retain its position.

The snake garter is freed from much of the horror naturally attached to it by the elaborate decorations which accompany it. The head is a knob of jewels of various colors, and a line of tiny diamonds runs from the head to the extreme tip of the tail.

Jackson [MI] Citizen Patriot 14 August 1897: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil really does not understand the appeal of reptilian fashion. The average lady would scream or faint in horror and dismay if a genuine snake were to be found writhing about her leg.  Yet we are expected to believe that a bit of plaited gold tinsel and some tawdry gemstones will cause sensibly snake-averse persons to disregard the revulsion they naturally feel for the species and eagerly embrace ophidian accessories more suited to a lady snake-charmer.

Mrs Daffodil has written before about the garter-mounted pocket-book and garter-flask. There were an infinite number of novelties among these nether necessities.

The latest fashionable extravagance among silly city society ladies are garter buckles. A pair was sold in New York the other day that were valued at eight hundred dollars. The Reading [PA] Times 24 January 1889: p. 2

“HONI SOIT” GARTER

London September 30.

Fashion’s latest fad is in the form of garters with a tiny pocket at the back of the knee for a handkerchief or powder-puff. The garters are made of gold or silver tinsel woven in elastic bands. Auckland Star, 10 October 1924: p. 7

The bicycle girl’s garter-buckle is in keeping with her favorite sport; it is of gold, etched with a figure of a girl in knickers on a wheel. Godey’s Lady’s Book July 1897

And, most stunningly, seen at the New York Horse Show of 1912:

The wonderful diamond garter—or what Mr. John R. Townsend called a “leg bracelet,” worn by a very prominent matron, was the sensation of the hour at the Horse Show. It was a broad band of diamonds clasped on the left leg just below the knee. From it hung a two-inch fringe of smaller diamonds. The matron’s skirt was slit up on the side so as to show the garter.

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 Black Cat Elemental: 1870s

black-cat-trademark

CARNE HOUSE, NEAR

NORTHAMPTON

THE MAN IN THE FLOWERY DRESSING-GOWN AND THE BLACK CAT

Technical form of apparitions: Phantoms of the dead and possibly animal Elemental.

Cause of haunting: Murder

Source of authenticity: First-hand evidence

The word ghost is very elastic, it may be used in reference to many different types of spirits, and is, in fact, only the designation for that genus of which the departed soul of man is but a species.

Now Northamptonshire is very rich in species; species of all kinds; spirits of men, of beasts, of vegetables! and species of elementals — elemental being in itself, a genus which includes many various types, too numerous indeed, for any attempt at classification in this work.

It is no uncommon thing to meet with some locality (usually barren) or village (generally on the site of barrows or Druidical remains as, for example, Guilsborough) where the nature of the hauntings is dual; a complexity that is, fortunately, of rarer occurrence in houses.

Concerning the latter, Lee mentions one instance, i.e “The Gybe Farm,” in his book, ” More Glimpses of the Unseen World” whilst I will take this opportunity to quote another case of dual haunting, i.e., Carne House, which is situated at the utmost extremity of a village to the south-east of Northampton.

My informant, Mrs. Norton, frequently resided in the house in her childhood and youth, and it was from her lips that I heard the following story which I recollect only too well.

*****

My first impression of Carne House was one of extreme aversion; I can see it now as I saw it then — vast, sleek, and white, like some monstrous toad-stool, or slimy fungus.

Bathed in the moonlight — for we did not arrive till late — it confronted us with audacious nudity; not a plant or shrub being trained to hide its naked sides. There was something unspeakably loathsome in the boldness of its carriage — something that made me glance with fear at its wide and gaping windows and glance again as I crossed the threshold into the dark and lofty hall.

The passages of the house, both in number and sinuosity, resembled a maze ; they recalled to my youthful mind the story of Daedalus, and I half expected to see the figure of the Minotaur suddenly arise from some gloomy corner and pursue me through the labyrinth.

Nor were my fears entirely groundless, for I had hardly been in the place a month before I had a very unpleasant experience. Chancing one morning to go on an errand for my mother to a room that had in all probability once served as a laundry, but which was now restricted to lumber, I was startled at hearing something move either in or on the copper. Thinking it must be some stray animal, or, may be, a rat, I threaded my way through a sea of packing cases, and standing on tip-toe, peeped very cautiously into the copper.

To my intense surprise I found myself looking into a very deep and sepulchral well, at the bottom of which was a man. I could see him distinctly, owing to a queer kind of light that seemed to emanate from every part of his body. He was draped in a phantastic costume that might have been a kimono or one of those flowery dressing-gowns worn by our great-great-grandfathers. [a banyan] He was bending over a box which he was doing his best to conceal under a pile of debris, and it was undoubtedly this noise that had attracted me.

Too intent on his work, he was apparently unaware of my close proximity, until, satisfied that the box was well hidden, he straightened his back and looked up. His face frightened me; not that it was anything out of the normal either in feature or complexion, but it was the expression — the look of evil joy that sufTused every lineament before he saw me, changing to one of the most diabolical fury as our eyes met. I was at first too transfixed with terror to do more than stare, and it was only when, crouching down, he took a sudden and deliberate spring at the wall and began to climb it like a spider, that I regained possession of my limbs, and turning round, fled for my life.

Oh! how long that room seemed and what an interminable succession of furniture now appeared to barricade the way. Every yard was a mile, every instant I expected he would clutch me. I reached the door only just in time — happily for me it was open — I darted out, and as I did so the outlines of a hand — large and ill-shapen–shot fruitlessly past me. The next moment I was in the kitchen — the servants were there — I was saved — saved from a fate that would assuredly have sent me mad.

When I related what had happened, to my mother, she laughingly informed me I must have been dreaming, that there was NO well there, nor was there any man in the house save my father and the servants; yet I fancied I could detect beneath those smiling assurances a faint and scarcely perceptible horror — and she never let me visit that room again — alone!

But was I dreaming — was there no well, and had that man been but the fancy of  a childish and distorted brain? Sometimes I answered “Yes,” and sometimes “No.”

After this little incident, a manifest, though of necessity, subtle change took place in our household; the servants became infected with a general spirit of uneasiness, which although only shown in my presence by their looks, convinced and alarmed me far more than any fears, even the most terrible, would have done had they been outspoken. I was positive they lived in daily anticipation of something very dreadful — something that lay concealed in those dark and tortuous corridors or in that grim and ghostly room.

My dreams at night were horrible, nor did I again feel that in this respect I was singular as I overheard some one remark that no one ever passed the night without awakening with a sudden and inexplicable start. I say inexplicable — would that it had always remained so!

It was August when my next definite adventure occurred….Well, I slept in a room at the end of a corridor, my nearest neighbour. Miss Dovecot our governess, occupying a chamber some dozen yards away. I do not think I need describe any article of furniture the room contained; every piece was strictly modern, and had been brought with us from a newly furnished house in Sevenoaks. The fireplace and cupboard are, however, deserving of comment; the former was one of those old-fashioned ingles Burns delights in describing, and which are now so seldom to be seen; an inn at Dundry, near Bristol, containing, I believe, the finest specimen in the kingdom; whilst the latter, which I always kept securely locked at night, was of such far-reaching dimensions that it might well be termed in modern phraseology a linen room.

On the night in question, I had gone to bed at my usual time — eight — and I had speedily fallen to sleep, as I was in the habit of doing; but my slumber was by no means normal. I was tortured with a series of disturbing dreams, from which I awoke with a start to hear some clock outside sonorously strike twelve. As an additional proof of my wakefulness, I might add (pardon my explicitness) I was sensibly affected by a constant irritation of the skin, due, I believe, to a disordered state of the liver, which in itself was a sufficient preventive to further sleep. It must have been half-past twelve when I heard, to my intense horror, the cupboard door — which I distinctly recollect locking — slowly, very slowly, open.

My first impulse was to make a precipitate rush for the door, but, alas! I soon became aware that I was powerless to act; a kind of catalepsy, coming on suddenly, held my body as in a vice, whilst my senses, on the other hand, had grown abnormally acute. In this odious condition I was now compelled to listen to the Thing — whatever it might be — slowly crossing the floor in the direction of my bed.

The climax at length came, and my cup of horrors overflowed, when, with an abruptness that was quite unexpected (in spite of the direst apprehension), the Thing leaped on the bed, and I discovered it to be an enormous CAT.

I can unhesitatingly add the epithet — black — for the room, which a moment before was shrouded in darkness, had now become a blaze of light, enabling me to perceive the colour as well as the outline with the most unpleasant perspicuity. It was not only in intensity of colour (the blackest ebony could not have been blacker) that the cat was abnormal, but in every other respect; its dimensions were not far removed from those of a large bull-dog, and its expression — the eyes and mouth of the beast were more than bestial — was truly Satanic. Stalking over my legs, its tail almost perpendicular and swaying slightly like the nodding plumes of a hearse, it squatted down between the bedposts opposite, transfixing me with a stare full of malevolent meaning.

I was so fully occupied in watching it and trying to solve the enigma I saw so plainly written in its every gesture, that I did not realise I had other visitors, till a sudden uncertain twitching in the light made me look round. I then perceived with a start a fire was burning in the grate. A fire, and in August — how incongruous! I shivered. But it was no delusion; the flames soared aloft, adopting a hundred fantastic yet natural shapes; the coals burned hollow, and in their crimson and innermost recesses I read the future. But not for long. My cogitations were unceremoniously interrupted by the appearance of the man-in-the-well, whom I was startled to perceive seated in the chimney-corner in the most nonchalant attitude possible — nursing a baby!

Anomalous and mirth-provoking as is such a sight in the usual way, the existing circumstances were grim enough to excite my horror and raise anew my worst forebodings. Supposing he saw me now? There was no escape! I was entirely at his mercy. What would he do?

I glanced from him to the cat, and from the cat back again to him. Of my two enemies, which was most to be feared? The slightest movement on my part would inevitably arouse them both, and bring about my immediate destruction. The situation did not even warrant my breathing.

The minutes sped by with the most tantalising slowness. The clock struck one, and neither of my visitors had budged an inch — the man in the flowery dressing-gown still nursing the baby, and the black cat still staring at me. Mine was indeed a most unenviable position, and I was despairing of its ever being otherwise, when a sudden transmutation in the man sent a flow of icy blood to my heart. He no longer regarded his burden indifferently — he scowled at it.

The scowl deepened, the utmost fury pervaded his features, converting them into those of a demon. He got up, gnashed his teeth, stamped on the ground, and lifting up the child, dropped it head first into the fire. I saw it fall. I heard it burn! The hideous cruelty of the man, the abruptness of his action, proved my undoing. Oblivious of personal danger, I shrieked.

The effect was electrical. Dropping the poker, with which he had been holding down the baby, the inhuman monster swung round and saw me. The expression in his face at once became hellish, absolutely hellish.

My only chance of salvation now lay in making the greatest noise possible, and I had commenced to shout for help lustily, when at a signal from the man, the enormous black cat crouched and sprang.

What followed I cannot exactly remember, I have dim recollections of feeling a heavy thud and of some one or some thing trying to tear away the clothes from my head, after which there came a very complete blank, and when I recovered consciousness, the anxious countenances of my parents and governess were bending over me.

The next night I slept with my sister.

My health had been so impaired by these encounters, that my parents decided to move elsewhere; the furniture was once again packed, and within a month of the above incident we had taken up our abode in Clifton, Bristol.

The history of the hauntings was subsequently revealed to me by the owner of the house. It had once been inhabited by a man of the name of Darby, who seems to have been a sort of wholesale butcher. His elder brother dying, the family estate passed to the latter’s eldest son, a child of two, and Darby determining to succeed to the property, invited the widow to stay with him. She did so — she was a weakly creature — and he got rid of her by puttingher to sleep in a damp bed. The children were next disposed of, the younger by being burnt (as I had witnessed) and the elder, aged two, by being smothered to death by a black cat. Darby is said to have deliberately made the cat sit upon the infant’s mouth as it lay asleep. But these rapid deaths, as might have been expected, aroused suspicions. The nurse, who had been an unwilling party to the burning of the baby, turned King’s Evidence, and a warrant for his arrest was issued. As is often the case, however, the officers of the law were a bit too late. When they arrived at the house, the quarry had flown, nor could his whereabouts be discovered for many years; not, indeed, till fifty years after the crimes, when his skeleton was found at the bottom of a disused well he had himself sunk in one of the back kitchens. Under the skeleton lay an iron box containing many valuables, rings, &c., which he had been doubtless striving to hide when death in some unaccountable form or another overtook him. What became of the cat, history does not say.

The place had always borne a reputation for being haunted — it was on that account my parents had got it at so low a rental — and the ghosts seen there (undoubtedly those of Darby and his cat) corresponded in every detail with the phenomena that had so terrified me.

I am aware that many deny the existence of souls in animals — let them do so — but do not let them be too dogmatical, for where Life ends all is mystery.

Still there is an alternative theory to account for the appearance of animal phantoms, which is, I think, quite within the realms of possibility: the black cat I saw, if not the spirit of the one made such hideous use of by the old man, was undoubtedly an elemental — a spirit representative of a popular crime, a vice — Darby’s evil genius — that ever hovered at his heels in his lifetime and is more loth than ever to leave him now that his physical body is dead and his soul earthbound.

Some Haunted Houses of England & Wales, Elliott O’Donnell, 1908

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A few days ago it was “Black Cat Day” in England. To-day it is, Mrs Daffodil is reliably informed, “National Cat Day,” in the States, a time to appreciate Our Feline Friends.  Mrs Daffodil has the highest professional regard for the species—the cats at the Hall perform their ratting and mousing duties with admirable zeal—and Mrs Daffodil has ordered an extra ration of cat-nip and kippers in honour of the occasion. However, in this post, with its proximity to Hallowe’en, she has judged it best to highlight the dark qualities of the species, so often linked with witchery and skull-duggery.  If her readers would prefer more kindly kittens, she will direct them to The Brighton Cats, Feline Entertainments, The Ghostly White Cat, and A Funeral for a Theatrical Cat—black cats are traditionally lucky in theatrical circles.

If you wish for thrilling narratives of sinister black cats, see The Black Cat Horror and Murder by Cat.

While he was an unmistakably talented writer of Horrors, Mr O’Donnell was well-known for his fancies and his purple prose (one rather doubts that Mrs Norton really said that the house was “unspeakably loathsome” or compared it to a monstrous toad-stool.) as well as his obsession with “Elementals”—non-human and sometimes monstrous spirits—all of whom were disease-spotted, odouriferous, beast-headed, or otherwise  “unspeakably loathsome.”

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.

CAT PARTY IN NEW CASTLE

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.