Category Archives: Death

The Noble Revenge: 1868

child pine coffin

The Noble Revenge

The coffin was a plain one—a poor miserable pine coffin. No flowers on its top, no lining of the rose-white satin for the pale brow; no smooth ribbons about the coarse shroud. The brown hair was laid decently back, but there was no crimped cap, with its neat tie beneath the chin. The sufferer from cruel poverty smiled in her sleep; she had found bread, rest, and health.

“I want to see my mother,” sobbed a poor child, as the city undertaker screwed down the top.

“You can’t—get out of the way, boy, why don’t somebody take the brat?”

“Only let me see her one minute;” cried the hopeless, helpless orphan, clutching the side of the charity box, and as he gazed into the rough face anguishing tears streamed rapidly down the cheek, on which no childish bloom ever lingered. Oh! It was pitiful to hear him cry “Only once, only once, let me see my mother.”

Quickly and brutally the hard-hearted monster struck the boy away, so that he reeled from the blow. For a moment the boy stood panting with grief and rage, his blue eyes distended, his lips sprang apart, a fire glittering through his tears as he raised his puny arm, and with a most unchildish accent screamed, “When I’m a man I’ll kill you for that.”
There was a coffin and a heap of earth between the mother and the poor, forsaken child—a monument stronger than granite, built in his boy heart to the memory of the heartless deed.

* * *

The Court House was crowded to suffocation.

“Does any one appear as this man’s counsel? Asked the judge.

There was silence when he finished, until, with lips tightly pressed together, a look of strange intelligence blended with haughty reserve upon his features, a young man stepped forward with a firm tread and kindly eye, to plead of the erring and friendless. He was a stranger but from his first sentence there was a silence. The splendor of his genius entranced—convinced.

The man who could not find a friend was acquitted.

“May God bless you, I cannot.”

“I want no thanks,” replied the stranger with ice coldness.

“I—I believe you are unknown to me.”

“Man! I will refresh your memory. Twenty years ago you struck a broken-hearted boy away from his mother’s coffin. I was that poor boy.”

The man turned livid.

“Have you rescued me, then, to take away my life?”

“No. I have a sweeter revenge; I have saved the life of a man whose brutal deed has rankled in my breast for twenty years. Go! And remember the tears of a friendless child.”

The man bowed his head in shame and went from the presence of a magnanimity as grand to him as incomprehensible, and the noble young lawyer felt God’s smile in his soul forever after.

The Olathe [KS] Mirror 5 March 1868: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A pauper’s funeral was the final insult to the poor, who often went into debt–foolishly, said social reformers–to provide a decent burial for their loved ones. While undertakers were sometimes accused of exploiting the poor–quoting them a price for a funeral that was precisely the amount that the burial club had just paid out–they also waited years for payment that sometimes did not come.

One wonders what crime the city undertaker had committed to bring him within the shadow of the gallows. Mrs Daffodil suspects that he had a lucrative contract to provide subjects to the local medical school and, needing to fill his quota, he helped some clients  to join the Choir Invisible prematurely.

 

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.

 

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Four Candles: c. 1780s

wertmuller_marie_antoinette_and_children

Marie Antoinette walking with two of her children in the park of the Trianon, Adolf Ulrik Wertmüller, 1785 Nationalmuseum Stockholm

Walking one day in the park of the Trianon, gay and exquisite, the queen came unexpectedly upon a rough-looking man, totally unknown to her. A woman of high and unbreakable courage, Queen of France and full of confidence in her charmed destiny, she was seized, nevertheless, with a sensation of inexplicable terror. The man was the brewer, Santerre. Later, at the time of her execution, he was in charge of the National Guard of the City of Paris. . . .

Madame Campan [the Queen’s friend and lady-in-waiting] related the following anecdote: “Four candles were placed upon the queen’s dressing- table; the first one went out of itself; I soon relighted it; the second, then the third also, went out. At this the queen, pressing my hand with a movement of alarm, said to me, ‘Misfortune makes one superstitious; if that fourth candle goes out, nothing can keep me from regarding it as an evil omen’; the fourth candle went out.

“Someone remarked to the queen that the four candles had probably been made in the same mould, and that a defect in the wick was naturally to be found at the same place, since they had gone out in the order in which they had been lighted. The queen would listen to nothing; and with that indefinable emotion which the bravest heart cannot always overcome in momentous hours, gave herself up to gloomy apprehensions.

La reine se couchait très-tard, ou plutôt cette infortunée princesse commençait à ne plus goûter de repos. Vers la fin de mai, un soir qu’elle était assise au milieu de la chambre, elle racontait plusieurs choses remarquables qui avaient eu lieu pendant le cours de la journée; quatre bougies étaient placées sur sa toilette; la première s’éteignit d’elle-même, je la rallumai : bientôt la seconde, puis la troisième, s’éteignirent aussi ; alors la reine, me serrant la main avec un mouvement d’effroi, me dit: “Le malheur peut rendre superstitieuse; si cette quatrième bougie s’éteint comme les autres, rien ne pourra m’empêcher de regarder cela comme un sinistre présage….” La quatrième bougie s’éteignit.

On fit observer à la reine que les quatre bougies avaient probablement été coulées dans le même moule, et qu’un défaut à la mèche s’était naturellement trouvé au même endroit, puisque les bougies s’étaient éteintes dans l’ordre où on les avait allumées.

Memoires sur la vie de Marie-Antoinette, Reine de France et de Navarre, Mme. Campan, 1886

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  On Bastille Day one’s thoughts often turn to the doomed Queen of France. Hindsight is, of course, keenly precise and there were many stories told in retrospect, of the omens presaging the fall of the Ancien Regime. We have previously read of the Queen’s terror at the mysterious prophecy of a cartomancer. One wonders a little wistfully what would have happened had the Royal family successfully made their way to safety at the fortress of Montmédy. Would the Revolution have failed or was their  rendezvous with Madame Guillotine written in the stars?

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.

Her Fourth Husband: 1910

 

widow jones suits me button

HER FOURTH.

By M. Quad.

Copyright, 1910, by Associated Literary Press.]

“What in tarnation is this about your marrying Jim Carter yesterday?” said Henry Doty to Eunice Smith.

“We were married,” was the reply.

“But I was going to marry you myself!”

“I never knew it. You never said anything about it.”

“And you won’t get a divorce from Jim?”

“Of course not.”

“By gum, Eunice, this is using a man mighty mean! I was jest taking time to think things over, and you go off and marry. It’s a mean trick on a feller!”

“Oh, there are other girls.”

“But I don’t want ’em. I want you, and I’m going to stay single till my chance comes.”

It came in about a year. James Carter was assisting a neighbor to load saw logs when one of them broke loose and rolled over him, and he was no more. Henry Doty didn’t rejoice, but he was on hand at the funeral. He oversaw things for the widow for three or four days and then returned to his job. As he held her hand and bade her goodby he said:

“Eunice, there was something I wanted to say to you, but it slipped my mind. Mebbe I’ll think of it next time I come.”

The widow returned to her parents, and the hired man made her a call three or four times a week, but he never talked love. He simply thought love when he was alone. They’d get married when the year was up, and when they got to the Falls they’d put up at the best house and hang the expense. Fourteen months had passed, and Henry was thinking of tying a string around his thumb to make him remember to ask Eunice that question when he was suddenly told that she had married a wire fence man who was working in the neighborhood. He greased his boots and combed his hair and went over to the house to say: “Eunice, If you’ve gone and done it again I can never forgive you! You knew I was calculating to marry you myself.”

“But you never said anything about it,” she retorted.

“But I was getting ready to.”

“If you’d only said”—

“Oh, well, I’ll have to stand it, I suppose. Mebbe it’s all for the best. Mebbe the living will be cheaper by that time. I’m going to keep right on jest as I am till I get you.”

Mr. Davis, the second husband, was fat and rugged and seemed good for forty years more of life, but one can never tell about those things. He was made a very happy man by the marriage and continued in the wire fence business to make others happy. After eight months had gone by he was putting up a fence for a farmer one day when a thunderstorm came up. Mr. Davis had his hands on the wire when the electric fluid found it and shocked him to death. Queerly enough, Henry Doty was driving past in a wagon at the time and was the messenger to announce the sad news to the double widow. He realized that it was no time to speak of a bridal trip then and held his peace.

Once more the widow came back to the old home, and things went on as before. Henry returned to the habit of dropping in frequently, and he only waited for the days to pass until he could ask the question always uppermost in his mind. One evening he presented himself with a string twisted around his thumb, but when the widow called his attention to it he couldn’t remember what he had made sure not to forget. Now and then the farmer for whom he labored and who knew his thoughts would jog him with:

“Henry, the time is passing along, and the widow may step off again any day.”

“But I don’t hear of anybody being after her.”

“You don’t always hear about such things. Widows step right off without much courting.”

“Yes, I must speak to Eunice. I was a-thinking this afternoon I would.”

But he didn’t. He just let things drift on, and one Sunday evening he dropped in just after she had married the rural mall carrier on that route.

Henry was indignant and desperate.

“Why didn’t you say something!” he demanded of the bride.

“Why didn’t you?”

“Say, this is throwing a good man down powerful hard. This is the third time I’ve lost you!”

“But you’ve never said you wanted me. You don’t expect a woman to pop the question, do you?”

“All right, Eunice—all right. I can wait. Bound to get you and make a trip if I wait long enough.”

“It was just eleven months to a day that as the carrier came to a narrow place in the highway he encountered a load of hay. In trying to pass it his cart was upset, and when it was righted he was found with a broken neck. Henry Doty was coming up with a freshly killed hog in his wagon, and as soon as he ascertained what had happened he chucked the hog out of the wagon and drove back three miles with the horses on a dead run. Eunice happened to be at the gate when he  drove up, and he called to her:

“Eunice, get a pencil and write it down that I’m here on the spot.”

“But for why?”

“And that I ask you to marry me when the year is up.”

“Why. Henry, what can you mean!”

“And that we take in Niagara Falls and all of Buffalo on our wedding trip and that we love each other till death do us part”

And it was said that the fourth husband was the happiest of all.

The Hot Springs [SD] Weekly Star 10 March 1910: p. 9

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The lady must have possessed considerable property or personal fascinations to “step off” as often as she did. Mrs Daffodil is not sure that someone as dilatory as Mr Doty is a wise spousal choice, but Eunice née Smith cannot say she was not warned.  She seemed to enjoy a variety of husbands and was happy enough to take her chances that the reticent fellow would never Speak his Love.

 

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 Spectre Wedding: 1820s

the oracle 1919 ghosts

THE SPECTRE WEDDING.

Mr. Martin Dupont was a Justice of the Peace in the little town of Marlburg. He had been elected to the office at the close of the war of 1812, and had acted in his present capacity for nearly nine years. Men of Mr. Dupont’s type were very common in those days, and even now one does not have to search far to find one of these self-complacent, pompous gentlemen, who delight in winning admiration from their associates, who always have at their tongue’s end a great many stories in which they played the leading part, but who are, nevertheless, very superstitious, so much so, indeed, that a glimpse of the moon over the left shoulder, or a howling dog, has power to make them melancholy for a week.

Having failed to secure for himself as large a share of this world’s goods as he had wished, Mr. Dupont was fully resolved that his two children, Henry and Margaret, should not be lacking in wealth. As for his son, he very wisely concluded that a good education, added to his natural abilities, would secure for him a place in the world: and already Henry was showing the wisdom of the plan, and by his rapid advancement in business was more than fulfilling his father’s expectations. It had always been Mr. Dupont’s desire that his daughter should marry some rich man, but Margaret had fallen in love, very foolishly, according to her father’s idea, with the principal of the Marlburg High School.

Charles Foster had several times pleaded his suit in vain before Mr. Dupont. There was no fault in the young man, Mr. Dupont rather grudgingly admitted, except that all he had to depend upon was his salary, but still no man should presume to become his son-in-law who had not money enough to support his daughter in better style than that in which she was then living, He liked the school teacher very well as a friend, but as a son-in-law that was quite another matter.

Nevertheless Charles and Margaret did not despair of their cause, although Mr. Dupont was seemingly immovable. The thought of an elopement was banished by them both as being dishonorable, and as no other plan seemed practicable, they very wisely resolved to wait until some kind fate should come to their aid. This, then, was the condition of affairs when our story begins.

Mr. Dupont’s duties as Justice of the Peace did not confine his law practice to Marlburg, but very frequently he was called away to attend various lawsuits in neighboring towns and hamlets, and it so happened that at this particular time he was engaged in a case of some considerable importance in an adjoining town. On account of the nearness of the place, it was Mr. Dupont’s custom to drive his own horse back and forth and to spend his nights at home.

One night, on account of an unusual press of business, he was obliged to remain beyond his ordinary time of leaving, and after the work was completed he yielded to the urgent invitation of his client to chat for a few moments. As they puffed away at the choice Havanas, they began to tell each other of curious exciting adventures and wonderful experiences. Time slipped away so rapidly that it was after 10 o’clock before Mr. Dupont suddenly remembered that a seven-mile drive lay between him and his home. Hastily bidding his friend good-by, he started for the hotel stable to get his horse.

The weather had changed while the two gentlemen had been chatting, and now the ominous stillness and the cloudy sky admonished Mr. Dupont that, if he wished to get home before the rain began to fall, he must hasten. Hastily throwing a quarter to the sleepy hostler, he sprang into his buggy and set out on his homeward way.

The road home was a lonely one; houses were few and far between, and a few miles out of Marlburg some lonely woods lined the road on either side, and adjoining the woods was a graveyard. As Mr. Dupont drove on into the darkness he began to become nervous, the weird stories that he had just been hearing kept flashing through his mind, a great many wrong deeds of his life came before him, magnified by the darkness and solitude, and among other things he began to wonder if he was doing just right in refusing his consent to his daughter’s marriage. In this frame of mind he approached the woods; involuntarily he tried to quicken his horse’s pace, but the darkness and the low murmurings of thunder seemed to have affected the horse too, and the sagacious brute tried constantly to slacken his pace. How lonely it seemed there, no houses, no living being–nothing but the dead in the graveyard beyond. Suddenly the, horse stopped and snorted. Mr. Dupont saw two white figures suddenly dart into the road; one stood beside his horse, and the other beckoned him to descend from his wagon. His hair rose, and his tongue seemed glued to his mouth. The silence was terrible. If those white beings would only speak; but no sound came from them. At last in desperation he stammered out:

“Who are you, and what do you mean by stopping me here in this way” “We are spirits of the departed dead,” a sepulchral voice replied, “and we have need of your services; descend from your vehicle, do as we bid you, and on the word of a ghost you shall not be harmed.”

The terrified lawyer descended and stood by the speaker’s side, while the other ghost tied his horse to a tree and joined them.

“Yield yourself entirely to us and you shall be safe,” said the spokesman. “You must needs walk far and must allow us to blindfold your eyes, in order that you may not discover before your time the way to the land of the shades. No more words must be spoken. Obey.”

Mr. Dupont was so terrified that he could not speak, and in silence allowed a cloth to be bound over his eyes; then, escorted by his ghostly companions he began to walk. It seemed to him that he would never be allowed to stop; seconds seemed ages; every attempt of his to speak was checked by impatient groans of his guides. At last, after walking half around the earth, as it seemed to him, he realized that he was being piloted up some steps and by the feeling of warmth he knew that he had left the open air.

“The Justice of Peace may be seated,” said the ghost who had done all the talking. Mr. Dupont sat down and the cloth was quickly removed from his eyes, revealing to his astonished gaze the interior of a room dimly lighted by wax candles. Every side was hung with black curtains, and on four black-covered stools facing him sat four white-robed spectres, while beside him stood another dressed like his companions. Before he had time to more than wonder at his strange surroundings, the spokesman began:

“Mr. Dupont, we have a solemn duty for you to perform. You are a Justice of the Peace in the world of the living, and a man dear to us on account of your noble life; therefore are you here. We have in these abodes of the dead two young shades recently come from the other world. Each of those died of a broken heart because a stern parent forbade them to marry What do you think sir, of such a parent as that?” Mr. Dupont wiggled about uneasily in his chair, and at last said: “I think, good shade, it was very wrong of him.”

“We knew you would,” resumed the ghost, “because you are a kind man. and one who loves his children. Now do we understand you to say that if the poor girl had been your child it would never have happened?” “Surely it never would,” replied the frightened Mr. Dumont.

“We have not misjudged you, then,” replied the shade, while the other four ghosts nodded approvingly. “We have summoned you in order that you may unite them in wedlock, so that in this world at least they may be happy. Such a marriage as this is not common among us, so we brought you here, a good justice of the peace, rather than a minister, who might have been shocked at these proceedings. You can marry them just as well as a clergyman. Now, sir, will you oblige us by marrying these two shades? If you will consent, you may depart at once to your home. Will you?”

Marry the two shades? Of course he would: anything to get away from this terrible spot. And so, without the precaution of stipulating his fee, he stammered out:

“Oh, yes, surely, anything you wish.”

No sooner had he given his consent than one of the black curtains was drawn aside and two other beings in white entered and stood before him. The other shades rose, and Mr. Dupont, not wishing to be the only one to keep his seat, rose too. The good justice had never married shades; he did not know quite how to proceed. They looked exactly alike; he did not know which was the bride and which the groom. He wished he were well out of it, and the only way to gain his wish was to proceed quickly with the ceremony, and so he began at once. In some way he managed get through, although he could not have told afterward how it was done. He turned to the bride when he said: “Do you take this woman to be your wedded wife?” and to the groom when he should have addressed the bride; but at length, much to his relief, the “I do” was said by each, and the Justice finished with the “I pronounce you man and wife.”

But all was not yet over. No sooner had the words left his lips, than one of the beings before him threw aside its ghostly robe, and there, in a beautiful wedding gown, stood his daughter, Margaret. Mr. Dupont started to speak, but he only gasped, for around him stood the other ghosts; they too had thrown aside their robes and stood revealed. Could he believe his eyes? Yes, there was no mistake, he had married his daughter to Charles Foster, in the presence of his wife, his son, and three family friends; and the Justice knew enough of law to realize that the ceremony was binding. The black curtains, too, were torn down, and there they all stood in his own parlor.

There was no help for it, consequently Mr. Dupont submitted, and someway all his friends thought that he was very glad that the joke was played upon him; at any rate, in later days, as he trotted his grandchildren on his knees he never tired of telling over and over again into their wondering ears the tale of the spectre wedding. Amherst Literary Monthly.

The Garden City [KS] Telegram 15 October 1892: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mr Dupont must have been heavily under the influence of those weird stories not to have noticed the earthly actions of the “ghosts” such as taking care to tie up his horse and the nonsensical explanation for the blindfold. Did he not recall that in Heaven there is no marriage nor giving in marriage? Were there no earthly boots visible beneath those robes? And, even draped in black and lit by candles, why did the quaking gentleman not recognise his own parlour?

Such is the power of imagination. Mrs Daffodil and that ghastly person over at Haunted Ohio have written about persons who were convinced that they were marrying an actual spirit. See A Wealthy Widow Weds a Ghost, Girl Weds a Ghost, and Too Much Prudence–Spirit Weddings.

Justices of the Peace seemed to be ready targets for ghostly clients. Mrs Daffodil has written before about a haunted JP, who married a genuine ghostly couple.

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 Spectral Shadow–The Nurse’s Story: 1880s

 

ghost in bedchamber british library 1895 cut

A Spectral Shadow.

Sir,—The following incident was related to me by a nurse whose veracity I have no reason to doubt; on the contrary, I am justified in believing anything she might tell me, knowing what I do of her character and truthfulness. The statement was as follows:—

Some years ago, I was sent for to nurse a woman, who had been engaged to attend on a lady who was slightly mentally deranged, and lived with a sister. The ladies were elderly and well off. The attendant, a powerful and rather coarse- featured woman, was very ill when I was called to her, and not expected to live, and her illness had been brought about in the following way:—

The attendant had been some three months in the house and had managed to give every satisfaction to the sister and to the doctor, but was greatly feared and disliked by the patient, who complained bitterly of the harsh and cruel treatment to which this woman had subjected her; but the sister and doctor merely put this complaint down to the patient’s state of mind, and pooh-poohed it as a delusion—the attendant strenuously denying the accusation, in which the poor lady persisted. My informant, however, gave it as her opinion that the poor lady’s complaints were justified and ought to have received the attention which, as after events proved, they did not receive and which would have averted the terrible consequences that followed.

One morning, early in June, there had been a scene in the bedroom; the lady had cried out for help and complained of her attendant’s harshness and cruelty, but the attendant said that her patient had been very violent, and must be left to her, as she was responsible, and she forbade everyone to enter the room, saying that she would soon quiet the patient if allowed to manage her in her own way. As the lady ceased her cries the attendant descended to the kitchen for her patient’s breakfast, and, taking advantage of her absence, the poor lady threw herself from her bedroom window and was picked up dead. The fright of the death simply paralysed the attendant, and as she was unable to do anything she was put to bed. She became worse, could not attend the inquest or be removed, and I was sent for to nurse her at night, another nurse remaining with her by day, we being paid by the lady’s sister.

On the sixth night, as the weather was close, I opened the windows and fastened back the door, which opened into a narrow passage about twenty feet long. My patient had been very restless and was lying in an uneasy sleep, muttering as she lay. I placed myself at a small table, where I could see down the passage I have named, then lowered the gas on account of the heat, and was reading by the dim light of a candle, when I became conscious of a sudden fall in the temperature of the room. It seemed to me that an icy, deathlike cold, such as I had never before imagined could exist, a tangible cold, had suddenly surrounded me. I rose from my chair to account, if I could, for this strange occurrence, when, as I looked down the passage, I saw a moving shadow. Unable to stir, I watched, and soon defined something in human shape, but a shadow only, approaching me. Slowly it moved, bringing with it a still colder atmosphere, and before I could utter a sound the shadow, with its unseeing eyes, walked to the bed and stood there, leaning over the foot. I then saw that it was an elderly woman, with streaming hair and features drawn with pain. She was solemnly gazing at the other woman in the bed, who, however, did not see the ghostly shadow, but continued her mutterings and restless movements.

It seemed to me that the shadow stood thus for an hour, looking intently at the sick woman, and then slowly, with a backward glance at the bed, it left the room and was lost in the shadows of the passage. As it departed the atmosphere of the room recovered its normal temperature as quickly as it had lost it.

On looking at my watch, I found the incident had lasted about eight or nine minutes. I was so terrified I went at once to the servants’ room, and one returned with me, who assured me that she had often seen the shadow, which she believed to be that of her late mistress, but she was not afraid. I found, on inquiry, that two nurses had left on account of the shadow’s visit, and as I had no wish to see it again I was relieved of night duty, at my request, and the servant took my place. The woman eventually recovered, and then the remaining sister gave up the house and left the town, and whether the present occupants of the house have ever seen the ghostly shadow that so completely upset my nerves I do not know_

Yours, &c.,

Dora de Bike.

Light 7 August 1909: p. 382

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The ghost who returns to take revenge on its murderer is a well-known figure in supernatural literature. This case raises questions about the efficacy of such revenge-bound revenants—were this a fictional story, the paralysed nurse would have fallen back dead, a look of stark, staring horror on her face, when confronted with the spectre of the elderly lady at the foot of the bed. Alternately she would have contracted a fatal chill from the icy, deathlike cold permeating the room.  A sadly ineffectual spectre, one fears—possibly so enfeebled by her own illness she could not successfully frighten her tormentor to death.

 

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 Skull for a Bonnet: 1896

 

a brooklyn woman whose bonnet is a skull

It is once again “World Goth Day,” a time to celebrate the dark, the decadent, and the black-garbed—although, frankly, Mrs Daffodil tries to quietly exemplify those qualities year-round.  And what better way to celebrate than with a superlative example of morbid millinery?

A SKULL FOR A BONNET.

A BROOKLYN WOMAN HAS THE MOST SENSATIONAL HEAD COVERING IN THE WORLD.

A Brooklyn woman is the proud possessor of the most gruesome headgear ever seen atop of a feminine head. She is proud of her curious bonnet chiefly because it is unique, and the consciousness that it cannot easily be duplicated by her envious sisters adds not a little to her feminine joy.

About a month ago the lady’s husband, a well-known physician of the City of Churches, took home a human skull, which the woman laughingly placed on her head, saying: “How is this, John for a stunning effect?”
“By Jove!” replied the husband, “the effect certainly is stunning. But the authorities would arrest you if you appeared on the street in that sort of head-dress.”

There the matter dropped. But the wife, full of a new idea, had the skull carefully cleaned and polished and, with a deftness known only to the hands of woman, fashioned an affair of skull, feathers and ribbons which, when completed, was as original an arrangement as one could imagine.

“It will make a great sensation,” said the lady of the skull bonnet to a horrified woman friend. And she was right, for wherever the grinning death’s-head, in its downy bower of feathers and ribbons, is seen it causes people to gape in utter amazement. The woman’s audacity is admired by the men, but roundly condemned by the women.

Still, the lady of the skull bonnet is quite indifferent to the criticism of either sex. To be sure, it is only on very especial occasions that the hideously pretty headgear is worn abroad, and then it is generally at night.

You may imagine the surprise of the woman’s husband when he first saw the very practical use to which his wife had put the skull he so innocently brought home. He remonstrated with his wife but to no end, for she contended with true womanly logic, that if it considered proper to wear the dead bodies of birds as a means of decoration, why should not a mere skull be just as properly employed for an artistic effect?

Even so convincing an argument failed to alter the view of the do tor, and he has gone so far as to offer his wife a splendid new bicycle if she will cast aside her queer headgear and don something more conventional. But the bonnet is still in readiness for my lady’s first walk abroad, and will be until she accepts her husband’s munificent compromise.

The St. Louis [MO] Post-Dispatch 11 October 1896: p. 28

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil rarely wonders at the morbid vagaries of the human race, but she is pursing her lips dubiously about the strict veracity of the tale above. The lady and her well-known physician husband are not named and the image does not convince us it is anything more than a portrait drawn from the artist’s fancy. One wonders if it was merely a satire about the hyperbolic hat styles of the late nineteenth century?

On the other hand, medical students and physicians, quite aside from their proclivities for stealing corpses and treating dissection-room subjects with levity, were known for some very grisly fancies, such as turning human remains into articles such as shoes, tobacco pouches, jewellery, tobacco jars, and drinking vessels. So one cannot entirely rule out the possibility of a skull being casually brought home by a physician. And the late nineteenth century was known for some decadent entertainments, such as the Cabaret du Néant, where the waiters dressed as undertakers and patrons sat at coffin-shaped tables, drank from skull-shaped cups, and watched Death-themed floor shows.

Surprisingly, the term “skull bonnet” was a well-known millinery term. For example:

A fashion writer refers to  “the ugly old skull bonnet we used to see during the war.” in The Weekly Era [Raleigh NC] 8 October 1874: p. 2

A small skull bonnet of straw, the crown surrounded with flowers, is worn with this [spring morning] costume.” (spring morning costume)

The Huddersfield Chronicle and West Yorkshire Advertiser 5 May 1881: p. 4

Tiny skull-cap bonnets are mentioned in The Graphic [London, England] 29 April 1893: p. 20

And in other advertisements we see “French Skull Bonnets” [1897]; Silk Skull Bonnets [1906] and the phrase is used to describe the 1920’s cloche: “The modern skull-tight bonnet” [1924]. The term seems simply to mean a bonnet with a tight-fitting crown.

Mrs Daffodil would be delighted to see proof that this was a genuine lady with a taste for truly macabre millinery.  And she wishes those who celebrate it a happy World Goth Day.

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 Mother’s Ghost Visits Her Child: 1870s

1870s mother and child

A PLEASANT GHOST STORY

Supposed Visit of a Dead Mother to Her Child

A rather a queer story is told and can be vouched for by over a dozen persons in Springfield. It appears about three years ago a young man living in Summit got married, and in due time his wife gave birth to a child, which was a girl. When the child was about one year old the mother died. About five months later the young widower became lonely and took unto himself another wife. But before doing so he took all his first wife’s clothing, packed it in a trunk, locked it up, and allowed no one to have charge of the key but himself. Among the clothing put away was her wedding shawl and a pillow his wife had made for her first-born, and also some toys she had bought just before she died. Then he brought home wife No. 2, who, it is said, made as good a mother as the average step-mothers do. Things went on lively till one night last week, when there was a party at the next neighbor’s house. So, after putting the babe in its little bed, the father and mother No. 2 went over to spend the evening at the party. Shortly after they left, two men came along on their way to the party also. They saw a wonderful light in the house as though it might be on fire. They also heard the cries of the babe, as though in great pain. They went to the house, and as soon as they reached the door the light went out, and all was silent as the grave within. They hastened on to the house where the party was and told the man what they had seen and heard in his house as they came by. Five or six men, including the owner of the house, started to investigate the report. When they arrived they found every room and door fast as they were when the owner left. On going inside everything was found to be in its place except the child, which, after a long search, was found upstairs under the bed on which its mother died, covered up with its mother’s wedding shawl and its little head resting on the pillow its mother made for it, sound asleep. Alongside of it lay its playthings. On examining the trunk it was found to be locked and nothing missing except the above mentioned articles. Now, how the things got out of the trunk and the key in the owner’s pocket, and he half a mile from it, and how the child got upstairs, is a mystery. The above may sound a little dime-novelish, but, as, we said before, the facts of the case can be and are vouched for by over a dozen respectable citizens of Springfield.

The Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 16 September 1878: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is shuddering at the notion of “as good a mother as the average step-mother.” Although there are certainly many splendid step-mamas, it is often the “average” ones–or at least the classic “Wicked Stepmothers”–who end up in the papers and the dock for cruelty.  

That collector of ghostly horrors over at Haunted Ohio previously shared the story above and added an additional fillip:

A Dead Mother Visits Her Living Child—She Sits at Its Cradle and Caresses It.

Correspondence Cincinnati Commercial.

Richmond, VA., Jan. 23.

A strange story is current in certain circles here. About two years ago Mr. A. married. In due time he became a father, but the wife died when the child was a few months old. On her deathbed she exhibited intense anxiety as to the fate of the little one she was to leave behind her, and earnestly besought her husband to confide it, after her death, to the care of one of her relatives. He promised, and, I believe, did for a while let the child stay in charge of the person whom the mother had designated. Some weeks ago, however, Mr. A. again married, and at once reclaimed the child, who as yet had never learned to speak a word, and was unable to crawl. One day this child was left alone for a few moments in its stepmother’s bedroom, lying in a crib or cradle some distance from the bed. When Mrs. A. returned she was amazed to see the child smiling and crowing upon the middle of the bed—In her astonishment she involuntarily asked:

“Who put you here, baby?”

“Mamma!” responded quite distinctly the child that had never before spoken a word.

On a strict inquiry throughout the household it was found that none of the family had been in the room during Mrs. A’s brief absence from it. This, it is solemnly averred, was but the beginning of a series of spiritual visitations from the dead mother. Whenever the child was left alone it could be heard to laugh and crow as if delighted by the fondlings and endearments of someone, and on these occasions it was frequently found to have changed its dress, position, &c., in a manner quite beyond its own unaided capacity.

Finally, as the account is, the first Mrs. A. appeared one night at the bedside of Mr. A. and his second wife, and earnestly entreated that her darling should be restored to the relative whom she had indicated as the guardian of the child on her death bed. The apparition, which, it is declared, was distinctly seen and heard by both Mr. A. and his wife, promised to haunt them no more if her wish was complied with. Both Mr. A. and his wife were too much awe-stricken to reply; but the next day the child was carried back as directed by the ghostly visitant. Such is the story as seriously avouched by the principal parties concerned, who are most respectable and intelligent people, and no spiritualists.

New Philadelphia [OH] Democrat 10 February 1871: p. 2

It’s practically obligatory for the ghostly mother in this genre of story to assert her dominance over her successor or make sure that her children are being properly treated. Even with some advances in obstetrics, women knew that death was a possibility with every pregnancy and anxiety over what would become of their motherless children is a constant theme in death-bed narratives. But perhaps mother-love never really dies.

For a previous story of a ghostly mother who threatened a new stepmother, see this post. That story also appears in The Ghost Wore Black: Ghastly Tales from the Past

Mrs Daffodil has told the heart-warming story of a ghost-mother who comes to assist her dying boy to the Other Side. And a shiversome tale of a phantom mother’s revenge.

 

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.