Category Archives: Weddings

Mrs Daffodil on Flowers

A miniature flower painting by Jan Frans van Dael, mounted as a brooch. http://webapps.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/explorer/index.php?qu=jewellery&oid=156467

Since the Family is away on holiday over the week-end, Mrs Daffodil is taking this opportunity to take a brief holiday of her own, possibly paying a visit to the Chelsea Flower Show and returning, refreshed, Wednesday next.

She has posted on floral themes many times, so, to while away the hours for those of Mrs Daffodil’s readers who will be counting the moments until a new post appears, here are some posts pertinent to the topic of flowers.

Strange Flower Superstitions of Many Lands

Queen Adelaide’s Flower-Acrostic Dress

The Wild-Flower Wedding

A Miniature Matterhorn and Gnome Miners

Funeral Flowers for Young Helen

Napoleon and the Gardener

A very recent post: The Black Rose

And Mrs Daffodil’s favourite gardening story, “The Occasional Garden,” by Mr H. H. Munro [Saki]

Mrs Daffodil wishes all of her readers a delightful and restful week-end with well-filled picnic hampers and unclouded blue skies.

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.

How to Celebrate May-Day: 1863, 1912, 1928

The May Queen, W.E. Tucker, 1843

The May Queen, W.E. Tucker, 1843

Mrs Daffodil asserts that the proper English May-Day consists of floral displays, dancing rustics, various contests of strength, agility, and alcohol consumption, a good deal of fumbling about in the shrubbery, and, of course, the crowning of the May Queen. (Mrs Daffodil prefers to ignore the co-opting of the holiday by the International Labour Movement.)

Our American cousins , too, took up the flowery garlands of the celebration, adding little touches of their own to the festival. One fears they did not fully appreciate the pagan undertones of characters like “Jack-in-the-Green” or “Robin Hood.”  However, perhaps subliminally, they acknowledged the propriety of using the imagery of a Spring Fertility Festival for a bridal shower. “Perky” May-Pole, indeed….

The Indians call the month of May the “Time of the Flower-Moon.” Just as April is filled with rain showers, May is the month for bride-showers, following the order of the flower-moon preceding the honeymoon for the June bride.

A luncheon shower is a pleasing way of entertaining the bride-to-be. The table can be decorated effectively with a pink and green May pole for a centerpiece, its flower streamers in corresponding colors draped down to different places on the table. At the end of each, folded in pink paper blossoms, are little notes, preferably in verse, directing the bride-to-be to different part of the house (on the mantel, behind the phonograph, and so on), each a hiding place for a dainty gift for the bride—flowered lingerie, smart china, or any gift that carries out the flower motif.

Miniature May poles made of striped candy sticks and ribbons, with the guest’s name written on a flat card to which the stick is fastened, will serve as place cards, and you may have pretty little “May baskets” filled with candy at each cover.

If you are serving your guests at small tables, there may be different centerpieces for each table. “Jack-in-the-green,” a clown, dressed in pink and green, and hidden in a bouquet of flowers, is charmingly reminiscent of old England. The “Lady of the May,” a child’s doll, decorated with flowers, signifies a popular old custom you might work into your scheme of decorating, or, if you are using a long table, you may have the May pole in the exact center. “Jack-in-the-green” at one end and the “Lady of the May” at the other.

Games apropos to the occasion may feature the Robin Hood idea—Robin Hood, you know, always figured prominently in the celebration of the first of May. Tiny bows and arrows and a flower-decorated target will furnish amusement—with a gay May basket, some tiny present hidden beneath its flowers, for a prize. And nothing would be more fun or more appropriate than to crown the bride-to-be “Queen of the May” during your party.

For your bridge game use score cards decorated with spring blossoms, and go to a little extra trouble with your pencil. Wrap it in pink and green strips of paper, hand colored ribbons from it, and stick it in a paper-covered spool for a base, so that it will stand up straight and perky like a May pole when not in use. Seattle [WA] Daily Times 24 April 1928: p. 19

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It really is rather extraordinary how long even bowdlerised and ill-understood versions of the May-Day Festivities survived. Even in the United States, May-Pole dances and parties were a staple of young ladies’ academies and, as we have seen, bridal showers. Rather earlier, there was advice on May-Day Tableaux for the young. Mrs Daffodil gives a single sample so as to not weary her readers.

TABLEAU  I— MAY

Let the furniture be removed from the stage, and the background draped with white, looped with garlands of flowers and leaves; the floor covered with white, and flowers scattered over it. One single figure represents May. A beautiful blonde should be selected. Let her wear pure white; the dress long, full, and floating; her hair should fall free, either in curls or waving ripples, and a wreath of delicate flowers rest on her head; flowers should appear to fall all about her; in her hair and on her dress (small pins, or a few stitches of thread will fasten them); her hands are raised, her eyes uplifted, as if she were just about to rise and soar away. The writer has seen a lovely child so dressed and standing, and the tableau was as beautiful as can be imagined. Godey’s Lady’s Book May 1863

Crowning the May Queen, c. 1910

Crowning the May Queen, c. 1905

Mrs Daffodil is not quite sure when the escalation of May-Day Pageants began, but in this account from 1912, the May Queen is accompanied, not only by the traditional English Robin-Hood and Hobby Horse, but a parade-of-all-nations including (inexplicably) Roman maidens and Japanese girls. Each of the national groups had its own suggested dance figure, song or May-Pole braiding pattern. If one was ambitious and had a stock of willing young ladies, one could reconstruct the entire tedious pageant by consulting this detailed book.

A SUCCESSFUL MAY-DAY PAGEANT.

At six o’clock in the evening, just about sundown, the processional pageant of all the players, two and two, carrying their ornamental accessories proceed in their march to the May-pole, heralded by the forester’s bugle horn. There are groups of various national dancers in the characteristic costume of their countries including the little milkmaids with cap, apron, and pail; the Scotch Highlanders with plaid cap and feather; the English shepherdesses with their crooks, looking like a band of veritable Bopeeps; the graceful Roman maidens, with their musical pipes and garlands; some Japanese girls with their parasols, waddling and tiptoeing. Rollicking and wild with glee come Robin Hood and his merry men, for the Morris dances, not forgetting the hobbyhorse with spirited “false trots, smooth ambles and Canterbury paces.” The inimitable jester with his pranks, and the little black-faced chimney-sweeps. The pageant procession approaching the May-pole, the centre of the scene, is led by the May Queen and her retinue, half of the attendants on each side of the queen, partners on opposite sides. Each attendant holds a garland of the canopy in her hands. The Festival Book: May-Day Pastime and The May-Pole Dances, Revels and Musical Games for the Playground, School and College, Jennette Emeline Carpenter Lincoln, 1912

Mrs Daffodil wishes her readers the Maddest Merriest Day Of All the Glad New Year.

See another May-Day post about a May-Queen controversy. And this, about the ideal vs. the actual May Day. And this parody of the all-too-easily-parodied Tennyson’s “The May Queen,” adapted for inclement weather.

 

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 Hoodooed Princesses: 1913

The "hoodooed" princesses of 1913.

The “hoodooed” princesses of 1913. Above, from left to right: Augustine Victoria, wife of Manual of Portugal, reported estranged within a month of their marriage, but now apparently on excellent terms with her husband again; Princess William, of Sweden, who found her husband, her father-in-law, and the Swedish court too dreadfully dull and ran away to Paris. Below: Princess Isabella, of Austria, who burned her bridal gown on her wedding night, left her husband and has procured an annulment; Princess Ernest August, of Cumberland, the Kaiser’s only daughter, whose happiness was endangered by a question of state and who was finally saved from her brothers by her father; Princess Eitel, wife of a son of the Kaiser. The latter’s reckless career has been ineffectually hushed up.

Hoodoo of 1913 Catches Five Princesses

Beauties of Royalty Find Love Jinx Hard to Escape.

Paris, France, Jan. 3. “So the prince and the princess were married and they lived happily ever afterward.”

That old fairy tale idea is sadly knocked in the head this year of 1913. No less than six royal princesses have gone on the rocks in their voyages toward a happy union. Some of the matrimonial craft have been patched up and are again navigating but, all in all, the proportion of rifted hearts and blighted romances in circles of the purple just at present makes the lot of the throne tenants far from enviable. The modest newlyweds in a cottage, with their baby, their vine-clad porch and their humble pleasures may well look with pity upon the high places of wealth, pomp and splendor.

First, there is the dramatic story of the princess who burned her wedding gown in her bed chamber on the bridal night. A tragic culmination to what was believed to be a pure love match. Little by little the tale of Prince George of Bavaria and Archduchess Isabella Marie, of Austria, has come out. He was a dashing officer, decorated by the Kaiser, the best middle-weight boxer in Germany. She was not only a pretty girl, but a great wit, a jolly good fellow.

And a hag of a gypsy plunged them into woe!

Whether the prince had been a trifle wild, as royal youths often are doesn’t matter. It would have happened just as it did anyway. The archduchess, when the prince, whom she dearly loved, proposed, foolishly put him off for 24 hours instead of falling into his arms with a “yes.”

Consults Family Gypsy.

She consulted the family gypsy.

“Ottilie—Ottilie,” whispered the crone. “I see an Ottilie who will come between you and your husband.”

The next day the archduchess accepted her prince, consulting her heart. She renounced her Austria royal rights to facilitate the marriage. Everywhere the union was admired. The two were supremely happy, it appeared to those around them.

Tells of Vision.

Overwrought on the night of her wedding, a vision appeared to her. Here is the story in her own words to one of her maids:

“When, upon my arrival in Munich, I entered my bedchamber in the evening, I suddenly remembered the words of the gypsy. The room itself looked mysterious. When I undressed myself and went to bed—how can I describe my horror.

“I beheld on the white pillow three drops of fresh, red blood. I jumped out of bed, trembling, and rang the bell. Nobody came. I began to pray. Soon I heard a weird noise and, looking around, I saw distinctly the figure of a pretty young girl in a night gown, staring at my ironically. How she had come in, I do not know. She just walked to the bed and occupied it without a world. I trembled all over.

“Madame,” she whispered, “this is not your bed, it is mine.”

“She was pretty, with dark long lashes and black eyes, just as the gypsy had told me. I asked:

“Are you Otillie?” She nodded and whispered: “Certainly I am. What do you want of me?”

When the princess opened her eyes, the prince was kneeling over her, keeping a towel with cold water on her head. She wildly questioned him. Who was Otillie? He stammered and stumbled, as he well might, perhaps never having heard the name before.

“It’s true,” she cried. A wild scene ensured. A few hours later they had separated forever.

The marriage was annulled. Prince George took his place alongside the three divorced sovereigns of Europe, King Frederick August, of Saxony; Grand Duke Ernest Ludwig, of Hesse, and Prince Albert I, of Monaco.

Solves Problem With Death.

But to proceed with this fateful year’s developments.

The hateful subterfuge of a morganic marriage is a possible resort when a prince falls in love with a “common” girl. But what when a princess prefers a commoner to all the sickly crowned youth put before her for her selection?

The latter was the problem of the beautiful Sophie, of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, and she solved it with—death.

It is a sad position which the house of Saxe-Weimar occupies—ancient and royal as the hills, but so impecunious their palace furnishings are threadbare.

The princess had been betrothed to a dissipated, middle-aged cousin, and had broken the engagement only by personal appeal to the Kaiser. A young lieutenant, whom she may have loved, had shot himself dead for her in Athens five years before and the crown princess of Greece, sister to the Kaiser, had wept real tears at his burial. The men of the house had in several cases found happiness outside of the purple. Her uncle, Duke Bernard, found a loving wife, and her brother, Prince Hermann, was also serene in his possession of a life partner not born to the palace. Her own father had fled to America in his youth and had even worked as a waiter in New York for a time. But what of the women of the family? Such exits from court restraint were barred to them. She was a proud girl, past 25, living a life without love.

There appeared the young von Bleichroeder, member of the banking house which is said to have made possible the German victory over France in 1870. The Kaiser, pitying the melancholy royal girl—he had even looked with favor on the young lieutenant—consented, but the grand duke of Saxony, head of the house, would not listen.

Is Made a Prisoner.

Then came an incident in the forest of Fontainebleau, near Paris. A gypsy’s child was killed by a magnificent motor car and in the car, it came out, had been the handsome young banker and Princess Sophie. After that Sophie kept to her room in the ancient, threadbare palace. She was practically under arrest.

She slept late one morning. A maid knocked long and hard and finally dared to push open the door. Across the bed lay a white form, a pistol clutched in her hand and an untied packet of letters half strewn upon the coverlet.

She had been called the most lovely princess in the world, but of this world she was no longer.

The Scandal of Princess William.

Then there is the scandal of the princess William. Lacking perhaps the tragic elements of the stories of Sophie and Isabella, it yet is not without its melancholy features. She had been a grand duchess of Russia, used to the gay and sometimes wanton life of the court of St. Petersburg. She is wedded to a cold Swedish prince. Her money buys him a palace. She is everything and he is nothing. The liveliest dancer, the brightest wit, the most sparkling figure in all Sweden, she is forced to endure the companionship of a stupid husband and the frown of an austere royal father-in-law. Of course she should have borne her trials, for the sake of her children if for no other reason, but modern human nature is prone to break restraints. Patient Griselda’s are rare today. She ran away to Paris. Ugly rumors followed. It was said she had betrayed her husband’s country to her fatherland—had sold Swedish military secrets to Russia. But such tales always rise in such circumstances. Perhaps we had better believe the dashing princess herself—that Stockholm was too deadly dull for endurance.

Honor First, Then Love.

It is hard for Americans to understand the circumstances which caused Prince Ernest Augustus, of Cumberland, to exclaim: “For me and my family honor comes first, then love!” He was and is dead in love with the Kaiser’s only daughter, now his wife, when he said it. We must remember how the iron hand of Bismarck closed upon and crushed the house of Hanover. It was a bitter wrong not forgot.

For a time it looked as though a bit of almost ancient history might defeat one of the few royal love matches. But the Kaiser is not so eager for crushing hearts—he has seen too many saddening incidents. He thought twice before he took a step which might have shattered his pretty daughter’s happiness—have made her a second Sophie, of Saxe-Weimar. His impetuous and imperialistic sons thought differently. They would have bereft the Hanoverian house of its last vestige of claim to its honors. But the Kaiser’s will prevailed. So it ever will be known whether the prince of Cumberland would have carried out his threat of resigning from the German army and retiring with his bride to live a peaceful, secluded life on their estate sin upper Austria, letting thrones go hang. The Kaiser undoubtedly breathed freer. His sons and his daughters and his relatives to the nth degree are not the least of his troubles. He was already worrying over his son, Eitel Frederick. Prince Eitel is a heavy, phlegmatic sort of individual. His wife, Sophie, of Oldenburg, is several years older, many times a millionaire, and a lover of good times, like Princess William, of Sweden.

Mystery in Manuel’s Life.

Lastly we come to the mysterious case of Manuel, late king of Portugal, and his bride, Augustine Victoria. They are not living together apparently in good terms. The absence of Manuel during his bride’s serious illness just after their marriage is unexplained, but the less said of it the better. Let us hope their royal bark is well enough repaired to weather all further storms.

El Paso [TX] Herald 3 January 1914: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: And a very happy Friday the Thirteenth to all! Mrs Daffodil is always amused by how distorted accounts of European royalty are in the American press. Let us look first at the story of Archduchess Isabella of Austria and Prince Georg of Bavaria. One does not find the story of the gypsy hag in the traditional histories. However, the Duchess’s wedding gown and trousseau were burnt just before the wedding. There were rumours that the Archduchess was in some way implicated. The couple were quite unhappy. They separated before the honeymoon was over; the marriage was annulled for nonconsummation (despite family statements that the couple merely had fundamental incompatabilities of character); and the discarded bridegroom later became a Catholic priest.  Archduchess Isabella became a nurse, serving gallantly in the First World War. She became engaged to a surgeon, but Emperor Franz Joseph refused his permission to marry. She never wed another.

Princess Sophie of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (really, these smaller noble houses are as bad as the Russians or the Spanish with their strings of surnames.) fell in love with Baron Hans von Bleichröder, a wealthy banker of Heidelburg, but because of the difference in their station and religion, she was forbidden to marry him. While on holiday with von Bleichröder, Sophie hit and killed a child in France. Von Bleichröder paid compensation to the family and Sophie’s family tried to hush up the affair, but Sophie’s depression over taking a life and the scandal over her love affair with the banker led her to commit suicide in 1913.

Princess William of Sweden was the unhappy Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia. She and Prince Wilhelm had one child before divorcing. The Prince, who was known to have many artistic and scholarly interests, began a relationship with sculptor Jeanne de Tramcourt immediately after the divorce; they lived happily together for many years until she was killed in an automobile accident. Grand Duchess Maria married a Russian Prince, escaped the Russian Revolution, opened an embroidery atelier, and wrote two books about her eventful life.

Sophie of Oldenburg married Prince Eitel Frederick, the brutal second son of the Kaiser. They divorced amid mutual accusations of adultery.

King Manuel of Portugal and his Dresden-china bride, Princess Augusta Victoria, initially separated during an illness early in their marriage. One speculates about nameless diseases; Manuel had formed a deep attachment to actress and dancer Gaby Deslys in Paris; he only gave her up when she moved to the United States in 1911. He married Princess Augusta Victoria in 1914.

Prince Ernst August ‘s father, Prince Ernest Augustus, 3rd Duke of Cumberland, refused to give up his claim to the throne of Hanover and also styled himself Duke of Brunswick. When Prince Ernst wished to marry Princess Viktoria Luise, only daughter of the Kaiser, the Duke of Cumberland turned over the Brunswick title to his son and became reconciled with the Hohenzollerns. The wedding was the last great gathering of European sovereigns before the Great War brought down so many royal dynasties.

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.

 

She Wanted to Be a Widow: 1889

 

She Made a Pretty Widow, c. 1890

She Made a Pretty Widow, c. 1890

Perhaps the queerest of tales is that of a young lady who had just attained her majority, and with it the unrestricted control of 100,000 dollars. This young lady’s sole desire was to become a widow. Weeds are so becoming. What is so interesting as a young bewitching widow, with a handsome fortune? Accordingly, to obtain the desirable result, she engaged the services of the real estate agent who managed her property to procure an accommodating moribund husband. The agent set to work, and, with the aid of a friendly physician (every apothecary and sawbones is a physician here), a suitable subject was found in the person of a destitute printer, who was supposed to be dying of whisky and consumption.

After a little inducement the dying man consented, knowing that he was on the verge of the grave, the prospect of being decently buried overcoming any repugnance he might have felt at such an unnatural wooing, and by his orders the fair would-be widow was asked to name the day. Thereupon the next day there was presented at the bed of the bridegroom the bride and a widowed friend, the dying man’s mother, the real estate agent, the doctor, and a Justice of the Peace. The blushing bride having satisfied herself that the man she was about to take for better or worse “would soon be where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest,” shyly consented to be united according to the Statute in such cases made and provided by the accommodating Justice, and without bestowing another look on her newly-acquired husband, the fair bride left the room, having left sufficient coin of the Republic to pay the present living expenses and the future funeral charges, which she fondly hoped would be at early date.

Time passed, however, and still the bride remained a wife, and not a widow, and days merged into weeks and weeks into months, and the lady was reminded of the existence of a husband by the frequent demands on her purse. At last, her patience being exhausted, she determined to visit her husband to ask him why he persisted in living, and when he intended to be ready to be measured for his coffin. With that intent she proceeded to take the train for ‘Frisco, her residence being Oakland, and just as she was stepping into the carriage, someone stepped in front of her with outstretched arms, and said, “Frankie, my darling, I have found you at last.” Frankie (the lady) took a good look at the speaker; it was her husband. She was too cool to faint that, of course, goes without saving, but her voice, husky with emotion, trembled as she said, “What, not dead yet”

“No,” replied her husband, “I have quite recovered. They told me they did not know your address.”

You can imagine the fair one’s feelings. After a stormy interview and a refusal by the husband of a substantial sum to permit a divorce, a compromise was affected, whereby the lady was to furnish so much a month to the husband for his needs, —meaning whisky, of course—and after two or three months of unlimited quantities of the aforesaid needs, death claimed the victim who had so nearly escaped him. And the fair widow furnished with unbecoming cheerfulness the necessary funds to inter her dear departed and now, the object of her life being attained, she is turning the heads of all young eligible men with her ravishing widow’s weeds. But enough of this. I know your readers will say I have been romancing, but I can assure them that the lady is now residing in Oakland, and has taken no steps whatever to contradict the story on the contrary, she is quite proud of her exploit. Funny taste, is it not?

Waikato Times, 14 September 1889: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is rare to find a young woman (particularly one in possession of such a large fortune) who knows her own mind so well. Not for her the siren-song of young and handsome. It is not entirely dissimilar to those young persons, poor in worldly goods, but bountifully equipped with feminine charms, who calculatingly marry elderly millionaires, although in those cases, the young persons crave the money rather than the weeds.  One must admire the young lady’s coolness, if not her kindly heart.

The bewitching widow was something of a cliché in popular mortuary literature:

We could hardly conceive how it was possible the head could think of the fashion of a bonnet if the heart were breaking, We for a long time supposed that the matter lay entirely with the milliner, but we were undeceived once by having to carry a mourning bonnet back, intended for a young and pretty widow, because it was not becoming, and another, as the funeral did not occur for two days thereafter, was forthwith made that suited to a charm. The Spirit Messenger, R.P. Ambler, Editor, 14 June 1851: p 361

and

It is in questionable taste for a young and pretty widow to wear her mourning after she has become reconciled to the death of her first husband and is quite willing to marry a second. A widow still wearing her weeds, and at the same time carrying on an animated flirtation with some new admirer, is a sight to make the gods weep…To angle for a second husband with the weeds worn for the first, because they are becoming, is a thing that should be forbidden by law. Social Customs, Florence Howe Hall, (Boston: Dana Estes & Co., 1911)

For more on mourning customs and bewitching widows, see The Victorian Book of the Dead, as well as this story, “The Widow’s Baby,” and “The Mourner a la mode,” a satirical poem about a fashionable widow.

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.

 

 

Die For Love: 1830s to present

Esther Hale, The Ghostly Bride

Esther Hale, The Ghostly Bride, art by Jessica Wiesel

To-day Mrs Daffodil once again—well, “welcomes” is perhaps too strong a word—but shall we say “accommodates” that ghost-writing person over at Haunted Ohio, who says that 2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the publication of the very first volume of her Haunted Ohio series. Mrs Daffodil is pursing her lips dubiously over the assertion that this is grounds for celebration, but in this world of fleeting fame, twenty-five years is a long time and a ghost story for Hallowe’en never goes amiss. This story comes from the second volume in the series, cunningly entitled Haunted Ohio II: More Ghostly Tales from the Buckeye State.

DIE FOR LOVE

Beaver Creek threads its way through the steep hills and thick forests of Beaver Creek State Park. During the canal boom of the 1880s the area prospered, but today it is an area of deserted logging camps, ruined canal locks, and ghost towns.  One such town, Sprucevale, is accessible only by bridle path.  And all that remains of Sprucevale are the three walls of Hambelton’s grist mill—and the legend of Esther Hale.

On the morning of August 12, 1837, Esther Hale was happily preparing for her wedding. The table in the parlor was decorated with flowers and greenery; the cake was in the kitchen, covered with a cheesecloth veil to keep off the flies.  The wedding was set for ten in the morning.  By half past ten the guests were beginning to fidget and smile behind their fans.  By half past twelve they climbed into their wagons and drove away.  The messenger Esther sent could find no trace of her lover.  The cabin was deserted, he said, the ashes in the stove were cold.

When her friends tried to help her to bed, Esther quietly rebuffed them until they left her sitting alone in the dark by the window of the parlor. When they returned the next morning, the curtains had been drawn, as if in a house of mourning.  They were never again opened in Esther Hale’s lifetime.

All summer Esther moved like a ghost through the house. In the kitchen, beetles tunneled through the cake.  The flowers withered in the parlor while the spiders spun their gossamer hangings.  Her friends coaxed her to eat and drink a little, but when they tried to get her to change her dress or remove the wedding decorations, she flew at them with claw-like fingers.  Eventually they left her alone.

Broken hearts kill slowly. Four months later a neighbor noticed that the door to Esther’s house was open, banging back and forth in the December wind.  He notified the sheriff and the doctor who took a party of men to the dark house.  Snow had drifted throughout the rooms like a white shroud. Esther was slumped over the parlor window sill, her veil over her face.  Someone held up a lantern.  The doctor drew back the shredded lace.  Esther had been dead for several weeks.  When they saw the horror beneath, they silently covered her over again.  She was buried so, shrouded in her wedding clothes.

You can still see her, dressed in white, looking for her lover. It is said that she haunts the bridge over Beaver Creek, waiting there every year on August 12, a hideous figure in tattered white satin and lace.  If she touches you, she will become young and beautiful again—but you will die.

Nanette Young of Harmony Hills Stables enjoys taking people on trail rides and telling them the ghost stories of the area, especially the tale about the ghostly bride. Local people say they’ve seen Esther run in front of their headlights.  Nanette says that her car shuts off every morning by the grist mill.  Other people have had the same experience.

“One Christmas I was out looking at the Christmas lights with my mother. I told her, ‘This car is going to shut off as we pass that building.’  My girlfriend who was with us said, ‘Yeah, it happens every morning.’ My mother didn’t believe me, then it shut right off.  When this happens I just coast down the hill.  There are forty thousand hills out here.  But the car doesn’t shut off on any of the others.”

On August 8th, Nanette took a group of riders out on the trail. It was a clear night, but a mysterious fog rose from the creek up to the horses’ legs.  As they passed Esther’s house and rode onto the bridge, the last man in line said, “I feel a cold force pulling on my sweat shirt!”  Nanette could see nothing, but when they reached the safety of the barn, the hood of his sweat shirt was torn.

If you are in the area in early August, drive through quickly with your windows rolled up. And keep a sharp lookout for a skeletal woman in a wedding dress stained by the grave for she will lunge at your car, her bony fingers scrabbling at your windows, desperate as Death to touch and claim your living flesh.

Haunted Ohio II: More Ghostly Tales from the Buckeye State, Chris Woodyard, 1992

Like most local legends, there are a number of variations in the stories about Esther Hale. She is said to have been a Quakeress preacher, she is said to walk out of the Hambleton Mill in Beaver Creek State Park in Northeastern Ohio, and write “Come” on one of the stone walls of the mill on Christmas Eve.

The Haunted Ohio series is available at online retailers and through Barnes & Noble stores.

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.

 

The Resurrection of Willie Todd: 1897

viewing-corpse-in-coffin-the-spectre-of-the-hall-author-of-varney-the-vampire-1848

THE RESURRECTION OF WILLIE TODD

By Arthur Thompson Garrett

“WHAT! marry that insignificant nonentity? Never! Understand me, never!” and the Honorable Gregory Bismuth glared at his pretty daughter, his scant supply of gray hair standing fairly erect with indignation.

“But, papa,” answered Arabella Bismuth, the great lawyer’s only child, “Willie is a good young man; what have you against him?”

“I’ll have my foot against him the next time he comes here,” snorted the irascible father. “The idea of Arabella Bismuth, daughter of Gregory Bismuth, granddaughter of Anthony James Bismuth, great-grand—”

“Papa, papa, there is no need of you going over your ancestral tree in anti-chronological order. The question is, What is your objection to my marrying Willie Todd?”

“Objection! objection! you impudent young chit, just like your mother, though my objection is that he isn’t a man. He’s nothing but a plagiarism. I had hoped that my daughter would show more sense than to express a desire to wed a remote circumstance like William Todd;” and the lawyer departed for his office, leaving his daughter in tears.

Arabella Bismuth was a pretty girl and an heiress, two qualifications that were sufficient to make her quite a figure in the matrimonial market. She shunned, however, many seemingly advantageous opportunities to wed, and singled out young Todd as her future husband. This selection irritated her stately father exceedingly, as he was aware that Willie Todd would never set the world afire with his brilliant achievements. He had allowed the young man to come to the house, as he considered him a harmless, inoffensive dude, and had no fear of his fascinating the handsome daughter. Great was his surprise when Arabella informed him that she and Willie desired to marry (Willie could never have managed to screw his courage up to that point).

After the Hon. Gregory Bismuth’s majestic form had disappeared down the street, the object of his wrath, the effeminate Todd, emerged from a house across the way and, walking over, ascended the steps of the Bismuth mansion.

“How did he take it, Bell?” inquired the lover.

“Take it!” ejaculated Arabella. “It’s lucky for you, Willie, that you didn’t break the news, or I would probably have been a widow before being married.”

Willie shivered. “Heavens, what a narrow escape. Why, do you know, I came near bracing him yesterday!”

“It’s lucky that you didn’t, for— hide, Willie, hide; here comes papa. He has either forgotten something or seen you come in.”

“Great Scott. I hope not. Where can I hide?”

“Here, get behind this screen; I think I can keep him away from there.”

“Say, Arabella,” said Willie, as he concealed himself, “spring the subject on him again and let me see how he acts; perhaps he is only bluffing.”

“All right, but keep still; here he is.”

“With whom were you talking?” asked Mr. Bismuth as he entered the room.

“I was just talking to myself,” answered Arabella.

“Well, quit it; it’s a bad habit. Have you seen anything of my glasses?”

“No; did you forget them?”

“Oh, no, of course not,” answered her father, sarcastically. “I just simply walked back six blocks to casually inquire if you had seen them.”

“Well, I haven’t.”

“Don’t get saucy, you young minx, but help me find those confounded glasses;” and he commenced such a thorough and systematic search that Willie was sure he would be discovered. “I must have left them behind this screen, where I was reading;” and he walked over, but was stopped by Arabella, much to Willie’s relief.

“No, no, papa, they are not there, I’m sure. Look through your pockets again.”

Mr. Bismuth mechanically did as he was told, and after two or three frantic dives in different pockets he at last brought forth the missing glasses.

“Ha! ha! ha! and you had them all the time. Ha! ha! ha!” and Arabella laughed hysterically.

Her father looked at her in a puzzled way and said, “Yes, it’s very funny, but I guess I’d better send Dr. Hamline around to see you. You’re sick. Your face is flushed, and you laugh like a maniac.”

“No, I’m all right, papa, but before you go I wish you’d consent to my marrying Willie; won’t you?”

At this Mr. Bismuth boiled again. “Never, never, and when a Bismuth says never he means it. That scamp is a worthless loafer and I would take delight in paying his funeral expenses.”

“Papa, papa, do you know what you are saying?”

“Certainly I do—a Bismuth always knows what he is saying. He simply wants you for the money you will inherit, and I say he shall never have it, and a Bismuth never told a lie. I remarked a moment ago that I would delight in paying his funeral expenses, and to be true to not only the reputation of myself, but my ancestors, I will keep my word. That is all the money he will ever wring from the coffers of the house of Bismuth;” and the great attorney started for his office, after again assuring himself that his glasses were safely in his pocket.

“Whew,” remarked Willie, as he emerged from his hiding-place, “he seems to have it in for me in earnest, doesn’t he, Bell?”

“Yes, Willie, I am afraid we can never win him over.”

“Well, let’s elope.”

“Elope?”

“Yes, certainly. Ain’t that what all lovers do? Let’s go away and get married, and then when it all blows over we can come back. Your father will cool down by that time and be ready to fall on my neck with tears of forgiveness.”

“Yes, Willie, he would fall on your neck quickly enough, but don’t put too much faith in the tears of forgiveness. That isn’t what he would fall with. Besides, Willie Todd, how much money have you right now?”

Willie began a diligent search and managed to show up thirty-seven cents and a pawn ticket for his overcoat.

“That looks like eloping, doesn’t it? Papa never allows me any money, and I wouldn’t part with my jewelry. No, Willie, we can’t elope on credit.”

But Willie did not answer for a few minutes; he was lost in thought. “Say, Bell,” he said, finally, “if I’ll raise money enough to pay the expenses of a first-class elopement, will you go, and take the chances of ultimate forgiveness?”

After a moment’s deliberation Arabella said, “I will.”

“All right, then, your father shall bear the expense.”

“My father? You must be crazy, Willie.”

“No, I’m not. He never breaks his word, does he?”

“Never.”

“He said he’d pay my funeral expenses, didn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I’m going to die.”

“Die!”

“That’s what I said, and my lifeless body shall be placed in the cold and silent tomb, at the expense of your father, and I rely on you to make him come down handsomely.”

“Well, I must say that I cannot see through this; I’m not going to marry a corpse .”

“Oh, I don’t mean to really die. I’ve a friend that is a mesmerist, and I’ll have him put me in a trance. My cousin will be the undertaker. After the funeral they will dig me up, and then we can go on our wedding-tour with the funeral money. Great scheme, isn’t it?”

“That doesn’t sound very reasonable, Willie. Suppose something should happen to this mesmerist while you are in the ground, or that papa should hire another undertaker, or that the cemetery authorities should keep too close a watch, and prevent them from digging you up?”

“Oh, well, we’ve got to take some risks, but there isn’t much danger. I could live a month in that state. The only hitch is that you could not act the mourner in a natural way.”

“Yes, I can. I’ll put an onion in my handkerchief. I can be mournful enough then, for I abhor onions.”

“Well, good-by, then, for the present. I guess I’ll die to-night; there’s no time like the present, and, say, don’t forget to remind your father that I must have a handsome funeral. Broadcloth suit, very expensive coffin, and get a diamond ring, if you can;” and the blithe young man, so soon to be laid to rest, departed to find his friend the mesmerist.

That same evening, true to his word, Willie Todd, by the aid of Professor Drummond, lay on his bed, to all appearances a corpse. His cousin, the undertaker, having been engaged in the afternoon, soon made his appearance. He was to furnish all the requisites of a first-class funeral, the same to be returned to him in good order.

Arabella and her father were reading when the messenger arrived with the sad tidings. The lawyer was afflicted with catarrh, or he certainly would have detected the odor of onion in the room. When the news was gently broken, Arabella’s handkerchief flew to her face to produce the necessary tears.

“Well,” remarked the lawyer, “so he’s dead, is he? Most sensible thing he’s ever done;” and he resumed his reading.

“Papa, p-p-papa,” sobbed Arabella, “have you no feelings at all?” and the tears rolled down her cheeks. The onion was doing its work grandly.

“Certainly I have feelings; a Bismuth always has feeling, but I see no reason why I should be bowed down with grief. I’ll give him a grand funeral. A Bismuth never broke his word.”

“Will you b-b-buy him a new s-s-suit of broadcloth to be b-b-buried in?”

“Yes.”

“And a three-hundred-dollar coffin?”

“Yes.”

“And a diamond ring?”

Mr. Bismuth straightened up. “A diamond ring! What in Heaven’s name does a dead man want with a diamond ring? There are no pawn-shops in the other world.”

“Willie al-al-always admired diamonds s-s-so,” sobbed Arabella, “and you said you’d spare no expense.”

“All right; I’m getting out of it cheaply, anyway.”

Mr. Bismuth was truly liberal with that funeral. The cousin stayed with the body until Arabella and her father arrived, fearing another undertaker might be engaged. The doctor who examined the body gave a certificate of death from heart disease, a handy way of saying he didn’t know what was the matter. He mentioned a post-mortem examination, but the mesmerist, Arabella, and the undertaker strenuously objected. It might prove embarrassing, they thought, for Willie to come out of his trance with his internal mechanism disarranged, so the doctor was dissuaded and the heart-disease certificate was granted.

Willie’s cousin, the undertaker , said he had often heard the young man express a desire to be buried beneath a certain willow-tree that shaded a sparkling brook. Mr. Bismuth assented to this, although he remarked that he didn’t believe the deceased could now distinguish a sparkling brook from one of the common kind, but that it was Willie’s funeral and to carry it out any way to suit him. Clothed in his new broadcloth, his diamond ring sparkling in the light, the young man was placed in the most expensive coffin his cousin’s establishment afforded, and the funeral party set out for the weeping willow by the sparkling brook. At the grave the undertaker made a serious blunder when his assistant accidentally let his end of the box that held the coffin fall to the ground.

“Confound you, Bill, be careful; that coffin is worth $300 in cold cash, and I don’t want it scarred.”

“What if you don’t?” roared Bismuth in a tone of voice not usually heard at a funeral. “Whose coffin is that? I’m paying for that coffin, and it don’t make a cent’s difference to you whether it’s scarred or not.”

The undertaker stammered some un-intelligible reply, Arabella turned her face away, and the mesmerist grated his teeth. The interment was soon over, and Mr. Bismuth with his daughter started for home, after giving the undertaker a check for $500.

That night, after Arabella had retired, she thought she would see if her father’s heart had been softened any; so she arose, and went down-stairs, where he was reading.

“Papa,” she said, “I had a dream.”

“Too much supper,” commented her father, without looking up.

“No, papa, I dreamed that Willie came back from the grave; that he had been buried alive and was rescued.”

The old man glanced up from his book, and looked at his daughter sternly. “If he does an ungrateful trick like that after the expense he’s been to me, I’ll send him to the penitentiary for obtaining his coffin by false pretence. You’d better go back to bed and dream again;” and he resumed his book.

Arabella sighed and returned to her room. She was about to retire again, when she heard the signal agreed upon for their elopement. Hastily dressing, and picking up a few articles she wished to take, she noiselessly emerged from the house, unobserved by her father.

“Willie, you didn’t intend for us to leave to-night, did you?”

“Yes, the sooner the better. You see, everybody in this neighborhood thinks I’m dead, and I don’t want to be seen. I’ve got over four hundred dollars, and we can have a grand wedding-trip before we come home to be forgiven.”

“I don’t know about that,” rejoined Arabella, dubiously. “Papa didn’t seem a bit softened by your untimely death.”

“Oh, he’ll come around all right; they all do. We’ll write him an explanatory letter after we are safely married, and he won’t be long in extending his blessing. Come, now, and we can catch a train in a few minutes.”

The lovers stealthily made their way from the Bismuth grounds and were soon at the depot, where Willie purchased two tickets to a neighboring city. The next morning they were married, and started on a wedding-tour that made the $400 dwindle rapidly. The diamond ring was sacrificed, and then Arabella thought it was about time to write to papa.

“You write to him, Willie.”

“No, Arabella, my dear, it is your place to write. You know him better than I, and you can explain things in a more satisfactory way.”

So Arabella penned the following:

DEAR PAPA:

Doubtless you were surprised at my disappearing, but I know you will forgive your little daughter. Willie was not dead; it was a case of suspended animation. He was rescued, and signalled me to come down into the yard. I was terribly frightened, but he explained, and persuaded me to elope. We are nearly out of money, papa, and want you to forgive us. Write soon, and send us a check—that’s a dear —and we will soon be with you.

Your loving daughter, ARABELLA TODD.

They anxiously awaited a reply. At every whistle of the postman Willie would turn pale, and Arabella would get nervous. At last the expected missive arrived, and, eagerly tearing open the envelope, Arabella unfolded the sheet of paper and read:

MY DEAR DEPARTED DAUGHTER:

Yours of recent date at hand, and in reply will say that I absolutely and unequivocally refuse to have any dealings with a dead person. Mr. William Todd is dead. I saw him in his coffin, and, what is more convincing still, I have a receipt in full for his funeral expenses. Any female marrying into a foreign country, according to recognized international law, becomes a citizen of that country. If you have married the said deceased William Todd, then you are also dead. No Bismuth, ever, as near as I can learn, had any dealings with ghosts, and I trust that you and your husband, the late William Todd, will trouble me no more.

Your bereaved father, GREGORY BISMUTH.

Handing the letter to her husband, Arabella said, “I thought so. Read it.”

Willie perused the epistle, and it dropped from his nerveless fingers and floated to the floor. They looked into each other’s eyes for a moment, and then Arabella remarked:

“It’s no use, Willie; you’ll have to go to work.”

Godey’s Lady’s Book [Philadelphia, PA] May 1897

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The memorably-named Arabella Bismuth seems to have seriously over-estimated her Papa’s capacity for extending the parental blessing.  Willie Todd should have considered himself fortunate that the Hon. Gregory Bismuth did not bribe the undertaker to keep him underground until really and truly deceased.  For such a harmless, inoffensive dude there seems only one course of action: he must go on the road with Professor Drummond the mesmerist, doing the “buried alive” stunt, so popular with pseudo-Indian fakirs, who went about the United States, mesmerising attractive young ladies and “professional corpses.” One suspects that Willie Todd would be the ideal professional corpse.

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.

Running for a Bride: 1888

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We read of the desperate struggles of to-day’s Olympic athletes to win that coveted gold medal, worth, in US dollars, $564.00—quite a paltry reward when one considers these foot-race competitors who ran for a bride worth $100,000.

THEY WILL RUN FOR A BRIDE.

Miss Douglass Will Wed the Man Who Wins the Foot Race.

Nashville, Tenn., Jan. 29 Miss Annie Douglass, a graduate of Vanderbilt University, who is known throughout Tennessee as “The Oil Queen,” because of her large possessions of oil property in Spring Creek district, is to be married next Thursday night to the winner of a foot race. Miss Douglass is an orphan, residing with her grandfather, James Douglass, proprietor of the noted “Calf Killer Farm.”‘ Nathan Overman, a neighbour, was a suitor for the hand of Miss Douglass, and he had no opposition until two years ago, when John Lane, of Indiana, a cousin of Mrs. Hendrick’s came to the neighbourhood. A rivalry for the hand of the young lady became intense and bloodshed was feared. Mr. Douglass, who had no preference between the young men, decided to end the matter, and being an eccentric man, hit upon a novel plan.

He got the three interested persons together and proposed that, as the lady herself could not decide between the men, that they run a race of eight miles on parallel roads, the winner to marry the girl before night. All agreed and promised to faithfully abide the result.

At 8 o’clock next Thursday morning the men will start, and on their return they will have a banquet, which will be followed by the marriage. The whole country is aroused, and thousands will see the race. All the persons concerned are well-to-do and well educated. Miss Douglass is worth $100,000.

The Sun [New York, NY] 30 January 1888: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Much as Mrs Daffodil wishes this story were true, she can find no trace of the actual participants, nor of the noted “Calf Killer Farm.” The story was told and retold, as late as the early 1890s with trifling variations such as Miss Douglass’s father being the race-proposer. To Mrs Daffodil’s disappointment, despite the wide syndication of this diverting anecdote, no one recorded the result of the race and the name of the happy, if breathless bridegroom. The inventive journalist who, one fears, paltered just the teensiest bit with the truth, was perhaps sacked before he could file the sequel.

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.