Category Archives: Wonders and Curiosities

The Blazing Ghost of Cardiff Town: 1903

wicker man burning

THE BLAZING GHOST OF CARDIFF TOWN.

By Howard R. Garis.

(Copyright 1903 by Robert Howard Russell.)

Never had peaceful Onondaga valley been so disquieted. The people of the town of Cardiff, from one end to the other were talking of the wonder which exceeded even the sensation of the historic Cardiff Giant. This time, instead of a giant it was a ghost, and such a wraith as never had been heard of before. The Headless Horseman was a mere baby compared to it, and Puritanical broom-riding witches were not horrible enough to be mentioned in the same breath. Truly the Cardiff ghost was an apparition most fearsome.

The spirit had first appeared to Abe Crownheart, who kept the Pine Tree as the Cardiff hotel was known. He was driving home one night from Tully, a village at the south end of the valley, when near the bridge, over the brook that runs through Enberry Took’s place, the spectre rushed out and pursued Abe. He reached home with his horse all in a lather of foam, and himself dripping wet in a perspiration of fear. For a few minutes after reaching the bar-room he could only gasp and pant.

“What ailes ye, Abe?” asked Bill Hounson. “Ye act as ef ye’d seen suthin.”

“So–so I have,” panted Abe, looking to see if the door was tightly shut. “I seen somethin’ mortal eyes never beheld since the world began. Jest’s I was passin’ Enberry’s bridge, a spirit, all blue flame, wavin’ its arms of fire, an’ waggin’ its head started down the hill after me. It chased me clean to Dave Tupmans place, the horse goin’ lickity-split al the while.” “Fer th’ love o’ tripe!” exclaimed Bert Bailey. “D’ye s’pose ’twas a real ghost?”

“I don’t care ’bout seem’ any realer,” said Abe.

“Sure ye hadn’t bin adrinkin any hard cider?” asked Bill Hounson.

“Say.” exclaimed Abe, earnestly, “I only wish it was that kind of a ghost I’d seen. This wasn’t nothin’ of that sort. It was as tall as the church steeple, and as big ’round as a hogshead. It was all on fire from head to foot, I tell you, wavin’ its flamin’ arms, and runnin’ with feet and legs all blazin’, and its head wobblin’ from side to side. Then there was the most awful smell, jest like a burnin’ lake of brimstone.

Abe’s terror was so genuine, and his fright so real, that it was communicated to his auditors. Though they hardly believed Abe had seen a ghost, they were sure he had been near something rather hair-raising. So, when the crowd in the tavern broke up a little later there were many anxious looks cast on all sides in the darkness, as the farmers made their way to their homes.

It was only two nights later that Enberry Took reported that he too had seen the ghost. It was even worse than Abe had described it, Enberry said. Closely following this came confirmation from Truem Wright and George Bennett, who told at the hotel one night how they had both been pursued by the flaming spirt, which had run after them quite a distance. Then there was no doubt about the Cardiff ghost. From one end of the village to the other the story went, carrying terror with it. Women were afraid to go out in the yard after dusk, children would not linger on the road from school, and even the farmers hesitated about journeying on the highway after supper. Nothing was talked of save the spirit, and when, three weeks after Abe had first seen it, Dr. Rood, driving home from visiting a patient, was pursued so closely by the spectre that the leather top of his buggy was scorched by the wraith’s burning arms there was intense excitement.

There was no disputing the fact that the ghost burned with real fire, for the leather of the carriage was shriveled by the heat, and the varnish was blistered. Clearly something must be done.

Enos Rasher, chairman of the town selectmen called a public meeting in the hall over Truem Wright’s grist mill. The case of the blazing ghost was gone over from the time of its first appearance, and then Enos stated the object of the gathering, which was to find a means of getting rid of the spectre.

“Who’ll undertake th’ job?” asked Enos. ”There’s no use agoin’ outside, el we kin git th’ work done t’ hum,” he went on. “Me ‘n th’ selectmen’s come t’ th conclusion that we kin offer a reword o’ twenty shillin’ t’ th man who rids Cardiff o’ th’ terrer.”

The chairman waited, but no one came forward to offer himself as a ghost-layer.

“This thing ought to be done scientific,” said Abe Crownheart, rising in his seat. “None of us has had any experience gittin’ rid of ghosts. Mebby it’s easy work, and then agin mebby it’s hard but we ought to have some one look after it what knows how to go about it. I move we hire a regular ghost exterminator, and pay him a decent day’s wages.”

The motion was seconded by several and the selectmen, accompanied by Enos, withdrew to another room for a consultation. At the close of the conference the chairman announced that the reward would be increased to $50.00 and an advertisement was to be inserted in a Syracuse paper, offering that sum to whoever would dispell the ghost.

The meeting broke up and the next day Enos Rasher took the stage for the distant city of Syracuse to have the advertisement inserted. That night the ghost was seen again by Enberry Took, whose house was nearest to where the spirit appeared. Enberry saw it, dimly luminous, floating along the hillside, and he double-locked the doors, burning a lamp all night, even sitting up with his family till morning broke.

From then on Cardiff was in a state of unrest. No one ventured near the spot, and even the Onondaga Indians, at the Castle reservation, near the town, would not pass along the road which the ghost sometimes crossed. Soon communication between Cardiff and Tully, the nearest town of any size began to fall off. The Tully people said they did not care to come to Cardiff, for the ghost might hear about them, and conclude Tully was a better place for his operations than Cardiff, transferring himself accordingly which contingency the Tully people did not care in the least to have occur. In a little while the lack of intercourse was felt, and, when the Tully Councilmen voted their town shut to and quarantined against the Cardiff folks, the inhabitants of the latter place concluded rightly that it was the last straw.

“Why,” announced Truem Wright to a group of indignant Cardiffites at the Pine Tree, “they couldn’t treat us no wuss ef we was a sufferin’ from th’ plague. Suthin’s got to be done about it, that’t all.”
Meanwhile the ghost continued to show itself. Nothing else was talked of in the town. Signs, telling of the reward were posted all over, and, one day at noon, Porter Amidown, the constable, tacked one on the fence opposite the place where the ghost most often made its appearance.

“I calcalated mebby th’ ole sinner might take notice on’t” remarked Porter, “‘n seein’ ‘s how he wan’t welcome ’round here, he might light out.”

Thus far no professional ghost-layers tried their hand at earning the $50 True, now and. then a traveling fortune hunter, a confidence man or a seller of novelties, would offer to tackle the job. One look at the spirit from a safe distance, in the fields on a dark night, was sufficient. Once a peddler, a bold swaggering enough fellow, when telling at the bar of the Pine Tree, how he would lay the ghost, fled at the first sight of the flaming figure. He never returned to claim a choice collection of jewelry he had left behind at the hotel.

In all of its wanderings the ghost had done no harm, save to scorch Dr. Rood’s carriage. It seemed as if the spectre was some unhappy wraith which, unconsumed by the fire that burned it, was doomed to haunt the place. Various explanations were given of the ghost. Some said it was the spirit of the original Cardiff Giant; others that it was the soul of some Onondaga, Indian, who had murdered his sweetheart and was wandering restlessly about the earth to expiate his crime, until the ruler of the Happy Hunting Grounds decreed that he might enter there.

A month had passed, and still the ghost held forth. The people were beginning to despair of being rid of it. One night, about an hour before sunset, when the stage from Syracuse arrived at the Cardiff post office, a stranger alighted. He was tall and thin, of dark complexion with a small black moustache. He inquired for Enos Rasher, chairman of the select men, and when the latter was found digging potatoes in the garden, the stranger introduced himself as Professor Roger Ascott.

“Wall, what kin I do fer ye?” asked Enos.

The professor silently held out a Syracuse paper and pointed to the advertisement of a ghost-hunter wanted.

“Oh,” said Enos rather dubiously, offering his hand. Then he added with more fervor. “Wall, I’m real glad t’ see ye. Are ye a real ghost-hunter?” “It is my sole business,” answered the professor, and he extended a card reading: “Professor Roger Ascott, public and Private Ghost-Layer. Spirits of all kinds dispelled with neatness and dispatch. All kinds of spectres done away with. Haunted houses a specialty. Low rates and prompt service. A trial solicited.”

“I guess you’re th’ feller we’re after,” commented Enos, after he had read the card twice. Then he told the professor all about the Cardiff ghost.

At the close of the tale to which the professor listened gravely and with attention, he said,

“Hum. Can you take me to where the spirit is seen most? I would like to get an idea of the topography of the location by daylight.”

“I’ll tel ye how t’ git thar,” replied Enos, impressively, “but ‘s fer ‘s goin’ thar’s concerned–” He paused, and the professor smiled. From a hill back of his house, however, Enos showed the scientific ghost-hunter the stamping ground of the spirit.

“Have none of you examined the neighborhood?” asked the man of science. “Perhaps the—ah–the phenomenon can easily be accounted for on natural grounds.”

“It may be, it may be,” said Enos, slowly, “but none on us calcalite on goin’ nigh ’nuff t’ see. From all accounts th’ thing’s ’bout ‘s unnatural ‘s any one ever hearn on.”

“Hum,” said the professor. “I may as well tell you that I am not after the $50, for I hunt ghosts as much for my own pleasure as for any other reason. Still I have my expense, so I usually accept a small fee. That is why I speak of low rates on my cards. If I was in the business regularly and for profit, I would have to charge more than $1,000 for getting rid of this ghost for you. Blazing ghosts are the most expensive kind there is. But as I said I am not after money.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” answered Enos, “’cause we went down purty deep in th’ treasury when we offered th’ $50. So I wish ye good luck with this job, ‘n th’ money’ll be paid over prompt.”

After securing explicit directions how to reach the haunts of the spirit the professor left Enos and trudged off in the gathering twilight.

Had any one watched him they would have seen the professor, after reaching the place, moving about and sniffing the air, as a dog does on the scent of game.

“Curious, curious,” he muttered, “um!” I wonder if–and yet how can it be? Still,” he went on, “it is natural, most natural.”

Then he moved about in a circle, still sniffing the air in deep breath. He seemed to be trying to get on the track of something. At last he appeared to have located it, for he uttered a cry of success, and hurried off up the hill.

He returned to the hotel in time for supper and found a curious throng waiting for him. To all questions he replied nothing, telling the people to have patience. Even this little hope seemed to cheer every one up, and thy felt better than they had in many weeks. They had begun to despair that the ghost would ever be laid, and, though they thought they might  get used to it in time, still it was likely to be an inconvenience for quite a period.

When it was dark the professor went to his room and came back presently. There was a suspicious bulge to his right hip pocket, but no one said anything about it.

Professor Ascott started off, followed by a crowd of men, all of whom, how ever, remained near Bert Bailey’s house, refusing to go any further. So the investigator proceeded alone.

For an hour the waiting crowd stood silent in the darkness.

“There tis!” exclaimed Enos Rasher, suddenly.

The others looked, and there, sure enough, was the ghost. It towered high in the air, with outstretched arms, a figure of bluish flame, flickering and blazing. A form of terrible fire, visible half a mile away. It appeared to be about twice as large as a man.

“I guess the professor’ll have all he bargained for,” commented Abe Crown heart.

There was a silence for a moment, while the watchers saw the ghost slowly move along toward the road.

Suddenly the stillness was broken by a revolver shot, followed by two more. Then it was observed that the ghost quickly turned and ran up the hill. A sliver of red flame from the revolver followed it, and then came the sound of another shot. The spirit was seen to stop and stagger. It tried to maintain an upright position during a fierce struggle.

“Th’ perfessor’s fightin it!” exclaimed Enos, and the excitement among the watchers was intense. The next instant the ghost fell to the earth.

“By the Great Dutch Cheese, th’ perfeesor’s downed it.” cried Porter. The group of men waited, not knowing what would happen next. The spirit was now only a bluish, burning flickering spot on the side of the hill, seemingly consuming itself with its own fire. The silence which now prevailed strained the nerves of the waiting men almost, to the breaking point. They scarcely breathed. All were wondering what had become of the ghost-hunter.

Then out in the darkness, came the sound of footsteps on the road.

“Thar comes th’ Perfessor.” said Enos.

“’N some un’s ‘ith him.” added Porter. “He must be bringin’ in the ghost.”

In another minute two figures were dimly observed emerging from the blackness, and one was that of Professor Ascott. who had tight hold of another man.

“Gentlemen, the Cardiff ghost,” announced the man of science. Enos, Porter and the others peered at the captive.

“Silas Waydell!” exclaimed half a dozen.

“The same,” answered the owner of the name, “and I must say your ghost-layer here is an expert.”

To the scores of questions for an explanation Professor Ascott returned evasive replies, until he reached the hotel. There he turned the prisoner over to Constable Amidown.

“I do not know on what charge you can hold him, unless it might be getting money under false pretenses,” said the professor.

“How’s that?” asked Enos.

“Well,” the ghost-hunter went on, “he has been digging sulphur on Mr. Enberry Took’s land, and selling it. He confessed to me. Of course he did it under the pretense that he was a ghost, and so he obtained money under false pretenses.

“You see, gentlemen,” proceeded the professor, “as soon as I went to the place and smelled sulphur I knew I must be on the right track.”

“Why, that was the sulphur spring on Enberry’s land ye sniffed,” explained Enos, “it’s bin thar fer year.”

“Exactly,” said the professor, “and where there is sulphur water there must be sulphur. I investigated and found a fine deposit on the hillside, from which a considerable quantity had been taken.

“Then I suspected the truth, that some one, not entitled to it, had made the discovery, and had invented the ghost to keep curious people away. Am I correct?” he asked of the prisoner.

“Right you are, professor,” said Silas. He did not seem worried about his arrest. He was a man of peculiar talents and well known in the locality as a person about whom curious stories had been told, none pointing to his honesty.

“But what was th’ ghost?” asked Enos.

“Simply a big scarecrow of wood, coated with sulphur,” answered the professor. “Your friend here would carry it on a long pole, after setting fire to the sulphur, and so would frighten travelers. He got too near the doctor’s carriage and scorched it. After displaying the ghost he would hurry back, dig out some sulphur and cart it away. As soon as I saw the flaming figure I knew what made it burn, and a few shots from blank cartridges brought Silas to a stop. You probably saw him drop the scarecrow when I had caught him after a chase. So that is the end of the blazing ghost of Cardiff town.”

“Wall, perfessor, you’re a wonder.” commented Enos, and the others agreed with him.

The professor went back home the next day. Silas was sent to jail for a short term, a charge of stealing sulphur being the only one they could prove. But the best part of it all was that the sulphur mine on  Enberry Took’s land turned out so well that he not only had enough money to pay off the mortgage, but sufficient to make him comfortable in his old age. So he and others blessed the Cardiff ghost that discovered the sulphur.

The Semi-Weekly Messenger [Wilmington NC] 21 April 1903: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A rare example of a happy ending associated with that pungent mineral. More usually some benighted soul is carried off in a stench of sulphuric smoke by the Devil. Or a corpulent nobleman, who has been doing himself too well at the port, is forced by his physician to drink glasses of sulphurous swill at the spa.

That ghost-hunting person over at Haunted Ohio observes that sulphur and its attendant smells are often found at sites where petroleum is drilled and tells of a similar fiery ghost in Pennsylvania.

 

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 anecdote

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 Electric Wedding: 1892

electric diadem

Electric diadem by M. Gustave Trouve, 1880s.

An Electrical Wedding.

One of the peculiarities of our American cousins seems to be a consuming desire for novelty in their weddings. Hence we read of their being married in balloons, and over the telegraph wires, and in other outlandish fashions. A dazzling function took place in Baltimore the other day in the shape of an electrical wedding,” which quite throws into the shade previous nuptial celebrations. The Baltimore Sun says that tiny incandescent lamps were concealed in the foliage of the screen, and glowed and disappeared irregularly like fireflies in among the trees. Electrical butterflies and birds perched among the leaves and flowers. Overhead was a crown of Chinese lanterns, each containing a sixteen-candle power lamp. The bridal arch of evergreen under which the newly married pair stood to receive their friends was provided with a row of electric lamps in red, white and blue. On top of the arch was perched an American eagle, and on the shield of pink velvet, which formed the keystone of the arch, was outlined in incandescent lights the figure of a heart, the initials of bride and bridegroom, and the date 1892. Two bronze statues stood guard at the entrance of the room, and their helmets went illuminated by incandescent lamps. This, however, was far from exhausting the catalogue of marvels. There was an ingenious arrangement suddenly set in motion, and a shower of rice and imitation snowflakes was discharged over the wedding party by means of two electric fan motors placed in the gallery overhead. As the guests entered the supper room there was a sudden outburst of electrical bells and musical entertainments. As the guests were seated there was a blaze of light, and at the completion of the first course the words Good Luck appeared over the heads of the newly-married couple, and an electric hair-pin, a gift to the bride, became incandescent and surrounded her head with a halo of light

Wine bottles were suddenly transformed into glowing candelabra, and the feast was one long continued series of electrical surprises. All this may suit the American taste. Quiet English people, however, find the wedding ceremony in itself sufficiently trying to the nerves without being stunned and bewildered afterwards by a constant succession of electrical surprises.”

Press, 29 December 1892: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The reception sounds exhausting: like getting married in a fun-house, with “surprises” popping out every time one turns around.  The bride is fortunate that no one threw a pitcher of water on her, thinking that her hair was on fire when the hair-pin lit up.

But the newspapers could not get enough of this novel wedding. Here are more illuminating details:

An Electrical Wedding.

The bride was Miss Jeanette Ries (now Mrs. Lewis S. Greensfelden), and the nuptial novelty was due to the enthusiasm of her brother, the electrician and inventor.

Electrician Ries was master of ceremonies. The marriage was at the house of the bride’s mother, Mrs. E. F. Ries, and, of course, there was no unseemly spectacular interruption of the solemn knot tying.

But no sooner had the company been comfortably seated at the banquet table than the room burst into a flood of light from numerous vari-colored incandescent electric lamps hidden among the decorations and suspended at various points above the heavily laden tables. The entrance of the bride and groom was welcomed by the automatic ringing of electric bells and the playing of electrical musical instruments.

trouve illuminated flowers

Electric flowers as designed by M. Gustave Trouve.

After the first course had been served the room was plunged into semi-darkness, when suddenly from among the floral decorations upon the table there glowed tiny electric lamps, lending an exquisite charm and attraction to the scene. Not only the flowers, but the interior of the translucent vases in which some of them were gathered scintillated with flashes of light. After a while a miniature electric lamp, which in some unexplained manner had attached itself to the bride’s hair, was seen to glow with dazzling brightness.

Mr. E. E. Ries gave a toast to the couple, wishing long life and an enjoyment of good things like those spread before them. He concluded with an injunction to be temperate in all things, at the same time touching an electric button, when two serpents slowly uncoiled themselves and issued from the wine bottle that stood before the bridal couple.

Cigars and coffee were served, and the cigars were lighted by an electric heater, while the coffee was boiled in full view of the company by an electric lighter. The speeches that were made were liberally applauded by an electric kettle drum placed under the table. It treated all with impartiality. As the company dispersed the electric current set off a novel pyrotechnic display, amid the crimson glare of which the festivities ended. Baltimore Sun.

Carlisle [PA] Evening Herald 27 May 1891: p. 3

The electric hair-pin reminds us of the creations of M. Gustave Trouve, who created electric jewels with pocket batteries, as well as ballet costumes, lit by tiny bulbs.

gustave trouve electric tiara

Although we find few other examples of electric weddings (a testimony, perhaps, to the sturdy common sense of most bridal couples) several years later, during the actual ceremony, electricity was once again employed in a singularly symbolic way to demonstrate the extinguishing of the bride’s identity. Peculiar it may have been; romantic is quite another question.

A peculiar and romantic episode occurred recently at a wedding ceremony in Cleveland. Above the bride’s head was an elaborate device, with her name in small electric lights. Above the groom appeared a similar decoration, save that it was his name that sparkled there. All through the ceremony the lights burned brilliantly, but at the words: “I pronounce you man and wife,” the bride’s name was “turned off.”

Omaha [NE] World Herald 10 November 1900: p. 11

 

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.

Why is the Cat Uncanny?: 1912

fairies riding cat 1894 McDonald Phantasies

Fairies riding a cat, 1894

In various parts of Europe (some districts of England included) white cats were thought to attract benevolently disposed fairies, and a peasant would as soon have thought of cutting off his fingers, or otherwise maltreating himself, as being unkind to an animal of this species. In the fairy lore of half Europe we have instances of luck-bringing cats—each country producing its own version of Puss in Boots, Dame Mitchell and her cat. Dick Whittington and his cat. It is the same in Asia, too; for nowhere are such stories more prolific than in China and Persia.

To sum up then,—in all climes and in all periods of past history, the cat was credited with many properties that brought it into affinity and sympathy with the supernatural— or, if you will, superphysical—world. Let us review the cat to-day, and sec to what extent this past regard of it is justified.

Firstly, with respect to it as the harbinger of fortune. Has a cat insight into the future? Can it presage wealth or death?

I am inclined to believe that certain cats can, at all events, foresee the advent of the latter; and that they do this in the same manner as the shark, crow, owl, jackal, hyaena, etc., viz. by their abnormally developed sense of smell. My own and other people’s experience has led me to believe that when a person is about to die, some kind of phantom, maybe, the spirit of some one closely associated with the sick person, or, maybe, a spirit whose special function it is to be present on such occasions, is in close proximity to the sick or injured one, waiting to escort his or her soul into the world of shadows—and that certain cats scent its approach.

Therein then—in this wonderful property of smell—lies one of the secrets to the cat’s mysterious powers—it has the psychic faculty of scent—of scenting ghosts. Some people, too, have this faculty. In a recent murder case, in the North of England, a rustic witness gave it in her evidence that she was sure a tragedy was about to happen because she “smelt death in the house,’’ and it made her very uneasy. Cats possessing this peculiarity are affected in a similar manner—they are uneasy. Before a death in a house, I have watched a cat show gradually increasing signs of uneasiness. It has moved from place to place, unable to settle in any one spot for any length of time, had frequent fits of shivering, gone to the door, sniffed the atmosphere, thrown back its head and mewed in a low, plaintive key, and shown the greatest reluctance to being alone in the dark.

This faculty possessed by certain cats may in some measure explain certain of the superstitions respecting them. Take, for instance, that of cats crossing one’s path predicting death.

The cat is drawn to the spot because it scents the phantom of death, and cannot resist its magnetic attraction.

From this, it does not follow that the person who sees the cat is going to die, but that death is overtaking some one associated with that person; and it is in connexion with the latter that the spirit of the grave is present, employing, as a medium of prognostication, the cat, which has been given the psychic faculty of smell that it might be so used.

But although I regard this theory as feasible, I do not attribute to cats, with the same degree of certainty, the power to presage good fortune, simply because 1 have had no experience of it myself. Yet, adopting the same lines of argument, I see no reason why cats should not prognosticate good as well as evil.

There may be phantoms representative of prosperity, in just the same manner as there are those representative of death; they, too, may also have some distinguishing scent (flowers have various odours, so why not spirits ?); and certain cats, i.e. white cats in particular, may be attracted by it.

This becomes all the more probable when one considers how very impressionable the cat is—how very sensitive to kindness. There are some strangers with whom the cat will at once make friends, and others whom it will studiously avoid. Why? The explanation, I fancy, lies once more in the Occult—in the cat’s psychic faculty of smell. Kind people attract benevolently disposed phantoms, which bring with them an agreeably scented atmosphere, that, in turn, attracts cats.

The cat comes to one person because it knows by the smell of the atmosphere surrounding him, or her, that they have nothing to fear—that the person is essentially gentle and benignant. On the contrary, cruel people attract malevolent phantoms, distinguishable also to the cat by their smell, a smell typical of cruelty—often of homicidal lunacy (I have particularly noticed how cats have shrunk from people who have afterwards become dangerously insane). Is this sense of smell, then, the keynote to the halo of mystery that has for all times surrounded the cat—that has led to its bitter persecution—that has made it the hero of fairy lore, the pet of old maids? I believe it is— I believe, in this psychic faculty of smell, lies wholly, or in greater part, the solution to the riddle—Why is the cat uncanny!

“Cats and the Unknown,” Elliott O’Donnell The Occult Review December 1912

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil really must take issue with the Great Ghost-hunter O’Donnell. It is axiomatic that if there is one person in the room who is highly allergic or antipathetic to cats, it is into the lap of that person which a cat will leap. Mrs Daffodil has never seen it fail.

That said, the idea of a spirit having a particular odour, like a flower, is a diverting one. One elderly American gentleman was queried by a “psychic researcher” after he divulged that he had smelt a ghost. He retorted “You ask me how ghosts smell. They smell like ghosts—that’s all I can tell you. How you speck they smell?”

Mrs Daffodil is fond of cats and does not consider them uncanny in the least. However, Mrs Daffodil is reminded by Mr O’Donnell’s assertion that cats can scent the approach of death of the handsome and remarkably prescient Oscar, who has foretold fifty to one hundred deaths at a Rhode Island nursing home and even has his own “Facebook” page.

Some other stories of uncanny cats are What the Cat Saw, The Cats Came Back, The Black Cat Elemental, Murder by Cat, and The White Cat

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 Phrenological Failure: 1824

veggie face

 

The science of Phrenology is not likely to be long in fashion. Important anticipations were entertained of indications and discoveries in the head of Thurtell, but they have failed. Some time ago a gentleman found a large turnip in his field, the shape of a man’s head, and with the resemblance of the features of a man. Struck with the curiosity, he had a cast made from it, and sent the cast to a Society of Phrenologists, stating that it was taken from the head of Baron Turnempourtz, a celebrated Polish Professor, and requesting their opinion thereon. After sitting in judgment, they scientifically examined the cast, in which they declared that they had discovered an unusual prominence, which denoted that he was a man of an acute mind and deep research, that he had the organ of quick perception, and also of perseverance, with another that indicated credulity. The opinion was transmitted to the owner of the cast, with a letter, requesting as a particular favour that he would send them the head. To this he politely replied, “that he would willingly do so, but was prevented, as he and his family had eaten it the day before with their mutton at dinner.”

The Gentleman’s Magazine, Volume 135,1824

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The “science” of Phrenology was just getting started. Although it was scientifically discredited by the 1840s, it survived in the patter of the snake-oil salesman, and as a popular lecture-circuit topic and parlour entertainment into the early 20th century, as Mrs Daffodil has written in Bump Parties: 1905, 1907.

Thurtell was John Thurtell who murdered Mr William Weare over a gambling debt. The crime caused a sensation; the gruesome particulars were memorialised in a ballad, part of which ran:

They cut his throat from ear to ear,
His head they battered in.
His name was Mr William Weare,
Wot lived in Lyons Inn.

Thurtell committed a vicious murder, but was astonishingly stupid over it, openly boasting that he would “do” Weare, who was said to have cheated Thurtell at cards, and leaving the murder weapon, one of a matched set he owned, in the road. No doubt the phrenologists wanted to analyse his cranium to determine where he went wrong and prevent future murderers from making the same egregious errors.

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 Most Eccentric Dresser in America: 1916

THE MOST ECCENTRIC DRESSER IN AMERICA
Barbara Craydon

There is in America at least one woman to whom the styles do not matter. Styles may come and styles may go but Baroness Else von Freitag leaves them out of her calculations altogether. She is her own designer and dressmaker. One might say that she dresses as she paints, for as an artist this highly temperamental woman is a follower of the futuristic school.

Seven years ago Baroness von Freitag came to America from Germany. It was not until she entered the art field in New York that she began dressing otherwise than in a semi-conventional way. In fact she seems to have caught her inspiration from the riotous colors of the futurists, and was seen in some of the most marvelous clothes New York has ever observed.

Everything that comes to her hands may be turned to a use in her art of dress. One electrifying costume is trimmed with common meat skewers painted in most intricate design. Another is ornamented with the gilt spiral springs such as one uses in hanging bird ages. Elaborate bead work, resembling the wampum of the Indians figures largely in her scheme of decoration, and heavy embroideries of futuristic design and brilliant colors are made from nothing else than knitting wool. The baroness never throws anything away, and the effect in her clothes is marvelous.

“Clothes,” said the baroness in her studio, “should always be a matter of inspiration not of one person for thousands of different style women, but of each individual. When one follows the styles and makes herself a slave to those who invent the fashions she might just as well be in the uniform of an institution as not for all the individuality expressed in her garments. The only difference between the conventionally dressed persons and the inmates of an institution is that the style and texture of the garment is changed several times a year. While there is little expense in charity uniforms there is a demand for great outlay of money by those who are slaves to the fashions and listen to the dictates of the fashion makers.

“How often have you heard a woman say, ‘yes, the dress is pretty but I cannot wear it, I do not feel right in it.’ What more than an expression of that kind does one need to show that clothes ought to be made for the individual character? It does not matter from what materials things are constructed as long as they suit the personality of the wearer, as long as the colors blend harmoniously.

“Look about you at nature. It is seldom that the landscape presents a pale, fade-away pastel appearance. Flowers are bright with color, greens are vivid, all colors are bright. Why not use them in one’s garments? I revel in color, I must have color and plenty of it, but the colors must be put together artistically. I have found that persons who generally cling to one color have a mental attitude toward the world and things in general that harmonizes pretty well with their colors. Drab clothes fit drab-colored minds. Perhaps that is why people who have been gifted with brilliant minds have worn clothes that have been called fantastic in cut and in color. They have been criticized for such things and have been called eccentric, but then the world always calls persons whom they do not understand eccentric. It is the simplest way out for simple minds, a way that does not demand analysis, and removes all necessity of particular thought.”

Among the studios of New York City the baroness von Freitag has frequently been urged by fellow-artists to pose for pictures and it sometimes amuses her to do so. Her poses are full of imagination, full of life. There are times when she refuses to pose, especially if she does not like the style of work that the artist is doing. She insists that she must be in sympathy with the artist’s work, must understand what he is doing before she can give him a satisfactory pose. The baroness says that just standing or sitting still for an artist is no posing.

The baroness has a most marvelous collection of rings, many of them are silver set with dull stones, others she was made herself from artistically arranged beads. Some of these that she has made are futuristic in the extreme. One might say that she practically paints with her needle and the beads. The result is weird but extremely interesting.

“Why should I not cover my hands with rings if I wish?” she said, looking up from her work. “Others cover their hands with gloves. I think gloves ugly. I would certainly to feel at home with my hands encased with gloves. But my rings are a joy and pleasure to me. Sometimes I can wear only one. It depends upon my state of mind. But when I am very happy and gay I like to wear them all. Barbaric? Perhaps it is. If so, I like the barbaric.”

Shoes, also, the baroness thinks, ought to be a matter of artistic work on the part of the wearer. One pair of slippers of black satin she has made into footgear to suit her. These are Oriental to an extreme, beaded and ringed. And from the back of one hang two large beaded tassels.

When an ordinary “slave to fashions” might spend a day in selecting a hat the baroness will spend a week in making one to please her. One creation is made from the crown of a derby hat which this original woman has painted and glazed until it looks like a highly lacquered helmet. On top, for a decoration, is a long bone hair pin partly sheathed in an intricate bead design. At the back of the hat coming down to the nape of her neck she has added a strip of silver-covered cardboard edged with a gilt trimming. The effect is that of a headpiece of an Amazon, and when dressed in the costume she has designed to go with the hat the baroness carries with her one of her pet alligators.

Truly if one searched the United States from coast to coast, from north to South, it might be difficult to find a more amazingly gowned woman than the baroness, and it would also probably be difficult to find a woman who spends less in money or more in energy on her clothes than she does. As for the enjoyment derived from clothes, the baroness takes a delight in her costumes that is extremely frank and genuine enough to suggest that clothes pleasure may have been neglected by the philosophers as an element of the art of life.

New Orleans [LA] States 1 October 1916: p. 45

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The Baroness (the newspaper misspells her name, which is correctly rendered Else von Freytag-Loringhoven) was born Elsa Plötz in the supremely un-futuristically-named town of Swinemünde, Germany.  She came to the United States after helping her second husband fake suicide to escape his creditors. She was a luminary of the Dada and avante-garde movements.  Mrs Daffodil must confess that she is inherently unsympathetic to movements known as “Futuristic” or, indeed, as any sort of “istic,” as they suggest those who advocate the wearing of tin-foil head-gear.

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 Ice Carnival at Leadville: 1896

leadville's ice palace 1896

The great social-amusement event of the season in the far West is the opening of the Ice Castle at Leadville. Colorado, under the auspices of the Crystal Carnival Association, and life in the Carbonate Camp is, for the months of January, February, and March, to be one continuous round of pleasure, fun and entertainment for all who have leisure.

The present season marks a new era in the camp, in its recovery from the effects of the silver slump, and in its attaining new fame as a great gold producer. It also marks a temporary departure from the intense attention to mining and money getting that has possessed the people of the camp for nearly two decades. It tends toward an appreciation of the artistic, toward indulgence in amusement for amusement’s sake, and to a too unfrequent recognition of the social side of life.

The Leadville Carnival, according to its managers, bids fair to be the most successful concern of its kind ever undertaken in America. The idea was born of the restless energy that characterizes the people of the high, altitudinous portion of the West. It was seized, in lieu of a mining boom, with rare avidity and enthusiasm, and. backed by the plethoric purses of bonanza kings, it has crystallized into a magnificent structure of cold splendors—an artist’s chef d’ouevre  in ice. It is a veritable palace, patterned in a measure after those of St. Petersburg and Moscow. Its site is nearly two miles above sea level, on a ridge in the Leadville basin, and overlooking the city of Leadville and the valley of the Arkansas, picturesque in winter snow and belts of sombre conifers. The grim snow-clad peaks of the Musquito and Saguache ranges rise to majestic heights on either side of the valley, and the cycloramic view from the ice castle is one of alpestrine, wintry grandeur.

For two months about two hundred men have been employed in erecting the building, which is of the Old Norman school of architecture, and in which three hundred thousand feet of lumber and five thousand tons of ice are used. The greatest length is four hundred and fifty feet and the width is three hundred and fifty feet. It is a permanent frame structure, encased with solid walls of ice. Two massive octagonal towers ninety feet high flank the main entrance. Flag-staffs rise from the towers to the height of one hundred and twenty feet.

The effect is of massive architectural beauty. Within the portals stands a huge female figure in ice, representing the glorification of Leadville. With one arm she points to the eastern hills, and in the other she holds a scroll bearing the legend “$207,000,000.” These being the figures which represent the total metallic wealth produced by the camp—since its conversion front a placer-mining into a lode-mining camp.

ice statues in the leadville palace

Ice statues in the Leadville ice palace

The main chamber is a skating rink with fifteen thousand square feet of ice surface. Its ceiling is decorated with a heavy frost-work of artificially produced rime. Corinthian columns of solid ice, inclosing incandescent lights before tin reflectors, support the roof.

The grand ballroom has a floor of grooved Texas pine. The annexes include an auxiliary ballroom and dining hall, and a complement of modern conveniences; icicle effects are given in the decorations. The eastern annex is finished in terra-cotta and blue, and the western annex in orange and blue. Throughout the edifice an effort has been made to combine beauty of scene with comfort, a fitting abode for the devotees of the Frost King.

ice statues in the leadville palace 2

A museum annex has a lot of snow statuary carved out of snow slushed solidly and then sprayed, and exhibits of fruit. flowers, and mechanical appliances in solid cakes of ice. A programme of divertisements throughout the winter on an elaborate scale has been planned, and a season of festivities, glittering pageantry, and winter sports has been inaugurated. Chief among them will be the storming of the ice castle by the Snow-Shoe and other clubs, the castle being held and defended by the Leadville Press Club. Various gala and occasional days have been set, and brilliant balls and receptions will be given from time to time. Among the outdoor attractions is a toboggan slide two thousand feet long with a double rush.

Leadville is gay with bunting, the colors being old gold, silver, copper, and lead, representing the royal and chief base metals produced by the camp. The official souvenir badge is of silver and gold, a bucket of ore hung on a bar composed of a shovel, pick. and hammer, emblematic of the miners’ calling. On the streets gay carnival costumes mingle with the picturesque garb of the miners.

The director-general of the Crystal Carnival. Mr. Tingley S. Wood, is a representative and successful miner, operating on a large scale, and owning productive properties in the gold belt and silver contact zone. He is a native of southeastern Ohio, and resides with his family part of the time in Springfield, Illinois, where he is a member of the famous Sangamon Club. Mr. Wood is a gentleman of dignified demeanor, handsome, courteous, and urbane. Always well dressed, he is thoroughly versed in geology, mineralogy, and the mysteries of smelting, and is the ideal successful miner.

That the fair sex will be brilliantly represented at the Carnival will be understood by any one who will glance at our page of pictures of the prominent women of Leadville.

Julius Von Linden

The Illustrated American 11 January 1896: p. 345

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Undoubtedly a glittering occasion, to judge by the lavish prose of Mr Von Linden. Mrs Daffodil is reminded of the fancy-dress skating carnivals of Canada and the luxury ice hotels of the frozen north.  While acknowledging the novelty (and the appeal of seeing the Northern Lights in their native habitat), Mrs Daffodil is at a loss for why one would travel so far to spend the night in an unheated chamber, when one might experience the same sensations at any week-end spent at an English country-house.

 

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 Swan for Christmas Dinner: 1910

A Devonshire man sent his club, just before Christmas, a fine large swan in a hamper. The hamper was addressed to the secretary, who notified the club members of the treat that was in store, and a special swan dinner was arranged. The swan came on, at this dinner, looking magnificent — erect and stately on a great silver-gilt salver. But tough! It was so tough you couldn’t carve the gravy.

A few days later the sender of the swan dropped in at the club. “Got my swan all right. I hope?” he said to the secretary.

“Yes, and a nice trick you played us.”

“Trick? What do you mean?”

“Why, we boiled that swan for sixteen hours, and when it came on the table it was tougher than a block of granite.”

“Good gracious! Did you have my swan cooked?”

“Yes, of course.”

The other was in despair.

“Why, that bird was historic,” he groaned. “I sent him up to be stuffed and preserved. He had been in my family for 200 years. He had eaten out of the hand of King Charles I.”

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 8 January 1910

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil does not like to call a gentleman a liar, but swans only live for perhaps two or three decades at best. If the swan truly had eaten out of the hand of King Charles I, he must have been frozen solid for at least two centuries.

The club secretary and members would have felt like royalty: roast swan was a feature of royal Christmas feasts from time immemorial. The Crown may lay claim to all swans in public waters; currently the Queen shares her swans with two livery companies: the vintners and the dyers; the yearly ceremony of “swan upping” divides the Thames swans between the Queen and the livery companies. Queen Victoria and King Edward VII enjoyed a nice Christmas swan. This article gives the receipt for its preparation, should you happen to have a 200-year-old swan lying about the larder.

KING’S CHRISTMAS SWAN.

Every Year One is Served at Sandringham—The Recipe.

The royal swan has ever been a conspicuous item in the Christmas menu at Sandringham. Every year the largest and plumpest young cygnet that can be obtained from the swannery on the Thames is killed.

When it leaves the hands of the special messenger at Sandringham it is taken charge of by the head cook, who personally looks after it until it is laid before the king.

Trussed like a goose, it is stuffed with a rich mixture of which the principal ingredient is ¾ of a pound of rump steak. It is finally covered with a piece of oily paper, sprinkled with flour, wrapped in a second piece of paper; and then roasted on a spit for four or five hours in front of a blazing fire.

A gravy of beef is provided to which is added a pint of good port wine. Folk who have tasted this dish describe the flavor as being half way between goose and hare. New York World.

The Boston [MA] Globe 24 January 1909: p. 48

 

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 Mermaid Palace: 1912

mermaid palace

Mlle. Heloise Yane, the vivacious little French actress of the Capucines, is at last to have what she has long wanted—a submarine palace. There is nothing in existence like it. Neither the crowned heads of Europe nor the nabobs and potentates of Asia have anything to compare with the wonderful structure which Mlle. Yane contemplates. That is one of the principal reasons why she wants it.

“Villas and chateaux! I’m tired of them. Anyone with any money at all can buy them,” she declared, somewhat pettishly, some months ago, while discussing her Summer plans with Mons. Francois Le Duc, the French engineer,  “can’t you suggest something that will be different from everything else?”
“Well, how about a submarine palace—I don’t know of anything like that in existence,” replied the engineer facetiously.

“The very thing, Monsieur! You shall design one for me. You can begin”—

“But, Mademoiselle,” pleaded the engineer, “I was but joking. The thing is entirely impracticable.”
“It may be impracticable, but it isn’t impossible, is it? I’m sure you can do it, and its very impracticability will be its principal charm, for it will insure its individuality.”
Realizing that the young woman was entirely serious, the engineer at once turned his attention to the problem, and now, after three months’ hard work, his plans have all been completed, and he awaits only his fair client’s commands to commence actual work.

The site selected for this unique structure is in the Bay of Naples, midway between Sorrento and the Island of Capri, where there is a depth of one hundred feet.

The palace is to be built entirely of glass. There will be two stories. To obtain access to it, one will have to don a diving suit and be lowered from a boat. The entrance will be built upon the lock principle, that is to say, it will be open to the sea until the visitor steps into it. When the sea-doors will be closed and the water released. The visitor will then pass into the next chamber, where he or she will emerge from the diving suit and be ushered into the edifice.

This may seem a little cumbersome, but the engineer declares that it will be a comparatively simple matter, not more than five minutes elapsing from the time the arrival of a guest above the palace is announced until he is being welcomed below by the fair hostess.

Being entirely transparent, this structure enables its occupants to observe everything that is going on among the denizens of the deep, and, of course, they enjoy a reciprocal privilege. Through the glass walls Mlle. Yane will constantly gaze upon huge octopi and other sea monsters which infest these waters, and, though the horrible creatures may get on her nerves somewhat at first, she will soon realize that her marine neighbors can do her no harm and she will become accustomed to their presence.

In addition to this, the architect has provided for a periscope similar to those used in submarine vessels, so that everything that goes on above the surface of the water may be reproduced upon a screen in the observation chamber of the submarine palace.

Majestic Vesuvius in the distance, villa life on the Sorrento coast, the activities of the sponge fishers, and the constantly changing scenes in the beautiful Bay of Naples, will make a picture which those lucky enough to visit the submarine palace ought never to tire of nor forget. This observation chamber will be placed on the very top of the structure.

Opposite it will be situated one of the principal attractions of the submarine life which the French actress has mapped out for herself and her friends—the electric fishing chamber. Mlle. Yane is an enthusiastic fisherwoman, and when she first decided upon her submarine Summer home she did not look with favor upon the idea that she would have to forego her favorite pastime while enjoying the seclusion which her palace beneath the waves afforded.

It was then that M. Le Duc suggested the electric-fishing plant. Instead of hooks and lines the fish will be enticed to destruction by bait attached to electric wires, and as soon as they get within range, the fisherman, sitting a switchboard, will press a button and send a charge of electricity into the fish which will electrocute it instantly. Its body will then float up to the surface, where it will be taken in by boys in boats, rowing around for that purpose.

This electric fishing plan will likewise be used to rid the inmates of the glass palace of such unwelcome visitors as giant octopi if they become at all obstreperous and try to break through. Appetizing bait will be attached to the electric wires and put where the octopus can reach it, and when its huge tentacles close on the wire, it will receive its death charge.

At first blush it might seem that fishing thus conducted would lose much of its charm, and yet there is no important element of the sport as it is usually practiced, which the fisherman at the switchboard will necessarily miss. The fascination of waiting for the finny beauties to nibble at the bait, the joy of being able to press the button at just the right moment, either too soon nor too late, and the novel experience of seeing the captured fish float quietly to the surface ought to satisfy the most ardent angler, and Mlle. Yane, at any rate, feels quite sure that in this respect her submarine palace will be worthwhile.

On the ground floor, in addition to the specially constructed entrance chamber, will be the grand staircase and foyer hall, which will lead up to the grand salon and dining room on the second floor.

In its interior decorations and furnishings the submarine palace will be in every respect equal to the most luxurious edifices of royalty, but the lighting effects will be different and superior to anything ever before attempted. By an arrangement of prismatic and refracting lenses electric light will suffuse the whole palace with a soft, mellow, purplish blue atmosphere, in keeping with the purplish tint of the waters of the bay. The effect of this, taken in connection with the constant presence of the fish encircling the palace, will be to give one the impression of actually living in the water.

There will be an elevator from the ground floor to the fishing chamber, and a wireless telephone will communicate with the wireless apparatus at Sorrento.

In addition to the other attractions of the palace will be a well-fitted gymnasium, where the French actress sand her guests may indulge in fencing and other athletic pastimes.

Although the palace under the waves will always be cool, provision will be made for swimming, a special swimming tank in which the water will be constantly renewed having been devised by the architect. Entrance to it will be by means of a lock-device similar to that provided for the entrance to the palace.

Donning her bathing costume, Mlle. Yane will enter a small chamber on the ground floor of the palace. She will then close the door leading to the palace and open the door leading to the swimming tank, which will be entirely enclosed by glass to keep out the cuttle-fish and other monsters of the deep. This swimming tank is one hundred by fifty feet and is supplied with oxygen generated by a plant in the palace proper, the inflow of the water being controlled so that it cannot rise beyond a certain height. After the swimmer has disported herself in this chamber to her heart’s content she returns to the lock-chamber, closes the door leading to the tank, presses a button and releases the water which followed her into the chamber and then opens the door leading to the palace.

Ventilation and air for the palace proper are provided by means of a powerful plant located on the ground floor.

Although the plans for this home beneath the waves seem to be complete as one could desire, all that remains to put them into execution is the necessary funds, and the engineer has figured that at least half a million will be required to complete the palace in the manner above outlines.

“Of course, it will cost a lot of money,” concedes Mlle. Yane, “more than I can afford, but I would not care to inhabit even this sumptuous palace alone, you know.”

Mlle. Yane is very popular. It is said that she might have the choice of half a dozen men eager to supply both the funds and the companionship necessary to make the submarine palace a thing of reality.

Anyway the plans are now all ready, and any day Mlle. Yane may decide who is to be the happy man to dwell among the fishes with her.

Fort Worth [TX] Star-Telegram 14 July 1912: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The illustration is captioned “The Hostess and Her Guests Will Wear Mermaid Costumes in Keeping with the Environment.” Mrs Daffodil has previously described some ways to dress (or undress) like a mermaid.

One would have given much to see this charming fantasy brought to fruition with the assistance of some besotted millionaire, although it seems unsporting to slaughter the finny beauties with electricity.  Mrs Daffodil has found no trace of Engineer Le Duc outside of this article, but Heloise Yane was again in the news in 1913 when it was reported that she had been jilted by Prince Michel Murat in favour of Miss Helen Stallo, a Standard Oil heiress from Cincinnati.

 mermaidpalace.jpg

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.

Dancing with the Fairies: 1820s-1840s

 

Polly Williams, a good dame who was born in Trefethin parish, and lived at the Ship Inn, at Pontypool, Monmouthshire, was wont to relate that, when a child, she danced with the Tylwyth Teg. The first time was one day while coming home from school. She saw the fairies dancing in a pleasant, dry place, under a crab-tree, and, thinking they were children like herself, went to them, when they induced her to dance with them. She brought them into an empty barn and they danced there together. After that, during three or four years, she often met and danced with them, when going to or coming from school. She never could hear the sound of their feet, and having come to know that they were fairies, took off her ffollachau (clogs), so that she, too, might make no noise, fearful that the clattering of her clog-shodden feet was displeasing to them. They were all dressed in blue and green aprons, and, though they were so small, she could see by their mature faces that they were no children. Once when she came home barefoot, after dancing with the fairies, she was chided for going to school in that condition; but she held her tongue about the fairies, for fear of trouble, and never told of them till after she grew up. She gave over going with them to dance, however, after three or four years, and this displeased them. They tried to coax her back to them, and, as she would not come, hurt her by dislocating ‘one of her walking members,’ [Jones, ‘Apparitions.’] which, as a euphemism for legs, surpasses anything charged against American prudery.

British Goblins, Wirt Sikes, 1881: pp 79-82

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Young Polly was fortunate that she escaped from the fairy dance with a mere sprained ankle and that she did not meet the more usual fate of those who entered the fairy circle: finding that a hundred years had  passed like mere minutes while she was disporting herself in the barn.

The fate of a lad named Taffy ap Sion was a cautionary tale for those drawn to dance with the fairies.

Taffy ap Sion, the shoemaker’s son, living near Pencader, Carmarthenshire, was a lad who many years ago entered the fairy circle on the mountain hard by there, and having danced a few minutes, as he supposed, chanced to step out. He was then astonished to find that the scene which had been so familiar was now quite strange to him. Here were roads and houses he had never seen, and in place of his father’s humble cottage there now stood a fine stone farmhouse. About him were lovely cultivated fields instead of the barren mountain he was accustomed to. ‘Ah,’ thought he, ‘this is some fairy trick to deceive my eyes. It is not ten minutes since I stepped into that circle, and now when I step out they have built my father a new house! Well, I only hope it is real; anyhow, I’ll go and see.’

So he started off by a path he knew instinctively, and suddenly struck against a very solid hedge. He rubbed his eyes, felt the hedge with his fingers, scratched his head, felt the hedge again, ran a thorn into his fingers and cried out, ‘Wbwb! this is no fairy hedge anyhow, nor, from the age of the thorns, was it grown in a few minutes’ time.’ So he climbed over it and walked on. ‘Here was I born,’ said he, as he entered the farmyard, staring wildly about him, ‘and not a thing here do I know!’ His mystification was complete when there came bounding towards him a huge dog, barking furiously. ‘What dog is this? Get out, you ugly brute! Don’t you know I’m master here? —at least, when mother’s from home, for father don’t count.’ But the dog only barked the harder. ‘Surely,’ muttered Taffy to himself, ‘I have lost my road and am wandering through some unknown neighbourhood; but no, yonder is the Careg Hir!’ and he stood staring at the well-known erect stone thus called, which still stands on the mountain south of Pencader, and is supposed to have been placed there in ancient times to commemorate a victory. As Taffy stood thus looking at the Long Stone, he heard footsteps behind him, and turning, beheld the occupant of the farmhouse, who had come out to see why his dog was barking.

Poor Taffy was so ragged and wan that the farmer’s Welsh heart was at once stirred to sympathy. ‘Who are you, poor man?’ he asked. To which Taffy answered, ‘I know who I was, but I do not know who I am now. ‘I was the son of a shoemaker who lived in this place, this morning; for that rock, though it is changed a little, I know too well.’ ‘Poor fellow,’ said the farmer, ‘you have lost your senses. This house was built by my great-grandfather, repaired by my grandfather; and that part there, which seems newly built, was done about three years ago at my expense. You must be deranged, or have missed the road; but come in and refresh yourself with some victuals, and rest.’ Taffy was half persuaded that he had overslept himself and lost his road, but looking back he saw the rock before mentioned, and exclaimed, ‘It is but an hour since I was on yonder rock robbing a hawk’s nest.’ ‘Where have you been since?’ Taffy related his adventure. ‘Ah,’ quoth the farmer, ‘I see how it is—you have been with the fairies. Pray, who was your father?’ ‘Sion Evan y Crydd o Glanrhyd,’ was the answer. ‘I never heard of such a man,’ said the farmer, shaking his head, ‘nor of such a place as Glanrhyd, either: but no matter, after you have taken a little food we will step down to Catti Shon, at Pencader, who will probably be able to tell us something.’ With this he beckoned Taffy to follow him, and walked on; but hearing behind him the sound of footsteps growing weaker and weaker, he turned round, when to his horror he beheld the poor fellow crumble in an instant to about a thimbleful of black ashes.

The farmer, though much terrified at this sight, preserved his calmness sufficiently to go at once and see old Catti, the aged crone he had referred to, who lived at Pencader, near by. He found her crouching over a fire of faggots, trying to warm her old bones. ‘And how do you do the day, Catti Shon?’ asked the farmer. ‘Ah,’ said old Catti, ‘I’m wonderful well, farmer, considering how old I am.’ ‘Yes, yes, you’re very old. Now, since you are so old, let me ask you—do you remember anything about Sion y Crydd o Glanrhyd? Was there ever such a man, do you know?’ ‘Sion Glanrhyd? O! I have some faint recollection of hearing my grandfather, old Evan Shenkin, Penferdir, relate that Sion’s son was lost one morning, and they never heard of him afterwards, so that it was said he was taken by the fairies. His father’s cot stood some where near your house.’ ‘Were there many fairies about at that time?’ asked the farmer. ‘O yes; they were often seen on yonder hill, and I was told they were lately seen in Pant Shon Shenkin, eating flummery out of egg-shells, which they had stolen from a farm hard by.’ ‘Dir anwyl fi!’ cried the farmer; ‘dear me! I recollect now—I saw them myself!’

British Goblins, Wirt Sikes, 1881: pp. 75-78

A thimbleful of black ashes. Consider yourself warned, you who would be lured by the sweet sound of elfin music to the fairy ring….

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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