Category Archives: Wonders and Curiosities

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.

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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.

Fairy Flowers: 1903

The May Fairy Cecily Barker

The May Fairy, Cicely Mary Barker

Fairy Flowers

Those who had to pass at night through lonely places, such as woods and moors, in the olden time, used to be on the lookout lest they should come upon the fairy folk, or be surprised by them. People regarded these imaginary creatures—who were also called “pixies,” and other names—with some curiosity, and a little fear, too. Indeed, they spoke of them as the “good folk,” though they did not think them always good, but supposed they had rather a liking for doing mischief.

One of the funny things about the fairies was the sudden way in which they appeared or vanished from view, and another was that they could make themselves quite tiny if so inclined— small enough to hide within the bell of a cowslip. To sip the dew of morning or evening was a pleasant refreshment to them, and their fondness for dancing was shown by the fairy rings to be seen in meadows or parks. These rings, however, can be easily explained. They are caused by a peculiar fungus which we in circles after moist weather. No wonder is it that some woodland and wayside flowers came to be linked with the fairies, because they were supposed to haunt these.

People seem never tired of discussing what the name ‘foxglove’ means, for while many think this showy flower of the glades was really so called from some connection between it and the fox, a larger number declare it was the ‘folk’s glove,’ since the bells were thought to serve as a hiding-place for the fays or fairies. Some say the flowers were used by these little creatures as caps, gloves, or as petticoats, perhaps, when they were very small.

According to one old author, the fine films spun by the gossamer spider made mantles for the chiefs among them. The delicate flower of the wood-sorrel is known in Wales as the fairy-bell, from a belief that these beings were called to their nightly gambols by a sound which its petals gave.

In Brittany, also in parts of Ireland, the hawthorn, or May-bush, is called the fairy thorn, and fairies are said to hold meetings under the old and twisted bushes to be seen about some moorlands. Fairies were thought to avoid places in which yellow flowers abounded. White ones attracted them, such as the common stitchwort of our hedgerows and the frail wood anemone, touched with a pinkish tint, which soon loses its blossoms when the rough winds of spring are blowing. Even yet there are boys in Devonshire who will not gather the stitchwort, lest, as a result, they should be ‘pixy-led,’ and in the Isle of Man the St. John’s Wort is held to be sacred to fairies, so the traveller is careful to avoid stepping upon the plant.

Young elves, the Norwegians said, are fond of sheltering themselves under the rosemary or the wild thyme. Likely enough, sometimes when the little brown lizard happened to be seen gliding amid the tufts of heather, people thought that it was a fairy, for it was supposed that they did not always appear in their favourite colour of bright green, but now and then dressed in dark grey or brown. The plants oddly called toadstools have had also the name of ‘pixy-stools,’ or, about North Wales, that of ‘fairy tables.’ That common hedgerow plant, the mallow, which has showy purplish flowers, shows in autumn small round fruits, to which the name of fairy cheeses has been given. But the fairies did not always sport about wild or shady spots. Our ancestors thought that parties of them visited gardens, and played at hide-and-seek amongst the tulips.

J. R.S. C.

Chatterbox, J. Erskine Clarke, M.A., editor, 1903: p. 211

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The 2018 RHS Chelsea Flower Show is drawing to a close. Mrs Daffodil has read about a horticultural trend called “fairy gardens,” where tiny fairy residences and garden accessories are added to wee landscapes. Mrs Daffodil wonders if, like “hummingbird” or “butterfly” gardens, with their carefully chosen, nectar-rich plantings, “fairy gardens” are designed to attract the fae creatures? Perhaps the hints above will suggest plants to include and avoid. And, if any of Mrs Daffodil’s readers’ fairy gardens do entice any of The Gentry to take up residence, Mrs Daffodil suggests installing a “trail cam” to capture the evidence. The Fairy Investigation Society would be most interested. 

 

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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