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The Victorian Book of the Dead Blog

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Thanks for joining me! This blog is about the popular and material culture of Victorian death and mourning, some of which is shared in my book The Victorian Book of the Dead. The blog will consolidate posts on mourning and death from two of my other blogs: Mrs Daffodil Digresses and Killer Budgie at hauntedohiobooks.com. I will also occasionally post on other funereal topics or share unique excerpts from primary sources. Some posts will be grim, some will be humourous, some grewsome, as the Victorians said.  I will warn readers that I have a reprehensible penchant for treating the subject of death as entertainment.

If you have questions about Victorian mourning or comments, please do get in touch at chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com

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

Mortui viventes docent.

The Pleasures of the Grave: 1886

THE PLEASURES OF THE GRAVE.

Some revelations have been made at a recent meeting of the Macclesfield Board of Guardians respecting the lavish expenditure indulged in by poor people on the occasion of their friends’ funerals. It would appear that for a period of about two years the local board of Guardians had been administering relief to an old married couple named John and Elizabeth McManus to the extent of 4s per week. On July 26th the husband died, upon which the widow made preparations for a costly funeral, having in view the sum of £15 which she was  to receive as insurance money consequent upon his death. The smartest hearse and mourning coaches were ordered, the coffin was of the most solid character, and the relatives were all supplied with new mourning attire. In addition to this quantities of beer, wine and spirits were bought. On the very day of McManus’ burial the widow died, having previously ordered that similar preparations for her burial should be made as in the case of her husband. Charlotte McManus, a daughter-in-law, who is likewise a recipient of parish relief to the amount of 5s per week, after John McManus had been interred in the cemetery, set to work to bury her mother-in-law “decently.” She drew the whole £30, and Mr Heathcote, one of the Board’s relieving officers, said she spent £22 of it on the funeral, leaving only a balance of £7 odd. 

The Board of Guardians were highly indignant at this gross extravagance on the part of persons who had been receiving parish relief, and ordered Charlotte M’Manus to produce vouchers of the expenditure. These included, among a hundred other items:—Butter and cream, 2s 9l; two weeks’ charing, 10s; plain, spice, and currant bread, 4s 11d; three dresses, 17s 6d; jacket, 3s 6d; trimmings, 6s 3d; 1lb tea, 2s 4d; bottles of pickles, 1s 6d; 4 lbs lump sugar, 10d; ¼ lb best tobacco, Is; 7lb cheese, 4s 8d; crape, 9s 8d. All this and more was for Mrs M’Manus’ funeral. For John M’Manus there was a spice loaf, Is 6d; two currant loaves, 2s;  2 ½ lb butter 1s 9d; three pairs stockings, 3s 6d; three pairs gloves, 3s 5d; collars, 3d; tie, 6 1/2d; ½-pint sherry, 1s.  July 27th—Liquor, 4s; August 3rd—Liquor, 4s; August 4th—Liquor, 8s; August 5th —Four gallons ale, 6s 8d; cashmere, 12 s; lining, 4s; crape, 5s 4d; jacket, £1 1s; cashmere, 15s 5d; tobacco and pipes, 2s; two pairs women’s kid shoes, 9s 10d; one pair lace shoes, 8s 11d; one pair slippers, 2 6d; boy’s tweed suit, 10s 9d; boy’s black suit, 19s 9d; boy’s hat, 1s 9d. For Mrs McManus, best polished oak coffin, lined with flannel and wadding bed, shroud, and furnishing funeral £2 10s 1d; best hearse and Clarence, £1 15s; driver’s money, 1s 6d; cemetery expenses, 12s 6d; fittings for hearse and coffin; total, £4 19s. The sum of £4 19s was also spent in providing a coffin and hearse for McManus. Refreshments were not forgotten. In the case of John McManus’s funeral, liquor was set down at 23s 8d; bread and butter, 6s 3d; bread and cheese, 5s 3d; and another dubious item, which is vaguely treated under the head of “nourishment,” 5s.

Daily Telegraph.

The Press Supplement [Christchurch NZ] 23 October 1886: p. 1  

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

The Titanic Funeral Ship: 1912

The cable repair ship Mackay Bennett, the “funeral ship” which put out from Halifax and picked up dead bodies near the scenes of the Titanic disaster. The ship carried a large supply of coffins, ice and embalming fluid, an undertaker and a staff of embalmers. The Rev. Canon K. Hinds (on left) was on board to perform funeral services for such bodies as were unrecognizable and too far gone for embalming. The other portrait is of Capt. [Frederick H.] Lardner, the ship’s commander.

The Evansville [IN] Press 23 April 1912: p. 1

190 BODIES BROUGHT IN,

116 BURIED AT SEA

Captain of the Morgue Ship Tells of the Picking Up of Corpses Which Floated Upon the Waves.

ALL WORE THE LIFE BELTS OF SHIP

Ninety Bodies Were Picked Up in One Morning, Being Found All at Once and Looked Like Gulls.

[United Press Leased Wire Service.]

His Majesty’s Dock, Halifax, April 30. Loaded down with 190 bodies of victims of the Titanic disaster, the Mackay-Bennett made port today, after having buried at sea 110 bodies, some of which had been identified. Captain Lardner who commanded the death cruise, with a broken voice, declared that his vessel was unable to bring to shore all of the dead recovered.

Beside the captain sat the benevolent-looking round-faced Canon Hinds, worn by the heavy duties that had fallen to him through the cruise.

 “Why were those bodies burled at sea?” the captain was asked.

The grizzled old sea captain shook his head sadly and a pained expression swept his weather-beaten face.

“They were members of the crew,” he said, “most of them, and we could not care for them. When we left Halifax we took on board all of the embalming fluid in the city. That was only enough to care for seventy bodies. It was not expected that we would find bodies in such great quantities. The undertakers didn’t think these bodies would keep more than three days at sea, and as we expected to be out more than two weeks, we had to bury them. They received the full service for the dead before they slid over the rail.”  

Buried at Sea.

Fifty-seven identified victims of the Titanic disaster were buried at sea from the Mackay-Bennett. They had been crushed between huge cakes of ice and were wholly unrecognizable. Identification being possible only by means of names sewed in the pockets. A list of those who were consigned to the deep follows:

Mauritz Adahl, Pedro Ale, Thomas Anderson, Ragozzi Abele, Rossimore Abbott, John Adams, W. Butt, A. Boothby, G. Butterworth, E. T. Barker, Patrick Connors, Yosep Drazenouf, J.J. Davies, James Farrell, Leslie Gelinski, J.S. Gill, Anvers Gustafsen, A. Hayter, G. Hinckley, Henry D. Hansen, Reg Hale, W. Hinton, Adolph Humblein, A.C. Hell, T. Hewitt, Eric Johansen, Edward Keating, Valet of George D. Widener; James Keller, R. W. Leison, Charles Louch, Edward Lockyer, D. Lily, Jaen Mouros, Mrs. Mack, Mrs. N. McNamee, Mary Mangan, M. Mays, Moussor Novel, Blank Olsen, E.W. Petty, C.G. Ricks, J.M. Robinson, J. Stone, Fred Sutton, W. Saunders, Wm. Sage, Philip J. Stokes, Ernest P. Tomling, F. Tamlyn, Thomas Theodaid, Catavelos Vassilios, W. Vear, Leslie Williams, W. Watson, O. S. Woody.

“Those who were buried at sea,” continued the captain, “were mostly badly mutilated and the undertakers said they would not keep. They had bean struck by spars or floating wreckage. “Night closed down on us Sunday night with bodies still around. We commenced work again on Monday morning at daylight, but bodies were scarce. We got only 26 that day. We searched 15 minutes in and out along the line of wreck. At night we marked the floating wreckage with a drifting buoy so we could find it readily in the morning.

Ninety In One Morning.

“Tuesday morning bodies were numerous again. We picked up ninety bodies before noon. Then the weather came on thick and in the afternoon we recovered only 29.

“We found no two bodies together. All. were floating separately. No two were clasped In each other’s arms or anything like that. In one place we saw them scattered over the surface looking like a flock of gulls. They looked just like gulls with the white ends of the life belts fluttering and flapping up and down with the rise and fall of the waves.

“A great many of those recovered were injured when the Titanic went down,” said Captain Lardner, when he was asked why so many of the bodies brought in were bruised and broken.

“When the water swept her decks many must have been rushed before it and carried against stanchions, spars and others parts of the vessel. All of those picked up wore life belts and they rod upright in the waves, the belts carrying them high above the water.”

Then the captain continued his outline of the cruise, consulting the log before him from time to time.

“All day Wednesday we were in thick fog and it was blowing hard from the southwest. We saw nothing all day. About midnight the weather eased up and we shaped our course back for the bodies. At 5:30 Thursday morning we found one drifting near us. We let her drift until daylight and then commenced work. We picked up 87 bodies that day. Thursday I got a message saying the Minia was coming out to assist us. She arrived about 45 minutes after midnight Friday.

“At daylight the two ships commenced searching together. At noon I picked up 14 more bodies and then we started for Halifax because we had as many on board as we could look after. We experienced bad weather on the way in.”

Captain Lardner outlined the methods of caring for the bodies after they had been picked up.

Five Men In a Boat.

“We had five men in each small boat,” he said. “When they went out to look for bodies they kept within sight of the bridge of the Mackay-Bennett and we signalled them by wig wagging. When they picked up four or five bodies, if the weather was heavy, we would bring them in. If the weather was calm, they could handled seven or eight in a boat. The bodies were hoisted on board and when they were searched, the contents of the pockets and their valuables were placed in canvass bags having on them the same number as that on the body. In this way we made some identifications, long after the bodies were taken aboard.

“We brought in the bags of all who were buried at sea and some of those committed to the deep may yet identified by the contents of these bags. We covered a square of sea about thirty miles long and thirty miles wide, about

sixty miles northeast of the scene of the disaster. All of the bodies found were In the cold water, north of the gulf stream.

“No bodies that we found contained any bullet wounds.”

The captain then related the confusion In the identification of George D. Widener.

“We thought it was Widener first, because the body had letters addressed to Mr. Widener but the quality of the underclothing worn by body was not such as would be worn by a first class passenger. His overcoat bore the Initials E. K. His head was terribly crushed and the body would not keep so we burled him at sea. Mr. Widener’s son after examining the envelope containing possessions found on the body, said he was certain that the body was of Edward Keating his father’s valet.

“I feel certain that all of the passengers picked up have already been identified and that the unidentified were members of the ship’s company. I feel sure that those buried at sea were  practically all either seamen, stewards or other employes of the White Star company.

“I think there were about 18 or 20 women among the bodies we picked up. We have quite a lot of jewelry taken from both men and women. I don’t how much cash we took from the bodies.” Lardner said that he did not believe that the Minia would succeed in securing many more bodies, unless she ‘strikes a streak of them.’

“The Minia had seven bodies aboard when the Mackay started for Halifax.”

UNLOADING CARGO OF DEAD, PICKED UP OUT AT SEA

Mackay-Bennett Arrived at Halifax This Morning With Decks Piled High With Corpses.

MOST GRUESOME PICTURE EVER SEEN

Astor’s Body in a Plain Wooden Box Just Like That Used for the Other Bodies of Victims.

[United Press Leased Wire Service.]

Halifax, April 30. The pitiful few of the Titanic’s victims retrieved from the broad waters of the Atlantic reached port today. The Mackay-Bennett, with the bodies on board, was reported off the first buoy at the harbor entrance at eight o’clock (Atlantic time), and immediately afterward, at signal from the bells in the churches, the flags on every building in the city were dropped to half staff.

As the Mackay-Bennett slowly steamed up the three and one-half miles of the harbor the bells in the church towers tolled solemnly at minute intervals and thousands of the city inhabitants hurried to points of vantage along the water front to catch the first glimpse of the ship with her cargo of dead.

All shipping under orders immediately cleared from the harbor channel. The Mackay-Bennett was given a clear track up the center of the bay with nothing to impede her progress. About the government dock, where she was to be berthed, a hundred blue clad sailors, with mourning bands on their round caps and on the sleeves of their blouses, leaped into boats and rowed out to form a patrol to keep craft away from the great naval dock where the vessel was to be tied up.

At the same time a detachment of British bluejackets from the cruiser Niobe marched on the pier and cleared it of every one not holding an official pass. They carried side arms and they were instructed to keep everyone away.

They then placed an awning entirely about the portion of the dock assigned to the Mackay-Bennett and prepared the covered gang-plan which was run out as soon as the death ship was berthed.

Under a white marquee on the dock, the view of which was shut off by the awnings that had been arranged, more than one hundred coffins and rough boxes had been piled tier on tier. Near them were the undertakers and embalmers, who were to care for the bodies. As the Mackay-Bennett came into sight down the harbor, the undertakers, embalmers and ambulance helpers put on long brown coats and began to arrange the coffins, opening them and laying them out in great long rows ready for the silent occupants who could already be seen piled on the decks of the approaching cable repair ship.

Only Woman Present.

Among the undertakers was a Miss O’Neill of St. Johns, brought over to Halifax to care for any bodies of women that might be aboard the Mackay-Bennett. She was the only woman on the dock just before the Mackay-Bennett hove in sight.

The mourners, after their long vigil, did not hurry to the dock when the whispered word went through the city: “She’s coming!” Warned by the White Star and government officials that a visit to the dock would be useless, they planned to go to the Mayflower curling rink, where the bodies were to be taken immediately upon being unloaded.

A squad of naval Red Cross men mixed a dozen buckets of thick evil smelling disinfectant and sprinkled the entire dock, the covered gang-plank and the pile of coffins. The atmosphere of a morgue pervaded the pier.

As the Mackay-Bennett drew into the dock a boat already manned hung from the starboard davits. It was dropped and a line brought ashore. Within five minutes the vessel was safely docked, with heavy hawsers holding her stern and bow. As she swung in she looked her part of: morgue ship. She was seaworn and weather-beaten after her long cruise and piled high on her afterdeck were rows upon rows of darkened dirty white pine rough boxes. Along her starboard deck amidship were scores of loosely tied bundles of every imaginable color, evidently the clothing taken from the bodies picked up. Each bundle was marked with a large square of burlap on which was printed a number. On board were representatives of the White Star line who had boarded the vessel at the entrance to the harbor. They warned everyone the dock against attempting to board the vessel and proceeded with arrangements for taking off the bodies.

At that time only two mourners were on the dock. They were the maid of Mrs. William Augustus Spencer, Eliza Loretta, and J. A. Kenyon, Connecticut, searching for his brother. Mrs. Spencer’s husband was lost on the Titanic. As the undertakers boarded the death ship, the dead for whom no coffins had been provided could be seen lying on the deck amidship.

Like Mummies.

Some of the bodies were wrapped close as mummies in burlap and canvas and bound with heavy twine. Others lay uncovered in long rows, a heterogeneous mass of arms and legs and heads. These bodies the undertakers began to remove at once, carrying them on stretchers to the waiting wagons. A huge tarpaulin was lifted from amidship and another great group of dead were uncovered.

Evidently no care had been possible for them. They lay stretched beneath the big canvass with arms and legs in cramped positions, soaked with sea salt and with sea stains like red-brown wine stains on every face. Distorted features twisted out of all shape and giving each face a horrible grimace marked every face and staring, unseeing eyes leered from the death group as the undertakers prepared to move the bodies.

Outside the gate of the dock yard group of mourners had been held because they had not been given passes. They had passes to the morgue, but the dock yard authorities refused to honor them. Besides these there were but few about the place. There was no crowd of idle curiosity seekers clamoring for a glimpse of the gruesome freight. Halifax went on quietly about its business passing with averted faces the death wagons that hurried through the street.

A long double row of bare headed sailors, dressed In dirty blue overalls, was stretched from the group of dead amidship to the covered gangplank. The undertakers lifted a body, placed it in a loose canvass stretcher and the sailors lifted it. It was passed down the row from hand to hand until it came to the gangplank. There undertakers grasped it, placed the body in a rough pine box. lifted the box to a wagon, and it was off to the morgue.

Within ten minutes after the Mackay-Bennett docked bodies were leaving the ship at the rate of one a minute, The unidentified bodies were taken off first. They were in a big group that lay amidship uncovered and unembalmed.

The body on board the Mackay-Bennett supposed to be that of George D. Widener may not be the Philadelphia millionaire.

Captain Richard Roberts of the yacht of John Jacob Astor, after a conference with Captain Lardner of the Mackay-Bennett, declared he was satisfied that the body of Astor was on board but that it was possible that the body identified as Widener may be that of his valet.

‘Valets often wear their master’s clothes without removing the name tags,” said Captain Roberts, ‘and the body on board was identified as Mr. widener by the name on the clothing, The head Is badly crushed and it would be impossible to identify the features.

“From the description given me,” continued Roberts, “I am satisfied that Colonel Astor’s body is on board. I did not see the body as it is nailed up in a rough coffin on the after deck.”

A coffin pulled from the pile on the after deck of the Mackay-Bennett was opened and Captain Richard Roberts of the Astor yacht looked at the body it contained. After gazing at it for a moment he turned away saying:

“It is he.”

Captain Roberts had made certain that Colonel John Jacob Aster’s body was in the coffin. Among the unidentified dead was the tiny figure of a baby girl, apparently about two years old. The child’s body had been picked up by one of the crew of the Mackay-Bennett. It was floating on a bit of wreckage. By no means could the little body be identified..

The rough crew of the Mackay-Bennett took charge of the body and It will be buried In Halifax at the expenses of the sailors.

For two hours the work of removing the bodies went on with the regularity of clock work. The wagons gave out and the hearses of all the local undertakers were pressed into service. At 11 o’clock (Atlantic time) no move had been made toward getting off the huge pile of coffins that reared high on the after deck of the ship.

Captain Lardner gave out the following statement regarding the death cruise: 

“We were commissioned to bring all the bodies found floating, but owing to the number found and weather conditions it was impossible to carry out instructions and some were committed to the deep after service by Canon Hind.

“We left shortly after noon on Wednesday, the 17th of April; fog and bad weather delayed us on the run out and we did not arrive until Saturday night at 8 o’clock. On Sunday, at noon, having asked all ships to report us if they passed any wreckage or bodies, we received a communication from a German steamer Rhine to the effect that in latitude 41.20 north longitude 49.30, she had passed some wreckage and bodies. The course was shaped for that position north SS4 east. Later in the afternoon we spoke to the German ship Bremen and they reported they had passed three large bergs in latitude 42 north, longitude 49.20 west.

“We arrived on the scene at eight o’clock Sunday night, stopped and let ship drift. In middle watch, wreckage and a few bodies were sighted. At daylight the boats were lowered and although a heavy sea was running, 51 bodies were recovered that day.”   

The Daily Gate City [Keokuk IA] 30 April 1912: p. 1

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

Poor Polly Buried: 1892

parrot cage 1917

POOR POLLY BURIED.

Killed by Cold Water or Watermelon.

A Funny Funeral in Noe Valley.

Obsequies of a Dead Bird—Taken to the Grave in a Goat Carriage.

There was a strange scene in Noe Valley, away out Castro street, on Thursday and those who witnessed it will not soon tire talking of it. To most of those who took part in it the occasion was fraught with more of curiosity than of deeper interest, but it was not so with all. In a little front parlor at 1414 1/2 Castro street stands a big empty birdcage. Rising from the top of the cage a staff on which a flag, hoisted half mast high, tells the visitor that the one time occupant is dead. All around the little doorway where she fluttered in and out bits of black and white still further emphasize the fatal fact, and bouquets of flowers fitted into feeding and drinking cups and hanging from the swinging perch where Polly used to swing are tokens to her memory.

It was only a parrot, this recent dweller within those walls of wire, but seldom has a bird left more sincere mourners behind it, and many a man or woman would be proud to think that such an elaborate funeral was in store for him or her. Less than two years ago this poor parrot was hatched out in the wilderness of Panama. John Stranaghan, an honest sailor lad, came into possession of the bird on one of his coast-wise trips and brought it to his uncle’s home in Noe Valley. Just one year ago was presented to Mr. and Mrs. Augustus Tache, and in their pretty little home on Castro street the bird really began to live the life that has now so suddenly ended. The parrot’s name was Loretta, but owing to the difficulty parrots find in pronouncing the letter T she called herself Lora, and those who knew her and loved her learned to accept the abbreviation. Lora was the pet of the entire neighborhood, but she was the apple of Mrs. Tache’s eye.

There were tears in both of Mrs. Tache’s eyes last evening as she related stories illustrating the genius and accomplishments of “poor Lora.” In appearance the bird had been quite like any other green parrot with gold trimmings. Her size was roughly but kindly stated by Mr. Tache, who is a carpenter, “She just fitted into a box 13 by 3 inches,” said he. And there stood the box on a pedestal just in front of the empty “cottage.” It was a dainty box, more like a young lady’s glove box than a coffin, covered with baby blue silk and lined with the same in quilted squares. Yet in it poor Lora had been laid out. By the silken handles on either side the pallbearers had carried it to the grave side, and there in the darkened parlor it now stands with the other evidences of a woman’s strange devotion to the memory of a dead bird.

The lessons that Lora learned in her home on Castro street seem all to have been good ones. She could not only talk and whistle like other parrots, but as a singer she had an enviable record, Her singing of the chorus of “Auld Lang Syne” is said to have made many of the residents of Noe valley weep copiously, and Mrs. Tache herself was very much overcome last evening in endeavoring to give the reporter an idea of Lora’s rendition of “Amid the Raging of Sea.” “She had a sweet and lovely voice,” said this fond mistress of a pretty pet, but Mr. Tache did not seem to agree with her. There was also a slight difference of opinion as to the cause of Lora’s demise. Both agreed that the parrot died of cholera morbus, but Mrs. Tache declared that the disease was due to Mr. Tache feeding the bird on watermelon, while the latter contended that death had been due to too frequent bathing at the hands of Mrs. Tache.

Whatever the cause, poor Lora was taken ill on Monday last. She was “off ‘her feed,” as Mr. Tache puts it, all the afternoon, and when night came she could muster up no words from her voluminous vocabulary save “Poor Lora! Poor, poor Lora.” It should be mentioned here that she never referred to herself as Polly, and never made the stereotyped suggestion regarding the proverbial cracker. Just as Monday was turning into Tuesday Mr. and Mrs, Tache, snugly stowed away in the ad joining bedroom, heard a terrible scream. They knew at once that Lora was on her last legs. Mrs. Tache promptly got out of bed and went to the rescue. She also did what a mother would have done for a dying child. She took the bird to her bosom and sat with it on her own bed. Poor Lora lived but a short hour longer. After the one shrill scream there came but these words, “By by, Lora, by by!” They were the last words indeed. Written by the. afflicted mistress these words are still pinned to the wires of the empty birdcage. The writer and her husband are as subdued in their grief as if a child had been taken away.

The funeral took place at 4 p. m. on Thursday. The neighbors turned out in goodly numbers. The house at 1414 1/2 Castro street was crowded, and there were more flowers than city officials have sometimes been honored with. But the most unique feature of the occasion was the hearse. The son of a neighboring groceryman offered the services of his goat wagon. Certainly nothing could have been better suited to such a service. The goat was a well trained animal and did not run away. Two little girls, Gay Spencer and Maggie Delmore, carried the casket out of the house and placed it in the little wagon. Then taking their places, one on each aide, and the other children walking two by two behind them, they led the way up Castro street to Clipper, where in the garden of Mr. Stranaghan, at 424, a grave had, been dug to receive all that remained of Lora. The older people stood by when the blue casket was exchanged for a coarser one, and when the earth was filled in above the lowered coffin there was more than one genuine sob audible. On the top of the little mound in that Noe valley garden flowers faded in the warm sun of yesterday and the incident will no doubt soon fade from the minds of most of the participants, but the grief of that honest couple at 1414 ½ Castro street is as touching as it is strange, and yet it may not be so strange after all, for their ten years’ union has not been blessed with children and “Poor Lora” could talk and sing and cry, and now “Poor Lora” is dead.

The San Francisco [CA] Chronicle 20 August 1892: p. 4

[Note: It’s rather interesting that the Chronicle’s headline was so jocular. Subsequent syndication of the same story in various papers such as The Clarion [PA] Democrat 29 September 1892: p. 7, treat it more respectfully.

BURIAL OF A PARROT

WHOLESALE MOURNING OVER A MUCH LOVED HOUSEHOLD PET.

Unfortunate Creature Said “By By, Lora, By By,” and Yielded Up the Ghost–The Funeral Was a Large One and the Furnishings Were Gorgeous.

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

Six Children in One Grave: 1891

HORRIBLE PRACTICE.

Revolting Charges Against an Undertaker.

SENSATION IN A CHICAGO SUBURB.

The Bodies of Pauper Infants Disposed of by Being Placed in Coffins Containing Corpses Which the Undertaker Had Been Called Upon to Attend to—Six Pauper Children Said to Have Been Buried in One Grave.

Chicago, Nov. 11. Englewood, recently a suburb of Chicago, but now embraced in the city, is greatly wrought up over the revolting charges that are being made against Undertaker Millard F. Rodgers. Citizens whose deceased relatives were buried by the undertaker are apprehensive that the graves of their loved ones have been desecrated, and a number of people have announced their intention of exhuming their friends’’ remains and satisfying themselves that they are not the victims of the repulsive practice of burying pauper infants in the coffins of deceased adults. Three weeks ago the remains of an Englewood man were exhumed shortly after being buried by Undertaker Rodgers and the body of a pauper infant was found between the feet of the corpse. Rogers claimed at the time that he was the victim of a conspiracy inspired by his assistant, C.F. Norman.

Another Revolting Discovery.

Tuesday, however, another case came to light. Disturbed by rumors the friends of the late James P. Tansy, who died eighteen months ago, had him exhumed and the remains of an infant were found under the satin trimmings at the foot of the coffin. The remains of Mr. Tansy were interred Mount Olivet long before Norman went to work for Rodgers, and this fact has convinced most of the friends who believed the undertaker’s tale that there is more in the charges than they supposed. Among the staunchest friends were the Masons and Odd Fellows, of which organizations Rodgers is a member. He proclaimed that they would stand by him, but Tuesday evening it was decided in the Englewood lodges of both orders to make a full investigation and a member of the Masonic fraternity admitted that if the charges were substantiated Rodgers would be expelled.

Six Children in One Grave.

The citizens have thoroughly organised for an investigation of the charges and the attorney for the prosecution stated Tuesday evening that he had satisfied himself that Rogers had buried In one grave at Oakwoods cemetery the bodies of six pauper children. As none of the children had relatives able to stand the expense of exhuming the remains and as there Is nothing In the statutes pronouncing such action criminal the matter will not be pushed further in this direction. But other cases will be pushed. Some time ago the father of Mr. Sylvester, an Eaglewood expressman, died and the remains, after being prepared by Rodgers, were shipped to Wisconsin (or burial. Soon after some alarming rumors were spread, but were not credited, and until the recent charges were made Mr. Sylvester did not trouble himself about them.

Will Make an Investigation.

Lately he commenced an investigation, and the other day induced the man who assisted Rodgers at the time of the burial to make a confession. This man, whose name is Foskett, pretended to know but little, but admitted that on the day the remains were prepared for burial a woman connected with Rodgers’ establishment left the undertaker’s shop with the body of a child in a shawl which she carried. She went to the Sylvester residence and when she left, it is alleged, she failed to bring the infant’s body with her. Mr. Sylvester will at once have his father’s remains exhumed by the Wisconsin relatives. Foskett further admitted that while he was with Rodgers the body of an Infant was placed In the coffin of a woman who lived near the corner of Sixty-first street and Stewart avenue. He declares he cannot remember the name.

A Remunerative Practice.

Still another suspicions case now being investigated is that of the infant child of Officer W. H. Harris of the Englewood Police station. It was remarked that the casket furnished by Rodgers was very large for an Infant’s remains. The coffin will probably be exhumed.

“The practice of burying Infants in adults’ coffins could be made very remunerative to one who did Rodgers’ large business,” said an Englewood physician Wednesday. “The interment fee of $6 is charged in each case, and if the undertaker has but one grave dug Instead of two he can make a pretty penny in the course of a year, especially when he does business for a couple. of foundlings’ homes and orphan asylums.”

Alton [IL] Evening Telegraph 12 November 1891: p. 1

It was a common practice to bury still-born children into the gap at the foot of an adult grave.

IN CIGAR BOXES

Many Little Bodies Find Nameless Graves.

 “We have many people bring us little babes in boxes, ranging in size from a cigar box to a coffin a foot or so long,” said a sexton. “They hardly ever leave instructions, so we just put the boxes at the bottom of some grave we dig for a grown person.” 

Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 31 January 1892: p. 9

The practice of “filling in” a gap at the foot of an adult grave with a child’s coffin, was a source of much pain to bereaved pauper parents. They much preferred that their babies be buried in a plot with other children.

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

A ‘appy Release

On the Stairs 

The house had been “genteel.” When trade was prospering in the East End, and the ship-fitter or block-maker thought it a shame to live in the parish where his workshop lay, such a master had lived here. Now, it was a tall, solid, well-bricked, ugly house, grimy and paintless in the journey, cracked and patched in the windows; where the front door stood open all day long, and the womankind sat on the steps, talking of sickness and deaths and the cost of things; and treacherous holes lurked in the carpet of road-soil on the stairs and in the passage. For when eight families live in a house, nobody buys a door-mat, and the secret was one of those streets that are always muddy. It smelled, too, of many things, none of them pleasant (one was fried fish); but for all that it was not a slum.

Three flights up, a gaunt woman with bare forearms stayed on her way to listen at a door which, opened, let out a warm, fetid waft from a close sick-room. A bent and tottering old woman stood on the threshold, holding the door behind her.

“An’ is ‘e no better now, Mrs. Curtis?” the gaunt woman asked, with a nod at the opening.

The old woman shook her head, and pulled the door closer. Her jaw waggled loosely in her withered chaps: “Nor won’t be, till ‘e’s gone.” Then after a certain pause: “’E’s goin’,” she said.

“Don’t doctor give no ‘ope?”

“Lor’ bless ye, I don’t want to ast no doctors,” Mrs. Curtis replied, with something not unlike a chuckle. “I’ve seed too many on ’em. The boy’s a-goin’ fast; I can see that. An’ then”–she gave the handle another tug, and whispered–“he’s been called.” She nodded amain.

“Three seprit knocks at the bed-head las-night; an’ I know what that means!”

The gaunt woman raised her brows, and nodded. “Ah, well,” she said, “we all on us comes to it some day, sooner or later. An’ it’s often a ‘appy release.”

The two looked into space beyond each other, the elder with a nod and a croak. Presently the other pursued: “’E’s been a very good son, ain’t he?”

“Ay, ay—well enough son to me,” responded the old woman, a little peevishly; “an’ I’ll ‘ave ‘im put away decent, though there’s on’y the Union for me after. I can do that, thank Gawd” she added, meditatively, as, chin on fist, she stared into the thickening dark over the stairs.

“When I lost my pore ‘usband,” said the gaunt woman, with a certain brightening, “I give ‘im a ‘andsome funeral. ‘E was a Odd Feller, an’ I got twelve pound. I ‘ad a oak caufin an’ a open ‘earse. There was kerridge for the fam’ly an’ one for ‘is mates—two ‘orses each, an’ feathers, an’ mutes: an’ it went the furthest way round to the cimitry. ‘Wotever ‘appens, Mrs. Manders,’ says the undertaker, ‘you’ll feel as you’re treated ‘im proper; nobody can’t reproach you over that.’ An’ they couldn’t. ‘E was a good ‘usband to me, an’ I buried ‘im respectable.”

The gaunt woman exulted. The old, old story of Mander’s funeral fell upon the other one’s ears with a freshened interest, and she mumbled her gums ruminantly. “Bob’ll ‘ave a ‘ansome buryin’ too,” she said. “I can make it up, with the insurance money, an’ this, an’ that. On’y I dunno about mutes. It’s a expense.”

In the East End, when a woman has not enough money to buy a thing much desired, she does not say so in plain words; she says the thing is an “expense,” or a “great expense.” It means the same thing, but it sounds better. Mrs. Curtis had reckoned her resources, and found that mutes would be an “expense.” At a cheap funeral mutes cost half a sovereign and their liquor. Mrs. Manders said as much.

“Yus, yus, ‘arf a sovereign,” the old woman assented. Within, the sick man feebly beat the floor with a stick. “I’m a-comin’,” she cried, shrilly; “yus, ‘arf a sovereign, but it’s a lot, an’ I don’t see ‘ow I’m to do it–not at present.” She reached for the door-handle again, but stopped and added, by after-thought: “Unless I don’t ’ave no plooms.”

“It ‘ud be a pity not to ‘ave plooms. I ‘ad–“

There were footsteps on the stairs; then a stumble and a testy word. Mrs. Curtis peered over into the gathering dark. “Is it the doctor, sir?” she asked. It was the doctor’s assistant; and Mrs. Manders tramped up to the next landing as the door of the sick-room took him in.

For five minutes the stairs were darker than ever. Then the assistant, a very young man, came out again, followed by the old woman with a candle. Mrs. Manders listened in the upper dark. “He’s sinking fast,” said the assistant. “He must have a stimulant. Doctor Mansell ordered port wine. Where is it?” Mrs. Curtis mumbled dolorously. “I tell you he must have it,” he averred with unprofessional emphasis (his qualification was only a month old). “The man can’t take solid food, and his strength must be kept up somehow. Another day may make all the difference. It is because you can’t afford it?”

“It’s a expense–sich a expense, doctor,” the old woman pleaded. “An’ wot with ‘arf-pints o’ milk an’–” She grew inarticulate, and mumbled dismally.

“But he must have it, Mrs. Curtis, if it’s your last shilling; it’s the only way. If you mean you absolutely haven’t the money–” And he paused a little awkwardly. He was not a wealthy young man–wealthy young men do not devil for East End doctors—but he was conscious of a certain haul of sixpences at nap the night before; and, being inexperienced, he did not foresee the career of persecution whereon he was entering at his own expense and of his own motion. He produced five shillings: “If you absolutely haven’t the money, why–take this and get a bottle–good. Not at a public-house. But mind, at once. He should have had it before.”

It would have interested him, as a matter of coincidence, to know that his principal had been guilty of the self-same indiscretion–even the amount was identical—on that landing the day before. But, as Mrs. Curtis said nothing of this, he floundered down the stair and out into the wetter mud, pondering whether or not the beloved son of a Congregational minister might take full credit for a deed of charity on the proceeds of sixpenny nap. But Mrs. Curtis puffed her wrinkles, and shook her head sagaciously as she carried in her candle. From the room came a clink as of money falling into a teapot. And Mrs. Manders went about her business.

The door was shut, and the stair a pit of blackness. Twice a lodger passed down, and up and down, and still it did not open. Men and women walked on the lower flights, and out at the door, and in again. From the street a shout or a snatch of laughter floated up the pit. On the pavement footsteps rang crisper and fewer, and from the bottom passage there were sounds of stagger and sprawl. A demented old clock buzzed divers hours at random, and was rebuked every twenty minutes by the regular tread of a policeman on his beat. Finally, somebody shut the street-door with a great bang, and the street was muffled. A key turned inside the door on the landing, but that was all. A feeble light shone for hours along the crack below, and then went out. The crazy old clock went buzzing on, but nothing left that room all night. Nothing that opened the door….

When next the key turned, it was to Mrs. Manders’s knock, in the full morning; and soon the two women came out on the landing together, Mrs. Curtis with a shapeless clump of bonnet. “Ah, ‘e’s a lovely corpse,” said Mrs. Manders. “Like wax. So was my ‘usband.”

“I must be stirrin’,” croaked the old woman, “an’ go about the insurance and the measurin’ an’ that. There’s lot to do.”

“Ah, there is. ‘Oo are you goin’ to ‘ave–Wilkins? I ‘ad Wilkins. Better than Kedge, I think; Kedge’s mutes dresses rusty, an’ their trousis is frayed. If you was thinkin’ of ‘avin’ mutes–“

“Yus, yus”—with a palsied nodding–“I’m a-goin’ to ‘ave mutes; I can do it respectable, thank Gawd!”

“And the plooms?”

“Ay, yus, and the plooms too. They ain’t sich a great expense, after all.”

Tales of Mean Streets, Arthur Morrison, 1921: pp. 154-162

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

An Irish Keener: 1860

We next illustrate the person of a woman known in Kerry and other counties as a Keener, or paid mourner. She must be a sort of improvisatrice. The Irish language, bold, forcible, and comprehensive, full of the most striking epithets and idiomatic beauties, is peculiarly adapted for either praise or satire—its blessings are singularly touching and expressive, and its curses wonderfully strong, bitter and biting. The rapidity and ease with which both are uttered, and the epigrammatic force of each concluding stanza of the keen, generally bring tears to the eyes of the most indifferent spectator, or produce a state of terrible excitement. The dramatic effect of the scene is very powerful; the darkness of the death-chamber, illumined only by candles that glare upon the corpse—the manner of repetition or acknowledgment that runs round when the keener gives out a sentence—the deep, yet suppressed sobs of the nearer relatives—and the stormy, uncontrollable cry of the widow or bereaved husband, when allusion is made to the domestic virtues of the deceased,–all heighten the effect of the keen; but in the open air, winding round some mountain pass, when a priest, or person greatly beloved and respected, is carried to the grave, and the keen, swelled by a thousand voices, is borne upon the mountain echoes—it is then absolutely magnificent. Mr. Beauford, in a communication to the Royal Irish Academy, remarks, that “the modes of lamentation, and the expressions of grief by sounds, gestures, and ceremonies, admit of an almost infinite variety. So far as these are common to most people, they have very little to attract attention; but where they constitute a part of national character, they then become objects of no incurious speculation. The Irish,” continues that gentleman, “have been always remarkable for their funeral lamentations, and this peculiarity has been noticed by almost every traveller who visited them;” and he adds, “it ha been affirmed of the Irish, that to cry was more natural to them than to any other nation; and at length the Irish cry became proverbial.”

This keen is very ancient, and there is a tradition that is origin is supernatural, as it is said to have been first sung by a chorus of invisible spirits in the air over the grave of one of the early kings of Ireland. The keener having finished a stanza of the keen, sets up the wail, in which all the mourners join. Then a momentary silence ensues, when the keener commences again, and so on—each stanza ending in the wail. The keen usually consists in an address to the corpse, asking him “why did he die?” etc. It is altogether extemporaneous; and it is sometimes astonishing to observe with what facility the keener will put the verses together, and shape her poetical images to the case of the person before her. This, of course, can only appear strongly to a person acquainted with the language, as any merit which these compositions possess is much obscured in a translation.

The lamentation is not always confined to the keener; any one present who has “the gift” of poetry may put in his or her verse, and this sometimes occurs. Thus the night wears away in alternations of lamentation and silence, the arrival of each new friend or relative of the deceased being, as already observed, the signal for renewing the keen. The intervals in the keen are not, however, always silent—they are often filled up by “small plays” on the part of the young, and on the part of the aged, or more serious, by tales of fairie and phantasie; nor is it uncommon to have the conversation varied by an argument on religion, for even in the most remote parts so large an assemblage is seldom without a few straggling Protestants. The keener is almost invariably an aged woman; or if she be comparatively young, the habits of her life make her look old. One of this cast the artist has pictured from our description.

Ballou’s Dollar Monthly Magazine, Vol. XI. No. 1 Whole No. 61, January 1860: p. 12

See this post on “The Irish Funeral Cry” for more details and historical accounts.

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

A Tombstone for the Wife: 1896

Man by wife’s grave in a cemetery in Kosice, Frantisek Klimkovic, 1849

THE TOMBSTONE

Meant a Good Deal and He Wanted It Right Away.

[New York Journal]

A countryman entered the office of a dealer in monuments.

          “I want a stone to put at the grave of my wife,” he said.

          “About what size and price?”

          “I don’t know. Susan was a good woman. A trifle sharp, mebbe, at times, but she was a good woman and never got tired of working. Just seemed to sort of faded away. She brought me a tidy sum when I married her, and now I want to put up a stone that her children and me kin be proud of.”

          “Did she die recently?” asked the dealer, sympathetically.

          “Not so very. It will be five years next month. I thought to put up a stone sooner, but I’ve been too busy. Now I’ve got around to it, and want one right away.”

          “Well, here’s a book of designs. Select what you think will suit you.”

          “I don’t know much about such things, and you are in the business. I’d rather you would take $50 and do the best you can. I want sumthin’ showy. I’ll tell you how it is, and then you’ll know the kind. I want to marry the Widder Scroggs, and I heerd she said that I was too mean to even put a stone at the grave of my first wife, when she brought me all of my property. Put a stone that will catch the eye of a wider and write a nice verse on it. If $50 ain’t enough and you are sure a little more will help me with the wider put it on, and I’ll make it right soon as I marry her. She’s got a heap of property, and while it seems a lot of money to put in a stone, I reckon the chances are with it.” And the sorrow-stricken widower paid $50 and inquired where he could get a present cheap that would suit a widow.

Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 21 November, 1896: p. 12

A widower’s care of his wife’s grave could might catch a woman’s eye:

A Kansas woman fell in love and married a widower for no other reason, so she said, than that he took such excellent care of his first wife’s grave.

Newton Kansan.

Kansas City [MO] Star 2 April 1924: p. 26

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

Posing the Corpse: 1890-1913

https://wellcomecollection.org/works/h4mhu4fu

Periodically we see articles about families who have their dead loved ones posed in life-like ways, doing the things they enjoyed in life for the wake or viewing.  It is a nice change from the hackneyed repose of the supine dead, although it makes me wonder if my family would choose to have me stuffed and placed at the organ, with a vintage tape of one of my recitals playing on the PA system.

The term “extreme embalming” has been coined to describe this trend. As usual, the idea of positioning the dead as if they were alive is nothing new.  There was an entire appalling genre of photographs of 19th- and early-20th-century medical students posing with cadavers and we find descriptions in vintage newspapers of mocking and obscene behavior towards corpses in the dissection room. [Another day, another post.] There were also accounts of body snatchers treating corpses as if they were living drunks to allay suspicion and there are several urban legends and jokes about the propped-up dead being “killed” by someone ignorant of the imposture.

Two Irishmen had been left to stay up all night with the corpse of a departed friend, says the Hutchinson News. About midnight they became hungry and thirsty, but could find nothing about the house to alleviate the pangs. Mike suggested to Pat that they step around to a nearby saloon before it closed. They did not want to leave the object of their watch, so after discussing the proprieties they decided it would be best to take the corpse with them. One on each side of the body they marched to the saloon, propped the corpse up to the bar in a natural position and called for the drinks. The barkeeper set out three glasses well filled and the two friends swallowed their portions with expressions of satisfaction Then, forgetting the corpse, they left the saloon and started back. The barkeeper saw the untasted glass before the remaining form, and said: “Come hurry and drink; I have to close.” No answer. Again he urged the silent customer to “drink up,” as the closing hour had arrived. Several times he repeated the call, getting madder each time, and finally he picked up an empty glass and threw it at the obstinately silent form, hitting the head and knocking it to the floor. Just then Mike and Pat, who had remembered their duty, rushed in. The barkeeper called loudly: “I want yez to witness, I did it in self-defense when he drew his knife!”

The Columbus [KS] Daily Advocate 3 April 1913: p. 2

Watches and wakes were noted for the copious amounts of alcohol consumed and subsequent riotous behavior. It is a wonder we don’t find more examples of corpses being dragged out to join the fun.

A CORPSE’S ORGIE

It Is Made to Join a Revel,

And Stands Propped Against a Stove-Pipe,

While the Gang Drinks to Its Health.

Ghastly Wake Held Over “Tubbe” Lutterby’s Body,

During Which the Watchers Get Into a Fight,

But Are Interrupted By the Arrival of Officers.

A Sacrilegious Affair That Has Stirred Up the West Side.

It Is Without a Parallel and Is the Sensation in the West End.

An orgie [sic] with a corpse.

A bacchanalian revel in which the body of a deceased boon companion is made to join while the revelers clink their beer glasses as the stiffened body of their late comrade, rigid and cold in death, stands propped up against a stove-pipe.

Such is the stance of a scandalous and sacrilegious affair, information of which inadvertently leaked out and set the vicinity for squares about Frenchman’s Corner wild with excitement last Saturday evening.

A week from yesterday afternoon Herman Henry Lutterbey breathed his last, after a short season of quick consumption, in the second-story flat at the north-east corner of McLean and Harrison avenues, a place known as Frenchman’s Corner.

The deceased was known familiarly as “Tubbe,” and resided with his wife (?) He was a son of Rudolph Lutterbey, who is

A HEAVY STOCKHOLDER

In the Herancourt Brewing Company and is Superintendent of the concern and also a partner of Christian Muhlhauser in the malt business. Lutterbye, pere, is a wealthy man, and young Herman, probably for that reason, never established a Sunol [famous race horse] record as a devotee of industry. Instead of gaining a living by the sweat of his brow, the lines of his fate were cast in pleasant places, and he had a reputation of being a hail fellow well met, generous to a fault, and he has figured in many a “big time” with the friends he chose, and the chosen four of his intimacy were a lot of fellows who would never set the world on fire even if a sufficient supply of combustibles were at their command. Young Lutterbey’s life need not be further adverted to, for when the disease grasped him it found

A READY VICTIM.

For although a man of fine physique and apparent strength, a long stretch at the shrine of Bacchus had weakened him, and at 5 o’clock of a week from yesterday he died after a short illness.

A multitude of friends mourned the departure of a good fellow from their midst, and the widow (?), prostrated by grief, was sent earl in the evening to the residence of her father-in-law, 115 Harrison avenue, while several of the “Tubbe’s” best friends arranged to pass the night with the remains. Frank Schlerenbeck’s saloon is on the first floor, and the mourners (?) had carte blanche for refreshments. It appears that their sense of sincere grief was equated only by their craving sense of thirst, for they drank freely to drown their sorrow, and ere long their better judgment was drowned in the load of beer and whisky that went upstairs. As the fumes of liquor mounted to their brains and tears stole down their cheeks as they recounted the many virtues of “Tubbe,” and the sundry good times they had had together, it may have seemed that the corpse took on a semblance of life and was among them a living presence again, and

THE SOUNDS OF WEEPING

And wailing gave way to tipsy expressions of mirth and jollity, and a fanciful suggestion to take just one more drink with “Tubbe old boy” was readily acted upon.

Straightway to the coffin went to the watchers, and the corpse was tenderly lifted and stood upon the feet. The stove pipe furnished a convenient resting place, and against it the corpse was placed, while all hands again sought the table and its load of bottles.

About this time “Cookey’s” string band hove around the corner, but a proposition by one of the gang to invite the band upstairs for a dance was speedily vetoed by Mr. Schlerenbeck, and the ceremony proceeded with the disadvantage of no music to enliven the occasion. However, they seemed to have atoned for the lack of instrumental melody by a supplement of vocal harmony which was not attuned to suit the trained ear of Jacob Rasp, for when he remonstrated a crack in his entirely too critical auricular appendage cut the offended organ and sent him to rest on a sofa, while the noise of the carnival filtered out through the blinds and called Patrolman John Wams[illegible] and Merchants’ Policeman Lewis Pin[illegible] to the apartment. If those officers had not had the

USUAL AMOUNT OF NERVE

Of the average member of the finest they might have dropped at the ghastly sight.

The boys didn’t have sufficient time to get “Tubbe” back to his coffin, and silent, stiff, stark, and staring the corpse stood, literally a ghost, while the guests were busy keeping the beer from getting too warm. The party broke up then and there, and order was speedily restored. Next morning news of the affair leaked out and became the talk of the neighborhood. There were special reasons why it should be kept a secret, and with nothing but rumors to base their wagging tongues upon, it was noised about that the boys had threatened to kick the stuffing out of “Tubbe” for talking so much, and even

SET THE REMAINS ON THE STOVE.

And gave it sardines to eat. Such reports were damaging, and were calculated to injure the standing of any body in the moral aspect of a community, and for each assertion there was a denial. It was given out that Victor Grese, a Mr. Spoonagel, who is known as “Spoony,” Philip Hermann, and Jacob Rasp, composed the watch, but the friends of all these men say that such things could not be, and the most vigorous denunciations were given for any body who would start such vile rumors. Grese could not be found last evening. His friends say he was not in the party. Hermann has a good reputation also, and that stands him in good stead at this hour of scandal. Mr. Rasp’s ear is quite sore.
The matter was kept so quiet that the same watch was on again Sunday evening. Monday afternoon, in the same room, Rev. Mr. Schmidt, the German Protestant pastor, officiated at the funeral ceremonies, and the body of poor, erstwhile gay and thoughtless Tubbe was borne to its last resting-place in a grass-grown nook in a cemetery on the New Baltimore pike, and a large body of a friends attended.

The Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 26 October 1890: p. 1

Despite the open bar, the phrase “it may have seemed that the corpse took on a semblance of life and was among them a living presence again,” suggests the intimate relationship between the living and the dead of, say, the rituals of Dia de los Muertos or those of the Ma’Nene festival of the Toraja peoples of Indonesia, where the dead are exhumed to be groomed, dressed in new clothing, and walked about the village.

Lutterbey is apparently the correct spelling, to judge by Rudolph Lutterbey’s entry on findagrave.com. The Enquirer must have been pretty sure of its facts to include that potentially libelous (?) with reference to young Lutterbey’s “wife.”

But posing corpses wasn’t all fun and games. Sometimes the corpse was enlisted in the cause of justice.

THE ACCUSING FINGER.

Chicago Police Propped Up a Corpse and Took Prisoner Before It.

Chicago, Nov. 22. Ordeal by murdered corpse, applied yesterday by the police to secure a confession to the murder of Natoli Selefani, whose body was found in Lake Michigan a fortnight ago, failed to secure the desired result.

The body of Selefani, which had been in Mount Carmel cemetery, was exhumed, carried to a vault, and placed in a sitting posture. The right arm and hand were propped up in such a manner that the index finger pointed directly at the face of any person entering the vault. The attitude of the body was made as nearly as possible like that which would be assumed by a person saying “You are the man who killed me.”

Police Inspector Shippy then took to the vault Peter Miro, Frank Bell, Charles Benzio, and Joyce Toppin, a colored porter of a saloon in which Selefani passed considerable time on the day of his death. One by one he caused them to confront the accusing finger of the dead man and watched for a sign of nervous collapse. Benzio and Bell went through the ordeal without exhibiting a sign of emotion. The colored porter was badly frightened, but he did not reveal anything like a clew. Miro refused to enter the vault, and the officers were compelled to drag him before the corpse and compel him to gaze upon it.  He did not say anything that would indicate that he was connected with the murder. T

The Barre [VT] Daily Times 22 November 1904: p.1

It was an ingenious plan, but I cannot find that anyone confessed after being confronted with the corpse, which, incidentally, sounds a more animated version of cruentation.

Should any of you have had just the teeniest bit too much punch at the wake and think that performing a corpse puppet-show would be a good idea, read this cautionary anecdote:

CORPSE PLACED AT THE TABLE

HIDEOUS JOKE PERPETRATED AT A CLEVELAND WAKE.

MOURNERS FLEE AND THE POLICE ARE CALLED.

WOULD-BE JOKERS ARE SENTENCED TO WORKHOUSE.

Cleveland. O., June 25. A body dressed in shroud and ready for burial sitting upright on the dining-room table in a West Twenty-third street house, caused a panic among relatives and friends attending a wake.

Mary Fitzgerald, aged 47, who attended the wake, was arrested by Patrolman Ganss. She was fined $10 and costs and was given 20 days in the workhouse by Police Judge McGannon. Mrs. Fitzgerald is employed at the Bristol hotel.

“We set the corpse on the table for bit of fun.” Mrs. Fitzgerald told Judge McGannon. “Everybody was in the back room when we did it. We called them in, and when they saw it they jumped out of the windows and ran into the yard.”

Mrs. Fitzgerald said that she and another woman had been drinking. A call for police was sent to the station. Several patrolmen went to the house where the wake was being held. They found the people standing in the street and very much frightened.

The Times Herald [Port Huron MI] 25 June 1909: p. 1

Other examples of posing the corpse (outside of the dissection room)? chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com, who may be seated one day at the organ….

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

The Black Cat Horror: 1880

black cat horror

Winter set in very early that year, and it was extraordinarily cold. By late fall, they were cutting ice two feet thick on the canal, and storing it in the great ice houses which then lined the banks. A certain man had died, when the weather was at its coldest, and I was one of the three men chosen to keep the night watch.

The body was laid out in the parlor of the home on an old-fashioned bier, which was too short, as he was a very tall man, and was covered with a black pall, which hung down over the feet. There was no fire in the room, and the window was opened about two inches, with the result that the corpse was frozen as hard as marble. Notwithstanding this, the undertaker left a jar of some embalming fluid, with which the body was to be covered every two or three hours. We three sat in another room, and punctually at the proper hours performed this gruesome function, whiling away the rest of the time as best we might.

Just as the clock struck midnight we heard one of the women come downstairs to prepare some coffee and food for us, and I suggested that before we partook of it we should attend to the body again. We crossed the wide hall, the wind moaning in gusts around the house, and the freezing atmosphere already chilling our blood, and entered the parlor. I went in first, the candle in my hand. I had taken two or three steps when I stopped, simply appalled. One leg of the frozen corpse was rising and falling beneath the pall, silently, but unmistakably, as though kicking in convulsive agony. Peterman, a powerful young German, who was next to me, caught sight of it the next moment, and, throwing his hands, with a cry of “My God!” fell fainting to the floor.

How long I stood gazing at the ghastly movement I do not know. The hot tallow fell unheeded from my hand, until it formed a little mound. At length I was aroused by Peterman coming to his senses, and commencing to vomit terribly. This changed the current of my thoughts, and I ran out for a basin. Before I could return he saw the leg move again, and fell in another swoon. Finding him thus, my fear suddenly left me, and I was determined to solve the mystery. I walked to the bier and pulled back the pall.

I found there a lean and savage black cat, gnawing at one of the frozen legs, and the arching of whose back, in the effort to tear the flesh, had caused the horrible appearance. Though I knocked it away and kicked it, the brute, with eyes glowing like coals, sprang back each time to its awful meal and I dared not touch it with my hands for fear a bite or scratch from those tainted fangs and claws should cause blood poisoning. It was literally mad with hunger. At length I fetched a long, heavy bootjack, and beat it over the head with that until it lay still, when I threw it out of doors. The only way it could have gotten in was through the window, but how it squeezed through such a narrow aperture is a mystery. Peterman was sick in bed for months after the shock, while as for our third companion, he ran at Peterman’s first scream and did not appear at all.

Sidney Journal, December, 1897

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil thanks Mr Rich Wallace of the Shelby County Historical Society for unearthing this dire eyewitness account of an event which occurred in Cynthian Township, Ohio in the fall of 1880.  In a case of art imitating life, the Ohio author, Ambrose Bierce [1842–1914] wrote the equally dire “John Mortonson’s Funeral,” published in Can Such Things Be? [1893]  The ignorant and superstitious held that if a cat jumped over a corpse, the dead person would become a vampire.

For more tales of malign cats, please see this post at the Haunted Ohio blog. The story above is also found in The Face in the Window. Other stories of cats as a menace at wakes may be found in The Victorian Book of the Dead, available as a paperback here and at other online retailers (or ask your library or local bookstore to order it) and for Kindle.

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.

Funeral Sweetmeats in Finland: c. 1870s

Two Finnish funeral sweets or hautajaiskaramellin. Finnish National Museum

Abo rivals Helsingfors in this particular, and the famous Fazers of Helsingfors could not have had a more lavish display of tempting goods than I saw at Wiberg’s. The original shop I remember well. It belonged to the old Abo that is so rapidly disappearing. It was a one-storied wooden house, with the shop window set so high that the tallest man could not obtain a glimpse of the goods displayed in it. A flight of steps led the prospective customer to the shop, which was a modest room of small dimensions, with a counter at the further end on which were set out cakes and sweetmeats of a quality to which, with all the plate-glass windows and parquet floors of to-day, the present shopkeeper has not been quite able to attain.

The old shop belonged to Widow Wiberg, and she and her shop were as well known as the cathedral by the inhabitants of Abo. She was the quaintest, dearest old lady it is possible to imagine, and welcomed every customer with a delightful curtsey. I remember as a youngster she never failed to add one sweet overweight, and always offered me a sweetmeat from one of her piled-up dishes. To refuse the old lady would have offended her beyond reparation. This was not a special favour towards myself, but equally bestowed on all her customers.

After her death the old shop was pulled down and the present one built in its place. The passing of Widow Wiberg’s shop was missed by many. The old-world sweetmeats for weddings and funerals that  were such a feature of her establishment are still manufactured by her successor. The funeral sweetmeats give me a shudder. Somehow the idea of eating a sweetmeat wrapped up in black crepe and tied with black ribbon never appealed to me. But tastes differ, and there was never a funeral of any distinction in Abo or neighbourhood that did not have a goodly supply of Widow Wiberg’s sombre sweetmeats; a curious custom that is still de rigueur.

Another custom that has only recently died out, and perhaps still exists in some parts of the country for all I know, was to hand to each mourner on leaving the house of the dead, a goodly-sized loaf of rich currant bread, shaped in the form of a wreath. They were called funeral loaves, and sometimes the quantity required was so great, if it happened to be a town funeral, that they were sent from the bakeries in big farm waggons, borrowed for the occasion.

This habit of distributing good things at funerals was keenly appreciated in the nurseries of a bygone generation of children, and I remember being told by Baron Max Aminoff, the former chief of police in Abo, that the excitement of his early days was scanning the newspapers to see if any funerals of importance might be in store for lucky children who possessed a papa who could bring them back pockets filled with divers delicacies they would never obtain in the ordinary course of events.

A Summer Tour in Finland “Paul Waineman” London, Methuen & Co, 1908: p. 273-74

Compare with Swedish begravingskaramell in this Nourishing Death blog article.

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