My (imaginary) Dead Family – Harold

skull illusion vintage photography dead family jessica

Great Uncle Harold, who worked for a travelling freakshow in the early 1900s (he helped the resident giant clip his toenails) and kept a pet raven called Jessica.

Jessica died the day after Harold and they were buried together in Bishopsgate, where the company had just completed a successful run at the local asylum. We like to think that Harold knew he had ‘come home’ and didn’t want to face going back on the road.

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If this is the first time you have met my (imaginary) dead family, you might want to click here for an explanation (of sorts).



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Oh the ink…the beautiful ink…

I do love a good tattoo, me. And luckily I managed to bag myself a seriously good artist in Anna from Adorn in Shrewsbury who really ‘gets’ what her clients are looking for. I had my first tattoo with Anna last year – a beautiful mechanical magpie on my left arm:

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 17.04.57

It was actually a ‘cover up’ – the original unwanted design (a line drawn unicorn) was an inch or so square at the top of my arm. Well, what’s the point in doing things by halves? I applied the same principle to my latest inking – an image of Dracula’s commissioned ship the Demeter coming in through the storm.

As I was lucky enough to have a friend take ‘work in progress’ pics, I thought I’d share them here. Now to plan the next design…

ship tattoo a1
Initial design


You can JUST see the tiny old tat that was being covered up
You can JUST see the tiny old tat that was being covered up


Look at those concentration levels...
Look at those concentration levels…

It is better not to make your tattoo artist snigger whilst working...
It is better not to make your tattoo artist snigger whilst working…

Starting to sting by the third hour in
Starting to sting a bit…




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normal service is resumed…

skull illusion skull crossbones

Unfortunately The Skull Illusion (along with my other sites, and were hacked a couple of weeks ago and it has taken until now to get it fixed.

As a consequence I have lost the last two months of content (I had to restore from an old backup as more recent ones were corrupted). I’ll try to remember what was there and repost it but my memory isn’t the greatest and there will undoubtedly be gaps, so if the posting schedule looks weird, that’s why.

Thanks for your patience, and for keeping me entertained on the Skull’s Facebook page whilst I cried over broken databases!

Violet xx



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Mickey Easterling, New Orleans

skull illusion mickey easterling post mortem new orleans 3
scarlet nails and champagne – funereal perfection

Now this is the way to do a modern post mortem photograph! New Orlean’s socialite Micky Easterling died last month at the age of eighty three, and boy was she determined not to miss out on the fun of attending her own wake…

skull illusion mickey easterling post mortem new orleans
Just, y’know…hangin’…

There’s something just so wonderful about this – a woman who clearly lived life to the full, making the absolute most of her presence on this earth until the very last second.

skull illusion mickey easterling post mortem new orleans 2
That brooch!

In keeping with her personality, her funeral was a social affair, clearly filled with joy and happiness and remembrance of a true eccentric.


I am totally taking notes for my own future plans! Mind you, Mickey’s certainly set the bar high…

Would you consider such an ostentatious send off? If so, what would your plans be? 



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Thomas Jefferson Souder and Mary Souder, post mortem

skull illusion post mortem photography thomas jefferson mary souder joint coffin

Thomas ‘Jeff’ Souder (b. 26th December 1840) was a Union veteran in the Indiana infantry. He is buried in Arwine Cemetery, Hurst, Texas, alongside his wife Mary.

The couple died only two days apart in July 1921 (cause of death for both was given as ‘the flux’ – known today as dysentry) and were interred in an unusual double coffin.

skull illusion thomas jefferson mary souder alive

Apart from the rather wonderful burial arrangements, it’s so nice to find a post mortem photograph with full background information. There is an absolutely fascinating page about the Souders here, with much more in-depth detail about the couple’s lives.



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A writing blog tour…


I’ve been tagged in a blog tour aimed at those of us who write for a living.  I don’t often take part in these things (mostly because this website is considered ‘unsuitable’ by a lot of more general bloggers!), so I jumped at the opportunity when it was offered to me by my favourite literary editor, The Book Analyst.

What am I working on?

I’ve just this afternoon finished an article about unusual corpses for a national women’s magazine. It’s the second time I’ve written for this particular publication and I’m really hoping that they like my work.

I do a little bit of public speaking and have got two things coming up that need powerpoint displays, so I’m making notes for those. One is for a local philosophy and science group and is a talk about the disposal of dead bodies, and the second is for university students, looking into the value of having a ‘portfolio career’ rather than putting all our eggs into one professional basket.

Death Cafe Shrewsbury is on May 8th, so I’m roughing out flyers and info sheets for that. I’ve just been sent the most beautiful artwork for it, which was created by my awesomely talented friend Susie Cavill from White Streak Productions:

 How much does my work differ from those of others?

I think the most noticeable thing about my work is just how variable it is. Apart from maintaining The Skull Illusion and the freelance writing, I also write erotica (as Indigo Moore). And I work on a stable yard three days a week, so at least I’m forced out from the desk and into fresh air occasionally.

Why do I write what I do?

I’m fascinated by the death process and the cultures that surround it. It’s the one thing that is going to happen to everyone whether they like it or not, and I feel passionately that it should be discussed more deeply and more frequently. My Twitter biog describes me as ‘bringing death out of the coffin’. I’m also very fond of the motto ‘You Only Die Once’!

How does my writing process work?

Coffee. Sooooo much coffee. And often working late into the night because I have spent my daytime hours looking at goats on the internet

I nominate my lovely chum Ruby from Erotic Notebook (probably NSFW, depending where you work!).



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Death Salon UK

skull illusion death salon cemetery technology
I’d have been happy to just stare at the surroundings all day…

I had been looking forward to this since the second I booked the ticket, and I wasn’t disappointed – Death Salon was awesome.

Held in Bart’s Museum of Pathology, the surroundings couldn’t have been better – sitting listening to talks whilst surrounded by thousands of preserved human specimens, each more curious and morbidly fascinating than the last. Most people spent the coffee breaks just wandering, peering into jars and reading faded labels.

The highlight of my day was definitely the talk given by Dr Paul Koudounaris, author of Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures & Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs, a most awesome looking book which is definitely on my wish list. Dr Paul was himself as fascinating as his academic subject…

skull illusion death salon paul koudounaris lindsey fitzharris
Sharp as! Photo by Lindsey Fitzharris, @ChirurgeonsAppr

There wasn’t a single thing about the schedule that wasn’t interesting, from the modern history of funeral directors in the UK to the social etiquette involved in funeral food in the American South (which referenced this most awesome sounding book). It’s certainly given me no end of things to think about, and so much inspiration for the Death Cafe that I’m holding next month.

skull illusion death salon death or cake

More details of the Death Salon that I attended can be found on this rather excellent Storify version of the day.



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Enrique Metinides

skull illusion enrique metinides mexico woman pedestrian car crash
click to enlarge image

Only a quick post today, as I’m leaving for Death Salon at stupid o’clock in the morning and really need to start packing a case before I wind up on a train with nothing but a ticket and a confused expression.

I’ve come across this photograph many times whilst searching for post mortem photography on the net, and I have to admit that for quite a while I just assumed it was a carefully put together fake. Eventually I looked into the story behind the image and discovered that it was in fact the work of renowned Mexican street photographer Enrique Metinides.

This picture was taken on Avenida Chapultepec and Calle de Monterrey in Colonia Roma. She was a very famous journalist who wrote some really good books. That day she had a book-release party and was on her way there. She was all made up, going to pick up her sister to go to the event. Crossing the street, two cars crashed and then ran her over. This picture is great because she has all her makeup on and she just doesn’t look dead even though she is.

Metinides was born in Mexico City in 1934. He began his photographic career at only ten years old and continues to this day.

Click here to read an interview Metinides did with Vice magazine in 2007



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young girl post mortem

skull illusion post mortem photography memento mori ebay lillian
click to enlarge

This rather pretty little post mortem photograph is currently for sale on eBay. I like to have a trawl through what’s available, but as I’ve said before I long ago made the decision not to buy ‘actual’ photographs, simply because of the cost.

If you’re interested, the photo is on a ‘buy it now’ deal at $47.99 (auction closes 29th April).

Click here to be taken to the eBay selling page 

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Please note that I am not connected in any way to the seller of the image – I have posted this here for curiosity’s sake and no other reason.



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Lady in chair, post mortem

skull illusion victorian post mortem photography tumblr woman chair

I love this post mortem photograph – the lady is propped in what was probably her favourite chair in a very smart dress and ruffle collar.

There is a man’s portrait just visible on the table behind her – perhaps her husband or lost love? Or maybe not – perhaps I’m just being overly romantic about it. It does seem to be intentionally placed there, though.

Original link here



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