Edited: in response to several immediate queries – no, I don’t think for one second that this is actually a photograph of Queen Victoria!
This strange photograph was emailed to me recently by Carol M., who had bought it from someone who believed it to be a post mortem image. Carol was unsure but bought it anyway, out of curiosity.
This was my reply to her initial enquiry:
My instinct is that it isn’t post mortem, because the lady’s face appears to have a reasonable amount of muscle tone. However she is rather slumped in the chair, which give weight to the theory that she’s dead.
What niggles me about it is that it looks almost as if the photographer has attempted to set up a Queen Victoria lookalike. Even in the early days of photography, people were not averse to faking images (and also editing them after processing).
Which is where you come in, dear readers. What do you think…Dead, or Not?!
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I always appreciate contributions and suggestions. If you have anything you’d like to share with other readers, please get in touch.
Should you be obliged to look sombre if you work in the death business? Ray Loxton didn’t think so, but that was before his cheery disposition was made public.
The gravedigger from Somerset was happy to pose for a photographer who was looking for an interesting picture for the local newspaper. But when the following picture appeared in the Shepton Mallet Journal, some people didn’t share Ray’s cheery outlook:
If I’m honest, the pose could have used some work. And despite Ray’s claim that “…the sun was in my eyes so I put my hand up to stop myself being blinded,” I can see why those of a sensitive disposition might find it a tiny bit disconcerting.
One reader certainly took issue. ’How must the grieving family feel for whose relative Ray Loxton is digging the grave,’ muttered Holger Harras of Evercreech (rather ungrammatically), ”knowing that Mr Loxton has been photographed half naked and saluting in their relative’s grave. Isn’t there nothing more sacred than man’s and woman’s last resting place?”
Ignoring the double negative (which is making me itch, if you want to know), does Holger have a point? Should Mr Loxton have some decorum whilst in the presence of the dead, or does the fact that his daily companions have long stopped breathing mean that his outward appearance is irrelevant? Local pub landlord Steve Wilson certainly seems to think so, given this most excellent quote:
”What would they prefer, that Ray Loxton forces himself to cry while digging each grave and then self-flagellates with his shovel afterwards?”
Regardless of current trends, fashion never seems to ever truly lose its love for the darkly gothic.
My teenage years were spent in England in the 1980′s, when the goth genre was really getting into its stride. I adopted the look with gusto, and at one point had a make up bag that consisted entirely of the colour black. Black nail varnish, black ‘blusher’ (who the hell actually blushes black?!), black lipstick, hair blacker than a raven’s wing – you know the drill.
Some of these outfits make me feel desperate to play dress up again – and all are from contemporary haute couture collections.
If only I could figure out a wallet-friendly interpretation, I reckon I could make quite a splash on the school run…
I found this fabulous vintage photograph on the site of the Nassau Community College faculty website whilst looking through the history of photography. I just adore the expressions on the subjects’ faces, especially the boy looking so serious and efficient.
From the original website entry:
[Blind Man and His Reader], 1840s Unknown Artist, American School Daguerreotype; 3 9/16 x 2 5/8 in. (9.1 x 6.6 cm) Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005 (2005.100.271)
Little is known about this enigmatic portrait except that the young reader holds a copy of the New York Herald. Known for its prurient interest in scandal and crime, as well as its pioneering use of the telegraph and railroad to gather news, the newspaper, launched in 1835, had the largest circulation of any daily in the United States. One wonders what was in the news the day this photograph was made. The outbreak of the Mexican-American war in 1846? The discovery of gold in California in 1848? Or perhaps an article from Brighton, England, on Dr. W. Moon’s system (1847) of raised type that allowed the blind to read with their fingers? Moon type, as it was known, pre-dated by more than twenty years the universal adoption in 1869 of Louis Braille’s system (1834) of raised points.
If someone asked you to describe the contents of your mind, what would you tell them?
That’s the curious question I was asked recently, when I took part in a jewellery project with Lydia Niziblian (you’ll already know her name if you read the Skull regularly, as I’m often heard singing the praises of her talented fingers which are almost certainly powered by Dark Magic).
Lydia informed me that she wished to ‘curate my brain’. Thankfully this turned out to be less painful than it sounded. The idea was that I would give her a list of things that I loved, and it had to include a written quote of some sort.
I was intrigued. I already own a couple of Niziblian pieces so I knew that I could trust her to produce something awesome. After much humming and hawing, my list read something like this:
skulls Death horse writing creativity
And then I left her to it. I’d occasionally get strange messages along the line of ’if you were a stone, what colour stone would you be’, ‘can you send me a lock of your horse’s mane’ – my mind did boggle somewhat on occasion. Eventually I was informed that a parcel would be arriving by courier on a set day. I was a bit nervous, actually – what if she had decided that my brain contained really horrible things that I would never want to admit to in public?!
I should have known better than to worry, for this is what arrived (I’ve included some ‘work in progress’ pics as well):
The finished article contains my own handwriting acid-etched into the silver backing, a lock of my (pale) horse’s mane, a piece of apatite crystal (associated with creativity) and of course a very lovely skull. My friend Jo took one look and exclaimed ‘Oh my god, it’s you in a ring!’ and it really is. It’s gorgeous and I barely take it off.
It was only after my parcel arrived that I discovered that a friend had also had a curated piece made, full of references to her son Peter. I genuinely had no idea that she was having it done – it’s glorious:
I’ve talked about Lydia’s work several times before, and I’m sure some people are thinking I’m probably being paid to do so. I am absolutely not – everything is paid for and above board, the same as it is with any customer.
I love seeing clever people work, and learning what makes them tick – it doesn’t matter to me whether they’re someone I know in day to day life, or if they’re on the other side of the world and have no idea that I even exist. I’ve talked about clever crafty types on here before, many of whom I’ve never had any contact with whatsoever. If I like ‘em I like ‘em, end of.
So if you know of someone whose work deserves a shout out on the Skull, please do get in touch.
Despite having run The Skull Illusion for several years now and seen hundreds, if not thousands, of corpses in that time, I have never become hardened to the grim reality of death. This is a good thing, I think – if ever the day came that I felt nothing when looking at post mortem images such as this then I would take it as a sign that it was time to give up.
I couldn’t quite believe my eyes when I came across this photograph whilst trawling the net for new post mortem photos. How on earth could an entire family have been wiped out at once, and such an age range?
The original image was on Reddit and had only the information ‘Mrs Day and her seven children in the funeral home’ attached to the bottom (there are only five children visible in the photo but the legs of a sixth can be seen on the very right, and presumably the seventh is even closer to the camera). Amazingly, an internet search immediately brought up the story – and what a tragic one it is.
From The Winnipeg Tribune, Dec 16th 1929 (all phrasing sic):
AXEMAN SLAYS MOTHER AND HER SEVEN CHILDREN Father, Throat Slashed, Found Wandering on Streets at ” Three Rivers, Que. ALL EIGHT VICTIMS NEARLY DECAPITATED Parent Confesses Murdering Whole Family, Say Police Special to The Winnipeg Tribune TI1KEE ItlVEUS, Que., Dec. 16 Their throats slashed with an axe, a mother and her sevan children were found dead in their beds here early today. The father, Andrew Day, his throat also gashed, was found wandering in the streets and was rushed to a hospital. Day appeared dazed and mentally unbalanced, but confessed ho “murdered the whole family,” police said. Day could speak only with difficulty, but wrote a confeaalon on a cardboard box and signed It, police said. Although his condition at first appeared serious, ho will recover. It was said at the hospital. Investigation Begun Police today began a thorough Investigation Into the brutal murders. Mrs. Day and her seven children, ranging In age from one to 14 years, ‘ AH were found dead In beds In threa rooms of their home. All were horribly mutilated, having ono or more cuts about the throat, indicating that the slayer evidently .tried to decapitate’ the vletlma. The three bedrooms where tha bodies were found presented a gruesome spectacle, blood staining the bed clothing and lying In pout) on the floor. ‘ , , Many Bloodstains ‘ Bloodstains also were discovered In other rooms of the house. 1 ‘. Day, ordinarily a quiet, mild – irutn – tiered man, la reported to have lost ‘ all his money in the recent stock market crash and since then had been very depressed. It also was stated that be had been unable to sleep for days. Police believe the shock of losing all his money no doubt affected the man s brain and, crazed by remorse, he slew his entire family and Then I tried to end his own life. The family had lived here for about four years.
I’m sure that this was only one of many similar tragedies during the Depression (and indeed, that have occurred through time immemorial), but that row of little faces, ohhh…
This article was prompted by Skull reader Steve W., who posted the above photograph to the site’s Facebook page, saying that premature burial was one of his childhood fears.
He’s certainly not alone – numerous contraptions similar to that in the picture above have been developed over the years to allay the very human fear of being buried alive. These days it’s (hopefully) less of a worry, but in times past it was a very real possibility – medical knowledge was lacking and a comatose state could too easily be assumed to be death itself.
I got to thinking about what terrified Skull readers as children. Did you get over it, or do the same terrors haunt you to this day?
I’ve mentioned my own – entirely ridiculous – childhood fears on here before, but will repeat myself (if you promise not to laugh).
My brother and I often stayed at our grandparent’s house in the countryside as kids. The only bathroom was upstairs and at the end of a very long corridor. As a small child, it seemed to be miles long and claustrophobic, closing in on me as I walked very very quickly along it.
You’d think that this alone would be enough to put the fear of God into a small girl, but actually it was the least of my worries. What reallyscared me was that I knew – just knew – that the second I flushed the cistern, baby rabbits would come racing out from behind the toilet and BITE MY ANKLES.
I know. Insanity. But I really was convinced that the minute I leapt off that porcelain bowl I would hear the snapping of teeth and the scrittering of tiny sharp claws across the lino. How I got through those years without breaking my neck as I leapt down the steep staircase (which itself ended in a dark hallway), I’ll never know.
So come on – make me feel better and tell me about your darkest childhood fears. Unless it involves small fluffy animals, in which case I’d rather not know. I’ve got enough of that going on already.
“I don’t want anyone in or out of my family to see any part of me. Could you destroy my body by cremation? I beg of you and my family – don’t have any service for me or remembrance for me. My fiance asked me to marry him in June.I don’t think I would make a good wife for anybody.He is much better off without me. Tell my father, I have too many of my mother’s tendencies.”
Evelyn McHales’s suicide note (her own deletions)
Evelyn McHale leapt to her death from the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building on 1st May 1947.
Photographer Robert C. Wiles took this heart-stopping picture just moments after the force of the impact embedded Evelyn’s body into the roof of a parked limousine. It has been reproduced countless times over the years and is often referred to as ‘the most beautiful of deaths’.
You can read further information about Evelyn McHale here. Thanks go to Paula H. (she of the doll house of awesome) for the link.
I always appreciate contributions and suggestions. If you have anything you’d like to share with other readers, please get in touch.
The only surviving photograph of Emmeline Moorhouse, Great Aunt to my distant cousin Melvin. She was transported to Australia for the crime of ‘intentional lewdness’ and was eventually hung as a cattle rustler.
Before she died she amassed a fortune through gambling, but to this day no one in the family knows what happened to the money.