Costume History

“I am the Death Angel”

The Victorian Book of the Dead’s first chapter is on personifications of Death. Here we meet a Reaper-like Death Angel, who discusses, in a weirdly bureaucratic way, the persons who are to be taken.

The Lady with the Slithering Alligator Purse

A story of a curiously fortean fashion accessory to make your skin crawl: alligator purses and handbags that move by themselves. A “peculiarity of the skin” is claimed.

Do the Dead Move?

Experienced morticians know that the dead do move, sometimes in shockingly natural ways, simply due to changes in muscle tension, rigor wearing off, or internal gases. But do certain bodies move in UNnatural ways?

Remove Your Hoops: Lightning Freaks

There were a number of superstitions about lightning: it was bad luck to burn wood from a lightning-struck tree, oak trees were more likely to be struck than beech, a toothpick from a tree struck by lightning would cure toothache. And certain things would “draw” lightning: Milk in a pail, moist hay, bayonets, a warm horse, an umbrella or fishing rod–and ladies’ hoop skirts.

That Bourne From Which No Man Pushes Up Daisies

A small section of my new book, The Victorian Book of the Dead discusses the various names and euphemisms for death, dying, and the afterlife. I invite you to contribute your favorite expressions. Or to perform the Dead Parrot Sketch.

The Victorian Book of the Dead: A Preview

Preview of coming attraction: The Victorian Book of the Dead, by Chris Woodyard, will be available in September. Here’s a blurb and a table of contents.

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