The Victorian Book of the Dead




Selected, edited, with commentary by Chris Woodyard

Publisher: Kestrel Publications, 1811 Stonewood Dr, Dayton, OH 45432-4002 (937) 426-5110, or

Publication Date: September 2014

ISBN: ISBN 978-0-9881925-2-2 trade PB

Pages and format: 360 pages (xiv + 256), 7×10”

Price: $19.99 trade pb

Features:  bibliography, index, illustrations, Number Four in the Ghosts of the Past Series.

Blurb: In this Victorian scrapbook of horrors, Chris Woodyard, author of the popular Haunted Ohio series, digs through dusty newspaper files and long-forgotten journals, finding  extraordinary tales of Victorian deaths and mourning rituals.  The Victorian Book of the Dead unearths ghost stories, tales of grim and gruesome deaths, the ephemera of Victorian mourning culture, as well as oddities, wonders and curiosities from the graveyards of the past.

Some of the stories in The Victorian Book of the Dead

*mourning bicycles, black boudoirs, and sable cigarettes for the up-to-date widow

*a child’s ghost who beckoned for her father to follow her into death

*the widow who fired the undertaker who wouldn’t give her trading stamps.

*a corpse that spontaneously combusted in the coffin

*the fiendish parrot who murdered his mistress

*Professor Segato’s petrified corpse furniture

*visions of the Grim Reaper and the Angel of Death

*the man who lived in his wife’s tomb

*A mourning wreath made from a murdered family’s hair

*interviews with undertakers, post-mortem photographers and morgue attendants

And much more

Table of Contents

Introduction: A Deathbed, by Dickens

1“I Am the Death Angel:” Victorian Personifications of Death

2 A Baby’s Coffin in the Air: Banshees, Black Dogs, and Other Harbingers of Death

3 Died of Lizards: Strange Deaths from Poisoned Stockings to Self-Decapitation

4 The Trades of Woe: Undertakers, Grave-diggers, and Dead-Men’s Razors

5 Crape: Its Uses and Abuses

6 Fashions for the Dead: Life’s Vanities Perpetuated in the Costumes of the Grave

7 The Corpse Sat Up: Wakes and Watches Gone Wrong

8 “A Ghastly Kind of Business:” Photographing the Dead

9 Fiends for a Funeral: Amateur Mourners and Funerary Extravagance

10 Grave Errors: Exploding Corpses, Flaming Formaldehyde, and Other Funeral Fatalities

11 The Picture on the Coffin Lid: Haunted Cemeteries and Other Venues of Death

12 The Habiliments of Woe: Products for Correct Mourning

13 The Inconsolable Grief Department: Fashionable Widows and Their Whims

14 The Restless Dead: Ghosts With a Purpose

15 Bone of My Bone: Collecting Corpses, Relics, and Remains

16 The Museum of Death: The Horrors of the Morgue

17 “Death never could gather a fairer flower:” Deathbeds and Sorrow.


General Index

Index by Location

Locations and number of stories for each:

Atlantic Ocean 1, Austria 3, Canada 3, Cuba 1, England 22, France 1, India 1, Ireland 5, Russia 1, South Africa 1, Wales 1

United States

California 1, Colorado 2, Connecticut 3, Delaware 1, District of Columbia 1, Georgia 3, Illinois 9, Indiana 10, Iowa 1, Kansas 2, Kentucky 6, Louisiana 3, Maine 1, Maryland 6, Massachusetts 9, Michigan 1, Minnesota 1, Missouri 5, Nebraska 1, New Jersey 5, New York 48, Ohio 26, Oklahoma 2, Pennsylvania 27, South Carolina 2, Tennessee 3, Texas 2, Vermont 1, Virginia 1, Wisconsin 2


Kestrel Publications

1811 Stonewood Drive

Dayton, OH 45432-4002

937 426-5110 or


The Victorian Book of the Dead, Strange Company, The Magonia Review of Books, Dr Beachcombing’s Bizarre History Blog, Boroughs of the Dead