The Victorian Book of the Dead: A Preview

angel of death with planchette

Let me just take a moment to give you a preview of my upcoming book: The Victorian Book of the Dead, which will be available early September, 2014.  A few items may have originally been found in blog posts here, but I guarantee that the majority of its stories will be new, some of them unseen since their original 19th-c. publication. There will also be photos and illustrations. Disclaimer: While the topics in the table of contents are as listed, some of the chapter titles may be tweaked before publication. Here’s the back cover material and the TOC.  Naturally you’ll be able to purchase your copy here and on other online retailers. It will also be available in an e-book edition. I’d also encourage you to ask your local bookstores or libraries to order it.

When Death Was In Fashion….

Chris Woodyard, author of the The Ghosts of the Past series, digs through long-buried newspapers and journals, for this fascinating look at the 19th-century obsession with the culture of death. The Victorian Book of the Dead unearths extraordinary tales of Victorian funeral fads and fancies, ghost stories, bizarre deaths, mourning novelties, gallows humor, premature burial, post-mortem photographs, death omens, and funeral disasters.  Resurrected from original sources, these accounts reveal the oddities and eccentricities of Victorian mourning. Packed with macabre anecdotes, this diverting, yet gruesome collection presents tales ranging from the paranormal and shocking to the heartbreaking.

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 shrieking banshee who foretold death and disaster

*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 widow who ate her husband’s ashes

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

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

And many more tales from the crypts.

Table of Contents


1“I Am the Death Angel:” Banshees, Black Dogs, and Other Harbingers of Death

2 Died of Lizards: Strange Deaths from Poisoned Stockings to Self-decapitation

3 Laying Out the Corpse: The Barber, the Undertaker, the Burial-robe Maker

4 Fiends for a Funeral: Wakes and Watches Gone Wrong

5 The Sitting Dead: Curious Coffins and Bizarre Burials

6 The Habiliments of Woe: Products for Correct Mourning

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

8 Beyond the Veil: Phantom Hearses, Ghosts, Ghouls, and Wraiths

9 “A Ghastly Kind of Business:” Post-mortem photography

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

11 “Death never could gather a fairer flower:” Death-beds and Sorrow.

12 The Inconsolable Grief Department: Fashionable Widows and Their Whims

13 The Museum of Death: Horrors of the Morgue




Kestrel Publications

937 426-5110 or

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 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.

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