In 18th Century Lurgan, Ireland, Dr. John McCall’s wife Margorie fell ill with fever and died shortly thereafter.
Since he was a doctor and therefore rich, Margorie naturally had an expensive gold wedding ring – but at her death, neither John nor any other mourner was able to remove it from her swollen finger.
Due to fear that her fever would spread, Margorie was hastily buried in Shankill Cemetery, and news of the doctor’s dead wife spread throughout neighborhood.
Soon, some grave-robbers got busy digging up Margorie’s coffin. When they pried open the lid, they were delighted to find that yes, the valuable ring was still on her finger. Try as they might, they couldn’t pull off the ring, so they agreed to saw off the whole finger.
As the sharp blade cut into her skin, Margorie came back to life, sat bolt upright, and shrieked like a tween with Bieber Fever. A miracle if there ever was one!
When the startled corpse-desecrating thieves fled, Margorie was left alone to climb out of her grave like a creep and wander home.
Across town, her widower Dr. John was boozing with some relatives, sorrowful at the loss of his wife but also pumped about his new-found bachelorhood.
When he heard a gentle rapping, rapping on his chamber door, he opened it to find his dead wife, extra creepy and all wraithlike in her burial robes and bloody from the ol’ saw-to-the-finger ordeal.
The shock was too much for the doctor. He instantly dropped dead on the floor and was buried in the grave Marjorie had just vacated.
By the 1600s, the plague doctor was a terror to behold, thanks to his costume — perhaps the most potent symbol of the Black Death. The protective garment was created by the 17th-century physician Charles de l’Orme (1584-1678).
De l’Orme had been the physician of choice for several French kings (one Henri and a Louis or two), and was also a favourite of the Medici family in Italy. In 1619 — as a carefully considered way to protect himself from having to visit powerful, plague-infested patients he couldn’t say no to — de l’Orme created the iconic uniform.
Its dramatic flair certainly made it seem like a good idea, and the costume quickly became all the rage among plague doctors throughout Europe.
Made of a canvas outer garment coated in wax, as well as waxed leather pants, gloves, boots and hat, the costume became downright scary from the neck up.
A dark leather hood and mask were held onto the face with leather bands and gathered tightly at the neck so as to not let in any noxious, plague-causing miasmas that might poison the wearer.
Eyeholes were cut into the leather and fitted with glass domes.
As if this head-to-toe shroud of foreboding wasn’t enough, from the front protruded a grotesque curved beak designed to hold the fragrant compounds believed to keep “plague air” at bay.
Favourite scents included camphor, floral concoctions, mint, cloves, myrrh and basically anything that smelled nice and strong.
In some French versions of the costume, compounds were actually set to smolder within the beak, in the hopes that the smoke would add an extra layer of protection.
A wooden stick completed the look, which the plague doctor used to lift the clothing and bed sheets of infected patients to get a better look without actually making skin-to-skin contact.
Howard Phillips Lovecraft was born in Rhode Island.
He was an only child, and when he was three years old his father was committed to a psychiatric hospital where he died five years later.
This left Lovecraft to be raised by his mother, two aunts, and grandfather.
Due to poor health, he didn’t attend public school for long, instead spending much of his time at home where he was an avid reader.
He did attend high school for some time but left after a nervous breakdown. His grandfather’s death didn’t help the family situation either.
They were forced to move to a smaller home due to problems with the management of his grandfather’s estate.
While Lovecraft wrote poetry in his youth, he really prioritized his writing career when he joined the United Amateur Press Association.
He began submitting many of his stories, poems and essays to magazines. His first professional publication was in 1919, the same year his mother was committed after suffering from depression and hysteria.
Lovecraft found much of his success in the pulp magazine Weird Tales, in which he was first published in 1923.
He was briefly married and moved to New York City but financial difficulties led to him returning to Rhode Island after an amicable split with his wife.
He continued to write throughout his life, seeing his most prolific period during the last several years of his life.
He died from intestinal cancer in 1937.
Even though Lovecraft might not have seen immense financial success during his lifetime, later writers have been greatly influenced by his work.
Selected Reading: The Call of Cthulhu The Shadow Over Innsmouth At the Mountains of Madness
A striking image from the British engraver and publisher Valentine Green, illustrating the idea that life, with all its frivolity and distractions (symbolised by the romance novel, parlour games, and high society lady in all her finery) is in fact – echoing the sentiment of Ecclesiastes (quoted on the obelisk) – nothing but “vanity”, all lives as they do inevitably ending in death.
The subtitle – “an essay on woman” – does, however, raise the question of whether Green is making a further comment on womanhood itself.
via Life and Death Contrasted (circa. 1770) | The Public Domain Review.
Pollock’s Toy Museum is one of London’s loveliest small museums, a creaking Dickensian warren of wooden floors, low ceilings, threadbare carpets, and steep, winding stairs, housed in two connected townhouses.
Its small rooms house a large, haphazard collection of antique and vintage toys – tin cars and trains; board games from the 1920s; figures of animals and people in wood, plastic, lead; paint-chipped and faintly dangerous-looking rocking horses and stuffed teddy bears from the early 20th century.
And then there are the Creepy Dolls.
Dolls with “sleepy eyes”, with staring, glass eyes. Dolls with porcelain faces, with “true-to-life” painted ragdoll faces, with mops of real hair atop their heads, with no hair at all.
One-hundred-and-fifty-year-old Victorian dolls, rare dolls with wax faces. Dolls with cheery countenances, dolls with stern expressions. Sweet dolls and vaguely sinister dolls.
Skinny Dutch wooden dolls from the end of the 19th century, dolls in “traditional” Japanese or Chinese dress.
One glassed-off nook of a room is crammed with porcelain-faced dolls in 19th-century clothing, sitting in vintage model carriages and propped up in wrought iron bedsteads, as if in a miniaturized, overcrowded Victorian orphanage.
Some visitors to the museum, however, can’t manage the doll room, which is the last room before the museum’s exit; instead, they trek all the way back to the museum’s entrance, rather than go through. “It just freaks them out,” says Ken Hoyt, who has worked at the museum for more than seven years.
He says it’s usually adults, not children, who can’t handle the dolls.
A fear of dolls does have a proper name, pediophobia, classified under the broader fear of humanoid figures (automatonophobia) and related to pupaphobia, a fear of puppets.
The end of December, 2016 marked the 100th anniversary of the death of Rasputin, the “mad monk of Russia”, or “lover of the Russian queen” if you believe the Boney M song, though you probably shouldn’t.
While the song is undoubtedly a floor-filler, unsurprisingly it is not exactly a reliable historical account of Rasputin’s life.
Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, a mystic and spiritual healer born in Pokrovskoe in Siberia, wielded huge influence over the Russian royal family, particularly Alexandra, the Tsarina, who looked to the spiritual healer to cure her haemophiliac son, Alexei.
The life of Rasputin was certainly pretty strange but it is the stories surrounding his death that are the strangest of all.
The death of Rasputin – December, 1916.
What is known is that one evening Rasputin went to the Yusupov Palace in St Petersburg at the invitation of Prince Felix Yusupov. Rasputin’s dead body was recovered from the frozen Neva River days later.
No one is completely sure what happened in between these two events.The most well-known account of the events comes from Prince Yusupov himself in his memoirs Lost Splendour. This autobiography reads more like a boy’s own adventure story than a reliable historical document and many doubt the authenticity of what he wrote.
According to Yusupov, when Rasputin arrived at the palace he was taken down to the cellar where he was given cake and madeira wine. Upstairs, a gramophone played Yankee Doodle Dandy to fool the monk in to believing there was a party in full swing.
Yusupov and his accomplices had planned things carefully. The cakes offered to Rasputin had been laced with enough potassium cyanide to slay a monastery full of monks. But Rasputin just kept eating them.
Incredulous at the monk’s survival, Prince Yusupov poured madeira into a cyanide-laced wine glass and handed it to Rasputin. Instead of collapsing into unconsciousness within seconds, as would be expected from a massive dose of cyanide, Rasputin continued to sip the wine like a connoisseur.
A second lethal glass disappeared into the monk’s mouth with little apparent effect other than some difficulty swallowing. Asked if he was feeling unwell he replied “Yes, my head is heavy and I’ve a burning sensation in my stomach.”
A third glass of tainted wine only seemed to revive him. Having ingested their whole stock of cyanide, the group of assassins were somewhat at a loss as to what to do next.