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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween History: Victorian Halloween Party Decorations & Games from 1903 Newspaper Article

Public Domain Image
Today's Halloween History guest post is via Arra Abella's Style Reader, a very cute and posh book review blog. This was by far my absolute favorite guest post for this Halloween tour and it's also the final post in the tour so I saved the best for last. Enjoy!

Don't forget the Halloween tour was to promote my Gothic Victorian novel A White Room being on sale for $0.99 cents until Oct. 31, 2013 and my big Halloween Giveaway ending Oct. 31, 2013

Here is your teaser, but you will have to click on over to Style Reader to read the rest.

The following turn of the century Halloween festivities were taken from two articles in the October 25, 1903 edition of The Sunday Herald of Syracuse, New York. The first article is titled “Halloween: Unique and Ghost-Like Decorations” and is an account of a Halloween party for adults, focusing specifically on the decorations.

The second article was titled “Halloween: What to do on this Witching Eve,” and is an instruction for a witch themed party for young unmarried girls. It includes detailed descriptions of Halloween “charms” or what we would call spells, most of which were designed to determine the girls’ future husbands.

Victorian Halloween Decorations for a Turn of the Century Party
The writer of the article explained that this was a party he actually attended, and it is given from his perspective. When he asked the hostess where she got the ideas for the decorations, she said she had thought them up on the spur of the moment.

Public Domain Photo
Outside of the house, yellow jack-o-lanterns and squash hung from plazas. They included a lamp and had eyes, noses, and grins carved into them. The author of this article writes about the jack-o-lantern faces in a way that suggests it may have been a novelty, at least to him.

Just at the door stood a tall wooden figure draped in black sheets. It had red eyes, a nose, and a grinning mouth. The author commented that the figure “suspiciously looked like a photographer’s lantern on a jag.” Chains bound the hands of the figure and also hung from the door, making it rattle as guests entered the house.

Inside, the only light came from green flames burning in tin plates. The flame came from alcohol sitting on a bed of salts. The writer commented that the flames made the guests’ faces glow green, a color that was “subconsciously associated with ghosts.” Inside the library there were ...

Click on over to Style Reader to finish reading about the decorations. The Halloween games for young unmarried girls is coming up too! That is really interesting to read about even if it isn't something you would want to do at your party.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Victorian Mourning Etiquette Secrets: The Forgotten Traditions & Explanations for Victorian Mourning

Today's Halloween History guest posts are on Chapter Break and Psychotic State, two really wonderful book review blogs that I highly recommend you follow to discover the best reads. I wrote both of these posts with the idea that there are articles all over the Internet about Victorian Mourning, so I focused on the lesser known history, the stuff that other posts don't always have.

Chapter Break: This post is on why Victorians had mourning etiquette in the first place, which is something I rarely see in other articles. Other posts usually focus on the etiquette itself. This is about where it came from and why it was so popular. No, it's not just Queen Victoria. That was actually only a small factor.

Psychotic State: This post is about the etiquette itself, but with more emphasis on the aspects that you don't read about as often, so there is less info on Memento Mori and Hair Jewelry but more history on other traditions and mentalities. I put the lesser known facts in Bold because I couldn't separate them from the well known facts that usually get a lot of attention. The items in bold are the details that often times get left out. 

BTW, these posts were inspired by and elaborated from my very popular post from a year or so ago called Why Victorians were Obsessed with Death. So if you liked that, you should really enjoy these.

Don't forget it's all a part of my Halloween Celebration which includes the Giveaway ending Oct. 31, 2013 and my Gothic Victorian novel A White Room on sale for 0.99 cents until Oct. 31, 2013.

First a little teaser from Chapter Break then one from Psychotic State. You'll have to visit those blogs for the full shebang! Don't forget to comment or ask questions if there's something you'd like to have a little more elaboration on! and Enjoy!

Halloween History: Little Known Reasons Why Victorians Had Mourning Etiquette 

Queen Victoria with grandchildren in mourning 1879 US Public Domain Copyright ExpiredThe Victorian Gothic is a common theme during Halloween because 19thcentury society was obsessed with death. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, people had dramatic displays and etiquette to respond to a death in what is often called the Victorian Cult of the Dead. This culture and etiquette included black clothing, photos of the deceased, hair jewelry, séances, and preventative measures in case someone was buried alive! Much of this etiquette is described in detail all over the internet, so today I want to focus more on why the Victorians developed this culture.
The United Kingdom monarch, Queen Victoria, sparked the creation of mourning culture after her beloved husband Prince Albert died at the age of 42 in 1861. For the next 40 years, the queen wore black and froze her house in time, having servants continue to lay out her husband’s clothing daily. Just as fashion from Paris is in vogue in America, so too was a queen’s mourning practices, which became the popular etiquette all over the world.
The more elaborate each step of the funeral and burial, the more it showed the family loved and adored the deceased, so people were encouraged to purchase the most expensive coffins, elaborate head stones, mausoleums, and family plots, in addition to flowers, special clothing, and memorabilia including post mortem photography known as Memento Moriand specially made hair jewelry with locks of hair from the dead.

The funeral business was a huge industry. Many historians believe much of the encouragement to mourn excessively came from the industry’s desire to make money off of the grieving. These historians believe the industry found ways to guilt people into the expensive practices. However, other historians argue that the crossover of mourning to different cultural signposts, such as literature, suggests the practice went deeper than aneconomic and fashionable trend.

Psychology: Coping with Death
Without modern medicine, the average lifespan was much shorter than it is today, and hospitals could be dangerous due to a lack of knowledge about infection. Thus, people died regularly and died in the home where loved ones witnessed ...

This is where it really gets good so go read the rest of the post on Chapter Break!

Victorian Gothic: Victorian Mourning Etiquette and Mentality with  a Focus on the Lesser Known Aspects!

Victorian mourning etiquette consisted of a large set of traditions and expectations that were considered an appropriate way to mourn a death; however, behind the outward expressions of mourning, there were anxieties and struggles going on in the deeper psychology of the Victorian society. Victorian Mourning customs are all over the internet, but this article includes little known facts that have been bolded for your convenience.
It’s important to keep in mind that the stages of mourning were different depending on the specific point in the century. Further, Victorian mourning could vary quite a lot from Europe to America and even from one coast to the other. Mourning traditions grew popular out of the United Kingdom after Queen Victoriawent into deep mourning when her beloved husband, Prince Albert, died in 1861 at the age of 42. Some customs were less strict or elaborate once they reached America. However, there were some overall traditions that remained relatively the same.
The Death
Death was common during the Victorian Era. A large percentage of babies and children died as well as adults. It was a frightening thing as new discoveries about human death spurred more questions than answersIt wasn’t clear if death occurred due the heart stopping or the brain dying and why these things occurred at all. This uncertainty led to a fear that people could be buried or dissected alive.
It also led to fears regarding what it meant about the soul if brain death was the ultimate cause of death. People believed the soul resided within the heart or chest cavity, so it made sense that the heart stopping signaled death as this would mean the release of the soul, but if it was the brain, then what did that mean about the soul? Various advancements in knowledge and technology ultimately created fears over the existence of the soul and life after death, which is why Victorians were also quite obsessed with ghosts, séances, and spiritualism.

Unlike modern times, death most commonly occurred within the home in result of an illness. Lack of medicine and the use of family members to care for the ill meant that all the messy and difficult parts of an illness were witnessed by the direct relatives. Further, the byproducts of the human body ceasing to function were witnessed and cleaned by family members or by servants in an upper class home. Historians have interpreted the elaborate spectacles surrounding death as a way for people to deal with and overcome the most disturbing and traumatizing realities of death in Victorian society.
The Funeral and Burial  
The funerals and burials of the deceased were elaborate shows put on by a family even at their own financial detriment. People considered the bigger and better the funeral, the more the departed had been loved, so many would go above and beyond to prove their affections.
The funeral could take place in the home or in a church. People might have a friend of the family sit with the dead for a time or have a waiting mortuary to delay the burial in case of a misdiagnosed death. In the home, there might be a viewing, but not usually in a church unless it was for a very prominent man who would attract more mourners than a house could accommodate. Sometimes people would send out an announcement that the funereal was private to deter a large attendance, but if someone did show up, no one would turn him or her away.
A family might hire a normal horse-drawn hearse or one with a glass cover so people could see inside. Carriages and mourners would follow behind the hearse in a dramatic precession down public streets to the cemetery. The family might also hire carriages for some of the attendees, and some families even hired mourners or “mutes” to walk behind the hearse in the procession.
Of course the more elaborate each step of the funeral and burial, the better, so families were encouraged to purchase the most expensive coffins, elaborate head stones, mausoleums, and family plots. Further, people would buy large amount of flowers, mourning wardrobes, memorabilia including post mortem photos, known as Memento Mori, and hair jewelry made with locks of hair from the deceased.
The funeral business was a huge industry. Many historians believe the popularity of extravagance in funerals originated from the industry’s desire to make money off of the grieving. However, some historians argue that the crossover of extravagant mourning to other aspects of Victorian culture, such as literature, suggests it was much deeper than an economic and fashionable trend.  
Inside The Home
The home was prepared after a death to be a quiet, dark solitude of grief. Victorians would cover the mirrors with black sheaths because women were not supposed to partake in any kind of vanity during this time as they should look dreadful from weeping. Someone would drape a piece of black velvet over the portrait of the patriarch if he had passed. They also locked the piano because no one was to play any music, and there would be no dinner parties or festivities in the house for some time. Sometimes other areas of the home were also draped or decorated with black fabric. They would drape the family carriage with black velvet too.
There were a variety of traditions to signal outsiders that the house was in mourning. Some people hung black wreaths on the door, or the family covered the doorknobs in white crepe for a child’s death or black crepe for an adult’s death.Markers like these signaled to visitors that they should prepare to speak quietly and quickly so they do not overtax or burden the bereaved. The family might also muffle the doorbell to prevent any loud noises, which would startle the already anxious nerves of those inside. Oftentimes, people would not call upon a family in mourning unless they were close friends or relatives.
Public Appearances
Although it wasn’t unheard of to forgo mourning, most people abided by the customs as a sign of sorrow and respect for the dead, especially women and widows in particular. The expectations of mourning were less severe on ...

Find out who the expectations were less severe on at Psychotic State!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Halloween History & Haunted Houses: What Makes Victorian Houses Look & Feel Haunted

Happy to announce that my Gothic Victorian novel A White Room reached #1 over the weekend! YAY!!! It's still on sale for $.99 until October 31 (2013) so if you haven't yet, get on over there or tell a friend or something. ;)

Also a part of this promotion, I am writing Halloween History guest posts all over the internet. Below is a little preview of what I got going on over at Country House Reader! Dude I am loving this blog. It's all about historical country houses and historical preservation. It's a really academic and professional blog. The gal who writes it, Julie Day, really is an expert in her field. No literally, she had a Ph.D. in 18th Century history, an a particular expertise for buildings, architecture, material culture, servants, and estate management. Really cool stuff.

She was kind enough to let me write a post on her blog all about why some Victorian houses look scary and why they can feel eerie too! Thank you Julie! Click on over to Julie's blog to read the entire thing.

How is it that some Victorian houses are the cutest darn things you’ve ever seen and some are right out of a Gothic horror story? It’s not as simple as adding dark colors. There are particular styles, cultural symbols, and historical associations which make some Victorian houses scarier than others.
There are several different types of Victorian architecture. Some like Queen Anne houses, Greek-Revivals, and Italianates are really cute, usually painted in pastel colors, and represent refined prominence and achievement. There are probably some houses in these styles that one could say look creepy, but that is usually due to deterioration as opposed to the original appearance. The two types of Victorian houses that seemingly represent the quintessential haunted house are designed in either the Gothic Revival or Second Empire styles.
Gothic Revivals are literally a throwback to the Gothic castles and churches of the medieval period, and include steep or peeked rooftops, arches, pinnacles, and decorative ornamentation especially over and around windows. Arches were also popular for entryways, doorways, porches, windows, etc. Sometimes these types of houses will have a lot of height to them or may include a large tower.
The original Gothic horror stories were all set in or around decaying Gothic churches or castles from medieval times and the architectural style became a worldwide symbol of the horror genre. The look of Gothic architecture is culturally embedded into our minds as a symbol of something dreadful and sinister. Nineteenth-century writers developed this further within literature as the Gothic genre evolved new tactics for creating fear. Gothic Revival houses and mansions not only look reminiscent of the horror story castles, but they became a fundamental setting for Victorian Gothic literature. Recognizable symbols of Gothic literature still commonly populate modern day horror genres.
Bates Motel Set from the movie Psycho at Universal Studio Hollywood CA (Worldwide Public Domain)Second Empire architecture was inspired by the reconstruction of Paris, France under the direction of Napoleon III who had much of the city torn down and rebuilt with wider roads and large elaborate buildings. Victorian Second Empire houses are usually very large and ornate, with lots of floors and windows. They are styled in a box shape with mansard roofs and often include a foreboding tower as a focal point. Some people have said the squared levels and roofs make these houses resemble stacked boxes or a tiered cake. Second Empire houses have been used in twentieth century Halloween and horror movies includingPsycho, The Adams Family, and Beetlejuice.
Interior Design
Victorian floor plans were designed so that each room came off a central hallway and but were closed off from other rooms. The small enclosed space was easier  ....
Read the rest at Country House Reader!

 Don't Forget My Halloween Giveaway Ends this Thursday on Oct. 31!!! 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Halloween History: Gothic Horror Story or Victorian Woman’s Reality?

Victorian Gothic Author Essie Fox
Although I am taking a break from doing my regular blog posts, I am going to be posting links to some of the awesome guest posts I'm doing to promote my Halloween $0.99 cent sale of A White Room. They are all very Unhinged Historian type stuff, so enjoy the posts and enjoy getting to see some new blogs out there that are totally your style. If you like this whacked out blog, then you will love these blogs which are way nicer than this one in my opinion. =)

Today, I want you to check out Victorian Gothic author Essie Fox's website (it's one of the best website designs I've seen BTW) and blog The Virtual Victorian where she has kindly let me post about the historical context of the Victorian Gothic short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in the late 1890s. Some people read the story and think it's just horror, but they don't realize it's actually a feminist message regarding women's status in the Victorian Era and the flawed beliefs surrounding Hysteria. This isn't a run of the mill going over the basics either. It's an in depth article on the topic.

Essie Fox's Victorian Gothic Novel Somnambulist

Also, I highly recommend you check out Essie Fox's Gothic novels because they are something really special and definite must reads for Halloween! Perfect for RIP VIII reading challenge!

Don't forget to enter to win the Halloween Giveaway, including one of two $25 Amazon Gift Cards and don't forget to sign up for my Free email series Insider Secrets on Authorship!
Find out what it’s really like to be a published author, experience the author process, and learn how it’s really done! Sign up for the free email series coming soon!

Here is a sneak peak of my guest post but you will need to visit Essie Fox's The Virtual Victorian to read the entire thing. Enjoy!

A Horror Story or a Message?

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s story “The Yellow Wallpaper” was published in a magazine in the early 1890s. At first glance, many readers, both past and present, see a scary story of either a haunted house or a situation of pure insanity, both of which are elements of Gothic fiction. “The Yellow Wallpaper” is considered a part of the Victorian Gothic and horror genre, but it is much more than that.

The story was inspired by Gilman’s own experiences after seeking help for her “nervousness” and “melancholia” from the famous neurologist S. Weir Mitchell, who was known for his “rest cure”

Historians now look to Gilman’s short story as one of the most revealing inside looks at the experience of a woman diagnosed and treated as a hysteric during the late nineteenth century. Since Gilman was also a feminist with very public ideas regarding her views, this work is also seen as a look into how feminism may have developed during a time when hysteria was being diagnosed on epidemic levels.

What was Hysteria to the Victorians?

Hysteria evolved out of Ancient Greece with theories regarding a woman’s uterus having the ability to wonder the body and affect the brain, an idea that prevailed into the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In fact the smelling salts Victorian women used to prevent themselves from swooning were believed to frighten the uterus away from that area of the body.

Throughout the century, hysteria was commonly associated with nervous or anxious tendencies such as fainting. However, by the late Victorian Era, there were a massive amount of symptoms associated with the condition known as hysteria, and women were diagnosed no matter how unique their actual situation. In many cases, men and women used it as an explanation for any kind of unwanted or erratic female behavior, especially emotional behavior.

There were also a wide variety of cures, including the rest cure (used in “The Yellow Wallpaper”), the water cure, vigorous exercise, vaginal stimulation*, hypnosis (Jean-Martin Charcot), and the beginnings of talk therapy and psychoanalytic analysis (Sigmund Freud). Due to Freud’s work, much of the research on hysteria has had an impact on modern psychology.

*A note on vaginal stimulation. Although many articles focus on the invention of the electric vibrator and the use to create a female orgasm as a treatment for hysteria, this was not the major impact of the hysterical movement on women or society. It did not contribute to any further understanding of female sexuality at the time. The idea of a woman being flawed if unable to climax through penetration prevailed even into the late twentieth century.

Hysteria and the Women’s Movement

In many ways the hysteria movement reflected and or embodied certain problems ...

Read the rest of the post on Essie Fox's The Virtual Victorian!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Christopher's Ectoplastic Travels Through Time: James Braid & The Origin of Hypnotism

By Christopher Thisse

You may or may not know that magic is sometimes called a “Mystery Art”.  This is because the origins of magic delve so far back into history that we can’t even trace them reliably.  I am fairly sure that at some point a cave man realized that if he held a rock a certain way, the other cave men couldn’t see it and they would revere him for being able to suddenly be holding a rock.

                            James Braid.                               This Image is in the Public Domain.   Copyright has expired.
I just haven’t been able to find that cave man yet.  Africa is a big place to search for one cave man.

Another of the original mystery arts is hypnosis. 

This is a subject that has piqued my interests lately.  I don’t know about you, but I am a fan of going back to the origin when learning about a subject.  That means a trip back to the 1800s for this performance artist.

I went back to find a man named Franz Mesmer.  Like the word “Mesmerized”.

Franz Mesmer was the first man to really hypnotize a person.  He believed that there was a force that existed between all people which he referred to as animal magnetism.  He and his followers believed that they were able to basically force their animal magnetism over people and put those people under their control.  This was usually done through a highly ritualized procedure which included robes and glass harmonicas and other such trappings.  This was called Mesmerism.

This was near the time that scientific experimentation was really taking hold.  Mesmer’s procedures and beliefs became passé and intellectually inclined gentlefolk were wise to avoid it if they wanted to maintain a career.  But there was a surgeon, named James Braid, who became interested in the phenomenon when he saw one of Mesmer’s students, Charles Lafontaine, performing feats of mesmerism on November 13th, 1841 in Manchester. 

Braid did not believe that the subjects were under any form of animal magnetism or will of the mesmerist.  However, the subjects were clearly in some kind of altered state.  He noticed that one phenomenon that was clearly true was that the subjects were unable to open their eyes during key moments of the process.  He took this fact and decided that the eyes must have a very important role in the act of putting people into this trance state.

He also theorized that the process need not involve a mesmerist at all.  So he went home and developed an ‘upward and inward squint’.  Using this method he was able to put himself into a trance and thus demolished the idea that an outside entity (such as a mesmerist) was required for this to happen.

Braid developed the techniques further and on November 22nd, 1841 he did a performance of hypnosis (not yet named such), using a Mr. J. A. Walker as his subject.  Soon after, on November 27th he gave a lecture on the subject at Manchester Athenæum in which he was able to demonstrate that he could produce the effects created by Lafontaine without the need to touch any of the subjects.

Wanting to distance himself from the concepts of mesmerists (which was of vital importance if he wished to maintain a respected reputation) he declared the need to separate this valid phenomenon from the claims of mesmerists.  He associated the trance state with sleep, so he went with the name neurypnology (“nervous sleep”).  After some time he renamed it to neuro-hypnotism (Named for the Greek god of Sleep, Hypnos), then shortened it to hypnotism. 

He later realized that the state had little to nothing to do with sleep, and attempted to popularize monoideism, but the term hypnotism had already taken firm hold and wasn’t going anywhere.

Braid maintained that both a mental and physical fixation of the gaze and attention was all that was required, and that this procedure only activated a state which was hard wired into all human beings. 
He successfully used hypnosis to treat a variety of ailments and injuries, but was firm in the belief that hypnotism was not a miracle cure-all.  It was only another form of possible treatment.  He also maintained that only medical professionals should ever use it in a clinical sense. 

Braid was what was known at the time as a gentleman scientist.  He did his research with no affiliation with any institution or government organization, which allowed him to conduct his experiments with a fairly free hand.  Due to his diligence and experimentation, the entire field of hypnosis was legitimized.  He could validly be considered the world’s first hypnotherapist.

Hypnotism is a fascinating and largely misunderstood thing.  Braid used it to treat physical ailments.  We use it to make people think they’re a chicken.  As you do.

Further reading:

Check Out Christopher's New Blog Ectoplastic Travels!

Christopher Thisse is a time traveling psychic magician.  Not all of those things are true. He has been performing semi-professionally for over eight years, starting in a small circus troupe in Providence, Rhode Island.  When he moved to Fresno he shifted his focus to magic and now works for Ellusionist, one of the largest magic companies in the world.  His troupe, Of The Fireflies, has performed for some of the largest events in the Central Valley and Fresno area of California including Trashique, Freedom Fest, CMAC’s Anniversary Event and many ArtHop events.  When not doing impossible things in front of awe-inspired crowds, Christopher can often be found writing urban fantasy themed Steampunk stories, cooking, tending bar at parties, or training his German shepherd puppy. And if all else fails, look for him out in the Black Rock Desert, Or on Facebook!

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