Image Selection of the Week: The Countess of Munster’s Ghostly Tales

This week’s image selection is taken from  Ghostly Tales – an 1896 collection by the Countess of Munster, Wilhelmina Fitzclarence. While the eleven supernatural stories vary in terms of quality, they are accompanied by some wonderfully atmospheric illustrations of ghostly visitation. You can view an edition scanned by the British library here.

Your 1920s Guide to Halloween Party Planning

Plan an authentic 1920 Halloween party with the help of Dennison’s Bogie Book! “Why not invite your friends to a Hallowe’en party and join the fun of trying some of the time-honored ways of finding out what the future holds in store?”  Step 1: Decorate your venue with an inordinate amount of crepe paper. Step 2: Entertain…

Forgotten Fiction Friday: Flaxman Low and The Story of the Moor Road

“…I think I may say that I am the first student in this field of inquiry who has had the boldness to break free from the old and conventional methods, and to approach the elucidation of so-called supernatural problems on the lines of natural law.” Psychological detective and supernatural specialist Flaxman Low is the creation…

Visual Tropes Collection of the Week: Witches and brooms

For our first image collection of this Halloween season, we’re going with a classic and iconic figure: the witch, appropriately accessorised with her (or in some cases, his!) broomstick. Let’s see what’s happening in this scene! “Shall we go to Malkin Tower?” asked Mistress Nutter, shuddering. “No; to the summit of Pendle Hill,” rejoined Mother…

Hereditary ghosts: tales from The Night Side of Nature, 1848

  Catherine Crowe (1790-1872) was a noted Victorian author of fiction and folklore, with a strong interest in spiritual matters and the supernatural.  Her 1848 book The Night Side of Nature; Or, Ghosts and Ghost Seers is a massive collection of stories and anecdotes on the subject of ghosts and weird phenomena, and was wildly…

“On Hallow-Mass Eve the Night-Hag will ride”

In Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley  (1814), a book often heralded as one of the first historical novels, Edward Waverley pays a visit to the Baron of Bradwardine at Tully-Veolan. While there, the Baron’s daughter, Rose Bradwardine sings a haunting ballad about “a projecting peak of an impending crag” that had acquired the strange name of ‘Saint Swithin’s Chair.’ Saint…

Nightmares, Ghosts and Ghouls: a spooky October on the blog

Happy 1st of October to all of our readers!  This month, we’ll be digging into the dusty digital vaults of the British Library Labs, in order to bring you some of the finest in obscure and forgotten spooky fiction, folklore, poetry, and pictures.  And believe me, there’s tons to be getting with – the Victorians…

Insult of the Week: he talked mere drivel

The preacher in residence at St. Hilda’s  Church in Donegal, Mr. Vivian, gets a poor review from Charlotte Riddell in her 1888 novel The Nun’s Curse.  Although his good qualities are many, and he does excellent work with the sinful and/or suffering members of his parish, his preaching abilities are, frankly, nil. Unlearned, unlettered, uncultured…

Six Great 19th Century Novel Bakes

  There are 62 references to cake so far in our 19th- century corpus, ranging from Jane Eyre’s slightly depressing “oaten-cakes” (also found in Shelley’s Frankenstein) to the more lavish offerings of plum-cake, plum-pudding, tea-cake, sponge-cake, and cheese-cake that appear in works by Dickens, Le Fanu and others. Here are a few of the most famous – although…

Image Collection of the Week: A Fleet of Sailing Ships

Today’s image collection comes in honour of that most solemn and dignified of annual celebrations: Talk Like A Pirate Day. And what better source of swashbuckling quotes is there than Robert Louis Stevenson’s formative pirate novel Treasure Island?  Not only has this work given us such celebrated tropes as “Shiver my timbers!”, “Yo-ho-ho and a…

Insult of the Week: “…these bungling imitators”

In Chapter 11 of Maria Edgeworth’s Ennui, the narrator and Lady Geraldine go for a leisurely stroll around the ornamental buildings in the grounds at Ormsby Villa. On their travels, they happen upon Mrs. O’Connor, Lady Kilrush and “a troop of hoyden young ladies” and are promptly invited to view “a poetical inscription of Lady Kilrush’s,…