Fern Hunts

You may wonder how the Victorians entertained themselves before the invention of radio and television. Why, fern hunting, of course!

Victorians were obsessed with ferns. Up until the nineteenth century, ferns were rare in England. To the Victorians, these plants, which date back over 360 million years, captured the mystery and majesty of another era. Naturalist Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward was the first to discover a method of reproducing the plants indoors, in glass terrariums called Wardian cases.

Possessing one’s own fern collection quickly became a sought-after status symbol. Fern-hunting parties became popular among society hostesses, providing an opportunity for women to get outside…and to mingle with men!


1889’s Fall Fashions

The Fall Trends of October 1889, according to Godey’s Lady Book, the leading women’s fashion magazine of the Victorian era.



Fig. 1. Ulster of dark blue cloth, belted into the waist. Felt-trimmed shoulder cape with silk, velvet and feather aigrette.

Fig. 2. Walking costume for lady, made of cloth. The front part of the skirt, full vest front, and lower part of sleeves are plaid, which comes with the costume. Straight skirt, with revers turned back. Hat of velvet, trimmed with feather, and small birds inside the brim.

Mourning in Victorian England

With high mortality rates a fact of life in the Victorian era, so too did mourning become a part of everyday life. Death was so close to home that in order to deal with loss and grief, the Victorians developed a complex set of rituals dedicated to the art of mourning.

As they embraced mortal death with faith in eternity, the fallen sparrow became an enlightened icon for our ancestors, symbolizing heaven’s gain and love lost, if only for a short time.


A Haunting in Niagara, New York

Someone would walk up the stairs every night, walk down the long hallway, look into each room, and then go into the room at the end. My mom always kept the door to that room closed and she stored things like Christmas presents there. She never explained to my brother and me why we shared a room and couldn’t have that one.

One night my mom woke up and the woman came into her room and sat on the bed. My mom said she could see her perfectly. Her lips were moving like she was saying something, and my mom started to cry. The woman left and continued to walk down the hall looking into each room. Finally, she went into the room at the end.

We would tell my mother about what we saw and would say, “No, no, no.” She didn’t want to scare us, and we were Catholic, so we weren’t supposed to believe in stuff like that.

Years later, my mother told us that the woman who lived there before us


had died in the house during childbirth, along with her baby. When we were two or three years old, my mom would hear a baby crying down the hall. She would go to check on us, but we would be dead asleep.

All of these encounters are burned into my memory. There were the bells on the hutch that jingled by themselves. We would turn off the TV, and it would turn back on and start flipping through the channels. The dogs would stare at certain things and growl. I would see people walk by out of the corner of my eye.

I was never comfortable in that house, and I was relieved when we moved. My friend still lives across the street, and when I go to visit him I don’t even look at the house, though I still have dreams where I’m standing in the front of the house and a ghostly woman in a house dress is sitting at the window looking out, almost like she’s happy to see me.



Adapted from the book Haunted Houses by Corinne May Botz.

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Merry Music Makers

The Gramophone

The first successful system of sound recording – the gramophone – was invented by Emile Berliner, a German immigrant working in Washington D.C., in 1887. Emile was the first inventor to begin recording on flat discs, or records.

23635_largeWhat was revolutionary about Berliner records is that they were the first type of sound recording that could be mass produced. Although each record could only comfortably fit about two minutes of music, Emile succeeded in making music accessible to the middle classes, playing a large role in the dissemination of music in the early 20th century.

As a new form of entertainment was born, another new invention appeared almost overnight – the music industry. With the public hungry for recordings of popular and traditional music, demand arose for new music, creating worldwide musical stars. Bands, ensembles and singers who were previously unknown became nationwide sensations.


With the invention of his gramophone, Emile Berliner also launched the Gramophone Company to manufacture his records and the gramophones that played them. To help promote the brand, Berliner persuaded popular artists such as Enrico Caruso and Dame Nellie Melba to record their music using his system.

The Radio

It is Guglielmo Marconi who is credited as the father and inventor of the household radio. In the 1920s, radio became the leading source of information for the public, as well as a source of entertainment. Families gathered together in front of the radio, tuned in to their favorite program, became a common occurrence in many households. Live musical performances dominated the airwaves in the early years, followed later by news, dramas, comedy acts, talk and educational programs.

20342_largeFor the first time, many in the world could experience historical and performance events together in live time, drawing people together for moments of national importance. Radio allowed its users to stay home while feeling connected to the larger world.

The radio transcended political, cultural, and economic boundaries. In 1930, more than 40 percent of American households owned a radio. In the 1940s, that number more than doubled to 83 percent.

Still Cooking

Two decades have passed since Diana first saw in a dream the perfect white house with pillars. The very next day as she took a drive through town, she turned onto a street she was unfamiliar with and was astonished to see the house from her dream.

Before long, she had moved into the two-story house, but discovered that she was afraid to go upstairs. Something about the top floor gave her the creeps. “It was as if it were haunted,” she said.


One morning, Diana got out of bed, and as she padded barefoot into the kitchen, she smelled bacon cooking. There in the middle of the room was an older woman smiling kindly at her. “Good morning, dear,” the woman chirped. “Would you like breakfast?”

The sound crackling bacon filled the air as she stared at the woman. She was grandmotherly with short, softly curled white hair. She was wearing an apron. It was white with two big pockets, trimmed in cobalt blue, and there were little flowers all over it.

As the smiling woman waited for a response, Diana found herself politely replying, “No, thank you.”

The image was so vivid that all these year later, Diana can still picture it. “It was as if she belonged there.” It seemed like the most natural scene in the world – until Diana remembered that she didn’t know the woman.

The next time Diana saw her landlord, she told him about the odd occurrence.“Oh,” he said nonchalantly. “That was just my mom. She lived there until she died.”


Adapted from the book Ghosts Among Us by Leslie Rule.

For more haunted tales, buy the book on our website: http://www.victoriantradingco.com/item/60-bk-6010282/100101100/ghosts-among-us.

Cedar Point Ghost

Opened in 1870 on Lake Erie, Cedar Point is the second-oldest amusement park in America and was home to the 1921 Dentzel Carousel, which traveled from park to park until landing there in 1971.v_carousel_hampstead_heath

Artist Shelly was unaware of the stories whispered by employees about the ghostly lady who rode the carousel at night. She was simply fascinated by historic carousels – so fascinated that she made them the main subject of her work. Her life-sized renderings in pastels and oils depict carved animals from famous carousels. As drawn as she was to some of those marvelous menageries, she cannot explain why one plain old brownish horse captivated her two decades ago.

“I spent several days in a row, one summer, going back and photographing it,” she confided. She had no idea that the one horse by which she was so inexplicably mesmerized was haunted.

During its time at Cedar Point, the carousel charmed children during the day and frightened employees at night. For it was then, when the park whaunted horseas closed, lights off and the workers sweeping up, that the carousel would come to life. It would start up – light, music and all – and a ghostly woman in a long white dress would mount the carousel horse. She always chose the same brown horse that Shelley had, carved in 1924 by Daniel C. Muller. As the specter rode around, witnesses swore that the carousel glowed.

Legend has it that Mrs. Muller fell in love with the horse that her husband had carved. So much so, that after she left this world, her spirit would return to Cedar Point for a ride on the carousel.



Adapted from the book Ghosts Among Us by Leslie Rule.

For more haunted tales, buy the book on our website: http://www.victoriantradingco.com/item/60-bk-6010282/100101100/ghosts-amon

Alice’s Grave

Alice’s family was very prominent in Pawley’s Island, South Carolina. When she had her coming-out party, her brother, who was studying to be a doctor, brought a friend who was working his way through school. When he and Alice met, they fell in love.

They got engaged, but because his social standing was so far below that of her family, she was forbidden to see the young man again. She hid her engagement ring on a chain around her neck.

A few months later, Alicegravestone-378673_960_720 caught malaria. Because her family was in Europe at the time, her brother came from Charleston to take care of her. During the course of her delirium, her brother was sponging her down in an attempt to lower her fever when he came across the ring around her neck. He ripped it off her neck and threw it down the stairwell.

Alice went up and down the stairwell looking for her ring, all the while reducing her strength. Within weeks she died from the disease. As she had disgraced her family, her grave was marked with only her first name.

Since her death, a misty figure with a long white dress and long blond hair has been seen around the house where Alice died. They say if you wear a ring and walk the well-worn path around her tombstone backward, you’ll see her ghost rise up, turning the ring on your finger to see if it’s her missing ring.


Adapted from the book Haunted Houses by Corinne May Botz.

For more haunted tales, purchase this item on our website: http://www.victoriantradingco.com/item/80-bk-8023154/108104/haunted-houses.


Victorian Slide Jewelry

Before the invention of the wrist watch, Victorian women would wear their hunter case watches as a necklace, adding ornate, engraved pieces to the chain. Thus, slide jewelry was born!


Composed of a “starter” chain with various gemstone “slides” added to it, Victorian slide jewelry allowed women to customize to their liking, much like the charm bracelets of today.834_large

Common slides included stick pin heads, tiny lockets, buttons, and loosened gemstones. The diversity of pieces contributed to the unique and fascinating beauty of each piece.

Certain slides had certain meanings – a fan for flirtation, a rose for passion, bows for devotion, a wreath for faith, a glove for loyalty, an orb for wisdom.