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Featured oddities

Friday Featured Oddities #3: Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

Today’s featured oddities are a collection of memento mori, a reminder to never forget the transitory nature of life.
Memento mori
Sic transit gloria mundi blanket from Strike Gently Co.

One thing in life is absolutely certain: No one gets out alive. If the wisest and wealthiest of the human race, giants like Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Stephen Hawking, or David Bowie, cannot avoid the inevitable, what chance do those of us clinging to the bottom rungs have?

Even if Walt really is cryogenically frozen beneath Disneyland’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” attraction, awaiting some future technology capable of restoring life to his inanimate corpse, he is still currently a corpse. A spark of life that flared out long ago, like the ghost lights of long dead stars that haunt our night sky.

By the time the light reaches our eyes, the source has already burnt out.

Sic transit gloria mundi, “thus passes the glory of the world.”

Memento Mori Ring

Sterling skull and hourglass memento mori ring
A sterling ring with skulls and hourglasses by artist Angela Kirkpatrick. Find this and other post-mortem keepsakes in Angela’s shop right here.

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi Woven Blanket

Sic transit gloria woven blanket
Comfy woven blanket or death shroud? Either way, it’s sure to keep your bones cozy. Available from Strike Gently Co. right here.

Life After Death Print

Life After Death art print
To the dust we will return. I’d rather be fodder for nature than a soupy mess inside a sealed box. This 11×17 print of an illustration by artist Kyle Awesome is available right here.


Do you have art or oddities available online that should be included in an upcoming Friday Featured Oddities?
Send photos, links, and descriptions to info@cultofweird.com

The Spirit Photography of William H. Mumler

Who created the first spirit photograph? Here’s the history behind the final October Instagram giveaway question.
William H. Mumler created the first spirit photograph

Since we’ve been giving away copies of Colin Dickey’s new book Ghostland all month in memento mori-themed “Boxes of Weird” for the October Instagram trivia contest, it only seemed fitting to reach out to the author himself for the fourth and final question.

Mr. Dickey graciously accepted the challenge, asking “Who created the first spirit photograph?”

Interestingly, the question highlights a quirky bit of history. In 1862 a New York jewellery engraver and amateur photographer named William H. Mumler created what is considered the first spirit photograph when he accidentally shot a double exposure image. He joked with a friend that it was a ghost. The friend believed him and began spreading the word. Soon business was booming for Mumler as people who had lost loved ones in the civil war flocked to him for one last photo of the deceased.

Mumler even captured a photograph of the widowed Mary Todd Lincoln with what appeared to be the spirit of her assassinated husband, President Abraham Lincoln. Mumler claimed he didn’t even know who the woman was when he photographed her, so he couldn’t have faked the photo.

William H. Mumler spirit photograph of Abraham Lincoln
Spirit photograph of Abraham Lincoln by William H. Mumler, c.1872

READ:

Ironically, P. T. Barnum took him to court in 1869. The showman, who was responsible for numerous hoaxes himself, was accusing Mumler of fraud. Mumler, he said, was taking advantage of people whose judgment was clouded by grief. He supported this with claims that some of Mumler’s spirits were still among the living, as well as accusations that he had broken into people’s homes to steal photos of the deceased. The famed spirit photographer was found not guilty, but the accusations were enough to end his career.

While Mumler’s original photo is considered the first official spirit photograph, a man named W. Campbell from Jersey City actually did it first. A year prior to Mumler’s photo, Campbell took a test shot of an empty chair. But when the plate was developed, the image of a small boy had appeared in the chair. Campbell was never able to reproduce it, though, so Mumler’s uncanny ability to capture ghosts again and again was favored by the burgeoning spiritualist movement.

While the answer we were looking for was William H. Mumler, technically W. Campbell could not be discounted.

After putting it to vote, the winner of the 4th and final question this Halloween season is:

Spirit photography
Spirit photography by Troy Walter @fiend4halloween

There were a couple other really great contenders:

Spirit photography
Art by T. Davidsohn @thmdvdshn

William Mumler spirit photography
Mumler Family Photo by Squid @spookysquids

Memento Mori

Memento mori box of weird featuring macabre oddities

Thank you so much to everyone who played along this month, there were so many great entries! And HUGE thanks to Viking Books for contributing copies of Ghostland by Colin Dickey, Dead Sled Brand for the Hearse Drivers Union buttons, Grave Digger Candles for the black beeswax spine candles, and Poison Apple Printshop for “The Pallbearers” patches!

Happy Halloween! Follow @cultofweird on Instagram. And don’t forget, when you find weird things on your adventures tag @cultofweird or #cultofweird.

Here are the results of the previous weeks:

Dissecting the Meaning of the Anatomical Venus

What is an Anatomical Venus? The Cult of Weird community dissected some lovely ladies for the answer to this week’s giveaway question on Instagram.
Anatomical Venus

In 18th century Europe, wax anatomical models of idealized female figures that could be opened up and dissected became the popular method of studying human anatomy. Here’s a great description from The Anatomical Venus: Wax, God, Death & the Ecstatic by Morbid Anatomy cofounder Joanna Ebenstein:

Of all the artifacts from the history of medicine, the Anatomical Venus?with its heady mixture of beauty, eroticism and death?is the most seductive. These life-sized dissectible wax women reclining on moth-eaten velvet cushions?with glass eyes, strings of pearls, and golden tiaras crowning their real human hair?were created in eighteenth-century Florence as the centerpiece of the first truly public science museum. Conceived as a means to teach human anatomy, the Venus also tacitly communicated the relationship between the human body and a divinely created cosmos; between art and science, nature and mankind. Today, she both intrigues and confounds, troubling our neat categorical divides between life and death, body and soul, effigy and pedagogy, entertainment and education, kitsch and art.

Get the book on Amazon right here.

For the contest, correct answers have to be submitted in the form of a photo or video post on Instagram. The more creative, the better. I narrowed down the entries to 4 finalists, then let the Cult community vote. The winner of this week’s memento mori Box of Weird is @juleababs:

Anatomical Venus

There were many other great entries this week, including a dissected Barbie, a life size mannequin, and some other great works of art. Here are my favorites:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BLzDzChgBRr/

Box of Weird: Memento Mori Edition

Memento mori box of weird featuring macabre oddities

There is just ONE MORE chance this month to win a Box of Weird filled with a copy of the brand new release Ghostland by Colin Dickey courtesy of Viking Books, Hearse Driver’s Union buttons from Dead Sled Brand, a black beeswax spine candle from Grave Digger Candles, morbid patches and stickers from Poison Apple Printshop, real antique coffins screws, a diecast Matchbox hearse, and more macabre oddities. Follow @cultofweird on Instagram and turn on notifications so you don’t miss anything.

The FINAL QUESTION will be posted Monday morning.

UPDATE: 10/29/2016 The contest has ended. Here are the results of the other weeks:

Dancing on the Dead at London’s Enon Chapel

In the mid-1800s, why were dances held at London’s Enon Chapel called “Dances of the Dead?” Here are the results of this week’s contest.
Victorian Golgotha

Week two of the October Instagram contest was a bit trickier than the previous week. The question was: In the mid-1800s, why were dances held at London’s Enon Chapel called “Dances of the Dead?”

Dancing with the Dead at Enon Chapel

Enon Chapel was run by Mr. W. Howse, a greedy Baptist minister who offered premium burials beneath the church for a mere 15 shillings – much cheaper than other options. To keep from running out of space, Howse chopped up the coffins and used them for firewood so he could fit more bodies in. As the corpses piled up in the basement and open sewer, the smell of decay began to creep up through the simple board floor. During the summer months, parishioners and sunday school children were plagued by corpse flies and other insects that feasted on the rotting human remains beneath.

When Howse died in 1844, over 12,000 bodies had been interred beneath the chapel. The new tenants covered the old wooden floor with a layer of brick and capitalized on the morbid curiosities of the time by offering “dancing on the dead.”

Read more about London’s Victorian Golgotha in an article by Carla Valentine right here.

For the contest, correct answers have to be submitted in the form of a photo or video post on Instagram. The more creative, the better. I narrowed down the entries to 4 finalists, then let the Cult community vote. The winner of this week’s memento mori Box of Weird is this multimedia piece called “Victorian Golgotha” by @mybrainchild:

Victorian Golgotha

Here are the grotesque and beautiful entries from the other three finalists:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BLfPaa8hEE5/?tagged=cultofweird

See all the entries at #cultofweird

Box of Weird: Memento Mori Edition

Memento mori box of weird featuring macabre oddities

There are two more chances this month to win a Box of Weird filled with a copy of the brand new release Ghostland by Colin Dickey courtesy of Viking Books, Hearse Driver’s Union buttons from Dead Sled Brand, a black beeswax spine candle from Grave Digger Candles, morbid patches and stickers from Poison Apple Printshop, real antique coffins screws, a diecast Matchbox hearse, and more macabre oddities. Follow @cultofweird on Instagram.

The next question is coming Monday.

UPDATE: 10/29/2016 The contest has ended. Here are the results of the other weeks:

Digging Up the Afterlife of Charlie Chaplin’s Remains

The remains of which silent film star were stolen from the grave in 1978 and held for ransom? Here are the results of this week’s contest.
Charlie Chaplin's grave was robbed and his body held for ransom in 1978

For the first week of the October Instagram contest I decided to ask a question regarding one of my favorite tales of grave robbery: The remains of which silent film star were stolen from the grave in 1978 and held for ransom?

The answer, of course, is Charlie Chaplin. Just a couple months after his death two men dug up his remains from his grave in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland and demanded a large sum of money from his wife Oona. She refused to pay, stating that Charlie would have thought it was ridiculous. The men were caught a short time later. Chaplin’s coffin was found buried in a nearby field. He was re-interred, this time in concrete to prevent another such incident.

For the contest, correct answers have to be submitted in the form of a photo or video post on Instagram. The more creative, the better. I had to narrow down the entries to the top 4 finalists, then let the Cult community vote for their favorite.

The competition was stiff (with rigor mortis) but the clear winner of this week’s memento mori Box of Weird is this submission from @loriroes:

Charlie Chaplin grave robbery

The other three finalists did some fine work as well:

The corpse of Charlie Chaplin
By Troy Walter @fiend4halloween

Charlie Chaplin video
By @danahuffsmith. Watch the video right here.

Charlie Chaplin and his grave
By Squid @spookysquids

See all the entries at #cultofweird

Box of Weird: Memento Mori Edition

Memento mori box of weird featuring macabre oddities

There are three more chances this month to win a Box of Weird filled with a copy of the brand new release Ghostland by Colin Dickey courtesy of Viking Books, Hearse Driver’s Union buttons from Dead Sled Brand, a black beeswax spine candle from Grave Digger Candles, morbid patches and stickers from Poison Apple Printshop, real antique coffins screws, a diecast Matchbox hearse, and more macabre oddities. Follow @cultofweird on Instagram.

The next question is coming Monday.

UPDATE: 10/29/2016 The contest has ended. Here are the results of the other weeks: