Display Pagerank
Welcome to Curious History - Named one of the 20 best Tumblrs by MSN. The world is filled with strange and natural wonders. You will find them here. Please consider a small donation (upper left corner)!

Victorian Postmortem Photography

Painting the dead was a common occurrence for centuries, so it’s no surprise that in the Victorian era, postmortem photography became standard practice. 

The beginnings of memento mori photography can be traced back to the invention of photography. During the 19th century, postmortem portraits were used to announce and mourn the death of a loved one, especially a baby or child. All social classes engaged in the practice, which became more widespread after the introduction of the daguerreotype photo in 1839. The subjects of the photos were generally arranged to appear as if asleep or even in standing positions. 

For the poor during this era, many peoples only photograph was taken after they died. Families would scrape together enough money to have a memorial photo of the deceased family member with surviving members. For many, these staged photos were the only family portraits ever taken. These photos were kept in the family’s memorial album.

source 1, 2, 3

The Ancient Art of Honey Hunting in Nepal

The Gurange tribes of Nepal have been collecting honey from Himalayan cliffs for centuries. The Gurung are master honey hunters, risking their lives collecting honeycomb using nothing more than handmade rope ladders and long sticks known as tangos.

Most of the honey bees’ nests are located on steep, inaccessible, southwest facing cliffs to avoid predators and for increased exposure to direct sunlight.

Aside from the dangers of falling, they are harvesting honey from the largest honey bees in the world. The Himalayan honey bee can grow up to 3 cm in length.

Before a hunt can commence, the honey hunters are required to perform a ceremony to placate the cliff gods. This involves sacrificing a sheep, offering flowers, fruits and rice, and praying to the cliff gods to ensure a safe hunt.

Photographer Andrew Newey spent two weeks living with the Gurung in central Nepal, documenting the risks and skill involved in this dying tradition.

(Source: theguardian.com)

Highgate Cemetery - London’s Most Haunted

Highgate Cemetery is steeped in supernatural lore. Constructed out of need with six other cemeteries in the early 1800s, with London’s population nearing a million and the death toll rising, there was no more room to bury the dead. This cemetery is one of the most famous in the world, with many notable historic figures, such as Karl Marx, buried there.

The architecture of the cemetery is truly unique. In the heart of the grounds is an eccentric structure called the Egyptian Avenue which consists of sixteen vaults, entered via a great arch. Each vault fits twelve coffins, purchased and used by individual families. This avenue leads to the Circle of Lebanon which was built in the same style consisting of thirty six vaults. A separate gothic-styled catacomb, named the Terrace Catacombs, has an additional fifty five vaults.

But what lures most people to the cemetery are the legends and myths that include ghosts, a vampire and other unexplained phenomena. Spirits coming out of the mausoleums, a glowing woman who roams the paths in between the graves, a man in a top hat, and misty ghosts that hang around the tombs are just some of the the spirits that inhabit the cemetery. Its the account of the “Highgate Vampire” that makes the site legendary.

The first report was in 1970, when a young man reported that he had seen a dark figure resembling a vampire in the cemetery. Since then, hundreds of claims of suspected vampires continued to be reported. Helping the belief along was the fact that dead foxes, with their throats torn open, kept turning up on the grounds. Aside from ghosts and a resident vampire, Highgate Cemetery in London is a hauntingly beautiful place to visit, or spend eternity.

Paris Catacombs

By the light of torches, candles or miners lights, haunting scenes centuries old appear to unfold. Scenes of skulls, bones and death are everywhere. The passages can be as low as three feet overhead or even less. The air heavy with dust, and the ground underfoot flooded with grimy water splashing way over your shoes. In tunnels up to 100 feet below the surface bustle of one of the world’s great cities, another clandestine world exists.

Consulting maps, self-trained guides lead the way, while others look for opportunities to take photographs. Exploring the Paris Catacombs, also known as the Mines of Paris, carries risk. For one, it is strictly illegal, with special police and their dogs patrolling the vast subterranean network. There is also a very real danger of getting lost, as well as the chance of cave-ins in some places.

(Source: environmentalgraffiti.com)

Sokushinbutsu - The Bizarre Practice of Self-Mummification

Scattered throughout Northern Japan around the Yamagata Prefecture are two dozen mummified Japanese monks known as Sokushinbutsu, who caused their own deaths by way of self-mummification. A successful mummification took upwards of ten years. It is believed that many hundreds of monks tried, but only about 20 such mummifications have been discovered to date.

The elaborate process started with three years of eating a special diet consisting only of nuts and seeds, while taking part in a regimen of rigorous physical activity that stripped them of their body fat. They then ate only bark and roots for another three years and began drinking a poisonous tea made from the sap of the Urushi tree, normally used to lacquer bowls.

This caused vomiting and a rapid loss of bodily fluids, and most importantly, it made the body too poisonous to be eaten by maggots. Finally, a self-mummifying monk would lock himself in a stone tomb barely larger than his body, where he would not move from the lotus position. His only connection to the outside world was an air tube and a bell. Each day he rang a bell to let those outside know that he was still alive.

When the bell stopped ringing, the tube was removed and the tomb sealed. After the tomb was sealed, the other monks in the temple would wait another three years, and open the tomb to see if the mummification was successful. If the monk had been successfully mummified, they were immediately seen as a Buddha and put in the temple for viewing. Usually, though, there was just a decomposed body.

Seven Vintage Tips on How to Keep Your Man

As the literature referenced below, written throughout the early to mid-20th-century tells us, your man is one cold meal short of leaving you. Read the hilariously old tips for keeping your man happy in and out of bed. However, some tips still ring true today. How times haven’t changed much.

1. Don’t Talk

Refer to the first four commandments on “How to be a Good Wife” in Edward Podolsky’s 1943 book Sex Today in Wedded Life:

Be a good listener. Let him tell you his troubles; yours will seem trivial in comparison.

Remember your most important job is to build up and maintain his ego (which gets bruised plenty in business). Morale is a woman’s business.

Let him relax before dinner. Discuss family problems after the inner man has been satisfied.

In his 1951 book, Sex Satisfaction and Happy Marriage, Reverend Alfred Henry Tyrer has more to add to that. Asking for things is “nagging”:

I verily believe that the happiness of homes is destroyed more frequently by the habit of nagging than by any other one. A man may stand that sort of thing (nagging) for a long time, but the chances are against his standing it permanently. If he needs peace to make life bearable, he will have to look for it elsewhere than in his own house. And it is quite likely that he will look.

2. Bad Cooking Will Drive Your Man to Seedy Saloons

Reverend Tyrer states further:

A social service meeting, an afternoon tea, a matinee, a what-not, is no excuse for there being no dinner ready when a husband comes home from a hard day’s work.

Housekeeping accomplishments and cooking ability are, of course, positive essentials in any true home, and every wife should take a reasonable pride in her skill. Happiness does not flourish in an atmosphere of dyspepsia.

3. Be the Hot Steak, Not the Pork Chop

Speaking of cooking, Reverend Tyrer has a metaphor for you.  

Picture a woman preparing a fine meal for her husband. “She remembered his choice of meat and was careful to get an extra-fine cut…her best cutlery and dishes and finest linen are all in evidence, and a little colorful decoration has been tastefully displayed….and as he comes into the house she greets him with a smile of welcome and a touch of manifest love.”  

But say that same wife “is constantly setting him down to indigestible meals, cold and unappetizing, with nothing properly cooked, set out on a kitchen table with a dirty cloth, she need not be surprised if her husband frequently telephones from the office that business will prevent him from being home for dinner.” 

4. Don’t Be a Sexual Vampire or a Frigid Franny

Dr. William Josephus Robinson, one of the earliest sexologists and advocate of birth control, tells us in his book Woman, Her Sex and Love Life in 1927 warns us of the lures of women becoming “sexual vampires”, sucking the life force right out of your husband:

Just as the vampire sucks the blood of its victims in their sleep while they are alive, so does the woman vampire suck the life and exhaust the vitality of her male partner—or “victim.”

Now, if you are one of those frigid or sexually anesthetic women, don’t be in a hurry to inform your husband about it. To the man it makes no difference in the pleasurableness of the act whether you are frigid or not unless he knows that you are frigid. And he won’t know unless you tell him, and what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. Heed this advice. It has saved thousands of women from trouble.

5. Pink Panties are a Must

That the underwear should be spotlessly clean goes without saying, but every woman should wear the best quality underwear that she can afford. And the color should be preferably pink. And lace and ruffles, I am sorry to say, add to the attractiveness of underwear, and are liked by the average man.

6. Let Him Have Some Fun Now and Then

Dr. Robinson says that ultimately, a wife will react to infidelity as her heart dictates:

But in case of an occasional lapse on the part of the husband—there a bit of advice may prove acceptable. And my advice would be: forgive and forget. Or still better—make believe that you know nothing. An occasional lapse from the straight path does not mean that he has ceased to love you. He may love you as much; he may love you a good deal more.

7. Your Husband is the Boss of You

It is fitting to close with the most opposed belief by the women’s movement written by renowned eugenicist Professor B.G. Jefferis, in his 1921 book Searchlights on Health, The Science of Eugenics:

The Number One Rule. Reverence Your Husband.—He sustains by God’s order a position of dignity as head of a family, head of the woman. Any breaking down of this order indicates a mistake in the union, or a digression from duty.

source 1, 2