In the Victorian era, things were often deceptively civilized. This, for example, would seem to be a perfectly innocent family photo. But if you look closely, the parents are noticeably more blurry than their daughter, who remains in focus. That’s because they were moving. Death photos were a popular trend at the time.

Like the much older tradition of creating masks of recently deceased people, photographs were taken of the dead, often posed as if they were still living – because that’s the most healthy way to grieve. To our modern eye this trend might cause alarm, but it was a common practice for decades.

More Creepy Traditions

Another creepy Victorian trend was Taxidermy Hats – people literally wore dead animals on their heads. Most opted for birds, but sometimes you would see squirrels or even cats. It’s unclear why this became a popular fashion trend among the upper classes, but to be fair, people today get face tattoos. At least you can remove a dead cat hat. I don’t know why so many strange and creepy things emerged in the 19th century – it was just a strange and creepy time. Also emerging during the Victorian era was the trend of sending Christmas cards, the first commercially available cards being sold in the 1840s.

But as you can probably guess, a lot of the cards sold were strangely disturbing. Well, they were not that disturbing – but they were bad enough to scare children – and weren’t exactly whimsical They feature things like dead robins, strange animal human hybrids, and children being boiled alive.

One of the most common themes was anthropomorphized frogs – usually they are dancing or having fun together. But one card depicts a frog on frog murder. I like to think it commemorates a real life crime. This one is quite creepy – something about faces growing out of flowers. Pig ones are always good to see, I think because they remind me of my subscribers

Even the more traditional themed cards can be odd – ones with Santa Claus for example. The problem with depicting old men around children is there’s a fine line between creepy and wholesome, and I think somewhere along the way they just gave up and made him a criminal.

I don’t know what this is.

Victorian Christmas Cards

Another common theme is stock animals turning the tables on humans – which again, I enjoy, but they’re not really inline with the Christmas spirit. Similar cards show mythical creatures getting ready to attack humans, and if you send this to someone, it’s just a threat.

Clowns seem to be another common theme that history forgot. You’ve got to remember the symbolism of Christmas was still being decided in those days – so rather than relying on older traditions, people just threw out any idea they had – like goats, or little devils who attack people.

Not all Christmas cards of the era were strange – many were pretty normal and boring – but nobody wants to watch a video on that. I will mention that there was a class divide between them though, with creepy or funny cards seen as lowbrow.

Upper class people tended to shun them – so it’s impressive how many of them have survived into the modern world. If you want to see more, I have a board full of them on my Pinterest account, or you can just google Victorian Christmas cards.

Happy Christmas.

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