May 2, 2018 11:19 am

Pictures of Victorian Era graves with cages like this over them have been circulating all over the Internet for a long time. They often say that they were to stop the person from reanimating and becoming a zombie. While that’s a really cool story, it’s unfortunately not the truth. Victorian Era people were superstitious and did have a lot of really interesting beliefs about death, but these cages weren’t there to stop them from coming back.

These cages, called mortsafes, were actually used to stop living people from breaking in and stealing the body. Medical students often needed a corpse to study, but they weren’t given very many by the government, so they had to turn to other methods of getting their bodies. So, the mortsafe was invented to stop people from breaking in to the grave to steal the body or anything they were buried with.

4. Women Mourned For How Long?!

Mourning in the Victorian Era was a serious deal. They even had manuals that would instruct you on exactly how long you were supposed to mourn for different family members! And it was very important that people see that you’re in mourning for the entire period of time. This involved wearing all black and, depending on who the family member was, maybe even retreating from society until the period was over.

If an upper class woman’s husband died, she was expected to wear all black and be in mourning for anywhere from two to four years. Some women even chose to wear the color for the rest of their lives to signify that they were a widow and were still in mourning. In addition to wearing her modest black clothes, she wasn’t supposed to go to social events for a year!

3. Surgery Without Anesthesia

Surgery is scary. The idea of being put under anesthesia while a group of people cut into you and then stitch you back up? Yikes! Luckily, doctors today are trained professionals who go through years of schooling before they go anywhere near a person’s body. But, in the Victorian Era, not even an education would save a person from a surgery gone wrong. The most horrifying thing about surgery back in the day is that they would operate without anesthesia. Yep, that means that surgery had to be fast! Something simple like an amputation would only last a matter of minutes because they really had to get in, get it done, and get out because the person would be in excruciating pain the entire time.

But, the pain was hardly the worst part of surgery in the 19th century. Many patients would bleed to death, go into shock and die, or get an infection that would take their life during healing. In a clean operating room, the mortality rate was around 1 in 10. In a dirty one, it was closer to 1 in 4, but doctors didn’t realize that there was a correlation for quite a while.

2. Covered Mirrors

Mirrors have quite a long history of creeping people out. How many horror movies have you seen where the person closes their medicine cabinet and sees a ghost or a killer standing behind them? And I’m sure we’ve all heard of the “Bloody Mary” game where you go into a dark room, look into the mirror, and say her name three times. Throughout history, mirrors were constantly being attached to stories about the devil coming through the glass, bringing bad luck, or showing the person who looked into it a secret truth about themselves. But no one had a creepier superstition when it came to mirrors than people in the Victorian Era did.

If someone died in their home, the women in the house would immediately rush to cover all the mirrors with a dark cloth. Why they did this has a couple explanations. One is that they believed if they walked past the mirror and saw their deceased loved one looking back at them, it meant they would die next. The other is that they thought the spirit would be forever trapped inside the mirror and never be able to find peace. While those are probably not true and not a common practice anymore, both of those are pretty scary to me!

1. Hysteria Diagnoses

During my senior year of high school, we read a short story called “The Yellow Wallpaper” in AP English. When I read it as a teenager, I thought it was just a creepy story about a lady who went crazy in her bedroom — which on the surface, it sort of was. While the narrator of the story said that she was just sent up to her bedroom to rest after having a child, most analyses of the story agree that she had what was called “hysteria.” Hysteria was a diagnosis in the 19th century given to women for, well, everything. The list for what could get a woman during that time diagnosed with hysteria was incredibly extensive and it basically boiled down to acting in a way that people didn’t like.

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This post was written by Nadia Vella