Cut through the “holiday season” treacle with these weird and macabre finds guaranteed to delight your strangest and most wonderful friends.
The Victorian Book of the Dead
The Victorian Book of the Dead unearths extraordinary tales of Victorian funeral fads and fancies, ghost stories, bizarre deaths, mourning novelties, gallows humor, premature burial, post-mortem photographs, death omens, and funeral disasters. Selected and edited by Chris Woodyard, this morbid compendium resurrects from original sources the oddities and eccentricities of Victorian mourning, ranging from the paranormal and shocking to the heartbreaking. Some of the macabre oddities covered in The Victorian Book of the Dead include mourning bicycles, black boudoirs, and sable cigarettes for the up-to-date widow.
Krampus Christmas Tree Ornaments
Krampus is officially a thing now, so there’s lots of Krampusnacht themed stuff on Etsy, but some of my favorites are these Krampus Christmas Tree Ornaments, because from a distance they look relatively innocuous, but when viewed up close reveal horrific little vintage Krampus scenes. There are twelve patterns to choose from, all based on vintage Krampus prints.
A Mummified Fairy
For the spoiled brat in the family who just loves pretty little fairies oh so much, a shriveled up corpse version of same will be a great reminder that all things must die. Christmas isn’t Christmas until you have made a child cry.
Teeth, Taxidermy, and other Delights at the Morbid Anatomy Holiday Fair
If you happen to be in NYC from December 13th to 14th, stop by the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Gowanus and pick out something surprising at their holiday gift fair. They also have a great selection of books as well.
Books and Tours from Boroughs of the Dead
If you love the hidden histories of NYC, or just want to read some NYC-set short horror fiction, visit our Shop page and buy oodles of gift certificates and copies of my book for everyone you know! You can snag the paperback of Boroughs of the Dead for only $10, and pick up infinite numbers of gift certificates good for any regular public Boroughs of the Dead tour. I also offer private tours, which make an excellent, personal, and dare I say very classy gift. Also pairs well with a couple of human teeth.
Antique Trepanation Drill from circa 1920
Anything in the vein of antique medical equipment gets me truly excited, so I’ll periodically browse eBay for new treasures. My favorite item right now is this Antique Trepanation Drill from circa 1920. Trepanning, in case you haven’t had the procedure performed lately, is when you drill a hole in your head to let headaches or evil spirits out. It’s a medical technique that’s been around since antiquity, and frankly is due for a comeback.
A new magazine devoted to ghosts, the macabre and the oh-so peculiar in the vein of M.R. James, Charles Dickens, Henry James, Susan Hill, Walter de la Mare, H.P. Lovecraft, Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly, and more. You can buy their first collection here.
Poe Pendants and Earrings by P. Neil Ralley
There’s plenty of Poe jewelery online, but it’s especially thrilling when it’s made by the curator of the Poe Cottage in the Bronx. You can find his designs here. The cottage itself also features a small gift shop, if you want to go the extra mile and head up there.
Anything from Obscura Antiques and Oddities
Again, if you happen to be in the NYC area, it’s more than worth your time to stop into Obscura Antiques and Oddities (made famous by the TV show Oddities). An astonishing collection of ephemera like 19th century stereoscopes, postcards, prints, and old maps, as well as taxidermy, antique medical equipment, and other unexpected one-of-a-kind delights.
Nautilus Antique Scientific Instruments and Oddities
While Obscura doesn’t sell online, the Italian antiquarian outfit Nautilus does, and they’ve got a pretty stunning collection. Their collection is divided into Medicalia, Artificialia, Naturalia, and Books. I like their French Thumbcuffs (a.k.a thumbscrews), which really bring me back to my innocent childhood days of reading about the European witch trials, and their antique straightjacket from an Italian asylum. Unfortunately that last item has been sold, but the 17th century dissecting table is still available.
Did I leave anything out? If you are someone you know has a unique, macabre gift idea they’d like to share, please drop me a line and I’ll be glad to add it to the list, if appropriate. Thanks!