Halloween is thought to originate from a Gaelic festival called Samhain that marked the end of the harvest season and the start of a new year. On this day, that stood on the verge between summer and winter, it was believed that the boundaries between our world and the other-world would blur.
Today, Halloween is a great excuse to eat sweets, douse yourself in fake blood, and indulge in a bit of self-inflicted, adrenaline inducing, fear.
We are, it seems, and always have been, obsessed with the spine chilling and mysterious. We’ve picked some spooky books to wet your Halloween appetite. Prepare for a scare.
We have a plethora of anatomy books (SPEC Anatomy) in Special Collections and Archives that were once part of the Medical School Library and used for teaching.
We couldn’t resist including these chilling images, taken from John Gordon’s Engravings of the Skeleton of the Human Body published in 1818.
‘This Plate exhibits a front and lateral view of the dried Skull of a Man, of a medium stature, aged thirty-one years […] the length of the line a, b, b, a on the Skull, was exactly four inches and three quarters.’ [SPEC P.2.12 ] John Gordon, Engravings of the Skeleton of the Human Body, (London: T. & G. Underwood, 1870).
View an online version here
Vikram and the Vampire is a collection of ancient Indian folk tales that were translated by the accomplished explorer and all-round fascinating Victorian gentleman, Richard Francis Burton. Richard F. Burton was a founding member of the Gypsy Lore Society, started in 1888 by scholars interested in the songs, stories and language of the Romany Gypsies. You can explore the Gypsy Lore Society Collections at Special Collections and Archives.
Published in 1870, Vikram and the Vampire tells the story of a clever and scheming vampire/evil spirit that animates dead bodies.This spooky first edition is complete with Ernest Griset’s grotesque illustrations.
Viram and the Vampire by Richard F. Burton, Illustrated by Ernest Griset (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1870) [SPEC Y87.3.1916]
View an online version here
Halloween isn’t just for the adults – spooky tales for children also surface in our collection of more than 7000 pre-First World War children’s books. Four Ghost Stories by Mrs Molesworth contains four tales of encounters with ghosts, set in the nineteenth century. Mrs Molesworth, or Mary Louisa Molesworth, was a late Victorian children’s author. Nightmare inducing ghost stories for children…Mrs Molesworth has a lot to answer for. We hold a number of works by Mrs Molesworth at Special Collections.
Mrs Molesworth, Four Ghost Stories, (London: Macmillan and Co., 1888).
You can view any of the items here at Special Collections and Archives, Sydney Jones Library, Liverpool University.