Monday, November 24, 2014

Don't I know you from another life?

For about the millionth time in recent history, I'm laid up sick. Not surprisingly, I seem to have contracted cat scratch fever.  Other than a very short burst of actual fever, I feel fine, but my forearms are ridiculously swollen and I can't drive or do much of anything. Typing hurts too, but I'm bored.

I've lately discovered that I'm highly susceptible to binge-watching. My latest thing has been ghost hunting shows, which has led to another interesting discovery: the only dead people who insistently come back are long-haired women from the Victorian era in white (occasionally black) dresses. They account for easily 90% of reported apparitions.

It struck me as odd. I mean, do flappers and Colonial belles simply not have the amount of unfinished business held by their Victorian sisters? I think I've pieced it together.

a) Most of the supposedly haunted houses are themselves Victorian, so it makes sense.  Why Victorian houses? Well, the architecture of the day was pretty freaky. If anything screams "I AM HAUNTED!!!" it's one of those carpenter Gothic or Queen Anne horrors.

b)White or black dresses, because photography was black and white.  Some pictures were hand tinted, but most people have only seen Victorian women in what appears to be a black or a white dress.  The dress may actually have been pale blue, but it looks white in the photo, so... that's the mental image people have, and they're not shaking it.

c)Long hair--well, I still don't get this one. Almost all women of the Victorian period DID have long hair, but they also dressed it elaborately; it rarely just hung down the back.  So, it wouldn't have LOOKED especially long.

d)Always women, because the picture of a woman in an elaborate dress pining away in a ruined mansion is much more romantic than one of a doofy middle aged male banker.

e)Most people in the US don't really fully understand what "Victorian" means.  Victoria reigned (and not in this country) from 1837 to 1901. At that, the freaky architecture most associated with being "Victorian" was really a result of the 1880s and 90s, nearing the end of her rule.  However, in the first twenty-five years of the 20th century, fashions in everything became much simpler.  Architecture finally got a hold of itself, and women's fashions became less elaborate--and shorter--for skirts and hair.  The average person now simply thinks that anything "REAL old" is Victorian. Woman in a long dress, even one from the 1780s? Victorian. Old house (built 1745)?  Victorian. Long hair (1972)? Victorian.

This is not perhaps a universally applicable assessment. In Virginia, where we are obsessed with our glorious Colonial past and to a slightly lesser extent with the Recent Unpleasantness, people are forever seeing the ghosts of Jefferson and Lee.  Our lady ghosts tend to be English nobility visiting their relatives in the Colonies or a Wartime belle proudly serving her children bread and water while the Yankee guns threaten Petersburg.

That last, though, really WOULD be "AVictorian Lady."

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Thanks! Now, go get a drink, sit down and enjoy the show.