Special Collections After Hours: Skeletons in Our Closets

illustration of several skeletons attacking humans with arrows, with a central image of a skeleton wielding a scythe

Illustration from Benedictus Antonio Van Assen, The British Dance of Death. London: Hodgson and Co., 1828. Special Collections Research Center, University of Michigan Library.

The Special Collections Research Center is continuing its new open house series, Special Collections After Hours, and this time we're getting ready for Halloween! Join us to see the Skeletons in Our Closets on Tuesday, October 9. We'll be showcasing spooky stuff from across our collections. Here's a small preview of a few of the items we'll have on display!

front cover  of Real Ghost Stories, featuring an illustration of a photographer trying to capture a spirit on film
Front cover of William T. Stead, editor, Real Ghost Stories. London: Stead's Publishing House, 1921 (Second edition). Special Collections Research Center, University of Michigan Library.

We'll display two collections of ghost stories edited by William T. Stead, who believed the dead communicated with the living through spirit mediums.  The stories collected here aren't literary, but purportedly genuine accounts of contact with the dead. There's even a note of caution noting "that the narratives in these pages had better not be read by any one of tender years, of morbid excitability, or of excessively nervous temperament." Read at your own risk!

front cover of Witches' Almanac describing the volume as "the indispensible guide and delightful companion for adept, occultist, witch and mortal alike"
Front cover of 1971/1972 issue of The Witches' Almanac. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1971. Special Collections Research Center, University of Michigan Library.

If your temperament is too nervous for ghost stories, learn about the lore and practice of witchcraft in 1970s issues of The Witches' Almanac. Each issue is packed with a variety of information, like lists of famous witches, simple spells, herbal remedies, and even a short quiz to judge your witch potential.

skeletal figure preparing to pierce a dancing woman with an arrow
"Death and the Dancer" from Benedictus Antonio Van Assen, The British Dance of Death. London: Hodgson and Co., 1828. Special Collections Research Center, University of Michigan Library.

For those who prefer the darker side of Halloween, we'll display some reminders of mortality in the form of the danse macabre. This genre of art features skeletal figures claiming various representatives of human life--the young and old, the powerful and weak--as a reminder that death comes for us all.

Drop in to our presentation space in Hatcher room 660D any time between 4 and 7 pm on Tuesday, October 9 to see these materials and more, including pop-up books, spirit photographs, and a sixteenth century copy of the most famous book on witchcraft, the Malleus Maleficarum. Light refreshments will be provided. And don't forget to keep an eye out for more open house events every second Tuesday of the month during the fall and winter semesters.

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