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Photos Of The Dead: 50+ Creepy Photos Of Victorian People Posing With Dead Bodies Of Their Loved Ones

The Victorians were fond of some weird traditions and photography, including post-mortem photography. Although photography was in its infancy and the camera was costly and slow. For a single photograph, one has to sit for few seconds to minutes. Memento mori photography was a trend that came to be in the mid-19th century, which translates to “remember you must die,” was supported by photographers being commissioned at the time by families to photograph their deceased loved ones as a way to memorialize them. Post-mortem photography was also common in the nineteenth century when “death occurred in the home and was quite an ordinary part of life. Their photographs served as keepsakes to remember the deceased. While some people believe that this is just a myth, check out this article by Edward Clint. Here Bygonely has compiled a list of creepy portraits and photographs from the Victorian era posing with the deceased bodies. Vote for your favorite one and tell us what do you think about this tradition.

#1 Edgar Allen Poe post-mortem.

Edgar Allen Poe post-mortem.

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  1. When I was very young during family reunions or visits with the grandparents we frequently went to family cemeteries. There were many tombstones with pictures of the deceased.

#2 Deceased boy photographed with what was likely his favorite toy, a hoop and stick.

Deceased boy photographed with what was likely his favorite toy, a hoop and stick.

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#3 Mother and older sibling posing over a deceased infant.

Mother and older sibling posing over a deceased infant.

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#4 Dead man in a chair with his dogs.

Dead man in a chair with his dogs.

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#5 A family portrait with two deceased babies.

A family portrait with two deceased babies.

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#6 Deceased boy in coffin.

Deceased boy in coffin.

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#7 Mother and baby, probably died during childbirth

Mother and baby, probably died during childbirth

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#8 Living husband with his dead wife

Living husband with his dead wife

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#9 Dead Bavarian King Louis II.

Dead Bavarian King Louis II.

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#10 Mrs. Della Powell, died 1894.

Mrs. Della Powell, died 1894.

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#11 Living man holding his dead wife.The pain in his is obvious

Living man holding his dead wife.The pain in his is obvious

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#12 Deceased girl in casket.

Deceased girl in casket.

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#13 Little girl sitting sideways on the chair, the device propping her up is hidden.

Little girl sitting sideways on the chair, the device propping her up is hidden.

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#14 The girl standing in the middle is the deceased.The photographer attempted to make her look more alive by drawing on her pupils.

The girl standing in the middle is the deceased.The photographer attempted to make her look more alive by drawing on her pupils.

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    • She is not deceased. This idea is going around the internet but it’s incorrect. There is no way to make a dead body stand upright in such a way. Probably this girl blinked her eyes at the wrong moment and so the photographer retouched her eyes in the darkroom.

      • Obviously you need to do some research into Victorian death photography. They had a stand they attached to the deceased to make it appear they’re standing. You can see that it’s under her jacket by the folds in the fabric. She’s indeed dead.

        • Obviously you need to do a lot more research. The stands were actually made for the living, they would help people keep still while they had there picture taken because of long exposure times. They were never meant for the deceased and were not strong enough to hold the weight of a body. This isn’t the only one on this page that’s incorrect.

  1. She is not deceased. This idea is going around the internet but it’s incorrect. There is no way to make a dead body stand upright in such a way. Probably this girl blinked her eyes at the wrong moment and so the photographer retouched her eyes in the darkroom.

    • They used props to hold the bodies. During this time photographs were rare. If someone died this was usually the only picture a family had of their deceased child. As photographs became more common and less expensive this practice became less common.

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#15 It was common for family members pose with their dead loved ones for these photographs

It was common for family members pose with their dead loved ones for these photographs

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#16 There is just something about her eyes in this photo.

There is just something about her eyes in this photo.

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#17 Little girl held in a standing position. The photo is a cabinet card from Villisca, Iowa taken in 1890.

Little girl held in a standing position. The photo is a cabinet card from Villisca, Iowa taken in 1890.

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#18 The dead girl on the end is being propped up with a special device.

The dead girl on the end is being propped up with a special device.

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  1. It’s really great to have some of the backstories to these photos, thank you to the poster!! What’s telling here is that the living persons are ever so slightly blurred, while the deceased is absolutely clear.

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#19 The pain in these parents’ faces as they hold their dead child is obvious.

The pain in these parents' faces as they hold their dead child is obvious.

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#20 Four girls mourning a dead dog

Four girls mourning a dead dog

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  1. I thought that the woman seated in the chair could be deceased as it seems the woman seated closest to her has her arm around her , perhaps to hold her in place. It doesn’t look natural that she wouldn’t hold the flowers in her hand but that they were placed as part of a final detail and her very erect posture is at odds to the more relaxed postures of the other three ladies. But, they seem to have cared deeply for their dog as well.

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#21 Deceased Infant.

Deceased Infant.

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#22 Dead girl with her toys.

Dead girl with her toys.

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#23 Deceased girls.

Deceased girls.

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#24 A rather odd post-mortem pose.

A rather odd post-mortem pose.

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#25 The body of William T. Anderson who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

The body of William T. Anderson who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

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  1. “Bloody Bill” Anderson; who earned his nickname for a brutal attack he perpetrated which became known as the Centralia Massacre. On September 27, 1864, roughly 80 guerrillas under the command of William T. “Bloody Bill” Anderson stopped a train outside of Centralia, Missouri and asked for a volunteer from among the Union soldiers onboard. Fully expecting to be executed, Sergeant Thomas M. Goodman bravely stepped forward. Instead of killing the sergeant, the guerrillas instead executed the line of 22 unarmed Union soldiers and set fire to the train, leaving civilian passengers to deal with their mutilated bodies. The attack became known as the Centralia Massacre; a noteworthy example of the violence directed against noncombatants that took place during the Missouri-Kansas border war.
    Sergeant Goodman, the sole military survivor of the Centralia Massacre, declared that the deaths were “the most monstrous and inhuman atrocities ever perpetuated.”

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#26 Unknown Boy.

Unknown Boy.

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#27 With their deceased sibling.

With their deceased sibling.

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#28 Dead bodies used to look alive by the photographs

Dead bodies used to look alive by the photographs

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  1. If you look, it appears as though a mirror was used to reflect the faces of the remaining family members instead of them all posing with the deceased girl… who may well have passed from something very contagious.

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#29 A little girl sitting on someone’s lap. The person held her in place while the photo was taken.

A little girl sitting on someone's lap. The person held her in place while the photo was taken.

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#30 In this photo the subject is more in focus than her parents, as they moved while the photograph was being taken.

In this photo the subject is more in focus than her parents, as they moved while the photograph was being taken.

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#31 Dead girl is is lying on the floor of the parlor surrounded by family members.

Dead girl is  is lying on the floor of the parlor surrounded by family members.

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  1. I somehow doubt this is a postmorten photo. a lot of people are smiling, and it looks like they just ate a big dinner. I seem to see a cat in one ladys lap. Much too informal!

  2. It is odd the respective moods of each side of the family group. I wonder what the story was behind the death of the little girl. She at least looks to be sleeping.

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#32 Deceased baby whose eyes are likely painted open.

Deceased baby whose eyes are likely painted open.

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#33 A deceased woman positioned as alive

A deceased woman positioned as alive

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#34 Cabinet card of a deceased young woman in her parlor by a Rome, NY photography studio, 1890’s.

Cabinet card of a deceased young woman in her parlor by a Rome, NY photography studio, 1890's.

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#35 The text on the frame reads, “Miss Jeanette Glackmeyer, daughter whose above photo was taken 9 days after death. Mother could not part with only daughter.”

The text on the frame reads, "Miss Jeanette Glackmeyer, daughter whose above photo was taken 9 days after death. Mother could not part with only daughter."

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#36 Deceased man with flowers

Deceased man with flowers

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#37 Deceased girl.

Deceased girl.

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#38 Cabinet card by Beniamino Facchinelli showing deceased infant, c.1890.

Cabinet card by Beniamino Facchinelli showing deceased infant, c.1890.

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#39 Post-mortem photo of Gen. Turner Ashby, a confederate cavalry commander in the American Civil War.

Post-mortem photo of Gen. Turner Ashby, a confederate cavalry commander in the American Civil War.

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#40 The dead boy was holded from behind the curtain.

The dead boy was holded from behind the curtain.

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#41 Imagine how difficult it must have been to pose with a dead loved one. Here is an example of what happens when people moved.

Imagine how difficult it must have been to pose with a dead loved one. Here is an example of what happens when people moved.

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#42 This one is obvious.

This one is obvious.

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#43 Flowers and religious statues were often used as props in post-mortem photos.

Flowers and religious statues were often used as props in post-mortem photos.

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#44 Dead nun in Palermo, Sicily.

Dead nun in Palermo, Sicily.

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#45 Deceased young woman is holding a small bible or testament.

Deceased young woman is holding a small bible or testament.

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#46 Deceased girl, her eyes was painted before taking photograph.

Deceased girl, her eyes was painted before taking photograph.

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#47 Deceased girl.

Deceased girl.

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#48 Sleeping Girl

Sleeping Girl

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#49 Women sitting next to dead girl. These death portrait were meant to serve as mementos of the deceased loved one.

Women sitting next to dead girl. These death portrait were meant to serve as mementos of the deceased loved one.

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#50 Sometimes, photographers would try to make it appear like the dead person was sleeping as in this photo.

Sometimes, photographers would try to make it appear like the dead person was sleeping as in this photo.

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#51 Sometimes it was impossible to make the subjects look alive as in this photo.

Sometimes it was impossible to make the subjects look alive as in this photo.

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#52 The Corpse of Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico

The Corpse of Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico

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#53 Cabinet cards were made available as photography progressed – multiple copies of the same image could be created and mailed to relatives.

Cabinet cards were made available as photography progressed – multiple copies of the same image could be created and mailed to relatives.

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#54 Boy posing with deceased boy wearing the same cloth.

Boy posing with deceased boy wearing the same cloth.

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#55 Dead men positioned as alive, photographer used his arm to support the head.

Dead men positioned as alive, photographer used his arm to support the head.

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#56 A mother covers her face while holding her dead baby.

A mother covers her face while holding her dead baby.

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  1. I am not sure I believe some of these baby ones. It was the way back then for parents to hide in the background so they could take photos of their babies. Not because the baby was dead but because they couldn’t or wouldn’t sit up by themselves.

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#57 She almost looks alive in this photograph.

She almost looks alive in this photograph.

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#58 Difficult to tell which one is deceased.

Difficult to tell which one is deceased.

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#59 Photographers employed a variety of tricks to make their subjects look more life-like

Photographers employed a variety of tricks to make their subjects look more life-like

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#60 A tintype stand is used to help prevent movement.

A tintype stand is used to help prevent movement.

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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