The Victorian Era was a pretty morbid time in human history. One of the most unsettling traditions of the era was the practice of post-mortem photography (that is, photographing the dead). By today’s standards, this is would be pretty taboo, but at the time it was seen as quite normal.
That doesn’t mean that seeing those pictures now makes them any less creepy, in fact it probably makes them even more creepy. Here are 21 of the most unsettling examples of Victorian post-mortem photography we could find. Warning. #13 might really freak you out.
1. Contrary to being creepy, these death photographs were meant to serve as mementos of the deceased loved one.
2. Because of that, many photographers tried to make their subjects look alive.
3. Photographers employed a variety of tricks to make their subjects look more life-like.
4. One of the most common ways they did this was posing people with their favorite things (like this man in a chair with his dogs).
5. Or this girl here with her toys.
6. Sometimes, photographers would try to make it appear like the dead person was sleeping.
7. Here, the dead girl on the end is being propped up with a special device.
8. Notice the way the photographer has positioned the man’s arm in order to support the head?
9. Notice the odd position of the curtain behind the boy? It’s likely there was someone behind it holding the boy’s head up.
10. Here this little girl is sitting sideways on the chair so that the device propping her up is hidden.
11. She almost looks alive in this picture.
12. See anything strange about the background? This girl is sitting on someone’s lap. The person held her in place while the photo was taken.
I thought I’d seen it all…and then I saw #13. OMG. Hit Next Page to continue.
13. In this photograph, the girl standing in the middle is the deceased. The photographer attempted to make her look more alive by drawing on her pupils.
14. Other times it wasn’t possible to make their subjects look alive.
15. It was common for family members pose with their dead loved ones for these photographs.
16. You can tell it must have been difficult for the living families members. The pain in these parents’ faces as they hold their dead child is obvious.
17. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to pose with a dead loved one. At the time, the photography process was slow and you could not move while the photo was being taken.
18. In this photo you can see the dead girl is more in focus than her parents, as they moved while the photograph was being taken.
19. There is just something about her eyes in this photo.
20. This one is pretty obvious.
21. I’m not sure which one here is the deceased.
I’m almost speechless. Despite the initial creepiness of these photographs, they’re all very powerful. You might think it’s weird for a parent to pose for a photo with their dead child, but back then it was also brave to display your grief in such a way.
Let’s have a quick moment of silence for these poor souls.