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An Exhibit Explores Victorian Mourning Customs Ahead of Halloween

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 (Courtesy of Camron-Stanford House)

By Rae Alexandra

Every October since 2015, Oakland’s historic Camron-Stanford House explores the fascinating history of Victorian mourning culture with its Morbid Desire exhibit. It features a range of authentic dresses, accessories and jewelry (including some amazing human hair rings), along with a wealth of information about the rules and social expectations imposed on mourners of the era.

This year’s three-week run focuses in particular on how funeral rites evolved during the Victorian era, from something families did at home into a cottage industry. Camron-Stanford’s period rooms will also be specially dressed for mourning.

In addition, there will be two special, supplementary events. On Saturday, Oct. 19, there will be two candlelit night tours of the exhibit (at 6pm and 7pm), followed by “a drink and some spooky fun” on the house’s Lake Merritt-adjacent veranda. On Sunday, Oct. 20, Nicole Corsini of Lang Antique & Estate Jewelry will be giving an hour-long talk about memento mori and “the history, symbols and myths that surround fashionable Victorian era mourning jewelry,” with a tour of the exhibit to follow.

Accessories featured at the 2017 Morbid Desire exhibit.
Accessories featured at the 2017 Morbid Desire exhibit. (Camron-Stanford House)

Built in 1876, the Camron-Stanford House is a Bay Area historical treasure. In addition to fascinating local history buffs, the picturesque home also doubles as a wedding venue, afternoon tea destination and an occasional food truck location. Morbid Desire remains one of its most popular events. No wonder—it’s one of the best, not to mention most stylish, ways to get in the mood for Halloween.


Morbid Desire tours will take place every Sunday in October at 1pm, 2pm and 3pm. Advanced tickets are available for the Oct. 19 candlelit tours only.

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