The London Month of the Dead – IanVisits

October is the month of the dead, a now annual festival of all things macabre and spooky. The month of the dead is a series of talks supporting London’s Magnificent Seven cemeteries.

All tickets cost £12 unless otherwise stated.

My pick of the best:

Saturday 7th October

The Hidden Language of Graveyards

In this age where most people who die are cremated the art of tombstone design is becoming something of a lost art. In his illustrated talk Robert Stephenson will delve into its history, symbolism and meaning.

Subterranean Sanctuaries – Crypts and Catacombs

After the Great Fire of 1666 there was a frenzy of church building in the City of London. These new buildings had spacious crypts, allowing unscrupulous clergymen to earn extra cash by permitting wealthy parishioners to pay to be interred there. Malcom Johnson will relate stories of the recent discoveries made as these subterranean vaults have been gradually cleared to house modern day restaurants and wine bars.

The Necropolis Railway

In this talk, John Clarke, the author of the first major history of the Necropolis Railway and guide to Brookwood Cemetery, will discuss the rise and fall of the Necropolis project and the operations of the railway.

A torchlit cemetery walk and tales by candlelight

A candlelit walk and discover the secrets and stories hiding amongst the tombs of Kensal Rise Cemetery.

Sunday 8th October

A Guided Tour of Tower Hamlets Cemetery (£10)

The Cemetery Club blog describes burial grounds as “libraries of the dead – beautiful spaces which are now cradles for nature, heritage and remarkable stories that have faded from common knowledge.” Our tour guide will give you his own readings from the rich history of the East End via the headstones of Tower Hamlets cemetery.

Butterfly setting and preservation in the cemetery (£35)

Suzette Field introduces you to the fascinating world of insect taxidermy. The workshop will begin with a talk on the biology of insects with further instruction on the hydration, setting, pinning and drying of specimens.

The Curious Art of Anthropomorphic Taxidermy

In his talk Pat Morris will discuss the ethical issues surrounding anthropomorphic taxidermy. Is is demeaning to animals? Or is it just a whimsical and amusing way of thinking about ourselves and our relationship with the natural world? Is a stuffed mouse in bonnet and apron really any worse than the illustrations we love in Beatrix Potter’s books?

A Guided Tour of St Bride’s Crypt

This guided tour will provide rare access to the skeletal remains of the 227 people interred within the ossuary. Jelena Bekvalac, the curator of human osteology at the Museum of London, will outline the history of the crypt revealing the forensic key the named skeletons have left us in the quest to unlock the social history of London.

A tour of Egyptian funerary artefacts at the Petrie Museum

This tour will reveal the hidden narratives behind a range of ancient Egyptian funerary artefacts including an introduction to the museum’s Egyptian Book of the Dead and its fifth dynasty bead net funerary dress.

Sunday 15th October

A Guided Tour of Abney Park Cemetery (£10)

Abney Park in Stoke Newington inherited the nickname of the “Campo Santo (holy field) of the Dissenters” from Bunhill Fields, where Bunyan, Defoe and Blake are buried.

Over recent years financial problems and neglect have taken their toll on the cemetery and in 2009 it was included on the Heritage at Risk Register.

The Human Memorial Tattoo

Dr Troyer will talk about the implications of marking a living body with representations of death and discuss current innovations in memorial tattooing, including the practice of mixing the cremated ashes of a loved one in the ink that will be used to create the tattoo, thus forming a physical as well as symbolic link to the deceased.

The Truth About Cryonics

Exactly fifty years ago in 1967 University of California psychology professor James Bedford became the first person ever to be cryogenically frozen. Garret Smyth, one of the people signed up to go into the deep freeze on his death, will address the issues surrounding this controversial branch of science.

Life Extension and Gene Therapy

Despite the scepticism of much of the scientific establishment, Elizabeth Parish has put her money where her mouth is and undergone telomerase therapy that has (in theory) already extended her life by 20 years. In her talk she will share her experiences, hopes and dreams for this contentious treatment.

A Torchlit Cemetery Walk and Candlelit Ghost Stories

A chance to hear these classic ghost stories as you’ve never heard them before – in a graveyard. As dusk falls at Kensal Green cemetery the gatekeeper will guide you on a torchlit procession, picking your way through the tombstones until you reach the Anglican chapel.

Saturday 21st October

Forensic Science, forensic Imagination

Anatomical and Forensic sculptor Eleanor Crook investigates the connections between the Forensic scientist and the effigy artist: a shared vigilance about the minutiae of the body, a sense of place and the clues left behind by unwonted activity; how matter can bear witness to shady deeds and attempts to lie about the past.

Biomedical Entomology at the Crime Scene

The crucial evidence at a murder trial can often be provided not by human witnesses, but by insects. Martin Hall will introduce the basics of the science, then take the audience from the crime scene to the laboratory and finally to the court room where the evidence is presented.

Sunday 22nd October

A Guided Tour of Kensal Green Cemetery (£10)

London historian, folklorist and gravestone expert Robert Stephenson leads a special tour to meet the famous and infamous residents of one of the country’s finest cemeteries.

Gothic London – The Capital’s Taste for Terror

From penny dreadfuls to the psychological novel Clive Bloom will investigate the attraction of London for the Gothic.

The Victorian Mourning Craze

Amber Butchart’s talk will cover funereal fashion at its finest and most regal, focusing on the Victorian cult of mourning, including ‘Maisons de Deuil’ (mourning warehouses), mourning etiquette and jewellery, and how the colour black has been in fashion ever since.

Post Mortem Photography

In her illustrated talk Holly Carter-Chappell will discuss the ethical issues surrounding the display of images of the dead, a notable recent example being the exhibiting of post-mortem photographs of murder victims in the controversial Jack the Ripper Museum.

Saturday 28th October

Tour of the City’s burial grounds and view of the Museum of London’s bone archive (£15)

A guided walk around a number of the City’s forgotten burial grounds, followed by a tour around the Museum’s bone archive.

The History of Suicide

David Lederer’s talk will explore the transnational genesis of suicidology, excavating its emergence as a central feature of intellectual, scientific, and medical debate and national health policy across Europe during the late-18th and 19th centuries.

Tales of Arsenic and Murder

In her talk, Sandra Hempel brings to life a gripping story of domestic infighting, wayward police behavior, a slice of Victorian history, stories of poisonings, and an unforgettable foray into the origins of forensic science.

Sunday 29th October

The Psychology of Phantoms and Hauntings

Leading skeptic Chris French will present the case for the normal over the paranormal. His talk will consider the numerous factors that may lead people to believe that they have had a supernatural encounter.

A History of the Invisible

Philip Ball will discuss the interplay between cutting-edge science and concepts of the “spirit world” in the late Victorian and Edwardian age, and its legacy today in ideas about psychic powers manifested in cinema, photography and the internet.

A torchlit walk through a cemetery and Magic Lantern Show

For London Month of the Dead 2017, lanternist Kevin Varty will summon up this art of illusions with his 19th Century Magic Lantern in the Anglican Chapel. Watch and quake as skeletons waltz across the wall and nuns bleed to their death despite a life of virtue.

A Guided Tour of Brompton Cemetery (£10)

London historian, folklorist and gravestone expert Robert Stephenson leads a special tour to meet the famous and infamous residents of one of the country’s finest cemeteries.

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