Tag Archives: halloween

October 31st: Screamfest V

Post contributed by Sierra Moore, Library Assistant for Research Services

Date: Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Time: 1:30-3:30 PM
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room
Contact: Rubenstein Library front desk, 919-660-5822

As all Hallows’ Eve draws near there are a multitude of reasons why you might traipse through all places dark, gloomy, and strange. Here at the Rubenstein Library your travels will be far less perilous. Nonetheless, we have compiled samples from collections containing chilling texts and photographs certain to both entertain, enchant, and imbibe the type of intrigue you seek. Here is a brief preview of what we have in store:

The Duke Blue Devil in a clown-like costume, ca. 1930s

An early version of our very own Blue Devil mascot lingers before the Chapel.

Photo of our limited edition copy of Stephen King's "IT."

A copy of Stephen King’s IT, ca. 1986.

Photo of four Halloween postcards

From our Postcard Collection, a selection of Halloween postcards.

Photo of a page from “Puppets and the Puppet Theater" showing puppets.

Black and white images of puppets from Puppets and the Puppet Theater.

Please join us on Tuesday, October 31st from 1:30-3:30 PM for a most festive open house certain to rouse the spirits!

Screamfest in Pictures

Look at all of the boys and ghouls (sorry, we had to) at our Haunted Library Screamfest!

Screamfest Visitors

We had materials on display from all of the creepy, spooky corners of the Rubenstein Library, including these items from the History of Medicine Collections:

History of Medicine Collections Materials at Screamfest

And no, the skeleton wasn’t made of white chocolate. Although some of this was!

Screamfest Candy

Visit the Screamfest 2013 set on the Duke University Libraries’s Flickr photostream for more pictures of the fun. And check out Duke Today’s report!

Prepare for Terror: Haunted Library Screamfest II

Halloween4blogDate: October 31, 2013
Time: 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
Location: Perkins Library, Room 217
Contact: Rachel Ingold, 919-684-8549 or rachel.ingold(at)duke.edu

Stop by for a special Halloween “eeeks”-ibit and open house featuring some of the creepiest and most macabre items from the shadowy depths of the Rubenstein Library’s vaults. Will you dare to:

  • Gaze in awe at a box full of glass eyeballs?
  • Feel your head spin as you read letters describing the case that inspired The Exorcist (from the Parapsychology Laboratory Records)?
  • Quoth nevermore after experiencing Gustave Doré’s illustrations for The Raven?
  • Steel yourself to view a medieval amputating saw?
  • Cackle frightfully at seventeenth-century accounts of witchcraft?
  • Sink your teeth into images of vampires, werewolves, the living dead, and Frankenstein’s monster?

These and many other spook-tacular books, photographs, comics, diaries, letters, artifacts, and more will be on display!

Oh, and did we mention that there will be free candy?

A man holding his own flayed skin will be there. Will you? (From Juan Valverde de Amusco, Anatomia del Corpo Humano, 1560, in the History of Medicine Collections.
A man holding his own flayed skin will be there. Will you? (From Juan Valverde de Amusco, Anatomia del Corpo Humano, 1560, in the History of Medicine Collections.)



Two Words for Halloween: Scary Clowns!

Cover of Merchant’s Gargling Oil Dream and Fate, Palmistry, &c. Songster, Lockport, NY, ca. 1880-1890s.

We’ve seen many advertising campaigns of yesteryear here at the Rubenstein Library, thanks to the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History.  Our History of Medicine Collections contain many examples of promotional items for patent medicines and related remedies.  And the Library holds an extensive collection of American songsters, or ephemeral booklets of song lyrics popular in the nineteenth century.  But never have we seen more terrifying examples of any of these genres than the Merchant’s Gargling Oil Songsters, which feature scary clowns on their covers.

We have the Merchant’s Gargling Oil Co. to thank for these frightful specimens.  The Hagley Museum and Library’s online exhibit on patent medicines tells us that the oil was “primarily used as a topical ointment to treat horses and other animals for burns, scalds, sprains, and bruises,” but could also be used to treat other odd ailments, from foot rot to mange.  The oil was not, apparently, gargled.

We know what you’re asking: why use scary clowns to promote veterinary medicine?  We presume that the clowns used to promote the Merchant’s Gargling Oil Liniment were not intentionally scary.   Perhaps they were not creepy at all to the nineteenth-century eye, but rather appeared amusing, colorful, and whimsical.  However, the fact that these particular songsters combined popular song lyrics with instruction on dream interpretation and fortune telling lends itself to the belief that there’s more to these clowns than meets the eye. Not to mention the owl on the shoulder of one of the clowns, and the deranged look in the eyes of the other.

Cover of Merchant’s Gargling Oil Songster, Lockport, NY, ca. 1880-1890s.

We wouldn’t want to meet either of these clowns on a dark Halloween night, but you’re welcome to come see them in person in the Library’s reading room… if you dare. Happy Halloween!

Post contributed by Will Hansen, Assistant Curator of Collections. 


He Lives! Frankenstein in the Rubenstein

Scary, but true: the Rubenstein’s Hinton Collection of Plays contains what’s believed to be the first published image of Frankenstein’s Creature (or “Monster,” if you’re feeling pejorative).  Are you ready to face the horror?


Now that you’ve recovered from the shock, you’ll be interested to know that this image is of the actor Richard John O. Smith portraying the Creature in an 1826 stage adaptation of Shelley’s novel by Henry Milner.  The Hinton Collection also contains a prompt book for Milner’s play as produced at the Theatre Royal in Birmingham, England, probably in the 1830s. The image below shows the page of the prompt book for the Creature’s awakening, with the inserted dialogue “He lives / He lives”:

This echoes the line “It lives! It lives!” from the first stage adaptation of Frankenstein, R. B. Peake’s wildly successful 1823 play Presumption (you can find an edition of this in the Hinton Collection, as well), and prefigures perhaps the most famous scene in horror cinema.

Adaptations and reimaginings of the story of Frankenstein continue to proliferate today.  See these and many more chilling items, including an issue of Frankenstein Comics from the 1940s, at the Haunted Library Screamfest from 11am-1pm today!

Post contributed by Will Hansen, Assistant Curator of Collections.