On The Square

Chock Full O-Creepy at Rago Auctions!

By Jessica Helen Weinberg

Oct 12,2017 | 09:00 EDT

Demonic possession. It can happen to anyone or anything - this unfortunate occurrence does have the tendency to befall objects and persons more easily this time of year. Perhaps, the concentrated acknowledgment of the dead is to blame. With thousands of Witches, Wiccans, Druids, and other Pagans gathering for Samhain painted skeletons parading on Dia de los Muertos and the conjuring of Americas similarly timed folk holiday known as All Hallows Eve, its no wonder why spirits come knocking.  

While chilling winds begin to crawl toward winter's solstice, Rago Auctions prepares to host an unusual and fitting sale for the haunting season. Their Curiouser & Curiouser auction on October 22nd will feature objects curated by Marion Harris that lay latent with intrigue and shadowy pasts; outsider art, folk art, sideshow-related items, scientific and medical items, photography, erotica, and more. 

We've unearthed several spooky items that ought to put a spell (or two) on you:

Lot 84, French Antique Headless Dolls, 19th Century; Estimate $800 - $1,200

Dolls, a perfectly innocent and useful conduit for evil, are classically cast in horror films like Childs Play and Annabelle as tools for murderous mischief. Scenes of creaking plastic heads and unblinking eyes have led audiences of all ages to question their toys when the lights go out. On that note, its a comfort that these antique dolls are headless! Phew! 

Lot 154, Skulls Under Glass Dome, Plaster and resin, Spain, Ca. 1940; Estimate $1,200 - $1,800

Skulls on sticks? How festive! This early 20th Century oddity hosts fourteen model skulls, enclosed and staggered within an elegant glass dome and was originally made for a religious display. A powerful decorative statement like this would be a bone-a-fide hit atop a reading table or your great-great grandmothers antique church organ.

Lot 156, Momento Mori Silver Skull Bracelet, South Germany, ca. 1900; Estimate $1,200 - $1,800

Nothing says "till death do us part," quite like this beautiful macabre bracelet. Momento mori, the Latin phrase meaning "remember you must die," was popularly expressed in seventeenth century paintings by depicting symbols such as skulls, hour glasses or rotting fruit. Complete with a coffin clasp and a velvet lined fitted case, this momento mori accessory is the perfect gift for lovers akin to Mr. and Mrs. Gomez Addams - Oh, mon amour!

Lot 49, General Tom Thumb’s Wedding Waistcoat, 19th Century; Estimate $600 - $900

Charles Sherwood Stratton, alias General Tom Thumb, was discovered by P.T. Barnum, the founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1863 and would only grow to be 40 inches tall by the time he was 21 years old. Trained to be a showman and seen as a national sensation, General Tom Thumb would marry Lavinia Warren, (32 inches in height) in front of 2000 guests, in one of the most celebrated marriage ceremonies of the era. For lovers of folklore, circus memorabilia and all things costume, this item is no “small” find! 

Lot 113, Glass Eye in Silver Case, Made by F.AD. Müller Söhne, Germany, Ca. 1800; Estimate $700 - $900

Popping right out (literally) of this curious catalog is a mysterious and skillfully crafted glass eye! Seen as one of Halloweens favorite shapes for chocolate molds, lollipops, jack o lantern stickers, nightmarish masks and punch-bowl cubes, this authentic German antique eye is no joking matter. Complete with an original and engraved silver case, one must wonder to whom did this eye ball serve?

Lot 1, A pair of Woodbridge Pit Figures, USA, Mid-20th Century; Estimate $3,000 - $4,000

Okay, we are entering serious territory now. These hand-carved figures actually were buried "alive" and resurrected. The following story is dictated in Ragos upcoming catalog:

The background and origin of the Woodbridge figures has confounded local historians and fueled urban legends since their discovery in the 1980s. The carvings were uncovered on the site of what is now the Woodbridge Center Mall in Woodbridge, New Jersey where once lay a series of clay pits and caves mined by the brick industry. During the demolition of a shack on the grounds, workmen found over 100 small wooden figures resembling African idols. The figures, which range in size from 3” to 9”, are armless, nude and anatomically correct, with individually carved faces and varying body shapes balanced on two proportional feet. Some possess holes in their heads plugged by corks. Since their discovery they have traveled from the clay pits to Ricco/Maresca Gallery in New York City, to the homes of private collectors, to U.S. and international museums. The pair for sale as lot 1 was only recently rediscovered in a home near Woodbridge. 

Are you delightfully creeped out yet?

Now that weve lit the flame, its time for you to stir the cauldron! Discover 18th c. Venetian paintings, artist mannequins, vintage prints by Morton Bartlett, erotic lighters and much more. Click here to browse the full Rago Auctions, Curiouser & Curiouser (10/22) sale catalog

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Jessica Helen Weinberg | Senior Content Editor at Bidsquare