Every now and then I’ll check out the Rhode Island Lolita community. The events are about an hour away from Boston and there’s usually a carpool from the city down to the Ocean State. After immersing myself watching horror movies set around haunted homes in New England, I was totally pumped for the Hearthside House meet up. I originally was not supposed to make it because it was too close to Rhode Island Comic Con, but after some peer pressure from a neighborhood friendly pocky princess, I decided to check it out. It has been a while since I’ve mingled with the Rhode Island community.
The Hearthside House is an iconic Rhode Island landmark that has some interesting history to it. It’s even been featured on Ripley’s Believe it not. You can read about the history here. Coming from California, I’m not used to going to historical sites off the beaten track. Even the Winchester Mystery house is across the street from a mall and a multiplex and Heritage Square in Pasadena is right off to a major highway. During this time of the year, the Hearthside House has a themed Victorian mourning tour just in time for the holidays. Essentially, the tour took you through the Hearthside House and the costumed tour guides went over Victorian mourning customs. While waiting for the tour to start, we looked around the lobby. There was a mini doll house display by the gift store where you can see miniatures on display – if you look closely each diorama has a siamese cat in it.
The tour covered mourning customs as it related to each room in the house. It started in the living room – decorations, fashion, food, mannerisms, art, etc were all covered through the tour. We were even given complimentary biscuits. Mourning was pretty much a big deal during the Victorian times; death was fairly common and there were certain customs and norms that the 21st century would find morbid. For example, I was watching a few haunted house movies that covered taking family photos that also included the dead corpses. I thought this was made up for Hollywood, but because getting a family portrait was a rarity back then, it actually did happen. This was mostly done with the bodies of babies and children. Lilys covered the scent of decay.
Most of the furniture in the house were donations from locals. Because I was obsessed with “The Conjuring” at the time, I was intrigued by the amount of antique dolls that were placed in various rooms of Hearthside House. While the house was “dressed” in mourning, it also gave the atmosphere an added creepy vibe.
What I liked about this tour is that each room had a host that talked about history and customs as if they were living during the times. My favorite part was the mortician in the master bedroom talking about how they took care of the body and embalmed the corpse. A few antiquities in the master bedroom included embalming material and a local record of deaths from the mortuary. It was really interesting learning about the mortuary sciences of the time. We also covered superstitions held by the Victorians. For example, you had to cover all of the mirrors and make sure the body left the house feet first / head last – you didn’t want to confuse the spirit. They also talked about having bells at the grave site just in case if a body was mistakenly buried alive.
We had a couple of questions from the staff asking what our outfits were from. A few of us kindly explained the Japanese fashion and their roots. I also enjoyed talking to one of the guides about historical costuming and how I was working on a Charlotte Corday project. We even had tourists visiting the Hearthside House who were curious about our frilly threads.
At the end of the tour, we took a group photo in the living room. I do admit having some deja vu at Hearthside House as if I saw this place in a dream before. There were bits and pieces that felt familiar from several dreams I’ve had. I guess that’s what these places do to you.
We were originally going to go to the park for a picnic, but because it was a blustery day, we ended up going down to the hostesses house to have the treats. It was a pot luck and there was a wide variety of savory and sweet treats. I ended up getting full on the savory sandwiches and dumplings before I could even touch the Halloween sweets. We also had a coord contest and the hostess told scary stories about the Rhode Island vampires (google “Mercy Brown”). It was a night of sharing some creepy pasta indeed!
This was a really fun Lolita meet. I’m very glad I was able to make it. Many thanks to Michelle for the ride over, Darcy for nudging me to go, Kristen and Madeline for hosting the event, and for everyone for being their fabulous selves. I hope we do make it back to the Hearthside House in the future. Other than Victorian mourning tours, they also have Christmas themed tours. Either way, I’m looking forward to International Lolita Day (has anyone made any plans yet?). Speaking of haunted New England, I wonder if anyone would be up for a meet up at the Wayside Inn?
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