“Shimmering,” “brilliant,” “sparkling”: these are words typically used to describe glass. But given the time of year, we thought it would be fun to find objects in our collection described as “creepy,” “scary,” or “odd.” Here is a list of the top 10 objects from the Museum collection that celebrate the spooky nature of Halloween.
- Atomic bomb glass
This eerie green glass has a curious history. Named “Trinitite,” these are samples of glass made as a result of the test explosion of the atomic bomb in White Sands, NM, in 1945.
- Mysterious blue bottle
This Bromo-Seltzer bottle was featured in an episode of Mysteries at the Museum, where the host shared the story of the 1898 poisonings of Katherine Adams and Henry Barnet by Roland Molineux in New York City. Molineux’s “sinister plot of jealousy and revenge” relied on a bottle just like this one to hide poison. Watch the clip.
- 13 Crows
While living in Japan, Michael Rogers observed the bodies of crows hanging in fields intended to scare off other crows and protect crops. The crow has been both a symbol of foreboding and of craftiness throughout history. The 13 birds in this sculpture are covered in words from Japanese newspapers, which may convey good news or bad.
- While You Are Sleeping
Birth, death, and transformation are themes in Christina Bothwell’s art. She feels a deep connection to the spirit realm and is inspired by her dreams. Bothwell learned she was pregnant at age 45 and dreamed of twins, a girl and a boy. Not long after, she found out she was carrying twins, a girl and a boy, just as in her dream. In While You Are Sleeping, the spirit of a woman in glass rises from her sleeping form in clay. Sleep deprivation during her pregnancy was so intense, says Bothwell, that “my body would fall asleep, and I would have this sensation of lifting up out of my body and flying.”
- Glass Harmonica
This glass instrument was invented by Benjamin Franklin who was inspired by performers who played music by rubbing their moistened fingertips along the rims of partially filled glasses. Wonder what it sounds like? In front of the exhibit of the glass harmonica in the gallery, there are several sets of headphones where you can listen to a recording of a glass harmonica being played. But be careful! In the 18th century, it was rumored that the haunting melodies of the glass harmonica would drive people insane!*
- King and Emperor Frederick III
He’s watching you.
Crows feast on the carrion of a shattered blood-red chandelier in this work by Javier Perez, on view in the Contemporary Art + Design Wing.
- Les Hommes noirs (The dark men)
Victor Prouvé’s design shows dark, monstrous creatures, rising from the depths of the earth, which illustrate the evils of false accusation and anti-Semitism. One is a crone-faced, bat-winged creature with a tail made of snakes. On the back of the vase, a wavy-haired youth, representing truth, looks out with a hurt expression. The play of darkness and light in glass was often used by glassmaker Emile Gallé to symbolize humanity’s struggle between good and evil. There’s more to this story—the vase refers to the Dreyfus Affair, one of the most divisive scandals in modern French history. Read more, or watch a video about this object.
- Glass Casket
Constructed in the 1920s, the Museum’s glass casket weighs between 400 and 500 pounds. Glass coffins, which were cushioned with yards of fabric, were not meant to display the body but rather to hygienically protect it from the elements. The catalog for Crystal Glass Casket Company, Washington, DC, titled Perfection, describes their caskets as “hermetically sealed by applying a composition which renders the casket air-tight, water-tight, vermin-proof and absolutely sanitary, thus assuring a perfect burial receptacle” (page 7). Learn more about the glass casket in this previous post.
It’s not every day that you come across an object with a description that includes “piece of human bone,” but this goblet, and others like it, have a curious purpose in the history of glassmaking. Reliquaries—containers for holy relics—were common in churches throughout Italy. Most reliquaries featured a glass jar that was sealed to secure its contents. During the medieval period and the Renaissance, the remains of Catholic saints were preserved in this manner. This glass reliquary is part of a pair that have paper labels identifying the bones inside them as the remains of saints named “Victorinus” and “Paulinus.”
*According to an article from The Guardian: German musicologist Friedrich Rochlitz claimed “The armonica excessively stimulates the nerves, plunges the player into a nagging depression and hence into a dark and melancholy mood that is apt method for slow self-annihilation. If you are suffering from any nervous disorder, you should not play it; if you are not yet ill you should not play it; if you are feeling melancholy you should not play it.” –”Hey, what’s that sound: Glass harmonica,” David McNamee, October 26, 2009. http://www.theguardian.com/music/2009/oct/26/glass-harmonica