Monday, August 12, 2013

Urban Legends: Post Mortem Class Photo

SS Note: Just got permission to post the Paranormal Guide's material on here, which includes the descriptions. Very excited, because they have some great stuff on there. Their link is in the photo above. Check it out and show some love by liking them! The description of this photo above will be in italics. Thanks again, guys, and keep up the great work! 

Post Mortem Class Photo
Urban Legends

This is a school photo taken in 1924, of the students of Dunrobin State School, No. 3777, near Casterton, South Western Victoria, Australia. Some 80 years earlier, the land the school stands on was a massive 153,600 acres, used for sheep. Later, in 1912, the government purchased the land and subdivided it into smaller allotments. With a burgeoning population making their homes in the new settlement a school was needed, and students originally took lessons in a old woolshed on the Dunrobin Station.

In 1913 a purpose built school building was constructed, including an outhouse, water tanks and a flagpole. With only a small population, and only about 30 children attending the school, all students were taught in the one class.

As it is now, as it was then, every year a class photograph was taken. If you look closely at this picture, you may notice something quite strange, maybe a little unsettling about it.

The students all look a little morose, upset, not a genuine smile to be seen (unlike the picture taken the year before which you can see on the bottom left). Why do the students look so unhappy in this photo, when in previous years photographs they are smiling and full of life?

The answer may shock you somewhat – one of the students in the photogaph is dead.

In the back row, the girl farthest to the right with the headscarf, wears a completely blank expression, her eyes devoid of all emotion. She had passed away the previous day. No records explain how she died... all that we know is her last name is Howlett.

There is a wooden board behind her (not the window frame, the board would be well hidden), propping her up, her headscarf, aside from being a nice accessory, is also acting to tie her head back to the post, keeping it upright.

The expressions on the children’s faces, especially those closest to her, speak of the emotion going through their minds – they are no doubt saddened by the death of one of their friends, but also possibly somewhat discomforted by having her propped up amongst them.

It was not entirely unusual for one to have photographs taken of their loved ones after they had passed back in the days of old, in order to have a keepsake of what the person looked like, especially as back in the day, photos were not anywhere near as common as they are today.

However, many people believe the story of this 'post mortem class photo' to be completely fraudulent, a modern day piece of folklore cobbled together by those trawling for freakish finds on the internet.

There is no proof either way for or against the facts of this story. Regardless, post mortem photography is a very real thing. Although not a common practice nowadays, the year this class photo was taken, 1924, still falls into the timeframe of which this style of photography was common (though very much towards the end of its popularity).

What do you think?
A rather interesting yet macabre example of post mortem photography?
Or overactive imaginations coming together online to create this rather fascinating story?

(you can read more about post mortem photography here:

Ashley Hall 2013.

Photo: Dunrobin State School no.3777 1924 student photo.
Inset Left: The previous years photo, students much more happy and vibrant.
Inset Right: A close up of the girl at the center of this story.

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