My grandmother's wedding dress is framed in my parents' house.
Actually "framed" is not a fitting description for the dress. It is sealed in an airless chamber behind museum-grade poly-whatever that protects it from UV light, bacteria, and other dress-eating microbes that could cause it to decay.
Decades ago, when the dress first started showing signs of disintegration, my mom took it to a museum in Seattle and asked if they would fix it up for her. The museum actually wanted to buy the dress from her, and she almost sold it, except for the impassioned pleas from 10-year-old me to keep the dress, "PLEEEEEAAAAASE keep the dress!"
I think at the time I fancied that I would wear it some day. I mean, who could blame me? The dress is a classic cheongsam-style red silk gown with a high collar and intricately embossed dragons stitched with 24-carat gold thread. My grandmother wore it on her wedding day, then never again.
Of course I never wore it either. I could have fit into it when I was 10, but my grandmother was a tiny woman whom I dwarfed by the time I was 12. Not to mention that by the time I was of marrying age, the dress, had I taken I taken it out of its hyperbaric chamber, would have wailed and fallen to tatters.
Oh, and my mother believes that it's haunted or is "a little weird." Surprise, surprise right?
Now that I'm older my mom is on me to sell it for her. "Get rid of it. Get some money for it. There's some energy around that dress…it's odd."
Mom claims that objects around the dress move. The dress is anchored to a wall in a front room of our house, a room we never use and really just exists to ensure family artifacts can safely gather dust. Nobody goes in there because deep down we still believe my dad will FREAK OUT from fear that we'll break something. But mom says that on more than one occasion she's passed by the room and noticed items on the floor, the dust outline of where it used to sit on a cabinet or table still visible.
In particular, she says, my great aunt's pewter-dipped rose likes to move around. Mom claims she's found it on the floor, on top of a high cabinet, tucked behind a chest, and on a chair under grandmother's gown. The cats aren't even allowed in there, so it can't be them.
When my mom first told me about the incredible traveling rose, I told her it sounded sort of romantic. Mom was not amused. "My mother is still near that dress, even now she's screwing with me!" she snapped. When I asked her if she'd been cleaning the room or something, and absentmindedly moved the rose, she gave me a withering, angry pigeon look and said, "I'm not senile yet, my dear."
The spookiest thing my mom says that occasionally happens is the tapping. Now and again, mom says she's been alone at home, puttering around and attending to her animal kingdom, when she'll hear a tapping coming from the front room.
When I asked her if it was maybe a bird or twig tapping on the glass of a window in there, she dragged me into the room and almost a little too vehemently tapped on the poly-whatever casing of the dress.
"THIS!" -- tap, tap, tap -- "This is what I hear!" Tap, tap tap.
"Why you want to hold on to this relic is beyond me," she continues to harp. "You could sell it and get a better mattress! That's what my mother is telling you to do!"
Yes mother, grandma is telling me to sell her one-of-a-kind, 100-year-old, gold thread-embossed wedding gown (ghost apparently included), and get a memory foam mattress. Hashtag Stuff Haunted Asian Moms Say.
But all this talk of haunted dresses got me wondering if there were others out there.
A dress can be so personal, and can be tied up with so much emotion, if a woman is going to haunt something, a dress seems to be a worthy object. If ever I'm a ghost, I'm pretty sure I'll haunt my wedding dress.
So here are some of the haunted dresses I've found. (Alright, two haunted dresses and one haunted dress mannequin, because I just couldn't resist.) Like my grandmother's dress, I'm not entirely sure if there is actually a ghost "tapping on the glass," but the history and circumstances surrounding the dresses make for some pretty spooky stuff.
The Black and Green Lace Dress
Veda Silva and Rick Moss discovered an anonymously delivered cardboard box outside of the African American Museum and Library in Oakland, where they work.
Inside the box they found not only an overwhelming odor, but a set of shackles and a woman's black and green lace dress. There was no indication of where the dress and shackles came from, only strips of old newspaper and rags.
Shortly after, Moss received a phone call from a woman who refused to identify herself. She had left them the box, she said, and while the dress and shackles were in her possession she had been tormented by an entity -- "haunting her dreams at night, and inviting paranormal encounters during the day."
Her torment was so intense that she very nearly drowned herself. Luckily she stopped herself and instead donated the items to the museum.
The woman, who Silva noted sounded reasonable despite the substance of her story, suspected the element following her would be satisfied if the dress and shackles were given to an institution that would preserve and care for them. The day Silva and Moss brought the box inside the AAMLO, the woman's supernatural burden abruptly ended, and she was left in peace.
Moss and Silva decided to keep the pieces, despite Moss' misgivings. "After the phone call, I felt uneasy because I certainly did not want to accept into the collection items that may have a mysterious or unrevealed past -- one that purportedly came with paranormal attachments...If I knew where to return them, I just might have done so."
The dress and shackles are not regularly displayed, but at this time, I believe the museum still holds them.
Anna Baker's Wedding Dress
In the 1850s, Anna Baker was the daughter of wealthy iron master, Elias Baker, of Altoona, Pennsylvania.
She fell in love with one of Elias' workers and secretly made arrangements to marry him, including buying her dream wedding dress.
When Anna's father found out about her intention to marry a lowly iron worker in his employ, he immediately fired the young man and sent him away. Heartbroken, Anna Baker died in 1914, never married, and never having worn her dress.
Anna and her family are now said to haunt the Blair County Historical Society's museum housed in what was once the Baker's mansion. It has been reported that the dress, on display behind glass in Anna's room, sways on its own as if Anna is still admiring the beautiful garment. The staff believed that the floorboards around the dress display were loose, thus causing the swaying of the dress when people walked by, but after security cameras caught the dress moving when no one was around, Anna's presence seems a little more plausible.
Additionally, Elias has been reported "lurking in the parlor and in the bedrooms on the second floor," and Anna's mother, a specter in black, has been seen slowly ascending the staircase.
Okay, not a haunted dress, but what does a dress go on before it gets purchased by some ill-fated lover and becomes haunted? A mannequin, that's what.
La Pascaulita is a uber-creepy life-like mannequin that has stood in the window of a dress shop in Chihuahua, Mexico, for over 80 years. It is urban legend that the mannequin is actually the impeccably preserved corpse of an early shop owner's daughter who died of a Black Widow Spider bite.
First appearing in 1930, the mannequin (dubbed "La Pascualita" after owner Pascuala Esparza) drew crowds due to her incredibly real appearance. Some said her eyes would follow you, or her realistic fingers would twitch.
Even now, it is rumored that La Pascualita moves or "shifts position" at night. Shop worker Sophia Burciaga says, “Every time I go near Pascualita my hands break out in a sweat. Her hands are very realistic and she even has varicose veins on her legs. I believe she’s a real person.”
Now in conversations I've had with people in the "corpse care" industry, they tell me that it's nearly impossible to preserve a human corpse so perfectly. In all likelihood La Pascualita is just an exceptional wax or plastic figure. But when you look at THOSE HANDS, it's easy to understand how the public's imagination could start reeling.
Do you know any good stories about haunted dresses? Clothing? Any weird or creepy clothes in your closet? What will you haunt when you die?