Curataor’s Corner” All Hallow’s Eve is upon us

The Sooke Region Museum has a bunch of creepy artifacts

With Halloween just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to share some of the Sooke Region Museum’s oddball artifacts that may or may not make your stomach turn.

The origins of Halloween (or All Hallows’ Eve) come from an ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (sah-win), which was a celebration of the end of the harvest season. This festival was also used as an opportunity to prepare for the winter. It was believed that Samhain was when the boundaries between the worlds of the living and dead overlapped, allowing ghosts of the dead to wreak havoc on earth. Masks or costumes were often worn to mimic or appease these spirits. Interestingly, it is thought that the presence of these spirits made it easier for Druids (Celtic Priests) to make predictions about the future.

Samhain was established in the land now known as Ireland, and in the late 1800s Irish immigrants helped popularize the celebration of Halloween in America. By the early 1900s, Halloween became an established North American tradition that includes trick or treating, costume parties and other entertainment.

To begin we are looking at an object that would appear, at first glance, to be a regular cast iron pot sans a lid. However, what’s inside might give you goosebumps. Inside this pot is an unknown type of oil that has hardened into a tar-like substance with an embalmed mouse on the surface. This pot is amongst the first collection ever donated to the museum in 1974 and was found on the Phillips farm in Sooke. The pot was most likely used for discarded engine oil. The mouse probably met its fate when it climbed in and couldn’t get out. The rodent truly looks frozen in time as its fur and body are completely preserved.

From the same 1974 donation is a common farming instrument that makes many animal lovers feel uneasy. This device is an animal skin stretching board. This donation included three stretching boards. While the design of a stretching board can vary, ours are handmade using a rough fir lumber and resemble the appearance of a tapered ironing board. One board has remnants of what looks like green paint. Stretching boards are an efficient way to dry and preserve animal hides in a clean and tidy manner. After an animal is skinned, the hide is pinned to a stretching board to dry out. Once one side of the hide is dry to the touch, it can be turned over. When both sides are completely dry, the hide can be tanned and utilized.

This next artifact is not for the faint of heart, but may be appreciated by the fans of AMC’s the Walking Dead. Within our collection is a cannibal’s fork. This three-pronged, hand carved, wooden fork was obtained in Fiji by the donor and donated to us in July of 1989. Cannibal forks, also called Ai Cula Ni Bokola, originated in Fiji and represent the power of a tribal chief. It was taboo for human flesh to touch the lips of a chief (a descendant of a deity), so he was carefully fed by an attendant during cannibalistic feasts. The prongs are present so that the flesh and muscle could be twirled around the utensil. A knife or spoon was not needed. There are many assumptions as to why someone would eat human flesh, but perhaps the most popular explanation is that it was a way to punish and humiliate one’s enemy. The donor was believed to be in Fiji around 1940 when he got this fork from another museum there. It is unclear if this object was purchased or given to the donor, thus it is not known if it was ever used for acts of cannibalism. Nonetheless, reproduced variations of cannibal forks are a popular Fijian souvenir. While this fork has no Sooke related history, it is quite a unique artifact to have in our collection. Beware: if you’re ever at a dinner party where the utensils look like this fork, you might want to think twice about eating the entrée.

Brianna Shambrook

Collections and Exhibits

Manager

Sooke Region Museum

Just Posted

Kenny Podmore, here seen at Sidney’s cenotaph in November, says he feels for the veterans after organizers had to cancel an event acknowledging Victory in Europe (VE) Day for the second time in as many years because of COVID-19. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
North Saanich event marking 75th anniversary of VE-Day cancelled

Sidney resident first planned event for May 9, 2020 moved to May 8 before being cancelled

Individuals and businesses are encouraged to bring their unwanted electronics to Tillicum Centre May 14 to be shredded, recycled or donated. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria residents can shred, donate electronics safely

Vancouver Island Better Business Bureau hosts event May 14 at Tillicum Centre

Scheduling popular summer events like the Canada Day celebrations is difficult due to the pandemic. (File - Sooke News Mirror)
Sooke summer events schedule clouded by COVID

Public health guidelines hamper plans

The District of Sooke is looking at new plans to build a fenced dog park at Ponds Park Corridor. (Pixabay.com)
Sooke seeks input on dog park

Public comment welcomed until June 4

Sooke RCMP are asking for the public’s help in finding Jeremy Tinnion after he was last seen in leaving a Sooke shelter on May 13. (Photo courtesy of Sooke RCMP)
MISSING: Jeremy Tinnion last seen in Sooke on May 13

The 31-year-old was last seen by staff members as he was leaving an Otter Point Road shelter

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
MISSING: Salt Spring RCMP find woman’s car, still seek Island resident

Sinikka Gay Elliott is 5’3” with a slim build and dark brown short hair

A Saanich man received almost 10 years in Supreme Court in Courtenay for a shooting incident from 2018. Record file photo
Shooting incident on Island nets almost 10-year sentence

Saanich man was arrested without incident north of Courtenay in 2018

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Steven Shearer, <em>Untitled. </em>(Dennis Ha/Courtesy of Steven Shearer)
Vancouver photographer’s billboards taken down after complaints about being ‘disturbing’

‘Context is everything’ when it comes to understanding these images, says visual art professor Catherine Heard

Trina Hunt's remains were found in the Hope area on March 29. Her family is asking the public to think back to the weekend prior to when she went missing. (Photo courtesy of IHIT.)
Cousin of missing woman found in Hope says she won’t have closure until death is solved

Trina Hunt’s family urges Hope residents to check dashcam, photos to help find her killer

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Most Read