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Feb 1, 2024


The Mourning Society of St Louis is a civilian reenacting group with an interest in mourning, death culture, Spiritualism, and the funeral customs of the mid-nineteenth century through the early twentieth century. This incredibly unique group, co-founded by Edna Dieterle and Katherine Kozemczak in 2005, plans educational events such as historically accurate funerals and wakes, and is the first of its kind. Join the conversation with Patrick, Edna, Katherine, and Sherri Morrow, a member since 2015. How do they build the atmosphere and set the scene? What can modern society learn from Victorian mourning customs? How does playing a character in mourning affect these ladies in their daily lives? Pour some tea, cover your mirror with a black drape, and hear about the inspiration, the research, and the planning behind events that even includes a live seance play based on documented moments in history! Visit for more info.

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In this episode:

Intro :00

The Mourning Society of St Louis is a civilian reenacting group with an interest in mourning, death culture, spiritualism and the funeral customs of the mid-nineteenth century through the early twentieth century. Their main focus is public educational events. The Mourning Society has participated in events with our partners at the beautiful and historic Bellefontaine Cemetery, the Campbell House Museum, the St Louis Public Library, Jefferson Barracks Historic Site, Missouri History Museum, the General Daniel Bissell House, the Field House Museum, Lafayette Park Conservancy, and the Stephen and Peter Sachs Museum at the Missouri Botanical Garden. :52

Guests for this episode are Edna Dieterle and Katherine Kozemczak, who co-founded the Mourning Society of St. Louis in 2005, along with Sherri Morrow, who joined the group in 2015. 4:15

Katherine tells the story of how the Mourning Society came about. Her and Edna were already volunteers on the board for a historic mansion in St. Louis. But the main inspiration started with Edna's trip to a home Mississippi. 4:55

Katherine and Edna’s growing collection of artifacts and accoutrement, including coffins! 6:03

In 2015 their educational mourning events expanded to include funerals at the beautiful and historic Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis, and wakes at the the Campbell House Museum. 7:18

A truly unique group, and probably the first of its kind! 9:01

More on the Victorian funeral events at Bellefontaine Cemetery, including a service in the chapel, and educating participants on the cholera epidemic in 1865. 10:00

A striking and moving sight that includes an undertaker with a historic and period hearse. 12:21

The research and education that goes into the planning of events. 13:50

Sherri on why she joined the Mourning Society. “These are my people.” 14:47

Finding (or sewing) Victorian clothing! 15:23

Carpe Diem. Facing mortality and how playing the role of “mourner” affects these reenactors in their daily modern lives? 18:22

When people just don’t appreciate or understand it. 23:48

Tear Catchers and Wearing Black. Misconceptions about Victorian mourning customs. 27:14

“A lot of times, women did not attend the funerals at all, because men were like, ‘They can’t control their emotions and they’re going to cry in front of everybody.’” — Katherine 32:03

Black drapery, superstitions around mirrors, and marking the house to know a death has occurred. 34:03

The custom of placing coins over the eyes of the deceased. 37:09

Events at the Campbell House and the Magic Chef Mansion, including a wake, mourning customs, medical aspects of Victorian mourning (including live leeches!), and post mortem photography. 38:22

The Spiritualism event at the General Daniel Bissell House, which includes spirit communication devices, and a seance play which incorporates documented accounts of seances from the period! 40:03

Volunteering or joining the group. “It’s just like a bad dance, you know? Too many ladies and not enough gentleman. We never have enough people to carry the coffin.” — Katherine 44:09

Drawing people in, sneaking in education, and making it fun. 47:45

Building the atmosphere and setting the scene. “We try to leave people with an impression of what it was really like and not like a romanticized idea of what it was like. We definitely had people cry on some of the tours before, because I think they go in thinking it’s going to be spooky, and sometimes it’s incredibly sad.” — Katherine 48:28

“We were all like, ’Whoa. We’re doing something here.’” — Katherine 50:03

Connecting emotionally with things from the past. “I think there’s a tendency to disconnect from things that haven’t happened in living memory.” — Katherine 51:03

Children died all the time, but it doesn’t mean they weren’t just as devastated by the loss as we would be today. 54:35

Patrick imagines who his Mourning Society character would be and how he would dress. 56:03

“I started doing this because I was very passionate about history, and I love finding out things that I didn’t know before. And this definitely gives you a chance, when you do the research, to just plunge into it.” — Sherri 58:31

When it’s time to take off the veils, pull your iPhones out and have fun! 59:14

“Who are we going to bury?” — Edna 59:55

Expanding to other time periods and movements, like women’s suffrage. 1:00:37

The Mourning Society of St. Lous is approaching their 20 year anniversary! 1:02:43

Outro 1:03:57

A special THANK YOU to Patreon supporters at the Super Paranerd and Parlor Guest level! 1:05:15


Looking for more Mourning Society?

Facebook: @MourningSociety

Instagram: @MourningSocietyStL

Beyond the Grave: St. Louis Mourning Society keeps funeral traditions alive (West News Magazine)

St. Louisans Are Undertaking A Reenactment Of Robert Campbell's Wake 140 Years After His Death (NPR)

The St. Louis Mourning Society teaches visitors about 19th century funeral and mourning customs. (PBS)

Patrick has two photo albums (Album 1 & Album 2) from visits to Bellefontaine Cemetery (Flickr)



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