Live Auction

Mid-Week at Stair - Day One

Wed, Feb 9, 2022 11:00AM EST
Lot 230

Victorian Metal-Mounted Black Painted Coffin with Papier Maché 'Odd Fellow'

Estimate: $800 - $1,200
Sold for

Bid Increments

Price Bid Increment
$0 $25
$200 $50
$500 $100
$3,000 $250
$5,000 $500
$10,000 $1,000
$30,000 $2,500
$100,000 $5,000

12 1/2 in. x 5 ft. 9 1/2 in. x 21 in.

Note: The Odd Fellows Fraternity was an organization that originated in England as early as 1730, and counts George IV, Winston Churchill and Stanley Baldwin among its ranks. It was formed as a charitable staple in America through most of the 19th and 20th centuries. The purpose was to visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphans. The fraternity spread to America when the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) was founded in New York City in 1806. Industrialism after the Civil War brought with it the "Golden Age of Fraternalism" when as many as 40% of the adult population in America belonged to a fraternal order. The Great Depression and other contributing factors put an end to that. Years of declining membership saw many Odd Fellows chapters across the country closing their doors. That's when discoveries of skeletons in closets, attics and beneath floorboard of defunct lodges. A few questions arise, were these the remains of members who didn't pay their dues, where the Odd Fellows robbing graves or was it a ritual human sacrifice? The Odd Fellows, like many fraternal organizations, are shrouded in secrecy and steeped in esoteric symbolism, so we may never know. Members pledged to "forever conceal never reveal".

Initiation into the Odd Fellows, the "poor man's Masonry", involved a ceremony in which the pledge would come face to face with a skeleton in a candle lit room to contemplate their mortality. Modern ceremonies use paper maché skeletons, but in the early days they used real human remains. As lodges closed throughout much of the 20th century, these skeletons were often abandoned and forgotten in the buildings where they had served in induction rites for decades. The result is a bizarre and ongoing phenomenon of unsuspecting (and sometimes horrified) people unearthing human skeletons from dark crannies of old buildings around the country.

Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Connecticut River Lodge 7, Barnet, VT; Gallery at Knotty Pine Auctions, West Swanzey, NH, July 29, 2007, Lot 221.

Property from the Estate of David Marks


Scattered nicks, chips and scuffing to the coffin and staining to the fabric interior. Cracks, nicks and losses to the papier maché bones. Largely intact. Wear is consistent with age and use.Not withstanding this report or any discussion concerning condition of a lot, all lots are offered and sold "as is" in accordance with our conditions of sale.