Our Online Store is Live!

Did you miss us at Smorgasburg LA last Sunday? No worries, we’ll be there again this Sunday from 10-6. Stop by, we’ll show you a magic trick.

But even bigger news: Our ONLINE STORE is live. Now you can shop our lovely wares anywhere, anytime.

Greeting cards by LA artist, Laura Plansker. Our line of Miss Havisham’s dinnerware. Antiques. All manner of tea related items.

red stab


Miss Havisham’s Curiosities Joins Smorgasburg LA


Very pleased to announce that Miss Havisham’s Curiosities will be at Smorgasburg LA every Sunday beginning June 19th at the Alameda Produce Market in Downtown LA.

Antiques, housewares, local artists, and tea!


Come visit us and sample her fine wares, darling. Miss Havisham does not disappoint.


We’re Moving!

We have been remiss in our correspondence as of late but with good reason!

Darlings, Miss Havisham’s Tea is dipping our toe into new waters.

Firstly, we are moving our blog to www.MissHavishamsCuriosities.com.

Because we’re really more of a lifestyle movement after all, aren’t we dearies? Why limit ourselves to tea and gossip?

All of our content, social media, and discussion forums will now be in one lovely little hub.

Secondly, and this is a big one, we will be adding an online store in the near future.

So many of those trinkets we’ve showcased will eventually be available to you online. How else can a lady support her weekend flea market addiction?

And so it is out with the old and in with the new including our fancy new logo courtesy of Mr. Havisham (Thank you, Tim).

Miss Havishams

So please visit us at our new home, subscribe to our newsletter, and look out for more exciting announcements soon.


Miss Havisham’s Curiosities

We’re getting curiouser and curiouser…

Bootleggers and Poison Rings

When I was a kid we lived for a short time in the house my great-grandparents bought when they immigrated from Lebanon. It was a dark and foreboding structure at the end of dead end street with woods on two sides of it. The street actually doesn’t even exist anymore. The house looked a little bit like this one though not as beaten up.


That house was full of mysteries. Trunks in the attic were full of tintype photos and old glass perfume bottles. There were giant wooden wardrobes to hide in and a basement so terrifying I used to run by the door to it as quickly as I could for fear something unearthly would reach out and grab me. In truth, it was just a creepy turn of the century cellar filled with old tools. That house imprinted on me. It has influenced most of my design choices as an adult. Thanks, great-grandparents.

During Prohibition my great-grandparents supplemented their income by being bootleggers, though neither of them drank. Apparently the neighbors did the same and soon enough they became competitors. I’m told the competition escalated to a full on Lebanese Hatfields-McCoys rivalry.


You can read all about it in my memoir once it’s finally finished, but for now dearies that’s all you get. I only bring this up to explain the existence of a secret door in the floor of the house’s dining room. Under the rug there was a small door with a metal ring for a handle. The door led to a series of tunnels out into the backyard where the original copper still was stored along with 60 year old bottles of hooch. So that’s where all the magic moonshine happened.  From the day I learned of its existence I was hooked on secret hiding places, convinced it was my sole responsibility to safeguard our family jewels (I was 4 and there were no jewels).

Most of my childhood you could find me hiding inside a wardrobe or closet with a flashlight and a book or “spying.” Other days I was in the backyard with the dog digging holes to hide our valuables from potential jewel thieves (always up against those pesky jewel thieves). I left crayon maps around the house with secret codes on them, left trails of clues, and I watched way too much Fantasy Island. I also read too many Nancy Drew mysteries after I learned to read, of course.

(Note: That last cover may not be a legit Nancy Drew book title but it made me laugh)

My love of secret lairs, hidden doors, and decoder rings grew strong during the years we lived in the creepy ancestral home and hasn’t really died out yet. Just recently, I took my car in to be serviced and the mechanic asked if I knew about the secret compartment in my Mini Cooper. I did not. I’m not ashamed to say I cried a little. It now holds bandaids. I like secrets. Here are a few of my favorite hiding places.

An antique wardrobe as a portal to a workshop from House Beautiful. Apparently this is the home of designer couple who couldn’t agree on how to deal with the husband’s workshop. Brilliant.


And more.

I’d prefer it if it were a secret laboratory behind these bookshelves instead of a conference room but alas.


More secret doors in antique wardrobes hiding private rooms.I think Tim needs a secret evil magician’s lair.

I would have loved this wardrobe/secret play room as a kid, very Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe, another childhood obsession I might add. Found on  Odee.com.


Secret staircases? V.C. Andrews would be so proud.



The Hidden Passageway Company will actually build you a secret room or a safe behind a painting. I think their bookcases are the best option. I imagine, with a little design nudge in the right direction, they could create some really unique pieces.

Tangent! Download this video on how to make a portrait that appears to follow you with its eyes then line your hallway with them or hang one in your guest room.


Before there were safety deposit boxes, there was trick furniture. Valuables were stashed away in secret drawers. The most famous of which can be viewed in all its mechanical clockwork splendor here. You have to see it to believe it.


The most brilliant pieces of secret compartment furniture ever made were created by the Roentgens, father and son, who engineered pieces for Europe’s royal families. They’re who Marie Antoinette went to when she wanted a desk. Several of their pieces were on display at the Met and one sold at Sotheby’s recently for 133,000 pounds.





After I read this article from Collector’s Weekly on how to find secret compartments in antique furniture, I went home and inspected all my furniture. My lips are sealed, but let’s just say if you have the choice between buying an antique and a new piece of furniture, always go antique. You may find a surprise.

Traveling was especially dangerous in ye olde days so a lady needed to hide her valuables. This vanity case with a secret drawer sure is pretty, if impractical by today’s standards. It recently sold on Ebay which has quite a few antique boxes with secret drawers for sale.

You can always hide your goodies in your expansive library of first editions. Easy enough to carve out the pages or purchase one pre-made like this ca. 1889 copy of Montaigne on etsy.


Poison Rings: I loooooove these. Want to poison your enemy but remain stylish? Are you worried you might need to take state secrets to your premature grave? I’ll never talk! Poison rings became popular in Europe around the 16th century when just about everyone poisoned everyone. It was all the rage.

A triple compartment enamel poison ring ca. 1840 found on Antiquejewel.com.

This ring found on Collectors Weekly is actually a series of interlocking rings or a Gimmel ring that hides a secret message, albeit a sweet one.


Sometimes the message isn’t so sweet as in this ring which bears occult symbols and has a poison chamber. No one sends a nice message with a ram’s head.


Another interlocking Gimmel ring, this one with a message that life is short. Gather ye daisies, friends.


More poison, more!

And this one belonged to Queen Elizabeth I. A sassy gal she was.

Jewelry with secret compartments was the precursor to mourning jewelry where pieces of hair were kept in lockets, pins, rings etc. Read all about it in my former post on mourning, “Death Becomes Her.”

And here’s more gold from Collector’s Weekly. These sure are clever, consider them day-to-evening-wear earrings. The covers come off to reveal the diamonds inside. Also handy for fooling jewel thieves!


This intricately carved ball from the 16th century holds layers of biblical scenes and was used for prayer.

Last, but certainly not least, the nineteenth century invented pocket watches, clocks, compacts and, even cane handles with secret compartments to hide pornographic paintings. Early erotica at its most clever. Check out this recent auction for examples that will make you blush. Definitely not for the shy or prim. Here’s a fairly tame one.


May all your jewels be safe and all your secrets well kept. xoxo


Put a Bird on It

My wedding dress had a train of ethically acquired peacock feathers on it. I’m going to let that sentence sit there for a minute for you to absorb…

Shall we continue? If I read that sentence I’d hate the person who wrote it but alas, it’s the truth. Were they really ethically acquired? Well, at least the woman I bought them from swore they were. She also charged me what I like to call the “not plucked premium.”

The feather has a long and storied past in the fashion world dating back in the Middle Ages and has primarily been a sign of social status. From Venetian masks to the boas of Cancan dancers, the feather has tickled us for centuries. Read all about it here.

There was a time when wearable taxidermy was all the rage, friends.

Actress Christie MacDonald, circa 1902.


Clara Bow


Louise Brooks
Jean Harlow

It fell out of fashion largely because of what might be the first recorded animal rights campaign.

Today there are plenty of folks making hats from actual roadkill they come across like this beauty by James Faulkner:


Or perhaps this one by Margot Magpie for that special gent in your life.

Photo by Dafydd Owen

Or this peaceful white winged bride by Bat Cakes Couture. You can read her artist statement on her Etsy store.


Or the evil twin. The model looks a little like Tippi Hedren.


The undisputed king of feather fashion, however,  is Alexander McQueen. When I saw his exhibit in New York, I actually got teary. Just magnificent. It was as if he reached into the back of my brain and pulled out everything I always dreamed of.

Don’t go hungry, model girl. You can cook and eat the eggs in your hat.


This bird is soaring on the sky of my torso, bucko.


Look to the future…far into the future.


This is exactly how I get dressed in the morning, truly.


This.is.beautiful. I can’t even think of a sarcastic thing to say.


Head explodes in pure joy. I need a minute.

But let us not neglect your feet. You will be feathered from head to toe by the end of this piece.

These are fabulous. These are Dior.



Pretty pretty by Pedro Garcia.


Clips you can put on any pair of shoes by Kathy Johnson. Yes please.


Ok, these are scary. Yet magnificent. No, still scary.


I present you with a foundation garment.


And those zany Victorians and their morbid jewelry. Hummingbirds. I saw a necklace just like this in the hunting museum in Cairo. I stood there feeling guilty but completely mesmerized.


And now, I take my leave of you. Go. Dream of birds.  xoxo

An Auction to Remember

I was in fifth or sixth grade when our teachers trucked us all out for what has to be the oddest school trip combo in history: The Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Football Hall of Fame. There I was pale, skinny, bookish, all knees and elbows and just dreading going to the sports portion. Some things don’t change. In fact, I actually just had to look up what sportball hall of fame is in Ohio while writing this because clearly I only have a real memory of the museum. Needless to say, I was in the minority on that trip.

This was the first time I’d been to a natural history museum and I stood there staring at the giant taxidermy dioramas frozen in awe. I had not expected this. I thought this museum would be all geodes and planetariums, which I would have also been fine with, but this…this was magical. I stood there so long it felt like time had stopped. I nearly missed the bus to the Football Hall of Fame and someone had to come find me and drag me out of the building. I loved walking through the dark rooms lit only by the lights in the nature scenes. I loved the painted backdrops behind the animals, I loved the theatre of it. I never wanted to leave. From that day on, I was enthralled.


Taxidermy is a polarizing topic especially, I find, here in California so let’s be very clear on the subject: I love taxidermy but I don’t support killing for sport. Big game hunters make me sick. The taxidermy I collect is all very very old (mostly Victorian) and somehow that makes me feel better about it. I have no interest in actually creating taxidermy myself and I nearly faint when someone jokes about me stuffing one of my cats after they die, so my relationship with taxidermy is still a bit complicated.

For me, it’s about understanding the Victorian’s relationship with the natural world and their obsessive desire to preserve everything. They were fixated with death and mourning and I suppose I was/am too. I’m also obsessed with human mummies and funeral photos so I don’t really discriminate across species at least.

This past weekend I bid on a number of pieces at auction that were all Victorian pets. This was an exhaustive and fascinating collection of taxidermy, mourning jewelry, automatons, and antique erotica held by Treadway Toomey Auctions in Chicago. The auction was held to raise money to fund grants for contemporary artists. Here’s an excerpt from the program:

Treadway Toomey Auctions is pleased to offer items from the Estate of Candice B. Groot. This important single-owner collection spans much of the late 19th through 21st centuries and includes fine timepieces, erotica, fine taxidermy, automata and decorative arts in addition to exceptional modern and contemporary art and ceramics. The collection will be offered for sale in four auctions throughout 2016 with proceeds benefiting the Virginia A. Groot Foundation, a nonprofit arts organization.

Candice Groot was an artist, teacher, philanthropist and passionate collector. She established the Virginia A. Groot Foundation in 1988, named in honor of her mother. The Foundation awards annual international grants to contemporary artists who work in three dimensions to help allow for the development of their work.

But I digress, this collection floored me. Whoever had these mounts made back in the day clearly loved their pets and wanted them with them always and Candice A. Groot recognized their genius and procured them. Here are a few of them from the auction house website:



Oh kitty, you are special.




And my personal favorite:


The fact that they’re pets is what drew me to them. These weren’t wild animals killed for sport, they were members of the family put on actual pedestals, propped up on velvet pillows or worn on the heads of their humans.


Probably the most famous of all Victorian taxidermists is Walter Potter. Well known for his anthropomorphic dioramas of animals, he is a classic example of the Victorian “whimsy” that quickly fell out of fashion in the twentieth century. Potter displayed his creations in his museum and they were well loved at first, then lost their appeal altogether for a time. His collection was sold off in 2003 piece by piece. Two of his pieces, quite large in size, were auctioned off this past Saturday and fetched the price of $100,000 and $140,000 so someone still loves them (besides me, of course).



The auction also contained a fair amount of mourning jewelry of a similar type. All the pieces had paintings of the dearly departed’s eye in the center of them. They’re beautiful and haunting.


I encourage you to have a look at some of the odd erotica pieces too, they’re quite something. There are canes with secret compartments, naughty pocket watches, and ladies compacts with secret paintings inside to name just a few of the choice items. The Victorians weren’t all high collared dresses and courting couches, believe me.

Lastly, I leave you with a few of the antique automatons that I coveted:


And who doesn’t love a smoking monkey?


Thank you, Candice B. Groot for having such exquisite taste and for setting up such a noble fund for artists. I just wish I’d won the pooch on the velvet pillow.


Freaky Fridays

Welcome to Freaky Fridays where I post links to the odd and the fantastic. Thank you to my friends, especially Sally and Adam, who provided me with pure gold this week. Have a weird news story? Send it to dearmisshavisham@gmail.com

Love is on all our minds with Valentine’s Day looming on the horizon. This UK couple decided to seal their commitment with rings made from each other’s harvested bone cells. So I must ask, how deep is your love?


The heart wants what the heart wants and mine wants these surreal sculptures by Canadian artist Shary Boyle. The always brilliant Dangerous Minds has the full story and suggests that these are for the dark and the demented. I can live with that.


I hate clowns, always have. When I was a kid my mom decided I should have a clown collection so you can imagine the nightmares that ensued…so yeah, thanks, Mom. These clowns from Eat Liver aren’t creepy, nope not at all.


Still not creepy…


Ok, maybe…a little…


For the love of all that is holy…


While researching our next vacation I came across this list of the “The Most Haunted Place in Each of the 50 States” on Places You’ll See. Most of these look perfectly delightful like Henderson Castle in Kalamazoo, Michigan below. It’s a bed and breakfast now, guys.


You buy one haunted Thai baby figurine and pretty soon you see haunted Thai babies everywhere. I didn’t know I was so ahead of the curve when I bought mine at the flea market, but CNN reports that Thai Airways now allows you to purchase a seat for your creepy doll. Who says you can’t travel once you have kids? It’s apparently all the rage with Thai celebrities. Also, when you google “spirit doll” some really terrifying things come up, like this little guy from Spiritdoll.net:


Take away my videograme, I dare you.


Christ, they’re multiplying. On to happier themes, I promise, no more haunted dolls…for a few weeks.

How about beautiful baroque wigs made of paper by Russian artist Asya Kozina from the always entertaining Bored Panda.


And why not also add a set of paper eyelashes from Paperself. I’m in love. Let’s throw a paper themed gala. Doilies for everyone!


Happy Friday! May your weekend be filled with terrifying beauty.