Tis the season for skeletons and other Halloween traditions, but did you ever wonder about the origin of the phrase “skeleton in the closet?”
The prevailing view implies that someone has skeletons in said closet if the person in question has something nefarious to hide, but historically, there’s a bit more to the story.
In England, until the early 1800s, physicians were not allowed to collect and dissect bodies other than those of executed criminals. Even after an Act of Parliament was passed to allow other bodies to be used for research, doctors hid the bodies (presumably in closets or cabinets) from the squeamish eyes of the public. The bodies might still have had a great deal to reveal medically and might have been kept until all that remained was the skeleton.
Hiding a skeleton might have cast a bad light (from a legal as well as a squeamish perspective) on the keeper of same, but as time went by, humorous and/or serious references to deeds or activities not related in any way to skeletons, arose.
But skeletons don’t always get a bad rap. They have been included in Halloween celebrations all over the world for thousands of years for the purpose of warding off evil spirits.
How many skeletons do you have in your closets?
Stay safe and have a Happy Halloween!
*Thanks to Toni L.P. Kelner (Leigh Perry) for many hours of fun with her Family Skeleton series. “The Skeleton Haunts a House” is the book appearing in two of the photos.
*Photos by Patti Phillips