Fact Check

Bride and Go Seek

Corpse of a hide'n'seek-playing bride who disappears on her wedding day is found in a locked trunk years later.

Published Sep 8, 2000

Legend:   The corpse of a hide 'n' seek-playing bride who disappeared on her wedding day is found in a locked trunk years later.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2000]

A young couple has just been married at a large family wedding. The reception is held at the bride's grandmother's house. After they have had dinner and cake and such they all decide to play hide and go seek, which has been a tradition in the bride's family for quite some time. The bride, knowing the house, decides to hide in the attic in a large chest, but when she climbs in she slips and the lid to it comes crashing down. It knocks her out and she is now locked, unconcious, in the chest.

Meanwhile the rest of the family is searching for her and is starting to get worried. After hours of calling for her and searching the house they call the police, who are also unable to find the missing bride. The bride eventually wakes up but is unable to get out so starves to death.

Years later the bride's younger sister is married and when she turns to hide in the very same chest she is horrified to find her sister's remains rotted away in her wedding dress, now covered in blood from her frantically trying to claw her way out.

Origins:   In the 1948 Alfred Hitchcock classic film Rope, with the help of Mr. Kentley (Cedric Hardwicke), Rupert Cadell (James Stewart) briefly recaps this tale about a dead bride and a trunk. He is prompted to do so because the sight of the trunk from which dinner is to be served reminds him that Phillip Morgan (Farley Granger), one of the party's two hosts, used to love to regale others with this story when Cadell was their housemaster at prep school. (But of course the trunk at this dinner party contains the corpse of a man murdered by Morgan and his co-host, adding an additional level of irony to the moment.)

The tale, however, is much older, and is recounted in a Thomas Haynes Bayley (1797-1839) ballad variously called "The Ballad of the Mistletoe Bride" or "The Mistletoe Bough":

The mistletoe hung in the castle hall,
The holly branch shone on the old oak wall;
And the baron's retainers were blithe and gay,
And keeping their Christmas holiday.
The baron beheld with a father's pride
His beautiful child, young Lovell's bride;
While she with her bright eyes seemed to be
The star of the goodly company.

'I'm weary of dancing now," she cried;
"Here, tarry a moment-I'll hide, I'll hide!
And, Lovell, be sure thou'rt first to trace
The clew to my secret lurking place."
Away she ran-and her friends began
Each tower to search, and each nook to scan;
And young Lovell cried, "O, where dost thou hide?
I'm lonesome without thee, my own dear bride."

They sought her that night, and they sought her next day,
And they sought her in vain while a week passed away;
In the highest, the lowest, the loneliest spot,
Young Lovell sought wildly-but found her not.
And years flew by, and their grief at last
Was told as a sorrowful tale long past;
And when Lovell appeared the children cried,
"See! the old man weeps for his fairy bride."

At length an oak chest, that had long lain hid,
Was found in the castle-they raised the lid,
And a skeleton form lay moldering there
In the bridal wreath of that lady fair!
0, sad was her fate!-in sportive jest
She hid from her lord in the old oak chest.
It closed with a spring!-and, dreadful doom,
The bride lay clasped in her living tomb!

This tale makes us shiver because it invokes our fear of being buried alive and dying inch by inch in an enclosed, dark space. As in the legend about the snake in the botanical garden, the horror is heightened by the innocence of the victim and the happiness of the day being transformed into unspeakable tragedy. The bright promise of what should have marked the beginning of the happiest period in her life dies a long, lonely death along with the bride in a child's game gone horribly wrong.

Barbara "the death in the chest" Mikkelson

Sightings:   As noted above, the 1948 film Rope mentions this legend in passing.

Last updated:   26 August 2005