Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Potions and Poisons

Last Sunday my mom and I visited another estate sale. This wasn't the place we went to last time, but a new house. The house had been owned by a 95 year old woman, who clearly had good taste in antiques. Since we went on the last day of the sale, everything was marked down 50% from the first day's prices! This is usually the case with estate sales.

As you all know, I've been on the lookout for some witchy potion bottles. I was lucky enough to obtain a dark wine bottle from the pumpkin carving party, which looks perfect wearing the Arsenic label. The rest of the bottles were found at the estate sale.

The little bottles were priced three for $1.00. The claw bottle cost $1.50. What a deal! Of course, I had to do some research on the bottles when I got home. Here's what I found out...

You will notice that this bottle is embossed with the words "Not to be taken". This is because it is an old poison bottle! Don't worry about the little snake; this bottle has been empty for a long time.

These kinds of bottles were sold between 1870-1930. I'm not sure how old my bottle is. It is stamped with 1990 on the bottom. It could be a reproduction made in 1990 or that number could mean something else. It may really be an antique, because I saw this exact bottle go for $21 on ebay recently.

This curvy, brown bottle was used to hold 4 oz. of Bovril.

Here's the embossed "Bovril" marking. I had no idea what Bovril was until I looked it up. Turns out it was a thick, salty meat extract used for flavoring things like soups. It's funny for this bottle to end up in the hands of a vegetarian, but I think any ancient meat residue is long gone! I found this bottle being sold online from $5.00-$15.00.

Here is my favorite find! Look at that creepy talon. It's just the perfect bottle for a witch display. I wonder what the previous owner used this for. Maybe she put it out for Halloween as well.

The bottom of the bottle is marked: 
Ball and Claw Bitters ~ World's Best Remedy

This is an antique reproduction of a bitters bottle. I know it is a reproduction, because it is marked with the Indianapolis Drug Company stamp. It also has the Wheaton, NJ stamp on the bottom. The Wheaton company was known for making antique reproductions. This bottle may be vintage, but it is not an antique. That's too bad, because original antique bitters bottles go for thousands of dollars! I did find this one being offered for $100 online, though.

For those who don't know, bitters were an infusion of herbs in alcohol which offered a way to consume alcohol in medicine during times when drinking was socially unacceptable or illegal. The bitters heyday in the US was from 1860 to 1906. This was the time of the Temperance Movement. Alcohol was still legal at this time, but looked down upon by many people. Bitters were outlawed with the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 which effectively ended the manufacture of products which were alcohol and/or opiate based.

This little bottle, like the last one, has Wheaton stamped on the bottom. So it must be another antique reproduction.

Here's the wine bottle transformed into a sinister vessel for Arsenic!

I love this label. If you enlarge the above photo, you'll see that at the bottom it reads "Rest Best With Martha's". I think Martha Stewart has a wicked sense of humor...

This last photo is of the "Witches Way" menu I found at Dollar Tree last year. I saw a few of these signs in the stores this year too. It will be included in a display for the Witch party this year. I think it will look perfect on the kitchen counter, behind these spooky bottles!

P.S. ~ As of now, my duct tape pumpkin creation is on the Duck Duct Tape web site! If you'd like to see my 15 minutes of duct tape fame: 


Hopefully, my photo will remain up for a little while. Let me know if any of you end up entering this contest, because I'd love to see what you think up!


  1. You really hit the jackpot...especially with that claw bottle! That is wicked!!!


  2. That claw bottle is absolutely amazing! Now you made me want to go photograph my Halloween themed Witch bottle collection.

  3. Grats on the duct tape pumpkin fame! You certainly have had a good run of luck at the estate sales. That claw bottle is wicKED!

  4. I LOVE the claw bottle! How cool! The wine bottle looks great with the arsenic label, too!

    I just went and checked out your duct tape pumpkin cat. I wish we could all vote for you! I hope you win!!

    A Toys 'r' Us catalogue (Aussie) turned up in the mail and they're advertising Halloween stuff. I've been so busy that I haven't had a chance to go and check out what they've got in store yet, but on top of the $4.00 pumpkins, things are looking up!

  5. LuLu ~ I know! We've really been lucky lately. It helps to know what you want ahead of time. It always seems that if I know what I want, it appears! It doesn't always appear where I think it will, though. I tried lots of retail stores like Pier 1 and Target and didn't find one bottle. I didn't go to the estate sale thinking I'd find any, and there ya go! :)

    Halloween Man ~ Yeah! The claw bottle is my favorite. I've never seen anything like it before. I'd like to see how the original owner had it displayed. I'd love to see your witch bottle collection! Please post a picture on your blog or email me one.

    wicKED ~ Thanks! :) Yeah, I have had some good luck. In years past, I haven't found all this great Halloween stuff. I doubt these bottles were ever considered Halloween related, but they're just what I was looking for and more!

    Little Gothic Horrors ~ Thanks! I'm pretty happy with how that label looks too. I'm really excited to put this display together. I think I may need a little toad to sit in front of the bottles. :)

    Aww... Thanks for offering to vote. :) I'm afraid that just a secret panel of duct tape judges will be deciding on the winners. I was surprised to read how detailed the judging rules are. Certain percentages will be based off of color, style, creativity, etc. It's all laid out in detail on the site!

    That's awesome that your Toys "R" Us is getting on board with Halloween! I would say things are definitely looking up in Australia. :) While you're there, you should look for the Monster High dolls. They should be in with the Barbies if your store carries them. Even as an adult, I own one! They're too cute. You can check them out here:


  6. Doesn't that sound hilarious, though?! Imagine being part of "a secret panel of duct tape judges"?!! Haha!

    Thanks for that link. The Monster High Dolls are available here. I haven't actually seen them in the flesh yet, but I'm very tempted by them!! Which one did you get?

  7. Oh how cute! Did you watch the Fright Song, 'Where The Ghoul Kids Rule!'? My cat, Phoebe, was asleep on my lap, then woke up and started watching it intently!

  8. I'm going to take a guess. Did you get Clawdeen Wolf?

  9. I just looked in the same Toys 'r' Us catalogue and they have the dolls on sale. 40% off!!

  10. I would love to be able to say I was a member of "a secret panel of duct tape judges". I would absolutely love that. :)

    I actually have Draculaura. She comes with a cute little pet bat! I love anything pink and black, and am a big fan of vampires. I love werewolves too and Clawdeen is adorable!

    I think I heard that song in a store. There was a little video playing next to the doll display. Sounds like Phoebe is a fan! :)

    That's awesome that they're 40% off! Let me know if you end up buying one of these dolls.

  11. what great finds! that claw bottle is perfect for this years witch party theme. The label looks great on the bottle too!

  12. Wonderful finds! :0) One never knows what one will find.....
    And Thank You for the positive thoughts! ♥

  13. I love antique bottles! These are fabulous finds.

  14. I love to collecting cool bottles and you found some interesting ones.

  15. Love all the bottles but of course the claw bottle is best.

    I hope you win the duct tape contest, i won't be entering this year, but maybe next year they will have a contest.

  16. Stacey ~ Yeah! I was very happy to find these bottles. They were tucked under a bunch of weird stuff in the basement of that house. All the good things are usually hidden under the old junk. That's why it's so fun to dig through piles at those sales!

    I'm really happy with how that label looks too. Now I just need to drink two more things that come in dark bottles, and I'm set. :)

    Jeanne ~ Thanks! So very true. I can't believe we found four bottles there. I hope you're doing well or will be soon!

    Jessica ~ Me too! I love how these colorful old bottles catch the light. It occurs to me that I was lucky to find all green ones, aside from the brown one that matches the wine bottle I had. There were actually no bottles in other colors there!

    Adsila ~ Yeah! That ball and claw bottle is like no bottle I've seen before. The "not to be taken" words were a nice touch too. Do you have some spooky bottles in your collection?

    Vivienne ~ Yeah, the claw bottle is pretty much winning hands down. :) I have to wonder if anyone decorated with those in a non-Halloween way.

    Thank you! Of course, I would love to win too! I'm sure they'll do another contest next year. I read somewhere on their site that it's a yearly tradition for some people! The Duck brand people seem really into contests.

  17. Laughing at "I just need to drink two more things that come in dark bottles, and I'm set." I'm racking my brain for brown bottled items and all I can come up with is vanilla extract. There MUST be something else! The green bottle of Jagermeister liqueur might work, it's got a vintage feel about it, too.
    Lucky girl to get such good finds at such good prices! Luck and a sharp eye, I should say!

  18. Haha! Yeah, I guess I've got my work cut out for me. :)

    A vanilla extract bottle would work nicely if it was a lot larger! The general shape and color would be great. I could maybe design my own little label for one of those. A Jagermeister bottle would be perfect! Thanks for the suggestion.

    I am quite lucky, but I also have had a lot of practice looking for deals!

  19. I love your bottles! For some reason, it never occurs to me that I can go out and look for bottles. I just wait around for the olive oil or the balsamic vinegar to run out so I can use the bottle. Sometimes I choose a meal for dinner just to use something up ;)

    Your way seems much better. And more fun!

  20. Thank you! :) Well, olive oil and vinegar bottles can be pretty cool too. I guess I'm your opposite on this one, because I never thought to save oil and vinegar bottles! It's not like I'm not eating lots of those two things, either. The olive oil bottle I have now is tall and dark, so it would actually be a perfect addition to the witchy bottle collection!

    Haha, you sound like me with that wine. The way I was drinking through it to get the bottle. :) It was really good wine, though. Glad we inspired one another with bottle ideas!

  21. You've found the most perfect set of glass bottles for your Hallowe'en labels. The Ball & Claw bottle is absolutely fantastic! I really want one!! It's so creepy and amazing.. I'd have it on display on my dresser all year round! What a wonderful find!! :D

    The old Borvil bottle is a lovely colour. I have never tried Borvil but it's still sold in the supermarkets here.. I think it's more of an older generation thing haha!

    Sandy xxx

  22. I'm pretty happy with my new bottle collection! You might just run into a ball and claw bottle, since these were reproductions. I did find more online, but they were pricey. So I guess antiquing is your best bet. I know you like to shop for old things, so you might just run across one of these.

    I remember reading that Bovril was a product produced in England! I wondered if you might be familiar with it. From what I saw online, the bottles are still made in the same shape, but the labels are different. I've never seen Bovril for sale in the U.S. supermarkets. It doesn't surprise me at all to learn that Bovril is popular with older people. I can't imagine many young people messing around with a meat extract. I read online that people used to mix this stuff with water and drink it! Maybe they still do. It all sounded pretty nasty to me!

  23. Justine, those bottles are beyond fantastic - I'm jealous! ;-)

  24. Eva ~ Thanks! Just drink a bottle of wine and get some Martha Stewart Halloween labels and one of these can be yours! The others might be trickier to find.

    I'm now thinking these will be lit up by some candles in green glass candle holders. I think the candlelight would be really pretty bouncing off the glass!

  25. I don't have any spooky bottles, but one of them was my grandfathers (very old).

  26. Hey Justine,

    Just read a post on apothecary jars and bottles over on the "art bliss" blog. I think you'll enjoy it: