Most of us are accustomed to encountering elaborate collections from time to time – antiques, gems and minerals, trading cards ... the usual stuff. But is it also perfectly normal to accumulate large quantities of bones (animal and human), stillborn fetuses, creature carcasses, and (perhaps) haunted artifacts?
Nearly 100 vendors at Saturday's inaugural Austin Oddities and Curiosities Expo (Nov. 24 at Palmer Events Center) would answer with an affirmative. While browsing the nationally touring, all-ages bazaar of the bizarre (which has already scheduled its ATX encore for Aug. 17, 2019), "Snapshot" asked participating collectors and artists, "What is the oddest or most curious thing you've ever obtained or created?"
Sterling Sauer (aka Louis Sypher) of Grotesque Anomaly: "I just sold a full-grown cat wet specimen with a mouse in its little paws. ... It had its mouth open like it was about to eat it," he says. "Someone had requested that I get a kitten, and I tried to order it but they sent me a full-grown cat." (Pictured: Sauer's runner-up, a fetal pig wet specimen for $60).
Danny Cesspooch of Red Scale (specializing in invertebrate taxidermy): "This is Dynastes hercules ecuadorensis – one of the largest larvae of any beetle, a Peruvian species with about a 9-inch wingspan," he says. "I had to get it dead, because everything that comes in is illegal to bring alive [with] USDA regulations. This is actually a really popular pet in Europe and Asia."
Dametria Callaway of the Curiositeer: "I have a stillborn dik-dik at home," she says. "It was at a zoo and dead when it was born. They did an autopsy ... so it's got the full-on Y-incision." As it's part of her personal collection, Callaway chose to instead show "Snapshot" this electric stingray fetus, treated with a chemical process called diaphonization that makes tissue transparent, showing calcium in pink and cartilage in blue.
The Art of Price Jones: "My favorite thing, which I got today, is this Victorian-era child's prosthetic arm," Jones says. Also chilling, one of many human skull fragment necklaces for sale hanging around his neck: "Our house is more of a natural history museum than a house. There are over 150 human skulls in our living room alone," which is perfectly legal ... in most states.
Patrick Hart, who transforms classic toys into horrific creatures: "This Robin Williams bear is the creepiest thing I've done," he says. "I'm a huge fan of his, so to me it represents my childhood ... and since a bear's kind of like a childish thing, and he's like a kid at heart, it made sense to me." Definitely disturbing, but maybe not more than the teddy bears with bloody skulls bursting out of them?
Aerial performer Vanessa Volante of Captain Burton's Fun Time Sideshow Circus (performance included with ticket price) on the oddest thing she's witnessed during four-plus years of performing at similar expos: "Oh my gosh, I don't even know. ... The weird kind of becomes normal, doesn't it?"
"Snapshot" didn't even need to ask Skinny Boy Arts about their most peculiar item – it was undoubtedly this assortment of animal shapes (the five most endangered African species) made of "ethically sourced" elephant skin, which still had hair attached. "We have special papers for this," said a representative.
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