Peek Inside the World's Most Strange and Morbid Collections - Atlas Obscura
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Peek Inside the World’s Most Strange and Morbid Collections

Vintage ouija boards? Check. A taxidermied two-headed cow? Check.

A collection of props for a medium, including a talking skull, rapping hands and a slate to record ghostly visits.
A collection of props for a medium, including a talking skull, rapping hands and a slate to record ghostly visits. All Photos: Courtesy Morbid Curiosities: Collections of the Uncommon and the Bizarre/ Lawrence King Publishing

For Daniel Erenberg, it’s gas masks. For John Kozik, it’s old Ouija boards. These are just some of specialties of the 18 collectors that are profiled in the new book by Paul Gambino, Morbid Curiosities: Collections of the Uncommon and the Bizarre. The title is apt: these are collections of items that would make many people recoil.

However, for the collectors, whether they are drawn to taxidermy or early medical photography, the relics are as appealing as gemstones or priceless stamps. “I know the origin and pathology of all of my pieces,I know the story behind them” says collector Nicole Angemi about her collection of human and animal specimens, “I don’t just collect body parts; this is my career, my livelihood, and, of course, my passion.”

Many of the collections featured in Morbid Curiosities have not been previously made public. With detailed photographs and portraits, the book is a glimpse into whole worlds of strange and rare collections. Here is a selection of images from the book.

A Dräger smoke mask, c. 1903.
A Dräger smoke mask, c. 1903.

 

A taxidermied two-headed cow from the collection of Calvin von Crush.
A taxidermied two-headed cow from the collection of Calvin von Crush.

 

Bookends created from rosary beads and a desiccated bat.
Bookends created from rosary beads and a desiccated bat.

 

Facial prosthetics, c. 1918-1919. Prosthetics of this type were created for wounded soldiers.
Facial prosthetics, c. 1918-1919. Prosthetics of this type were created for wounded soldiers.

 

Masks for extreme cold weather. From left, a WWII submarine loader's hood, a Russian motorcycle mask and a WWII US Air Force flight mask.
Masks for extreme cold weather. From left, a WWII submarine loader’s hood, a Russian motorcycle mask and a WWII US Air Force flight mask.

 

"Sadie the Monkey":  anthropomorphic taxidermy created by collector D. L. Marian.
“Sadie the Monkey”: anthropomorphic taxidermy created by collector D. L. Marian.

 

Fingertip shapers, used by women in the early 20th century, to make their fingertips more beautiful.
Fingertip shapers, used by women in the early 20th century, to make their fingertips more beautiful.

 

 

Specimens in Nicole Angemi's collection include a  bone candelabrum, and a mummifed lynx skull.
Specimens in Nicole Angemi’s collection include a bone candelabrum, and a mummifed lynx skull.

 

 

Antique puppets and automatons. The skeleton has real human teeth and the devil sports real animal horns.
Antique puppets and automatons. The skeleton has real human teeth and the devil sports real animal horns.

 

A collection of <em>planchettes</em>, wooden boards used in seances.
A collection of planchettes, wooden boards used in seances.