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Dead kittens and five-assed monkeys


I grew up in a house crammed to the rafters with taxidermy. Mostly things my grandfather shot, but my dad added his bits and they both picked up a few curiosities and, you know, creepy floating junk in cloudy formaldehyde jars. I freaking hate taxidermy. All those bad mounts, crooked faces, dusty bald patches and shiny, shiny glass eyes. Vengeful shiny. Angry shiny.

Okay, I can understand the hunting trophies, even if they creep me out. I can understand the curiosities, even if they really, REALLY creep me out. I can just about squint, tilt my head on one side and understand the various useful hardware, like ashtrays and doorknobs, made out of bits of animal bound in metal. But I will never EVER comprehend how our grandparents could find dead stuffed animal tableaux in any way, shape or form cute.

I think that lobe of the human brain plumb dried up, rolled over and fell off in the last hundred years.

JuliaM posted a link in the comments to a site called Crappy Taxidermy that brought my taxidermiphobia roaring back with a hideous, throbbing immediacy. Oh, yes…I looked at all sixty pages of posts. Every last sad, twisted, bulbous, crusty, mangled fuck-up of a nasty dessicated beastie.

I can has nightmares.

One name kept cropping up: Walter Potter (1835-1918). I know I’ve seen pictures of his work before, and I bet you have, too. Potter was a local Sussex lad, the son of a publican. He took up taxidermy as a hobby and spent seven years building his first tableau, the Death and Burial of Cock Robin.

Some years and hundreds of dead animals later, dude put together a whole museum in Bramber, Sussex. Huge set pieces. Individual mounts. Two-headed lambs and eight-legged kittens.

His most famous pieces remained large tableaux, built out of frogs or rats or squirrels or adorable fluffy bunnies or sweet baby kittens. FREAKING KITTENS. Oh, dear lord Jesus — dead stuffed kittens with twisted faces and vacant eyes. Dressed up for a wedding party or serving each other cups of tea and slices of cake.

Improbably, the whole museum was kept intact and roughly in this area until quite recently. It was broken up and sold at auction in 2003, so I *just* missed seeing it.

Thank CHRIST for that.


Comment from Rodent
Time: August 24, 2009, 8:06 pm

Thank you, dear Weasel, now I can has (more) nightmares too.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: August 24, 2009, 8:33 pm


Comment from scubafreak
Time: August 24, 2009, 8:38 pm

Frankly, the only hunting trophy I find worth having is meat on the table (unless you are a vegan, in which case it is the giant cape turnip….)

Comment from iamfelix
Time: August 24, 2009, 8:48 pm

Eeeuuuwwww. Maybe I was frightened by that as a child, and that’s why I fear big, fancy weddings (not marriage, just over-the-top nuptials). My fears pretty much are:

1. Spiders
2. Progressives/Liberals
3. Big, fancy weddings

I guess this is a sort of taxidermy: When I was just out of high school, I was a cashier in a small grocery. There was a guy who used to come in wearing plastic-encased tarantula around his neck on a leather strap. He also smelled to high heaven – wore about ten layers of clothes, regardless of season, and apparently never changed any of them. So *nobody* wanted to wait on him. I was the junior cashier, and the sr. one would suddenly need to run to the ladies any time she saw him enter the store (she was closer to the door & could spot him quicker). He was also tall and I am short, so the damned spider was right in my face as I was ringing him up. Plus I had to hold my breath the entire time … fortunately, he always had small orders. If he’d asked me to a wedding, I’d have probably croaked.

Eeeeuuuuww!!!ELEVENTY!!! While I was previewing, Stoaty put up the 8-legged cat …… tooooooooo spidery.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: August 24, 2009, 9:10 pm

When I worked at Dunkin’ Donuts (yep! Two years! Loved it to bits) there was a regular we called Joe Pee-on-myself, on account of the smell. Terrible drunk. The back-story was (so we were told) he was a perfectly respectable janitor for Brown University. Then he won the lottery. When the money ran out, skid row ensued.

My fears:

1. Public speaking
2. Spiders
3. Small enclosed spaces
4. Left turns (right turns in the UK)
5. Big, fancy weddings
6. Small, intimate weddings

Seriously — getting married took ten years off my life. The wedding, I mean. Not getting married per se.

Comment from MCPO Airdale
Time: August 24, 2009, 9:24 pm

Ok, I’ll be off my feed for a week after viewing that creepy, CREEPY stuff!

Comment from Rodent
Time: August 24, 2009, 9:29 pm

Oh look, yer back.

Go ahead, post pictures of poor little kittehs turned into nightmares, then go play at HA.

To answer your post there:
For capitalists like us, economics is a science.
For libtards and socialists, it’s a “moral” function used to promote whatever cause they favor. In most cases that “cause” is their own bank account.
But I know that you knew that already and were just teasing the trolls there.

Back to weddings:
Mine (30 years ago) sure took ten years off my life, but, trust me, it wasn’t the wedding, it was the other person involved.

In your case, was it the wedding, or just being in a church? 😉

Comment from armybrat
Time: August 24, 2009, 9:38 pm

“For libtards and socialists, it’s a “moral” function used to promote whatever cause they favor. In most cases that “cause” is their own bank account.”


Comment from Rodent
Time: August 24, 2009, 10:52 pm

re: armybrat
(covers eyes with paws, blushes under fur)

Comment from Gromulin
Time: August 25, 2009, 12:17 am

I came from a family that hunted. One of my uncles was seriously into Big Game. He had this trophy room with damn near every beast in North America mounted…we’re talking the wolf-about-to-pounce mounts. Scared the livng CRAP out of me everytime I went there as a kid. I’ll never forget just how freakin big a Moose head is either.

And yes…the eyes…they follow you everywhere.

Comment from JuliaM
Time: August 25, 2009, 12:48 am

Oh, I love taxidermy!

Done well, that is, and of the hunting trophy sort, rather than the ‘Oh god, what hath thou wrought?’ type.

But yes, the dressed animals creep me out big-time too. I’d forgotten about Walter Potter – the papers went nuts when his collection was being sold (must have been a slow news day) and printed lots of pictures. It made reading the morning paper quite a challenge…

Comment from Scott Jacobs
Time: August 25, 2009, 4:53 am

Uncle B, if those pictures from that blog don’t find their way onto her screen saver, you have failed in your duty.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: August 25, 2009, 7:03 am

What?! Touch The Weasel’s computer, Scot?!

You have no idea of the horror that would ensue… 😉

Comment from surly ermine
Time: August 25, 2009, 9:14 am

I dunno, I kinda like the Ploucquet weasels and foxes beating the hell out of the bunny rabbits.

Comment from dfbaskwill
Time: August 25, 2009, 9:20 am

Creepy. Almost as creepy as a computer store full of nerds.

Comment from Andrea Harris
Time: August 25, 2009, 10:11 am

These things follow me.

When I was a kid my great-aunt had a fox fur stole she used to wear at special occasions. It was an entire dead fox, head, paws, everything.

My father, who grew up in Washington DC, told me my great grandfather was a taxidermist who worked for the Smithsonian. However, my dad told a lot of “stories” so I have no idea if this is true.

Many years ago I gave one of my cats to a friend of mine. Anyway, after many long, happy years the cat went to the great litter box in the sky, and my friend was so distraught she conceived of the idea of having the cat stuffed so she could always have it with her. The last I heard the cat’s remains were in a freezer in the taxidermist’s garage while my friend saved up money for the procedure. I have since lost touch with her, thankfully (for many reasons, nothing to do with the whole cat morbidity).

And have you noticed this trend in “lifelike” animal figures that look like the real thing? I think — hope — the fur is synthetic… I’ve seen them in souvenir shops — they give me the creeps.

Comment from Sockless Joe
Time: August 25, 2009, 10:51 am

“Oh my God! He only has one ass. He’s of no use to me, I’ll have to burn the room.”

Comment from JuliaM
Time: August 25, 2009, 1:10 pm

“…have you noticed this trend in “lifelike” animal figures that look like the real thing? I think — hope — the fur is synthetic…”

If they are the same ones as we have over here (curled up cats, puppies, etc), your hopes are in vain. They are often made in China. I don’t want to think about where the fur comes from…

*rabbits, please let it be rabbits*

Comment from David Gillies
Time: August 25, 2009, 2:35 pm

The thing that freaks me about the kitten tableaux is not the creepy anthropomorphism, but the fact that the guy presumably secured a reliable supply of live kittens, killed them, and then filled them full of kapok just so he could have his 3D Beatrix Potter scenes. It’s basically butterfly collecting but with higher vertebrates (and no taxological merit).

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: August 25, 2009, 2:58 pm

Heh. I knew somebody would pick up on that, Joe.

David, one of the articles I read about Potter explained that the kittens were from a local farm. They named the farm. It’s why all the cats in the collection are orange and white — they’re all more or less siblings.

Pretty common then (and even now, in some places) to let farm cats breed at will and then whisk away the kittens afterwards. I guess there wasn’t much else to do before spaying was possible. The cats had a job to do on the farm.

It’s one of those bits of the past that’s hard to reconcile yourself to, though. They would think we’re utter pussies for crying over something that can’t be helped. Whereas the idea of tying adorable kittehs into a sack and pitching them in the pond makes sweat bead along my hairline.

Let alone screwing them into a collection jar with a bit of chloroform-soaked cotton.

Comment from Allen
Time: August 25, 2009, 3:26 pm

There is one sort of taxidermy I like. The idea of skinning and stuffing Mao and Lenin gives me a tingle.

Comment from weirdsister
Time: August 25, 2009, 4:12 pm

This is definitely creepy. The taxidermy tableaux may have lost it’s charm in the art world for animals, but it has come back by way of the Bodies exhibit with skinned humans of all ages and stages of gestation. Now THAT is some truly sick-assed shit. Dr. Mengele, anyone?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: August 25, 2009, 4:22 pm

I saw that exhibit in Boston, weirdsister. It was definitely creepy, though in a somewhat different way. The subjects, which look like they’re made of plastic in photos, are distinctly less tidy in person. Like they’re molded out of colored beef jerky.

And the artier ones — like the one where he cut square sections out of the body and slid them out like drawers — are just dude, seriously.

Comment from Enas Yorl
Time: August 25, 2009, 5:24 pm

Oh yah, the Bodies exhibit. We have that in Vegas too and it was definitely funky. One of the more amazing ones was of a fairly complete circulatory system standing up and staring out of its box. Going through it I couldn’t help but wonder how many of the subjects were originally Chinese and whether or not their participation was entirely voluntary.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: August 25, 2009, 5:45 pm

Yeah, the Chinese controversy definitely put a different — and queasier — light on it.

I still haven’t worked out how they managed to dissolve a whole rabbit except for the veins and arteries, leaving a perfectly rabbit-shaped tangle of red spaghetti.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: August 25, 2009, 8:03 pm

They immersed it in Diet Coke.

Trust me.

Or not.

Comment from \’Nother Dave
Time: August 26, 2009, 9:23 am

If you’d like the occasional weird without the creep I suggest Curious Expeditions.


Comment from tawny
Time: August 26, 2009, 3:34 pm

Hope I’m not too late with this news, you still have time to head to Bristol.

An auction featuring rare 19th century items of taxidermy, including a mummified human hand and a two-headed calf is set to go ahead.


Comment from Oh Hell
Time: January 5, 2011, 3:18 am

I have a friend (Really, I do…) who used to clean houses in Aspen, the really ritzi ones. She opens a door and there is life size, real, LION standing there. Stuffed, fortunately. She said she didn’t piss herself, but she did let out a pretty good scream.

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