Heavy on the wierd-sauce…

I’m not even sure how I stumbled onto these websites, but they are… fascinating.  Not necessarily in a good way.  Possibly in a sort of train-wreck way.  Definitely interesting and definitely difficult to avoid delving further into.  Don’t believe me?  Well, here you go…

Let start with Ravishing Beasts.  Sound pornographic but don’t worry it’s not.  This site is all about strange and awkward taxidermy.  Of particular interest is the taxidermy pic of the week.  Take the time to go through them – believe me, you’ll get sucked in.  The thing is, there’s actually some really creative stuff going on there.  You can’t deny (nomatter how much you might want to) that there’s no small amount of skill being exercised to create some of these things.

Next is Rogue Taxidermists.  Most interesting is the profile of Takeshi Yamada, who is apparently the man responsible for much of the strangeness one witnesses at carnival ‘freak-show’ events.  Okay, maybe he’s not responsible for them, but his work is… undeniably… good?  Regardless, it’s interesting to see such fascinating works.

Then we have Top Hat Taxidermy, which touts itself as the “world’s leading online retailer of taxidermy.”  Without doubt, there’s some seriously taxidermized animals for sale here… including pets and other interesting creatures.  I’m particularly fond of the photograph on the home page of a woman walking in public with her stuffed toucan.  Because we should all walk our stuffed pets at least once a day.  Yeah. 

Finally, there’s Curious Expeditions.  This particular site doesn’t concentrate on taxidermy, per se, but it definitely travels along similar paths.  There’s a particular section, a visit to a museum in Italy that contains a lot of wet taxidermy, specimens held in jars of formaldehyde and other preservatives.  I don’t know why but I found it disturbing.  There’s lots of other odd content there… it’s a really fascinating site to flip through and has a lot of potential to lead to even more awesomely wierd sites.

Interesting sites, all of them.  I’m not sure I understand the fetish for stuffed creatures.  I hunted for years and have always regarded any creature hanging on a wall as a trophy.  I’ve been exposed to trophy rooms that held hundreds of such trophies, but each and every one was hunted and killed by the owner of the trophy.  The whole concept of purchasing an animal’s head seems… awkward.  Perhaps not too terribly much more so than the simple fact of having an animal’s head hanging on a wall, but awkward nonetheless.  Keeping stuffed pets is somethind I simply don’t understand.

The idea of keeping animals in formaldehyde, particularly creatures like birds and monkeys, now that just freaks me out a bit.  I’m not sure what it is about it that bothers me, but perhaps I feel that the body needs to decompose after death, that it needs to return to its component particles, and that taxidermy – particularly ‘wet’ taxidermy – doesn’t permit that ‘final rest’ for the creature.  I couldn’t say for sure, but it definitely feels wrong. 

Years ago my ex-girlfriend brought home a small shark in a jar, suspended in formaldehyde.  She named it and put it on a shelf, where it sat for about a year before we split up.  To this day the memory of that shark haunts me, floating upside down in a small jar, staring with lifeless eyes.  Extremely uncool, that.  

That being said, it didn’t stop me from marvelling at the images, peeking into the world that is clearly important to at least some small segment of our society.  It’s a kind of voyueristic thrill to experience another’s fetishistic passion, particularly one for which I feel conflicted towards.  On my most recent visit to NYC and the Museum of Natural History I saw a whole freakin’ enormous building filled to bursting with stuffed animals, and I found it interesting not just for the fact that I was looking at lifelike representations of creatures that I would never see (simply because they existed in areas of the world I’m not likely to visit, or because they’re extinct) but because I was looking at lifelike representations of dead animals.

On that same trip we visited the MFA (Museum of Fine Art) over by Central Park.  One of the pieces was a big ol’ shark suspended in formaldehyde in a big ol’ tank (I know, I have some kind of wierd thing with dead sharks in formaldehyde.)  When I say ‘big’ I mean big, it was at least 12 feet long.  Monofilament held the shark suspended in the tank, so it gave the impression of being alive, rather than squished against the bottom in a heap of dead fish.  Again, being stared at by a shark with dead, gray skin and dull, clouded, lifeless eyes was not one of my happiest moments.  Kinda creepy even. 

Without a doubt, stumbling across these websites has completely derailed my productivity for the evening in favor of philosophical introspection and a strong desire to go and hug something alive and well.  And warm.