Sunday, November 05, 2006

Little shop of horrors?

Photos from another favorite neighborhood shop, Obscura Antiques.

Box of glass eyeballs, anyone? I love the aesthetics of this shop. The contents are truly obscure, ranging from taxidermied dogs to taxidermied fish to taxidermied armadillos. (The kiddo totally loves the dog. It looks perfectly real and friendly but doesn't make any quick, unpredictable movements. Perfect for a toddler to admire and exclaim over. We stop in to visit frequently.)

Ok, not everything in the shop is taxidermied. For example, you might also come across a mummified head or a real skull or two.

I love the mad scientist quality of the shop, and the displays themselves are wonderfully appealing, seemingly random but artfully arranged. Along one wall a Howdy Doody ventriloquist dummy perches on a shelf near black and white sports photos from the '20s and '30s, and a taxidermied fish head sits on a small table next to a bright pink plastic male torso. Nearby you'll probably find well-worn wool uniforms; ancient medical or scientific charts; a naturalist's extensive collection of butterflies, rocks, and beetles preserved inside a tall wood cabinet; and perhaps a collection of teeth.

I think part of my attraction to this store must be its resemblance to my dad's lab where, aside from the computers, time seems to stand still. (Not that that my dad is a mad scientist, mind you. Although, come to think of it, I don't know too many other people who are willing to spend time in the arctic circle and in Antarctica on a regular basis. And in the winters when we were kids he used to ride his bike across the lake to the university when the ice was thick enough to hold.) I love the old National Geographic maps on his walls, the glass beakers in the cabinets, the wood drafting table and slate countertops, the rock samples along the windowsills, and all the grease pencils and brittle old wheel erasers with the little brush on one end.

I thought of Obscura the other day when I ran across this photo in Elle magazine. The old glass and metal cabinets and ancient oak office chairs are practically chic now! I knew it would happen sooner or later.

Obscura must be one of those Only-In-New-York phenomena. And although I'm unlikely to take home a mummified head or that taxidermied dog (much as the Kiddo loves it), I'm oddly attracted to the shop. One of these days we may find ourselves bringing home a beaker or two. Or maybe a few glass eyeballs. I just can't help myself.


  1. oh i love that. there's something oddly attractive when all of those items are collected together isn't there?

  2. do i spy a victorian mourning hair piece?? that would be a score!

    [i love new york!]

  3. Actually, there was (I'm not sure if it is still there) a shop on the waterfront in Seattle that had stuff like that too. Although Obscura looks much bigger. There was a mummy in this shop in Seattle and all sorts of other weird stuff. I'll have go sometime and see if it is still there.

  4. Anonymous11:42 AM

    This shop reminds me of David Sedaris. He has written some essays on the curious things he has found in shops like this in Paris.

    It seems like a wonderful place to wander through.

  5. That shop looks so amazingly creepy and fun! I think my favorites are the boots in the front window and the bearded man.

  6. i love obscura... except for the snakes! why do they have to have those giant, taxidermized snakes?!?

  7. Anonymous3:20 PM

    My old friend Cynthia used to live in the back of that shop actually. When the owner had a baby girl he always scored her the most amazing vintage clothing and I was in awe.