I would be lying if I said that curating a list of unusual, strange, creepy curiosities was something I specifically undertook in the spirit of Halloween. In fact, I’ve been making note of any and all antiquarian atrocities I’ve stumbled upon for many years. It used to be that I would encounter these trinkets in the flesh, so to speak, as I spent many a childhood weekend perusing antique shops, old barns, and flea market of the small town in Maine where I grew up. Yes, Maine is a real place and not a locale invented by Stephen King. In fact, the town I live in now is where the less than memorable 1996 film adaptation of King’s Thinner was filmed.
While I was not averse to traveling around the state in search of freaky finds, and I did, as I grew up and the internet provided the opportunity to shop from the closets and basements of people around the world (and sometimes free shipping!) the weird world of other people’s unsettling heirlooms and other hidden troves, vestiges, and relics opened up to me. Along the way, I also inherited some — including an antique embalming kit bequeathed to me upon the death of a grandfatherly undertaker that has become the central conversation piece in my abode.
I’m sure I’ve probably disturbed some spirits / opened up a few portals / awoken a curse or two as I’ve gone about my collecting. Of course, I can’t prove whether or not any of these things are truly horrible harbingers.
But if they’re not, an opportunity has been missed.
TheCuriositeer’s shop offers a plethora of “Oddities and Curiosities for the Discerning Weirdo.” Even if you aren’t all that discerning, you’d probably enjoy this oddly beautiful Finch Bird Skull Ossuary pendant. ($46.00)
If you’re local to Carmel, New York you should go check ontherebound’s store in person. If, like me, you have to shop from afar, it might actually help you avoid becoming possessed by whatever has been living in this ashtray for centuries. ($21.25 — on sale!)
For UK friends, or those who would pay international shipping for a human ear mold (and who wouldn’t?!) check out ISellYouLoveinaBox’s specimen shop. Get your very own (~silicone) severed thumb in a jar. ($17.21)
Sure, a children’s book containing Aesop’s fables from TheDustyTome — but look at that setup! Could totally be a grimoire in disguise. Or, at the very least, hiding a secret note betwix its pages wherein a murder victim reveals their killer’s name. ($15.00)
DownADarkAlley is also based in the UK. And every horror movie about a child’s toy seeking vengeance upon the living is based on these incredibly disturbing custom-made Victorian skull dolls. ($198.57+)
Antique medical equipment is a cheap shot — if you don’t believe all of these tools are all haunted as heck, you’re playing yourself. LoveBizarreOddities is a good place to start but there is (surprisingly?) no shortage of this particular brand of crypt-keeping creepiness on Etsy. Though I’m not sure it gets more cringey than this tonsillectomy/torture device. ($63.75)
Again, for UK friends, Loved & Loved Again Vintage Jewellery & Collectables can actually hook you up with some neat antiques that are clearly not harboring the undead. That said, I’m not saying some Countess definitely hid poison in this Victorian travel-sized medicine/perfume bottle, but. . .($39.70)
Well, according to TheVintageGlassShop, it’s a vase from 1874. A glow in the dark vase from 1874. But I would not be shocked to learn it had someone’s ashes in it at one time or another. Actually, if not, I am disappointed. ($595.70)
Full disclosure: I went to high school with Heidi of This Attic Vintage. If any items in her shop are ghost-ridden, I’m certain she’d cleanse it thoroughly before selling. Unless you’re in the market for a ghost in which case if anyone can find one to suit your spooky needs, it’s her. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and assume the phantom is included with this portrait. ($302.00)
Abby Norman is a science writer & the author of ASK ME ABOUT MY UTERUS: A QUEST TO MAKE DOCTORS BELIEVE IN WOMEN’S PAIN. She’s also the host of Let Me Google That, a daily podcast on Anchor.fm. She lives in New England with her dog, Whimsy.