The Art of Ryan Matthew Cohn

The Collective Disease: The Art and Artifacts of Ryan Matthew Cohn explores the Oddities star’s incredible personal collection in his museum-like New York home, including his exploded Beauchene skulls, taxidermy, anatomical wet specimens, skeletal articulations, shrunken heads and a complete Greco-Roman period Egyptian mummy.

The exploded skulls, skeletal articulations and medical preparations of Oddities star Ryan Matthew Cohn
Cohn examines an elongated skull from his personal collection

See more fascinating and bizarre videos over at The Midnight Archive.

Carl Akeley’s Powerful Sculpture Depicting the Humanity of Gorillas

Dculpted in 1924 by taxidermist and gorilla advocate Carl Akeley, “Chrysalis” represents his belief in the humanity of the apes.
Chrysalis sculpture by Carl Akeley

This sculpture was created by legendary taxidermist Carl Akeley in 1924. It depicts a man emerging from the skin of a gorilla, which naturally sparked controversy for its implications of evolution. Akeley defended his work, stating he intended to express how man is as bestial as the gorilla.

While collecting mountain gorilla for his work at the American Museum of Natural History, Akeley made observations that fundamentally changed his attitude toward the species. Opposed to hunting them for sport or trophies, he worked to establish a gorilla preserve, which eventually became Africa’s first national park.

“Chrysalis” represents Akeley’s belief in the humanity of the gorillas, rather than the idea that humans evolved from apes.

Carl Akeley killed a leopard with his bare hands

Famed Taxidermist Carl Akeley Turns 150


Carl Akeley, the grandfather of modern taxidermy, turns 150 this week.

Recently, tales of the legendary tough guy have been circulating around the web, recounting his first expedition for the Chicago Field Museum in 1896, when he was attacked by a leopard. Akeley was hunting ostriches at dusk, when he took a shot at what he believed to be a warthog rustling around in the tall grasses. To his surprise, a leopard jumped out at him, which he managed to fight off and kill with his bare hands. He is said to have strangled the animal while his arm was down its throat.

Legendary taxidermist Carl Akeley stands with the leopard he killed with his bare hands

But Akeley is best known as an accomplished taxidermist, sculptor and inventor, pioneering many new methods of taxidermy and museum dioramas still in use today.

He began making a name for himself in New York, where he earned a place in the spotlight with his mount of the famous Barnum & Bailey circus elephant Jumbo, who was struck by a locomotive. He went on to the Milwaukee Public Museum in 1886, where he created the world’s first complete habitat diorama.

For Akeley, taxidermy was a tool for conservation. This meant dangerous expeditions into the African wild to study the species, document their habitats, and bring down most majestic specimens he could find for display in museum dioramas. His work for the American Museum of Natural History lead to the creation of his masterpiece, the Akeley Hall of African Mammals.

Among his contributions to the taxidermy world are the use of lightweight mannequins rather than sawdust to mount the skins, and the study of anatomy to achieve more life-like work.

Akeley died of a fever in the Congo during his fifth expedition to Africa.

Habitat Dioramas as Early Tools in Wildlife Conservation

For more on the life of Carl Akeley check out Kingdom Under Glass and Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy.

Condemning Smallpox to Extinction

Smallbox warning sign

Delegates meet next week for the 67th World Health Assembly to discuss the deliberate extinction of the smallpox virus. The global eradication of smallpox was confirmed in 1980. The World Health Organization closed smallpox research labs and destroyed all samples of the virus, with the exception of two sets of the Variola major and Variola minor strains. One set was sent to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, and the other to the State Research Centre for Virology and Biotechnology in Koltsovo, Novosibirsk.

The destruction of the virus was originally set for December 30th, 1993. However, opposition from the US and Russia have delayed the process.

More here: Let’s finally condemn the smallpox virus to extinction

Vintage photo of a smallpox patient

The death car of Bonnie and Clyde

The Death Car of Bonnie and Clyde

The ‘death car’ of Bonnie and Clyde, still riddled with bullet holes, has been on display ever since the notorious bank robbers were gunned down.
The Bonnie and Clyde death car on display
The stolen car Bonnie and Clyde were gunned down in, on display at Whiskey Pete’s Hotel and Casino in Primm, NV.

On May 23rd, 1934, Bonnie and Clyde were gunned down in their stolen 1934 Ford Model 730 Deluxe Sedan. A posse of police officers ambushed the couple, unloading 130 rounds into their car on a rural road in Bienville Parish, Louisiana.

Officers Ted Hinton and Bob Alcorn stated:

Each of us six officers had a shotgun and an automatic rifle and pistols. We opened fire with the automatic rifles. They were emptied before the car got even with us. Then we used shotguns … There was smoke coming from the car, and it looked like it was on fire. After shooting the shotguns, we emptied the pistols at the car, which had passed us and ran into a ditch about 50 yards on down the road. It almost turned over. We kept shooting at the car even after it stopped. We weren’t taking any chances.

The bodies of Bonnie and Clyde seen inside the car after the ambush

The coroner’s report listed 17 separate entrance wounds in the body of Clyde Barrow and 26 in Bonnie Parker’s. The undertaker had difficulty embalming the bodies due to all the bullet holes.

Almost immediately after the car was returned to its owner, Ruth Warren, it was leased out as a gruesome sideshow attraction and began making rounds across the country.

The Bonnie and Clyde death car crime exhibition

Bonnie and Clyde's death car on display at Whiskey Pete's Hotel and Casino in Primm, NV
Photo: Wayne Hsieh/Creative Commons

The bullet-riddled death car of Bonnie and Clyde

Today the actual bullet-riddled, blood-soaked death car can be seen on display at Whiskey Pete’s Hotel and Casino in Primm, NV.

A photo of Bonnie and Clyde from March 1933 found by police at their hideout
Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker c. March 1933, found by police at their hideout in Joplin, Missouri.

Update: Apparently there is a contender for the title of Actual Bonnie & Clyde Death Car.