Two-Headed Calf Taxidermy Unveiled in South Carolina

Two-headed calf taxidermy by Grover Bearden

A two-headed calf was born on a farm in South Carolina in 2012. It died shortly after birth, as is often the case. Once the initial shock wore off, farmer James Anderson decided to preserve the rare oddity.

He sent it off to Grover Bearden of Southland Taxidermy Studio in Easley, South Carolina. Bearden, a skilled taxidermist who also serves as vice president for the South Carolina Association of Taxidermy, took on the unique challenge.

The life-like mount was unveiled last week, garnering much media attention.

Bearden was kind enough to take some time to chat with me about his work and the opportunity to breathe life back into such an unusual specimen.

Cult of Weird: How long have you been a professional taxidermist?

Grover Bearden: I have been involved in the art of taxidermy for 16yrs with 4 of those years being my full time career. I am also a member of the National Taxidermy Association and a National Certified Taxidermist.

Have you mounted anything unusual before?

Bearden: The weirdest thing I had mounted before was snakes and a Spanish goat. I am always being asked what’s the weirdest thing I’ve done but didn’t really have much to say in reply.

What were your first thoughts when you saw the carcass of the two-headed calf?

Bearden: When I first saw the 2-headed calf it was a little bit shocking but in reality it was cool. It was Mother Nature at her worst or best, who knows what to call it? Either way I knew I had a challenge in front of me.

How long did it take to complete?

Bearden: I never ran a clock on my time but if I had to guess my total time I would have around 80hrs in this piece.

What were the the unique challenges involved?

Bearden: The challenges with this piece was it had two heads and other physical abnormalities and I had to make the mannikin to where the skin would fit it perfectly. I saved the carcass so that I could have it as a template to alter the mannikin to the same shape and size.

What is the general reaction people have when they see the calf for the first time?

Bearden: When some folks see it I think they don’t believe it’s real. I’ve been asked if they was birth mates. I just laughed and said yes but they only had one body. Others are simply amazed at what is before their eyes.

Are there any plans to articulate the skeleton or display the skull?

Bearden: I still have the carcass and am planning to articulate the skeleton. The calf had 2 separate skulls. It would’ve been cool if they was connected, but at the end of the neck was 2 atlas.

A photo of the two-headed calf on Anderson's farm shortly after birth
A reference photo shows the two-headed calf shortly after birth.

Custom two-headed calf taxidermy mannikin created by Grover Bearden
Bearden altered a standard calf mannikin to accommodate the second head.

Grover Bearden working on the two-headed calf taxidermy
Bearden putting some finishing touches on the calf.

All photos courtesy of Grover Bearden, Southland Taxidermy Studio

If you are interested in seeing the calf in person, Anderson plans to display it in his strawberry shop…if his wife will let him.

Jim Skull’s Elaborate Human Skull Sculptures Transcend Death

When he was eight years old in New Caledonia, Jim Faure found a human skull. Needless to say, it changed him forever and sent him down a unique artistic path. He now goes by the name Jim Skull, a fitting title considering his medium.

Jim’s skulls are elaborately created out of a variety of materials, revealing hints of Jim’s inspiration from his travels. Some skulls seem grown from nature, while others resemble tribal ritual objects. Whatever the style, Jim’s sculptures have an organic and transcendent nature that expresses a deep beauty in the inevitable finality of life.

Human skull art by Jim Skull

Human skull art by Jim Skull

Human skull art by Jim Skull

Human skull art by Jim Skull

Human skull art by Jim Skull

Human skull art by Jim Skull

Human skull art by Jim Skull

Human skull art by Jim Skull

Human skull art by Jim Skull

Human skull art by Jim Skull

Human skull art by Jim Skull

Human skull art by Jim Skull

Human skull art by Jim Skull

See more on his website right here.

Photographer Breathes Life Into Natural History Dioramas

Hiroshi Sugimoto photographs natural history museum dioramas

Inspired by his first trip to the American Museum of Natural History, Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto has spent the last four decades delicately constructing black and white photos of natural history museum dioramas. He shot the scenes as though they were real, omitting the framing wall, avoiding glare and reflections to remove any indication that the subjects and habitat were not real.

The result is an elegant book that breathes life and depth into inanimate recreations of nature and human evolution.

Dioramas by Hiroshi SugimotoHiroshi Sugimoto: Dioramas

“Upon first arriving in New York in 1974, I did the tourist thing. Eventually I visited the Natural History Museum, where I made a curious discovery: the stuffed animals positioned before painted backdrops looked utterly fake, yet by taking a quick peek with one eye closed, all perspective vanished, and suddenly they looked very real. I’d found a way to see the world as a camera does. However fake the subject, once photographed, it’s as good as real.” – Hiroshi Sugimoto


Natural history museum diorama photography by Hiroshi

Natural history museum diorama photography by Hiroshi

Natural history museum diorama photography by Hiroshi

Natural history museum diorama photography by Hiroshi

Dioramas is available right here.

Project Blue Book UFO Files Go Online

Files from the United States Air Force study on UFO activity are now available to view online for free.
Vintage UFO photo from the 1950s

The United States Air Force began Project Blue Book, the third study of its kind, in 1952 with two objectives: Determine if UFOs were a threat to national security, and scientifically analyze UFO-related data.

When the study finally ended in 1970, it had collected 12,618 UFO reports. It was concluded that the majority of UFO sightings were nothing more than misidentified natural phenomena or conventional aircraft.

The Air Force concluded that:

  • 1. No UFO reported, investigated and evaluated by the Air Force was ever an indication of threat to our national security.
  • 2. There was no evidence submitted to or discovered by the Air Force that sightings categorized as “unidentified” represented technological developments or principles beyond the range of modern scientific knowledge.
  • 3. There was no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as “unidentified” were extraterrestrial vehicles.

Project Blue Book Unknowns

When the Project Blue Book study came to a close, the Air Force freely admitted to 701 investigated UFO cases which remained unidentified. After a thorough evaluation, some researchers think that number could actually be as high as 4,800 reports due to untenable explanations.

Now you dig through the Project Blue Book files yourself for free right here.

The Black Vault is run by John Greenewald, who has been submitting Freedom of Information Act requests on UFO incidents since he was a teenager. He has gathered, converted and archived the largest repository of such documents, totaling over 1 million pages.

via Open Minds

Taxidermy Makes Funerals Fun in Wisconsin

Nothing says “cheer up” like taxidermy at your funeral. Right?
Taxidermy chipmunk rides a plastic deer in this diorama at Madison's Cress Funeral Home

We have no shortage of weird things in Wisconsin, but still…you don’t expect to find a funeral home full of quirky, Victorian-style taxidermy dioramas.

Funeral director Salvadore “Sam” Sanfillippo was a WWII vet who, as he would tell it, was left for dead on Omaha Beach during the 1944 Normandy invasion. But the ride to the morgue kickstarted his heart, and he lived a long and odd life until April of 2013, when he died at the age of 93.

At some point during his career, Sam decided people attending funerals needed something to do. So he began assembling a collection of taxidermy in the basement of his Madison, Wisconsin funeral parlor. He collected roadkill, chipmunks accidentally killed by golf balls, albino squirrels and fish for taxidermist Vito Marchino to transform into humorous anthropomorphic dioramas.

Families of taxidermy rodents enjoyed a carnival. Chipmunks danced in a “Topless Girlie Show.” Albino squirrels drove Barbie cars and played basketball. Cowboy chipmunks of the Old West rode plastic horses beside toy dinosaurs.

According to the State Journal, some 26,000 visitors came to see the unusual display in its first year open to the public.

Taxidermy chipmunks at the bar at Cress Funeral Home in Madison

Topless Girly Show taxidermy chipmunk diorama at Cress Funeral Home in Madison

Squirrel saloon taxidermy diorama

Bucky Badger taxidermy at Cress Funeral Home in Madison

Taxidermy chipmunks in the Woodland Fair diorama at Cress Funeral Home

Albino squirrels taxidermy

Taxidermy birds in a tree diorama

Taxidermy chipmunks playing poker

More taxidermy chipmunks at the fair

Taxidermy chipmunk cowboy rides a plastic horse at Madison's Cress Funeral Home
Photos courtesy of Extreme Craft

Due to the high cost of maintaining the roughly 500 piece collection, Sam’s family decided to auction it off in March of 2014. The auction generated a lot of interest. Even Mike Zohn of Obscura Antiques and the Oddities TV show was present to take home some of the legendary pieces. The squirrel bar scene pictured above, which is now part of his private collection, will be on exhibit at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn later this month.

If you have pieces from the Cress Funeral Home taxidermy collection and are interested in contributing them to Cult of Weird contact me.

Got a tip on another weird place? Tell me about it!