Cult of Weird Holiday Gift Guide 2016

Find the perfect gift to warm the cold, dead heart of that special someone on Christmas mourning.
2016 Cult of Weird holiday gift guide

The holiday season has reared it’s ugly head and, as Gomez Addams says, “Suddenly I have a dreadful urge to be merry.” That means it’s time to dig up some weird gift ideas from some of my favorite purveyors of fine oddities.

This Christmas, give the gift of WTF.

Preserved Octopus Wet Specimen

Preserved octopus in specimen jar
Ethically-sourced baby octopi in specimen jars from Half Embalmed.
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Plush Bigfoot Buddy

Plush Bigfoot buddy
These unique, handmade stuffed Bigfoot Buddies debuted this October at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference.
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Christmas Scented Krampus Candles

Krampus Christmas pillar candles
Iced Vanilla, Mulled Wine, and Cinnamon scented Krampus holiday candles from Divine Excess.
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Ghostland by Colin Dickey

Ghostland by Colin Dickey
Ghostland is a haunted roadtrip through history by way of America’s most notoriously dark places, where the spirits of the past refuse to rest.
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Ouija Board Solid Bubble Bath

Ouija board bubble bath
Patchouli, lime, teakwood and black pepper-scented Ouija board bubble bath bar with cocoa butter planchette.
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Corpse Paint Nativity

Corpse paint nativity figures
Ceramic thrift store nativity figures desecrated with corpse paint.
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Beeswax Feline Skull Candle

Cat skull candle
All-natural beeswax feline skull candle cast from real bone.
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Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs

Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs
Ransom Riggs, author of the enchantingly odd series Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, expands on the bizarre mythos he’s dreamed up with a new installment of stories from the secret history of the peculiar world.
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Ed Gein Christmas Ornament

Ed Gein Christmas ornament
Custom made plastic Christmas tree bauble featuring Ed Gein from the great Pandora’s Box.
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Framed Victorian Mourning Coffin Plaque

Antique Victorian era coffin plaque in frame
Antique framed silver coffin plaque inscribed with the words “Our Mother.”
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The Victorian Book of the Dead

Victorian Book of the Dead by Chris Woodward
Victorian-era dead and mourning traditions, ghost stories, premature burials, post-mortem photography, and bizarre tales unearthed from newspapers and journals from the 19th century.
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The Door in the Dark T-shirt

The Door in the Dark t-shirt from Black Veil Studio
T-shirt from Black Veil Studio featuring a planchette and ghostly hands.
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Bigfoot Plaster Footprint Cast

Plaster Bigfoot cast from the Patterson-Gimlin filmsite
From the International Cryptozoology Museum, a copy of the footprint found at the site of the famous Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film shot on October 20, 1967 at Bluff Creek, CA.
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Addams Family Print by Cait May

Addams Family print by artist Cait May
11″x17″ print of original Addams Family illustration by Baltimore artist Cait May.
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Cabinet of Curiosities

Cabinet of Curiosities by Gordon Grice
A beginner’s guide to creating your own cabinet of curiosities, from finding and identifying specimens to preserving and mounting them for display.
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Hail Santa Greeting Card

Hail Santa greeting card from Poison Apple Printshop
Hail Santa, the Christmas card of the beast. Original artwork drawn and screenprinted by artist Adrienne Rozzi of Poison Apple Printshop.
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Hearse Drivers Union T-shirt

Hearse Drivers Union t-shirt from Dead Sled Brand
Become a card-carrying member of the Hearse Drivers Union with this t-shirt from Dead Sled Brand.
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Octopus Candelabra

Octopus candelabra
You can never have too many tentacles in your home. This antiqued brass metal octopus from Loved to Death holds 5 pillar candles.
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More Weird Books

Weird books and literary oddities for the book lover on your Christmas list
For the macabre bibliophile on your shopping list, here are this year’s morbid must-reads. You can also find more popular books on death and oddities here, here, and here.

Need more weird gift ideas?

Take a look at gift guides from previous years for inspiration:

Share your weird Christmas with us on Instagram! Throw a santa hat on something strange and tag your photo #MerryCultmas.

Mothman Photographed in Point Pleasant?

50 years after the first sighting, a Point Pleasant man believes he captured a photo of the notorious creature.
Mothman photographed in Point Pleasant?
A Point Pleasant man believes a photo he took on November 20th resembles Mothman.

Has mothman resurfaced in Point Pleasant? WCHS Eye Witness news in West Virginia is reporting that a man who recently moved to Point Pleasant and claims to have been unaware of the notorious legend captured a photo of something that looks similar to Mothman Sunday evening.

The first sighting of Mothman occurred 50 years ago on November 12, 1966. Five men digging a grave in a cemetery near Clendenin, West Virginia saw what they described as “a brown human being” fly low over their heads from some nearby trees. Several days later on November 15 two couples driving in a place outside of town known as the TNT Area were followed by a “large flying man with ten-foot wings” and glowing red eyes.

Sightings of the creature, as well as UFOs and men in black, continued throughout the next year. The bizarre phenomena seemingly culminated in the December 15, 1967 when the Silver Bridge collapsed, plunging rush hour traffic into the frigid waters of the Ohio River. The disaster killed 46 people. Afterward, the strange happenings stopped and Mothman was never seen again.

Until now, apparently.

Related:

The man, who wanted to remain anonymous, was driving along State Route 2 when he saw something jump from tree to tree. He stopped on the side of the road to get some photos, catching what appears to be a winged figure with long legs flying through the air.

According to the report, it seems locals such as Carolin Harris, owner of The Mothman Diner, believe the photos could be of Mothman.

Wreckage of the Silver Bridge collapse
Wreckage of the Silver Bridge

Due to the Silver Bridge collapse, Mothman has come to be viewed as a bad omen who either appears to warn of impending disaster, or is the cause of it. If this is Mothman, what doom does his presence portend?

Iconic WWI Mascot Gets Much Needed Repairs

A taxidermy dog who served as a mascot for an Illinois regiment in WWI is getting some much needed repairs after 83 years.
Goldberg, a dog who served as a mascot in WWI
Goldberg, a dog who served as a mascot in WWI

Illinois National Guardsman and taxidermist Justin Lutz has undertaken a unique project: Restoration of a famous WWI mascot named Goldberg.

The book Illinois in the World War tells the story of the regiment, who served originally as the First Cavalry of the Illinois National Guard. Eager to join the battle overseas, Colonel Milton J. Foreman reorganized his group in July 1917 and instituted the necessary training at the Chicago armory to prepare the men for the front lines.

Before the newly created 122nd Field Artillery was deployed to France in May 1918, a soldier named Jake O’Connor of Battery B came into possession of a two-week old Irish Terrier. The men adopted the dog and named him Goldberg after a Chicago shoe store called O’Connor & Goldberg. They fashioned a khaki service cape for him complete with chevrons, and smuggled him off to war. While accompanying the men on the battlefront, Goldberg was gassed in the fierce Meuse-Argonne Offensive and took shrapnel. Goldberg was even lost for a month, having ran ahead of the 122nd. While returning home, papers reported that Goldberg fell down a hatch on the ship and broke a leg.

Upon his return home in 1919, the god hailed as “gallant” by newspapers was given his wound stripe and an honorary discharge. The july 11, 1919 edition of the Calumet Index reported that Goldberg entered the army on July 26, 1917 as a non-commissioned officer at three weeks of age and was “the only dog to go from America to France through the war in a combat outfit and return to America in perfect condition.”

But the story doesn’t stop there.

An advertisement from 1919 offering Goldberg for sale or booking
An advertisement from 1919 offering Goldberg for sale or booking

Goldberg was sold to a man named Joseph Bach, who bought the dog for his son. But a few months later, he began advertising Goldberg for sale or booking as “the famous dog-veteran.” In 1929 the Associated Press reported that the then 13-year-old dog would stand at attention when the Star Spangled Banner was played, and would cry when he heard war song on the radio. By 1932, Goldberg had been claimed by a man named William McKleghan, a member of Battery B. In August of that year the village council of Wilmette voted to grant Goldberg a lifetime dog license. He was believed to be the last living dog mascot from the war.

Goldberg died in 1933 at the age of 16. Rather than be buried in the plot set aside for him by the Illinois Pet Memorial Cemetery in Hinsdale, Battery B decided to have him stuffed. spent the next 60 years in a glass case in the main lobby of the armory on Chicago Avenue and attended every reunion of Battery B until as late as 1967. When the armory was closed in 1993, Goldberg vanished. He was later found in storage and given a new home in the WWI trench/bunker exhibit of the Illinois State Military Museum in Springfield.

Taxidermy dog from WWI gets repairs
Justin Lutz works on Goldberg. via WAND

After so many years, though, Goldberg was in desperately need of repairs. Lutz told WAND that he hopes to have the project done by December.

Thanks to Pamela Bannos for her great compilation of articles and information on Goldberg right here.

The London Necropolis Railway Funeral Train Carried the Dead Out of the City for 87 Years

For almost a century the London Necropolis Railway transported corpses out of the city on funeral trains to Brookwood Cemetery.
North station of the London Necropolis Railway in Brookwood Cemetery
Brookwood Cemetery North railway station, 1907

By the 1800s, London was running out of room for the dead. Overcrowded churchyard cemeteries were causing groundwater contamination and disease, motivating Parliament to pass a bill in 1832 to establish private cemeteries outside of the city. Seven new cemeteries, dubbed “The Magnificent Seven” by Hugh Meller in his book London Cemeteries: An Illustrated Guide and Gazetteer, sprang up between 1832 and 1841. Then, in 1852, the Burial Act gave the Secretary of State the power to regulate and close churchyards to new interments.

Another act the same year paved the way for the London Necropolis and National Mausoleum Company to handle the crisis of graveyards closing within the city. The company acquired a massive swath of land and created Brookwood Cemetery. It was intended to be large enough to handle all of London’s future burials for at least the next 350 years, capable of accommodating nearly 6 million graves in a single layer. When it opened, it was the largest cemetery in the world.

At the time, slow and expensive horse-drawn hearses shuttled funeral parties out to the existing seven cemeteries. Brookwood, located 23 miles outside the city, would be different. The London Necropolis Railway was established to transport bodies and mourners efficiently and affordably. Fares were so cheap, in fact, that golfers were known to disguise themselves as mourners to hitch a ride on the funeral train for an inexpensive trip to the courses around Woking.

London Necropolis Railway station
The original London Necropolis Railway station at Waterloo Bridge

With tickets in hand for first, second, or third class funerals, mourners and corpses departed from a private station in Waterloo, London. The station was complete with private waiting rooms where funerals could be held, and a steam-powered lift to convey coffins to the platform level. They were whisked away by the London and South Western Railway down the company’s main line, and then onto a dedicated line into Brookwood.

Prior to the addition of the Brookwood Station and a run-around loop in 1864, there was no way to turn around on the cemetery branch of the railway. The locomotive would stop on the main line at Necropolis Junction, where the carriages were unhooked and pulled down the cemetery branch by two black horses. Meanwhile, the locomotive would be repositioned on the main track for the journey back to London.

There were two stations in the cemetery – the North station for nonconformists, the South station for Anglicans. Each station had two reception and refreshment rooms to separate the first class from the ordinary mourners, as well as apartments for staff. Great care was taken on the train carriages and hearse vans to keep families and remains of different class and religious background separated. According to London: City of the Dead by David Brandon and Alan Brooke, the Bishop of London Charles Blomfield “found the idea of cadavers from widely differing social classes all traveling in the same train from London quite offensive.”

Brookwood was consecrated on November 7, 1854. The first burials, stillborn twins of a Mr. and Mrs. Hore, according to author John M. Clarke in his book London’s Necropolis: A Guide to Brookwood Cemetery, took place on November 13. 64,000 were interred there in Brookwood in the first 20 years. The train ran once a day in those days, but Clarke notes that by the 1930s it was rarely more than twice a week. If there was only a single second or third class coffin for the day, the funeral would have to wait for the next service.

In 1902, the original Waterloo terminus was replaced by a larger, more attractive station on Westminster Bridge Road with its own mortuaries and private chapel. On the night of April 16, 1941, the station was bombed by a German air raid on one of the worst nights of the Blitz. Much of the building was damaged, and the tracks were completely destroyed. It was deemed not worthwhile to rebuild, so the London Necropolis Railway never ran again. What remained of the building was sold. The main entrance still stands today.

Emblem for the London Necropolis Railway

I Got a Plush Megacolon for my Birthday

A fuzzy, lovable version of the giant, diseased megacolon specimen on display at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia.
Plush megacolon from the Mutter Museum gift shop
I Heart Guts: Plush Megacolon from the Mutter Museum

Last week was my birthday, which luckily happened to coincide with my sister spending a few days in Philadelphia on business. I am developing an obnoxious habit of hijacking her trips for Cult of Weird content, but in this case I didn’t have to say a word – she was already planning to visit the Mutter Museum while she was in town.

Lowly web lackeys like myself can’t afford to do things like travel, so while the Mutter has always been on my bucket list, the closest I’ll probably ever get is reading about it. But that bleak reality was softened a bit yesterday when I checked the mail and found a plush megacolon from the Mutter gift shop!

Obviously I have the best sister in the world.

But what the hell is a megacolon, you ask? The answer is equal parts fascinating and horrifying: It is an unnaturally large segment of dried and stuffed intestine on display at the Mutter Museum that belonged to a man who died of the disease in 1892.

Here’s what the museum has to say about their specimen:

This colon belonged to a 29-year-old man who had complained of constipation for most of his life. The condition he endured is known as congenital aganglionic megacolon, or Hirschsprung’s disease. It occurs when nerves to part of the colon fail to develop and making it difficult for waste to move to the rectum (aganglionic means “without nerve cells”).

This man was a normal infant up to the age of 18 months, with the exception of a rather large abdomen, coupled with some irregularity of bowels and some constipation. His condition progressed, with the severity of the constipation increasing along with the size of his abdomen. By the age of 16 he would go up to a month at a time without any bowel movements. At 20 he was exhibited at a dime museum as the “Wind Bag” or “Balloon Man.”

During this man’s lifetime, doctors knew that his ailment was not a tumor but rather a defective colon. Surgery to identify and fix the cause would have been extremely risky. He ultimately died of the condition, and was found dead in a bathroom where he was attempting to pass waste.

In Hirschsprung’s disease, only a small section of the colon is usually affected, but the body is unable to transfer normal amounts of waste to any point below the affected section. Chronic constipation ensues. This condition occurs in 1 out of every 5000 to 8000 births. However, today, it is usually identified soon after birth as the baby will have a distended bowel. It is easily corrected with minor surgery in which the affected portion of the bowel is removed and the “good ends” are sewn together.

Plush megacolon from the Mutter Museum

Megacolons are adorable.