Tag Archive for: Morbid Anatomy Museum

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!

Walter Potter’s Two-Faced Kitten at the Morbid Anatomy Museum

Eccentric Victorian taxidermist Walter Potter’s famous two-faced kitten taxidermy comes to the Morbid Anatomy Museum.
Walter Potter two-faced kitten taxidermy
Photo by Chris Bradley via Morbid Anatomy

This month the Morbid Anatomy Museum is bringing Victorian taxidermist Walter Potter’s two-faced kitten to the public…for the first time ever in the US!

Walter Potter began creating whimsical anthropomorphic taxidermy dioramas in 1854 at the age of 19 with his first piece, The Death and Burial of Cock Robin. He spent his life filling his family-owned pub, The White Lion in Bramber, with amazing and whimsical scenes. Potter’s work also included examples of nature gone wrong, such as four-legged chicks and a two-headed lamb.

In 2003, however, Potter’s Bramber Museum collection was auctioned off and scattered all over the world into private collections.

The kitten, from the collection of Karen Holzner, will be displayed along with numerous other extraordinary objects in the first of a series of exhibits called The Collector’s Cabinet. Other oddities will include an anthropomorphic taxidermy squirrel bar scene from Wisconsin’s own Cress Funeral Home presented by Mike Zohn, a Beauchene skull by Ryan Matthew Cohn, and more.

Morbid Anatomy founder Joanna Ebenstein, who will present the kitten, is the co-author of Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy.

You can find more on The Collector’s Cabinet and other upcoming exhibitions right here.

Morbid Anatomy Museum

Morbid Anatomy Museum

The week before Halloween, I came home to find a package on my doorstep. Inside were the items pictured above: A Morbid Anatomy Museum t-shirt, a copy of the Morbid Anatomy Anthology, and a thank you postcard from New York’s new institution of the bizarre.

Earlier in the year Morbid Anatomy launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for renovations at their new Brooklyn location. Fortunately, Cult of Weird was able to contribute (extremely modestly) to the creation of an amazing place full of fascinating and macabre history.

The museum frequently hosts exhibits such as the current Art of Mourning, as well as lectures with guest speakers, taxidermy classes with Katie Innamorato and Divya, and much more.

Morbid Anatomy Anthology and other weird books
The Morbid Anatomy Anthology looks great on my bookshelf.

Check out the Morbid Anatomy website here: morbidanatomymuseum.org

Morbid Anatomy Museum Kickstarter

The Morbid Anatomy Museum needs your help to move into a 3-story facility in Brooklyn to house their collections. The Kickstarter campaign includes some great incentives such as art prints, t-shirts, the Morbid Anatomy Anthology book, tickets and memberships to the new museum when it opens, and much more.

From the Kickstarter page:

Morbid Anatomy began as a website by artist and independent scholar Joanna Ebenstein in 2007. It soon expanded to include the open-to-the-public Morbid Anatomy Library, and Morbid Anatomy Presents, which has produced hundreds of lectures and workshops covering such topics as books bound in human skin, postmortem photography, forgotten mail-order smut, pre-cinematic fright shows, 18th century Italian anatomical waxes, moulage making, Victorian hair art jewelry, and anthropomorphic mouse taxidermy. These are often sold out, standing room only affairs, and have cultivated a passionate community of like minded people over the years.

Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn

Check out the campaign and help make this unique and fascinating place a reality right here.