The enigmatic Professor Ouch has opened an Odditorium in the back of his shop Bizarre Bazaar, which opened last fall at 720 S. 5th St. is a room full of things in jars, mummies, taxidermied squirrels.
The shop is packed with vintage books, toys, occult film posters and other offbeat items, but the news now is what the owner, who yes, goes by the name Professor Ouch, has installed at the back of the store.
He says it’s an American sideshow and dime museum, which has a long history. In the Victorian era, he said, gentlemen would collect artifacts, taxidermy, art, handicrafts and anything strange or foreign, a tradition Ouch carries on in his Cabinette of Curiosities display.
“I want to make it historic, entertaining and somewhat educational,” he said.
The Cabinette of Curiosities contains relics Ouch collected from sideshows and the World’s Fair at Coney Island. He has a photograph of Schlitzie the Pinhead, gaffed headhunter trophies, sideshow freak figurines, skulls of a sabre tooth cat and of a vampire from Romania (fake, of course).
Displayed in glass at the top left is the giant flesh eating rat. The sign assures visitors not to worry, as the rat eats only the flesh of giants. Get it? It’s stomach gets the rumblies that only the flesh of giants can satisfy.
Among the displays in the mini museum, Things in Jars and card playing squirrels are the most popular. But what exactly are in the jars? Ouch admits even he doesn’t know all of the specimens. Some are real, such as the pig fetus and mud puppy. Others are from Halloween stores, such as a space creature in a jar.
What would a museum of oddities be without a sasquatch display? It includes a big foot head made from a deer’s butt, a statue of bigfoot and a bigfoot finger.
Ouch’s personal favorite is the two squirrels fighting over one nut. He had the piece commissioned and came up with the idea himself.
Aside from running the Bizarre Bazaar and Odditorium, Ouch also owns Philadelphia’s Eddie’s Tattoo shop in Queen Village. He enjoys the folk art of tattooing just as he enjoys the art form behind sideshows. The sideshow, he said, was created by the uneducated working class of the 1900s.
“Working class people created something that was wrong but worked for them,” said Ouch.
Ouch will be adding more attractions as time passes. He wants to include interactive buttons to the displays similar to what museums have. New exhibits such as two-headed calves will be up for the grand opening next month.
Prof. Ouch pointed out that even in this era, we still like to poke, prod and laugh at things that seem strange to us. It’s just like the modern sideshow of Jerry Springer. “In this age of political correctness, people still want to see this stuff,” said Ouch.
The Odditorium is free to enter but visitors are encouraged to donate.
– Ruthann Alexander, @RuthannAlexande