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9 Curios to Add to Your Cabinet of Curiosities

9 Curios to Add to Your Cabinet of Curiosities

· 22 min. read

I first heard the term "cabinet of curiosities" when I read Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's 2002 book of the same name. I don't remember much of the book, as Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast and Lieutenant Vincent D'Agosta's antics kind of get rolled into one long adventure. I remember the next book Still Life With Crows a lot more, but not The Cabinet of Curiosities.

The term reentered my lexicon twenty years later with Netflix's 2022 series Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities. In this fictional mini-series, Guillermo del Toro shows off some of the creepy and haunted items within his cabinet and tells a horror story related to each one of them. It's a good series and might be the place where you first heard the term because of its popularity last year.

For those who have never heard the term cabinet of curiosities, it comes from the idea of collecting strange and obscure "curios" and keeping them somewhere safe -- either for their own protection or for the protection of others. Some people use them for party tricks, too.

My "cabinet" is pretty small, and only contains two items. One is a jar containing the pickled remains of a lover (we don't talk about them) and the other is a radioactive sugar bowl I got for Christmas last year. I love taking it out and showing people how it glows under black light, and how it makes my Geiger counter go crazy. People always get so scared when that happens. It's hilarious!

However, I am always looking to expand my cabinet, which has led me to several rather unique websites that sell interesting items. Warning, some of these items are freaky, but also very, very cool. Prepare to get some obscure gift ideas!

1. (un)Lucky Monkey's Paw

Online store: https://www.skullstore.ca/products/lucky-monkey-paw-chacma-baboon-three-wishes

Three Fingered Monkey Paws

Are you familiar with the story of the monkey's paw by W. W. Jacobs? In the story, a gifted monkey's paw falls into the possessions of the White family, who are told that if they make wishes upon it, the wish will come true, but the consequences will be disastrous.

It's a famous story, so imagine my surprise when I saw that Skull Store.ca sold actual monkey's paws!

Yes, I know. I'm a bit of a hypocrite because I went to La Isla de los Monos when I was in Peru and had an amazing time with the monkeys there. The concept of killing monkeys for their supernatural paw powers is sick. But, these monkey paws are salvaged from pest-controlled chacma baboons and are legally imported by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). There is no monkey murdering going on here, and I don't support the black market either. All I'm just saying is, hey, Jacobs' story is pretty creepy, and having a monkey's paw in your cabinet of curiosities would be pretty cool too.

2. Mummia Powder

Online store: https://www.ofgraveconcern.com/product-page/magical-mummy-powder-mystical-cure-all

Magical Mummy Powder

We all think mummies are pretty cool, but back in the Elizabethan Era, they really loved mummies. Like, a lot. Like, so much, that they ate them. Yes, really! Humanity has lost thousands of Egyptian mummies over the years because Elizabethans loved the taste of ground-up mummies in their food. In fact, the demand for mummies actually outweighed the amount of mummies available so they had to resort to other means instead...

But why did they love this bizarre spice? Because it contained the magical powers to cure all your ailments! Got a headache? Mummy powder. Ulcer? Mummy powder. Tumor? Mummy powder. Period cramps? Mummy powder. Sprinkle a little magical mummy powder in your food, and you're cured!

The story here is a mistranslation of the Persian word for bitumen, which was "mumia", which was a chemical used to treat a variety of illnesses, and the Egyptian mummification resin "mumia". Two very different words, but they sounded the same and looked the same (both were black fluid). This caused enough confusion that people believed eating mummies was a way to cure all their diseases.

The product I linked to above is just a cool bottle, but it doesn't contain any actual mumia. I'm pretty sure it's illegal to buy and sell ground-up mummies now. I reached out to Of Grave Concern and they said a good alternative powder to put into the jar is Paris powder with a touch of curry powder, or even fuller's powder.

But at Kenton de Jong Travel, we don't do substitutions. While I think I'm legally supposed to tell you not to eat bitumen aka asphalt, this 2018 study called "The Curative Role Of Bitumen In Traditional Persian Medicine" by Mahdi Shahriari, Farzaneh Zare, and Majid Nimrouzi, includes bitumen recipes to cure ailments like coughs, heart problems, leprosy, broken bones, headaches, etc.

I'll leave it up to you what you do, but there are no mummies included in these recipes.

3. Shrunken Heads

Online store: https://www.salangome.com/shrunken-heads-for-sale

Shrunken Heads Made of Goat Skin

It used to be pretty easy to find shrunken heads back in the day. You could buy them in early 20th-century Lima for $160*. By 1919, it had increased to $800*. In the 1930s, there was a surplus of shrunken heads on the market and the price dropped to $770* a head (hahaha). The number of shrunken heads on the market raised the concern of the Peruvian and Ecuadorian governments and headhunting would become illegal. This skyrocketed the price, and by the 1950s a single shrunken head would cost around $4,400*.

But still, people were fascinated by the idea of shrunken heads, so the methods changed from using human skin to goat skin instead. Salangome, the website I linked to above, claims to have the best goat skin shrunken heads on the market, and are often used for props in Hollywood films like Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (eg: the hilarious Night Bus driver). However, other websites like RealShrunkenHeads.com claim to sell the real deal. But, it should be noted that the goat skin variety only costs around $80, while the real ones don't have a price online. Much like shopping at Chanel or Louis Vuitton, it's probably one of those "If you need to ask, you can't afford it" situations.

Either way, I think I'll stick with the fake ones. They are pretty creepy as-is.

*Adjusted for inflation, in Canadian dollars

4. Malleus Maleficarum

Malleus Maleficarum

Malleus Maleficarum is not a book you hear of every day, but it is something that fits well in any cabinet of curiosities. Often considered the evilest book ever written, Malleus Maleficarum, also known as "The Hammer of the Witches", was originally written in 1486. German Catholic clergyman Heinrich Kramer wrote the book and later rereleased it with another author, Jacob Sprenger, in 1519. The book discussed the punishment witches should undergo because of their dealings in black magic. The church condemned the book at the time, but it became very popular amongst the laypeople and the courts.

Over time, fears of demonology became more of a concern, and the book became more accepted. Soon, it was used more and more to condemn people of witchcraft. Three-quarters of these condemned people were women, as Malleus claimed women could be corrupted and tempted by evil more easily. The book claimed this is because women "were the weaker sex, were more carnal and lustful, had temperaments, loose tongues, strong personalities, and would overstep the lines of proper female decorum." Men, however, could also be condemned for witchcraft, but their means for dabbling in the dark arts were to gain power and become a sorcerer.

(The book has some deeply misogynistic undertones, if you haven't noticed.)

The most severe prosecutions took place between the years 1560 and 1630, largely ending in Europe around 1780, and the Malleus Maleficarum is considered responsible for the deaths of between 600,000 to 9,000,000 people during that time period.

Today, you can buy the book in English, German, and Arabic, and online or possibly at your local bookstore.

5. Pow-Wows (or Long Lost Friend) By John George Hoffman

Online store: https://sacred-texts.com/ame/pow/index.htm

Pow-Wows (or Long Lost Friend) By John George Hoffman

Pow-wow, in this instance, has nothing to do with the Indigenous celebrations involving dancing, singing, and honoring their culture. However, it is a term to describe a mixture of North American traditional medicine and folk magic from the Pennsylvanian Dutch. This blend of Old World and New World medicine is still practiced in some circles, and Hoffman's book is often considered the primary source.

The book's contents explain prayers and incantations that can be used to help with various ailments. For example, if you find a dog and you are trying to get the dog to become part of the family, Hoffman says you can either a) draw some of your blood and let the dog eat it along with his food or b) scrape the four corners of your table while you are eating, and continue to eat with the same knife after having scraped the corners of the table. Let the dog eat those scrapings, and he will stay with you.

Others are a bit less gruesome. For example, if you are slandered against, Hoffman says "Take off your shirt, and turn it wrong side out, and then run your two thumbs along your body, close under the ribs, starting at the pit of the heart down to the thighs." I honestly think this would make people just slander you more, so maybe do that in private.

If you are trying to prevent hair from growing back, Pow-Wows says "If you burn a large frog to ashes, and mix the ashes with water, you will obtain an ointment that will, if put on any place covered with hair, destroy the hair and prevent it from growing again."

Will any of these remedies or incantations work? I have my doubts, but in the era of our paranoia against Big Pharma, it doesn't hurt to crack out some pow-wows once in a while.

6. A Dybbuk Box

A Dybbuk Box

If you were a teenager in 2003, you might have heard of Kevin Mannis' infamous "dybbuk box". A dybbuk is a malicious, possessing spirit in Judaism that is said to cling to a living person to accomplish some kind of goal. In Mannis' story, this evil spirit was trapped in a box he had, which originated from a survivor of the Holocaust in Poland. The spirit inside the box was said to be responsible for bad luck and nightmares.

Mannis famously sold the box on eBay in 2003 to Jason Haxton, who created http://dibbukbox.com to record Mannis' experience with the box. In 2004, Haxton sold the rights to the story to Hollywood, and the 2018 film The Possession was inspired by the box. Zak Bagans of Ghost Adventures would later purchase the box from Haxton, and there was a viral clip in 2018 when rapper Post Malone touched the box.

In 2021, however, Mannis came out and admitted that it was all an elaborate prank. and that the box is not haunted at all. Still, the belief that the box is haunted by an evil spirit remains, possibly because it's a good story, or possibly because believing in something is often enough to make that something true.

It would not surprise you, then, that there is a plethora of haunted dybbuk boxes on eBay these days. Not as many as back in 2003, but still plenty out there, and maybe, just maybe, one might actually contain something more than you bargain for.

7. Murderabilia

New Years Signed Card by Jeffrey Dahmer

I cannot tell you the number of people I've met (mostly women) who are fascinated by serial killers. At the same time, the biggest controversy I ever had on Instagram was showing the apartment where Ted Bundy lived in Salt Lake City. I lost nearly 40 followers that day. On the flip side, my video of visiting his cellar is my most popular video and has over 31,000 views. That being said, serial killers are a highly divided topic.

So it's no surprise that the selling of items related to serial killers is also highly divided. But, hey, we're looking to add things to our cabinet of curiosities, so we're open to some of these things. One item I found was a few strands of Charles Manson's hair, going for a mere $2,500. You could also get a signed New Years card from the Milwaukee Cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer for $3,500. There's also a signed photo of Ted Kaczynski aka The Unabomber for only $15,000.

There are lots of websites that sell paintings of serial killers too, or who sell some of their personal items, like bibles, rosaries, signed cards, letters, etc. There's a huge market for this stuff. Personally, I don't want serial killer murderabilia in my cabinet of curiosities. I'd rather stick with monkey paws and shrunken heads, but hey, to each their own.

8. Congo Nail Fetishs

Online store: https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/163335293_nkisi-n-kondi-power-figure-bakugo-people-dr-congozaire

Congo Nail Fetish

Fetishes have two definitions, and while this article might not exactly be PG-13, we are not talking about that. Instead, we are talking about small inanimate objects that are embued with magical powers and are used for worshipping.

In Congo, a specific type of fetish is created called a "nail fetish" or a nkisi nkondi. These are powerful wooden statues that were carved and blessed by a ritual expert, and a pact is then made between the owner of the statue and the statue itself. A nail is hammered into the wooden statue, and the deal is sealed. If the person fulfills their end of the bargain, the statue will fulfill their end, which might be something good like nice weather, wealth, or good health, or something bad like illness, war, death, or sorcery.

If the owner of the figure does not fulfill their side of the bargain, "destruction" by the fetish is brought upon them.

Many Congo nail fetishes are filled with a plethora of nails, each being a promise hopefully kept by both parties. Because of this, they are very important to the people they belong to, and are very expensive.

However, oddly enough, you can find some on Etsy or eBay for only a few hundred dollars.

9. Uranium Glass

Uranium Glass

As I mentioned earlier, I received my first piece of uranium glass as a Christmas present last year. My parents were able to find it at a local auction. It glows bright green under dark light and is about 100 times as radioactive as general background radiation. This level of radiation is still safe and there is no need for concern. I actually wrote an article a few years ago about bananas and why they glow in the dark, and it's also because of their radiation. It's a really cool item to show off and to educate people on radioactivity.

Because of these reasons, uranium glass is very popular. Some people have huge cabinets full of it, all illuminated with black light so it can show off its eerie green glow. This glow will never fade either -- well, not for a few billion years anyway.

If you love the idea of getting your own uranium glass, either for sugar bowls, ashtrays, statues, pitchers, or even necklaces, you can find many of them online, either in the link above or on websites like Etsy or eBay. Some are expensive, and some are cheap, but if it's real uranium glass, it's pretty easy to test -- with a black light or a Geiger counter.

I think the idea of your own personal cabinet of curiosities is a great way to not only collect weird oddities around the world, but also preserve history, and expand our mind on different cultures and different practices. Are some of these gruesome or offensive? Yes, but so is history. Our collective human legacy is built off the bizarre, the strange, the enchanted, and the creepy. Having a secret cabinet where you display these things is no different than a photo album of past relationships.

Or, in my case, a jar with their remains. But we don't talk about the jar.

I would love to know your thoughts on this very odd article -- and what you would like to add to your own cabinet of curiosities!

Don't forget to pin it!

9 Curios to Add to Your Cabinet of Curiosities9 Curios to Add to Your Cabinet of Curiosities

Categories: Dark Tourism, History, Paranormal

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