Gift Idea For Delightfully Demented People: Shrunken Heads

I recently bought a house and decided to turn the guest bathroom into a "chamber of horrors". I made a list of the things my mom would never let me have when I was a kid, and at the top of the list was a real live (dead) shrunken head. But where the heck would I go to get one?

EBay of course! It turns out that the Jivaro Indians in Ecuador have toned down their warlike nature for the sake of commerce, and they're cranking out tsantsa (their word for shrunken heads) by the carload. Thankfully, they make them from goat and alpaca skins now, instead of their neighbors. These specialized tribal craftsmen haven't quite mastered the delicate art of quality control, so the heads vary in quality from laughably fake to chillingly realistic. It takes some know-how to score a really good one.

There are two philosophies to shrunken head buying at eBay... If you like gambling, buy a lot of five or more at a time. The variability of the manufacturing process guarantees that each head is totally unique and has its own personality. You may have to sift through a bunch to find the one you like. You can always give away the rejects as hostess gifts at parties for the next few years. If you are a dedicated soul and desire a "de-luxe model", scour eBay until just the right head turns up. You might pay a bit more, but you'll have the perfect facial features and hair color to match your home's decor.

"Real" Shrunken Heads For Sale at eBay
How To Tell The Difference Between Authentic and Counterfeit Shrunken Heads


  1. “You can always give away the rejects as hostess gifts at parties for the next few years”

    That’s one way to scale back your social life.

  2. I recently bought a house and decided to turn the guest bathroom into a “chamber of horrors”.

    I achieve that effect by failing to clean and forgetting to flush.

  3. My Semi-Fried Brain Hippy Father bought a Shrunken Head just like these on a trip through South America a coupla years back, and no matter what anyone says to him or shows him to prove otherwise, he swears it is a real HUMAN head.

    After all, the kindly little indigenous person who sold it to him assured him it was real.

    40 years and counting and I still pray nightly that Mom diddled the milk man…

  4. They actually can ship something made with animal products straight here without it sitting in customs for 6 months. Irritating..I want to order a handmade bow from Hungary, but they say it has to do just that..sit in quarantine for 6 months because of the fish glue and animal horn used in the manufacture.
    but anyways..yeah..shrunken heads ftw.

    I had a set of these maps when I was a kid, man, I loved these things… One text has the ‘Code of the Pirate’ the laws that stated what your crew owed you if you lost an arm, or eye or leg and the distribution of loot.
    Cool to look at, don’t know if they qualify as ‘Horror.’

    1. Nope. Not “Horror” but for sure “COOL!”

      Thanks for sharing Josh. Ordered a set for my kid already.

  6. Last year for Halloween I went as a Headhunter so I had to make some shrunken heads – I used various handmade papers and West System epoxy on styrofoam carving for most of them; this year my bowhunter friend has introduced me to his deer processor, so I am going to use more skin and other membranes to make them even more real… but a quick search through my magic library has shown me instructions for making a real one, it seems pretty messy… I followed the instructions in as much as it would help me make mine more realistic… what type of cord to use to sew to the eyes and and lips together,etc. It was a fun experience and I hope to do more this year.

  7. Not sure why you would want a real one. My understanding is if its real, chances are the person was murdered for the money gained by selling the tsantsa. not due to tribal waring, its for the cash we are paying for them. i also understand many tribes dont do the ritual anymore anyway, the only ones still doing to it secretly, dont admit to doing it, and do it for the sales cash.

    course the documentary i watched about it could be fulla crap but still. id have to do some serious investigation before i went out to buy a human head.

  8. Wow, our guest bathroom is decorated the same way– we call it “The Bathroom Of The Macabre.” And when we were in Borneo we looked all over for shrunken heads, because we thought that’s where they came from based on some Tony Millionaire comic that we read. Now I know the proper source– thanks!

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