Amazing and weird taxidermy auction

The unicorn taxidermy above is up for auction right now at Duke's Auctioneers as part of the "Brading Collection of Taxidermy, Waxworks, Costume and Similar Items." The collection is from the Isle of Wright museum Brading The Experience. Also on the block: a flying cat, a taxidermy "Yeti," a "Wooly Pig," and a slew of other curiosities. From the Daily Mail:
 I Pix 2010 04 12 Article-1265284-0918E22F000005Dc-390 306X603 So how did these taxidermies first find their way on to the sleepy Isle of Wight?

Legend has it that they were originally collected by a mysterious academic in the late 1800s called Professor Copperthwaite. Somehow, the story goes, his collection found its way into the hands of an antique dealer based somewhere in the North of England, who then sold them on to Graham Osborne-Smith, the man who opened the museum on the Isle of Wight in 1965.

Professor Copperthwaite was said to have had a thick, curly grey beard, wore long-tailed coats and pinstripe trousers and travelled the world collecting the strange, deformed animals.

'He was a real eccentric,' says Ball. 'He went around the world on tours collecting weird things like the two-headed Siamese lamb and did experiments gilding animals like swans in silver foil.'

His most remarkable find was a huge stuffed brown bear that stands on its hind legs dressed in boxing gloves and a red-and-gold sash. Nicknamed 'Battling Bruno,' he was said to have been a famous fighting bear who was transported across America to take part in bear-fighting contests sometime in the 19th century.

"Yetis, unicorns and even flying kittens: Inside the worlds zaniest zoo" (Daily Mail)

The Brading Collection of Taxidermy, Waxworks, Costume and Similar Items," Duke's Auction House, Dorset, April 13th (Today!) (Morbid Anatomy)


    1. Awww! Reminds me of Binks, the top hat wearing, cigar smoking stuffed cat in Bates Hatters on Jermyn Street.

  1. Most of this seems really cool.

    But… “a velvet coffin with the body of a 16-year-old Congolese boy (complete with an elephant’s head stitched to his corpse)” – WTF?

    I know it’s Victorian and very old. I know things were different then (e.g., Congolese teenagers could be stuffed and mounted like a dead goat). I know he’s dead and his family’s dead and anyone who would have known or cared about him is probably dead.

    But to keep selling his poor mutilated corpse from hand to hand as a decorative element for the rich eccentric’s living room just seems disturbing.

    1. That it’s less disturbing when done with non-human animals is understandable but illogical.

      the most controversial implications of darwin’s big theory (that we (humans) are not “different” on some fundamental level) hasn’t really sunk in for humanity yet.

      cool looking, necromantic stuff though.

      1. I think it’s an interesting sociological situation, though. If that was a white person’s corpse, would it still be in circulation? If it was a person with living western relatives, don’t you think they would have sued and stopped its sale? I thought it was illegal to trade in human remains. [hence why people are “organ donors” and their organs are not sold in an open market after death] So why does this little guy get a pass?

        Please note that I’m not picking on you with the questions, I actually agree with your position, they’re just interesting issues to me.

        1. I’m definitely in agreement. If it was a white child, they never would have gotten away with it, even in the victorian era.

          It’s the slowly expanding definition of “self.” back then, africans were often thought of as “just” animals. now all non-human animals are thought of as “just” animals.

  2. I visited the (then) Brading Waxwork Museum as a child – it creeped the living balls out of me. Sorry it’s closed though. It made me what I am hahhahahahahahahahahhahahahaa

  3. Here is my flickrset of all these amazing/crazy exhibits in situ:

    Having grown up on the island and been taken here on school trips (I know, NOT appropriate), this was a strangely formative experience for me, and I’m genuinely gutted that the place has closed.

    1. Fantastic set. I remember the warning sign – what was it warning about, just the Chamber of Horrors?

      1. I think the sign was by the room with the coffin and organ playing skeleton, though it pretty much stands for the whole place, I’d say.

  4. I know they don’t really exist, but seeing that stuffed Unicorn, … just for a moment… I thought “how wonderful”.

    Then I snapped back to the reality of a dead horse with a spike in it’s skull, laying on my floor…

  5. I was at the auction (and was interviewed by NBC). I have masses of clips of the place the weekend it closed on YouTube as I was the last member of the public to ever leave. I bought a couple of the torture items, but things went for silly prices. I was standing next to the man that bought the Elephant Boy. He paid £1900 for it and is going to use it as a curio at traction fairs he attends. It is, of course, 100% fake and anyone seeing it close up would know so immediately. However, the mummified hand and foot they sold were real (though the shrunken head – which reached £2400 – is probably a fake too).

  6. The horse reminds me of a museum in Oslo where after walking through a hall of odd shaped hung lamps we found ourselves in what looked like a spaceship with beautiful blue carpeting and a taxidermied horse/unicorn splayed out on the floor. Fascinating!

  7. I was at the sale and can safely tell you that the elephant boy is a fake and not a real boy at all, also that it went to a very pleasant normal young man (he was in front of me in the queue paying) and not some “rich eccentric”. There was a great assortment of English eccentrics at the sale, of all ages and social classes and with every hair colour imaginable, alongside museum curators, rich collectors etc. There were a lot of tattooed goths, they seem to like taxidermy particularly small rodenty things. And no I am not telling you what I bought, to add to my existing collection.

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