In 1842, P. T. Barnum exhibited the infamous Feejee Mermaid at his museum in New York City. Newspapers were given a woodcut of lovely bare breasted female mermaids to publicize the attraction, but when the crowds arrived to see the mysterious creature, it turned out to be a gruesome taxidermy gaffe consisting of the top half of a small monkey and the bottom half of a large fish.
When I was about 12 years old, I viewed Barnum's very own Feejee Mermaid at the Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum on Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. It invaded my consciousness and my dreams and became an object of great importance to me. I developed a theory on entertainment from thinking about it... Never be afraid to promise more than you can deliver as long as you deliver something truly remarkable and surprising. I'm sure this is the credo that stage magicians and circuses used to operate on. But today we seem to have lost the capacity for imagination that's required for this sort of pitch to work. I hate the literalism of the modern world!
But anyway, I digress... The Feejee Mermaid became a strong object of desire for me. In my daydreams as a child, I would secretly scheme to break in and steal the mermaid from the Ripley Museum (with no intention of ever actually doing it.) I discovered that the Ripley's Museum in Hollywood had the one true Barnum Feejee Mermaid too... and it appears that every Ripley's Museum in the country has it. They were popping up everywhere, but I still had no way to get one of my own!
The internet however, has now made my dreams come true... In this fabulous 21st century, everyone can own one of these fabulous creatures, not just kings, potentates and rajahs! Thank heavens for eBay!
An artist by the name of Brian Davis is "capturing and preserving" these strange beasts and offering them for sale online. Each one of his mermaids is totally unique. They come in a variety of sizes, but they're all just as hideous as Barnum's specimen. But that's not all! Davis also traffics in elusive sasquatch fetuses, faeries, gargoyles, chupacabras, jersey devils and scorpion people. Joy!