On a recent trip to London, Strange Attractor's Mark Pilkington introduced me to Viktor Wynd, a curator and proprietor of The Last Tuesday Society/Little Shop of Horrors, a fantastic gallery cum wunderkammer in London's East End. Upstairs is the art gallery, while the dark basement is packed — and I mean stuffed, to the point of total claustrophobia — with countless curiosities, from odd stuffed beasts to bizarre books, a box of the Rolling Stones' rubbers to a sealed box allegedly containing some of the darkness that Moses brought upon the Egyptions in Exodus. It's not always clear whether Wynd's place is a museum or a shop. And in many ways, that's the point. Fortean Times' Richard Freeman paid him a visit (photo by Etienne Gilfillan):
"I wanted to see how a contemporary wunderkammer might look," he says. Was it meant to be a sort of successor to the late, lamented Potter's Museum of Curiosities?
"I think we're more of an homage to childhood memories of the Pitt Rivers, the Horniman Museum and the John Soane Museum," he says, "Although in my mind it's really a miniature version of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, or Peter the Great's cabinet of curiosities."
So we find a collection of skulls from the victims of Dayak head hunters in Borneo, some dating back to the 12th century. The oldest human skull in the shop is a partially fossilised 10,000-year-old specimen from Papua New Guinea, with a section missing where the fatal axe met the bone.
Just as impressive is one of only two shrunken heads of a Caucasian in Europe. No one knows who the moustachioed white man was, a missionary or an explorer, but he met his end in Ecuador over 100 years ago. Now his scalp and face, shrunken with hot sand, sit in a jar, eyes and mouth sewn shut. Many of the exhibits remind us of our own mortality – perhaps none more so than the preserved erect penis of a man hanged 300 years ago.