Bones, Haunted Dolls, Preserved Animals: Oh my! The Curiosities and Oddities Expo has it all

At the Curiosities and Oddities Expo at AmericasMart in Downtown Atlanta on Saturday, Nov. 16, hundreds of visitors explored and purchases these bizarre items and much more. Photo by Shel Levy | The Signal

Accessible to touch and own: a human fibula for $75. Or if that may not suit one’s fancy, try a dog fetus preserved in a jar of alcohol, preserved in formaldehyde.

At the Curiosities and Oddities Expo at AmericasMart in downtown Atlanta on Saturday, hundreds of visitors had the opportunity to see and buy these bizarre items and much more. Vendors from all over the country supplied haunted knickknacks, bone-enlaced jewelry and taxidermy specimens to name a few of the items up for grabs.

Like a 1920s circus, the Curiosities and Oddities Expo is a traveling show, which started in January on the West Coast and made its way over to the East Coast by July. 

One vendor native to Atlanta explained her process of collecting the items she was selling, which entailed feeling the energies of past owners within the objects. One doll she had previously collected had a troubled past, so much so that the vendor had to separate the doll from the others, as when they were together, the other dolls would mysteriously fall to the floor. Fortunately for the vendor, this haunted doll was sold at the Curiosities and Oddities Expo.

Another vendor explained the thrill of finding the items that she collects. Going to yard sales and thrift stores in order to find things that speak to her, including the innards of a doll face, is her passion. She described her style as gothic Victorian, stating that the items before her were really just an extension of what her home looks like.  

Odd pieces were scattered throughout the expo, including “1914 Oddfellows Sterling Initiation Boards” for $300. The set of two wooden boards, one with sharp iron needles poking through and the other with the same needles made of rubber were once used by secret organizations as a trust exercise for pledges. The inductee would feel the iron-needled board and then be blindfolded. While visually impaired, the boards would be switched out.

Caskets, burial clothing from the early 1900s and funeral home candle stands were also available to buyers. An Alabama couple traveled to the expo specifically to find wedding rings made of bone, while another visitor also found what he was looking for in a bone-piece. This man who was missing the upper portion of one of his fingers found satisfaction in a box of human finger bones, measuring them for size against his own before discovering a perfect match and purchasing it. 

Another shopper was elated to find a recipe book for absinthe cocktails, stating that most bookstores do not carry things like that. 

Although many of the vendors were collectors, the majority were artists. One artist created pieces of furniture with spider webs, the webs preserved on the tops of dressers. Others sold their photography as prints, including Eric Richardson, who owns a dark photography business for clients able to model burlesque-style with chainsaws or clown paraphernalia. 

Vendor booths also showcased paintings of real-life haunted houses with explanations of the murders that occurred there, jewelry made to look like Ouija planchettes and pottery pieces with tongues and eyeballs coming out.  

Another vendor specialized in making skulls by creating molds. He then could create candles and jewelry including a bolo tie with a tiny, skull clasp.

Enticing a niche audience, one vendor, Skulls and Stones, explained that her favorite part about the expo was the people. 

“It’s my tribe. When you fit in somewhere, you know,” she said. “We don’t suit every show.”

But at this show, hand-painted masks were advertised to be “good stocking stuffers,” and a sign once reading “live laugh love” was crossed out to then say “eat s— die.” 

Though much adult content was present, including a set of dilators, a rusty sickle and a closed book of prints marked on the cover as “XXX prints for grown a– adults” with drawings of sexual content, many visitors brought their kids along.

Parents and children alike ooh-ed and ah-ed at the preserved possum fetuses taken from roadkill. Mummified deer and goat fetuses also drew familial attention. 

Other oddities included a jar of spongey white substance in liquid labeled “human fat age 50” for $30 and a “German glass eye” for $50. 

At points, many of the children in attendance took seats in front of the main stage at the expo where performances occurred, including magic shows and women dancing with fans. 

The Curiosities and Oddities Expo is also known for its live human suspension. Guests over the age of 18 can be suspended for a minimum of $125 depending on the type of suspension they want to do. This practice is a form of body modification in which large hooked needles are inserted into an area of an individual’s body. The inserts are then attached to a rope-swing for the performer’s body to suspend in the air. 

National Geographic magazine explained this phenomenon in a 2009 video as the human fight-or-flight response creating a pleasurable experience from pain. Suspendees experience endorphins and a quickened heart rate in the process.

Apart from suspension, the expo also offered body piercings and a class in which attendees could learn how to perform taxidermy for $180.