Come One Come All

Step Right up and take your Chances

February 22, 2007|By Jonathan Pitts | Jonathan Pitts,Sun Reporter

Come One, Come All, Step Right Up and take your Chances! For the First Time Ever, Explore, Experience and Place Your Bids on Hundreds of Exhibits of the Strange and the Exotic, the Freakishly Fun, the Eye-Popping and the Jaw-Dropping, as Curator Richard Horne puts up for Public Auction the Curious Contents of his recently closed, Phantasmagorically Famous American Dime Museum!

Though Business Realities have shuttered the Seven-Year-Old, One-of-a-Kind Dime, Fans of The Fantastical can acquire its Oddities ? Priceless Works of Art, Timeless Cruelties of Nature, Hideous Samples of the Supernatural and the Strange ? at Public Auction in Timonium Monday evening.

No Opening Bid rejected!

Dental Practice Head

1950s era homo sapiens head replica. Molded rubber, steel; eyes closed as if flinching. Once used by dental students who needed practice on a mobile, simulated human mouth. Some wear in teeth; rubber tongue gets in the way, as in real life. ?You can set the jaw however you like,? curator Horne says, adding: ?This item actually creeps me out.?

Good cond. Size: 8-by-13 inches. Est.: $100 - $150.

Flying squirrel tableau

Darwinian display in two pieces: Piece 1, stuffed and mounted, is an actual flying squirrel memorialized mid-pounce; Piece 2 depicts in creative taxidermy an earlier flying squirrel, complete with feathered wings, believed by scientists to have been rendered extinct by natural selection (R. Horne, ca. 1985).

Age-worn. Larger squirrel, H: 15 inces. V. Good Cond. Est.: $150-$200.

Elephant person?s cranium

Cased; mixed media. This sad object, unofficially dated to the early 20th century, is the chemically preserved head of ?a cruelly afflicted person,? featuring grotesquely enlarged nose and ears. Specimen exemplifies the morbid practice, popular in the salons and museums of Europe, of keeping parts of humans that were, in life, famous, popular or notorious.

Says Horne: ?At one time, a much less sophisticated public than ours took pleasure in the misfortunes of others.?

?Don?t you think it?s cruel to show children items that aren?t real?? a parent once asked the curator about this exhibit.

?Have you taken your kids to Disney World?? Horne said.

Aged. Case: 11-by-18 inches. Est.: $300-$500.

Mummified hand

According to museum documentation, in early 1814, Lillian Pitts, a convicted British prostitute living in Australian exile, wrought vengeance on society by loosing a strain of poisonous spiders. Upon her execution in 1820, according to those documents, lawmakers severed her right hand and mounted it as a public warning.

Museum acquired the specimen in the late 20th century, whereupon Horne restored it, using embalming techniques unknown in 1820s Australia, and sent its certificate of authenticity out for painstaking renovation.

?Authenticity counts for a lot,? he says.

Aged, gruesome; case: 5?-by-10-by-7 inches. Est.: $600-$800.

?Man in Ball? toy

Genuine French tin toy, manufactured by the Martin Co., replicates an early 1900s carnival act in which a live human hidden inside a ball walked step-by-step up a spiraling ramp. Upon reaching the top, he popped out to uproarious applause. Hidden wind-up mechanism helps this miniature man in ball re-create the attraction, often to the audible delight of children. ?Hate to give this one up,? says Horne. ?How does he get up there? You tell me.? Paint weak.

H: 15 inches. G. Cond. Est.: $500-$700.

Tiger-head ball toss

Papier-mache and wood tiger mask with working jaw, mounted on wood plaque. Used as carnival game in mid-20th century: Hit the tiger?s tongue with ball, and the mouth closes. How far away did the contestant stand? ?That all depended on they prizes they were offering,? says Horne, a carny historian, ?and what kind of mood they were in.? Slight wear; needs two rubber bands.

W: 12 inces; H: 16 inches. V. Good Cond. Est.: $500-$700.

Blade box

Popular item outside sideshow tents, where ?talkers? vied for ?tips? (customers) with titillating free attractions. A woman of normal size could rotate sideways inside box to evade the vertical motion of saws (12 blades attached), often waving or tossing items of clothing to crowds in the process. Afterward, for a 25-cent fee, viewers could see how it was done ? a rare instance of magicians sharing their secrets. (Box was acquired in Gibsonton, Fla., a.k.a. ?Gibtown,? famed retirement home to generations of sideshow freaks.) Wood with cloth decoration; includes showman?s sketch.

L: 70 inches. V. Good Cond. Est.: $500-$700.

Giant bat

Customers of the Bobby Reynolds Sideshow were lured by the banner outside: ?Giant Bat: 600 Lbs.; 12? Feet Long; Big Enough To Kill A Horse!? Inside, they saw the item was exactly as advertised, though of the baseball variety. Says Horne with a grin: ?People enjoy being fooled. They always have and probably always will.? Etched label on bat reads ?Believe-It-You?re-Nutts!?

Wood; varnish peeling. L: 12 feet. V. Good Cond. Est.: $600-$1,000.

Auction

5p.m. - 8 p.m. Monday at Richard Oper, Auctioneering, 1919 Greenspring Drive, Timonium phone 410-252-5035 or go to Opferauction.com

Free Preview of all items

noon to 5 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday 1p.m. to 5p.m. Sunday at the American Dime Museum 1808 Maryland Ave.

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