Sometimes you find things in the weirdest places. Take, as a very good example, Jeremiah Crow’s House of Oddities and Curious Goods.
This unusual museum perhaps shares its DNA with the traveling shows of yesteryear. But it’s actually located in an unassuming storefront in quaint Elizabethtown Square, where a city planner might logically set up a cafe or an upscale clothing store.
You won’t find a carnival huckster outside or a peddler inside trying to sell you poppycock. But, in its storefront of just 600 square feet, you’ll find plenty of weird displays that will have you wondering “WTF?”
You’ll also find a soft-spoken, humble host, because, well, they’re always the quiet ones, aren’t they? Owner Jeremy Crowther describes his Museum of Oddities’ eclectic collection as “chamber of horrors and ‘Peewee’s Playhouse’ blended into one.”
A staggering number of bizarre collectibles represent a range of animal and human medical memorabilia. For example, a lock of Charles Manson’s hair and a stuffed two-headed piglet share space in the display case with a box of Pringles turned into an urn. The urn contains the ashes – drum roll, please – of the man who designed the Pringles packaging tube.
The 1932 film “Freaks” inspired several museum pieces, including Crowther’s most prized acquisition: a model carnival cart handcrafted by entertainer Johnny Eck, “The Amazing Half-Boy.” . Eck had a congenital condition that prevented his lower half from developing.
“He always approached life with humor, saying he never had pants to press,” Crowther said. “He was also a highly respected screen painter and created folk art unique to Baltimore.”
A handful of Crowther’s quirks have haunted stories, like his monkey paw or the creepy clown doll with a murderous past.
“He hasn’t killed me yet, so I’m a little skeptical,” Crowther said.
A strange keepsake, a glass bottle found on the estate of serial killer Edward Gein, disappeared in the museum for a week and reappeared a week later in the same location. Let’s admire this one from afar.
Artifacts representing the dark arts have their roots in the more sinister side of American folklore. Some are original works of art in their own right, incorporating skulls, Ouija boards, and voodoo masks hanging on the walls. Then there are mythical creatures from nightmares, like Grendal, Belsnickel, and the Jersey Devil.
Surrounded by all the freaks and monsters, some visitors feel compelled to share their own dating stories.
“Lots of Bigfoot stories, UFO sightings and ghost stories from all over Pennsylvania,” Crowther said. “Stories from the other side, the darker side of folklore, that may or may not be true.”
To balance out the darkness, several items have a lighter side that might appeal specifically to children, such as the Halloween masks, all of Count Chocula’s boxes, and the depiction of the man who can fart on command, called “The Flatulist “.
In the gift shop, which is sort of stored among the not-for-sale items, kids can take home some ornaments of different styles of squirrels wearing “tight whites”, prank props to play with their friends or an inflatable beard of bees.
Crowther is still looking for what appeals to adults.
“I spent thousands of dollars on a red-haired giant from Lovelock Cave, Nevada,” he said. “But Danny DeVito’s life-size cardboard cutout gets the most attention, and I only spent $60 on it. So who knows?”
A bit of escape
The museum arouses the same level of curiosity towards the owner as wacky works of art. After all, who would hoard such an assortment of voodoo accessories?
Crowther’s path to Elizabethtown included stints as a patina artist, ornamental plasterer, and intern at an Oregon funeral home. While on a Pacific Coast road trip, he visited Marsh’s Free Museum in Long Beach, Washington. Meeting Jake the Alligator Man marked the turning point in his story, inspiring him to collect oddities. By 2005 Crowther was a collector in his own right.
He met fellow collector Mark Kosh at the Kosh Museum in Gettysburg in 2018. The two shared a love for “B” horror movies, museums of historical curiosities, and Count Chocula. Kosh wanted to draw public attention to the lowbrow, like the exhibit featuring Abraham Lincoln’s last saddle. When Kosh closed his museum, Crowther acquired some of his exhibits.
“My collection got to the point where my house was a museum. That’s when I decided to let my curiosity run wild with the general public,” Crowther said. “The best part about having a place like this one is to meet curious people who have an appreciation for things outside of social norms. We can offer some escape.
Admission is free so that no one is excluded from the visit.
Crowther’s collection is not limited to detection with the eyes. If you check out his website, you can check out his alter ego Jeremiah Crow’s unsettling oeuvre of musical compositions or his “Insufferable One-Man Show.” Classified in the dark roots subgenre, the songs feature what the artist describes as “murderous Appalachian ballads, heartbreak tales, and horror stories.”
Jeremiah Crow’s House of Oddities and Curiosities is located at 6 N. Market St., Elizabethtown. It is open on Fridays and Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, visit www.jeremiahcrow.com or Facebook and Instagram pages.
If you like what we do, support our work. Become a friend of TheBurg!