Sometimes, you find things in the strangest of places. Take, as a very good example, Jeremiah Crow’s House of Oddities and Curious Goods.
This unusual museum may share its DNA with the traveling sideshows of yore. But it’s actually located in an unassuming storefront in quaint Elizabethtown Square, where a town planner might logically plunk down a coffee shop or upscale apparel boutique.
You won’t find a carnival barker outside or a huckster inside trying to sell you poppycock. But, within its storefront of only 600 square feet, you will find a lot of strange displays that will make you wonder “WTF?”
You’ll also find a soft-spoken and humble host, because, well, it’s always the quiet ones, isn’t it? Owner Jeremy Crowther describes the eclectic collection in his oddities museum as “chamber of horrors and ‘Peewee’s Playhouse’ mixed into one.”
An impressive number of the bizarre collectibles represent a range of animal and human medical souvenirs. For example, a lock of Charles Manson’s hair and a stuffed, two-headed piglet share space in the display case with a can of Pringles re-purposed into an urn. The urn holds the ashes—drumroll, please—of the man who designed the Pringles packaging tube.
The movie “Freaks” from 1932 inspired several museum pieces, including Crowther’s most prized acquisition: a model of a carnival wagon handmade by sideshow performer Johnny Eck, “The Amazing Half-Boy.” Eck had a congenital disorder that prohibited his lower half from developing.
“He still approached life filled with humor, saying he never had a pair of pants to press,” Crowther said. “He was also a well-respected screen painter and created folk art unique to Baltimore.”
A handful of Crowther’s oddities have haunted backstories, like his monkey’s paw or the creepy clown doll with a murderous past.
“He hasn’t killed me yet, so I’m a bit skeptical,” Crowther said.
One eerie souvenir, a glass bottle found on the property of serial killer Edward Gein, disappeared in the museum for a week and reappeared a week later in the same spot. Let’s admire that one from a distance.
The artifacts representing the dark arts plant their roots into the grimier side of American folklore. Some are original works of art in their own right, incorporating skulls, Ouija boards, and voodoo masks tacked to the walls. Then there are mythical creatures of nightmares, like Grendal, Belsnickel and the Jersey Devil.
Surrounded by all the monsters and freaks, some visitors feel compelled to share their own encounter stories.
“Lots of Bigfoot stories, UFO sightings and ghost stories coming from around Pennsylvania,” Crowther said. “Stories from the other side, the darker side of folklore, which may or may not be true.”
To balance out the dark, several items have a lighter side that might appeal specifically to kids, like the Halloween masks, all the boxes of Count Chocula, and the description of the man who can fart on command, called “The Flatulist.”
In the gift shop, which is sort of plunked among the objects not for sale, kids can take home a few differently styled ornaments of squirrels wearing “tighty whities,” prank props to play on their friends, or an inflatable beard of bees.
Crowther is still figuring out what appeals to adults.
“I spent thousands on a red-haired giant from Lovelock Cave, Nev.,” he said. “But the life-sized cardboard cutout of Danny DeVito gets the most attention, and I only spent $60 on that. So who knows?”
The museum spurs the same level of curiosity about the owner as the kooky objets d’art. After all, who would accumulate such an assortment of voodoo accoutrements?
Crowther’s path to Elizabethtown included stints as a patina artist, an ornamental plasterer, and an intern at a funeral home in Oregon. While on a road trip on the Pacific Coast, he visited Marsh’s Free Museum in Long Beach, Wash. Meeting Jake the Alligator Man served as the turning point in his story, inspiring him to collect oddities. By 2005, Crowther was a full-fledged collector.
He met fellow collector Mark Kosh at Kosh’s museum in Gettysburg in 2018. The two shared a love for “B” horror movies, historic oddities museums and Count Chocula. Kosh wanted to bring the lowbrow to the public eye, like the display featuring Abraham Lincoln’s last bowel movement. When Kosh closed his museum, Crowther acquired some of his displays.
“My collection got to the point where my home was a museum. That’s when I decided to unleash my curiosities onto the general public,” Crowther said. “The best part about having a place like this is meeting curious folks who have an appreciation of things outside of social norms. We can provide some escapism.”
Admission is free so that no one is excluded from visiting.
Crowther’s collection isn’t limited to sensing with the eyes. If you check out his website, you can sample his alter ego Jeremiah Crow’s disturbing oeuvre of musical compositions or his “Insufferable One-Man Show.” Categorized in the dark roots subgenre, the songs feature what the artist describes as “Appalachian murder ballads, stories of sorrow, and tales of horror.”
Jeremiah Crow’s House of Oddities and Curious Goods is located at 6 N. Market St., Elizabethtown. It’s open Fridays and Saturdays, 12 to 6 p.m. For more information, visit www.jeremiahcrow.com or the Facebook and Instagram pages.
If you like what we do, please support our work. Become a Friend of TheBurg!