Hampden's Bazaar — Photo courtesy of Tamar Alexia Fleishman
The Victorian era wasn’t all picking of posies, doffing of top hats and leaving of calling cards. There was a darker side of life in the wake of unfamiliar and mysterious advances in science, high mortality rates and increased travel to exotic colonial lands.
Wealthy Victorians often took pride in their “curiosity cabinets." Far from containing the ceramic tchotchkes that today’s grandmas might have, it was common to see freakish insect art, jewelry made from a deceased lover's hair, outrageous souvenirs from foreign destinations and other odd things. There was a fear of, but fascination with, morbidity.
Fifteen years ago, in yet another example of the quirkiness of Baltimore, there was a beloved little museum called The American Dime Museum. It featured weird and creepy exhibits from freak shows and circus side shows. Sadly, the place is no longer open.
But it seems that there’s been a huge resurgence in interest with all things alternative, unusual and, perhaps, deathly. Television shows like American Horror Story have huge cult followings. Full sleeves of tattoos and intricate body modifications are no longer head-turning occasions. Burlesque shows with such performers open to standing-room only crowds.
So, it’s really not surprising that in the Baltimore neighborhood that’s not afraid to be different – Hampden – Bazaar has opened. (Like the play on words?)
Bazaar bills itself as a place to get “weird treasures." This is a place to stock your own home curiosity cabinet or personal freak show. Or you can get the most unforgettable of gifts.
Interestingly enough, the brightly lit store presents its strange wares in a cheerful, unabashed way. No matter how deviant you may think you are, you’ll feel sweetly normal at Bazaar.
Right out in the open, you’ll find an eclectic mix of medical oddities, skulls, taxidermy, vintage Ouija boards, Victorian hair art, Odd Fellows and Masonic vintage paraphernalia, bone jewelry, folk art, postmortem photography, gags and other things you’ll never find at a big-box store.
There are lots of vintage items that – in the context of this shop – you’ll see in a whole different light. Imagine if Vermont Country Store took a whole macabre turn.
Every few months, they invite a traveling taxidermist to the shop to teach a few things about taxidermy. Instructors provide the animals and all the materials needed for your project. (Note that animals are not killed for these classes. Instead, the instructors source animals from food byproducts, natural death, etc.)
These taxidermy classes normally take go for six to eight hours, and they can cost anywhere from $150 to $350, depending on the specific project.