After its closure to the public due to the current outbreak, the Yorkshire Museum in York has launched a marvelous social media challenge. Its curators have challenged museums and visitors to share the creepiest exhibits in the world under the weekly hashtag #curatorbattle.
Museums from Germany, France, Canada, and the USA responded and a zombie blowfish, a terrifying taxidermic mermaid, and creepy necklaces have so far been proposed. The Yorkshire Museum started the informal competition with a hair bun off a Roman woman from the 3rd or 4th century AD, with hair clips still in place. Here it is, alongside the tweet that started it all:
The first to respond to the call were the German History Museum and Norwich Castle, a museum, art gallery, and study centre. The first presented a plague mask — very fitting for the current times — while the latter a “pincushion! Complete with tiny children’s heads”.
Thanks for thinking of us @HottyCouture and wow, will we be having nightmares tonight with all these #CreepiestObject|s ! Here is the one we just can’t hide from you, one of our many creepy gems – our Plague Mask (1650/1750)! #curatorbattle pic.twitter.com/JrMjqAJSIM— Deutsches Historisches Museum (@DHMBerlin) April 17, 2020
@RedHeadedAli how can we ignore such a call to arms?— Norwich Castle (@NorwichCastle) April 17, 2020
This particular item has caused a few nightmares for our followers this week.
Our #CreepiestObject is…this pincushion! Complete with tiny children’s heads. You’re welcome, Twitter.#CURATORBATTLE pic.twitter.com/0YdmCE5dYD
The National Museums of Scotland presented a “mermaid”, presumably to ensure that everyone will be having nightmares for a time. It looks like the misguided work of a taxidermist, but I’m not sure — and I don’t really want to know, either. You’ll be delighted/terrified to hear that they have more than one such exhibit, noting that “many museums have one”.
Many museums have one but they usually look more like our other ‘mermaid’…— Natural Sciences NMS (@NatSciNMS) April 18, 2020
We have a little more information about this one: The posterior half was formed from a Pacific wrasse, & the head/thorax were sculpted, with fish jaw inserted in the mouth. #CreepiestObject pic.twitter.com/7MrPcaZqdh
Of course, how would any creepy contest be complete without a cursed toy? Luckily, Canada’s Prince Edward Island Museum swept in to save the day.
Bringin’ our A-game for this #CURATORBATTLE! What is it? Just a CURSED CHILDREN’S TOY that we found inside the walls of a 155-year-old mansion. We call it “Wheelie” – and it MOVES ON ITS OWN: Staff put it in one place and find it in another spot later on…. #Creepiestobject pic.twitter.com/FQzMzacr8a— PEI Museum (@PEIMuseum) April 17, 2020
But toys aren’t the only thing people seem willing to creepify. What if you, for example, wanted to wear pants while also not technically wearing pants but in a very creepy and disturbing way? Maybe even ones that might even make you rich overnight? The Icelandic Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft has just the thing for you — the Necropants (replica).
As the Icelandic museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft isn’t on twitter I’ll post for them this – Necropants. Sadly a replica, but according to Icelandic lore you make them from a dead man’s skin and overnight the pockets fill with coin#CURATORBATTLE #CreepiestObject pic.twitter.com/D5ghrBLTgU— Atli Viðar (@atli_vidar) April 18, 2020
On the other side of the fence, if inviting magic is the exact opposite of what you want, then you might need to pop around Oxford, visit the Pitt Rivers Museum, and don their “sheep’s heart stuck with pins and nails, to be worn like a necklace for breaking evil spells”.
Sheep’s heart stuck with pins and nails and strung on a loop of cord. Made in South Devon, circa 1911, “for breaking evil spells”, @Pitt_Rivers collections #CreepiestObject #CuratorBattle pic.twitter.com/z5vdCFCU4S— Dan Hicks (@profdanhicks) April 17, 2020
I wonder what happens if you wear both at the same time.
Among the more exotic entries I’ve seen is this — a whale’s eardrum, painted to look like a (misshapen) human face, currently in the care of Historic Environment Scotland.
This is one of my favourite objects from @HistEnvScot Collections – a painted whale eardrum. Fascinating and highly disturbing! #CreepiestObject #Curatorbattle— Clara Molina Sanchez (@CMolinaSanchez) April 17, 2020
More info 👇https://t.co/SIyqgmP2IG pic.twitter.com/HWCkyP3Qex
There’s also this mask at Abingdon County Hall Museum, which brings a much subtler sense of uneasiness and haunting to this whole challenge.
It’s a tough #CURATORBATTLE! Not as creepy as other entries but for the way it looks, our #CreepiestObject is this 18th/19th century painted wood head, formerly mounted outside a cottage on Drayton Road #Abingdon. Nobody knows why.. some say that it is supposed to be a sailor. pic.twitter.com/B3AR3RfvKd— Abingdon County Hall Museum (@AbingdonMuseum) April 17, 2020
Finally, as promised, there’s also this zombified blowfish at the Bexhill Museum
I give you the Zombie Blowfish, scourge of the High Seas & Terror of Bexhill Museum’s stores. If it doesn’t get you the army of zombies I am creating with its tetrodotoxin will. #CURATORBATTLE #TroublingTaxidermy pic.twitter.com/Z1A5PEX7A8— Annie Brassey (@AnnieBrassey) April 17, 2020
Maybe the quarantine does keep us safe… from whatever is lurking in the shadows of museum collections around the world!