Viktor Wynd and his Museum of Curiosities have become a famed part of Hackney’s cultural landscape so much so that he is launching a book this week, but I remember coming across his peculiar store on Mare Street more than five years ago, when hipsters were still a novelty to the area.
The Museum is now bigger and better and has recently relaunched with a whole new host of oddities such as a two-headed sheep. It was weird and wonderful enough when I first visited, but as I haven’t had a chance to check the latest incarnation out, here’s my account from my original visit (originally published on my former Eastside Stories blog):
The Last Tuesday Society, with its dark interior and ominous front door message warning “those offended by death and decay to stay away”, reminds me of The Simpsons episode where Lisa and Bart, in their quest to vanquish the zombies that are plaguing Springfield this Halloween, go into the occult section of the library that magically appears out of nowhere.
Nestled in between a dry cleaner and a take away pizza place on Hackney’s main drag, Mare Street, this store is in itself enough of a reason to visit the area.
I don’t mean to mislead you that this is indeed an occult store, although it’s entirely fathomable that there is one hidden in another secret basement. But we only made it into the first secret basement, which isn’t really a secret as the shop assistant – who is actually very friendly despite the dark atmosphere – suggested we go down and visit the “Little Shop of Horrors”.
We only meant to nip in and out, as it was quite a nice day and we were planning to take a walk down Regent’s Canal (taking in clever graffiti, coffee shops in houseboats and dodging sketching artists, actors performing impromptu drama and more ).
We made our way down the stairs completely unprepared for what was to come. Where do I begin… the upstairs of the store with its stuffed animals and unusual trinkets (according to the website, it is now home to an exhibition of animal sculptures) seems like a kindergarten compared to what’s down here.
It gets weirder and weirder as we walk around. We stumble over a foot stool with a price tag of £1000, only to realise that it is a real elephant’s foot, with toenails and all. Not only are preserved animal corpses and foetuses showcased, but so are human foetuses from the 1800s, their little organs visible through a filmy membrane, highlighted like stained glass.
The highlight is not the mummified penis, or range of shrunken tribal heads, as you’d expect, or the vintage S&M Manual for Lesbians, but the stuffed animals arranged into everyday people scenes – racoons drinking cans of lager and rats chasing each other.
The owner, Viktor Wynd, isn’t there, but the assistant who is tidying the displays happily tells us random anecdotes about him – holding up two pairs of reindeer antlers or ram horns that he fused together to wear as warped wings, like those of a grotesque gargoyle, to one of his famous fancy dress balls. He sounds, well, eccentric to say the least.
Despite the taxidermied animals reminding the boyfriend of the stuffed tarantula he had as a child (called Rene after the Columbian goalkeeper Rene Higuita; he managed to find this the other day after his mum cleaned out their attic). I did, luckily, talk him out of buying a stuffed owl to take home. Bargain at £40, but I just can’t see that finding a home on our mantelpiece.
We emerged from the darkness of the store into the light of the street slightly dazed and bleary eyed, feeling like we’ve just travelled through a wormhole from a parallel universe. I guess most newcomers to the store must react that way. I was so gobsmacked that I had to tell anyone who would listen about this place, and managed to drag some friends back a year later when we managed to get some snaps of the impressive taxidermied animals:
If the weird and wonderful is right up your alley, or you are tired of going to the same old events, check out thelasttuesdaysociety.org. You can experience a day in the life of Viktor Wynd himself, sign up to a taxidermy class, RSVP to a lecture on hedonism or merely muster up the courage to visit this truly unique museum.