Morbid Curiosities

Morbid Curiosities

Paul Gambino is the author of Morbid Curiosities: Collections of the Uncommon and the Bizarre, (Laurence King £.19.95). Here he selects his favourite morbid curiosities from the book.

The "pick ten favorite" question is usually hard to answer, no matter what the topic. In this case, for me, it was harder than a 3-inch gallstone that was retrieved from a 67 year-old cadaver and wound up in the collection of a New York collector of morbid human oddities. However, after some time I have come up with the following ten.

The Jar of Insanity

Just the thought of someone being so mentally disturbed/tortured that they could not break out of this obsessive compulsive loop that would drive them to spend countless hours folding and tearing thousands of tiny pieces of paper - each EXACTLY the same - and then filling a jar with the torn paper is frightening. It's a physical manifestation of insanity and very upsetting. (Collector: Evan Michelson)

The "Quaint Toy with a Somber Past"

This small, relatively innocuous wooden toy takes on such a sad turn when you see the note that was tied to its base that reads, "Norman, Your mother played with this two hours before death." I find that terribly sad and unsettling. (Collector: Calvin Von Crush)

19th Century Fetal Skeleton

This particular skeleton is holding its heart in its hand and drying a tear from its eye socket with their own placenta. (Collector: Ryan Matthew Cohn)

WWI Facial Prosthetic

Hand formed copper facial elements. The 3rd London General Hospital's "Masks for Facial Disfigurement Department" created over 200 prosthetics of this type from 1918 to 1919 for wounded soldiers. Solders nicknamed the studio "The Tin Noses Shop." (Collector: Steve Erenberg)

Pirate Skull

A Malaysian pirate skull that hung from the mast of the Spanish galleon Santa Clara in 1688. It was a warning for other would-be pirates. (Collector: Brent S.)


Stella the shrunken head is the result of a revenge killing and mutilation. After a wife discovered her husband cheating with another woman, the wife had the daughter of the mistress killed and the daughter's head shrunken. (Collector: Jack Kump)


The hand written description was just one word "Reine" which translates to "Queen" in English, 1907 (Collector: Jean-Bernard Gillot)

"A Bunch of Cocoanuts"

Six warrior skulls taken in the same battle by the Iban's of East Borneo in the late 19th century. The heads were thrown into a fire pit and once cured they were wrapped in vines and suspended from the rafters of the community longhouse. (Collector: Mik Miller)

Hangman's Logbook and Tape Measure

The personal logbook of English hangman Albert Pierrepoint that includes a written log of every hanging that he performed. Also the tape measure used by his predecessor Henry Albert Pierrepoint. The book is opened to the page of the famous double execution of two women in the "baby farming case". The only double hanging of women to be carried out in modern times. (Collector: Nathan Roberts)

Deadly Prison Shank

I obtained this "shank" (prison knife) that was used to kill somebody inside of prison. However the collector did not realizing it at the time, that she had in her possession the prison identification card that belonged to the stabbing victim. She keeps always keeps these two those depressing items together. (Collector: Jessica M.)

Morbid Curiosities is out now