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A Piece of Charles Manson & 5 Other Crazy Collections
Historical artefacts. Cars. Comic books. Fossils. Stamps. Medallions. Manuscripts. Fine art. Gaming consoles. Coins. Jewellery.
Call it materialism, or just plain old human sentimentality; today, the hobby of collecting compels individuals with growing passions to build priceless collections including all sorts of items.
A look at the psychology of collecting reveals a multitude of reasons explaining the hobby. Specific childhood passions, self-expression, and the desire to create an impressive legacy can all spawn a powerful desire to collect. However, collecting tendencies can also emerge from something as basic as a need to belong, or having a tangible hobby to tend to.
When collecting starts to become obsessive and chaotic, with the intent of ‘saving’ items from being discarded, or as a way to establish control in one’s own life, it can often metamorphose into hoarding.
Some of the most extensive collections in the world are born out of such compulsion. We look at some bizarre collections- and leave it up to you to decide where the line between collecting and hoarding gets drawn.
1) Macabre Menagerie
An insatiable appetite for gruesome stories, horror movies and blood-curdling literature also leads individuals to develop an affinity for certain concerning collectibles.
Collecting ‘murderabilia’ is a strange craze that has swept through a number of literal cult enthusiasts around the world; people build massive collections of crime scene remnants, and the personal effects of infamous serial killers. A few hair-raising items of note that have graced such collections include Charles Manson’s locks, cannibal Albert Fish’s letter, and notorious ‘screwdriver killer’ Gary Heidnik’s heinous weapon of choice. Incidentally, all of them belong to a New York artist Joe Coleman, no stranger to gore, whose work also reflects and hints at darker themes involving aggression and death, and its impact upon the human psyche.
In a similar vein of collecting tendencies, using ‘self-expression’ and some of his daughter’s favourite toys as a justification is Venezuelan artist Etanis Gonzalez, who has amassed a collection of an unnerving 1000 dismembered doll heads. This harrowing graveyard of terrors has been proudly showcased on his residence’s balcony, and discourages neighbours from stopping by to borrow a cup of sugar.
2) Raving Royals
Queen Mary of Teck, grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II, was, to put it quite simply, considered a kleptomaniac. Inheriting a penchant for curating collections from a reckless, prodigal father, and passive encouragement by her stamp collector husband, the monarch had a proclivity for collecting hideous baubles, papier-mâché workboxes, furniture, glass paintings...and anything else she laid her eyes on that she thought would make a superb addition to the royal residence. She would also habitually frequent antique stores, and leave with a significant number of pieces. This behaviour, coupled with the fact that she often abstained from paying for them also earned her the label of a ‘thief’, and prompted all antique stores she visited to hide their best pieces from her.
3) Animalistic Assortments
During the Victorian era, a growing interest in cataloguing the natural world and sciences and their eminent success in art made taxidermy a popular interest.
People everywhere embraced the hobby. Not Walter Potter. At 19, Walter Potter chose to pursue taxidermy as a serious career path. The English taxidermist opened a museum to display some of his collections. Exclusively containing deceased specimens from a local farm, he assembled these collections in the form of a variety of animal dioramas; scenes designed by him include a ‘kitten wedding’, and a piece titled ‘Who Killed Cock Robin?’ that took 98 bird specimens and a lot of blood, sweat and years to complete.
Today, people continue to harbour positive sentiments for preserving species, and collecting these; elderly couple Charlie and Lois O’Brien have spent the better part of six decades amassing a litany of insect species. Former scientists that discovered romance, and their joint passion together, the couple painstakingly curated insect species from all around the world. While the collection worth $10m was donated to Arizona State University to support research, the moral of the story remains this- True love means accepting your partner’s eccentricities. Even if they bug you.
4) Biological Bevy
Graham Barker fancies himself a collector of rocks, maps, and navel fluff alike. Go ahead, do a double take. Belly button lint. The collector’s zany preoccupation with his own bodily gunk is a 26-year-old habit that has produced a 22-gram collection of different coloured, and sized lint preserved in a ceramic jar. The Australian librarian openly refuted the label of an ‘addiction’ being used to describe his strange interest on national television, instead referring to it as something he doesn’t feel the need to do, but enjoys.
A number of other collectors with other such peculiar passions have also emerged over the years, and the list is potentially endless, with people often stooping as low as to collect faeces and nail clippings.
5) Minuscule Mass
An adoration of miniature collectibles is not a novel phenomenon; but the story of one psychiatric nurse, and her collection of chairs is particularly intriguing. The owner of the ‘world’s largest miniature chair collection’ developed a passion for the collectibles during her time as a nurse at Grady Hospital, during which her use of doll-sized chairs to comfort pregnant patients worked like a charm. When Barbara Hartsfield’s collection reached 3,000 pieces and snagged a world record, she stopped counting. But the collection didn’t. Today, Ms. Hartsfield’s collection continues to grow, and includes chairs that are fashioned from a number of other items such as cookie jars, bookends, and jewellery trays.