Secret Gowanus science group hosts horrifying animal stuffing contest

April 2, 2014 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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The subway ride to Gowanus this Sunday could be a bit hair raising.

Packed into boxes or carried on laps on the F train will be a macabre menagerie — stuffed squirrels are likely, along with preserved insects, moose heads and families of tiny rodents dressed in period costumes.

Brooklyn practitioners of the ancient art of taxidermy will be enjoying their special day at the Bell House in Gowanus with The Secret Science Club’s seventh annual “Carnivorous Nights Taxidermy Contest.”

Margaret Mittelbach, curator and co-founder of the Secret Science Club told the Brooklyn Eagle, “We get taxidermists (both straight and of the rogue variety) as well as artists who incorporate taxidermy or taxidermy themes in their work. We also get collectors, who bring amazing antique and vintage pieces.

“Because this is Brooklyn, the entries often involve urban animals–such as squirrels and even mice,” she said. “A classic rogue entry was the ‘Pope Squirrel’–a taxidermy squirrel that had been fitted with tiny papal vestments.”

Other entries, she said, have included “an antique automaton of a taxidermy bird in a cage (that moved and sang), a road-kill coyote brought back to “life” by an urban taxidermist, a vintage mongoose battling a cobra, a working chandelier made of goat skulls, and a ‘wolpertinger’ which is a mythical (or real?) Bavarian beast that looks like a rabbit with wings, horns, and fangs.”

Participants will be competing for furry-and-fanged door prize, and glory. According to the Secret Science rules, eligible items include taxidermy, biological specimens, articulated skeletons and skulls, and the worrisome category of “jarred specimens.” Aficionados call the annual event a night of “unspeakable hilarity.”

Judges for the event include Robert Marbury of the Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermy and Joanna Ebenstein of the Morbid Anatomy Library and Museum. The contest begins at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday. ($12 advance, $15 at the door) Entrants: Contact [email protected] to register.

The Secret Science Club is a science lecture and performance series (for those 21 and older) which includes monthly evenings of “mind-bending lectures” and “volatile experiments” along with music and drinks.

The series attracts real scientific luminaries –previous speakers include primatologist Mary Blair, physicist Max Tegmark, and the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium and host of “COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey.” Events take place every month at the Bell House, at 149 7th Street.

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