Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bone Collectors Are Not Sociopaths

There are some misconceptions about bone collectors I'd like to clear up.

Some people think that because someone chooses to collects bones, dead animal/insect specimens, or even taxidermy that something "clearly" must be wrong with them.

Not true.

Speaking for myself, I do it because of my lifelong passion for science and nature. And I admit I've had a morbid curiosity since a child as well. Both, thanks to my father.

I've been collecting bones from the very young age of 7 years. I still remember the very first time I decided I needed the bones of something I found. It was a tiny dead turtle skeleton in an ant pile. In perfect, beautiful condition.

Antisocial Personality Disorder results in what is commonly known as a Sociopath or Psychopaths. Personality disorders are chronic psychological disorders, which can greatly affect a person's life.

A tell tale a sign of a future serial killer is a child who delights in torturing and killing animals. NOT one who keeps found bones because they find it interesting.

One big difference between Jeffrey Dahmer and myself is that I'd NEVER harm an animal for pleasure. I haven't even eaten meat beyond seafood for over 16 years now. Mostly because of what horrors factory farmed animals are put through.

By age 10, Dahmer was "experimenting" with dead animals, some of which he'd killed - decapitating rodents, bleaching chicken bones with acid, nailing a dog's carcass to a tree and mounting its head on a stake.

BONELUST - Video Still of Dog Head on Stake in the Backyard of Jeffrey Dahmer's Childhood Home in Bath, Ohio

Video still of dog head on stake in the backyard of Jeffrey Dahmer's childhood home in Bath, Ohio. (Still is from - Serial Killers: Profiling the Criminal Mind, 1994)

People who kill animals as adolescents often kill human beings not long after. Just as Jeffrey Dahmer did. I'm interested in seeing what happens to Tyler Weinman, the "Florida Kitty Killer", as an adult. But personally I hope he spends his remaining lifetime in jail and never gets the chance to kill again.

I don't share the personality characteristics of a sociopath. Believe me, I've unfortunately know at least a few.

When I was around 8 years old, a boy down the street was the only child in the neighborhood near my age. He showed frightening early signs in his personality of a sociopath. I remember coming over to his house and seeing him taking live lizards he had caught, cutting them open, filling them with live bees/wasps, and painting them fluorescent colors. Even at that age I knew there was something seriously wrong with him.

Studies have found that those killers who engaged in childhood acts of animal cruelty used the same method of killing on their human victims as they did on their animal victims. So I can only imagine what sort of bizarre serial killer he'd end up being.

His father let him shoot birds from their yard with a pellet gun. Which I also thought was very strange. Considering it was in a suburban neighborhood in Tampa.

I also was never a chronic bedwetter or obsessed with fire setting as a child. Those two things along with animal cruelty are three behavioral characteristics that are associated with sociopathic behavior. According to the Macdonald triad anyway.

So no worries, you can enjoy looking at my blog knowing I didn't torture or kill any animal in any way to get the bones for my collection.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Gift Bones - Part 2

Much of my bone collection is found, prepped, and cleaned by myself. Some is bought, and the rest came as gifts from exceptionally understanding friends.

One of my earliest bone gifts is a painted deer hip bone from my friend Jason. I got it from him about 22 years ago. I love how it seems to double as a mask.

BONELUST - Painted Deer Hip Bone: Gift from Late 1980s 1

BONELUST - Painted Deer Hip Bone: Gift from Late 1980s 2

Earlier this year my niece, Liz, surprised me with bone gifts. Some misc animal bones, a pile of small mammal jaws retrieved from owl droppings, and a cat skull. I like to believe I've been a good influence on her...heh

BONELUST - Cat Skull Gift from Niece with Box (She Calls Me Ant Instead of Aunt & I Love It)

The cat was sadly hit by a car. She buried it, dug it back up, and glued the broken skull back together. I don't normally bury the road kill or hunted game I find. It can stain and rot the bones at a faster pace than using a "bone box".

BONELUST - Cat Skull Gift from Niece 2

But I think the distorted skull, missing part of the nasal cavity, and lack of row of teeth really adds to it. Plus the way the skull is stained really brings out the teeth.

BONELUST - Cat Skull Gift from Niece

My most recent gruesome gift is thanks to Amanda. She found this unknown bird species head on top of a car. I suspect that it was eaten by a larger predator bird by the way the back of skull and neck bones are exposed. I imagine as it ate the smaller bird, the head fell from the tree above.

BONELUST - Unknown Bird Species Head: Gift from a Friend

It could have been caused by a cat as well. But they don't normally carry a bird on top of a car to eat. Rather, they'd want it in a safe hiding place. And cats are know to eat bird and small mammal heads entirely.

Amanda came out to visit me where I was selling my photos recently, and presented me with this lovely package that looked like two blooming flowers.

BONELUST - Bird Head Package

Inside was this:

BONELUST - Unknown Bird Species Head in Gift Box: Gift from a Friend

As a "thank you" gift I gave her one of my dead bird prints. It may have been this one:

BONELUST - Dead Yellow-rumped Warbler 4

Thanks so much to Jason, Liz and Amanda for these uncommon gifts!

Stay tuned for more in this series of "gift bones" to come.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Gift Bones - Part 1

Much of my bone collection is found, prepped, and cleaned by myself. Some is bought, and the rest came as gifts from exceptionally understanding friends.

One of the single largest bones I own is this HUGE moose antler which was a gift from my parents. Which came originally from Canada or Alaska, from a male (bull) moose. It was on my wish list of odd items so I was very excited about this surprise gift!

BONELUST - Moose Antler

It measures 41 inches across the back curve. And has a pretty good weight to it . Here is a self portrait with it to give you a better idea of how large it is.

BONELUST - Self Portrait with Moose Antler 1

Want to see something really fantastic? Check out The New Hampshire Locked Moose Antler Project. Which involved two moose carcasses found locked in eternal combat turned into a traveling educational taxidermy exhibit. Absolutely stunning. Such a fantastic way to honor these majestic beasts.

With the birth of this blog I started to get "hey do you want a...?." questions more and more often. And of course if it is bone related, I likely welcome what you have to offer. So I started to get some pretty interesting things showing up in my mailbox.

First thing I got was this collection of partial skeletal remains of a Key Deer from my good friend Kyle. I remember him telling me stories about how when lived in the Florida Keys, they would just walk up and lick your hands.

Which is just never good for any wild animal. Most Key Deer have lost their fear of humans. This is the main reason they are now endangered.

BONELUST - Various Key Deer Bones

Kyle found these remains on the property of his old landlord and had always thought that he had killed it. Upon receiving the bones it was realized that three of the vertebrae were badly fused. Which could possibly indicate that the deer was quite old and/or suffering from a disease that caused this fusing.

BONELUST - Fused Key Deer Vertebrae
(click small images for larger.)

So I like to believe that the deer either died of natural causes or perhaps it was suffering and put out of misery. I have done this countless times myself and highly respect the work of a fellow angel of mercy.

BONELUST - Fused Key Deer Vertebrae Macro
(Macro of fused vertebrae.)

One night while I was out at a show in Gainesville I was located by my friend Will who had some fantastic gifts for me. I love the conversation he must have had with the door guy explaining that he had "something for someone inside".

"Can I just find my friend to give her something?"

"What is it?"

Will lifting the plastic bag with protruding bones.

"A horse skull and a shark jaw."

"Uhhhh sure."

BONELUST - Horse Skull 3

This is one of those cases where I loved the way the horse skull was weathered and won't likely be cleaning it.

BONELUST - Horse Skull 4

I especially love the cracking of the tooth enamel.

BONELUST - Horse Skull Teeth

BONELUST - Horse Skull 1

The shark jaw is 10 inches across so it wasn't a very big one. Anyone have any idea what it is from?

BONELUST - Shark Jaws

The last bone gift I received most recently was this fantastic mummified bird leg with protruding bone. My friend Bill posted a photo of it online. There were lots of "Ewww yuck!" comments of course. Except for mine.

His wife really wanted it out of the house so it took the hour journey to my house to a new happy home.

BONELUST - Mummified Bird Leg with Exposed Bone

I wanted to mention that this is no small bird leg. From bone tip to talon it measures 5 and a quarter inches.

Thanks so much to my parents, Kyle, Will and Bill for these uncommon gifts!

Stay tuned for more in this series of "gift bones" to come.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Found Bones - Part 1

I live way out in the country on the "Nature Coast" of Florida, in Dixie County. The Suwannee River is less than a quarter of a mile away and the Gulf of Mexico is about a 40 minute drive. There are so many different kinds of wild creatures to be seen in my yard alone. Deer, boar, turkey, rabbits, opossum, armadillo, snakes, frogs, mice, raccoons, owls, woodpeckers, lizards, skinks and on and on.

Juvenile Grey Rat Snake - 1
Juvenile Grey Rat Snake.

Wild Turkey Chick Saved from my Cat - Meleagris gallopavo
Wild Turkey chick saved from my cat and returned to mother.

Playing Tag with a Young Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus)
Playing tag with a young Nine-banded Armadillo.

Much of the bones in my collection have been found over the years. But once I acquired part feral dogs, they seemed to just appear in my yard. I consider them gifts from my dogs. :)

I find bones fairly regularly in my yard because my dogs, Falcor and Artax, find the remains that hunters throw in the woods... or roadkill.

While I moved out here to be one with nature, much of the original residents here enjoy killing the animals I love to catch a glimpse of. I really don't like hunting but I have also come to realize that a lot of the people that live out in rural areas like this feed their families this way. I imagine there are even more people hunting now with the economy so bad.

From time to time the dogs drag a skull of a wild boar into the yard or I just find remains of the teeth or part of a jaw. This is the largest remains of a boar skull I've found yet. Looks like it has been in the woods for a long time. Wish I knew where my dogs were finding these!

BONELUST - Gift from the Dogs: Really Old Wild Boar Skull

Below is a found Wild Boar jaw that I wedged in between tree limbs. If you look carefully you can see where animals have been gnawing on it for calcium. I have deer antlers outside that they have nearly completely chewed up. This jaw has been here for so long now that the tree is actually growing into it. Amazing.

BONELUST - Found Wild Boar Jaw Wedged in Tree 1

I'm hoping that my dogs didn't kill the dog this skull is from. They had been chewing on it in the yard and broke it. I plan on attempting to glue it back together.

BONELUST - Found Skull & Fragments

One day I found this huge spine and ribcage in my back yard. It is either from a wild boar or deer.

BONELUST - Deer or Wild Boar Ribcage with Foot as Size Reference

But Falcor wasn't letting me near it for long.

BONELUST - Falcor Claiming the Deer or Wild Boar Ribcage 2

By the next day all that remained was part of the spine. So I tossed it somewhere the dogs couldn't get to and it is cleaning up real nice all by itself.

BONELUST - Spine of Either a Wild Board or Deer

Stay tuned for more in this series of found bones to come.

Monday, June 1, 2009

My Dad's Pickled Jar of Texas Creatures from 1950

I was at my parents' place in Tampa, FL. this past weekend. So I took advantage of being there and snapped off some high quality shots of my Dad's childhood jar of pickled reptiles, insects and spiders.

My brother and I have both looked at and lusted over this jar countless times growing up. We both want it, as well as my niece. My Dad has always joked that it will be in his will for my brother or I. Which wouldn't surprise me.

The story behind the jar:

Around 1950, when my Dad was about 10 years old he was visiting with his grandparents in Edina, MO. His second cousin, Alfred Kirn, was visiting from Texas where he taught Biology at a college there. Alfred had lots of cool things like stuffed armadillos and such. My Dad was fascinated and pleaded for "some preserved creatures from Texas". And Alfred said he would send him a package.

What my Dad got in the mail was this magnificent collection of creatures preserved in formaldehyde, along with a letter. It still blows my mind that this was mailed from Texas to Missouri in the early 1950s! All of the specimens are still very well in tact although somewhat muted in color.

They specimens are also all labeled with tags. But because most of them are flipped around I could only read two tags:

"Lubber Grasshopper, Somerset Texas, A J Kirn"

"Walking Stick, Somerset Texas, A J Kirn"

No scientific names but they can probably all be identified fairly easy.

I'm hoping my Dad locates the letter. It lists everything in the jar.

I meant to get a photo of the bottom on the jar. I think you can see the snake's head there as well as some other insects.

Also, check out my Dad's wonderful writing here:


Photos are turning the jar counter clockwise:

Texas Horned Lizards, Giant Centipede, Lizard or Skink

BONELUST - Dad's Pickled Jar of Texas Creatures from 1950: Texas Horned Lizards, Giant Centipede, Lizard or Skink
The head of the unidentified lizard/skink can been seen between the two Horned Lizards.

Texas Horned Lizards, Giant Centipede, Lizard or Skink, Wood Boring Beetle (Possibly Click Beetle), Faded Coral Snake, Giant Male Eastern Dobsonfly

BONELUST - Dad's Pickled Jar of Texas Creatures from 1950: Texas Horned Lizards, Giant Centipede, Lizard or Skink, Wood Boring Beetle (Possibly Click Beetle), Faded Coral Snake, Giant Unidentified Flying Insect

Texas Horned Lizard, Giant Centipede, Wood Boring Beetle (Possibly Click Beetle), Faded Coral Snake, Giant Male Eastern Dobsonfly, Other Insect/s

BONELUST - Dad's Pickled Jar of Texas Creatures from 1950: Texas Horned Lizard, Giant Centipede, Wood Boring Beetle (Possibly Click Beetle), Faded Coral Snake, Giant Unidentified Flying Insect, Other Insect/s

Faded Coral Snake, Giant Lubber Grasshopper, Giant Walking Stick, Scarab Beetle, Tarantula or Other Spider

BONELUST - Dad's Pickled Jar of Texas Creatures from 1950: Faded Coral Snake, Giant Lubber Grasshopper, Giant Walking Stick, Scarab Beetle, Tarantula or Other Spider

Texas Horned Lizard, Giant Lubber Grasshopper, Giant Walking Stick, Giant Centipede

BONELUST - Dad's Pickled Jar of Texas Creatures from 1950: Texas Horned Lizard, Giant Lubber Grasshopper, Giant Walking Stick, Giant Centipede

Jar Lid (would love to find more of these jars/lids!)

BONELUST - Dad's Pickled Jar of Texas Creatures from 1950: Lid (would love to find more of these jars/lids!)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

In My Cabinet of Oddities: Part 1

I've collected strange things since I was a child. Many of those I still have. But probably my most desired collectables were not acquired until later on when I had more money to spend.

I'm going to feature a few items from my collection from time to time. Today I present to you:

A Faux Shrunken Head Made From Goat Skin:

BONELUST - Faux Shrunken Head Make From Goat Skin

I was told when I purchased this that it was made by a member of the Jivaro tribe of the Amazon River forests, of southeastern Ecuador and northeastern Peru. They make real shrunken heads from the heads of their enemies. Trophies of war, they were believed to be powerful talismans. Since the skull would not shrink, it was removed prior to boiling and other preparation. Since the 1940s, it has been illegal to import shrunken heads into the United States. So the Jivaros now produce imitation shrunken heads fashioned of goat skin for commercial purposes.

Perhaps I will try to make my own shrunken head one day from roadkill.


Dog Skull, Vintage Camera & Medical Tools:

BONELUST - Dog Skull, Vintage Camera & Medical Tools

Besides bones, I collect vintage (and a few new) medical related items. Here you can see some of them including a modern hand operated bonesaw. The box that reads "A.S. Aloe Co." contains a real used vintage electric bonesaw. I'll open it up and get photos for another edition of "In My Cabinet of Oddities".

In the vintage glass Pyrex lab containers are various used medical tools. Including a metal syringe, some very intimidating pliers, and an assortment of other various tools. I can only imagine how they were previously used in surgeries.

I have medical books dating back to the 1800s. The beliefs and procedures back then seem barbaric and more like torture now. I will get a full set of photos of these to share in the future, including diagram examples.

Badger Skull & Working Vintage "Musical Jolly Chimp":

BONELUST - Badger Skull & Vintage Cymbal Playing Monkey Toy

When I was young my family would sometimes go to this pizza parlor in Tampa, for dinner. It was a sit down novelty theme place that had bubbles that would fall from the ceiling and showed silent films. While you ate and watched movies there was a man that played piano on a pedestal in a spotlight. He had a creepy toy monkey that would play cymbals along with him and when it behaved badly he would strike it on the head with a mallet. Then it bared its teeth, screeched and eyes popped in and out. Disturbing.

I wouldn't say I was "scarred for life" but it certainly left a strange impression on me. As much as the monkey frightened me it also intrigued me, and so I wanted my own. Many years later with the birth of eBay I sought and purchased the exact same style of toy monkey, in working condition.

I have since unintentionally made someone cry when I showed it to them. Ooops.

You can hardly see it in the photo but he rests on a fossilized manatee bone my father gave to me as a gift. And in front of him is a badger skull I picked up at a fantastic roadside store on a highway in the middle of nowhere, in Colorado.

You can see the same kind of monkey working here:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I Should Make My Own Personal Nail Fetish

This in real African nail fetish statue, of the Bakongo Tribe, from my collection of oddities. It is approx 18" tall. Weighs about 8 lbs. And is made of weathered solid wood, nails, glass and wonderful rust/patina.

BONELUST - Real Wooden Bakongo Tribe, African Nail-Fetish Statue (Nkondi or Nkonde Nail Fetish)

Fetishes (Nkondi, or minkondi for the plural), were protective figures used by individuals, families, or whole communities. They would use them to destroy or weaken evil spirits, prevent or cure illnesses, repel bad deeds, solemnize contracts or oath-taking, and decide arguments.

A diviner or holy person would activate the statue, using magical substances. Fetishes gained power and were effective because people believed in them.

This particular fetish statue was made by someone of the Zaire, Bakongo/Kongo Tribe. It is a Nkisi Nkondi or Nkisi Nkonde nail fetish. An "Oath Taking and Healing Figure."

The figure shows an 'oath taking' gesture, with one arm upraised. At one point the figure probably held a blade, or baaka, an ancient kind of knife used for extracting the milk of the palm wine tree, in the upraised arm. The blade was believed to have the power to kill by supernatural means.

The original blade was lost and replaced by this spear, by the African Art company when I originally purchased it from, in 2001. I was told this figure was around 50 years old then.

I've often thought to make my own personal fetish in my image. I certainly have trouble with negative things happening like people being dishonest with me. So having my own Nkisi to 'nail-the-issue' into couldn't hurt!

Only thing, who would I get to activate the statue using magical substances?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Using Bones in Music: Deer Skull Microphone

This past weekend I had a photo gig at the 49th Electronic SubSouth show, at The Kickstand in Gainesville, FL.

Early in the evening I spotted this deer skull and my brother, Chris, comes up to tell me that this is actually a working mic that one of the musicians that night would be using.

BONELUST - Deer Skull Microphone Top

Later on I met him, Dave Armitage AKA No Limit Cycle.

BONELUST - Dave Armitage AKA No Limit Cycle with His Deer Skull Microphone

Turns out he is into the same kinds of stuff my brother and I are. He works with bats and insects for a living AND collects bones. So naturally I was excited about this and wanted to talk to him. Soon after, he told me a really funny story about how he found the skull involving ants and relieving yourself in the woods...haha

I actually missed Dave using the deer skull mic during his performance, because I had to run across town to the Gainesville Skate Park for another show.

I tried to find video of him using it on YouTube but didn't see any. He's apparently only used it a few times. Dave demonstrated for me though, that he actually puts the snout of the deer skull inside his mouth and vocalizes. The actual microphone is way in back of the skull and full of pennies to make additional noises when the skull is shook.

BONELUST - Deer Skull Microphone Underneath

Here is the underside of the skull where you can see the microphone wiring entering the skull. There is a sort of soft putty sealing it inside.

Dave uses other animals bones in his live performance as well. Here is a video of him using a mic'd bone necklace during a live improvisational performance:

Parts of it REALLY remind me of this Scary Sounds of Horror record I had when I was younger. The same one my family blared out the window on Halloween evening! Awesome.

It is very interesting to see bones being used along with electronic music devices. I'll have to be sure to catch No Limit Cycle another time and get live shots of the deer skull mic in use!

Nice to meet you Dave!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Memento Mori

Memento mori is a Latin phrase meaning "Be mindful of death."

And may be translated as:

"Remember that you are mortal."

"Remember you will die."

"Remember that you must die."

"Remember your death."

This phrase names a genre of artistic creations that vary widely in medium, but which all serve the same purpose to remind people of their own mortality.

I use photography as my main means of creating my own Memento mori these days. Although I have used a wide range of other mediums to express it my entire lifetime.

My newest work is a self portrait series with my bone collection. Some of my favorites, click to see larger versions and the full set:

BONELUST - Self Portrait with Skull of Wild Boar & Domestic Pot-bellied Pig Mix 3

BONELUST - Self Portrait with Huge American Bison SkullBONELUST - Self Portrait with Moose Antler 1BONELUST - Self Portrait with White-tailed Deer Skull 1BONELUST - Self Portrait with Skull of Wild Boar & Domestic Pot-bellied Pig Mix 4

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Beauty of Death

Sometimes death comes quite naturally.

Like this Yellow-rumped Warbler, I found laying beautifully in the yard. I could tell it was not killed by any of my cats or dogs because it remained in full, nearly pristine condition.

(Click on any of the images for a larger view.)

BONELUST - Dead Yellow-rumped Warbler 1

BONELUST - Dead Yellow-rumped Warbler in Hand

BONELUST - Dead Yellow-rumped Warbler 4

BONELUST - Dead Yellow-rumped Warbler 2

The thing about bird remains is that they can stay outside for YEARS and you still may never have a clean skull.

Perfect example being this cardinal head I found long ago that I've had in my "bone box" for all this time.

It just looks more weathered, rained on, and flat now if anything.

BONELUST - Cardinal Head

So I've decided to hang the Yellow-rumped Warbler remains appropriately over my pet cemetery, from an Egyptian scarab beetle amulet instead. I'm hoping the feathers with slowly wash away leaving a beautiful skeleton.

BONELUST - Dead Yellow-rumped Warbler Hanging on Egyptian Scarab Beetle Amulet 2

If it works, I'll have follow-up photos.