Afternoon Inquisition

5.20 Afternoon Inquisition

Today’s A.I. comes to us courtesy of last week’s Comment o’ the Week winner, PinkBunny:

My husband has worked in health care for a number of years now. As a result we have quite the collection of medical instruments and various implants. All of them were obtained in legal ways. They were damaged, outdated or otherwise unusable. I think a few of them are very pretty and display them like most people display Precious Moment figurines. We are now considering selling our house and according to the realtor displaying things that were once inside people as art makes us look crazy. So we put them away.

My question for you is, do you have anything in your house that to the casual observer would make you seem like a psycho? Is there anything that if you saw it in a person’s home would really creep you out and make you not want to purchase that home?

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Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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101 Comments

  1. Pee Pee the edible man lives on our bookshelf. As his body parts have dried out he looks less cute craft project and more inside out bunny rabbit.
    On that note…finding an actual inside out bunny rabbit on someones bookshelf would make me think twice about buying the house.

  2. Does the stacks of cases of water we have stashed all over the house count? It’s our emergency backup. And there is an elaborate rotating system we follow too……(we’re not crazy, I swear).

  3. Not so much a psycho, but we have a Buddy Christ (from the movie “Dogma”) and we never let Christians use the upstairs bathroom (that’s where we keep the naughty magazines).
    I used to have a really creepy looking leather ET doll, but he’s not so creepy now that I picked off all the leather.

  4. ok…. I have always felt wierd about this… but you made me feel better ;-)
    I have a plate that was in my mothers hip when she was a teenager, and I have a 5-6 inch threaded rod that my dad had in his foot when he broke his ankle a few years back ;-)

  5. Have you seen some of my artwork? Um.. yeah, the little sculpted baby rat tends to freak people out because it looks very realistic and is in a tiny cradle.

    The large number of cephalopod related stuff too.

  6. If it is a home that’s good value for money, no, there is nothing that could persuade me not to buy it if I wanted that house. Now, if I was going to share a rental with someone, then maybe evidence of less than savory habits would put me off.

  7. I used to collect and display things for the specific purpose of making people think I was crazy. To wit:

    – I once displayed a collection of Monster In My Pocket toys reenacting the final scene of Hamlet

    – For a little while, I cut ridiculous images out of chintzy catalogs and displayed them as if I were a fan of such artists as “The Harmonicats”

    – I have a large, inflatable white seal that I have, in the past, used as a TV set-top decoration.

    – Oh, and I’ve often dreamed of (but never actually managed) collecting a bunch of funny Came-With-The-Frame family pictures and claiming them as real relatives.

    As for being outright hostile to people moving into my home, I carved the words “THIS IS NOT YOUR HOUSE” in a surreptitious spot in my old garage, and wrote the same message in pencil in another out-of-the-way spot in the basement.

  8. People often do a double-take at the picture of Elvis hanging in the bathroom…but then again the same thing usually happened when I used to take a plaster bust of him out for a few drinks on his birthday. He broke after one especially wild bacchanal, but 10 years is a pretty good run for a plaster Elvis with a drinking problem.

    Hands down, my best claim at crazy decor would be the collection of scary-looking antique childrens books I have on a display shelf in the living room.
    Oh, and my ex-husband had a shadowbox he kept hung on the wall of all the pieces of metal the doctors used to rebuild his legs after an auto accident pulverized his femurs/knees. He was a creepy person in general.

  9. Expatria: “Came-With-The-Frame family pictures”

    A friend of a friend apparently sends out Christmas cards with a photo of himself with “the wife and kids” (or maybe it’s just “the wife”). Thing is, other than himself, it’s always different people and different names. “Seasons Greetings from Bob and Sally”, “Merry Christmas from Bob, Amy and the twins”, etc. He recruits different friends each year, stages the photo and sends out the cards. I envy that sort of “crazy”.

  10. Aside from the floor-to-ceiling wall of empty cans, which may upset the estate agent, I have a slightly psychotic coat hook on my bedroom door.
    After getting sick of the shop-bought ones falling off the cheap crappy door, in a fit of misplaced rage I stabbed a kitchen knife through the door.
    My dressing-gown has never since fallen off.

  11. The Giger print we have on the living room wall doesn’t get nearly as many reactions as we expected.

    Friends of mine moved into an apartment that had about 8 bajillion Jesus pics with candles in front of them allllll over the bathroom walls. Even in the shower. My friends took most of them down, but you could see the little scorch marks the candles had left. They left one creepy Jesus over the light switch though, so he could stare at you while you were on the toilet.

  12. @Steve: Your friend’s Xmas cards sound like a lot of fun – I might actually try that this year.

    To the OP: I think the collection of medical devices is cool – if I were buying the house, I’d want them included.

    I have the skulls and skins of several of my dead rats on display. This is a gesture of affection, in their memory…but I can see how some people mind find it creepy.

  13. Does the closet full of Blue M&Ms count? Normal to me; Iknow they were only added as a color as a way to introduce mind control drugs into the US. I love M&M and when I get my court case ready the blue ones will make great evidence. It might seem a bit odd to outsiders though.

  14. During that inevitable awkward phase right after goth girl that treads precariously on an off the edge of ironic hipsterdom, an old roommate and I amassed a pretty overwhelming collection of Catholic kitsch. As soon as you stepped into the house, there was a multitude of saints and nuns and “The Jesi” as they were known to our guests, staring at you from between brightly colored votives and from elaborate wall mounted créches (that make excellent key hooks).

    It was all fun and games until there was a big storm and the roofers needed to use the loo. However I learned some Italian and Polish obscenities, and you never know when stuff like that will come in handy.

    As for now, I suppose all the cats would be proof positive I’m a crazy lady and that you should get off my lawn.

  15. I have a box of Hannah Montana kleenex on my coffe table. It seemed kind of ironic and silly when I bought it (slightly buzzed, I must admit) but now it just seems really creepy. I need to hurry up and catch a cold or something. I’m sick of the accusing look in her innocent youthful eyes as I’m browsing late-night cable smut.

  16. Puppet parts. I have LOTS of puppet parts in my workshop. It’s all fun and games until you see Kermit decapitated.

    Also, I have a giraffe collection (alas, not live) the majority of which I ended up boxing up because it was too much even for me.

  17. This sort of relates.

    My bookcase in my old apartment was in the dinning room and seeing how I had very little space, a lot of my books were crammed on it in no particular order.

    Making it possible for my dad to glance up while trying to eat the chicken dinner I had slaved over for hours and ask me the following question:

    “Dose that book… say Penthouse?”

    Yes, it was my “Letters to Penthouse” books that had caught his eye… five of them, right next to the Quran, the Iliad, and the Little House on the Prairie series.

    “Yeah,” I answered.

    There was a beat.

    My dad decided to ask me a question, I think he thought I wasn’t sufficiently embarrassed.

    “Why do you have “Letters to Penthouse” collections?”

    My response:

    “Research.”

    The rest of the meal was pretty quiet. No one mentioned the chicken.

  18. Well I think the metal rings on the corners of my bed might raise a few eyebrows.

    I was recently at an open house. The finished basement had these completely isolated rooms with cement walls. I thought they would make a great dungeon.

  19. I have really strange assortments of things from my miniatures hobby. All sorts of glues, solvents, a hundred or so different colors of paint in small jars along with scalpels, clippers and other such things.

    Other than that my DVD collection really creeps people out. Besides some classic comedies it contains mostly really weird horror flicks.

    I also have copralite and actual dinosaur teeth next to each other on a shelf so I can play the “stick your tongue to it” game. Which will be familiar to anyone who has done any archeology.

  20. We live next door to a house that’s rented out and I always think if some jerk moves in, I’ll let them know about how a teenager committed suicide in that house a few years back.

    @Some Canadian Skeptic: LOL, I always wondered what visitors thought when they saw my telescope pointed out the balcony window in our old apartment – apparently pointed at an apartment building across the street. But trust me, nothing interesting ever happened in that building. I was just looking at Jupiter and Saturn.

  21. After watching an episode of “Is it real” my daughter and I made a bunch of ghost orb pics in the front room. They show up on the electric picture frame now. I guess that might freak out some woo woo if they saw them.

  22. I have the Angus Beef Chart, showing all of the cuts of beef, the approximate yields and recommended cooking methods on my office wall.

    I would not buy a house if the seller had an abundance of religious icons on display as I would know that the seller would lie to me if I asked any question about the house’s condition. This has already happened to me. Fool me once…..

  23. @James Fox: Oh, whatever, dude. I gots THREE functioning VHS players. :-) And I use ’em! And I have a film camera, and I had to buy a tape deck off of Ebay for my new car because it didn’t come with one, just a stupid CD/mp3 player. So, if being afeared of technology makes me a psycho, then I’m fine with being a psycho.

    I have about a billion books. That seems to make people very uncomfortable. Whenever we have guests, I try to leave out whatever I’m reading, especially if it’s about something controversial, like science. Bitch Magazine gets some eyes. So does Foreign Policy.

    We have Webkinz, too. Sigh…

    Oh, and a brand new king-sized mattress, still wrapped in plastic, which takes up the ENTIRE front guest room. It’s a long story, but it’s a perfectly good mattress. Anyone want to buy it?

  24. Oh! I also have a random vertebra from an unidentified mammal than my hippy Floridian friend mailed to me. It’s not currently located anywhere visible, but I’m going to make a point of putting it out in the open when I move to my new place.

  25. My last house had a functioning trebuchet with a 20 foot throwing arm and 200lb counterweight in the side yard. It also had a 10 foot tall guillotine under the back deck. Sold the house with those still there. I was asked by several people if the guillotine was for chopping wood. I looked at them like they had two heads and said “Who the Hell uses a guillotine to chop wood?”. I sold the house to the gub’mint, who wanted it for a road, so I might have had to get rid of them if selling to regular folk.

    Videos:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/glassgiant

  26. One entire wall of my bedroom is a painted-on chalkboard that usually has obscure algorithms or UML diagrams plastered all over it. That usually gets more puzzled looks than creeped-out looks.

    And beside it hangs a map of the Mid-Atlantic States plotting the location of every Sheetz (gas station/convenience store for those of you not in the area) in the country. That one usually gets more questions.

  27. @Vengeful Harridan (Elexina): Bitch and Foreign Policy!?!…, dude we really need to have a conversation over a good beer someday.
    My VCR has become a large digital clock that happens to live under an equally ancient CRT TV.
    And re the mattress…, you in the pacific northwest?
    @davew: Thanks! My wife showed me a job description for a position in the psych department where she teaches. The last line said applicants who make excessive puns will not be considered.

  28. @James Fox: Is that a scornful conversation, or a complimentary one?
    Oh and I should have said: anyone WHO LIVES IN OR NEAR NYS wanna buy a king mattress? ;-)

    And I totally forgot about my dollhouse. I have a three-floor fully-decorated dollhouse that I’ve had since I was about six. It’s packed with furniture, people, animals… People always give me weird looks about it. Maybe that’s because it’s usually decorated for Christmas (yeah, my dollhouse people are Christians, apparently). But I can’t get past the damn mattress to change the decorations, so there it stays…

  29. I have a human skull as a bookend.

    It’s actually a plaster replica I got from the gift shop at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, but I can always tell people I stole it from the Bodyworks exhibit there.

    @Vengeful Harridan (Elexina): I briefly envisioned you showing potential buyers around your house and trying to steer them away from a spaced-out Eliza Dushku wandering around the place. Is it weird that that’s easily my strongest association with the word ‘dollhouse’?

  30. Not currently… at least nothing I can think of… but there was a time when I had a vast assortment of autopsy/crime scene photos posted on the walls of my den, several of which had little yellow post-it notes with written observations and disturbing little arrows attached. Each of the photos was also labeled with a number that corresponded to one of the dozens of three ring binders that lined the shelves, each one inked with the name of a serial murderer and containing case files, court transcripts, psychological profiles, etc…

    (I originally intended a career in Criminal Forensic Pathology with a specialty in Serial Crime. To me, the most disturbing things in the room were the binders inked only with “UNKOWN”.)

    I also used to frame Weekly World News covers and hang them on the walls like art. Not really sure which bit is more likely to have me pegged a psycho…

  31. I like knives. I sort of collect them, based on only two criteria. If they look cool or if they are actually useful. And I don’t really have them displayed anywhere, they’re just kind of half-hidden about my apartment. I have a machete sitting next to the head of my bed, an ASP baton at my desk beside the keyboard tray, a huge hunting knife with totally pointless spikes on it sitting half behind the Oversized Books shelf of my bookshelf, a much more practical hunting knife kind of hidden between the little table by my bedroom door and the wall. As well as a couple of useful pocketknives sitting on top of the table next to my keys and cellphone and such.

    I think my habit of hiding them in various spots around the apartment is what makes it psycho-like. But you never know when you need a knife!

  32. Oh, my backyard clothesline tree and my garden and my compost bucket tend to confuse people, but I’m not composting any bodies, really I’m not. I WANT to, but I’m not.

    @cubiksrube: I think that says a lot about today’s TV-influenced culture, anyway…

    @tiger kitty: I have all the dollhouse stuff because it was probably my favorite thing, aside from books, as a kid. My mother saved EVERYTHING in the hope that it would encourage me to have children, I think. I still have some babydolls (and toys and books), for when the kids-in-law come over. But I was just never very destructive. I anthropomorphize way too much for that.

    @James Fox: Okay, you’re freaking out my lady brain. I have to go take off my shoes and bake something.

  33. Most of the art in my house freaks out the norms, including my mother. A large (5’x5′) oil of a “tiki man” wielding a large club dominates the living room, above my PC is an original oil by Dave Brockie (lead singer for GWAR) which just screams INSANITY. I’ve also been surprised at how many people are bugged out by the oversized alien head which sits high in the corner bookshelf. Think stereotypical “grey” with bulging silver eyes. He’s cool. Many, many other knick-knacks and such that I think of as just cool but are apparently quite odd.
    Whilst I’m rambling away on my first post here on Skepchick I’d like to relate the tale of when I had to sell the house that the ex and I had purchased and then had to sell following the divorce.
    Ahem..
    The moving out had been completed and as a last hurrah for the homestead I had a small bash in the empty house to say goodbye on the night before I had to turn over the domicile to the new owners.
    ‘Round about midnight when everybody was good and liquored up I broke out the army men. Two full bags of your stereotypical little green dudes in a variety of poses. You know the guys.
    I then explained to the crew that it was imperative that a token resistance force be left behind.
    It worked out beautifully.
    Mostly in small 3-5 man squads the soldiers were placed throughout the home. Atop rafters in the attic (soon to be renovated), in the bathroom medicine cabinet, windowsills, etc. Hell, there was a unit waiting in the telephone interface box on the back of the house. My boys did my proud. They were EVERYWHERE. Many quite deviously hidden.
    The folks that bought the house were professional “flippers”. Buy a house, renovate, sell. So it wasn’t like this was really directed at a family or anything.
    About 6 weeks later I was visiting my previous next-door neighbor and she told me that the wife of one of the owner/contractors was telling her about finding all these army men. “And they’re all aiming at you whenever you find them”. Neighbor reported that she was most definitely weirded out.
    To date one of my favorite pranks to leave in my wake.

    (love the site btw. Found ya’ via Overcompensating / Mr. Rowland about a year ago)

  34. It’s cliche, but I have a LOT of bladed weapons. Mostly Chinese, all full sized, fifty percent of them having live edges.

    I have four halberds, six broadswords of various dynasties (two of them are about four feet long and have live edges), and seven or eight double edges straight swords.

    Erm– I have several staves, including two three-sectional staves, two fighting daggers, and a pair of deer horn knives.

    I also have a practice ground in my back yard. Part of my practice ground has, what is essentially, an array of stakes set into the ground. Posts, six to eight feet in height, amongst which I practice. Also a plinth, on which I do my palm conditioning.

    (Jason and Chelsea can vouch for all of this.)

    I imagine it MIGHT be off-putting. But so few people ever come to visit.

  35. Hm…well, I have a bead-encrusted goat skull with four horns that I got in Kathmandu years ago. There is a picture of King Diamond in an ordinary frame, a taxidermy fox that was poorly preserved – no ears – on the mantle, a big postcard of Baphomet on the wall, a brass trident I got in India, a Nepali gurkha knife, a zebra’s foot…

    and if you look through my records I have plenty of Heino, Little Marcy, and some Mannheim Steamroller. Among other things.

  36. …oh, and in the bathroom is a tube (still in box) of a product called (I shit you not, (pun heartily intended)) “Anusol”. It is a hemorrhoid cream that I saw in CVS and just HAD to have. Subtlty, thy name is Anusol.

    Finally, and this is actually something that I recently threw away (dang moths!) , I had a bag of dried pineapple rings. Innocuous, yes, until you looked at the label. I used to work at a healthfood store and had the good-humored manager rig a special SKU number to read “Dried Bungholes”, which got printed on the official label and slapped on that bag. If you don’t know what dried pineapple rings look like, you do now.

  37. Where would I start? My piles of books, my miniatures (for rpgs), my 6 foot long Godzilla?

    Probably the antique Kubu ceremonial knife on the bookcase next to my bed.

    Or Cuthbert’s head in a jar on said bookcase (my spiny dogfish from comparative anatomy back in ’74 or ’75).

    Hey, they distract people from the machete next to my pillow.

  38. Got cow Axis/Atlas vertebrae (aka C1 and C2) on my desk. I always just like the way C1 and C2 look.

    Oddly enough, ever since I hung my antique Cetacea fossil plates (got ’em at an SVP auction – a paleontologist died and willed his library to the auction), they are deemed less creepy on first glance. People think that since I have those plates on my wall, the bones must belong to a whale.

    Love to see the look on their face when they pick the bones up and I tell them they’re from a cow ;)

  39. Hmm..the weirdest things I have in my house currently are my “dead animal parts” which aren’t really that exciting. I have coyote, bobcat and prairie dog skulls out for people to see. I also have a zebra tail (skin), which is one of the weirder things I have. The weirdest is probably my mouse museum specimen (that is, a stuffed dead mouse) I made for my Mammalogy class. I also did a raccoon for that class, but I couldn’t bring myself to keep such a huge, frightening dead thing in the house..I donated it to the school’s collection. Heh.

    I also have various nerd paraphernalia lying about, but it’s not that scary.

  40. The covering for my bed is made of fox fur — an entire cover – lots of foxes.

    My grandfather (1875-1945) was a trapper in Alaska –

    The foxes are the same color as my dog- I think he believes they are his cousins -and he likes to lay on them.

    Animal hides tend to make people think

  41. @Noadi: My wife’s mother has a friend who is an artist, and his style is something like a cross between M. C. Escher and Hieronymus Bosch. We have a few of his prints, but they’re not on the walls. Aside from those and the porn, nothing else is hidden away.

  42. Hmm would a spectrometer on my dining room table count? How about a myriad remote control planes dangling from various ceilings? Or a propeller from hubby’s previous airplane mounted over our sofa? How about a prototype LCOS monitor from the 90’s as art? Would world history charts and aviation maps on the walls as decor slow anyone down? Hand and feet prints on all wall close enough together to be scaled by a 4yr old? Really tacky wall paper that was picked by someone who should stick with integrals? A display of the instruments also from the aforementioned private airplane? A plethora of computers sprinkled liberally about the dwelling? Stickers of all varieties, but with an emphasis on butterflies, arranged by a 5yr in random and unusual places?

    In short my home is nothing more than a paradise of geek-dom and child fun. Not very good for marketing but more fun than art niches filled with crap.

  43. Wow, I feel really Plain Vanilla. My home is comfortable, attractive, and simple. The only thing that might make some people pause is the book collection, which I have organized by general topics. In the main living room, I have a full shelf each of books about Islam (from various viewpoints); books on the Black Death;one with books by Bart Ehrman; engineering; and three shelves crammed with books on skepticism. The rest of my books are stored in other rooms. I no longer have a queen-sized quilting frame in the room.

    I had a very large trebuchet I helped my son build for his physics class, but it was destroyed in an incident involving a pick-up truck and a Golden Retriever.

  44. I currently have a giant Lego pyramid on my end table, even though I’m an adult. It is probably about two feet on each side. Yes, I made it myself, out of all ~10,000 Lego pieces I own. I know how many pieces there are, because in between pyramids and other sculptures, I will sort the Legos by size and color, and inventory them on excel. Of course I need to do this for planning, but I actually get as much fun out of the sorting as I do out of the building.

    It’s a little embarrassing to have a huge Lego sculpture, even though everyone who sees it tells me it’s awesome. It’s even more embarrassing when I have all my tables, bookshelves, and other available surfaces covered with color-coded stacks of Legos. While I was in college, I considered telling people that it’s a school project, but I always ended up telling the truth. Even though everyone insists that the Lego hobby is really cool, I guess I will always be a little embarrassed by it.

  45. I have an unpackaged Twinkie on top of the mantle above my door. It has been there since November. I wanted to see how long it would last. It’s pretty much turned into a Twinkiebrick.

    Also, my dining room table has wheelchairs for chairs instead of regular chairs.

  46. Do entire room walls plastered with postcards, flyers, posters, cut-out pictures, stickers and etc art material count?

    As for the 2nd question, I draw the line @ body parts.

  47. @catgirl:

    You rock! Don’t be embarrassed by it! That’s a really cool thing! I have big dreams of one day buying one of those huge sets (like the Taj Mahal or the Death Star) and building it and putting it on display. My kids are on the young side and would destroy it, so now is not the time, but one day!

  48. @tiger kitty:

    You have to come up with your own design. If you just follow the instructions given to you by Lego, then it’s not much different than building a model airplane (still impressive though). The beauty is to find a design that shows off your rare pieces, but also uses every piece in your collection, so it doubles as storage. The reason why I love pyramids in particular is because you can keep adding layers onto the bottom and continue indefinitely. I have made other geometric shapes though, such as a double-pyramid where they meet at the tip (but don’t go down to one piece wide, for stability). It was tall enough that I used it as a nightstand until I took it apart. I have some pictures of it somewhere.

  49. Until very recently, there were three big clear plastic bags of straw infused with oyster mushroom mycelium each covered with its own humidity tent hanging on the shower rod in our guest bathroom.
    I know these things scare the crap out of our cleaning lady — we’ve just noticed that she turns this Kenyan fertility idol on our bookshelf to face away from her. I’ve been thinking that I want to make a video of us sacrificing mushrooms to it that will “accidentally” play during her next visit.

  50. A friend of mine’s parents virtually papered the walls of one bathroom with pictures of her and her twin sister as children. The only gap was filled by her father’s deportation notice from Uganda*. The overall effect is… disconcerting.
    *or possibly Kenya, I forget.

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