Success has its price -- and for the stars of the Science Channel reality show "Oddities," that price is easily observable in the petrified cat market.
The series, which enters its third season on Dec. 17, follows the staff of Obscura Antiques & Oddities, a New York City store that specializes in one-of-a-kind, bizarre and often shocking artifacts such as monkey race cars, possessed ventriloquist dummies and artworks made of human hair.
For a long time, the store also carried plenty of petrified cats and mummified squirrels, according to Evan Michelson. But not so much since the show debuted in November 2010.
"We've been overwhelmed by calls from people wanting to sell petrified cats and mummified squirrels that they find in their attic," Michelson told HuffPost Weird News. And Obscura, by definition, doesn't seek out commonplace things. "We're out of the market now, for the most part," she said.
But that doesn't mean Michelson couldn't be persuaded if the right model came along.
"For me, the choice to buy a petrified cat comes down to aesthetics," she said. "Most are dried out and decayed."
Michelson and business partner Mike Zohn have been in the macabre memorabilia market for 20 years, but their business operated under the radar until the show's debut.
Zohn admitted he was worried that the store's higher profile might inspire people to raise prices for their oddities, but that hasn't been the case.
"I was concerned that it would raise prices, but one guy sold me something at a flea market for $200, instead of the $250 he was asking, because he was hoping it would be seen on the show," said Zohn, moments before he demonstrated an old-fashioned prostate warmer to Conan O'Brien on his TBS talk show.
The new fame has helped them find things they never would have discovered before.
"After our first episode where we sold a straitjacket to Edgar Oliver, one of our favorite customers, we got a call from the Midwest from a guy whose dad had demolished a mental institute and had saved seven child-sized straitjackets," Zohn said. "Those sold quickly."
Ryan Matthew, who is the buyer for the business, said the higher profile has helped him as well.
"I was walking down the street the other day getting ready to mail a skull, when a woman -- a psychic, actually -- recognized me and took me to meet her husband, who cleans storage sheds and often finds skulls in them," he told HuffPost Weird News.
Michelson said the most gratifying aspect of their fame is that it provides a ray of hope to people outside the trendy East Village neighborhood where their business is located.
"We have been getting lots of mail from places like Dubuque and Tallahassee, who are happy to know there are other people like them, who are gratified to find there's a community of people who share their interests," she said.
Although Michelson, Zohn and Matthew are reaping the rewards of the popularity of "Oddities," Matthew noted that the real thrill of his job isn't being recognized by skull-collecting psychics; it's finding the next big one-of-a-kind item.
"Right now, I really want one of those Peruvian elongated skulls," he confessed. "They used to put boards on babies' heads to make them stick up like a conehead. I'm fascinated by them."
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